With three errors in last night's 8-0 loss to the Oakland A's in the O.co Coliseum, the Washington Nationals closed in on the MLB lead with 32 total errors in 35 games. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers, 34 in 37 games, and Cleveland Indians, 35 in 36, are ahead of the Nats, who came into the 2014 campaign stressing the importance of defensive efficiency.
The errors in Oakland were costly ones too.
Nationals' starter Doug Fister threw high to first on a swinging bunt by A's infielder Josh Donaldson with two down in the first inning. The two-base error put Donaldson on third, and resulted in Oakland's first run of the game when Brandon Moss singled in the next at bat to bring the runner in.
With runners on first and third in the third inning, and the Nationals already trailing 2-0, a wild pitch from Fister to Yoenis Cespedes allowed the A's third run of the game to come in. Josh Reddick moved from first to second on the wild pitch and a groundout and RBI single followed to bring in run number four. 4-0.
Anthony Rendon committed the second throwing error of the night with one down in the fifth, skipping a throw to first base on another Donaldson grounder that Kevin Frandsen, in his first start of the year at first base, couldn't pick. The home run Brandon Moss hit in the next at bat was then a two-run home run instead of a solo shot. When Cespedes homered on the very next pitch from Fister, the right-handed starter was lifted from the game with the Nationals trailing 7-0 in the series opener in Oakland.
"It's what you ask for when you do that," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said of the errors after the game. "We want to play clean baseball certainly and you're asking for trouble if you give them extra outs. Any team can beat you and they showed us tonight."
"Everybody is going to make errors," Williams explained, "but you certainly don't want to make multiple errors in a game and today was a case we did that. You've got to help yourself and any team that you're playing if you give them extra outs you're asking for trouble and we got that tonight."
Ross Detwiler pitched around the third error of the night in a scoreless seventh that started with Scott Hairston dropping a fly to left field for his second error of the week on a catchable fly ball. When Williams talked after last night's loss, he said he planned on speaking to Hairston about the misplay after a reporter wondered if the outfielder just lost it in the lights.
"I haven't talked to him about it," he said. "But I will. I don't think so. I think it was just a question of, there's some wind out there, he hadn't been out there a lot until recently. I don't think it had anything to do with the lights."
Williams was asked about all the errors the Nationals have made early this season a few weeks back during the 11-game homestand in the nation's capital, and he admitted at the time that he was having a hard time explaining what was going wrong.
"I'm baffled," Williams said. After explaining the particular situations in which the previous night's errors occurred, he asked himself rhetorically, "So what do you do? Well, we just keep doing what we're doing. We work at it, and we work at it every day. And we do extra and we do all those things. It's not what we want, for sure, but we can't do anything but do what we're doing and that's work at it."
After last night's loss, it's clear the Nationals' defensive efficiency remains a work in progress.