The Nationals dropped a tough one to open against the Rays on Monday night as they fell by a score of 6 to 2. Yet again, the game was not particularly competitive and their opponent scored, or nearly scored, all of the necessary runs to defeat the Nationals in the first inning. The Rays moved to 4-0 on the young season and are just one of two remaining unbeaten teams in baseball.
Trevor Williams made his debut for the Nationals on Monday as he get credited with the loss after going 5 innings and allowing 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Williams also allowed two home runs, the first of which came in the first inning off the bat of Luke Raley after Randy Arozarena beat out an infield groundball in what was a hustle single. Wiliams truly never looked comfortable, as evidenced by his performance fielding. On a chopper back to the pitcher, Williams rushed the throw and spiked it to first baseman Dom Smith, who was unable to dig it out. Later that inning, on another slow roller to the mound, Williams fell over on his way to field the ball. He tried to shovel it to first, but a bad throw led Smith into the runner who knocked off his glove. Davey Martinez tried to argue that it should be runner's interference as the runner appeared to veer to far into the field of play and away from the baseline, but the umpires conferred and elected not to change the call. Davey Martinez is now 0-2 with that call, being on the wrong side of that rule each time.
Drew Rasmussen got the win for the Rays and boy, he could not have looked in any more control of the game. Rasmussen got started early, going 6 up, 6 down on just 18 pitches, 17 of which were strikes. The Nats failed time and time again to work good at bats off Rasmussen, who probably would have gone a complete game with ease had it been later in the season when he was stretched out more. He finished the night going 6 innings on just 66 pitches, 50 of which were strikes, and allowing no runs on 2 hits, no walks and 7 strikeouts. The Nats were able to push across two runs off the Rays bullpen, but by that point the game was out of reach.
Nationals Game Review
What went wrong?
- Drew Rasmussen: It's not like Rasmussen has entered the season as a Cy Young favorite as did Spencer Strider, but the Nats arguably looked their worst offensively tonight of any game so far this season. Being in the NL East, they are going to face very difficult pitching frequently this season and they have to learn how to combat that difficulty. Rasmussen is a solid pitcher, but the Nats made him look like the Cy Young favorite.
- Plate Discipline: In a rapidly growing concern of mine, the Nationals still looked completely undisciplined at the plate. It is one thing to lose a game to a pitcher that is clearly on his A game, but it is another thing entirely when you make absolutely no adjustments. The Nats on several occasions had one pitch, one out offensively which made Rasmussen's night as easy as can be, and it was not isolated to just one or two players either. It is an ugly trend that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
- PFPs: For those that don't know, PFPs are a baseball term for 'Pitcher Fielding Practice.' The Nationals defense has generally been one of their strong suits early in the season, but the pitchers tonight did their best to skew those numbers negatively. Trevor Williams got a gift by only being charged with one error when he easily could have three. Each play required him to be quick and move efficiently, but they were not necessarily difficult plays and the out should have been recorded. Later in the game, Anthony Banda was charged with a throwing error as a pickoff attempt to second base, something the. Nationals have attempted several times this season already, went awry as Banda was not even close and threw the ball into center field. It is the little things.
What went right?
- Not much, but there were some notable performances.
- Trevor Williams took some shots in the previous section, but he was still able to go 5 innings tonight which is not insignificant as he has spent the last few seasons as a reliever. The Nationals will be counting on him to eat innings this season, even if he has difficult early innings like he did on Monday night. If the result is 5+ innings of 3 run baseball, or a 4.50 ERA, I think the Nationals would be happy with that out of their 4 starter.
- Dom Smith: It was quiet and relatively unimpactful to the outcome of the game, but Dom Smith tallied two hits tonight as well. His average is now .357 on the season and he seems to be a staple in this lineup.
- Jeimer Candelario: Again, the game was out of reach by this point, but Candelario hit his first home run of the season last night. His batting line still does not look great, but hopefully this can jump start a strong offense stretch for him.
- Mason Thompson: He has looked EXCELLENT so far this season. He delivered two innings in relief initially, going 6 up and 6 down. What happened next? Well, Davey Martinez inexplicably left Thompson out for a third inning of work, something he had never done before professionally, and Luke Raley proceeded to homer off him. Thompson got out of the third inning of work otherwise unscathed, but it was a terrible decision by Davey Martinez and certainly not Thompson's fault at all.
Washington Nationals Record: 1-3
When is the next Nationals game?
The Nationals return to action tonight in game 2 against the Rays. RHP Chad Kuhl will make his team debut for the Nationals after earning the 5th starter spot out of Spring Training. He had a 5.09 ERA in 17.2 Spring Training innings this season, but did get better towards the end of March going 10.1 innings and allowing only 3 runs over two starts. He will be opposed by lefty Josh Fleming for the Rays who also won the 5th starter job out of Spring Training. Fleming really has struggled the past couple seasons and did not particular look good in Spring Training either, but has nevertheless gotten the first opportunity at the starting rotation while the Rays wait for Tyler Glasnow to get healthy. Fleming has a career 4.93 ERA and had a 6.43 ERA last season in 35 innings.