There are two games that come close to how bad the Nationals played last night. The first is the home opener, an 11-1 loss to the Phillies. The low quality of play combined with Phillies fans overtaking Nationals Park and acting extremely rudely (not to generalize, but I have yet to hear anything good about the Phillies fans who came to Washington that day) make a very close second. The third is the April 18 loss to the Brewers, in which Jason Marquis pitched to seven batters, all of whom scored. What salvages that game is that the Nationals never gave up. Down 10-0 in the first inning, they battled back, outscoring the Brewers 7-1 from that point on. A loss is a loss, but when the team battles and fights, you can’t hold anything against them.
Last night, the Nationals played their worst game of the 2010 season. What places this game ahead of the Opening Day loss is that there was no hope coming into the year. Any rational fan thought the Nationals were going to come out of the gate walking, possibly backwards, on their way to another 90-loss season. Now that the Nationals have an identity, that of a gritty team that never gives up and always fights back, and are playing above-.500 baseball, following a game like the one that took place last night is simply painful.
The team made two fielding errors according to the official scorer, but there could have been more. The first one occurred in the 4th inning when Nyjer Morgan caught a flyball with a man on third. The runner was not tagging up. Morgan came up throwing and not only did not hit his cutoff man but overthrew Ivan Rodriguez at the plate. The throw hit the backstop on a fly. A heads up Cody Ross scampered home from third base and scored, despite a collision at the plate. In the next inning, Craig Stammen’s pickoff attempt went into centerfield, allowing the runner to advance to third base. After walking the batter, he was relieved by Tyler Walker. Walker picked Chris Coghlan off first base, struck out Hanley Ramirez, and then gave up a 2-run home run to Jorge Cantu.
Aside from shaky pitching and defense, the Nationals also had many uninspired at-bats. From the 6th inning on the Nationals saw 50 pitches. Of the 14 at-bats that occurred, 9 of them ended after 4 pitches or fewer. Some credit must be given to Chris Volstad, who, by all means, pitched a very solid game. Between the 6th and 8th innings, Volstad threw 7 first-pitch strikes in 10 at-bats and allowed only one batter to reach base. By the 9th inning, it seemed like fatigue had begun to take its place. Volstad faced 4 batters, three only 1 first-pitch strike, and gave up two hits. Fortunately for him, the Nationals no longer cared about the game. Nyjer Morgan, who, for the most part, is pretty good and working deep into counts (which should be a given for any leadoff hitter), took ball one and then grounded out on the next pitch. Adam Kennedy looked at three pitches before singling and was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. In a 7-1 game, could he have done anything more stupid? I suppose he could have tried to pull a low and outside, 1-0 change up…but I digress.
I began writing this post at 11:00 am (I got sidetracked). It’s now 4:58 pm and the Nationals have lost their second game in a row. It seems to have been another spiritless effort, though, I was unable to follow this game because I was busy watching the Canadiens win Game 2 against the Penguins. Anyhow, tomorrow is an off-day, meaning the Nationals can regroup. The bullpen will be rested, the offense will be fresh, and Livan will be pitching on Tuesday night when the Nationals take on the Braves.
One more quick tidbit: Stephen Strasburg is expected to be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse today. Drew Storen was promoted to Syracuse last week. We can expect to see both of these players in the Major Leagues in about one month’s time.
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Written by Sam Diament