Juan Soto walked the first time up today, homered in his second trip to the plate against the Philadelphia Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola, hitting a two-run shot to center field in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, drove in two runs with a single in the fifth, and then singled again in the bottom of the seventh (3 for 3, HR, BB, 4 RBIs to that point), but the visiting team kept chipping away at the 6-0 lead that the Nats built up, and they took the lead after some poor defensive play by second baseman Luis García in the eighth. Final Score: 7-6 Phillies.
Espino vs PHI: In his first four starts in August, including one that was rained out after only one inning on the mound, Paolo Espino gave up 15 runs in 14 1⁄3 IP (9.42 ERA), walking four, striking out 12, and giving up five home runs, with opposing hitters posting a .365/.412/.714 line against him, but the 34-year-old right-hander ended the month on a good note with a five-inning outing against the Mets in Citi Field in which he gave up just three hits and a run, setting a career-high in Ks with seven strikeouts from 18 batters faced.
“Definitely the command of my fastball was really good,” Espino said after the outing.
“Combined with the slider, the slider was working really well today,” he added.
“I think I used it more than my curveball today, so I was pretty much trusting all of my pitches. I felt good, arm felt good, and the command was working real good.”
How would he fare against the Phillies, who put eight hits and six runs up on him in six innings of work in an August 4th start for Espino at home in the nation’s capital?
Espino retired the first six batters he faced in order today, but one- and two-out singles and a walk in the third loaded the bases with Phillies in front of Bryce Harper, who struck out swinging on a 2-2 curve in the first, and grounded into a force at second base this time up to end the top of the inning, a 24-pitch frame which left the Nationals’ starter at 54 pitches total after three.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Espino returned to the mound in the fourth and tossed a 1-2-3 frame on 11 pitches, then retired the side in order in an eight-pitch fifth which left him with a total of 73 pitches after five scoreless innings.
Espino returned to the mound with a 6-0 lead in the sixth, after a long, three-run bottom of the fifth inning, and gave up leadoff and one-out singles before he was lifted...
Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 89 P, 59 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
Nola vs D.C.: Aaron Nola gave up five hits, three walks, and five runs in five innings when he faced the Nationals in the nation’s capital back on August 5th. Nola received no decision in what ended up a 7-6 win for the Phillies.
That outing was the second in an ongoing six-start winless streak for the 28-year-old righty, who put up a 4.05 ERA, nine walks, 41 Ks, and a .167/.237/.292 line against in 33 1⁄3 IP in that stretch.
Nola tossed two scoreless and hitless on 31 pitches in the series finale with the Nationals this afternoon, with just a walk to Juan Soto in the first two frames, but with two out in the third, he left a full-count curve to Lane Thomas up in the zone, and the Nationals’ center fielder hit it out 418 feet to center for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead. Thomas’s first of 2021.
Juan Soto hit his 23rd of 2021 an at bat later, after an Alcides Escobar single, sending an 0-1 curve 412 feet to center for a two-run shot and a 3-0 lead.
us: stop walking Juan Soto.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 2, 2021
also us: haha. Should’ve walked him. pic.twitter.com/tWQfG3kuaE
Paolo Espino and Lane Thomas hit back-to-back singles off Nola in the home half of the fourth, and Alcides Escobar took a four-pitch walk in the next at bat, loading them up in front of Juan Soto and ending Nola’s day...
Aaron Nola’s Line: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 83 P, 56 S, 3/3 GO/FO.
SotOBP: Juan Soto, the only player in the majors with more walks than Ks this season, took a two-out free pass from Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola in his first plate appearance of the day, to add to his league-leading total (106), and he connected for hits (one of them a home run) in each of his next three trips to the plate (3 for 3, HR, BB, 4 RBIs to that point).
Bullpen Action: Phillies’ lefty Bailey Falter inherited a bases-loaded, 0-out jam. Juan Soto stepped in and singled to right to drive in two runs and make it a 5-0 Nationals’ lead, and then 6-0 on an RBI single by Josh Bell.
Enyel De Los Santos took over for Falter after he — should we? — faltered, and gave up a bases-loaded, two-out walk to Carter Kieboom, but Luis García popped up to end a long, three-run fifth.
Mason Thompson was the first pitcher out of the pen for the Nationals with two on and one out in the top of the sixth, and he walked the first batter he faced, putting J.T. Realmuto on in front of Andrew McCutchen, who lined a 94 MPH 2-1 sinker into the left-center gap for a base-clearing double that made it a 6-3 game in the home team’s favor. And another walk, this one to Phillies’ pinch hitter Brad Miller ended Thompson’s outing.
Sam Clay took over and got two outs on four pitches to keep it a three-run lead for the Nats.
Philly righty JD Hammer retired the Nationals in order in a quick, 11-pitch bottom of the sixth inning. Still 6-3 Nats.
Alberto Baldonado made his MLB debut (after spending 11 seasons in the minors with the Mets, Cubs, and Nationals) in the top of the seventh inning, and struck out the first hitter, Matt Vierling, and the third hitter, Bryce Harper, working around a one-out single in a 21-pitch frame. Still a 6-3 game.
Sam Coonrod gave up a leadoff single by Juan Soto (3 for 3, HR, BB) in the first at bat of the Nats’ seventh, but stranded him three outs later.
Patrick Murphy gave up a leadoff double by J.T. Realmuto and an RBI single to center field by Andrew McCutchen as the Phillies chipped away at the Nats’ lead, 6-4. Freddy Galvis singled one out later, sending McCutchen around to third and ending Murphy’s outing, and a walk to Rafael Marchan by reliever Andres Machado loaded the bases, before pinch hitter Nick Maton hit a grounder toward second base for what looked to be a potential inning-ender before Luis García misplayed it, allowing two runs to score as the Phillies rallied to tie it, 6-6, on what looked like a potential DP, and the go-ahead run scored on another ground ball to second, this one by Odubel Herrera, on which García looked home before getting an out at second as the go-ahead run scored when the Nationals couldn’t turn a double play, 7-6.
Philly righty Archie Bradley gave up a one-out walk to Luis García, and a single to left field by Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the eighth, but stranded both of the runners, striking out Lane Thomas and popping up Alcides Escobar.
Austin Voth tossed a scoreless ninth to keep it a one-run game in the Phillies’ favor.
Ian Kennedy gave up a one-out double to right by Josh Bell in the home-half of the ninth.
Yadiel Hernández stepped in next and grounded out to second for out No. 2. Keibert Ruiz got an opportunity to tie it or walk off on the Phillies, with Bell on third, and flew out to center field to end the game.
Final Score: 7-6 Phillies
Nationals now 55-77