January 22, 2022

Washington Nationals Game 107 Review: Strasburg, Nats toppled 5-1 on Alex Avila grand slam

The Washington Nationals fell 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night, not at the hands of the Tigers’ most likely suspects, but on a sixth-inning grand slam by catcher Alex Avila.

Entering into Tuesday night’s contest winless in his prior three starts, Stephen Strasburg had never before given up a home run with more than one runner on base. Astonishingly enough, Avila himself had recorded just one bases-loaded extra-base hit of his career before powering Strasburg’s 96 MPH fastball over the right-field wall.

Up until that point, the two teams went head-to-head in a classic interleague pitcher’s duel between Strasburg and Anibal Sanchez (W, 9-7).

Things seemed to get off to an early start for Washington after Bryce Harper led off with a triple in the first inning. Harper held at third when Anthony Rendon grounded to Miguel Cabrera, but Ryan Zimmerman brought him home on a single up the middle that made it 1-0 Nationals.

The Tigers looked to threaten in the bottom of the inning when, with two outs, Cabrera singled and Prince Fielder walked. Strasburg pitched out of the inning, however, after forcing Victor Martinez to fly out to center.

Sanchez retired the Nats in order in the second and allowed just one walk over the third and fourth innings. In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Tigers finally answered.

Fielder drew a one-out walk before Martinez flied out to right. The next batter, Jhonny Peralta, singled to give Detroit runners at first and second before Andy Dirks hit a ground-rule double to plate the tying run. The Tigers nearly tallied the go-ahead run then and there before the umpires reversed the original call to bring home Peralta on fan interference.

Sanchez gave the Nats few freebies. Designated hitter Chad Tracy singled in the fifth to no avail, but in the sixth, it looked as though Washington would be the first to break the tie.

With one out, Adam LaRoche hit a ground-rule double to left-center field. After Jayson Werth grounded out, Ian Desmond walked to keep the inning alive, but Denard Span grounded out on the third pitch he saw to end the scoring chance.

To set up Avila’s grand slam in the bottom of the inning, Fielder hit a one-out single before Martinez doubled and Peralta walked. Dirks struck out swinging, but Avila made perfect contact on a 2-1 count to give the Tigers all they needed.

Sanchez retired the side in order in the seventh before the Tigers’ latest acquisition, ose Veras, did the same for Detroit in the eighth.

Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit allowed just one hit – a single by Denard Span – in the ninth as the Nats fell to 52-55 on the year and 21-30 on the road. With an Atlanta Braves win over the Colorado Rockies, the Nats will fall 10.5 games behind first in the NL East.

THE GOOD: After taking the first two games against the Detroit Tigers at Nationals Park, the Nats did little damage at Comerica Tuesday night. From the glass-half-full approach, six Nationals recorded a hit on a night when Anibal Sanchez dominated. So, there’s that.

THE BAD: With a 52-55 record, the Nationals have little room for error – and the Atlanta Braves aren’t handing them any gifts, either. The view of first place looks increasingly fuzzy from double-digit games back and with Justin Verlander on the mound for Detroit Wednesday afternoon, the Nats will have their work cut out for them.

THE UGLY: When pitching against arguably the hottest-hitting team in baseball (first place in runs, batting average and on base percentage), there has to be an added layer of disappointment when the grand slam allowed comes off the bat of catcher Alex Avila, who is batting .195 and had hit just one bases-loaded extra-base hit ever in his career.

THE STATS: 1 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 7 LOB, 2-for-8 with RISP

NEXT GAME: Wednesday, 1:08 p.m. at Comerica Park – LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.97) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (10-8, 3.99)

About Alyssa Wolice

Alyssa Wolice is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals and Wizards. As a former production assistant, she covered the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, D.C. United and local collegiate teams. You can follow Alyssa on Twitter @awolice.

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  1. […] • “The Washington Nationals fell 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night, not at the hands of the Tigers’ most likely suspects, but on a sixth-inning grand slam by catcher Alex Avila.” – “Washington Nationals Game 107 Review: Strasburg, Nats toppled 5-1 on Alex Avila grand slam&#8… […]

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