Washington Nationals: Umpire steals the show despite offensive woes

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 08: Manager Dave Martinez #4 of the Washington Nationals and umpire Greg Gibson #53 argue as Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals is pushed away by his coaching staff against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Nationals Park on August 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 08: Manager Dave Martinez #4 of the Washington Nationals and umpire Greg Gibson #53 argue as Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals is pushed away by his coaching staff against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Nationals Park on August 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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It’s never a good sign when the umpire is one of the main stories in a game, but that’s exactly where the Washington Nationals are after slumping to defeat.

If anyone in attendance at the Washington Nationals matchup against the Atlanta Braves came to see the umpire, they were in for a treat. Despite the Nats bats’ inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position being the main reason for the loss, Greg Gibson left himself at the heart of the of discussion.

Gibson was inconsistent early on in the game, ringing up Nats batters on pitches outside the zone. The Nationals pitchers weren’t getting the same liberties, but umpires are only human, those mistakes happen. It was what followed that was particularly bizarre.

Juan Soto prepared to bat for the third time in the game, after being called out on strikes his last time. According to Jamal Collier of MLB.com, Soto then said to Gibson, the last pitch in his last at-bat was a ball. And after the game, he said he told Gibson that so that he can “make sure he can understand and be better”.

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After telling Gibson that the last pitch in his last AB was a ball, the umpire removed his mask and seemed to ask Soto what he said. Soto then appeared to repeat that he thought the pitch was a ball and was subsequently ejected. A baffling decision.

It looked as though the home plate umpire was looking for a reason to eject someone after the Nationals dugout had been chirping at him for a while. Soto should have known a bit better than to rise up to the ump, but Gibson’s actions were poor and we’ll see if MLB will take any action against him for this.

Bats struggle with RISP yet again

Back to what people actually came to Nats Park to see, the baseball. The Nationals inconsistency hitting with RISP came back to haunt the team again. They went a shocking 1 for 16 on the night. Yes, one for sixteen.

Overall, the Nats left a whopping 25 runners on base in this one. Despite the somewhat lopsided score, it could’ve at least been a close game had they capitalized on their chances. As a fan, it may feel like they always perform poorly in these spots, but the stats paint a different picture.

Believe it or not, the Nationals, on the whole, have been solid with their RISP hitting. They rank ninth in the major leagues and fifth in the National League for batting average with baserunners in scoring position. And in the same situation with two outs, they rank fifth in the major leagues and third in the NL.

It’s mainly down to inconsistency, as they have had some huge scores, that inflates this total. But in some of the crushing defeats, they have nights like tonight where they were hapless in those situations.

Milone struggles in first real test

Tommy Milone had impressed in his first few starts back with the Washington Nationals. However, those were against the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, hardly stiff tests.

Against the Braves, Milone struggled mightily giving up seven runs on 10 hits, three of which left the yard. The first of those homers to Charlie Culberson was particularly worthy of scrutiny.

Atlanta had just gotten its first two hits of the game off of Milone as number eight hitter Culberson stepped in. With the pitcher waiting on deck, Milone proceeded to throw four fastballs in a row, the last right down the pipe was suitably dispatched.

While pitching to Culberson can be defended, what can’t be is throwing four straight fastballs with the pitcher on deck. If you are going to pitch to him, you have to throw junk down or out of the zone to get him chasing. Whether the pitch selection is on the manager, pitching coach or catcher in that instance is unknown, but it was a poor decision.

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Thursday’s day game against the Atlanta Braves now feels about as must-win as they come. The Washington Nationals appear to be back on the brink of playoff contention again, and they need a positive result.

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