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Nats lose 10-4 -What happened to Scott Olsen?

Well that one got out of hand fast…Just as the Nationals did the game following Livan Hernandez’s stellar four hit shutout, Washington allowed 10 earned runs early Tuesday night to the Rockies following Craig Stammen’s eight inning performance on Monday.

Olsen’s start was disappointing to say the least. The left-hander had a solid outing in his first start against the Phillies, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing only five hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts. For a guy who was disappointingly left off the opening day roster, it was good to see him assert himself after only a few weeks in the minors. Yesterday, however, we saw significant regression from a pitcher who has seemingly only regressed since his strong rookie campaign for Florida in 2006.

In the past Olsen’s success has lived and died on his slider. In 2006 and 2008 when he had above average seasons the pitch has ranked a 12.1 and a 13.2 respectively on FanGraphs pitch type value scale. In 2009 it was only average and he struggled to get batters out with his well below average fastball. In his first start against Philadelphia on Apr. 15 he threw the slider 20 times for 15 strikes, including 5 swinging strikes, making it easily his most effective pitch on the night. Last night however in Olsen’s short start he threw 17 fastballs, 27 change ups, and not one slider according to PitchFX. Not…one.
What can we make of that? Apart from his curious pitch selection his release point also seemingly dropped and he threw way more two-seam fastballs than four-seam fastballs. Regardless, the catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, was the same, the opposing line-up was less potent, and this time he was at home. So where did the slider go?

20100420_rockies_nationals_0Olsen struggled early and often in the 10-4 loss. In just two innings on the mound he allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. After a quick first inning where he retired the side in order, he allowed two in a shakey second before failing to record an out in the third before getting yanked. The Nationals attempted to mount a comeback in the fifth and sixth innings but even with a two-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman and two runs singled in by Desmond and Guzman were only able to raise their win expectancy to 2.6%. The Nationals simply build too big a hole for themselves, and despite extending their streak of scoring at least four runs in 10-straight-games.

The Nationals were able to stop the bleeding after the third, not allowing a single run in the final six innings. Jesse English, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard each pitched a scoreless frame combining to strike out four and allow only two hits.

At the plate Cristian Guzman had himself a great night going 4-5 with a run and an RBI. Zimmerman followed closely behind going 3-5 with a two-run homer, and Ivan Rodriguez and Justin Maxwell both had two hits each.

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