Padres 4-2 over Nationals in series finale to earn split of four-game set

Greg Fiume

The Washington Nationals jumped out to an early lead in the series finale with San Diego this afternoon, but Padres' right-hander Ian Kennedy shut them down after the first and the visiting Padres rallied for a 4-2 win and a series split.

Jordan Zimmermann Bobblehead Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' Manager Matt Williams talked this week about the Nats' strength being their ability to hit with power to the opposite field gaps.

"The key to our team is the opposite gap," he explained. "That's kind of their strength. The opposite gap for Adam [LaRoche]. The opposite gap for Anthony [Rendon] and [Jayson Werth] and [Ian Desmond]. If they can do that then we're very productive. It's about that approach though and continuing to have it."

Anthony Rendon battled for seven pitches with San Diego Padres' starter Ian Kennedy in a one-out at bat in the first inning today, then took a 92 mph fastball to right-center for an opposite field double that bounced off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard and Rendon scored when Jayson Werth ended an eight-pitch AB with a double to left-center field that made it 1-0 Nationals early in the nation's capital.

Taylor Jordan issued his first walk of the day to Padres' outfielder Chris Denorfia in the top of the fourth, and a double by Yasmani Grandal in the next at bat put runners on second and third with no one out. A sac fly to right field by Jedd Gyorko then tied it up at 1-1 after three and a half.

Everth Cabrera singled on a line drive to right in the fifth, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single to center by Chris Denorfia that made it 2-1 Padres after four and a half.

The Padres took a 3-1 lead in the sixth with three straight singles, two off Ross Detwiler and one off Aaron Barrett, who issued a bases-loaded walk to Everth Cabrera. 3-1 San Diego after five and a half. Barrett then missed with a 3-2 fastball outside to Chris Denorfia, forcing in another run, 4-1.

Padres' starter Ian Kennedy left the mound after seven innings of work and his replacement, Joaquin Benoit gave up a home run on the third pitch he threw, a 1-1 fastball that Nate McLouth hit into the right field bullpen to make it 4-2 Padres in the bottom of the eighth.

That's how it ended. 4-2 Padres.

4. Velocity or Command? Velocity and Command?: Taylor Jordan started strong this season with a 6 1/3-inning outing against Atlanta in which he limited Braves' hitters to six hits and one earned run in a 2-1 win in Nationals Park in which he received no decision.

Since then, however, the 25-year-old, '09 9th Round pick out of Merritt Island, FL, who worked his way up from High-A to Double-A and eventually the majors last season in his first full year back following Tommy John surgery in 2011, has allowed 25 hits, four walks and 18 runs, 14 of them earned (8.22 ERA) in 15 1/3 IP over three starts in which he's come out on the losing end, (0-3 in 2014).

Last time out against the LA Angels, Jordan got tagged for four runs in a 32-pitch first inning which saw Albert Pujols hit his 499th home run out to left field in Nationals Park. Jordan needed just 28 pitches to get through the next three innings on the mound, but in the fifth inning he surrendered no.500 to Pujols, who took a sinker up in the zone out to left field for a two-run blast.

"I just put a lot of pressure on myself to make that pitch, and I didn't execute it," Jordan told reporters after what was an out-of-character start for the extreme ground ball pitcher who surrendered just 14 home runs total in 339 IP in five minor league seasons (one HR per 24 1/3 IP) before making his MLB debut last summer. On the year in 2013, he gave up just four home runs total in 139 IP between High-A, Double-A and the majors.

Jordan was asked recently about his decreased velocity so far this season, which has seen his two-seam fastball drop from an average of 91.4 mph in 2013 to 89.3 mph through his first four starts while his four-seamer has come in at an average of 90.0 mph this season, down from 92.3 last year.

He said he was less concerned with the drop in his velocity and more worried about command.

"I don't know what the cause of it is," Jordan said, "but if I can get my sinker in the location that I want it, then velocity shouldn't really matter too much."

Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty told the Washington Post's James Wagner, that this year's velocity may actually be more in line with what it was during most of the right-hander's minor league career before everything "clicked" for Jordan in 2013.

With Doug Fister's return looming, however, and Tanner Roark pitching like he did on Saturday, the pressure of keeping his spot in the rotation could be affecting Jordan too, McCatty suggested, before recommending Jordan just concentrate on what he can control.

Fister makes his first minor league rehab start this afternoon, with at least one more likely before he's ready to make his Nationals debut, barring any setbacks or delays.

Jordan made his fifth start of the season for the Nationals today against San Diego.

1st: Adam LaRoche made a leaping grab at first to pull down the first out of the game on a hard-hit liner off Everth Cabrera's bat. Chris Denorfia got his line drive through the right side for a one-out single on a full-count fastball up in the zone, but as Matt Williams has said, Jordan's one pitch away from a double play at all times and he got one out of Padres' catcher Yasmani Grandal, who grounded to first to start a 3-6-3 inning-ender. 12-pitch inning. 0-0 after a 1/2 in the series finale with San Diego.

2nd: Jedd Gyorko hit a 2-1 fastball to short where Ian Desmond made the play for out no.1 of the second. Yonder Alonso rolled over a 2-0 fastball and sent a grounder out to Danny Espinosa at second base. Will Venable hit a sharp ground ball to first, but Adam LaRoche backhanded it and ran to first to end a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left Jordan at 21 pitches total after two.

3rd: Padres' center fielder Cameron Maybin started the third inning with a sharp grounder to third base that skipped by Anthony Rendon's backhand. Alexi Amarista moved Maybin over to third with a weak groundout to first on a 1-1 fastball. Ian Kennedy stepped in with a chance to help himself and tie the game and worked the count full before grounding out to a drawn-in Rendon at third, who looked the runner back and threw to first for out no.2. Everth Cabrera came up next and grounded weakly to first to end a 17-pitch inning that left Jordan at 38 total after three.

4th: Chris Denorfia drew a leadoff walk in the first at bat of the Padres' fourth. Yasmani Grandal hit a double to the out-of-town scoreboard in right in the next AB, but Denorfia could only take third since Jayson Werth came close to making the catch. A sac fly to right by Jedd Gyorko brought Denorfia in though, and tied it up at 1-1. Yonder Alonso lined out to left field for out no.2, but Jordan walked Will Venable to put two runners on, before he popped Cameron Maybin up to end a 25-pitch inning. 63 total for the Nats' right-hander.

Ross Detwiler warmed up during the fourth inning and replaced Taylor Jordan in the top of the fifth.

Taylor Jordan's line: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 63 P, 36 S, 7/0 GO/FO.

3. Please, Mr. Kennedy, UH-OH!, Don't Send Me Off To Outer Space!: Ian Kennedy, 29, was traded to the San Diego Padres by the Arizona Diamondbacks last July in return for minor league right-hander Matt Stites and left-handed starter Joe Thatcher.

The '06 New York Yankees' 1st Round pick entered this afternoon's start in the nation's capital with a (2-2) record and a 2.53 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals. Over 32 IP against the Nats before today, the right-hander walked seven (1.97 BB/9) and struck out 24 (6.75 K/9) while holding Nationals' hitters to a .243/.302/.374 line.

The Nationals pushed a run across against Kennedy in the bottom of the first with back-to-back doubles by Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth, but those were the Nationals' only hits off the Padres' starter through five innings.

Kennedy got through a scoreless sixth with a little help from right fielder Will Venable, who made a diving catch in the corner to take a potential extra base hit away from Jayson Werth.

Ian Kennedy's line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 117 P, 76 S, 6/2 GO/FO.

2. Fister in Potomac: While the Nationals and Taylor Jordan were in the nation's capital today taking on the San Diego Padres, 30-year-old right-hander Doug Fister, who has yet to throw a major league pitch for the Nationals after they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers this winter, was in Potomac, making a start for the Nats' High-A Carolina League affiliate. Fister was making first rehab outing after dealing with elbow inflammation this spring and then suffering a right lat strain as he built up arm strength. According to reports from Pfitzner Stadium, things went well for Fister the first time out:

1. The Wrap-Up: Ross Detwiler replaced Taylor Jordan on the mound in the fifth inning this afternoon and gave up a two-out single to right by Everth Cabrera. Cabrera stole second base with Chris Denorfia up, took third on a wild pitch and scored when Denorfia took a 94 mph full-count fastball back up the middle. 2-1 Padres. After a two-out walk to Yasmani Grandal, Denorfia stole third without so much as a look from Detwiler, but a force at second on a grounder to short off Jedd Gyorko's bat ended the inning.

Matt Williams went to his bullpen again after Detwiler gave up back-to-back one-out singles by Will Venable and Cameron Maybin. Pinch hitter Nick Hundley hit the third-straight single, loading the bases with one out, but Aaron Barrett struck Ian Kennedy out for the second out of the inning. A walk to Everth Cabrera forced in a run though, and the Padres took a 3-1 lead. A second bases-loaded walk, this one to Denorfia, made it 4-1 Padres. That was if for Barrett.

Jerry Blevins inherited the bases-loaded, two-out mess and struck Yasmani Grandal out to end the inning.

The Nationals cut into the Padres' lead with a solo home run by Nate McLouth in the bottom of the eighth which made it a 4-2 game.

Padres' closer Huston Street took the mound in the ninth and gave up a single by Jayson Werth before retiring the side. Ballgame. 4-2 Padres.

Nationals now 14-12

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