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Capps returns to 2009 form, blows save, Nats lose






Nationals closer Matt Capps (0-2, 2.88) blew only his second save of the year as the Astros come from behind to win 8-7.

A fielding error by Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and a one-out double by pinch hitting Cory Sullivan put the tying and winning runs in scoring position on Capps in the ninth. The closer intentionally walked lead-off hitter Michael Bourn to load the bases. Capps then forced Jeff Keppinger to ground into the fielder’s choice that saw Pedro Feliz erased at home on the play.

However, Astros first basemen Lance Berkman then fell behind in the count no balls and two strikes before punching a single into left field that scored both Sullivan and the speedy Bourn to end the game.

In the top half of the ninth, the Nationals rallied against Astros closer Matt Lindstrom to take the 7-6 lead. Shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Roger Bernadina posted back-to-back run scoring singles that chased Lindstrom from the game. Wilton Lopez (2-0, 3.68) entered the game and proceeded to force a fielder’s choice from Alberto Gonzalez and a harmless ground-out by catcher Carlos Maldonado.

On the day, Berkman led the way for the Astros, posting a 3-5 day with five RBI and the walk-off single. Every Astros starting position player recorded at least one hit, as the team combined for 15 on the day. Astros starter and former Phillie ace Brett Myers went seven strong innings against the Nats, surrendering four runs, but only one earned, striking out 10 and yielding only four hits.

For the Nationals, the struggles from Craig Stammen continued. He lasted only five innings, giving up five runs on nine hits with three walks and four strikes. For the year, his ERA now sits at an alarming 5.88. Rookie Drew Storen also had one of his roughest outings of the year, giving up a run in his inning of work that included two hits and a wild pitch.

Hitting wise, the 3-4-5 of Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham did not record a hit in their eight at-bats, but that includes five walks, four alone by Zimmerman, and Willingham’s sacrifice fly. The Nationals were only 3-12 with runners in scoring position, two of those hits coming in the top of the ninth.

ANALYSIS:

Its been a bit of a struggle for Matt Capps lately. Since his May 12th save against the Mets, Capps is now 3-5 in save opportunities and has seen his ERA jump from 0.93 to 2.88. He wasn’t going to keep at the pace he set those first six weeks of the season, but it is worth noting the slump he’s in.

Somebody has to lose their spot in the rotation when Strasburg makes his debut in a week, and Craig Stammen is doing absolutely nothing this year to show Jim Riggleman why he should be in the rotation. He’s still very young at 26 years old, but he simply doesn’t have it this year, especially considering the Nationals are showing signs of contention this year. Six of his 11 starts this year, he’s given up four earned runs of more, yet he’s only recorded three decisions, posting a win-loss record of 1-2.

Impressive performance by the Nationals line-up producing seven runs on a night where Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham go hitless. Desmond, Wil Nieves and Nyjer Morgan all had  two-hit games for the Nats. However, it is interesting how five of the seven runs scored tonight were driven in without the courtesy of a hit. Three scored on Astros errors, Willingham’s sacrifice fly and Willie Harris HBP with the bases loaded all led to runs.

The Nationals will look to take the rubbing game tomorrow as the slumping John Lannan (2-2, 5.01) will face off against another struggling lefty in Wandy Rodriguez (2-7, 5.37).

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