Photo by Cheryl Nichols / Nationals News Network
Ask anyone who’s watched the Washington Nationals this season and they’ll tell you that Mr. Game Changer, Jason Marquis, has not had a good first season with his new team.
Marquis, who was acquired during the off-season as a free agent, has tested Washington’s patience with six miserable losses, a horrific ERA, and a lengthy stint on the disabled list to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow. Wednesday night was Washington’s first glimpse into what kind of pitcher Marquis can be if healthier than when he arrived.
Marquis took a scoreless game into the eighth against the Chicago Cubs during an unlikely pitching duel in the final game of a three-game series. Both Cubs starter Ryan Dempster and Marquis dominated the respective opposing lineup, but in the end the Cubs scored runs, the Nationals didn’t, and the reason is the bullpen.
The Nationals bullpen ruined Jason Marquis best outing of the season. Manager Jim Riggleman had a choice in the eighth — keep Marquis in to continue his scoreless game pitching duel with Dempster or go to his pen.
“The real decision was whether I should of sent him out there to begin with for the eighth and I did that based on he’s going good, he felt good, he wanted to go back out there and all that,” Riggleman said, “but then the four pitch walk was a little bit of a red flag and if I sent him back out there I didn’t want to send him back out there for just one hitter.”
Marquis faced two hitters who got around the ball, so Riggleman turned to Tyler Clippard. Clippard gave up an RBI-double to Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and a home run to Aramis Ramirez putting Chicago up by three runs.
“J pitched a hell of a game,” Clippard told reporters after the game, “and I kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Sean Burnett would come in for the ninth and was pulled after two batters for giving up a lead-off insurance home run to Alfonso Soriano putting the Nats down 4-0. Drew Storen came in to stop the bleeding but it was too late by then.
“I don’t know what the right word is,” Riggleman said when asked to explain his feelings on the team’s current record. “I’m certainly disappointed [in it]. I know our guys are playing hard, they’re giving effort, the intensity’s there, the hurt is there. We’re suffering. We’re getting beaten. I don’t like being beat. I’m sick of it and I know our players are.”
The Nats are tired. All of them. The bullpen, the starters, the lineup. With Josh Willingham out after season ending surgery for a torn medial meniscus, the heart of the order needs to produce but they’re not. Between Dempster and Cubs relievers Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol, the Nats 3-4-5 bats combined for six strikeouts and one hit from Ryan Zimmerman.
Fact of the matter is the Cubs scratched out a couple of runs, the Nats didn’t, and the bullpen handed Marquis his seventh loss of the season after pitching one a heck of a ballgame.
Tonight: St. Louis Cardinals’ RHP Chris Carpenter (14-4, 2.88) faces RHP Jordan Zimmermann in his 2010 debut at Nationals Park starting at 7:05.