Reynaldo Lopez was up to 89 pitches after six innings against the Atlanta Braves last time out before Tuesday night’s start in Baltimore, having given up a run in the sixth that cut the Washington Nationals’ lead down to 3-2.
He gave up a leadoff single and a two-out walk in the seventh, putting the potential go-ahead run on base, but Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker stuck with the 22-year-old right-hander, who got a groundout to end the frame and preserve the Nationals’ one-run advantage.
Baker talked after the game about the importance of letting Lopez work his own way out of trouble.
“He grew up right there,” Baker said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Sometimes you have to let them grow up. You can’t always rescue them. He’s a calm young man. He made the pitches when he had to. And he’s getting better and better.”
Lopez’s win was his second straight over the Braves, leaving him (2-1) with a 4.37 ERA, a 3.32 FIP, 10 walks (3.97 BB/9), 26 Ks (10.32 K/9) and a .250/.333/.409 line against over four starts and 22 ⅔ IP in the majors this season.
Lopez was facing a different opponent tonight, in a new park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the rookie right-hander had a different catcher behind the plate this time after he and Pedro Severino were paired up in each of his previous two outings.
Baker was asked if Lopez should approach the game any differently, in a new park, against a team he wasn’t familiar with yet.
“The key is not to think about the ballpark and to stick with the game plan,” Baker said.
“He doesn’t have his catcher from Double-A and Triple-A, but Wilson [Ramos] is ready for the challenge. He was behind those guys last night.
“I remember talking to Ferguson Jenkins about if he pitched any different in Wrigley Field than he pitched anyplace else with the wind blowing in and wind blowing out.
“He said he didn’t, you’re still going to pitch your same game, so I just hope that he’s as sharp this time as he was last time.”
Lopez had good stuff on Tuesday night, according to his manager, he just had trouble finishing the Orioles’ hitters off.
“He was facing some veteran hitters that can hit,” Baker told reporters after the Nats’ 8-1 loss, in which Lopez gave up seven hits and six runs (four earned) over just 2 ⅔ IP.
“He couldn’t put them away,” Baker continued.
“He'd get two strikes, but we knew they were a very good offensive team. He was facing some veteran hitters that knew what they were doing.”
Mark Trumbo hit a two-out single in the first to put the O’s up 1-0, after Lopez gave up a leadoff single and a walk and almost escaped the early jam.
He issued a one-out walk to Pedro Alvarez in the second and had him come around to score on an RBI double by Matt Wieters, who fell behind 0-2 trying to bunt then lined the two-base hit to right on a changeup to make it 2-0.
Adam Jones drove Weiters in with a two-out single that made it 3-0 after two.
After back-to-back one-out singles in the third, and an RBI double by Jonathan Schoop it was 4-0 O’s and a walk to Alvarez loaded the bases before a two-out error by Daniel Murphy on a J.J. Hardy grounder to second allowed two more runs to score before Lopez was lifted with the score 6-0.
Lopez’s stuff, Baker said, “...looked pretty good. He just couldn't put them away, which is going to happen with young pitchers, especially. They’ll look good one time and then not look good the next time. That's part of the growing process and part of why he was in the minor leagues, to learn how to be more consistent each time out.
“His stuff was good. He'll learn. He'll learn from this and I think he'll be better.”