On a day where Manager Matt Williams sat Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Yunel Escobar, The Washington Nationals hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of their second April series, with Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 6.14 ERA) on the mound facing former-Brave Aaron Harang (2-1, 1.96 ERA). With strong starting pitching on the rubber for the Nats, it seemed the only pressure in this game was on the offense to get enough runs across the plate to support their ace. However, as seems to be a recurring theme so far this season, defense proved to be their ultimate demise, as the Phillies were gifted two runs in the 3rd.
With one out, pitcher Aaron Harang hit a bouncer to short that Desmond bobbled and did not get to first base in time. After a double and a single scored Harang and left runners on the corners, second baseman Chase Utley grounded into a tailor-made double play to Danny Espinosa. Espinosa cleanly made the relay to Desmond, who caught the ball only to promptly drop it in the transfer. Rather than ending the inning, another run scored and Zimmermann was forced to continue driving up his pitch count. While the botched double play will only go down as a fielder’s choice in the scorebook, Desmond is ultimately to blame.
Already the owner of an MLB-leading eight errors (the second most is four), Desmond has no excuses for his poor play, telling CSN’s Mark Zuckerman, “I’ve been through this before,” Desmond said. “I’m gonna get through it. And hopefully at the end of the year, I’m gonna look back and pat myself on the back that I made my way through it.”
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Other than Desmond, the Nationals played exceptional defense behind Zimmermann, who was never able to settle in, going 6.1 IP with 4 hits, 4 runs (2 ER), 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts in 101 pitches (61 strikes). While only giving up two earned runs, Zimmermann lacked command and was not able to keep the ball down, forcing only five ground ball outs. Through the starts, Zimmermann has not yet returned to the true form he showed in 2014, having left the game yesterday sporting a 6.14 ERA.
The offense proved to be inconsistent, going 1-8 with RISP and leaving eight runners left on base. After consecutive singles and a fielder’s choice scored a run in the 1st, it looked like the Nationals were in for another big offensive day. However, they did not score again until the fourth, where Jose Lobaton‘s RBI single scored Dan Uggla. They struck again in the fifth, where Bryce Harper took Harang deep to straightaway center for his fourth home run of the season. The moonshot went 452 feet, tying Harper for second in the National League in long balls. After the homer, the Nats’ offense failed to get a runner past second base, leaving very little wiggle room for the bullpen.
Coming in for Zimmermann in the 7th, reliever Matt Thornton allowed an inherited runner to score. Aaron Barrett continued his dominance to start the season with a 1-2-3 scoreless 8th. Blake Treinen came in for the 9th hoping to hold a one run deficit, but was unable to prevent the Phillies from pushing another run across the plate. Although the bullpen has appeared to be shaky to start the season, the ‘pen is fourth best in the National League with a 2.38 ERA.
The Nationals enter Sunday 5-7 to face the Phillies again for the final game of the 4-game series. Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 6.75 ERA) takes the ball to face David Buchanan (0-2, 11.42 ERA). Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos will return to the lineup as the Nats look to rebound after dropping Game 3. Yunel Escobar remains questionable with a groin strain and has been listed as Day-to-Day.