August 17, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 108 Review: Nats blow 4-0 lead, lose 5-4

ZIMMERMANN SOLID, STOREN DREADFUL

Everything looked great for the Washington Nationals on Friday night, right up until it didn’t. Jordan Zimmerman had the Colorado Rockies guessing through six, and only allowed a single run to score. The Nationals’ offense worked out well, scoring four on three separate skeins of decent offense. And then Drew Storen, who’d been untouchable all season long, gave up a grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez in the eighth, now trailing 5-4. The Nationals couldn’t get to Tommy Kahnle or John Axford in the late innings, and that was that. Everything was fine, right up until it wasn’t.

Danny Espinosa got the Nats started off right in the first tonight, with a double to the left field corner that got past Kyle Parker, allowing Espinosa to race into third. Espinosa has been a spark plug for the Nationals in 2015, a bright spot amid an offensive grey zone. Bryce Harper would plate Espinosa on a grounder to the right side, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first.

Ryan Zimmerman continued his hot streak, returning from injury. With Harper aboard, Zimmerman drove a double to the right field gap. Harper was hustling from the crack of the bat, and scored standing up, coming all the way home from first.

Jordan Zimmermann continues to impress this season, retiring 16 of 17 in the middle innings, and scattering four hits through 6.2 innings at Nationals Park. Zimmermann’s fastball was his strength tonight, but his slider gave him a number of outs the second time through the order. The Rockies got to him in the seventh, scoring their first run of the night on a double and a single. Zimmermann gave way to Casey Janssen, who retired Nick Hundley on one pitch to end the threat.

Drew Storen ran into some trouble in the eighth, as Jose Reyes singled with Daniel Descalso aboard after a walk. With two out, Storen faced Nelson Arenado as the tying run, and Arenado hit a swinging bunt single down the third base line to load the bases. Carlos Gonzalez took a challenge fastball into the Nationals’ bullpen for to give the Rockies the lead. Storen would finish the eighth with a strikeout up in the zone to end the inning.

John Axford pitched the eighth for the Rockies, allowing Ian Desmond aboard on a walk. Desmond would steal second, and advance to third on a grounder. With clutch hitter Michael A. Taylor at the plate, the Nationals had every chance to even the score. Alas, Taylor struck out, stranding the tying run 90 feet from home.

The Rockies bullpen-by-committee sent Tommy Kahnle to the mound to finish the game. Pinch hitter Clint Robinson was a strikeout victim, but Yunel Escobar saw everything he needed during Robinson’s short at-bat. Escobar drew a five-pitch walk as Kahnle’s change-up couldn’t find the plate. Danny Espinosa popped up, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate as the winning run.

Tommy Kahnle opened the at-bat with a 96mph fastball right down the pipe, which Harper took for a strike. Ball one came on a fastball to the outside of the plate, and then Harper swung through an 88mph changeup to fall back 1-2. He fought off a fastball up, but succumbed to another changeup to strikeout and end the game.

54 games remain in the 2015 campaign, 108 are past. The Nationals will need to win at least 32 of those if they want to be in the mix for the post-season. They need to win games like tonight if they want to be in the hunt for October. Alas, it wasn’t to be tonight, and the Nationals fall further behind the surging Mets in the NL East.

HERO: Danny Espinosa had a helluva night, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored

GOAT: Drew Storen, for giving up two walks, a hit and then a grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez.

NATS NOTES:

  • Bryce Harper reached base for the 200th time this season in today’s game.

NEXT UP: Rockies/Nats continues Saturday night, Stephen Strasburg’s return from the DL (5-5, 5.16) vs. Eddie Butler (3-8, 5.45), 7:05 first pitch.

About Tom Bridge

Tom Bridge is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals. Tom has been in love with baseball since he was 10. He is a founding editor of We Love DC, where he covered the Nationals and Capitals as a credentialed writer for four seasons. He grew up as an Oakland Athletics fan in the Central Valley in California, where he learned to appreciate Bill King, Mark McGwire and even Tony LaRussa. By day, he is a partner at Technolutionary LLC, where he handles IT operations. He cannot abide the Cardinals. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomBridgeDSP.

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