Jul 31, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) is removed from the game by Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals played the first game of a four game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Thursday night. This was the first home game for the Nats after their recent long road trip.
The pitching matchup looked to be a good one, with Gio Gonzalez going for the Nationals and Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies. Neither pitcher lasted long. Cliff Lee was cruising until he had to leave the game in the third inning with an injury to his left elbow. Gio was chased out of the game in the fourth inning after giving up five runs.
The Nats defense was not sharp. Anthony Rendon was charged with two errors. Danny Espinosa made a questionable play in the fourth inning for which the Nats did not get an out they desperately needed at the time. Ian Desmond dropped a ball after getting an out at second which appeared to be a double play ball and extended an inning in which more runs were scored.
Marlin Byrd led off the top of the fourth with a single, and then Carlos Ruiz singled right behind him. Grady Sizemore doubled to drive in Byrd and Ruiz and give the Phillies the lead. Gonzalez walked Darin Ruf, which was inexcusable considering Ruf was 3 for his last 24 and strikes out a ton. Andres Blanco laid down a sacrifice bunt which moved both runners over.
Domonic Brown pinch hit for Antonio Bastardo, who pitched to Denard Span in the third after Lee left with his injury. Brown hit a dinky infield ball to Danny Espinosa, who threw home but didn’t get the out. Sizemore scored. Espinosa could have gotten Brown at first and gotten the second out. It turned out to be a bad decision. Ben Revere singled to score Ruf. Then Jimmy Rollins singled to load the bases. Chase Utley hit the ball toward second base. The Nats got the out at second but could not turn the potential double play when Ian Desmond dropped the ball after getting Rollins out. Revere scored on the fielder’s choice and the Phillies led 5-0.
That was the end of Gonzalez’s night. Ross Detwiler came in to get the last out and then pitched a scoreless fifth to keep the Nats in the game.
The Nationals finally scored in the bottom of the fourth off Mario Hollands. Rendon walked to lead off the inning and then got to second on a wild pitch. Hollands struck out Jayson Werth, but Wilson Ramos singled up the middle to score Rendon. Desmond hit into a double play to end the inning, but the Nats were on the board.
The Nats added two more runs against Hollands in the bottom of the fifth. Bryce Harper, leading off, singled and Kevin Frandsen singled right behind him. With two on and nobody out, Espinosa bunted the ball in the air to Carlos Ruiz for the first out. Scott Hairston pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot and was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Denard Span came through with a single to right which scored Harper and Frandsen.
That was the end of the line for Hollands. Justin De Fratus came into the game in relief of Hollands and got Rendon to line out and Werth to groundout to end the inning. The Nationals had pulled to within two runs and were back in the game.
That is until Matt Williams made the inexplicable decision to bring in Jerry Blevins as the next pitcher. Blevins has been ineffective of late and has been terrible against right handed batters. Blevins got Cody Asche to groundout to start the inning. He then gave up a single to Ben Revere. Jimmy Rollins, batting from the right side, singled to deep left, scoring the speedy Revere from first. Rollins turned into a one man steal machine against Blevins. Rollins stole second base, and then stole third when Blevins did not look him back and ignored him. Utley flew out deep enough to score Rollins from third. The inning mercifully ended on a strike out by Marlon Byrd, but Blevins gave back the two runs the Nats had just gained and the Phillies led 7-3.
Aaron Barrett pitched the top of the seventh for the Nats and looked pretty good out there. He induced a ground ball to Rendon, who committed a throwing error to first allowing Ruiz to reach base. Barrett did not let it rattle him, getting Sizemore to flyout and then striking out Ruf and pinch hitter Ryan Howard.
The Nats tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh off Phillies reliever Jake Diekman, who has a mean fast ball but can be wild. Frandsen lead off the inning with a double, and went to third on a passed ball. Espinosa singled in Frandsen to make the score 7-4. After Nate McLouth struck out, Span singled and Espinosa went to third. Rendon hit a fly ball, but it was a bit too shallow for Espinosa to score on from third. Werth struck out to end the inning.
That was the end of the Nationals scoring for the night. Phillies reliever Ken Giles and his 100 mph fastball took care of the Nats batters the rest of the way.
The Phillies were not done putting up runs. Craig Stammen pitched the top of the eighth and gave up three runs by getting singled to death. Asche singled and went to third on Revere’s single which hit the side of Stammen’s foot and bounced into right field. Revere stole second during Rollins’ at bat. Rollins struck out, and the Nats decided to walk Utley to load the bases hoping to get a double play to end the inning.
Byrd had other ideas, singling to deep left to score two more runs. The Nats caught Utley in a rundown for the second out. Ruiz singled, and then Sizemore singled to score Byrd. The Phillies put up ten runs on seventeen hits.