December 12, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 115 Review: Scherzer hit hard in Nats 4th straight loss

HARPER, ESPINOSA HOMER IN FIFTH TO DRAW WITHIN ONE, BUT PEN GIVES UP TWO MORE

The Washington Nationals fell to 1-4 on their current 10-game west coast road trip as Max Scherzer was roughed up early and the bullpen gave up two late runs after the Nats managed a four-run fifth inning to get back into it. It added up to an 8-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants and a four-game losing streak for the Nats.

The Nats fell to 58-57 on the season, and remain 4 1/2 games behind the division leading New York Mets, who lost to Pittsburgh 3-2 in 10 innings.As with Thursday’s game, the Nats scored in the top of the first. Michael Taylor led off with a walk and stole second base. Manager Matt Williams then asked .304 hitting Yunel Escobar to sacrifice — again, with no outs in the first inning — and Escobar did the job, moving Taylor to third. Bryce Harper’s fly out to right was enough to bring Taylor home, but that’s all the Nats got in the inning.

The lead didn’t last long, as Matt Duffy homered with one out in the bottom of the first. In the second, back-to-back doubles by Brandon Crawford and Justin Maxwell put the Giants up 2-1. Scherzer then hit Ehire Adrianza. Matt Cain moved both runners up, and Gregor Blanco’s double to right brought both runners in. After a visit by Steve McCatty, Duffy doubled and Blanco scored to make it 5-1.

Despite having allowed five runs and thrown 45 pitches in the first two innings, Williams allowed Scherzer to hit for himself in the third, and in the bottom half, Hunter Pence mashed Scherzer’s first offering into the center field bleachers for his eighth homer of the season.

Scherzer completed the third, but that was it for him. He gave up six earned runs on seven hits with no walks and just three strikeouts. He fell to 11-9 and his ERA ballooned to 2.73.

Eventually, Doug Fister gave the team two innings of scoreless relief while the Nats tried to claw their way back in it. In the fifth, Danny Espinosa led off with a homer, his 11th. Jose Lobaton doubled and Fister reached on a bunt single. Two outs later, Harper launched his 30th home run of the season into the right field stands, and the Nats were within one.

The Nats had Cain on the ropes while Giants manager Bruce Bochy tried to get him qualified for the win with five innings pitched. Ryan Zimmerman reached on a fielding error and Clint Robinson singled, so Cain left Bochy no choice but to go to the pen. Bochy summoned Jeremy Affeldt and the veteran lefty got Ian Desmond to ground out to end the inning.

Blanco struck again in the sixth. He doubled with one out against Matt Thornton and stole third. Duffy walked to bring up Belt, and the first baseman grounded to Ryan Zimmerman at first. Zimmerman first looked at second for a double play, but then went to first for the force before throwing home, but Blanco beat the throw to make it 7-5.

Little-used closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched the eighth. Juan Perez reached on a swinging bunt and stole second as Papelbon completely ignored him at first. Blanco then tried a drag bunt and Papelbon didn’t bother to get off the mound to field it and all hands were safe. Perez then scored on Duffy’s sacrifice fly.

HERO: Bryce Harper. His homer in the fourth gave a spark of life to an otherwise moribund team. But the spark was short-lived as the pen once again failed to keep the other offense in check.

GOAT: It’s inexplicable to me how a manger asks a .300 hitter to bunt with a man on second with no outs in the first inning.

NEXT GAME: Saturday at 10:05 pm Eastern. Gio Gonzalez (9-4, 3.50) faces Jake Peavy (2-5, 3.75).

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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