Andrew McCutchen did it all for the Pittsburgh Pirates today, like it seems he does every time these teams face.
Edinson Volquez locked the Nats up, allowing one run on three hits in six innings, and McCutchen filled his usual role as Washington Nationals bully as the Nats (24-23) dropped Blake Treinen’s second major league start and the series opener, 3-1.
The Nats’ offense has been struggling without Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper, and tonight’s game was no exception. Two struggling hitters, Wilson Ramos and Nate McLouth, each notched two hits, but except for a solo homer from Ian Desmond, no other Nat hit safely.
It was not for a lack of opportunities that the Nats only touched home once. Six walks and an error provided them with enough baserunners, only to see them stranded. Two runners reached with one or fewer outs in the second and third innings, but the Nats went a combined 0-for-5 to end those threats. In the eighth, the bases were loaded with two outs for Scott Hairston, who popped out. But most agonizing was with two on in the ninth inning, when – who else? – McCutchen made a diving catch to snare an Anthony Rendon liner and end the game.
Even more frustrating was how many hits the Pirates took away. In addition to McCutchen’s game-saver in the ninth, Josh Harrison made two spectacular plays to rob Ramos and Jayson Werth each of an extra-base hit earlier in the night. This has been a trend for the Nats going back to the Diamondbacks series, and the sooner it ends, the better.
On the mound, Treinen (L, 0-2) had a similar experience to his first start against the Dodgers. He was dominant early, retiring the first eight batters he faced, but wilted fast. The ninth batter he faced was Volquez, who he walked. He then allowed the next two Pirates to reach base before plunking McCutchen to drive in the first run of the game. He let two batters reach in the fourth, including another walk, and yielded a second run in the fifth.
His velocity dropped precipitously as the game wore on. Once scraping 98 MPH, his fastball sunk to just 93 MPH roughly when he passed 70 pitches. He was fortunate to escape the fifth, and in the sixth, he put two more runners on before getting the hook. But at the end of the night, his line was impressive for a spot start: 5.2 innings pitched, three hits, two runs, five walks (one intentional), and four strikeouts.
It’s a familiar refrain from some: batting average on balls in play evens out over the course of the year. Those grounders will be singles, and the liners will be doubles. And while that may be true, these games can be agonizing in the meantime.
Exacerbating the offense’s problems is an untimely cold streak from Werth. He is just 2-for-22 (.091) over his last five games, with only two walks. He hit a couple of balls hard tonight, forcing some nice plays from Pirates defenders, but whether a defensive play was difficult or not doesn’t change its outcome.
Ross Detwiler had a tough time again, allowing another run in relief on two hits. He has a 5.24 ERA through 22.1 innings, and has struck out as many as he’s walked. He’s obviously much more talented than a mop-up man, but he is in a bad place mentally. He gets frustrated easily and loses a bit of his all-but-depleted confidence each time he allows a hit or walks a batter. Moving him to the rotation isn’t an option, and he would be claimed in a second if the Nats tried to send him to AAA, but something has to change.