If, as the old baseball truism goes, the baseball gods have given the Washington Nationals 54 wins, 54 losses, and 54 toss-ups, than Sunday afternoon’s 10-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates unquestionably falls into the second category. Jason Marquis faced just 13 batters and recorded only four outs. Hundreds of fans were still milling around in the centerfield plaza, trying to decide whether to find their seats or find a hot dog, when Neil Walker scampered home on Lyle Overbay’s RBI double to give the Pirates an 8-0 lead and cap off a five-run top of the second inning that, for all intents and purposes, ended the competitive portion of the afternoon’s entertainment.
“I left too many balls in the zone,” a grim-faced Marquis said after the game. “There wasn’t enough late action on my balls.” To his credit, Marquis didn’t make excuses, nor did he hide behind the double play that probably should have been recorded by the very second batter of the game. After allowing Alex Presley to lead off the game with a sliced single to left field, Marquis induced Chase d’Arnaud to tap a ground ball back to the mound. Trying to start the pitcher’s best friend, Marquis rushed his throw and put it at second baseman Danny Espinosa’s feet. It was a difficult play to be sure, but one that Espinosa could have (if not should have) made. Instead, the throw skipped into center field and Presley picked himself up and went to third, later scoring on an RBI single by Nate McCutchen. Walker and Overbay followed with RBI base hits of their own, and the Pirates led 3-0 after half an inning.
“It didn’t have any effect [on me],” Marquis said when asked afterwards about the botched play. “They’ve been doing a good job defensively, they’ve spent the whole year battling, and are trying to make plays.”
“Things like that shouldn’t be able to affect you,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He just didn’t have it today.”
A quick glance at his movement chart confirms Marquis’ diagnosis of his own performance, and suggests that he might have had better results placing the ball on a tee for the Pirates to whack at. By contrast, the Nationals had no such luck against Pirates starter Kevin Correia, who scattered six hits over six innings and kept the Nationals off balance with his two-seam fastball, curveball, and slider. His only mistake, a four-seam fastball that cruised over the heart of the plate, was deposited into the Pittsburgh bullpen by Wilson Ramos. That made the score 8-2 in the bottom of the second inning, and a comeback still seemed somewhat plausible. However, the Nationals couldn’t take advantage of putting their leadoff men on base in the third and fourth innings, and never got closer.
Meanwhile, the intrigue continued off the field, as the struggling Jayson Werth was removed from the game after being hit on the wrist pad in the bottom of the sixth inning. Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post revealed after the game that manager Davey Johnson had asked Werth to get an X-ray taken, a request which Werth refused. It is unclear at this point whether Nationals brass will intervene and make Werth get his wrist checked out. It does seem unlikely that Werth will play in Monday’s holiday matinee against the Chicago Cubs. Mike Morse is also a doubt for Monday, despite the fact that an X-ray came back showing no structural damage on the forearm that was hit by a pitch in Saturday’s double header. “He doesn’t have much mobility [in his forearm],” Johnson said of Morse.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise creditable series split to start the Nationals’ longest homestand of the season. The Nationals will have a chance to go back to the .500 mark for the third time in this stretch on Monday against the Chicago Cubs, when they will send their best pitcher to the mound against Casey Coleman, a last-minute replacement for the ailing Ryan Dempster.
“I don’t think anybody’s satisfied with where we are,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “This is our longest homestand of the season, and it’s a good chance for us to put some wins up on the board before the [All-Star] break.”
They won’t get many if their pitching doesn’t perform significantly better than it did on Sunday.
Clippard named to National League All-Star Team
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s game, the Nationals announced that Tyler Clippard had been named to the National League All-Star team, which will play the American League All-Stars on Tuesday, July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Clippard has appeared in 37 games for the Nationals this season, going 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA, a 0.870 WHIP, and a 11.2 strikeout/9 innings ratio.
“Pretty awesome,” Clippard said when asked for his reaction to his selection. “There’s too many guys, especially in the National League — starters, great closers. I’m pitching well, but usually those are the guys that get the nod as far as the all-star game is concerned. I knew there was maybe an outside shot, but I didn’t really take it seriously. That’s probably a good thing, not really thinking about it too much. Now that it’s here and it’s actually happening, it’s pretty awesome.”
In addition to Clippard, Mike Morse is one of five nominees for the final spot on the NL team, which will be voted on by the fans at MLB.com until Thursday, July 7. Morse, who has a .299 batting average, a .349 on-base percentage, and a .887 OPS to go with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs, is joined on the ballot by Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies.