Freddy Garcia had a few nice starts before tonight. The veteran right-hander held the LA Angels to two runs on three hits in 6.2 IP the first time out this season on May 4th. He threw 6.0 innings on 66 pitches in a May 20th outing against the New York Yankees. Last time out, against Toronto, he earned his first win of the year with 5.0 innings against the Blue Jays in which he gave up just three hits and two earned runs. The 36-year-old, 15-year veteran entered tonight's start against the Washington Nationals with a 4.61 ERA and a 6.39 FIP over five starts and 27.1 IP so far this season, however, with opposing batters hitting for a .257/.297/.476 line against him in 2013.
So the eight scoreless he threw against the struggling Nats were something of a surprise. Garcia held the Nationals to three hits and struck out six. He got 10 ground ball outs and six flyouts from the 27 batters he faced. Garcia threw 113 pitches on the night, few of them barreled-up by the Nationals' hitters. Even worse, the absence of offense wasted a strong start by Dan Haren, who gave up eight hits and two earned runs in 7.1 innings of work but got no support.
"We got a bunt, a broken bat hit and one hard hit ball," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game. With the score 1-0, the Nats' skipper sent Haren back out for the eighth and he surrendered the second run the Orioles scored before he was lifted with one down. "[Haren] pitched a heck of a ballgame, and I sent him out there in the eighth, he deserved to win that ballgame in the ninth." The Nationals didn't come through for their starter though. They went down in order against O's closer Jim Johnson. After back-to-back singles in the second, 25 of the next 26 Nationals were retired with Roger Bernadina's two-out single in the sixth providing the only base runner for the visiting team after the top of the second.
"It's tough here, but we should have [swung] the bats better than we did tonight," Johnson said. "[Garcia] kept us off with a lot of offspeed pitches," the manager explained, "but we helped him out by swinging at balls and that was the story of the day."
"We swung at a lot of balls," Johnson reiterated. "You can't do that. That's just eating out of a pitcher's hand. That's young hitters. Tomorrow's another day."
The loss dropped the Nationals to 27-27 after 54 games. Asked if changes needed to be made, the Nationals' manager said, "Well, I mean, we need to get some guys back that are hurt. And some of the young guys are struggling, you know. We'll probably make some changes, but that's for another day."
Wilson Ramos (hamstring) isn't coming back any time soon. Ross Detwiler (oblique) is expected to miss his next start. Bryce Harper (knee) is trying to make it back in time for the next series with the Braves in Atlanta. Jayson Werth (hamstring) is rehabbing in Potomac, but Davey Johnson told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, that there was, "no possibility" of Werth returning this weekend. Sitting Danny Espinosa for Steve Lombardozzi? Is that enough of a change? What else can the Nationals do to get things going?