Photos by Patrick Pho, special to We Love DC
Oh, for a real crosstown rivalry.
The Nationals came into the Battle of the Beltways (or whatever they’re calling it this year) on a tear, having won six straight, and having just swept the formerly hot Cardinals. Tonight, they put their best starter on the mound against a slumping Baltimore team, and the damnedest thing happened. The Orioles ganged up for a dozen hits off Marquis, but only plated four runs. They’d pick up another half dozen against the Nationals’ bullpen, but couldn’t strike again, while the Nationals picked up 8 runs on just 10 hits, striking for 7 runs on 6 hits in the fifth and sixth innings.
Jason Marquis looked eminently human tonight for a starter with a 7-2 record, as the Orioles lineup just tore up the field. Nick Markakis (4-5), Adam Jones (4-5) and Derrek Lee (5-5) made the Nationals look, at times, like they were bound for a night of frustration. At no time tonight did the Nationals retire the side in order, and just a pair of double plays kept Marquis and the Nationals from a much more frustrating evening.
It’s not clear if it was the 50-minute delay in tonight’s game that was the difference for Jason Marquis, or if it was the extra day off due to the off-day and his suspension, but his sinker and his slider were pretty hittable tonight. The Orioles had him right where they wanted him in 3 of his 5 1/3 IP, with runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but each time Marquis would slip and slide his way back toward the dugout with nary a scratch.
The Nats were the master of the big inning tonight, bringing nine to the plate in the fifth and seven to the plate in the sixth, each time putting singles and walks together to keep things moving. One thing to be concerned about, the Nats weren’t hitting for much power tonight, and though everyone was clicking tonight, it’s easy to imagine a situation where they stop being in sync, and then you’re just left with runners in scoring position.
After the game tonight, Manager Jim Riggleman said, “This game, we had no chance earlier in the year,” and he’s absolutely right. Even if you look at just ten days ago, without a few key hits tonight, and one walk by Sean Burnett in his first PA since 2009, and you have the game they lost to the Giants, stranding ten. While it’s great to see the Nats string together a series of wins, and better still to see them within two games of .500, it’s just as easy to see this team slide back into mediocrity, and the turning point will be whether or not they can keep putting hits together.
Odds & Ends: Zimmerman made just two putouts tonight, and on the ground ball he fielded in the third, Morse had to make a real deep scoop just to pick up the bounce that hit well in front of the bag. Zim’s new throwing motion has a ways to go to feel natural, it seems, and it did not look at all comfortable or quick out there.
Ryan Mattheus was once again solid coming out of the pen. The Galt, California native has now pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless ball, surrendering just one hit, one walk and striking out a pair.
Three Orioles combined for 13 hits against the Nationals tonight, but being spread out in the order made the line score just damned odd.
The official scorer chalked up an error on a drop foul fly in the 8th inning. Shortstop J.J. Hardy picked up the E6 when he and 3B Reynolds converged and couldn’t make the catch just outside the coaching box.
Sean Burnett’s walk, first-to-third, and subsequent run in the sixth inning was his first since 2004. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSN, after the game Burnett said that he went for the pop-up slide, “why not get dirty and make Wally wash the uni?” That’s the sort of spirit we like to see around here.
The worst outing of the night belonged to the Orioles’ Jeremy Accardo, who went 1/3 IP, gave up two walks and 3 runs, all earned. He was designated for assignment within 30 minutes of the end fo the game. Ouch.
John Wall of the Wizards threw out the first pitch. It was every bit as bad as you feared.