Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Failure of Opportunistic Hitting Dooms Nats


The pitching matchup between Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals was the pitcher’s duel everyone expected it to be. Scherzer only gave up two runs, but Wacha gave up one and got the win. However, the Nationals failed to take advantage of their opportunities to score runs and handed the game to Wacha and the Cardinals. Errors by the bullpen late extended the Cardinals lead and ended any hope that the Nats could come back late. All of it added up to a 4-1 loss and a series loss for the Nats.

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Hot hitting Matt Carpenter greeted Scherzer with a hit on the first pitch he saw. He went to third on a subsequent single by Jason Heyward, who was also swinging early in his at-bat. Clearly the Cardinals game plan was to go after the first pitch fastball from Scherzer. The Cardinals scored their first run on a Scherzer wild pitch, the first he has thrown as a Nat.

OK, Scherzer isn’t perfect. But once Scherzer figured out the Cardinals strategy, he quickly adjusted and kept the Cards off the board again until the sixth inning. St. Louis scored another run when they hit three singles during the inning. Scherzer would buckle down and limited the damage.

Nats Fail To Take Advantage Of Opportunities

A team isn’t going to get many base runners against quality pitchers like Wacha. It is critical to push runs across when you get the opportunity. The Nationals had several prime opportunities to score runs during this game and did not get it done.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Nats got Denard Span and Bryce Harper on with only one out. A fly out by Ryan Zimmerman and line out by Clint Robinson ended the Nats threat. In the bottom of the second, Yunel Escobar singled to lead off the inning and stayed right there as the next three Nats made outs.

The fourth inning provided more scoring opportunities for the Nats. After a lead off single by Zimmerman and a walk drawn by Robinson, the Nats had two on and nobody out. A double play and a strike out took care of that scoring opportunity.

The Nats finally scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game, but they should have had more. Danny Espinosa led off the inning with a double. Scherzer reached first on a error by Matt Adams, who failed to touch the bag on the throw to first. The Nats had runners at the corners and nobody out. Span singled to score Espinosa and Scherzer busted his butt and ignored a stop sign from Bob Henley to get to third. The Nats still had runners at the corners and nobody out. All the Nats needed to take the lead was a fly ball. Ian Desmond popped out, Harper struck out and Zimmerman grounded out. End of Nats threat.

In the bottom of the eighth, another potential Nats rally was killed by lack of opportunistic hitting. Against reliever Jordan Walden, Desmond doubled and Harper walked to put two on with no outs. Zimmerman hit into a double play and Robinson lined out to end the inning.

This was, quite frankly, disgraceful. I understand that the pitcher knows they want to throw a pitch to induce a ground ball out and avoid a fly ball out, but the hitters should know that too. Hitters should be looking for a pitch in a certain location and ignore anything that is not located where they can hit what they need to produce at that moment.

Nationals hitters can’t do that and haven’t been able to do that for several years. They react to any pitch that is thrown up there if they think it looks good. Low pitches have to be avoided when you need a fly ball. Doesn’t matter how good the pitch looks. Low pitches are ground balls waiting to happen. When the Nats need a single and need to avoid the fly ball out, they hit the high pitches and fly out.

Someone write to me and tell me why Rick Schu is still the hitting coach for this team. I would appreciate your input. Thank you.

Ryan Zimmerman Should Not Have Been Playing

Ryan Zimmerman was clearly hurting when he hit a ball to the right field corner in the bottom of the fourth inning. Normally , that would have been a double. Ryan ran slowly to first, half limping, and showed no interest in thinking about going to second. During Robinson’s at bat, Zimmerman was barely getting a lead off first  and then dragged himself down to second when Robinson drew the walk.

It was clear that something was wrong with Zimmerman. I suspected that he had strained or hurt a hamstring beating out two close plays at first the game before. Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington wrote an article after the game stating that Ryan had been dealing with a mild case of plantar fasciitis for four or five days and Matt Williams said he would need a day off soon.

By the way, someone should tell Williams and the Nats medical staff that plantar fasciitis will not resolve with just a day off or a couple of days rest.  Would someone tell me why the Nats medical staff is so inept?  You can comment or hit me up on Twitter if you have an answer to that question.  Thanks again.

Zimmerman has played every game so far this season. The Nats have a good alternative on the bench in Tyler Moore, who is a first baseman. Ryan should have been pulled from this game when it was apparent he could not run. He was a liability on the base paths at that point. Williams knew Ryan had an issue with his foot prior to the start of the game and should have been ready to replace him with Moore when Zimmerman started limping.

Instead, Williams burned Moore as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh instead of doing a double switch.

There is no excuse for Williams not removing Zimmerman from the game and inserting Moore to play first base. None.

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