Edwin Jackson was unable to go more than 5 innings and Henry Rodriguez was unable to go 1, as the Nationals were unable to finish their 6-game road trip above .500, going 3-3. But the question of the night is this; what made it rain more? The clouds or Joey Votto?
Jackson (1-1) received a no-decision, allowing 3 runs and 5 hits over his 5 innings, striking out 4 while giving up 2 home runs, both to Votto. After cruising along the first 3 innings, Jackson seemed to tire over the course of the next 2, and was replaced by Tom Gorzelanny in the 6th. Gorzelanny was the one pitcher capable of containing Votto (who went 4 for 5 on the day), generating a flyball to deep center field. He would shut out the Reds through the 6th and Sean Burnett would come in to pitch a scoreless 7th. However, the meltdown would begin in the bottom of the 8th, when Ryan Mattheus surrendered an earned run and an unearned run was charged to Burnett due to the error by Ian Desmond. It would then be Rodriguez (funny, I thought I just recapped a blown save from him last week…) loading the bases in the ninth, blowing the save on a walk-off grand slam to none other than Votto, losing the game 9-6.
Though the score was undesirable there are certainly positives that can be taken from this game. The offense finally scored in the early-going, scoring runs in 2 of the first 3 innings. Considering the injuries to Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth and Michael Morse, any signs of offensive life are a plus. When Ryan Zimmerman reaches base only 1 out of 4 times, scoring 6 runs is even better.
That’s all good and nice, but again, it came down to pitching. Had those 2 runs not been scored in the 8th Rodriguez would have had a 3-run cushion, which probably would have boosted his confidence headed into the bottom of the 9th. But that’s still no excuse. Rodriguez’s command was absolutely unacceptable. He bounced several pitches in front of the plate, which usually doesn’t bode well. After he loaded the bases, you already know what happened. Hopefully Steve McCatty can figure it out for him, or we may be looking at a long May (and potentially June) until Drew Storen comes back.
Other Game Notes: Jesus Flores showed some spectacular defense in the bottom of the 9th, blocking several pitches in the dirt , and also welcomed the challenge of replacing the offensively solid Ramos, driving in a run and collecting to hits. Though he did strand 4, you’ll take a 2-hit night from your Number-8 hitter every night. On another note, the Nationals fell out of first place after the Braves defeated the Cardinals 7-4 last night.
Champ of the Game: Danny Espinosa finally got on a hot streak last night, going 2-4 with 2 RBIs. This trend needs to continue if the Nats are to keep to their winning ways.
Is there any question as to whether Votto deserves the nod for the Reds? I’ll let the double, 3 homers (including the walk-off grand slam) and 6 RBIs speak for themselves.
Chump of the Game: Rodriguez blew yet another save which lost the game. He needs to step it up if the Nationals are to make it out of June where they want to be.
For the Reds, Brandon Phillips struck out twice and stranded 2 runners. Offense wasn’t exactly scarce in this game, but a productive night out of Phillips may have given the Reds an easier victory.
Unsung Hero: Roger Bernadina quietly had a solid night at the plate, going 2-4 with a run scored, an RBI, a walk, and a bunt single in the first inning. With Werth and Morse out, it is imperative that Bernadina continues to swing a hot stick.
Sean Marshall came in and kept the Nats off the board in the top of the 9th, setting up the Reds big rally in the following half-inning. Had he not performed, who knows how the game may have ended up? Though Marshall did give up 2 hits, he also recorded 2 strikeouts and again, didn’t give up a run.
Next Game: 7:05 PM, Nationals Park (or Natitude Park if you prefer), Detwiler (3-2, 2.10 ERA) vs. Stauffer (0-0, 0.00 ERA) Note: Stauffer is making his season debut.