The Nationals might have won 8-5 Monday night in the first of a short two game series against the Padres but it didn’t come without a price. Watching this Nats season feels like watching baseball in the ER waiting for the next player to be helped off the field. In the space of eight days the Nats have lost right fielder Jayson Werth, starting catcher Wilson Ramos, and making his major league debut back-up catcher Sand Leon.
In the top of the fourth inning with Yonder Alonso on third and Chase Headley on second Orlando Hudson would hit a single into the outfield. With Headley rounding third Leon got in the position to field the throw from Danny Espinosa. Espinosa fired it in and Leon couldn’t handle it, but for Headley it was too late. He had already made up his mind that he was running Leon over. Leon had blocked off most of the plate and didn’t give Headley much to slide for but if he had tried to slide in under Leon it is just as likely that he would have been safe. Instead he went for the takeout, and afterwards Leon laid crumbled on the ground until he was helped off the field by trainers.
After the play was over a somber silence fell over Nats Park and it was like the crowd didn’t even care when Hudson tied the game when he scored on a suicide squeeze by pitcher Tim Stauffer, or when the Padres took the lead an inning later on Headley’s single up the middle. The timing of the injury couldn’t have been worse. In the bottom of the third inning after three straight singles and Bernadina scoring on an error Bryce Harper hit his first major league homerun. A no doubt bomb up onto the batters eye in centerfield.
The joy and elation of witnessing such an event was soon replaced as the Nats Park crowd watched Leon being helped off the field, but this night was far from over. With the Padres enjoying the lead into the bottom of the sixth, after Ross Detwiler had a rare bad appearance for Nationals starters giving up five runs on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk, Ian Desmond would put the Nationals on top for good with a ringing opposite field double off of the right field wall that scored Ankiel and Flores.
The Nats bats weren’t done as they would get a pinch hit homerun from Tracy and a homer from Nady in the bottom of the eighth to take a three run lead into the top of the ninth. Davey who was adamant earlier in the day that Henry Rodriguez was his closer would allow H-Rod to pitch for the third consecutive day and after blowing the save Sunday against the Reds on a Joey Votto walk-off.
Rodriguez would walk to the mound his shoulders slumped and head down. Showing none of the confidence he had after mowing through the Reds on Saturday evening on 10 pitches. The thoughts of Votto’s grand-slam and doubt were all that appeared to occupy Rodriguez’s mind. His first two pitches were balls and his second pitch bounced high off the screen. It was clear he didn’t have it.
Rodriguez would walk the first batter he faced before overpowering Darnell on a fastball to get him to pop-up to Flores. Rodriguez would then walk both the light hitting Maybin and Denorfia to load the bases and force Davey to bring in Burnett. Burnett started last season sharing closer duties with Drew Storen, but soon lost the job and went through a bit of what Henry Rodriguez is going through now.
This time it was different for Burnett as he was able to get Jesus Guzman to bounce into a 1-2-3 double play to end the game and help the Nats reclaim first place in the NL East as the Braves dropped their series opener against the Reds 3-1. With Storen and Lidge both on the DL and Rodriguez struggling the depth of the Nats bullpen will now be tested even further.