The Nationals offense has struggled to score runs all season and it is starting to look like it is getting the manager Davey Johnson. With the Nationals trailing by the score of 1-0 in the fourth inning Bryce Harper tried to steal second after drawing a one out walk and was thrown out easily by Matt Wieters. Danny Espinosa then struck out looking to end the inning. One inning later Jesus Flores would single with one out before being caught stealing on a botched hit and run with the pitcher, Edwin Jackson, batting.
As puzzling as the second of those moves was nothing would beat what happened in the bottom of the eleventh inning after Nick Markakis hit a go ahead homer for the Orioles in the top half of the inning on a cookie served to him by Ryan Mattheus. After Steve Lombardozzi led off the inning being hit by pitch Ian Desmond was looking to bunt him to second in order to stay out of the double play and give Zimmerman a chance to bat as the winning run. Desmond would pull back on his first attempt which was a ball before fouling off his next two bunt attempts on balls out of the strike zone. With the bunt sign off Desmond would proceed to ground into the double play Davey was looking to avoid.
It is understandable that Davey would want to give Zimmerman a chance to bat as the lead run, but with Strop having missed badly with his first two pitches. One of which hit Lombardozzi. It would have been understandable if he had Desmond taking early in the at bat to see if he could get ahead before attempting to settle for advancing the runner. Not to mention the fact that the Nats one run this evening came on an Ian Desmond homerun.
Zimmerman would end up getting a chance after Roger Bernadina reached on a third strike wild pitch. Zimmerman would single up the middle before LaRoche grounded out to end the game and send the Orioles fans in attendance home happy and the Nationals fans home disappointed. The Orioles are now 6-2 in extra innings game and have the early advantage in the battle of the beltways, but it didn’t have to come down to this.
Davey Johnson’s frustration is understandable and if a manager can press he was doing so tonight. After watching Edwin Jackson struggle in the first only to right the ship and end up pitching eight innings of one run ball on five hits with one walk and eight strike outs; Davey must have felt the pitcher deserved better than to watch the Nats fall to 2-6 in games he starts.
Jake Arrieta’s final line of one run in seven innings on six hits with one walk and nine strikeouts looks good, but the way Arrieta pitched was not. Arrieta left a number of fastballs up in the zone and a few were tagged by the Nats, but found their way into the gloves of Orioles fielders. The Nats also struck out looking on a number of pitches right over the heart of the plate. It is tough to say what is going on with the Orioles offense. It is hard to tell if they are simply guessing wrong and looking for the wrong pitch or if they are having trouble seeing the ball. Arrieta gave the Nats a number of chances but they either were unable to capitalize or ran themselves out of the innings.
The series continues tomorrow from Nats Park with Ross Detwiler taking on Jason Hammel before concluding on Sunday as Stephen Strasburg looks to put the hot stuff incident behind him when he takes on Wei-Yin Chen.