May 28, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 46 Review: Harper and Span go long but Cubs squeak by Nats

CUBS WIN ON WALK-OFF DOUBLE AFTER COSTLY DESMOND ERROR IN NINTH

The Washington Nationals fell 3-2 to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night as second baseman Addison Russell hit his first career walk-off with a double against left-handed reliever Matt Grace, wasting a solid seven innings pitched by Jordan Zimmermann.

Despite a shaky opening with Zimmermann giving up a lead-off home run to Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler to start the game, the right-handed starter struck out five batters and only surrendered that one run while walking two. Zimmermann regained his dominance and maintained his momentum against Chicago’s offense after giving up that initial run in the first. He even tallied three strikeouts against the top the Cubs’ order in the fifth inning before finishing out the seventh inning with a Fowler strikeout. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 42 Review: Scherzer Dominates The Phillies, Harper Goes Long

The Washington Nationals treated a crowd of 35,893 to nine innings of one-run baseball on Friday night beating the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 after a strong eight-inning performance from right-handed starting pitcher Max Scherzer.

Scherzer gave up four hits, one run, and one walk while striking out six batters. He threw 110 pitches and 79 strikes.  And — thanks to some timely offense — he also helped the Nationals take their 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 41 Review: Ump Show Deluxe

UMPIRE MARVIN HUDSON HERO OF GAME, EJECTS MISCREANTS HARPER AND WILLIAMS

The Washington Nationals completed a two-game sweep of the New York Yankees in a 3-2 victory marred by the ejection of Bryce Harper and Matt Williams for reasons only Marvin Hudson knows. Denard Span would single in a run late to break a tie, and Tyler Moore and Ian Desmond each had solo home runs.

There’s really no good time to get tossed from a game as a player. You’ve got one job when it comes to the umpires, as a player, and that’s steer clear of what’s going to get you thrown out of the game. You can’t hit from the clubhouse, after all.

All that said, home plate Marvin Hudson clearly had a bad night’s sleep last night. Or food poisoning. Or a rude flight attendant. Or got some bad news from family. He was charged up for a fight on Wednesday night, and Bryce Harper just happened to be the unfortunate man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Harper took a called first strike, low in the zone, and reacted slightly. There was barking from the first base dugout, mostly in objection to a strike called four inches below the bottom of the strike zone. As Hudson jawed with Matt Williams, Harper stepped out of the conflict zone. Hudson tossed Harper for stepping out of the box.

Williams came out of the dugout, incensed by Hudson’s quick heave-ho, and found himself headed for the showers shortly thereafter. He did cover the plate with dirt before giving up and leaving the lineup card in Randy Knorr’s hands, and expressed some vehement objections on the way out.

But back to the actual game.

The Yankees jumped out to an early lead, getting a pair off Jordan Zimmermann in the first. Brett Gardner singled to right to start the game for the Yankees, and came around to score on a double by Carlos Beltran. Beltran would advance on a grounder, and then score on a sac fly off the bat of Brian McCann, whose sad beardless face made Braves fans everywhere gnash their teeth.

After that, it was all Jordan Zimmermann. He went seven full tonight, scattering 3 more hits through six more innings, and notching six strikeouts and just one walk. His curve was devastating at times, and his fastball places was light years better than his last start, and the Yankees couldn’t do much against it.

The Nats would strike back in the first, with Ian Desmond going yard off Adam Warren, a shot to deep center field just to the right of the gate. In the third, Tyler Moore, in for the injured Jayson Werth, pulled a ball out of the zone over the fence in left to tie the ballgame.

Adam Warren had a pretty good night for the Yankees. He was getting the low strike from Hudson behind the plate and racked up four strikeouts on the evening. He also surrendered four walks, including two in the seventh, before getting the hook. The Nationals started the seventh with Wilson Ramos reaching on an error by Chase Headley. Tyler Moore drew a walk to complicate matters for the Yankees. After a great play by Headley to catch a pop-foul bunt by Danny Espinosa, pinch hitter Dan Uggla walked to load the bases and end Warren’s evening.

Leadoff hitter Denard Span fought back against Justin Wilson, ahead in the count. He poked a grounder back through the left side. The Yankees were playing in on the grass, and were out of position to catch the weakly hit ball as it transited the infield dirt. Ramos sprinted home with the go-ahead run, and the Nationals claimed their first lead of the night.

Matt Grace and Drew Storen combined for two scoreless innings in relief, and Storen added a pair of strikeouts to clinch his twelfth save. Storen fanned Alex Rodriguez on three pitches to end the Yankees’ late threat, and claim the Nationals 7th straight series win.

HERO: Marvin Hudson, obviously. Who else did everyone come to see?

GOAT: Bryce Harper, who gets tossed for the second time in a week, in a conflagration with Marvin Hudson. Look, it’s clear Hudson was off his rocker, but you don’t poke the bear. You can’t win games from the showers.

NATS NOTES:

  • Harper’s ejection was his second in seven days.
  • Williams’ ejection was his second in seven days.
  • Wilson Ramos’ 19-game hitting streak came to an end Wednesday night.
  • The Nationals take sole possession of first place on their seventh consecutive series win.

NEXT UP: an off day! The 17-24 Phillies arrive on Friday for a three-game set. Scherzer (4-3, 1.75) vs TBA, 7:05pm start.

Washington Nationals Game 40 Review: Zimmerman Hits His Tenth Career Walk-Off Home Run, Nats Beat Yankees in Extras

ZIMMERMAN JOINS IMMORTALS MUSIAL, PEREZ, SCHMIDT, PUJOLS AND BONDS WITH 10-PLUS WALK-OFFS

The Washington Nationals and New York Yankees held the same record of 22-17 going into Tuesday night’s game at Nationals Park.  But after ten innings of baseball played in the nation’s capital, the Nats emerged victorious beating the Yankees 8-6 thanks to a two-out, two-run walk-off home run hit by Mr. Walk-off himself — first baseman Ryan Zimmerman — against left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.

Offense is what kept the Nats in the game despite a shaky starting appearance made by left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The Nats got a jump start with home runs hit by shortstop Ian Desmond and outfielder Bryce Harper off right-handed starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in the first inning making it a 2-0 game in favor of Washington. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 32 Review: Nationals Sweep Braves on 5-4 victory

NATIONALS SCORE TWICE IN EIGHTH TO RALLY, SWEEP BRAVES

Jordan Zimmermann had a semi-rough outing, but the Washington Nationals offense bailed him out. A two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth lifted the Nats to a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, completing the three-game sweep of a division opponent.

The Nats have won four in a row and 8 of 10. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 27 Review: Late Offense Lifts Nats Over Fish, 6-4

BATS WAKE LATE, POWER NATS OVER FISH

The Miami Marlins went blow-for-blow with the Washington Nationals on Monday night for eight innings. It wouldn’t be enough. Despite a strong seven inning outing from Jordan Zimmermann, in which he surrendered just two runs, the Nats’ bats fell silent until late on the game. The Nationals staged a comeback on the bats of Ian Desmond, who crushed a ball into the center field batter’s eye to tie the game in the eighth, and Yunel Escobar, who went 5 for 5 and drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth.

All told, the Nats won 6-4, but it wasn’t decided until Tanner Roark — filling in for Drew Storen — punched out Giancarlo Stanton a runner on in the ninth.

What happens when two hot teams collide? After a 3-11 start, the Miami Marlins have gone 9-2, and their defensive lock on the infield was in full display Monday night against the surging Washington Nationals. The home team, on a 5-1 tear themselves, was just as ready to put on a defensive show themselves.

Adeiny Hechevarria for the Marlins and Denard Span for the Nationals each made highlight reel plays to rob their opponents of runs and perpetuate the pitchers’ duel.

Jordan Zimmermann was impressive on Monday night, working through six innings on just 65 pitches. The one run he did give up in the first was unearned, as Jayson Werth misread a bullet off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, which allowed Martin Prado to advance on his way around the basepaths.

Zimmermann’s only mistake of the night came in the seventh inning against Justin Bour, who took a 3-2 four-seamer just out of the park to left field, landing just past the flower beds atop the wall. His 7IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 4K, 0BB performance went just 81 pitches before he gave way to Clint Robinson as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Nationals staged an unlikely comeback. Robinson, batting for Zimmermann, drew a four-pitch walk with one out. Michael A. Taylor came on to pinch run for Robinson as Matt Williams opted for speed on the basepaths. It almost came back to bite him. Yunel Escobar singled to right, notching his fourth hit for the night, and on the hit-and-run, Taylor didn’t pick up third base coach Bob Hendley and missed an opportunity to score, and had to settle for third as Stanton booted the ball ten feet. It would’ve been a tight play had Taylor gone full bore from the get-go.

Jayson Werth, at the time 0-for-3 on the night, and with many wondering exactly what he was doing in the three hole for the Nationals, poked a timely single to right to score Taylor from third. Bryce Harper wasted an opportunity with runners at the corner on a pop-up to end the inning with the game just tied at two.

With Zimmermann gone, the Nationals turned to Blake Treinen in relief. Rolaids were in evidence all over Nationals Park as he came in. Almost immediately, he was in over his head.

A five-pitch walk to Dee Gordon, followed by a stolen base, put Treinen in a nearly untenable position. The Nats opted to give Stanton a free pass to setup the best force play, and that was it for Treinen. Matt Grace came in to face Jeff Baker, who promptly put the Marlins ahead 4-2 on a single down the right field line. The bullpen had collapsed a touch and all looked lost.

Neither Ian Desmond nor Yunel Escobar were ready to let things go quietly into the May evening. Ryan Zimmerman lead off the eighth with a full-count walk, Ian Desmond just crushed the ball into the batter’s eye in dead center, about 420 feet from home to tie the game at four.

The Nats weren’t done yet.

Tyler Moore, pinch-hitting for Grace, singled to right, and went first-to-third on a double from Denard Span, which set up the critical at-bat. Escobar was the only National who hit all night long, with five singles off Marlins pitching, and he took 1-1 slider to right field, which plated both Moore and Span.

That meant the Nats took a 6-4 lead into the ninth against the Marlins who’d nickeled and dimed them all night long. With Drew Storen unavailable, having pitched three games of the last four, Matt Williams turned to Tanner Roark, in his first ever save situation. He did not disappoint.

Roark quickly retired Reid Brignac on a brutal curve, a strikeout victim. Dee Gordon racked his first hit of the night on a single up the middle, and that setup the evening’s most dramatic moment. You can’t ignore Giancarlo Stanton when he’s anywhere but ninth in rolling order. You especially can’t ignore him when he’s in the on-deck circle.

A double play would avoid Stanton coming to the plate as the tying run — perhaps one of my own worst nightmares — but that did not come to pass. Martin Prado popped out, bringing Stanton to the dish to face Roark as the tying run. At first, it appeared that Roark would issue an unintentional intentional pass to Stanton, falling behind 3-0. But Roark dialed in a two-seamer for strike one, before fooling Stanton consecutive 87 mph sliders for his first ever save.

HERO: Yunel Escobar was on fire tonight, going 5-for-5, and his eighth inning single drove in two to put the Nats ahead for good. Ian Desmond, honorable mention for his two-run bomb in the eighth.

GOAT: Blake Treinen, for the walk to Dee Gordon, where they needed an out. Treinen has struggled in his eighth inning role, and the Nationals are going to need to streamline the roles in the bullpen.

NATS NOTES:

  • Anthony Rendon was in DC today to see the team doctor. He has been sidelined with left oblique tightness for the last few rehab starts, and it was announced after the game he would be shut down with a strain.
  • Casey Janssen will begin a rehab assignment later this week and could join the Nationals late next week.
  • Reed Johnson is possibly done with the season after undergoing foot surgery to repair a ruptured tendon.

NEXT UP: Nationals/Marlins continues Tuesday night at 7:05pm, Latos (0-3, 6.86) vs. Strasburg (2-2, 4.60)

Desmond’s struggles emblematic of Nats slow start

With the Washington Nationals’ slow start to the 2015 season, we’re already hearing stories of a fractured clubhouse and lack of leadership among the players. This team is one of the oldest in baseball, with veterans up and down the order and in the rotation. Hell, even the bench is old. With Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span, Max Scherzer and Ian Desmond, the clubhouse is not where the Nats are lacking.

It’s on the field they’ve been stinking it up.

No one illustrates that more than Ian Desmond. In his contract year, Desmond has gotten off to an historically bad start in the field. With eight errors already to his credit, and several other miscues that weren’t awarded errors, Desmond typifies the Nats struggles.

Desmond is a “max want to” type of guy. He wants to be the guy up to bat with the game on the line. He wants the ball hit to him in every situation. He wants to be the guy that makes the big play. It’s evident in the way he carries himself and the way he plays.

That’s not a bad thing. He has exceptional talent. He’s been the only player in the bigs the past three seasons to hit 20-20 each season. He is capable of scintillating defense, we’ve seen it on occasion this year despite the troubles.

But it can work against him as well. Unlike guys that allow the game to come to them (see: Zimmerman, Ryan), Desmond also goes out of his way to try to be the hero, even if he does is subconsciously.

The play on opening day, where he ranged well over to second base only to flub what should have been Dan Uggla’s routine pop up? He didn’t do that on purpose. He just kept drifting and drifting until he was out of position and caused a problem. He gets overanxious fielding routine grounders and kicks them away. He tried to make a hero throw to first when eating it is better idea. We’ve seen it time and again.

Some players thrive on playing in their contract years. Perhaps, and I’m just speculating, Desmond’s the type of guy that won’t let it get out of his head. Maybe Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Span handle it better. So far, it’s been a recipe for disaster.

As for the real problem plaguing the Nats right now, no one is hitting. It’s systemic, and has manager Matt Williams grasping at straws, shuffling the lineup every day trying to find the right combination.

Picked as everyone’s preseason favorite to represent the National League in the World Series, the Nats have stunk up the joint thus far. As a team, they are hitting .218/.288/.349. Livan Hernandez had better years. The slash numbers are 15th, 14th and 13th in the N.L. It’s bad. Yunel Escobar and Bryce Harper are the only players hitting .270 or above. No one other than Harper has more than two home runs.

As of today:

Ryan Zimmerman: .205/.284/.384
Jayson Werth: .171/.255/.220
Denard Span: .240/.296/.240
Ian Desmond: .263/.309/.395

And it gets worse. Dan Uggla and Danny Espinosa are both under .170. Tyler Moore and Reed Johnson are hitting .167 and .176 respectively. There’s been less than zero contribution from the bench, which were the players playing when Span and Werth were out, and are still subbing until Anthony Rendon returns, which should be some time this week.

It will get better, but will it be in time? Werth and Span clearly aren’t in 100 percent baseball shape. There’s a huge difference between an injury being healed and being ready to face 95-MPH fastball and knee buckling curves. They are playing their way into shape. Pundits make fun of the 40 days of spring training and 25-30 preseason games, but they do it that way for a reason.

Werth and Span (and Rendon, when he comes back next week) are all going to need time to build strength back up in their injured areas and play their way into baseball shape. Will it take to Memorial Day? All-Star break? It’ll be different for the different players.

Will the Nats be in striking distance at that point? The Mets aren’t going to play .750 baseball all season. After the three-game sweep, the Marlins are just starting to pick it up. The Braves and Phillies are going to be bad.

If the Nats lose the series against the Braves this week, it’s trouble. But don’t write them off just yet. Yes, it’s bad. But the Nats should get healthy eventually, and in a weak division should be able to make up ground. Let’s just hope that happens sooner than later. It gets late early around here.

Washington Nationals Game 14 Review: Nats need extras, but beat Cardinals 2-1

Yunel Escobar homered in the bottom of the 10th inning, delivering the Washington Nationals a hard-earned win over the burgeoning rival St. Louis, 2-1, before a raucous but depleted Nationals Park, on a night when both the Washington Capitals and Wizards were playing road playoff games.

All three teams won in dramatic fashion, with the Caps taking an overtime win over the New York Islanders to even their series at two games apiece, and the Wizards blowing away the Toronto Raptors to go up 2-0 in their first round matchup.

Starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Lance Lynn battled pitch for pitch in Tuesday night’s season-series opener between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park. Both pitchers were impressive, gathering 11 strikeouts between them, though neither factored in the final decision.

The Nationals struck first in the third inning. Ian Desmond smacked a double off the wall in right field, followed by a walk to Jayson Werth on five pitches. That brought Bryce Harper to the plate with two men on and just one out, and Harper delivered a single to left, scoring Desmond and giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

That’s when things went off the rails a bit for the home team. Ryan Zimmerman hit a long fly ball to right center, where center fielder John Jay went a country mile to make the play. Both runners had advanced, and returned to their bags, but Bryce Harper appeared not to have re-touched second base having just stepped off the bag before retreating. On appeal, the Cardinals threw him out at second base for not tagging properly. Though there was some argument as to whether or not Harper had left the bag at all, he turned toward the shortstop, and that was enough for second base umpire Adam Hamari, who punched out Harper on appeal.

You might as well call Gio Gonzalez by his nickname after tonight. Houdini made it through six full innings, scattering eight hits and four walks, allowing no runs. The Nationals’ defense outperformed tonight, slicing and dicing the infield on 10 groundouts, with a pair of double plays, and some great play that stranded 12 Cardinals runners aboard. The Cards went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position tonight.

After six full — and 107 pitches — Gonzalez was done for the night, and duties fell to Tanner Roark, Matt Thornton and Drew Storen to finish up the night. Roark gave up a hit in the seventh, but worked around it to notch another scoreless inning. With lefties due to bat, Matt Thornton came on to pitch the eighth, and made short work of John Jay, Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, allowing only Kolten Wong to get aboard on a single.

The Nationals made a go of it in the late innings, but couldn’t get the runners across. In the eighth, Ryan Zimmerman was dismissed on strikes on a ball that was down around his ankles, with Jayson Werth at second. The death of that rally would seem costly in the ninth, when Drew Storen blew his first save of the year.

Storen gave up a single to Matt Carpenter to lead off the ninth, and a pair of wild pitches during Jason Heyward’s at-bat sent Carpenter to third without much of a challenge. Matt Holliday, who went 4 for 4 with a walk, singled him in to tie the game.

The bottom of the ninth was as full of drama as any April game could be. Danny Espinosa drew a five-pitch walk after Wilson Ramos struck out to start the action. Dan Uggla, pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot, put together the second best at-bat of the night, drawing a walk on eight pitches and battling hard against Matt Belisle. That was enough to bring out Mike Matheny from the dugout, and bring in Jordan Walden to face Denard Span.

Span’s at-bat was by far the best of the night. He fought Walden tooth and claw, with five fouls, before a loping grounder couldn’t be fielded cleanly by defensive replacement Matt Adams at first. Span would be safe on the play, bringing Desmond to the plate with the bags all full and one out. Desmond’s at-bat was the polar opposite from Span’s, and he strike out on five pitches. Desmond had just misread Walden’s entire approach.

It looked like the game might end on a deep fly ball from Jayson Werth, but for the third time Tuesday night, Jon Jay was right where he needed to be. Jay dove, laying out completely flat, to scoop the ball up before it hit the ground, and it was on to extra innings.

Aaron Barrett worked a scoreless 10th for the Nationals, putting them in the position to be the victors. The bats of Bryce Harper and Mr. Walkoff, Ryan Zimmerman, were leading off the 10th against Carlos Villanueva, but both remained silent. Bryce Harper struck out swinging, and Ryan Zimmerman lined out to rally-killer Jon Jay, leaving everything on Yunel Escobar. He delivered.

Escobar launched the very first pitch into the Cardinal bullpen, and Nats Park exploded. On a night when the Caps battled back into overtime, and scored a winner off the stick of Nicklas Backstrom, the Nats win might have been the second most impressive of the evening.

HERO: Yunel Escobar has his first walk-off in a Nationals uniform, with a yard shot in the 10th inning. Honorable mention: Ian Desmond, for his outstanding defense. Yes, that sentence is English. Desmond made a series of excellent picks from shortstop tonight, and a pair of double plays hinged on his relays. Maybe his April woes end early?

GOAT: Drew Storen, for blowing the save in the ninth. After giving up a base hit to Carpenter, two wild pitches gave Carpenter third, and let him score on a single by Matt Holliday.

NATS NOTES:

  • Storen’s blown save was his first in five save situations. He converted the other four.
  • Gio Gonzalez’s 107 pitches is the most from a Nats starter in 2015.
  • Escobar’s walkoff is his first since April of 2011 with the Jays.

UP NEXT: Rematch vs. the Cards tomorrow at 7:05pm, Doug Fister (1-0, 0.69) vs. John Lackey (1-0, 2.77).

Washington Nationals Game 13 Review: Strasburg crushes Phillies, Span returns.

In a baker’s dozen of games so far, the Washington Nationals have given their fans plenty of reasons to be concerned about their viability as a team able to go the distance this season. Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, showed no signs of concern whatsoever. Stephen Strasburg was as dominant as ever, and the top half of the lineup went 6 for 18 with four walks.

The Nationals looked closer to their ideal lineup on Sunday, starting Denard Span, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman, in that order, for the first time this season. In the fifth inning, the five of them created a two-out three-run rally that put the home squad on top for good on Sunday.

Denard Span, fresh off the disabled list after abdominal surgery in March, started things off with a two-out single, followed by and Ian Desmond double, scoring Span from first. Jayson Werth sent one back up the middle for a second single, scoring Desmond, followed by an intentional walk to Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman laced a double down the right field line to score Werth, and nearly score Harper. Bob Henley held back Harper to avoid a tight play at the plate, and that’s as far as he’d go, as Wilson Ramos would ground out to Freddy Galvis.

Stephen Strasburg went 7.1 IP, giving up a run on five hits, just two walks and seven strikeouts for his first win of the year. Through 4 2/3 innings, the Phillies were hitless against Strasburg, and his changeup and curve were being used to devastating effect. Matt Thornton got let Strasburg off the hook in the eighth, and Drew Storen assembled a five-batter ninth to finish it out.

The Nats face a tough foe in the Cardinals starting on Tuesday, but could return to .500 with a win on Tuesday.

HERO: No one is happier to have Denard Span back than Ryan Zimmerman. Zim got the two-run double in the fifth to put the game out of reach for the Phillies.

GOAT: Today’s game had no goat. Here’s a goat gif.

NATS NOTES:

Ian Desmond continues his offensive reign of terror. Since Friday night, he is 8 for 13 (3 for 4, 3 for 5, 2 for 4) with four runs scored.

Drew Storen notched his fourth save on Sunday, but gave up two hits and made things a little more exciting than Nats fans might have liked. Thankfully, longstanding Nats fans were brought up on Chad Cordero cardiac saves.

UP NEXT: The Nationals are off on Monday. Tuesday, the Cardinals come to town for a three-game set. Lance Lynn (1-1 1.64) vs Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.11) at 7:05pm.

Washington Nationals Game 11 Review: Nats top Phils on strength of Harper and Espinosa homers.

The Washington Nationals made it three straight wins, picking up a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on an overcast and occasionally rainy Friday night in Washington. Max Scherzer made short work of the Philadelphia offense, and Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa each went yard as the Nats topped a divisional foe.

Max Scherzer took it to a depleted Philly lineup tonight, making quick work of their order. Through eight, Scherzer threw 100 pitches, scattered five hits, and struck out nine. The Phillies’ only run came in the third, as an Odubel Herrera double to right field became a triple as Harper tried to leap for it in vain. Herrera would come around on a grounder from Freddy Galvis on the next pitch. Had Harper played the ball off the carom, it’s entirely possible Herrera never would have scored.

Bryce Harper once again made waves in the first with a crushing blast. With Escobar (single) and Desmond (hit by pitch) aboard in the first, Harper would absolutely crush a ball to dead center field over the 400-foot sign. Danny Espinosa would join the party in the 4th with a blast to right center just next to where Harper hit his homer in the first.

The Nationals weren’t content at 4-1, and pressed hard into the Phillies’ bullpen in the seventh inning. Ian Desmond would get things going with an infield single (ruled an error) that he was able to beat out on the basepaths. With two out, the Phillies saw a chance to get Harper with a lefty, and brought in Jake Diekman. Harper, whose career approach against lefties would best be considered a struggle, showed some of the discipline and focus we’ve seen in his early season, and drew a critical walk. Ryan Zimmerman would lace one down the right field line to score both Desmond and Harper, and Wilson Ramos would drive a run in with a well-hit ball that just caught Chase Utley off-balance, and he’d throw it away to let Zimmerman score.

Yunel Escobar would leave the game after running out a grounder in the fourth. The ball was hit deep into the pocket at short, and Escobar was hustling up the line to beat the throw. As he reached the bag at first, he came up short, putting his hand along his inner thigh at the groin. After being attended to by trainers, he left the game. Dan Uggla took over at second, with Danny Espinosa moving to third.

The Nationals have moved to 5-6, just 2.5 games back of the division-leading Mets.

GOAT – Sorry, no goat tonight. While Ian Desmond’s 7th error was less than pleasing, his 3-for-4 night at the plate, reaching on an error and a hit-by-pitch, I can’t give him the goat for this one.

HERO – Let’s give this one to Ryan Zimmmerman for a combination of incredible defense and a 2-run double in the 7th to put this one away. His diving plays today saved runs for the Nats, and his late double put the game out of reach.

NATS NOTES

  • Felipe Rivero made his MLB debut for the Nats in the 9th, going 1 full, with a strikeout, and giving up three hits and a run.
  • Matt Williams’ 100th win was last night, and he was the fifth fastest to the century mark. Congratulations, Matt!
  • Depending on the results of Yunel Escobar’s examination, the Nats may need to call up another infielder tomorrow, and the only one on the 40-man roster is Wilmer Difo. Could it be Difomas? Difo Day? Difotacular? One of those. Could be.
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