The Nationals had arguably their most frustrating loss on the young season on Thursday afternoon, as they fell to the Colorado Rockies by a score of 1 to 0 in their first road game of the season. The score was something of a rarity for the high powered, offensive friendly ballpark, as it is only the 11th time in park history that a final score featured only one run score. Ironically enough, the 2009 Washington Nationals, who also had their fair share of struggles, are also featured on that list.
Josiah Gray took the mound for the Nationals today and unfortunately took the loss despite a great performance. After struggling with allowing home runs frequently in the past year and a half, Gray managed not only to keep the ball in the park, but he also induced a lot of weak contact. His average exit velocity was only 78 MPH, and is now 82.3 MPH on the season, good for top 7% of the league. Gray's lone run of the game really wasn't his fault, as weak fly ball into RF fell in front of Lane Thomas as he lost it in the sun. It was not an error since Thomas never came into contact with the ball before it dropped, but it certainly was not Gray's fault either. His final line was 6 IP, 1 run on 8 hits (2 of which should have been outs), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.
Kyle Freeland got the win for the Rockies and he earned it. Freeland was frequently ahead of batters and made quick work of them. Freeland entered the day with a 2.70 career ERA against the Nationals, but dropped it quite a bit more as he went 6.2 scoreless against the Nats on Thursday, only allowing 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 batters. Justin Lawrence and Pierce Johnson came on to finish the game for Colorado, and found similar success to Freeland.
Nationals Game Review
What went wrong?
- This offense: I don't think anyone predicted the Nationals' offense to be near the top of the league in production, or even top half of the league in production, but this display was borderline embarrassing. In the most hitter friendly park in the league, the Nationals failed to put up a single run. The brightside? They only left one runner in scoring position. The downside? They only HAD one runner in scoring position.
- Picking up your Pitcher: a common phrase in baseball, when a team has to step up their game to support their pitcher who is either having a good performance or otherwise needs his team's support. The Nationals did not do that today, as Lane Thomas' inability to fight the sun led to the only run in the ballgame. There was also a play the next inning that would have been routine for Luis Garcia, but Dom Smith ventured out for it and ended up bobbling it. It was not ruled an error, but it was a mental one. Josiah Gray deserved better.
- Baserunning: The Nationals have been on the wrong side of steal attempts frequently this season, despite the newfound success in stealing bases around the league. The Nationals have the speed, but they are getting poor jumps and reads and are also on the receiving end of some impressive throws to second by opposing catchers. Despite this, the Nationals are still far too timid on the base paths. For a team that severely lacks power, even gap-to-gap power, they will need to learn how to manufacture runs in other ways, even if it means getting thrown out from time to time.
What went right?
- Josiah Gray: I don't think it can be overstated how important of a start this was for Josiah. He did not have his best stuff, but was still able to hold the Rockies scoreless, including striking out Rockies' slugger CJ Cron, who already has three home runs on the year, multiple times. The fastball/cutter need to be resolved quickly, but the curveball/slider were working well for him.
- CJ Abrams: He has looked much more steady defensively since Opening Day, but now his bat is slowly starting to come around as well. Thankfully, he got the start Thursday after an 0-4 performance on Wednesday even though there was a lefty on the mound. Abrams delivered as he recorded two of the team's six hits. The consistency will come, but his approach seems to already be improving.
- Mason Thompson: Easily the reliever of the year so far, Thompson has made light work of every appearance so far this season and has done so in multiple innings in each appearance. Thompson came in for the 7th and 8th innings today and had no issues, striking out 3 and walking none while only allowing one hit, which was a tough hop infield single to third base. With Kyle Finnegan struggling, Thompson seems likely to get high leverage work going forward.
Washington Nationals Record: 1-6
When is the next Nationals game?
The Nationals are under the lights on Friday night as they are back for game 2 against the Rockies. MacKenzie Gore will make his second start for the team after an impressive first showing that led to the team's only win this season. Gore went 5.1 innings allowing only 1 run while striking out 6 against Atlanta on April 2nd. One thing to watch for Gore is his command, as that bugged him a bit in the minors. He had 4 walks in his opening start. José Ureña will take the mound for the Rockies, and he has struggled in his career, having an ERA above 5 each of the last four seasons and enters today with an ERA of 15.43. It will be an important get right game for the Nationals offense, and will be a large indictment if they are not able to generate runs.