October 19, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 49 Review: Reds beat Nats late, Nats lose first series in ten

JANSSEN HAS DISASTROUS EIGHTH, NATS LOSE 8-5

Late mistakes from Casey Janssen cost the Nationals the game on Saturday afternoon, despite incredible defensive efforts to limit the damage. Michael A. Taylor had a 3-run homer in the sixth to put the Nationals ahead 5-2 before Janssen’s denouement. Gio Gonzalez pitched 5.1 IP of 4-run ball, and was hit twice by Reds pitching, the second HBP potentially contributing to Gio’s rough sixth inning.

The roster moves before the game almost overshadowed the action on the field Saturday afternoon. Before the game, the Nationals announced that Stephen Strasburg was off to the 15-day disabled list, and Taylor Hill had been called up in his place. In addition, Bryce Harper was a late scratch with a tight back, caused by yesterday’s drilling at the hands of Anthony Cingrani of the Reds.

Raisel Iglesias started for the Reds, and the young Cuban defector was frustrating for the Nationals hitters at times, but as his command fell apart in the sixth, the Nationals sent him to the showers. Iglesias struck out seven, mastering a breaking ball and a high fastball to combine for some unlikely devastation through the Nats order.

It wasn’t all domination for Iglesias, though, as Michael A. Taylor obliterated one of his pitches late in the sixth for a three-run homer amid Iglesias’ control failures. Clint Robinson and Danny Espinosa had each ripped singles off Iglesias ahead of Taylor’s moonshot off the scoreboard on the fascia of the second deck in left field. The Nationals lead stretched to 5-2, and everything looked solid for the gents in grey.

Gio Gonzalez struggled early with his control, in no small part due to a narrow strike zone from home plate umpire Andy Fletcher. In the first he’d load the bases on a walk and two singles before escaping unscathed. In the third, he gave up a two-run homer to Joey Votto on a pitch that just got away.

After that, Gonzalez largely settled into a rhythm, working counts well, and finding a devastating curve placement to strike out six. Disaster would strike in the top of the sixth for Gio, though as an errant Iglesias fastball would drill him right in the left tricep. He’d remain in the game — for reasons not yet explained, despite a rested pen — and the bottom of the sixth did not go well. Gio lead off the bottom of the sixth with a walk to Joey Votto, and a double to Todd Frazier, putting runners at 2nd and 3rd with no one out. An agitated Gio Gonzalez paced around the periphery of the mound, chewed on his glove, and talked to himself at length, but manager Matt Williams remained in the dugout.

The early part of the Nationals bullpen did yeoman’s work today against the Reds. Blake Treinen came on in relief of Gonzalez in the sixth and dialed in two strikeouts on 98mph sinkers that just weren’t fair. He did have a pair of wild pitches that allowed the remaining runner to advance to third, but his sinker was devastating against Zach Cozart and Marlon Byrd, enough to seal the leak. Matt Thornton buzzed right through the Reds in the seventh, throwing just 10 pitches to retire the side in order.

Casey Janssen had a rougher go in the eighth, but some spectacular defense by Denard Span and Dan Uggla kept the Reds at bay, to start. Denard Span would leap to the top of the fence in left center and sweep a ball bound over back into play limiting Frazier to a double. With runners at the corners, a ball deflected off Ryan Zimmerman’s glove ended up right in the hands of Dan Uggla preventing a run to score, but Janssen’s bad coverage let the runner aboard safely. Zach Cozart would make him pay for all those missed pitches, and stroked a double to the deepest part of the park, bringing around a pair of Redlegs, and Billy Hamilton would bring around two more on a single through the gap to right.

That Janssen gets left out there as long as he did is one of the reasons that there are questions about Matt Williams’ managerial chops with regard to bullpen management. Pulling Janssen earlier there might have put the Nats in a better place to stop the Reds, especially when the bullpen’s got fresh arms.

The Nats gave Aroldis Chapman a scare in the ninth, drawing a pair of walks off the fireballer. Denard Span and Ian Desmond each claimed a free pass on full counts, with the final pitch of their at-bats at 99mph. Chapman would dial it up a notch for Dan Uggla and Ryan Zimmerman, though, and both struck out on 102mph fastballs to end the threat.

This was the Nationals’ first series loss in over a month.

HERO: Michael A. Taylor for his three-run yard shot in the sixth. He was 2-for-31 since his memorable grand slam in Houston, he definitely needed it. Honorable mention to Denard Span for his highlight reel non-catch of Todd Frazier’s double to left center in the 8th.

GOAT: Casey Janssen abysmal eighth inning was his worst outing of the year. He gave up four runs on four hits with two walks, despite the fact that Denard Span and Dan Uggla each performed miracles to limit the damage.

Secondary Goat Award to Yunel Escobar, ejected for arguing balls and strikes when he knew the Nats were down a player already. The call wasn’t that egregious, but Escobar had to jaw. Fletcher gave Escobar two chances to back off before giving him the hook, which was more than fair.

NATS NOTES:

  • Bryce Harper’s Friday night hit against Aroldis Chapman came on a pitch clocked at 102.2mph. It was the fastest pitch hit in the Pitch Trax era.
  • The Reds hit Gio Gonzalez with pitches twice on Saturday, which is, as far as I can tell, the only time a Nats starter has been hit twice in the same game.

NEXT UP: Tanner Roark vs. Michael Lorenzen at 1:10pm as the Nats try to avoid a sweep.

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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