The Washington Nationals threatened to score early this afternoon in the series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies, which saw the Nats shut out by right-hander Roberto Hernandez and the Philly bullpen. The first opportunity came in the top of the first inning when Kevin Frandsen walked with one down and Jayson Werth singled in the at bat that followed.
Werth ripped a hard grounder toward third that deflected off Philies' third baseman Jayson Nix and bounced into left field.
Frandsen tried to take third on the hit only to get thrown out at the base by left fielder John Mayberry, Jr., who charged the ball in short left, barehanded it and threw to third to beat the Nats' infielder to the bag where Nix applied the tag for out no.2. Adam LaRoche walked in the next AB, but Anthony Rendon struck out to strand two and end the early threat.
The Phillies scored the only run they would need this afternoon in the bottom of the first and Hernandez and relievers Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon shut the Nationals down as the home team took two of three from the visiting Nats.
After the game, Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was asked about the decision on Frandsen's part to try to take the extra base with one down when they would have had runners on first and second with one out.
"Hindsight is perfect always," Williams said. "But he was aggressive and it took a clean pickup barehand and a very good throw to get him. So, yeah, was it wise? Yeah. We want to be aggressive there. We want to make sure that we're putting pressure. At the end of the day it looks like a play that if we didn't do we may have a different opportunity. But I've got no problem with it."
Rendon got another opportunity with two runners on and two down in the third and struck out again to end Hernandez's third scoreless frame and the Phillies' right-hander settled in after that, retiring 13 of the next 15 batters he faced before he was lifted with one down in the eighth.
Denard Span was on second when Mike Adams entered the game.
The right-handed reliever retired Werth on a groundout to first that moved Span over to third. Antonio Bastardo took over there and walked Adam LaRoche to bring Rendon up again with two on and two out, but the Nats' 23-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick, who started the game with a .481 AVG against left-handers this season, K'd looking this time on a questionably low pitch he thought was missed but home plate umpire Sean Barber liked.
"We had some opportunities with the guys that we wanted up there that have been coming through for us," Williams said afterwards. "Today wasn't their day. But opportunities were out there. Gio [Gonzalez] pitched well. Their guy pitched well. We certainly had good work from our bullpen today too, so good old fashioned pitchers' duel."
The Nationals started the game with a .225 AVG with runners in scoring position so far this season, good for 10th in the National League, though they have, as Williams said, created plenty of opportunities, with the fourth-highest total plate appearances with runners in scoring position so far this season. (321 PAs to the Marlins' 325, the Dodgers' 337 and the Rockies' NL-leading 354. FWIW: The Nats are second in the NL in Ks w/ RISP.)
"We talk about opportunities and creating those opportunities," Williams said, stressing as he has repeatedly that the Nationals will take their chances if they keep on generating opportunities that he believes they eventually will start cashing in. They were 0 for 7 today with RISP today, however, in a one-run loss.
"We've had some really key hits over the course of the season so far," Williams added. "We wouldn't have come back so many times if we didn't. So today wasn't our day, but I like where they're at. I like where our offense is and that number is a little skewed I think per out team and the way we've been playing. That number will certainly get better too."