The Washington Nationals were playing error-free, albeit hardly flawless, baseball heading into Tuesday night’s contest in Atlanta, Georgia, but their first two errors of the season played memorable roles as Tuesday’s 16-4 loss in Truist Park morphed from routine to rout.
Starter Patrick Corbin and the Nats came into the third inning with a manageable 3-1 deficit, but the first error of the season, Victor Robles’ misplay on a bounding ball, keyed a three-run third inning that had Corbin looking like his head was on a swivel, permitting hard contact almost every time.
Austin Voth got the Nats out of the inning. But miscommunication between catcher Kiebert Ruiz and third baseman Maikel Franco cost the Nats another run on a Keystone Cops-base-running sequence that had the scorekeepers scratching their heads.
Here's how the ball actually traveled during that ridiculous sequence: 3-6-2-5-2-4-5-9. None of that shows up in a boxscore, though, because no out was recorded in the process.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) April 13, 2022
Robles, mentioned as a Gold Glove caliber player, seemed like an unlikely candidate for the Nats’ first error of the season.
But Adam Duvall’s two-on, nobody-out bouncer up the middle hopped over Robles outstretched glove, a-la Trent Grisham in the 2019 Wild Card game.
All the outfielder could do was run back to the wall and retrieve the baseball while Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud circled the bases to expand the Atlanta lead to 5-1.
After Robles’s miscue and a routine groundout by Dansby Swanson, the Nats allowed a run into scoring position on a rundown, a 5-2-5-2 fielder’s choice off Guillmero Heredia’s bat.
They paid when Heredia took second on the rundown and then scored on yet another hard-hit ball by Orlando Arcia.
After Corbin loaded the bases again, Voth halted the damage in the third, but neither he nor the defense could help themselves in the fourth.
After Ozuna’s leadoff homer, d’Arnaud made it 8-1 after singling and scoring on Swanson’s double, setting the stage for a sequence that will be hard to top in the 156 games remaining.
With Heredia, who had walked, on second, and Arcia at first on a single that made it 9-1, Ozzie Albies grounded to Bell.
The Nats’ first baseman stepped on the bag to retire the batter but fired high to Lucius Fox covering second, eliminating the force.
Arcia deked the Nats’ rookie into a rundown by heading back to first, while Heredia rounded third, and the fun began.
Fox fired home, where Ruiz fielded the ball and began running Heredia back to third. Ruiz thew to Franco on the rundown play, but Heredia remained elusive as Franco threw back down the line to Ruiz, who wound up running past Heredia as the runner headed back toward home.
“Franco has to come get the ball,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his post game press conference following what ended up a 16-4 loss.
“Franco stood at the base, and he just stood there and watched Keibert run to where he had to throw the ball. He’s got to come down the line a little bit so when he gets the ball, he’s got a running start. It was too many throws, as we all know, way too many throws, Keibert got caught in the baseline, and smart, heads-up play by Heredia by running into him.”
Juuuust how we drew it up #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/NwZtDbI8rx— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 13, 2022
Franco was covering home in the rotation and ran Heredia back toward César Hernández at third. On his way back, Heredia barrelled into the now badly out-of-position Ruiz.
“For me, that can’t happen,” said Martinez, who also had a chat with his 23-year-old catcher in the dugout. “That’s just a matter of just knowing that, ‘Hey, I got to work my way towards the baserunner, and Keibert’s got to run him, and get the ball away, so that he’s there, and they can just make the tag.”
The ball was dead, but the action didn’t stop.
Franco fired to second, where Soto was trying to catch Arcia, who was given third on the interference call, anyway.
The official scoring was a ground out to Bell at first, and a catcher’s interference error on Ruiz, with Heredia scoring and Arcia taking third.
MLB.com initially ruled an unassisted double play by Bell, then corrected the play to reflect the catcher’s interference call.
According to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, the sequence went 3-6-2-5-2-4-5-9, but, he noted, none of that will show up in the box score because the only out recorded was at first.