In their most recent games, the Washington Nationals’ offense has been scoring runs off of good pitchers. The offense had been contributing its part in trying to win games. The problems with the Nationals lately have either been the starting pitching giving up runs or with the bullpen unable to hold substantial leads late in the game
Last night, against the Miami Marlins, it was the offense that reverted to its form of earlier in the season. It was anemic as the team managed to score one run against Marlins pitching and lost the game, 2-1. The Nats outhit the Marlins seven to five, drew more walks, and did not commit an error (Miami had one). Those numbers would make one think the Nationals might have won this game. One would be wrong.
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The biggest problem for the Nats last night was not being able to drive anyone in in a big spot. The team left nine runners on base and they were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They could not string hits together, nor could they get the critical hit when they needed it with runners on base.
This might be understandable if the Nationals were facing an elite starting pitcher. They weren’t. The Marlins opted to start Jarred Cosart, who came into the game sporting an ERA of 5.04 and he was 1-4 coming into the game. As is a Nationals bad habit, they made a mediocre starting pitcher look like a Cy Young award winner. Cosart only lasted five innings and the Nats did not score a run while he was in the game.
The Nats finally scored a run in the top of the sixth off reliever Kyle Barraclough. It was unearned because of an error committed by Barraclough on a throw to first base when he tried to to pick off Yunel Escobar. Escobar got to second on the error, went to third on a flyout by Ian Desmond and scored on a sacrifice fly by Wilson Ramos.
As for Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez, he gave up one run over 5.1 innings. He pitched well, but was in line for the loss when he was removed from the game because at that point, the Nats were behind 1-0. At least the Nationals were able to score a run to get Gio off the hook. The ineffective offense wasted a good pitching performance by Gonzalez.
By the seventh inning, it was groundhog day. Stop me if you have heard this before–a member of the Nationals bullpen gave up the run that gave the Marlins the win. Casey Janssen pitched part of the seventh inning and was greeted by a double by J.T. Realmuto. You kind of knew at that point that bad things were about to happen.
Ichiro Suzuki, who has been a pest every time the Nationals have played the Marlins this year, then tried to bunt. He shallowly popped the ball up on the left side of the infield. Janssen got to the ball and threw it to third, but not in time to get Realmuto. Now the Marlins had runners on the corners and no outs. Realmuto scored on a sacrifice fly and the Nationals were behind 2-1.
The Marlins used six pitchers and the Nats could make no inroads against any of them. The only run the Nationals managed to score was unearned because of that error in the sixth.
Tonight, the Nationals face Jose Fernandez, who is 4-0 this year with an ERA of 2.30. He is 15-0 in starts at Marlins Park and has a career ERA of 1.14 in home park. Beating Fernandez at home up to this point in his career has been impossible. Things do not look good for the Nats tomorrow. They will have to do what no other team has been able to do against Fernandez at Marlins Park–win.
Did I mention that the Mets beat the Braves Friday night and the Nationals fell even further behind the Mets for the division lead? The Nats are now 8.5 games behind New York with 22 games left in the season.