Washington Nationals Game Recap #13 - Nats Take Step Back

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels
Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

The Nationals fell short in their bid to win their first series of the season yesterday as the Angels took the rubber match by a score of 3 to 2. The Nationals have struggled at times throughout the season, but they certainly did not look their best as a team on Wednesday afternoon. It could be due to the end of a long west coast road trip, or it could be due to a regression towards the mean, but the team struggled in multiple areas and it cost them the game.

MacKenzie Gore got the start for the Nationals and also did not look his best. Gore is young so bumps in the road are to be expected, but the young lefty was only able to last 3.2 innings against the Angels due to his high pitch count, snapping a streak of 11 straight starts by Nationals pitchers with at least 5 innings pitched. To Gore's credit, while he didn't have great command all day long, he still kept the game close by allowing just 2 runs on 4 hits with 4 walks and 6 strikeouts. Mason Thompson had to clean up a bases loaded jam in the 4th to save Gore's day and keep the team in it, but allowed a run in the 5th that proved to be the winning run. Gore was visibly frustrated with himself at times throughout his start as his command was all over the place, but his 6 strikeouts in just 3.2 innings continue to shine a light on what could be down the road as the southpaw develops.

Griffin Canning got the start for the Angels after missing the first two turns through the rotation working his way bay from injury, The Halos RHP had a 5.60 ERA last season in 62.2 IP, but was much more effective on Thursday and looked good in his first start back. Canning went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with no walks and 4 strikeouts. His only allowed runs came in the 4th inning, but otherwise did not labor much against the Nats.

Nationals Game Review

What went wrong?

  • Regression towards the mean: this is the common theme for the Nationals on Wednesday as it seems every aspect of their reverted back to a previous state. Their starter wasn't able to go deep into the game, their BABIP luck ran out, their high OBP players struggled to get on base and their previously stellar defense had two errors than contributed to runs scored for the Angels. This isn't to say that it is all down hill from here, but the Nationals took a step back on Wednesday. Thankfully for them, they have a much needed off day on Thursday as they return home to DC before a series with the Cleveland Guardians kicks off on Friday night.
  • Only 4 of the 9 players had hits: in their games with better offensive production, the Nationals got production from everyone in their lineup, having several games this season where at least 7 players recorded a hit. Often times, the bottom third of the order has looked the best in the lineup, but today they went 0 for 9 and did not reach base at all.
  • Leadoff Call: Alex Call has generally done well when leading off, so this isn't a declaration that the Nationals need to make a change, but Wednesday's game highlighted the fact that working walks is Call's most effective tool and when he's not able to do that, he isn't well equipped to compensate with his bat. His OBP is still 37 points higher than it was for the Nationals last season, but his slugging is down 99 points. He is a good bridge leadoff bat for now, but ideally the Nationals find someone who really takes ownership of that role.
  • No walks: the team did not work a single walk all game long.

What went right?

  • Middle of the lineup: For once this season, the middle of the lineup proved to be the top performers. Candelario and Ruiz each checked in with two hits and Smith and Meneses also had a hit. There is still some power left to be desired from that group, but if they are the only ones performing on any given night, then you cannot complain too much.
  • CJ Abrams' Defense: I feel as though this topic deserves periodic updates after his Opening Day struggles, but his defense looks much better since that opening series. Abrams made a couple of nice plays including several double plays that really helped the Nationals stay in the game.

Washington Nationals Record: 4-9

When is the next Nationals game?

The Nationals get a much needed off day on Thursday as they return home for another stretch of games in DC. They will host Cleveland for three games over the weekend before hosting Baltimore for two mid-week games next week. Over the next 8 days including today, the Nationals will have 3 days off as well as a day off the following Monday, which would make 4 off days in the next 12 days. It is a great early season opportunity for the team to reset and get right before a tough stretch of games in May and another West Coast road trip. The next time we see the Nationals will be on Friday night against the Guardians as Trevor Williams (1-1, 4.35 ERA) will take the mound for the Nats against Cal Quantrill (0-1, 6.52 ERA) for the Guardians.