The first game of four that Washington will play in San Diego this weekend essentially ended eleven pitches in when Padres' third baseman Chase Headley connected with an 82 mph sinking "fastball" belt high and outside from the Nationals' Livan Hernandez and pushed it out the other way for a two-run blast to left-center in HR-hating PETCO Park. Headley's second HR of the season, and first since April 2nd, was the third straight hit off the Nats' right-hander, but only a two-run HR because Livan limited the damage by picking Chris Denorfia off first after he'd started the game with a single.
in his ninth career start in San Diego's home field, Hernandez, who entered the game last night (0-5) at PETCO, would last just 5.1 IP, dropping to (0-6) after surrendering nine hits, six runs, all earned, a walk and Padres' rookie Anthony Rizzo's first major league hit. The 21-year-old former Boston Red Sox' prospect, who was drafted in the 7th Round of the '07 Draft out of Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was acquired this winter in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the AL East. Rizzo put up a stunning .365/.444/.715 slash line in 52 games and 232 plate appearance before he received the call up to make his major league debut last night.
Rizzo took a healthy cut an 83 mph sinker outside on the first pitch he saw, then stood stunned and watched as the veteran right-hander dropped a 58 mph curve on the rookie, just missing outside. A sinker caught the outside corner away to put the debuting first baseman down 1-2, and a two-seam fastball inside got him looking when it cut back in under Rizzo's extended arms for a called strike three. The rookie would have his revenge, however, tripling in the fifth, crushing a sinking fastball away Livan Hernandez clearly thought was a home run if one were to judge his initial reaction. Rizzo settled for three, sliding in safely at third and scoring two outs later on an RBI single by Chris Denorfia for a 3-1 Padres' lead.
Michael Morse singled off Padres' starter Aaron Harang in the Nationals' second and scored on a sac fly by Alex Cora, and the Nats first baseman drove in Washington's second run, singling off Harang in the sixth to score Jayson Werth from second in what was then a 3-2 game. Livan Hernandez gave up three-straight hits again in the sixth, surrendering one run, and Sean Burnett, who came on with one down, walked the rookie Rizzo in a Lefty vs Lefty showdown, loading the bases for Cole Kimball, who replaced Burnett and issued the second walk in a row, forcing in a run, 5-2, and allowing sac fly by Logan Forsythe that gave the Padres a four-run lead, 6-2.
• One Note Before The End: Nats' reliever Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez had another trademark interesting outing™, retiring the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh on five pitches. When the 24-year-old flamethrower was lifted, however, he'd thrown 19 pitches, walked three, given up a single and somehow just one run, on a wild pitch. That's 12 hits, four runs, all earned and 14 walks (7.41 BB/9) allowed, with 21 K's (11.12 K/9) collected in 15 games and 17.0 IP so far for Rodriguez.
Wilson Ramos crushed a full-count change for a solo HR to left-center in a pinch hit appearance with two down in the ninth, 7-3, but any hope of a late rally ended two batters later, when Ian Desmond struck out after Rick Ankiel had hit a two-out single. Desmond finished the first of four in San Diego 1 for 5 with 3 K's. The Nats' first six batters had at least a hit off the Padres, Morse and Ankiel had two each, but they were 1 for 8 as a team with runners in scoring position, and they stranded eight runners as a team in what ends up their 36th loss in 63 games.
• Oh, and this happened, accounting for the picture on the front page (via Jeff Sullivan @LookoutLanding):
• Miss The Game? The DC Faithful Were Watching...
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• Doghouse's Post Game WPA Graph: "Game 63: Not much to be happy about":
- Not crafty enough: Livan Hernandez (-27.9) only makes it through 5.1 IP, giving up 6 ER with 4 Ks and 1 BB.
- Heroism attempted: Michael Morse (+10.6%) is 2-4 with an RBI single to get the Nats within one in the 6th (+10.6%).
- Little accomplished: Ian Desmond (-10.2%) is 1-4 with 4 LOB.
- Junk time! Wilson Ramos (+0.1%) has an emotionally satisfying but utterly irrelevant pinch-hit solo shot in the 9th.
Nationals now 27-36.