April 21, 2021

Washington Nationals Game 139 Review: Another night, another late inning collapse


Since the New York Mets overtook the Washington Nationals  more than a month ago, everyone — media, fans, the front office, Matt Williams, the players — have pointed to the six games the Nats had left with the Mets head-to-head.

They’ve squandered the first three. Despite holding a lead going into the seventh inning for the third night in a row, the result remained the same. The Mets rallied, no one on the Nats could shut the door, and the prohibitive favorite to win not just the N.L. East — but represent the senior circuit in the World Series — lost again.

This time, the Nats fell 5-3 to the Mets, falling seven games behind — and 9 1/2 out of the wild card — with 23 to go.

Things started off well enough — actually, it was pretty good. Bryce harper homered in the first, the Nats )71-68) added a run in the fourth on a Harper double and Clint Robinson RBI, and Stephen Strasburg dominated through the seventh inning, allowing just Travis d’Arnaud’s solo homer in the second.

Strasburg got through the seventh without incident, but on a 2-0 count leading off the eighth, Kelly Johnson homered to right to tie the game. Williams let Strasburg continue, and the big righty struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis but gave up a single to Curtis Granderson, and Williams decided he’d had enough.

Strasburg struck out 13 in 7 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk.

But once again, Drew Storen was summoned from the bullpen, and once again he was unable to play fireman. Rather, he threw more gas on the flames.

Storen threw ball one to Yoenis Cespedes, then on the 1-0 count the impending free agent crushed a hanging slider to left center, also crushing the hopes and dreams of Nats fans all around the DMV. Storen got out of the inning, but the damage was done.

Harper, once again lifting the team on his broad shoulders, homered again in the bottom of the eighth (his 36th) off former teammate Tyler Clippard to make it 4-3. But Jonathan Papelbon — the closer with no games to close — coughed up a run for the second straight night to seal the Nats’ fate.

HERO: Harper, obviously. 3 for 4, 3 runs, 2 RBIs, 2 HRs. He’s trying to carry this team, but he’s just not getting much help.

GOAT: Storen. I said it in my column on Wednesday, it’s time to stop pitching him in high-leverage situations. He’s throwing like a man with one foot — and his heart — already out the door.

NEXT GAME: Nats are mercifully off Thursday and travel to Miami on Friday to face the Marlins. Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.96) faces Jarred Cosart (1-4, 504).

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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