Entering Tuesday’s game, the Washington Nationals had the best record in the majors and were 21 games over .500. The Philadelphia Phillies just traded two-thirds of their starting outfield and were 16.5 games out of first place in the division. The game was due for a reverse lock, and it’s just what the Nats got.
Stephen Strasburg simply didn’t do his part, giving up six runs on eight hits in just four innings. His command was suspect in what was probably his worst outing of the season. These things happen while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but it was hard to watch, and Manager Davey Johnson gave him the early hook despite only throwing 65 pitches. At least it’ll save him some innings toward the end of season innings limit.
In all reality, the Nats were in a bit of a precarious situation when the game started. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche were out of the lineup due to back issues. Without Ian Desmond either, three of the teams best sluggers were out of the lineup, which makes it hard to get to Cliff Lee, and if you can’t score, you can’t win.
Tom Gorzelanny put together a masterful long relief appearance, where he threw three innings and gave up just two hits and no runs. He quietly enters games to do the dirty work, eating innings with a huge deficit and saving the rest of the bullpen. I was pretty critical of Gorzelanny’s role in spring training, but he’s shown his value in spades this year.
On another not so happy note, the Nats pitchers and catchers were abused on the base paths again today, giving up three stolen bases, including one to the opposing pitcher, Cliff Lee. Strasburg never even looked at Lee when he stole second in the fourth inning, and the throw down wasn’t even close. It’s a gaping hole in what is an otherwise outstanding defensive team.
In the course of a 162 game season, games like this happen. All numbers and match ups can point to one outcome, and the other outcome happens. It’s the reality of baseball, and it doesn’t mean anything more than that. The Nats remain 20 games above .500 with a two and a half-game lead in the NL East.
To take a positive away from an otherwise frustrating 8-0 loss, Nationals Park was not overrun with Phillies fans like it was in the past. There were still 30,167 fans at the park for a Tuesday night game, but the vast, vast, vast majority of them were cheering for the Nats. Progress in its best form.