The mood was electric at Nationals Park for Bryce Harper’s home debut. It wasn’t a Strasburgian crowd, but they had a whole lot of energy… at the start. A lack of offense eventually drew the life out of the stadium except for when the young phenom was at the plate or making a play in left.
It was yet another carbon copy of nearly every single Washington Nationals game this season. The Nats starting pitching was once again impeccable, but the offense was incapable of doing much of anything. While the Diamondbacks hit it hard when they made contact, Jordan Zimmermann didn’t let the game get out of hand in 6.1 innings. He left today’s game with a still-impressive 1.89 ERA after giving up three earned runs. It still comes down to a lack of run support.
In his post-game press conference, manager Davey Johnson said, “we’ve probably left more people on-base than anyone in the league.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t wrong. Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Nats had only scored 11% of their baserunners, tied for last in baseball. Johnson also expressed some concern in relying on pitching as much as the Nats have without providing adequate run support. “The pitching’s been outstanding,” he said. “I mean, [Jordan Zimmermann] was strong, got a little tired late. It’s gonna put some strain on the pitching staff if we don’t start scoring some runs.”
Bryce Harper certainly wanted to make an impact, but instead he has his first 0-for game of the season. Meanwhile, Steve Lombardozzi got a little bit warmer in the two-hole, spelling the struggling Danny Espinosa in that slot. Lombardozzi is now hitting .289 with a .379 OBP, while Espinosa is struggling tremendously, hitting .195 and a .287 OBP. Davey is worried that Espinosa is pressing, and the Nats have to hope that’s his only issue.
Harper did dazzle in the field, though. He had four putouts in left while having two incredible throws. One that stopped a runner from advancing to second base, and another that nearly threw out John McDonald at home. This freeze frame by @MrIrrelevantDC on Twitter shows that Harper did actually get the runner by a few inches. Harper, Rick Ankiel, who had his own impressive assist in the ninth on Justin Upton, and Jayson Werth may give the Nats the best outfield arms in the game.
When the Nats scored their first run in the eighth inning, they ended a 17-inning scoreless streak that streched all the way back to Saturday in Los Angeles. The Nationals have some excuses without Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse in the line up, but the team has to find a way to scrape up some runs. With the current losing streak now at five games, which is as long as the team’s longest winning streak of the season, the Nats may be at an early season turning point. If they’re unable to find a way to win on Wednesday, it could move the momentum in the wrong direction for a team that had so much promise through most of April.