Ultimately, some bad umpiring in the first inning only served to show the resiliency of this Washington Nationals team. But facing extra innings again today, the Nats couldn’t find the magic to take the win. Tyler Clippard, who apparently has been nursing some “arm discomfort”, was slapped around in the 11th inning allowing three runs on four hits and the Nats fell to the Cincinnati Reds, 8-5, before a Sunday crowd of 25,679.
Manger Davey Johnson said Clippard had some trouble warming up in Saturday’s game and would only use Clippard in an “emergency” situation today. With Detwiler leaving after five innings — setting up a parade of relievers — Johnson found that very situation in the 11th.
Asked about the nature of the discomfort, Johnson responded that it was shoulder in nature, and “From what I gather, he has it every spring, at the end of the spring. This has kind of lingered a little longer.”
Clippard gave up a lead-off single to Drew Stubbs, and with one out Zack Cozart dropped a base hit in too. Joey Votto, whom the Nats intentionally walked in both the seventh and ninth innings, crushed a double to left field, plating both. Scott Rolen singled behind Votto for the winning margin.
The Nats got back-to-back singles from Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth to lead off the bottom of the 11th, providing hope to NatsTown. But Mark DeRosa hit into a force, Jesus Flores struck out on three pitches pinch-hitting and Wilson Ramos’ smash was gobbled up by Votto to end the game.
Detwiler’s short stint can be attributed to a 37 pitch first inning, triggered by a blown call at a play at first base and a missed third strike by the homeplate ump on the ensuing batter.
With two outs in the first inning, Scott Rolen grounded to Ian Desmond at shortstop for what should have been the third out of the inning. Desmond’s throw was a little high and into the runner, but first baseman Adam LaRoche made a good play on the ball and held his foot on the bag. But first base umpire Mike Everitt called Rolen safe. Reviews of the replay clearly showed that LaRoche held the base and manager Davey Johnson came out to discuss the play with Everitt, to no avail.
With runners at first and second, Jay Bruce followed. On the 3-2 pitch, Detwiler dropped in a nasty breaking ball right over the plate that froze Bruce. Only, home plate umpire Laz Diaz flat-out missed it. Again, replays show the pitch splitting the strike zone, but the Nats had no recourse to ask for a replay. Of course, with a tight strike zone Detwiler needed to be careful to the next batter, Ryan Ludwick. But Detwiler wasn’t careful enough, and Ludwick drilled an offering into the visitor’s bullpen for a grand slam, assisted by two missed called by the umpires.
The Reds got another run in the fourth on three consecutive singles by Ludwick, Chris Heisey and catcher Ryan Hanigan, and it began to look like it wasn’t the Nats’ day. But the Nats started to chip away at that lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Desmond led off with a single and moved up Danny Espinosa’s base hit. Ryan Zimmerman (0-for-4, .179) drew a base on ball to load ‘em up. As he has all season, Adam LaRoche came through with runners on base, delivering a single down the right field line. Desmond scored easily, and when Bruce bobbled the ball, Espinosa came across with the second run. After Jayson Werth popped out, Zimmerman scored on a Mark DeRosa grounder to bring the Nats within two runs.
The Nats cut that lead to one in the fifth. Roger Bernadina drew a walk pinch-hitting for Detwiler and scored on Desmond’s double over the head of center fielder Chris Heisey. Desmond took third on the throw, but was stranded there as Espinosa and Zimmerman both grounded out.
Washington completed the comeback in the seventh inning. Rick Ankiel led off the frame with a double, his first hit since returning from the disabled list. He remained there as Wilson Ramos grounded out and pinch-hitter Chad Tracy whiffed. But Desmond laced his third hit of the day up the middle and Ankiel raced home, his slide just beating the relay.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman’s defense. He made a diving stop to his right in the eighth inning to rob Ryan Ludwck of extra bases; in fact, Ludwick took a wide turn at first as if he was going to cruise to second for a double, but Zimmerman rose and threw him out. He also made a head-first dive toward home to catch a sacrifice bunt attempt. Good to see the “D” return after his struggles opening day. Now he needs to work ont he bat.
THE BAD: Ryan Zimmerman. 0-for-4 with a walk. He’s realy struggling at the plate.
THE UGLY: Clippard. His ERA after today is 7.20, and if there’s more to his shoulder “discomfort” than just some lingering spring training soreness, the depth of the Nats bullpen could get tested in a real hurry.
THE STATS: Nine hits, three walks, nine strikeouts. 2-for-13 with RISP, 6 LOB, one GIDP. Errors: Desmond (2), Ramos (1).
NEXT GAME: Monday at 7:05 pm against the Houston Astros. Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 0.69) hosts Kyle Weiland (0-1, 7.20).