August 17, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 48 Review: Nats Bats Not Clutch, Strasburg Hurt

STRASBURG LEAVES EARLY, NATS DROP SERIES OPENER

The Washington Nationals, riding high on nine straight series victories, rolled in to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to face the Reds Friday night. They wouldn’t stay that way. Leaving 12 runners aboard and going 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position, the Nats fell to the Reds, 5-2.

Stephen Strasburg started the evening on the bump for the Nationals, but wouldn’t make it out of the second inning, Not because he was getting shelled, but rather because he appeared to be struggling with command and a potential physical problem. An already hobbled Nationals team, missing Jayson Werth (broken wrist), Anthony Rendon (strained oblique, sprained knee), and Doug Fister (strained flexor), was dealt a blow when Strasburg began to struggle in the second. After just one batter in the second, and sixteen pitches on the night, trainer Lee Kuntz walked Strasburg back to the clubhouse.

Strasburg had a 9-pitch first inning where he surrendered a home run to Reds outfield Joey Votto, but otherwise was pitching to contact. After facing Brayan Pena and issuing a walk, the trainer and coaching staff went out to check on Strasburg, and out he came. After the game, reports from the clubhouse indicated Strasburg had a problem with his left trapezoid muscle and would be further evaluated in the morning.

Taylor Jordan, recently recalled from Syracuse as a replacement for A.J. Cole, entered the game with a runner aboard in the second and retired the side without further damage. Jordan’s night ended in the sixth, down 4-2, but not before his line read 4.2IP, 6H, 3R, 2BB, 1K. Jordan scattered his hits, and benefitted from the defense behind him, but kept the Nationals right in the thick of Friday’s action.

The Nationals returned volley fire with the Reds the rest of the evening, largely on “small ball” tactics with infield hits, walks and a little moxie. Wilson Ramos lead the fifth off with a double to the gap off Tony DeSclafani, followed by a one-out walk to Michael A. Taylor. Taylor Jordan checked in with an infield single on a bunt to Todd Frazier, who was playing at double play depth. Denard Span grounded into a fielder’s choice, which stopped Ramos at home, putting Ian Desmond at the plate with the bases loaded. Desmond managed an infield hit, scoring the run, before the rally ended with Yunel Escobar’s ground out.

DeSclafani picked up the win for the Reds Friday,

A double, two infield singles and a walk sounds more like an inning from the 2014 San Francisco Giants than the 2015 Washington Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman would continue the trend in the sixth inning with a lead-off double. On a single to center, Zimmerman challenged Billy Hamilton’s arm, and swept his slide just out of the reach of Brayan Peña to take the lead at 2-1.

The lead was short-lived. In the bottom of the sixth, the Reds drove Taylor Jordan from the game, putting together three runs on three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly. None of the balls were particularly well struck, but they were all exactly where they needed to be.

The Reds added one more run on a Todd Frazier home run that is still floating somewhere in the Ohio River Valley somewhere. He got all of a Blake Treinen fastball and sent it to left field into the upper deck, making it 5-2.

Though the Nationals threatened at times, they couldn’t bring runners around, leaving twelve aboard on the evening, most of them in the late innings.

In the seventh, with a Denard Span at second and Bryce Harper at the plate, Tony Cingrani drilled Harper right in the back, giving the Nats a spark with two away. It was for naught, as Ryan Zimmerman lined out.

In the eighth, Cingrani walked the bases loaded with two outs, but Ian Desmond couldn’t deliver in a high leverage situation with the game on the line. With fireballer Aroldis Chapman in for the save situation, the Nationals weren’t in a good position to mount a comeback. The thing about a reliever with a 102-mph fastball is, you’re not exactly going to get a lot of baserunners. In fact, only Bryce Harper managed a knock off Chapman, and that’s exactly what the expectation is against Chapman: you might get one big smack, but you’re not all going to get lucky.

It was a tough Friday for the Washington Nationals, as they sustain another injury they can ill-afford, and their bats stay silent when they need them most.

HERO: Taylor Jordan for keeping the Nats in the game on short notice, plus keeping the fifth inning rally alive with a timely infield single.

GOAT: Joey Votto, for chirping at Bryce Harper after he walked slowly to first after getting hit by a pitch in the 7th.

NATS NOTES:

  • Strasburg’s early departure was his fourth straight start not making it out of the fourth inning.
  • Look for Joey Votto to get drilled early on in Saturday afternoon’s tilt.

NEXT UP: Saturday afternoon ball at the GABP. 4:05pm start, Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 4.53) vs. Raisel Iglesias (1-1, 4.26)

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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