In a close loss…the little things are magnified – Nats lose 2-0

Entering last night’s game Livan Hernandez had not allowed a run in 16 innings and Ubaldo Jimenez had not allowed a hit in nine. Neither streak lasted very long, but both pitchers battled late into the game giving fans an exciting pitchers duel that found the Rockies on top 2-0.

The Nationals got their first hit out of the way with Willie Harris’s double in the first inning, ending Jimenez’s hit streak, but Washington couldn’t convert it into a run. The Rockies answered back breaking Hernandez’s streak in the top of the second as red-hot Miguel Olivo hit a two-out solo home run to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead.

The Nationals were able to scatter seven hits throughout the game but couldn’t put anything together for a run. Ivan Rodriguez led the way, continuing his hot ways against arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball. The backstop went 2-4 with a pair of singles. Willie Harris and Adam Kennedy both added doubles, but in the end the Nationals stranded too many batters (4) and had a few questionable managerial decisions.

The biggest came with Washington down one in the sixth inning. The Nationals had their biggest threat on base with no outs, and decided to have Nyjer Morgan attempt to steal second base. The attempt failed, Miguel Olivio fired a rocket to second to leave the Nationals with no runners on and one out, instead of having one runner on and no outs. Olivo has been very solid at throwing out runners throughout his career, stopping 35% of would be base stealers. This season he has tossed out 78%, so it’s safe to say that Nyjer Morgan, who has been caught 42% of the time this year, should not have been running. The failed stolen base attempt resulted in a -.103 WPA, and dropped the Nationals win probability from 46.8 to 36.5. It also killed a potential rally against a pitcher who everybody has struggled to hit against.

20100422_rockies_nationals_0At a glance the move might make sense. The Nationals are truly in love with the threat of Nyjer Morgan’s speed, and in all fairness it is a great weapon. However in a late game, down one, the threat should be effective enough on its own. The likelihood of scoring with a runner on first and no outs is high enough that the risk of stealing second simply wasn’t worth it. The Nationals had Cristian Guzman and Willie Harris up next, both of whom have hit well lately. All it would take is a single and a sacrifice fly for the Nationals to score.

Despite the loss Hernandez had yet another great start for the Nationals. The workhorse pitched eight strong innings, allowing only four hits and two runs off of solo homers. He struck out five and walked two while only throwing 94 pitches. Hernandez fasted pitch reached only 86.2 MPH on the gun and his fastball averaged only 84.45. While his shutout streak ended, Nationals fans have to be encouraged as the only runs he allowed were off of one pitch mistakes that ended up being homers, which will happen when you only throw 85 MPH. The Rockies were never able to mount a rally against him.