Before the Washington Nationals were shut out 8-0 in Tuesday night’s series opener with Milwaukee, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked about the difficult stretch ahead with a couple good teams visiting the nation’s capital this week in the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies.
The matchup with the NL Central leading Brewers, in particular, would be a difficult one, Baker said, because they have a relatively young team the Nationals still didn’t know very well.
“That poses a problem, because we don’t know anything about Milwaukee,” Baker explained.
“We’re depending on our advance scouts, and our literature on them, and our history with them even though we don’t have a bunch of history because they have so many young players, and so many new players that we really don’t know much about.
“They always pose a problem. This is kind of late not to have played a team. It’s almost August and here it is we haven’t played them at all.
“So that’s the problem that it presents, you’re not familiar with the opposition.
“They’re probably more familiar with our players than we are theirs, because ours have been around a lot longer.”
Following Tuesday night’s game, there was a lot of hat-tipping to Brewers’ righty Zach Davies, who held the Nationals scoreless over 7 2⁄3 innings in an 8-0 win.
Tonight in the nation’s capital, 28-year-old righty Jimmy Nelson was making his fourth career start against the Nationals, the second with Dusty Baker at the helm in D.C.
Nelson held Washington scoreless in five innings of work on the mound in Miller Park late last June, and he started tonight’s game with another six scoreless, extending the Nationals’ scoreless innings streak to 17-straight overall, going back to the last two innings of the the Nationals’ series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Domingo Santana, facing Gio Gonzalez for the first time in his career, and playing just his second career game against the Nationals, put the Brewers up 1-0 early with a 476-foot bomb of a home run off the left-hander in the first, and Milwaukee added a run in an odd sequence which saw Travis Shaw double with two down in the first, take third uncontested, and score on a wild pitch, 2-0.
It stayed that way until the seventh, when Daniel Murphy homered to cut the Brewers’ lead in half.
Gonzalez talked after the outing about doing what he could to keep it close until the Nationals’ offense got going.
“Their pitcher did a great job pounding the strike zone,” Gonzalez said.
“He was pretty nasty tonight. He had all his pitches working. Changing it up and down. They had a good game plan against us, and that’s exactly what I was trying to do, was just try to keep us as close as possible.”
A seven-run eighth started with a walk by Matt Wieters that ended Nelson’s outing.
Brian Goodwin hit a one-out double, Wilmer Difo drove in the game-tying run with an RBI single, Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-out, two-run double to right, Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a single, Adam Lind drove in two more, and Pedro Severino capped off the rally with an RBI double, 8-2.
So what changed? “Don’t ask me,” Baker said. “I wish we had gotten going long before that.”
“I don’t know. We were due. We’d been shut out for like 16 innings, and that’s hard to do against this club, and I was thinking about — I remember when I was playing, that the ‘Big Red Machine’ had been shut out like three games in a row, and you know, sometimes you go through streaks where you’re not getting hits, but we were hitting the ball hard, but their unorthodox defense came in play, it really helped them a lot.
“I don’t know. It just got to be like a feeding frenzy. We got some big hits from some guys, it started out with a leadoff walk by Wieters, and just some guys got big hits. Difo got a big hit with men on second and third. Zim got a huge hit. And they walked Murphy and then my clutch man Tony came through with a big hit, and then Linder came through with a big hit, and so, you know, just you never know if it’s going to be enough or not.”
It was enough... though Sean Doolittle did give up three runs in the top of the ninth.