On the one-year anniversary of manager Jim Riggleman’s shocking resignation, the Nationals looked to show just how far they’ve come since then. But one mistake by a previously unflappable reliever, combined with an offense that failed to convert several opportunities, helped the Orioles take a 2-1 victory over the Nationals, claiming the season series 4-2. It was the Nationals’ first loss in a rubber game of the season, and it dropped the team to 41-29. The division lead drops to 3 games pending the outcome of tonight’s Mets-Yankees game.
Nats starter Ross Detwiler, having won back the fifth spot in the rotation (okay, more like Wang lost it), threw five decent, scoreless innings, but his struggles in the fourth and fifth proved he still has yet to get over the issues which caused him to be demoted in the first place. He turns into a headcase with runners on, and in this game it didn’t help that home plate ump David Rackley seemed to give the Orioles hitters one extra strike per at-bat. Detwiler held it together though, and he was yanked after 82 pitches, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, and 4 hits. Arrieta pitched equally well for the Orioles, holding a punchless Nats offense to one run, scattering 5 hits, 5 Ks, and just one walk.
That one run for the Nationals came on an RBI by struggling 3B Ryan Zimmerman in the third inning. He drove in Jhonatan Solano, subbing for a resting Jesus Flores. With Detwiler holding the O’s scoreless and with the Nats’ stellar bullpen on to close out the game, it looked like that one run might be enough.
But it wasn’t quite that simple. Craig Stammen pitched a clean 6th and worked out of trouble in the 7th, yielding to the typically reliable Sean Burnett. However the gleam on Burnett’s amazing season dimmed a little bit. Adam Jones worked the count on him before singling to right, and Matt Wieters crushed his 10th home run of the year on a mediocre fastball to put the Orioles up 2-1. Burnett walked Steve Pearce before mercifully being pulled in favor of Ryan Mattheus.
The score stayed 2-1 into the 9th when Ian Desmond worked a walk, but the rally was killed on a “strike ’em out, throw ’em out” double play, as Desmond was caught stealing at second. Burnett took the loss, his first decision of the year, as well as a blown save. Pedro Strop got the win (4-2), and Jim Johnson saved the game, his 22nd of the year.
Champ of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman. Sure, if you look at his line he “broke out” of his slump, if that’s what you want to call one well-struck liner for an RBI and one lucky grounder up the middle. But he’s the champ for his work in the field, especially the quick move on starting a double play in the 8th to help keep the game close after Burnett’s meltdown. He’s clearly not back to normal yet, as he admitted before the game that his right shoulder is still bothering him and that he may get a cortisone shot or face additional DL time in the near future.
Chump of the Game: The middle of the Nationals batting order. 0-10 with 8 left on base. LaRoche, Morse, and Desmond made Arrieta look really good today, and that’s not something to be proud of.
Next Game: Monday, June 24, 8:40 p.m. ET, Stephen Strasburg (9-1, 2.46) takes the hill at Coors Field against 1/4 of Colorado Rockies’ starting pitching experiment, Jeff Francis (0-1, 8.56). The Rockies aim to prove why they play the games out, because on paper this one looks like a laugher. Francis is coming off of a decent start against the Phillies and is trying to build off of that success, while Strasburg tries to become the first Nationals pitcher to win seven consecutive starts, and he’ll do it against a potent offense in a rejuvenated launching pad of a ballpark.