The Washington Nationals dropped the first game of their three-game series against the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, with Davey Martinez coming under the microscope.
At the beginning of a must-win series, the Washington Nationals needed to play mistake-free baseball against one of the best teams in the National League. But Davey Martinez
After throwing seven straight balls to start the game, Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson was perfect for five and one-third innings. But when he eclipsed 80 pitches during the sixth, Hellickson lost his command and hit a wall. This was only the start of the Nationals problems.
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Despite Hellickson’s struggles with facing hitters for the third time, Martinez opted to keep his starter on the mound with his no-hitter intact. While this was a controversial decision, he would go on to make a huge mistake later in the inning.
After loading the bases and with left-handed hitter Jason Heyward on deck, Martinez summoned Sammy Solis. Solis is notably worse against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, and yet he was chosen over the Nationals best healthy reliever, Matt Grace. Solis gave up a two-RBI single to Heyward and struck out the next batter to end the inning.
Coming into the game, Solis had a 4.65 FIP and a .778 OPS allowed to left-handed batters. Grace, alternatively, has a 2.24 FIP and a .630 OPS facing lefties. Grace never entered the game despite this wide split and another similar opportunity to use him in the seventh.
Murphy Does Murphy Things
If there is one positive from this game, it is that Daniel Murphy is officially back. He posted a 3-4 afternoon with a double and scored a run. What box score watchers didn’t see was that the run scored was an all-out sprint from second to home, ending in a barrel roll to score the Nats second run of the game.
With this game, Murphy’s batting average sits at .297, and his strikeout percentage (8.3 percent) is nearing his career low (7.1 percent in 2015).
If Murphy’s first 11 games (or 38 plate appearances) are excluded, he is batting .333 with a .886 OPS and more walks than strikeouts. Given that those games were his first back since knee surgery, it’s fair to give him the benefit of the doubt.
As F.P. Santangelo mentioned on the broadcast, the Nationals need a 5-2 road trip before going back home to face the Phillies. With the frustrating loss today, they’ll need to go five for six over this next week. Even that might not be enough as the Phillies start a three-game series against the San Diego Padres.
As for the Nationals, Tanner Roark will toe the rubber on Saturday at 4:05 ET against veteran southpaw Jon Lester.