May 26, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) forces out Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) during the sixth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Bad Defense And Baserunning Mistakes Haunt Nats
I have said repeatedly this season that the Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball, but they continue to get in their own way. That trend continued last night at Wrigley. First, it was Yunel Escobar. While the third baseman has had an excellent start this year, Tuesday night was not one of his better nights in a Nats uniform. He did go 1-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the game, but his offense won’t be remembered.
It started in the top of the first. With Bryce Harper at the plate, Escobar was picked off by catcher Miguel Montero at first base to end the inning. When Harper is up, you never want to run yourself out of an inning because Harper could easily make it a 2-0 game with one swing. Of course, that wouldn’t be Escobar’s worst blunder of the night.
Escobar got the Nats started in the top of the ninth with a single to left and he stole second on a Ryan Zimmerman strikeout. However, Escobar went off the base and was nearly tagged out during that sequence.
Wilson Ramos had a chance to give the Nationals back the lead against Rondon, who has had a rough start to his season as the Cubs closer. With the count 3-2, Escobar thought he could take third, but Rondon noticed and threw him out to end the scoring chance. You never want to make the final out of an inning at third base, especially with the way Ramos has been swinging the bat.
Let’s shift gears to the bottom of the ninth. With Chris Coghlan on first and one out, Joe Maddon sent up Jonathan Herrera to pinch hit for Rondon. Matt Grace was able to get the ground ball he wanted and Espinosa was able to get it to Desmond for the second out. However, Desmond threw the ball out of play going for the double play, which allowed Herrera to take second with two outs.
On the following play, Russell would double to right center to end the game. That error was Desmond’s 13th of the season, which is the most in the National League. Yes, his bat has heated up this month as he is currently on a 11-game hitting streak. That being said, his defense has not gotten better. He has made four errors this month after nine in April, but two of those errors have come in the last four days.
In that situation, with Herrera’s speed, you want Desmond to not make the throw there and have your defense set up to prevent Russell from another extra base hit. Plus, if the game went to the tenth inning, the Cubs had Jason Motte warming up, which would have been his fourth appearance in five days. You never know how the game would have turned out, but it’s another example of the Nationals beating themselves while making fundamental mistakes.