The Padres 4-3 twelve inning victory over the Nationals Thursday night ended in fitting fashion. Bryce Harper led off the bottom of the twelfth with a double. The Nats needed him to score in order to tie the game, but the Nationals had been unable to muster a single hit with runners in scoring position all evening, and they had plenty of opportunity with 16 hits and all. There Bryce Harper stood with the few fans left in the stands hoping the Nationals fortunes would change, but it was not to be as Jose Lobaton hit a liner that seemed ticketed for left field and a tie game, but Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera drifted back, caught the ball, and doubled Harper off second.
It was another frustrating night for the Nationals, and another game in which they did more to beat themselves than the other team. As anyone how many runs a team should score when they have sixteen hits in a ball game and it is doubtful their answer would be three, but that is what the Nationals scored. The Nationals offense is off to a good start to the season in most major category except they lead the NL in runners left on base and have trouble getting hits with runners in scoring position.
Left on base numbers don’t correlate to runs scored as a runner left on base that has driven in a base runner counts the same as any other left on base, but the Nationals just can’t come up with those big hits lately. The Nats poor left on base numbers are two fold. Part of it is a line-up missing two key offensive pieces in Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos and the other is just plain bad luck.
With runners all over the bases and a solid six inning three run pitching performance from Jordan Zimmermann the Nationals had more than a chance to win this game. Give the Nats or any team sixteen hits and three runs allowed by their starting pitcher every night and that is more wins than loses, but this wasn’t the Nats night, and it goes down as another frustrating lose in what has been an April of frustrating loses. Carry it back to 2013 and it feels like the Nationals haven’t been able to get out of their own way for a year and a month now.
To add to the frustration caused by this game the last eight starting pitchers the Nats faced have a combined 2.71 ERA for the 2014 season and the Nationals were getting to face Eric Stults and his 4.35 ERA. This should have been a pitcher that the Nationals beat like a drum, but they couldn’t. They put runners on inning after inning and at bat after at bat, but could never push them across the plate.
The Nationals failure to put the Padres away when they had the chance led to Xavier Nady’s heroics in the top of the twelfth inning. Before the game reached that point however the Nats were given a great opportunity to win when Jose Lobaton led off the tenth inning with a double. Matt Williams elected to go with home run threat Zach Walters as the pinch hitter instead of pinch running for Lobaton and letting a pitcher pinch hit and sacrifice the runner to third for Denard Span. There aren’t many situations where a sacrifice bunt makes since but this may be the one and Williams failed to take advantage.
This set up the Nats eventual demise where Jedd Gyorko hit a one out single, stole second, and advanced to third on Jose Lobaton’s throwing error. With two outs Xavier Nady stepped to the plate and did for the Padres what he didn’t do so many times for the Nationals and delivered the clutch hit to win the opening game of this four game set.