The Nationals had a chance on Sunday to take their first series win of the season, something that might be hard to come by this season. Ultimately, the Nationals surrendered the lead in what was a very winnable game, losing by a score of 7 to 6.
Chad Kuhl got the start on the mound for the Nationals and he pitched much better than his statline suggests. Kuhl ended with 5 innings pitched allowing 5 runs on 6 hits with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts. However, Kuhl was through 5 clean innings allowing just 3 runs and only 5 hits and 3 walks but was sent back out to start the 6th with a 3 run lead at that point. Kuhl immediately faltered and Erasmo Ramirez, who came in to relieve Kuhl, struggled himself, allowing the two inherited runners to score as well as two of his own runs, making the score 7-6.
Ryan Feltner got the start for the Rockies going 5 innings and allowing 3 runs on 6 hits with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts, an almost exact mirror of Kuhl's performance. The Rockies pulled Feltner however, and while their first two relievers struggled, their final three relievers stymied the Nationals with 3 hitless innings. Three of the Nationals runs actually came from Brad Hand who had two bases loaded walks and added a wild pitch.
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Nationals Game Review
What went wrong?
- Bullpen Management: Erasmo Ramirez did struggle, but by starting an inning with no base runners, he would have had a much bigger cushion with which to operate. Hobie Harris came in and pitched great, but the lead was basically lost at that point. There have been several instances this season where Davey Martinez has left a start in too long. The Nationals had not had many leads, let alone 3 run leads, and need to operate better when they are in those situations. By his own admission, Davey Martinez said Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey and Carl Edwards Jr. were the only relievers not available to pitch, which left him with five others to choose from. It is a bit of a cop out answer to say "if the bullpen wasn't so taxed I would have taken out Kuhl" when you admitted five relievers (Ramirez, Harris, Ward, Banda, Thompson) were still available to pitch. Hindsight is 20/20, but this felt like a big miss even in the moment.
- Ruiz & Abrams: A combined 0 for 9 batting 4th and 6th respectably really hurt the lineup, but they each had a couple of hard hit balls and only had one strikeout in the 10 plate appearances.
- Lineup Construction: another recurring issue throughout the season, Davey Martinez dropped Stone Garrett in the linup after an insane 4 for 5 performance on Saturday. He has also routinely hit Victor Robles 8th or 9th when Robles has been the best hitter on the team this season. He is currently hitting .387 with a .924 OPS. Meanwhile, Martinez has routinely hit Jeimer Candelario 2nd or 3rd throughout his struggles. To his credit, Alex Call in the leadoff spot seems like a good fit for the time being.
What went right?
- Chad Kuhl: Some credit for Kuhl here, as 5 innings allowing only 3 runs from your 5 starter is more than acceptable. He deserves some more credit than his final statline shows.
- Stone Garrett: The legend grows as he added two more hits on Sunday, including nearly hitting a home run in the 9th to take the lead. He needs to absolutely stay in the lineup.
- Hobie Harris: He has certainly earned himself more high leverage opportunities going forward as he has been great this season. If it were me, I would go Harris, Harvey, Thompson in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings respectively. This would allow Erasmo Ramirez to return to his long relief role and give Kyle Finnegan low leverage situations in which he can regain his form without as much pressure.
- Victor Robles: As previously mentioned, he has been great this season. He absolutely needs to be hitting higher in the lineup and is a big time disservice to keep hitting him 8th or 9th. His approach looks completely revitalized and we are seeing the results. He looks like a completely different Victor Robles, and that is a good thing for this team. Don't waste it.
Washington Nationals Record: 3-7
When is the next Nationals game?
The Nationals continue on their west coast swing tonight as they travel to Southern California to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Patrick Corbin is on the mound for the Nationals as he takes on Jose Suarez of the Angels. Both starting pitchers enter tonight's game with ERAs of 8.00 or higher, so we will see if either can bounce back or if it will be a fireworks show in Anaheim. First pitch is scheduled at 9:38p EST, so be sure to take a nap during the day for your late night Nats.