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Nationals’ starter Reynaldo Lopez struggles with command in Nats’ loss to Giants

Reynaldo Lopez walked five of the 21 batters he faced in AT&T Park, and was out after throwing 92 pitches in four innings of work in what ended up a 5-3 loss.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Reynaldo Lopez lasted just 4 ⅔ innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his major league debut earlier this month, giving up 10 hits and six earned runs.

He did, however, still manage to impress in his time on the mound.

Dodgers’ hitters jumped on the hard-throwing 22-year-old right-hander’s fastball and barreled it up a bit more than Washington Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker expected.

"They didn't miss many fastballs,” Baker said, “and for a guy who's throwing as hard as he does you would expect them to miss more fastballs.”

Asked if Lopez should have mixed in more offspeed pitches, or what he could have done better, Baker said it was mostly about locating his heater, not necessarily his pitch selection.

“Maybe location could have been a little better,” Baker explained.

“Because you want to establish your fastball first in order to make your breaking ball and your changeup better.

“They didn't really give him a chance to get to that breaking ball. They centered up and squared up that fastball ... you don't want him to go out there and right away pitch backwards and then get behind and then have to come back to the fastball.

“You have to give those guys over there credit for doing their scouting report and doing their homework.”

Lopez averaged 96.3 mph with his fastball in his big league debut, and dialed it up as high as 98.3.

On Saturday afternoon, in his second major league start, Lopez faced the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park.

It was a lack of command that cost the righty this time, in what ended up a 5-3 loss in which he received no decision.

He threw 51.9% of his fastballs for strikes, got five swings and misses, and had three of the six fastballs put in play go for hits, and Lopez mixed in his changeup (13 total, 8 for strikes, 61.5%, 2 put in play for 1 hit) and his curve (25 total, 15 for strikes, 52%, with 4 put in play for 1 hit), but he walked five of the 21 batters he faced.

After working around a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, Lopez gave up a double and two walks in the second as the Giants loaded the bases before the right-hander popped Eduardo Nunez up behind the plate to end the threat.

Buster Posey took a two-out walk in the third, but was stranded.

Lopez’s luck ran out in the fourth.

With the score 3-0 Nationals, two walks and a single loaded the bases and Nunez hit a double to center to drive two runs in, and an RBI groundout by Angel Pagan tied things up at 3-3 at the end of a 36-pitch frame that pushed the rookie right-hander up to 92 pitches and ended his day.

“He was throwing some balls good,” Baker told reporters after the loss.

“Then he had some walks, had some near strikes, and then when he threw 36 pitches in that one inning, then that was enough. But that was a tough inning for him and for us.”

Lopez gave up a lot of solid contact when he faced the Dodgers, but walked just one.

This time around, the command wasn’t there like it was in his debut.

“Such is the case with youth,” Baker said.

“You’re going to be up and down. Like I said, he wasn’t real wild... he had some near misses from over there. Some of those pitches, especially the breaking balls, looked like they were strikes, but the guys came down from up here and watching the game and they said the umpire was right on most of them.

“And so, like I said, he was close to throwing a gem. We were hoping he could go six or seven and then we could piece the rest of the game together.”

With his starter out early, and his bullpen overworked, Baker pushed his long reliever longer than he would have liked to and it eventually cost the Nats.

Yusmeiro Petit tossed two scoreless in relief, but cracked in his third inning of work giving up two runs as the Giants rallied with one out to take a 5-3 lead that held up.

Meanwhile... in Buffalo, NY’s Coca-Cola Field, Joe Ross, whose spot in the rotation Lopez and Lucas Giolito have been filling for the last month, tossed 4 ⅔ innings for the Nats’ Triple-A affiliate, giving up seven hits and three runs in his second rehab start.

In an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this week, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if Ross could return to the majors for his next outing?

"Joe is going to have his second rehab start this coming week,” Rizzo said on Wednesday.

“Then we will evaluate him for a return to the big leagues and we'll see after he pitches this weekend."