In comparison to the rest of this week’s three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals played poor defense and dropped a winnable game 5-1 after a ninth inning collapse. It didn’t help much that the offense struggled with runners on-base either.
Atlanta started to tack on their runs in the fifth inning. Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler issued a walk to Braves starter Kyle Medlen that served as a catalyst for the two-run rally. Second baseman Tyler Pastoricky and Medlen scored on a double to right-center field hit by outfielder Martin Prado putting the Nats in a 2-0 hole.
Washington stuck it out until the ninth, initiating what could have been a comeback in the eigth inning when the game was still within their reach. Atlanta only managed to score two runs before their three-run rally in the top of the ninth against reliever Tom Gorzelanny, but the Nats could only manage one run the whole game.
Outfielder Bryce Harper scored the Nats only run in eighth on a single hit to left field by outfielder Michael Morse off Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, making it a 2-1 game. But that was before a ninth inning got away from Washington.
While some of the evening’s missteps should be attributed to the fact that Detwiler didn’t make it long enough for a quality start, it didn’t start out that way. Detwiler cruised through the first four innings, having given up just three hits in that time, with two of the runners making it scoring position without making it home. His fast ball was absolutely dominated.
So what was his biggest weakness? According to Manager Davey Johnson, Detwiler didn’t mix in enough off-speed pitches to get the job done. Because, no matter how great his fast ball is — and it was great for the first half of the game — Johnson says you still need to mix in the off-speed stuff.
Detwiler only made it 5 and 1/3 innings, having given up seven hits, two earned runs, and one walk. He threw 78 pitches, 51 strikes, and struck out four. That’s when Craig Stammen entered the game for 1 and 2/3 innings of no-hit ball.
The ninth is where it got messy. It was Gorzelanny’s second inning of work. He managed to get through the eigth having faced just three batters, but as previously indicated, the Nats offense seemed to lose their footing and couldn’t muster a reaction.
Three runs home, two errors, a wild pitch, two hits, and a stolen base later, the Nats fell from a 2-1 deficit to a 5-1 deficit and couldn’t overcome that fact in the end. As it stands, though, Washington is still 30 games above .500 and maintains first place in the National League East with their closest competition – the Braves – still 6 games behind. So at the end of the day, all is not lost.