After dropping the opening game of the series with Philadelphia, the Washington Nationals needed to get off the ropes and back into the win column on Saturday night. They were going to have their work cut out for them, though. The Phillies sent to the mound Cole Hamels, who, while he may not be the dominating force he once was, still has good stuff. Even last season, when he posted just a .500 record, Hamels still boasted an ERA of 2.46 and a FIP of 3.07. Coming off a rough first start to the season, Hamels would be looking to bounce back against a Nationals lineup that so far, in 2015, has been underwhelming to say the least.
Pitching for the Nationals would be Doug Fister, making his first start of 2015. Fister came into the game on seven days rest, having a full week to stew over a poor spring performance in which he posted an ERA over seven. If the Nationals hoped to earn a split for the first two games of the three-gamer with the Phillies, they’d need Fister to be sharp.
The game started with three scoreless innings as both teams squandered prime opportunities to score. The Nationals wasted two baserunners with one out in the first inning. The Phillies missed one chance in the first when a superb defensive play by the trio of Harper, Espinosa, and Ramos kept Chase Utley from scoring. Philadelphia missed another in the third when a bad bunt and some good pressure pitching from Fister undid the back-to-back singles that they had to open the inning.
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Instead, the first run of the game came in the fourth. After Ryan Zimmerman struck out to lead off the inning, Wilson Ramos stepped to the plate. The Buffalo sent a fly ball to right field that managed to carry just over the wall for a solo shot. In spite of being outhit 4-2 early, the Nats had a 1-0 lead.
It would remain that way for another four innings until the top of the eighth. Danny Espinosa, hitting from the left side of the plate for the first time in 2015, hit a line drive over the head of right fielder Grady Sizemore for a double. He moved to third on a wild pitch by Jeanmar Gomez, then scored on a single by Clint Robinson to double the Nationals advantage.
The Phillies were not going to go quietly, though. Blake Treinen, on to pitch the eighth, got one quick out, but then Chase Utley singled and Ryan Howard, who hit the ball hard all night, missed hitting a tying 2-run shot to left by mere inches. Instead, Howard ended up with a double and an RBI, and the score was 2-1.
One batter later, the score was tied. Carlos Ruiz sent a ball up the middle of the infield. Danny Espinosa bobbled it, and Cesar Hernandez, pinch running for Howard, raced home. After eight innings, the game was locked up at 2-2.
It would be over after ten. With Tanner Roark on to pitch, Ruiz singled to lead off and moved to second on a sacrifice fly by Sizemore. The next hitter, Odubel Herrera, ended the game with a single down the right field line. Ruiz scored, and the Nationals lost, 3-2.
Now, after five games, the Nationals are tied for last place in the division with the Miami Marlins at 1-4, and they have no one to blame but their own disappointing offense. Saturday saw them strand eight runners and go 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Probably the most disappointing play in the game happened in the tenth, when Michael Taylor was thrown out by Ben Revere while trying to score on a single by Escobar.
Tomorrow, the Nationals will send Max Scherzer (0-1) to the mound to face Sean O’Sullivan (0-0) and hope to salvage at least one game from this series before they head on to Boston to face the Red Sox in interleague play.
- Ian Desmond picked up his fourth error in five games. While it was a tough scoring call (Desmond just missed a throw from Ramos), it’s alarming how frequently he’s had lapses in the field. He’s also struggling at the plate, hitting just .167 over the first five games. Is this just a bad start and a total fluke, or is it a result of Desmond pressing in what is a contract year?
- At first, it looked like the Nats were going to just be lucky on Saturday. With two outs and a runner on first in the 7th, an errant throw by Thornton to first looked as if it would get by Zimmerman and allow the runner to advance. Instead, the ball bounced off of the umpire, and the runner was forced to remain at first. They also avoided several more runs when Philadelphia botched three different attempts at sacrifice bunts.
- Fister left after one out in the top of the seventh after throwing 95 pitches. He finished with no runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout. It seems unfair that he pitched so well just to wind up without a win, but the bullpen for the Nationals just couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
- Blake Treinen likely had the worst inning of all the relievers. After looking sharp on Friday, Treinen couldn’t string together back-to-back good nights. His pitches hung up in the zone and his fastball didn’t have the sort of movement he wanted, which allowed Phillies hitters to make him pay for those mistakes.