The Nats’ Offense Flat in Series Finale Loss against Philadelphia

Cole Hamels took a no-hitter in to the sixth inning as the Washington Nationals fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 last night.  With the loss the Nationals fell to 26-18 on the year, but still hold a half game lead over the Braves for first place in the NL East after the Atlanta Braves lost on a walk off in Cincinnati. This also marked the ninth time in nine attempts this season that the Nationals have failed to complete a series sweep.

The big storyline last night for all the sports networks though, was the second showdown between Cole Hamels and Bryce Harper.  In their first meeting on May 6th, Hamels intentionally beaned Harper in his first at bat and then later admitted his intentions to “welcome” him to the game.  Harper eventually got the best of him by stealing home later in the inning, and Hamels was suspended for his actions.

Last night, the showdown turned out to be much more anticlimactic than hyped to be.  In Harper’s first at bat Hamels pitched away and eventually got Harper to fly out deep to left.   Then in the fourth, leading off, Harper drew a much-needed walk but the Nationals failed to capitalize.  Later, Harper singled through the gap in right after an Danny Espinosa double, but Espinosa failed to score on a throw home by Pence.  Harper finished the night one for three by grounding to short in the eighth inning.

Overall, the Nationals offense was very unproductive behind Edwin Jackson’s decent start. While Jackson allowed only seven hits and three runs in seven innings, the Nationals could not fabricate a run in support.  Not one player had a multi-hit game and the team’s first hit of the game came in the sixth inning. Washington also failed to take advantage of their opportunities going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.  The only run the Nationals managed to score was in the ninth when Adam LaRoche stroked a ball over the right field wall.

On Friday, the Nationals will continue their road trip against the Atlanta Braves to determine the leader of the NL East.

Some Thoughts:

-       Xavier Nady is now batting .130 in 77 at bats this season after going 0-4 last night.  With that, I don’t understand why he is still getting starts over players like Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina, or even Tyler Moore, who all can play left field.  Each of these players really should be getting the starts, not only because they have better stats, but because they have much greater potential in the lineup.

-       What’s even crazier than Henry Rodriguez’s control is his home/away splits.  In 11 games at home, he’s 5 for 5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA and .032 average against in 10.1 innings.  In 11 games away, he’s 4 for 7 in save opportunities with a 10.38 ERA and a .278 average against in 8.2 innings.  Tonight he added to those away numbers by giving up a homerun in the eight, but based off of this, it might not be just the closer role that he’s uncomfortable with.  It may be the pressure of pitching in a ballpark where everyone’s cheering against him.

-       Although not the best lead off hitter by many standards Danny Espinosa played the position well tonight.  In his first at bat he drew a walk and then moved into scoring position with a steal.  Then he broke up Hamels’ no-hitter with a double in the sixth.  Compared to the recent non-hitting Espinosa, he seemed much more patient and confident tonight.

-       Jesus Flores may not be as slow as I thought after that triple in the eighth but then again, he did get caught stealing by a mile in the third.