December 18, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 97 Review: Offense leaves 12 on base in 3-1 loss to Dodgers

The Washington Nationals received a terrific pitching performance from their starter, but the offense stranded runners seemingly in every inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers found just enough hitting against the bullpen to beat the Nats 3-1 in ten innings, before 41,816 at Nationals Park, a sellout and eighth-highest attendance this season.

It was the Nats seventh loss in their last nine games.

The Nationals left 12 men on base, and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. They fall to 48-49 for the season, mired in third place in the N.L. East. The only saving grace for the Nats was that Atlanta and Philadelphia both lost earlier in the day, thus they did not lose any ground in the N.L. East standings.

For the better part of Saturday night’s game, Gio Gonzalez and Zack Greinke traded zeroes on the scoreboard, albeit using vastly different methods. Greinke allowed base runners at every instance, escaping big innings by stranding runners in just about every inning. Gonzalez, on the other hand, had a big strikeout night and generally did not face much difficulty at all keeping the Dodgers hitters at bay.

They both departed after six innings, with the Nats clinging to a very tenuous 1-0 lead.

But Craig Stammen continued his struggles of late, allowing two runs in the tenth, as the Dodgers beat the Nats for the second straight night coming out of the All-Star break.

Gonzalez was the star of the night for the Nats. On a brutally hot and muggy night, the Florida native fed off the sweaty conditions to pitch six unassailable innings, striking out a career high 11 in the process. Gonzalez, who threw 61 of his 98 pitches for strikes, gave up just four hits and two walks. lowering his ERA to 2.89 for the season.

The Nats broke through against Greinke in the sixth inning. With two outs, Chad Tracy singled to right, his third hit of the night off Greinke. Wilson Ramos then drew a walk, moving Tracy up. Manager Davey Johnson asked Roger Bernadina to pinch-hit for Gonzalez, and the little-used and slumping outfielder came through in a big spot, delivering a broken-bat single to short right field to plate Tracy with the game’s first run.

The Dodgers got that run right back in the top of the seventh against embattled reliever Drew Storen. With two outs, Skip Schumaker pinch-hit for Greinke and smashed a double to deep center field. He scored on Mark Ellis’ soft single to left field, eliciting boos from the gathered crowd.

The teams went back to trading outs again until the tenth inning. Craig Stammen allowed back-to-back doubles by Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez to break the tie. Ramirez was moved up to third on Juan Uribe’s sacrifice, and Stammen was lifted in favor of Ian Krol. But the Dodgers got a sacrifice fly from Andre Ethier to score Ramirez to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

THE GOOD: Gio, obviously. But Chad Tracy gets recognition for his three-hit night. Tracy entered the game hitting .149/.187/.276 for the season and was 5-for-36 back to June 1. Ryan Zimmerman had three hits as well.

THE BAD: For the second straight night with runners in scoring position, Bryce Harper struck out against lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez. Much has been made of the #Nats struggles against lefties this season, and Harper is no exception, hitting just .182/.286/.318 against southpaws.

THE UGLY: 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. 1. For. 12.

THE STATS: 10 hits, 4 BBs, 7 Ks. 1-for-12 with RISP, 12 LOB. E: Zimmerman (15, throw), Tracy (3, catch).

NEXT GAME: Sunday at 1:35 pm against the Dodgers. Jordan Zimmermann (12-4, 2.58) hosts Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 1.98).

NATS NOTES: Before the game, manager Davey Johnson told beat reporters that LHP Ross Detwiler, on the 15-day D.L. with a strained muscle in his lower back, not only will not return for his turn in the rotation this week, but could miss a couple more weeks. Detwiler threw a bullpen session before Tuesday’s game and both Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo were not enthusiastic about getting their left-handed back into the pennant chase.

“We’re going to definitely have him not rush back out, force him, push him,” Johnson told the assembled media before Saturday’s game. “He’s a gutty young man. He’d take the ball and go out there the way he is. But we want him to have no discomfort. He’s got too great a future.”

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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