The Nationals started a two game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park Monday night. The Nats dropped the first game of the series 5-1.
In this game the problem was the anemic offense and one very bad pitch by starter Stephen Strasburg, The Nationals took a tie game into the bottom of the sixth inning, but Strasburg could not hold down the Tigers potent offense any longer than that.
Anibal Sanchez was the starting pitcher for the Tigers. The Nationals did not hit much better against Sanchez in a Tigers uniform than they did when he was wearing a Marlins uniform.
The game started out well for the Nats, who scored their only run in the top of the first. Bryce Harper lead off with a triple, and Ryan Zimmerman drove him in with a single. The Nationals scattered three more hits against Sanchez in his total seven innings pitched, one a ground rule double by Adam LaRoche in the sixth inning.
Strasburg pitched well except for the bottom of the sixth inning. He gave up six hits in five innings. He also walked three batters (Prince Fielder twice) and two of those walks turned into Tigers runs. Other than the sixth inning, Strasburg looked great. Unfortunately that one bad inning defined Strasburg’s night.
The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. After getting Miguel Cabrera to ground out, Strasburg walked Fielder. Victor Martinez flew out. Jhonny Peralta singled to center, one of the three times he was on base during the game. Andy Dirks hit a fair ball over the third base bag that careened toward short left field. The ball was scooped up by a fan. The umpires called fan interference and only allowed Fielder to score from second. Alex Avila flew out to end the inning.
That would not be the last time Alex Avila came up with runners on in this game, and the second time the outcome was very different. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Strasburg got Cabrera to fly out. He then gave up a single to Fielder, a double to Victor Martinez and walked Peralta. With the bases loaded, Strasburg struck out Dirks. Up came Avila. Stephen left a pitch over the plate on the inner half, which was not where Wilson Ramos was set up. Avila crushed the ball over the fence in right field for his first grand slam of his career and the Nats were down 5-1.
Strasburg pitched the seventh inning with no damage and his night was done. Fernando Abad pitched the eighth for the Nationals and gave up two singles, but got out of the inning without anyone scoring.
Jose Veras made his first appearance in a Tigers uniform after his trade to the team from the Houston Astros. Joaquin Benoit, the Tigers closer, got in some work in the ninth in a non-save situation and finished the win for the Tigers.