This was Albert Pujols night. In the first inning Taylor Jordan gave up a chalk line double to JB Schuck followed by an Anthony Rendon error on a Mike Trout ground ball. To the plate stepped Albert Pujols and after one swing he was one home run away from the magic number of 500 and the Nats were down 3-0. Taylor Jordan would allow one more run before the inning was over and would push the Nats total of first inning runs allowed to 25.
Of those 25 first inning runs 11 have been given up by Taylor Jordan who now looks like the pitcher who will be leaving town when Doug Fister returns to the rotation. Earlier today Fister threw his second simulated game and is scheduled for a rehab start in Potomac on Sunday. It isn’t an accident that he lines up with Taylor Jordan’s spot in the rotation and the Nats could use him back as soon as possible.
Falling behind has been a constant struggle for the Nationals this season of the 92 runs they’ve allowed this season 44 have been given up in the first or second inning. To put that another way 48.7% of the runs the Nats have allowed in 2014 have come in the first two innings. For a team where starting pitching was thought to be a strength coming into the season that shouldn’t happen. Some of it has to do with an MLB leading and ever growing error count but some of it is still on the starting pitching.
The Nats have to find a way to let the games develop before they get out of hand. Having to battle back night after night is no way to have a winning season, and with the loss tonight the Nats are now only one game over .500 and if this level of play continues much longer they won’t be over .500 much longer.
That is the good thing about baseball. Some trends beg for regression and with the Nats starting staff and Doug Fister one or two starts from the major league rotation the amount of early runs allowed simply has to end, but will it be in time. The Braves have allowed the fewest runs in baseball and continue to stretch their lead in the division despite a setback against Jose Fernandez on this evening.
Getting late early is something the Nats dealt with in 2013 and it appears to be happening again in 2014. Tonight’s game against the Angels featured too many of the constant issues that have plagued the Nationals early in both 2013 and 2014. The high error total and overall sloppy play has to end. Aside from those issues the other major issues of 2013, the bullpen and bench, appear to be fixed for the large part.
One of the major reasons for the improvement of the bullpen returned tonight. After spending his ten mandatory days in the minors Aaron Barrett returned to the majors to pitch a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts including one of Mike Trout.
But as they say every silver lining, and that dark cloud in this game was the four first inning runs the Nats allowed and once again being on the wrong end of history as Taylor Jordan follows Chan Ho Park as a pitcher who has given up two milestone home runs in one game as Jordan would give up Pujols’ 500th career home run in the fifth inning and from there the rout was on.
The Nats would get two walks after that, but no more hits and ended up being three hit by Skaggs, Kohn, and Jepsen. Overall this is a game to forget. All the Nats can do is get back out there and right the ship and as it has many times since Mike Rizzo traded for him Gio Gonzalez will be asked to play stopper.
The Nats can still turn this into a good home stand with one game left against the Angels and the struggling Jered Weaver before welcoming in the fourth place Padres into town. The Nats have a chance to take four of these next five and turn this into a good home stand, but they are going to have to play better. Mainly stop falling behind early and giving the opposing team extra outs.