DESMOND HOMER LIFTS NATS, BLEVINS RECORDS FIRST WIN AS A NATIONAL
With Bryce Harper out of the lineup Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals tallied just four hits to top the Atlanta Braves 2-1 by the skin of their teeth.
Taylor Jordan (ND, 1.42 ERA) allowed one run, six hits and two walks over 6.1 innings pitched, but he kept the Nats in contention despite their slow-to-produce offense.
Manager Matt Williams gave Bryce Harper the day off after the 21-year-old outfielder went 0-for-4 Saturday in the Nats’ 6-2 loss to the Braves. Harper, who is 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts, has shown visible frustration over the past few days, throwing down his helmet and stomping back to the dugout in dismay.
The Nats also sat Ryan Zimmerman for the start of Sunday’s matchup due to shoulder soreness, but he pinch-hit for reliever Tyler Clippard in the eighth, alleviating some fears for now.
Testing yet another new lineup, the Nats took an early lead in the first off left-hander Alex Wood (L, 1-1).
Leading off for the first time in his MLB career, Anthony Rendon reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a single by Kevin Frandsen. Jayson Werth hit an infield single, allowing Rendon to come home on a throwing error by second baseman Dan Uggla. To bring the Nationals to a halt, however, Wood retired the next three batters.
In fact, Washington failed to send another runner to base until Sandy Leon reached first on an error by Chris Johnson in the fifth.
Before that point, Jordan found himself in a bit of a jam in the fourth after walking Johnson and Justin Upton with one out. The situation went from bad to worse on a throwing error by Danny Espinosa, which allowed Dan Uggla to reach first to load the bases. But, Jordan pitched himself out of the inning, retiring Gerald Laird and Andrelton Simmons to end the inning.
And, in the top of the sixth, the Braves seemed to figure out Jordan’s repertoire.
Freddie Freeman led off with a single before Johnson sent him to third on a double. After Justin Upton struck out swinging, Dan Uggla brought home Freeman on a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game 1-1.
Jordan forced Gerald Laird to line out to left to end the inning, but the Nats’ offense provided no favors in the bottom of the inning.
In the seventh, Jordan allowed a single to Simmons before forcing Wood to sacrifice to first. Then, Washington called upon Jerry Blevins in relief.
Blevins got Jason Heyward to chase an 83 MPH slider for strike three, before B.J. Upton lined to Ian Desmond for the final out of the inning.
In the eighth, Desmond opened the door for Blevins to earn his first win with a leadoff homer to left.
But, as had been the case all day, the Nationals’ offense failed to build momentum, as Danny Espinosa, Nate McLouth and Leon retired in order.
Blevins retired Freeman in the eighth before Tyler Clippard took the mound to record the next two outs.
The Nats – including pinch-hitter Zimmerman – had no greater luck against reliever Gus Schlosser in the eighth.
And, an insurance run or two could have calmed nerves a bit as Rafael Soriano took the mound in the ninth.
After striking out Uggla and forcing Laird to pop out to first, Soriano allowed back-to-back singles to Simmons and pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bring Nats fans to their feet in angst.
But, alas, Soriano was due for his first save of the season.
After it appeared everything Soriano threw hovered straight over the plate, at last his cutter regained some bite. On a full count, Soriano forced Heyward to chase an 83 MPH slider to end the game and spare the Nationals from getting swept by their division rivals in their home opener series.
After enjoying a day off Monday, the Nats will take on the Miami Marlins at home Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. Scheduled starters are RHP Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 9.00 ERA) and RHP Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50 ERA).
THE GOOD: Taylor Jordan provided the Nationals with a solid opportunity on a day when the Nats’ offense just would not gel. Even prior to the game, naysayers chalked up Sunday’s game as a loss as Matt Williams produced a batting order with Anthony Rendon and Kevin Frandsen batting 1-2, and Danny Espinosa, Nate McLouth and Sandy Leon rounding up 6-7-8. No one was dazzled by the order, however, which lacked Bryce Harper and, for the majority of the game, Ryan Zimmerman. But, as was so often the case last season, it was pitching – without adequate run support – that saved the Nationals.
THE BAD: The Nats recorded just four hits and only one earned run Sunday vs. the Braves.
THE UGLY: In the top of the fourth, Taylor Jordan found himself in a bit of a jam, worsened by Danny Espinosa’s throwing error which loaded the bases for Atlanta.
THE STATS: 2 R, 4 H, 1 RBI, 6K; Taylor Jordan, ND, 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; Jerry Blevins, W, 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 K