Washington hit a pair of home runs off of Tampa Bay left-hander David Price but it wasn’t enough, as the Rays downed the Nationals in the opener of a three game series at Nationals Park by a 5-4 final. The loss was Washington’s fourth in a row.
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang started for Washington and accomplished nothing more than fueling questions about his role on the roster and whether he or Ross Detwiler should be filling out the last spot in the starting rotation. Wang lasted just 3.1 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, while walking three. He struggled to throw strikes and is leaving most Nationals fans wondering just how much more the team is willing to tolerate.
Detwiler followed in relief, a theme that has been developing of late, and pitched the next 3.2 innings, only allowing a single baserunner (he hit Carlos Pena with a pitch). Detwiler has had his own detractors this season, most getting on his case after some inconsistent outings before being removed from the rotation, but overall he’s exhibited more talent and has been more reliable than Wang on the season to date. One has to wonder just how long it will be before the Nationals swap the two pitchers in their respective roles.
Price (W, 9-4) bounced back from his worst outing of the season to pitch 7.0 innings, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. The two home runs he allowed was only the second time this season he’s permitted such damage against him.
Desmond connected in the 2nd on a solo shot to center field, his 11th on the season and a new single season career high. The shot would actually put the Nationals ahead 2-1 at the time, a lead that would prove to be short lived.
Wang’s troubles really began in the 3rd. Pena crushed a home run to center field, scoring Desmond Jennings and putting the Rays ahead 3-2. After Ben Zobrist and Jose Lobaton reached based, Elliot Johnson tripled to clear the bases and push the lead to 5-2.
Morse would limit the deficit in the 6th, homering to right-center with Ryan Zimmerman on base. It was Morse’s first home run of the season after missing the first two months with an oblique strain.
The 8th inning contained it’s own set of unique circumstances. Tampa Bay brought in reliever Joel Peralta to replace Price but before he could throw a single pitch he found himself ejected from the game. It would seem the home plate umpire Tim Tschida found a “foreign substance” on Peralta’s glove, immediately throwing the pitcher out of the game. Rays Manager Joe Maddon tried to prove a point in the following frame, asking the umpires to check Ryan Mattheus‘ glove, but nothing was found.
Champ of the Game: Detwiler and Morse will share the honors. If not for Detwiler’s relief appearance the Nationals might not have been able to stay in the game as long as they did. Morse, meanwhile, had a pair of hits and might be finally starting to show some signs of life. He reportedly had asked Davey Johnson to drop him in the lineup “for the betterment of the team” but Johnson refused.
Chump of the Game: Wang’s struggles are starting to be a concern. Of Washington’s last four non-quality starts from the rotation, Wang has been on the mound for three of them.