September 20, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 120 Review: Rockies top Nationals 3-2

WHERE HAS ALL THE OFFENSE GONE, LONG TIME PASSING

Max Scherzer and Yohan Flande went blow for blow on Thursday night in Denver, the Cy Young winner vs. the youngster with less than 100 innings pitched in the majors. Max Scherzer allowed three runs on 8 hits through 6+ IP, while Flande allowed two and drove in one. The Nationals had just four hits in Thursday’s matchup, and fell four games back of the Mets with 42 games to play.

Flande was just as impressive at the plate as he was on the mound, sparking the Rockies’ rally in the fifth, and driving in their second run in the sixth. He finished the night 3-for-3 against Scherzer, tied for second on the year for most hits against Scherzer. Odubel Herrera of the Phillies leads with four in 13 at-bats.

Though Scherzer only gave up a trio of runs, he was not his usual impressive self on Thursday night. Scherzer walked three, and had a number of pitches in the dirt as he worked to locate his slider. Largely dependent on his changeup for his out pitch, Scherzer was having to grind to work his way through the Rockies’ lineup. His final line of 6+ IP, 8H, 3 ER, 3 BB (1 IBB), and 7 K won’t make it to any highlight reels.

The Nationals struck back in the top of the seventh, with Ryan Zimmerman getting a walk, and Michael A. Taylor destroying a fastball down the groove into the center field stands to tie the game at two. Taylor’s 493-foot blast was the 11th of his rookie year, and the longest on record in the majors this year.

The home half of the seventh inning was a peculiar thing to take in. Max Scherzer, at 90 pitches or so, came out to take the rock in the bottom of the seventh. Jose Reyes singled to center to start the inning, and Matt Williams came to get his ace. Felipe Rivero came in to face Carlos Gonzalez, who beat the defense the other way to move Reyes to second. Blake Treinen got the call from the bullpen, and came in to strike out Nolan Arenado on a slider up in the zone. He wouldn’t get so lucky against lefty Ben Paulsen, who drove in Reyes on a bloop single to center, shallow enough and slow enough to score Reyes from second.

Why Williams wanted Treinen with the lefty matchup is unclear to me at press time, especially given that lefties hit .322/.398/.471 against him this year. Given that the bullpen has had a restful series in Colorado, Williams had a panoply of options, and it seems Treinen was an odd choice. The inning would conclude on a wild pitch to another lefty, Daniel Descalso, as Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t commit to running home, or get back to 3rd fast enough.

The ninth saw a leadoff single for Bryce Harper – only the Nationals’ fourth hit of the day – against John Axford. The cagey closer would drop a perfectly placed 3-2 curve on the corner to Yunel Escobar to rack the first out of the ninth. Ian Desmond swung right through a 2-2 slider to put the game on the line with two outs. Ryan Zimmerman forced a walk from Axford in a beautiful at-bat, putting Taylor at the plate for the big moment. He’d swing through a high fastball, and that would end the game.

The Mets were off Thursday, and the Nationals fell to four games back of the Division with 42 to play.

HERO: Michael A. Taylor for his tape-measure blast in the seventh to tie the game at two.

GOAT: Max Scherzer and Matt Williams, for equal parts bad bullpen management and a rough night – his third straight start – with control problems to boot.

NATS NOTES:

  • 493 feet is 9 feet longer than Giancarlo Stanton’s league-leading 484-foot homers for Miami.
  • If the Mets finished 21-21, the Nationals would need to finish 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.

NEXT UP: The Nationals return home to face the Brewers on Friday night. Gio Gonzalez (9-5, 3.86) vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-9, 3.61) at 7:05pm.

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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