Washington Nationals starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was pushed around by the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing five early runs before departing after just 3 1/3 innings pitched, as the Nats dropped a 5-4 decision before 27,835 at Nats Park.
It was the Nats fourth straight loss and drops their record to 38-27.
But all anyone wanted to do afterwards was talk about pine tar.
Rays reliever Joel Peralta, who pitched for the Nationals in 2010, was ejected before throwing a pitch in the top of the eighth when Nats skipper Davey Johnson asked the umpires to inspect Peralta for a foreign substance on his glove.
“It was a rumor he liked a little pine tar,” Johnson offered after the game.
Upon inspection, the umpires did indeed find pine tar in Peralta’s glove. They confiscated the glove and ejected the pitcher. Peralta doffed his cap as he left the field, but Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t take it as well as his pitcher, who described Johnson’s request as “cowardly” and a “p***y move,” according to reports.
Peralta, for his part, would not acknowledge the pine tar or how it got there, according to reports. But Johnson knew exactly how it got there, even if he wouldn’t give up his sources.
“Well, he pitched here,” Johnson explained. “I don’t think it’s a secret.”
“I was hesitant to do it,” Johnson continued. “Tim [Tschida, home plate umpire] was looking at me kind of grinning. He said, ‘What do you want?’ I walked out and said, ‘Why don’t you check it, just to make sure. I’m curious.”
But Johnson knew exactly what Tschida would find.
Peralta will be looking at a fine and suspension from the league.
As for the game itself, Chien-Ming Wang was ineffective yet again. Consecutive singles to the first three batters of the game put the Nats down a run before many in the crowd had taken their seats.
After an Ian Desmond home run (11) gave the Nats a 2-1 lead, Wang gave it right back. Wang walked the third inning leadoff hitter, Desmond Jennings, and surrendered Carlos Pena’s ninth home run of the season, a mammoth blast to the cut-out in center field. Wang sandwiched two outs between a double and walk, but Elliot Johnson tripled to center to score both runners, putting the Rays ahead 5-2, a lead the Nats cut into, but could never erase.
Michael Morse hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth, to trim the lead to one, but the Nats did not find the equalizer. Morse’s homer was reviewed by the umpires, but it was ruled a home run after it hit off the top of the fence, then off a rail out of play before coming back into the field of play.
The game also featured a delay when Rays’ second baseman Ben Zobrist asked the umpire crew to direct the Nats Park maintenance staff to cover an advertisement above the batter’s eye in center field.
There was plenty of drama for two non-traditional interleague rivals for one game. Will it carry over the rest of the series? Johnson seemed willing to let it go, but upon hearing Maddon’s description and colorful adjectives for Johnson’s inquiry, perhaps we’ll be in store for even more fireworks on South Capitol Street the next two days.
THE GOOD: Ross Detwiler. He took over for Wang and was simply brilliant. He worked quickly and efficiently through 3 1/3 innings, allowing just one base runner by a hit by pitch. He struck out three.
THE BAD: Ryan Zimmerman. He did go 1-for-4 and scored on Morse’s home run, but he hit the ball on the ground all four times, grounding out three times and sneaking one through the infield for the single.
THE UGLY: Wang. 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. He threw 77 pitches, 45 for strikes. Johnson described Wang as flying open too fast in his delivery, causing the arm to lag behind the body, which leads to the lack of control. Johnson said it was his job to get Wang back to where he can help the team, but at some point — probably in the near future — the Nats will have to decide between potential and performance. Detwiler looked more than ready to resume a spot in the rotation.
THE STATS: 6 H, 1 BB, 5 Ks. 0-for-2 with RISP, 1 LOB, 3 GIDP. No errors, 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 pm against the Rays. Stephen Strasburg (–) hosts Chris Archer, making his Major League debut.