Stephen Strasburg was really fairly dominant last night, through six at least, but things went all pear-shaped in the seventh inning of the second of three with the Brewers in Milwaukee.
It was still 0-0 in Miller Park, and Strasburg picked up his 10th of 11 total Ks on the night in the first at bat of the Brewers’ seventh, but a hit-by-pitch and back-to-back hits loaded the bases with one out, and a two-out double on a first-pitch fastball to Lorenzo Cain was well-struck, for a base-clearing double to right field, 3-0. Things kept getting worse too.
The home team ended up scoring six runs in the inning, and the Nationals, who’d struggled to get anything going at the plate all night, were effectively finished by the time the last out of the inning was recorded.
What did manager Davey Martinez think of the way things got out of hand quickly? How did it happen? He said the post-Strasburg issues in the bullpen had a lot to do with falling as far behind as the Nationals did.
“We’ve got to come out of the bullpen and we’ve got to throw strikes,” Martinez said.
“It’s tough when you’re 3-0, 3-1, 2-0, 3-2, it doesn’t work that way, you know, you’ve got to come in and you’ve got to throw strikes. These are good hitters up here, you fall behind and we talked about this before: 0-0 fastballs, 1-0 fastballs, become 93 when you throw 95, 0-1 fastballs become 95 when you throw 93, so we’ve got to work ahead, we’ve got to work ahead.”
Dan Jennings took over for Strasburg and threw three straight balls to Christian Yelich and walked the reigning NL MVP intentionally at that point. Mike Moustakas drove in a run on a 1-1 pitch, then Jennings walked Yasmani Grandal, and Ben Gamel (on 4 pitches), forcing in a run, before he was lifted in favor of Justin Miller, who fell behind Jesús Aguilar and gave up an RBI single that drove in the sixth run of the inning.
Of course, the Nationals, who went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and nine left on base, and they couldn’t get anything going against the Brewers, who took the series opener 5-3 on a night that saw errors hurt Max Scherzer, who still managed to hold Brewers’ hitters to two runs (one earned) in six innings.
The beat-up, depleted Nationals’ roster, keeps letting close games slip away, wasting some solid starts by their rotation.
Last night’s loss left the team seven games under .500 and 6.0 games out of first in the NL East after 35 games.
“Yeah, it’s definitely hard,” Martinez said, “and I know the guys, they’re going up there and they don’t want to make outs. It’s tough for them.”
“My big thing is that, hey, just we need to cut down on strikeouts, put the ball in play. Let’s just start putting the ball in play, maybe cut down on swings with two strikes, something, but move the baseball, that’s what we’ve got to do is start moving the baseball.”
Will the Nationals’ makeshift lineup be able to move the ball and drive in some runners as they try to avoid getting swept in the finale in Miller Park?