The Washington Nationals fall to the Tampa Bay Rays last night 5-3 to lose the two-game set at home and the overall four-game set against the Rays.
First things first, Bryce Harper went down with what the team is calling a mild left hamstring strain while attempting to throw a runner out at home. He slipped on the grass with his plant foot and all his weight went on his knee as he collapsed to the ground. Let’s hope that Bryce is okay and not out for a long time because the Nats cannot compete without him. More importantly, let’s hope his swing is not affected too much by this and he can keep up his blistering hitting pace.
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Doug Fister got his first start after his stint on the disabled list following forearm tightness and looked solid. For most of the night, he kept the ball down and was able to locate his sinker. Coming off the DL, he seemed to get a bit tired heading into the sixth and allowed a big inning, but that is to be expected as he gets back to mid-season form. Matt Williams did continue a troubling trend of letting his starters go a batter or inning to far to protect his bullpen and it cost him a few runs.
While Doug was solid, the bullpen was its usual inconsistent self. Blake Treinen came in to relieve Fister and promptly gave up a triple, which allowed a run to score. But David Carpenter, Casey Janssen, and Felipe Rivero pitched three scoreless innings to hold the Rays at five runs. It seems Janssen and Carpenter may provide some middle-inning relief, but constancy is key for the Nats bullpen to be successful this season.
Fielding. I feel like I keep coming back to this theme as an explanation as to why the Nats play poorly. Three errors is unacceptable. Granted, one error was due to Harper’s injury, but even two errors is too many for a championship team. In addition, there could have been another error on Ian Desmond that was ruled a single. You cannot give teams free outs and expect to win at this level.
As a bright spot, Yunel Escobar went five-for-five again for the third time this year. Escobar has been a fantastic addition to the team. Danny Espinosa had another good night and I love the way he is willing to do anything to help the team win. He looks like he has played first base his entire life and os smacking the ball from both sides of the plate.
The Nationals need to step it up if they expect to compete in the playoffs this year. Injuries are not an excuse for inconsistent and sloppy play and they will not get a break facing the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates for this weekend’s three-game set at Nats Park.