Dan Haren‘s first start off the DL was a lackluster one in Philadelphia, when he allowed just two runs in five innings, but put on ten baserunners. Nevertheless, reports trickled out that the Nationals were happy with the way Haren looked, while most fans only saw the same old Haren who had a 6.15 ERA before getting “hurt”. Tonight, however, he looked good, albeit against baseball’s worst offense. He tossed six scoreless innings and allowed just four baserunners. Even if this is just one start, and he was facing some poor competition, it builds up his confidence at the very least. In an ironic twist, everything but Haren was ugly about this game. The offense managed just seven hits and one run, but was in position to win with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Giancarlo Stanton quickly undid that lead, and the Nats went to extras. There, the Marlins walked off on a potential double play ball that Ed Lucasbeat out. The Nationals are now .500, at 47-47, and a loss tomorrow would mean being below .500 and coming off a sweep by baseball’s second worst team into the All-Star break. The season is slipping away, and it feels like the Nats have exhausted every chance to turn it around. Logically thinking, the Nats are not cooked: They trail Atlanta by seven games, but there are 68 left to play and all three Braves starting outfielders were recently injured in a span of two days. However, the Nats simply don’t look like they can go on a run. I’d like nothing more than to be proven wrong, but I see no evidence that I am. Every run is offset by a terrible stretch like this one.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Scott Hairston‘s strikeout (-20.9%)
Perhaps the most striking moment of the night was when the Nats and Marlins faced an identical situation on offense in extras, but the Nats failed to convert while the Marlins did. In the top of the tenth, the Nats had runners on second and third with one out. Hairston was batting third in place of Bryce Harper, who was ejected earlier in the game. He struck out, eliminating the possibility of a sac fly. Ryan Zimmerman struck out on three pitches immediately afterwards. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the tenth, the Marlins had runners on second and third with one out. The Nats intentionally walked Justin Ruggiano, but Ed Lucas won the game by beating out a potential double play ball. The Nats have sunk far when the Marlins can simply execute while they can’t.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Giancarlo Stanton’s game-tying home run (-44.3%)
Leading 1-0 in the ninth, the Nats sent out potential All-Star Rafael Soriano to lock down the heart of the Marlins’ order and preserve the win. Unfortunately, Stanton was able to generate as much offense with one swing of the bat as the Nationals were over the course of the entire game. His mammoth shot to lead off the ninth tied the score, and although the Nats got out of the ninth without losing the game, things went downhill from there.
Champ of the Game: Haren (+33.6%) was undeniably great. His final line was one of his best of the year: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. Unfortunately, he is still last in the NL in run support, and the Nats lost his tenth straight start. Stanton (+39.7%) was 2-4, but his ninth-inning homer made all the difference.
Chump of the Game: Craig Stammen (-37.0%) didn’t allow an earned run or even a single hit, but an error by Chad Tracy, who entered the game at third for Ryan Zimmerman in a double switch after pinch hitting, two walks, and a fielder’s choice were enough to give the Marlins a run and Stammen the loss. For the Marlins, Ruggiano (-19.7%) was 0-4.