The Nationals dropped their second game of the season today against the Braves by a score of 7 to 1, bringing them to 0-2 on the young season. The game was not particularly close at any point, as Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson opened the game with back-to-back home runs off Nationals Starter Josiah Gray to begin the game. Those two solo shots would prove to be all the run support Braves Starter Spencer Strider and the bullpen needed.
Josiah Gray finished the day going 5 innings allowing 5 runs on 7 hits, walking 2 and striking out 4 batters. He also gave up a third home run in the 4th inning to Marcell Ozuna. At times Gray looked good, spinning his curveball for strikes and getting hitters to whiff. But he became overly reliant on the pitch and frequently left it up in the zone. The new cutter Gray had been working on in Spring that led to his sparkling performance in March failed him today.
Spencer Strider got the win for Atlanta, going 6 innings and allowing 0 runs on 3 hits, 3 walks and striking out 9 batters. A favorite preseason pick for the NL Cy Young award, Strider looked to be in complete control a majority of the time. The Nats struggled to get anything going against Strider, something he will probably do to many teams this season.
Nationals Game Review
What went wrong?
- Basically, Spencer Strider. Yes, the Nationals will have to learn how to go up and battle against tough pitching, particular within their own division, but it being April 1 and this team being so young, it wasn't totally surprising to see them struggle against Strider. If anything, they need to put the ball in play more often. The wind was a big factor today and the Nats didn't do much to take advantage of it.
- Josiah Gray's Fastball: A recurring issue for Gray, his fastball was still not good. He is basically at the bottom of the league in extension, which leaves his fastball on a flat plane and makes it very easy to tee off on for opposing hitters. When he mixed well, he was great. But when he fell behind in the count or hung his curveball, Braves' hitters were more than ready.
- RISP: There were far fewer opportunities with runners in scoring position today than on Thursday, but the Nationals still struggled today going 0 for 4 in the situation. That means they are only 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position so far this season.
What went right?
- Victor Robles: The world has turned upside down if the lead storyline is Victor Robles' offense, but through these two games he has impressed. He walked again today and added a single. That's 3 walks already this year when he only had 17 walks in total last season. Huge signs of improvement.
- Garcia & Abrams' Approach: This is one reason in particular as to why you cannot deduce a full argument/story from just looking at the box score. Garcia and Abrams went a combined 0 for 7, which I know doesn't qualify in and of itself for the 'What went right?' portion of this game recap, but their approach looked great for the most part. Garcia got the nod leading off today and in his first at bat after finding himself down 0-2 very quickly, he fouled off several Spencer Strider pitches to work a 10 pitch at bat. He ultimately struck out, but that is a leadoff man approach. Abrams had a similar situation where he was also down 0-2 quickly to Strider and fouled off pitches to stay alive and worked a 7 pitch at bat. He flew out, but hit the ball hard a couple of times today. Baby steps.
- Keibert Ruiz: After looking good offensively in Thursday's opener, Ruiz followed it up with another solid day today. Ruiz went 2 for 4 with a couple of hot shots, including this mammoth home run for his first, and the Nationals first home run of the year.
- The Debuts: Anthony Banda, Thaddeus Ward and Hobie Harris all made their team debuts today. Banda and Harris looked great, each allowing a hit and striking out a batter for no damage done. Ward went two innings today and looked good, but Matt Olson welcomed him to the big leagues with a two run shot on a hanging curveball. Ward came back in his second inning and had no issues.
Washington Nationals Record: 0-2
When is the Nationals' next game?
The Nationals wrap up their opening series with the Braves tomorrow afternoon for a 1:35pm start. MacKenzie Gore will make his Nationals debut tomorrow following a midseason trade to DC last season. Gore did not make an appearance following the trade due to an elbow injury as the Nationals opted to be cautious with the lefty. He will be opposed by a Braves' team debut in Jared Shuster, Atlanta's top prospect and a former first round pick who earned a spot on the team out of Spring Training.