Stephen Strasburg put together a great outing against the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night at Nationals Park. Strasburg’s line: seven innings, three hits, eight strikeouts, no runs. He carved through the Brewer’s lineup, getting out of a jam in the sixth inning caused by a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error. With runners at second and third with one out, Strasburg struck out the next two batters to keep the game scoreless.
The Nats batters did not return the favor, again. In another of those frustrating games the Nationals have treated the fans to this year, the batters could not string together hits, stranded runners and could not score runs. The Nationals had just as many hits as the Brewers, but Milwaukee scored four runs with theirs.
The Nats had a golden opportunity in the first inning. They had Brewers starter Wily Perralta on the ropes. Denard Span began the inning with a single, and Jayson Werth walked. Bryce Harper popped out, and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out, advancing the runners. Adam LaRoche walked and the Nats had the bases loaded. Ian Desmond grounded out to end the Nats threat.
In the third inning, Zimmerman singled with two outs and then Adam LaRoche struck out. In the sixth, LaRoche again drew a walk with two outs, but was caught stealing with Desmond at the plate. In the seventh, Anthony Rendon singled with one out, but could not advance as Kurt Suzuki and pinch hitter Chad Tracy both popped out.
Enter Drew Storen to pitch the eighth inning for the Nationals. Storen has been pitching very well lately, but Davey Johnson should have considered the weather conditions before deciding to throw Storen. It was very humid and damp, and it had been raining on and off during the game. That is not good slider weather, which is a pitch Storen relies upon and has to work for him to be effective. Storen could not work his slider and get it over the plate for strikes. The only pitch he could work for strikes was his fastball, which had no movement. Once the Brewers hitters figured that out it was ugly.
Storen was not helped in the inning by his inability to hold runners. The first hitter up in the inning, Logan Schafer singled, and then stole second, which ruined any double play opportunity. Rickie Weeks walked. Aramis Ramirez flew out, and Storen was one ground ball from getting out of the inning. However, Storen is not a ground ball pitcher, so Nats fans were holding their breath. Juan Francisco doubled to deep right center, scoring Schafer and Weeks. With Francisco standing on second, he would have stolen third if not for Sean Halton fouling off the pitch. Halton lined out to center for the first out. Martin Maldonado sent a fly ball to deep left, which Harper should have caught. It popped out of his glove, scoring Francisco and putting Maldonado on second. Maldonado scored on a single by Jeff Bianchi because he was halfway to third trying to steal on Storen when Bianchi made contact. Jonathan Lucroy mercifully flew out to end the inning.
The Nats had their opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings, getting runners aboard in both and failing to get them home. Former Nat Michael Gonzalez pitched the eighth for the Brewers. Denard Span singled, and former teammate Werth flew out. Harper struck out, then Zimmerman singled. LaRoche grounded out with two aboard. In the ninth against Francisco Rodriguez, Desmond and Rendon opened the inning with singles. With two on and nobody out, Suzuki and Roger Bernadina struck out, and Span popped out to end the game.
Next Game: The Nationals play the Brewers again at Nats Park at 7:00 EST. Scheduled starters are Ross Detwiler (2-6, 4.13 ERA) against Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.63 ERA).