Shortly after the All-Star break, Nats fans began to temper their expectations for the team. Even with those tempered expectations, everyone is upset with the Nationals’ recent performance. They have lost five straight, all since the All-Star break, and have just two wins in their past twelve games. They are four games under .500, more than they have been at any point this year, and have the same number of losses as the Mets. The firing of Rick Eckstein has yet to make a difference, though coaching changes rarely immediately do. If the Nats were looking to make a splash, they should dump Chad Tracy, Roger Bernadina, and Steve Lombardozzi, replacing them with Chris Marrero, Corey Brown, and Jeff Kobernus respectively, but that’s neither here nor there. Taylor Jordan allowed five runs (four earned), but his outing was remarkable in that he went 7.2 innings in just his fifth major league start when he had not gone over six innings in his previous four starts. For comparison, Stephen Strasburg pitched in the eighth inning for the first time in his 54th major league start. Jordan is also in his first season after Tommy John surgery. However, the runs he allowed meant he never had a chance. The Nats had just three hits, though many hard-hit balls were robbed by the Pittsburgh defense. What else can I say that hasn’t been repeated ad nauseum? I’ll leave it to Jayson Werth:
“Really, the thing about us right now, we’re a little snake-bit. Things aren’t going our way and we’re not winning games. We need to find a way to win a game. The silver lining is really no one else is winning, either. Old cliché stands true: just one day at a time. We just need to pull back a little bit, put things in perspective, and look big picture. Things are tough, but all-in-all, one day at a time, one pitch at a time, and one AB at a time, and we need to get this thing turned around. I’ve said it before, I believe in this team. And I know it’s getting into late July, but still a lot of ballgames to be played. I still believe in these guys.”
Most Important Nationals Hit: Wilson Ramos‘ solo homer (+9.4%)
It would stand to reason that the Nats’ most important hit would be their only extra base hit and their only run scored. After some near-misses on long hits that Pirates took away, including a surefire double from Adam LaRoche robbed by Starling Marte, Ramos got into one from Gerrit Cole and sent it deep to center to make the score 3-1. Andrew McCutchennearly had it, but Ramos rounded the bases on the second and final hit Cole yielded, in only the third inning.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Garrett Jones‘ walk (-8.0%)
Meanwhile, it doesn’t really make any sense that a walk would be the most important hit for a team that scored five runs, but it was an important walk indeed. Jones walked to load the bases with no outs in the second inning, giving the Pirates a golden chance to strike first. Next up, Neil Walker hit a near-double play ball that Jones’ slide broke up, scoring a run. With runners on the corners, another potential DP ball was hit to third, but Anthony Rendon dropped Ryan Zimmerman‘s throw and all the Pirates were safe, up 2-0. A Cole single scored another run before the inning ended.
Champ of the Game: Ramos (+2.7%) was 1-3 with his home run, which he used to account for 33.3% of the Nats’ hit total and become one of just three Nats with a positive WPA, along with Ian Desmond (0-2, BB, +1.2%) and Tyler Clippard (1 IP, 0 ER/H/BB, 2 K, +0.3%). Cole (+39.3%) was stellar for Pittsburgh, yielding two hits and one run in seven innings. He was also 2-3 with an RBI at the plate.
Chump of the Game: Undeservingly, Jordan (-18.8%) takes this. He did allow nine hits, five runs, and a walk, but only four runs were earned, and he pitched 7.2 innings! I can’t say enough about that in his fifth MLB start. He is not to blame for this loss. This should go to the entire offense minus Jordan’s 0-2, whose WPA was -28.5%. Pittsburgh’s Marte (-11.3%) was 0-5 with a strikeout, but played excellent defense in left field.