The Washington Nationals had their chances in last night's loss to the New York Yankees. In the bottom of the first, Steve Lombardozzi took a leadoff walk from NY right-hander Phil Hughes, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a one-out single to put two on in front of Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. Instead of the Nats' big bats bringing "the thunder" as Nats' skipper Davey Johnson's said recently, both batters went down swinging to strand Lombo and Zim and let Hughes off the hook.
A two-out walk and back-to-back RBI singles by the Yankees in the third gave the visiting team a 2-0 lead, but the Nationals had a chance to respond in the home-half of the frame with Lombardozzi and Harper both reaching safely, and the Nats' middle-of-the-order bats coming up again. Zimmerman flew out unproductively, however, and LaRoche walked to load the bases in front of Morse who came through with an RBI single that made it a 2-1 game, but with the Yankees' starter on the ropes, Ian Desmond was first pitch swinging and got a curve that he hit to short to start an inning-ending 6-4-3.
Asked if the team missed big opportunities early that eventually cost them the game, Davey Johnson told reporters after the game there was, "No question about it." The Desmond DP, in particular, was costly. "Desi liked the pitch, he got a curve ball, and he's been big all year, he likes those situations, just missed it. Double play. Took us out of that inning. That's the difference between winning and losing."
"We had opportunities and we just didn't capitalize," the manager explained further, "Men on base early in the ballgame, the right guys up and just didn't deliver. That's baseball." After Morse's RBI single in the third, the Yankees' starter set eight Nationals in-a-row down before Ian Desmond's two-out single in the sixth. Hughes got Danny Espinosa swinging in the next at bat, however, and the New York bullpen went to work, retiring the Nationals in order in the sixth. Gio Gonzalez, according to Davey Johnson, was adamant about returning to the mound in the seventh in what was then still a 2-1 game.
A leadoff hit by Andruw Jones pushed the Nats' starter up to 109 pitches and ended his outing. "If he'd have gone clean I would have stayed with him," Davey Johnson said, "But since he gave up [a hit]..." The Nats' manager turned to right-handed reliever Brad Lidge, who walked the first batter he faced, Yankees' catcher Russell Martin. A sac bunt, intentional walk and two-run single by Derek Jeter followed. The Jeter hit was a slow hopper into the hole at short that Ian Desmond tried to play and threw away, resulting in two runs scoring instead of one and runners on second and third with one down. "[Desmond's] made those plays all year long," Johnson said when asked if his shortstop should have held on to the Jeter grounder, "He's got a cannon and a good throw, [Jeter's] out."
Lidge was replaced by Michael Gonzalez who gave up a two-run double by Curtis Granderson and a 2-1 game was all of a sudden a 6-1 game. "Walking [Russell] Martin," Davey Johnson said, "That kind of put us in a hole which we couldn't come out of." It was the third walk Lidge has allowed in 1.2 IP since returning from the DL, in which he's now surrendered four earned runs. "He didn't give in to a hitter," Davey Johnson said when asked about Lidge's outing, "He got a ground ball out of Jeter, unfortunately it was in the hole. We could have been out of the inning there." Then Michael Gonzalez gave up the double by Granderson on a 1-2 fastball that the Yankee outfielder crushed. "You just can't make mistakes [against] this club," the Nats' manager concluded, "It's a learning curve."
The Nationals have an opportunity to show what they've learned this afternoon when they take on the Yankees again at 1:05 pm EDT with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound against veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte.