The Nats’ offense has been as boom-or-bust as they get lately. Since June 30th, they have scored eight or more runs five times, two or fewer runs three times, and between just once: five runs in a 5-4 win over San Diego. That’s all well and good so long as they’re scoring 8+ often enough, but it sure is frustrating when they don’t. Dan Haren made his less-than-triumphant return from the DL, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks in the first inning and reminding Nats fans just why he was put on the DL in the first place. After that first inning, however, Haren looked as strong as he has all season: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Unfortunately, the two runs were all John Lannan would need, as he shut the Nats out over eight innings. The ex-Nats Opening Day starter spent almost all of 2012 in the minors, much to his chagrin, and was out for revenge tonight. That, combined with the fact that the Nats have the worst batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage against lefties in baseball, made tonight a bad night for the Nats’ offense. You can’t win ’em all, but they’re a little more important against division rivals.
Jul 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) hits a double in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Nationals, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Most Important Nationals Hit: Ryan Zimmerman‘s double (+10.1%)
The second the lefty left the game, the Nats’ bats came alive. Against ace closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has already blown two saves against the Nats this season, Bryce Harper singled to open the ninth. Zimmerman’s double put them both in scoring position for Jayson Werth, who had an opportunity to get revenge on his former team like Lannan, but came just short of a game-tying homer, instead settling for a sac fly. Another sac fly cut the lead to 3-2, but Chad Tracy popped out to end it.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Darin Ruf‘s… sigh… RBI walk (-8.7%)
Like I said, Haren had a pretty rough first inning. Two singles and a double steal put two in scoring position with no outs. After Chase Utley struck out, Domonic Brown singled to score Ben Revere and put the Phillies up 1-0. After a walk to load the bases and another strikeout, Ruf stood in and took some tough pitches with two outs to draw the walk and force the second run home. The two walks were very uncharacteristic for Haren, who rarely walks batters and prefers to allow his runs on hits.
Champ of the Game: Zimmerman (+6.4%) was 2-4 with a run scored and was only one of four Nats with a positive WPA. For the Phillies, Lannan (+36.1%) destroyed his former team, allowing just four hits, all singles, and two walks across his eight shutout frames. He threw eight shutout innings just once as a Nat.
Chump of the Game: The left-handed Adam LaRoche (-14.8%) looked befuddled by Lannan, going 0-3 before recording a sac fly against Papelbon in the ninth. Utley (-10.0%) was 0-4 with a strikeout.