The Nationals opened the postseason against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, the long layoff was evident in the way the Nats played.
They were not sharp in the field and their timing was off at the plate. The Nats lost to the Giants, 3-2.
Nationals Park was full and the crowd was loud and into the game. They did not understand how to use the rally towels they had been given. Note to fans–you wave the rally towels when the Nats are at bat, NOT when the Nats are in the field. Tim Hudson was heartily booed during the introductions. The crowd was there to celebrate a win, but it was not to be.
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Stephen Strasburg made his much-anticipated first postseason start. Strasburg gave up two runs (one earned) in five innings. He allowed two base runners in the sixth inning before being replaced by Jerry Blevins. The right-hander walked one, struck out two and gave up six hits.
The fact that he only struck out two should tell you that Strasburg was not sharp today. He would get ahead of hitters, then was not able to put them away. The Giants’ strategy was to swing at Strasburg’s fastball, and it worked for them. Strasburg did not adjust by moving to more changeups to start off at bats to get swings and misses.
Jake Peavy no-hit the Nats for the first five innings. Bryce Harper got the first Nationals hit of the game in the fifth inning. It was that kind of day for Nats hitters against Peavy. The Nationals finally got to Peavy in the sixth inning. Nate Schierholtz hit in the pitcher’s spot and led off with a double. Denard Span and Anthony Rendon both flew out, but Jayson Werth drew a walk to keep the inning alive. That was the end of Peavy’s day.
Javier Lopez came in to face Adam LaRoche and walked him. With the bases loaded, Bruce Bochy went to Hunter Strickland, the September call-up who throws as hard as anyone in the league. He carved up Ian Desmond on four pitches, none below 95 mph, and the last pitch 100 mph. That killed the Nats’ rally.
After Blevins got the Nats out of trouble in the sixth, Craig Stammen came in to pitch the seventh. He gave up a leadoff triple to Joe Panik on a ball hit to Span. Span could not secure the catch as the ball hit the heel of his glove and bounced out. Panik scored on a Buster Posey single to make the score 3-0.
That insurance run would prove crucial for the Giants. The Nats finally scored in the bottom of the seventh on two home runs hit off Strickland, one a monster third-deck shot by Harper and another by Asdrubal Cabrera. The Nats were within one run.
The Nats had opportunities in the eighth inning, but again could not get the timely hit to drive runners home. Rendon led off the inning with a hit, and after Werth popped out, Adam LaRoche singled to put two on with only one out. Desmond struck out swinging and Harper grounded out to end the inning. The Nats went quietly in the ninth, with Danny Espinosa grounding out to end the game.
The Nationals were not their usual good defenders in the field. In addition to the fly ball not caught by Span, LaRoche made an odd decision on a bunt by Peavy in the top of the third. Instead of throwing to first to get Peavy, he threw to second to try to get Travis Ishikawa but did not get the out. Not getting the out led to a run being scored in that inning, along with a passed ball by Wilson Ramos.
Next Game: Hopefully the Nationals will get back into the rhythm of the game now that they have played one. They will need to be at their best Saturday when they play Game 2 of the series against the Giants at Nationals Park, with first pitch scheduled for 5:37 p.m. EST.
Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA) pitches for the Nationals. Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) pitches for the Giants. The Nationals have had their problems winning against Tim Hudson in the past, but may have extra incentive to try to beat him on Saturday.