Through seven innings, this game was a classic pitchers’ duel. The two starters combined to allow six hits in 12.1 innings, despite walking six as well. Both got into bases-loaded jams but wriggled out, making for lots of excitement despite a lack of runs scored. Sadly, all fell apart in the eighth. Drew Storen, who had been excellent in allowing no runs in 16 of his previous 17 outings, blew the game open by allowing four runs. That was partially thanks to a misplay on a fly ball to left field, when Bryce Harper dropped the ball but was not charged with an error. After scoring 23 runs in their previous two games, they scored no runs tonight for Stephen Strasburg. He is extending his lead in “least run support received”, which is terrible given his 2.24 ERA, fifth-best in the NL. The offense is expected to be improved with Harper’s return, and has been good recently, but Harper was 0-4. This is not a game from which one can pontificate wildly, as everything that can be said about a lack of scoring has been said already, although tonight was a major missed opportunity. The Brewers benched three of their best hitters in Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy, and the Nats went 0-8 with RISP, stranded 10 men, and were shut out for the ninth time after being shut out just eight times in 2012. The Nationals had been playing well before, and simply need to maintain that despite tonight.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Ian Desmond‘s groundout (-7.1%)
The Nationals looked as though they were going to blow this game wide open early. Denard Span and Jayson Werth reached to open the game against Wily Peralta, but Harper and Ryan Zimmerman made outs before Adam LaRoche walked to load the bases. Unfortunately, Desmond grounded impotently to second and the threat, which would prove to be the only time the Nats had a runner on third in the game, was over.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Juan Francisco‘s two-run double (-31.7%)
Storen got into trouble right off the bat in the eighth (no pun intended). He allowed a leadoff single to Logan Schafer and walked Rickie Weeks to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs. After an Aramis Ramirez flyout gave him one out, Francisco took him deep to the right center gap and off the wall, easily driving in both runners. Francisco would later score on Harper’s dropped fly ball from Martin Maldonado, and another single made it 4-0.
Champ of the Game: Despite the rest of the team’s struggles, Strasburg (+37.9%) made one of his best starts of the year. He allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings while striking out eight, although he did walk four batters. Francisco (+27.7%) walked twice and was 1-2, including his game-breaking double.
Chump of the Game: Storen (-46.4%) allowed four runs in his one inning on four hits and a walk, although perhaps two of those runs should have been unearned due to Harper’s dropped fly ball. Brewers LF Sean Halton (-25.7%) was 0-4, including an inning-ending GIDP and a strikeout with the bases loaded and two outs.