Pitching is only half the game of baseball.
So even after a near-perfect pitching performance from Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals (48-53) were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates (60-39) because their offense yet again failed to participate in the game.
The 4-2 loss extended the Nationals’ losing streak to six games, and their 0-for-3 effort with runners in scoring position elevated that stat to 6-for-81. Their 2-11 losing skid will undoubtedly continue until the offense can bring up those abysmal numbers.
Strasburg was the highlight of the game, pitching a stunning eight innings on 118 pitches, and striking out a season-high 12 batters.
Besides the second inning – when he gave up his only two hits of the night – and the fifth inning – when Anthony Rendon allowed Clint Barnes to reach on an error – Strasburg faced the minimum in each inning. He struck out the side for good measure in the eighth just before he exited the game.
Strasburg gave up one earned run on a one-pitch mistake to Pedro Alvarez, which gave him his 26th home run of the season, and was enough to put Strasburg on the line for the loss.
Strasburg did his part in trying to disrupt the losing slide, but as has become a trend when he is on the mound, the run support never came. Nats hitters didn’t hit through the first five and two-thirds innings of the game.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano had his no-hit bid finally interrupted in the sixth inning, when Rendon pushed an infield single past a diving Alvarez at third base, who couldn’t hang on to the ball to make a play.
Liriano gave up two of the Nationals five hits for the night, and struck out eight.
As if the do-nothing offense wasn’t enough to mar a sparkling night by Strasburg, the Nationals bullpen did their best to cement his loss.
Drew Storen came in for the ninth and gave up one run on a single and a double to start the inning. He intentionally walked Alvarez before Fernando Abad came in and allowed both his inherited base runners to score.
Their mistakes loomed large in the bottom half of the ninth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single, and Jayson Werth followed with his fifth home run in four days.
What would have been a walk-off win would have to develop into a small-ball rally, as Wilson Ramos hit a one-out single to keep the Nationals hopes alive. But just three pitches later, Denard Span grounded into a game-ending double play, though it appeared on replay that Ramos avoided second baseman Neil Walker’s tag.
Manager Davey Johnson argued the call, but umpire Laz Diaz’s ruling stood, and the Nationals were officially without a win in the last 11 days.
Wins won’t be forthcoming if the Nationals don’t stop relying on the long ball for the entirety of their offense. With Werth’s home run in the ninth, eight of the Nats’ last 10 runs all came on Werth home runs. The other two runs were solo home runs by Adam LaRoche and Ramos.
Leaving their whole offense up to one swing and one player is an absurd philosophy for winning ball games, and is one that is certainly not working for the Nationals as they continue blindly searching for their first victory since the All-Star break.