Nationals Lose Beltway Series, Drop Two Games Against Orioles In Baltimore

The Washington Nationals lost their last two games to the Baltimore Orioles to drop the Beltway Series 2-1.

Talking Points:

  • “Smart Ball” absent in last two series, is Riggleman’s strategy limited becuse of injuries?
  •  Ian Desmond seems comfortable for the first time all season long, improves batting average 19 points in series.
  •  Nationals are better than the Orioles, but without the veteran presence, they aren’t as consistent.
  • Zimmermann’s loss is a gut punch, but he has struck out more in the last three starts than his previous six. The K-rate is back.

Breaking It Down:

After a promising start, the Nationals bats fell silent in the final two games. On Saturday the club mustered only three runs, just one of which was earned, and on Sunday they only provided one run to support Jordan Zimmerman’s strong effort on the mound. Despite Friday’s excitement, the four games that sandwich it has seen them score just four runs total.

It seems that even when the Nationals are collecting hits, they aren’t manufacturing runs the way they were early on in the season. Jim Riggleman’s “smart ball” has been absent the last two series, and despite some of the more cynical thoughts about small ball, it seems to have had an effect on their ability to score runs.

Part of the lack of movement on the base paths has to be a result of the overall health of the club. Adam LaRoche finally bit the bullet and admitted his shoulder was negatively affecting his game. Ian Desmond may be healthy enough to play, but he has only attempted one steal since hurting his quad six games ago. He now ranks third overall in the National League in steals, and has only been caught once. It seems though, that with the injuries Riggleman is limited in doing the things he wants to do.

Speaking of Desmond, it seems he has found his stroke at the plate. He had two hits in each game of the series this weekend in Baltimore, and raised his batting average from .212 to .231. We’ve seen him wince several times on the base paths which indicates that he isn’t 100%, but at the plate he is finally starting to settle down. For the first time all season it seems he is on the ball, and hitting from a power position, not swinging from his heels.

It was disappointing to see the Nats only come out of this series with one win. I think Washington is better than Baltimore, but they are way less consistent. A large part of that has to do with how many more veterans the Orioles have, but it still would have been nice to take our neighbors to the north down in the series.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about today was the fact that Jordan Zimmermann earned the loss. After missing his last start due to the rainout, the young hurler saw no signs of rust as he struck out five and allowed just four hits. He really only made one mistake the entire night, the homerun to Vlad. It was a gut punch to see him lose this one, but the good news is his command appears to be back, and most importantly his strikeout rate is beginning to return.

In Zimmermann’s last three starts he has struck out 22, in his six prior starts he had 18.

The Nationals will now go to Milwaukee for a three game series before starting a five game home stand against the Padres and the Phillies.