Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Ian Desmond’s Error Part Of Tough Loss For Max Scherzer

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Jun 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits a home run to center during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper Vs. Masahiro Tanaka

Coming into last night, no player in the Washington Nationals lineup had ever faced Masahiro Tanaka. That’s what made the matchup so compelling when he went up against Bryce Harper. It was one of the best pitchers in the league against one of the best hitters in the league and it lived up to the billing.

It began in the top of the first inning. With two outs and nobody on, Harper had a very good at-bat. With the count at 2-2, Harper fouled off four straight pitches and took ball three on a sinker. On the tenth pitch of the at-bat, he hit a groundball to Stephen Drew on a sinker to end the first inning. While Harper lost the battle, he made Tanaka throw 21 pitches in the first inning even though he retired all three hitters.

Then, in the fourth, Harper got his revenge. With two outs and nobody on, he took a 1-0 fastball that was left in the middle of the plate to dead center field. It looked like a flyball to center, but the ball kept carrying past Brett Gardner and over the center field wall. It wasn’t quite Harper’s home run at Wrigley, but he took advantage of a rare mistake by Tanaka.

Finally, in the seventh, Harper took Tanaka off the hook. With the count at 1-2, Harper surprisingly showed bunt and fouled it off for strike three. I understand that Harper was trying to beat the shift, but that is something you do at the beginning of an at-bat. With the offense as bad as it is right now, the young right fielder has to make sure he hits for power in nearly every at-bat.

As for thee rest of the Nationals lineup, they struggled mightily against Tanaka. Tanaka went seven innings, gave up one run on five hits, struck out six, and walked none on 87 pitches. Washington had their chances, but they were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Against a great pitcher, you have to score runs when you get the opportunity.

Next: Was Scherzer In Too Long?