June 22, 2018

Washington Nationals Game 29 Review: Hot Rod coughs up gopher in 9th, Nats lose 5-4

Sometimes, you get them. Sometimes they get you. Tuesday night, in front of a very sparse crowd at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, they got Henry Rodriguez.

Specifically, the Pittsburgh Pirates — and .127 hitting catcher Rod Barajas — got to Rodriguez, as the erratic de facto closer for the Washington Nationals gave up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Alex Presley and wild pitched him to third. Then, after a strikeout, Barajas turned on the first pitch he saw from Hot Rod, a 96-MPH center-cut fastball, and deposited it into the stands in left, giving the Pirates a 5-4 walk-off win.

It’s just the seventh time this season the Pirates have scored more than four runs in a game.

Rodriguez (L, 1-2, 2.84) had no control over his sometimes devastating, but often uncontrollable slider, having thrown two away to move Presley up. It didn’t help that catcher Wilson Ramos seemed unprepared to receive either pitch. Regardless, the damage came on the grooved fastball.

Barajas, who has good power, was sitting dead red as he should have been. But Rodriguez left the pitch out over the plate and Barajas made no mistake on it.

The two-run blast made a waste of Adam LaRoche’s own two-run shot in the top of the ninth to wrest away the lead. Ryan Zimmerman, fresh off the 15-day D.L., singled to left in front of a “no doubles” defense and LaRoche, returning after a four-game absence, drilled a 97-MPH four-seam fastball from Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan to dead center to give the Nats a short-lived 4-3 lead.

The loss taints another strong performance from starter Edwin Jackson. The righty gave up two earned runs — both solo homers and both in the fourth inning. He allowed just one other hit and one walk while striking out five. Pirates starter A.J. Burnett did likewise to the Nats, limiting them to two earned runs on six hits and one walk, striking out 10.

Ramos hit a solo home run in the third inning, his second of the season.

But when you have trouble scoring runs, every mistake gets magnified. And when they happen in the bottom of the ninth, you lose the game.

THE GOOD: Adam LaRoche. In his first game back after missing four with an oblique strain, the Buck Commander went 2-for-3 with the two-run homer, his fifth of the year. He didn’t miss a beat.

THE BAD: Ian Desmond went 0-for-4 with two Ks and a fielding error.

THE UGLY: Other than Hot Rod, it goes to Danny Espinosa. It’s hard not to harp on the guy, but another 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts lowers his season batting average to .186. He’s now struck out 37 times, a 31.1% clip, in his 119 plate appearances with just 19 total hits, three for extra bases.

THE STATS: 9 hits, 1 BB, 12 ks. 2-for-5 with RISP, 4 LOB, 2 GIDP. E: Desmond (4)

NEXT GAME: Wednesday against the Pirates at 7:05 pm. Ross Detwiler (3-1, 1.59) faces Erik Bedard (2-4, 2.65)

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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