Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
After battling back from an early four run deficit and seizing all the momentum needed to get their first road series sweep of the season, the Washington Nationals fell apart in the eighth inning and handed the Kansas City Royals a badly needed 6-4 win.
What makes this loss hurt even more is the way in which the Nats gave it away, with key players making stupid mistakes. I know that may sound a bit harsh, but I’m being nice and trying to use some restraint.
With two out and a runner on first and the game tied 4-4 in the eighth, Billy Butler hit a hard grounder that first baseman Adam LaRoche booted. The ball rolled several feet to his right and when pitcher Craig Stammen failed to cover the bag, the slow-running Butler kept the inning going by chugging to first with an infield single. LaRoche still had plenty of time to beat Butler to the base and end the inning even though Stammen failed to move off the mound, but he just stood there with a blank expression on his face.
Stammen then walked Mike Moustakas on four pitches and Salvador Perez hit a hard grounder that shortstop Ian Desmond bobbled momentarily and then his throw to third was late because Ryan Zimmerman failed to cover the bag. That allowed the tie-breaking run to cross the plate on a fielder’s choice before David Lough’s RBI single made it 6-4.
In all fairness the Desmond-Zimmerman miscue was a tough play on a very hard hit ball in the hole with Zimmerman’ s first step going that way and it didn’t allow him enough time to get back in position. I thought Desmond should have gone to second with his throw, but the play should never have ever happened in the first place if Stammen or LaRoche had done their job on the Butler groundball.
You always hear managers and coaches talking about executing and doing the little things it takes to win ballgames, well this is a perfect example of just how important the “little things” really are.
Pitcher Dan Haren struggled and looked awful with seven of the first nine hitters he faced reaching base, including a leadoff home run by Alex Gordon as the Royals took a 4-0 lead in the first. He eventually settled down and retired 16 of the last 18 batters to finish his start, pitching seven innings.
The Nats finished with a solid 6-4 record on this road trip, but it could have been better.
They will have Monday off before a six game homestand begins with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.