In dropping three of four against the Phillies, the Nationals reached the peaks and valleys of their inconsistency. They scored four runs against All-Star Cliff Lee and his 2.73 ERA in six innings. They did so with four solo home runs, while Lee had allowed just nine home runs all season. On the other side of that coin, the Nats managed just two runs in 23 innings against John Lannan, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Kendrick, who had an average ERA of 4.48 entering their starts with the Nats. The Nats lost two games against Atlanta in this series and now sit six games back in the division, although they are just four games behind Cincinnati for the second wild card spot. No series is an island, and losing three of four will never sink a season, but the Nats need to find a way to be more consistent. Their new lineup, with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, has only played together for ten days, but the Nationals also need more production from the back end of their rotation, namely Dan Haren. The Nats have lost nine straight of his starts, and his best shot to win one may be this weekend against Miami, although the Marlins will start All-Star Jose Fernandezto oppose him. At the very least, he should be able to carve up baseball’s worst lineup. If he can’t, the Nationals may intensify the search for a starter, and Haren’s days could be numbered. The Nats need to pick it up in more than one way, and time is running out.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Bryce Harper’s triple (+11.5%)
After being called out at the plate on what appeared to be a bad call in the first inning, Harper would not be denied in the sixth. He tripled off Kendrick with one out, and raced home on Ryan Zimmerman‘s sacrifice fly in the next at-bat. Unfortunately, this would be the only run the Nationals managed all game. As a team, the Nats had five hits and one walk. They failed to even get a runner against Jonathan Papelbon, against whom they had scored three times in four appearances before tonight.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Ben Revere‘s RBI single (-14.7%)
After both teams squandered a number of chances early in the game, the Phillies finally struck first in the bottom of the fifth. A single and a sacrifice put Carlos Ruiz on second base, and he raced around to score on Revere’s one-bagger. He was hitting .200 on April 30th, but he is hitting .347 since then and has a .381 OBP. He has become a force atop the Phillies’ lineup, while the other CF acquired from the Twins this offseason, Denard Span, has seen his OBP fall to .314.
Champ of the Game: Harper (+4.6%) was 1-4 and scored the Nats’ only run with his triple. He reached on a fielder’s choice in the first inning and stole a base before he was thrown out at home by Domonic Brown. For the Phillies, Kendrick (+21.9%) gave up just one run on five hits and a walk in seven innings with just two strikeouts.
Chump of the Game: Span (-22.5%) continued to struggle today, going 0-4 and grounding into two double plays. He is hitless in his last 13 at-bats. His trouble hitting this season is nearly inexplicable, given his significantly better numbers in nearly every offensive category for his career. Delmon Young (-12.4%) was 0-3, and made all three outs with runners on base.