The first-place Washington Nationals stumbled in the first inning on Thursday night, with Edwin Jackson giving up six hits – three of them triples – before the side was retired. The damage was done, and the Nats trailed 5-0 on the back of some shaky routes from their outfielders. A few of those triples might’ve been doubles from a more experienced and fielding-focused outfield, and might have saved a run.
After the rough first inning, Jackson settled down to his previous self, retiring 12 of 13 in four additional innings, and notching 5 Ks on the night. After 89 pitches, he’d head for the showers just a run behind. The Nationals would score in the 2nd on a pair of singles and a wild pitch, and pick up three runs in the third on Ryan Zimmerman’s towering drive over the visiting bullpen – his first of the season, and a moon shot at 410 feet – but that wouldn’t be enough to stop the Astros.
With Jackson departing after five full, Tom Gorzelanny came on in relief, and immediately coughed up a crooked number. With five singles and a double, the Astros would bat around for the second time in the evening, and not five more runs to put the game out of reach. Davey Johnson would pull Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth shortly thereafter, in favor of Mark DeRosa and Xavier Nady. Afterwards, manager Davey Johnson would cite the need for rest ahead of the incoming Miami Marlins.
Johnson left Gorzelanny out longer than he might have liked, but ahead of the division series, he said that “Gorzelanny needed to take it on the chin,” so that the rest of the bullpen might be rested. Miami is on a hot streak, with four straight wins, and the team has traditionally had the Nationals’ number. In 2011, the Nats won just 7 of 18, in 2010, just 5. While the Marlins have retooled, they’ve struggled early to put up a 7-6 record.
The offense was largely dormant after the 3rd inning for the Nationals, with five scattered hits in the last six innings, to the disappointment of the crowd of 18,000+ on a perfect Thursday night in the nation’s capital. The Nationals remain atop the NL East, 2 games ahead of the Mets, while the Braves were in action late in Arizona.
The Nationals send Ross Detwiler (1-0) to the mound against Carlos Zambrano (0-0) on Friday, followed by Stephen Strasburg (2-0) against Anibal Sanchez on Saturday afternoon, then Gio Gonzalez (1-0) against Josh Johnson (0-2) on Sunday afternoon.