With expected starter Stephen Strasburg on the Injured List with shoulder inflammation, the Washington Nationals had to count on an emergency pitcher and the bullpen to come through against the Arizona Diamondbacks. While both fell short in a 5-2 loss Sunday, manager Davey Martinez said hie team is in a good place after the split of the four-game series.
Emergency starter Paulo Espino and four relievers couldn’t keep the Arizona offense in check long enough, while Madison Bumgarner and his four cohorts kept the Nats’ bats mostly quiet.
In 4 1⁄3 innings, Espino gave up five hits, one walk and two earned runs and struck out three.
“I thought he did well. He gave up that leadoff home run, and you don’t know what’s going to happen after that, but he settled in and kept us in the ballgame, which was awesome,“ said Martinez.
All the Nationals scoring came on a pair of Trea Turner home runs, a shot to right in the third inning that tied the game 1-1, and another to left in the eighth that pulled the Nats within 4-2.
Arizona took the lead for good in the fourth when Carson Kelly homered off Espino to break a 1-1 tie.
Nats’ reliever Austin Voth gave up a run in the seventh on Pavin Smith’s RBI double.
Ryne Harper, in his first appearance of the season, gave up another run in the eighth on Eduardo Escobar’s sac fly to score David Peralta.
The final Arizona run came in the top of the ninth, when Nats’ catcher Yan Gomes made a bad pickoff throw with men on first and second. Josh Rojas scored easily from second and Perralta went to third.
With a team-high four home runs, Turner said he is happy with his power to both fields.
“It’s good. Made some adjustments during the game.“ said Turner. “I think just making those small adjustments is a good sign for me and kind of knowing where I am.”
Otherwise, the Nats were their old, inefficient selves, stranding seven base runners on the day and missing two chances to drive in a runner from scoring position.
After Espino allowed a lead-off homer to Josh Rojas, the Nats has an excellent opportunity to tie the score in the bottom of the first, but Juan Soto’s base-running error sent them away empty.
Soto walked after Bumgarner struck out Trea Turner to start the inning. After Ryan Zimmerman struck out, Starlin Castro singled into the hole where D-backs’ shortstop Nick Ahmed made a diving stop. His throw to first was weak, and it rolled into foul territory as Soto, rounding second, saw what happened and took off for third.
Former National Asdrúbal Cabrera, playing first for the Diamondbacks, fired across the diamond to third, where Soto slid right into Eduardo Escobar’s tag to end the threat.
“As we all know there’s a rule about making the third out on third base,” Martinez said. “From his vantage point he thought the ball was farther up the line.”
Martinez did not fault Soto’s base running, but credited a good throw from Cabrera.
“If he throws the ball anywhere else, he’s safe. It’s just one of those plays, it’s a reactionary play, he saw the ball up the line, he got up right away, he didn’t hesitate, he went, it’s just unfortunate that, like I said, Cabrera threw the ball on the base.”
Victor Robles and the Nats got Cabrera back in the third, when Cabrera sent a long drive to right-center field, off the wall just short of a home run.
Robles played the hop perfectly and launched a throw to second in time for Castro to tag Cabrera, who was not running hard out of the box.
The Nats went into the ninth trailing 5-2 and brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Andrew Stevenson, after Schwarber singled with one out and Robles walked. Stevenson saw a pitch he liked, but got under it and flied out to right to end the game.
Martinez said he is more concerned about the injuries to Strasburg and Wander Suero, who is on the injured list with an oblique strain, than about the way his team is playing.
”They’re playing hard every day, every inning of every game. We’ve got to put this one behind us” said Martinez.
“When two guys go down like that in the midst of a day, it’s kind of tough, but you know you’ve got to play that game, and you know that help is on the way.”