It was an evening of unfortunate timing. Starter Stephen Strasburg left the game early with an injury, and the Washington Nationals (28-20) could not cash in on their many baserunners as the Cincinnati Reds (20-27) scored four late runs to win the series opener, 5-2.
Strasburg Departs Early
It’s no secret that this season has been a tough one for Strasburg. He has a 6.55 ERA, and every talking head from sea to shining sea has speculated as to why. The long-standing theory among the most reasonable fans has been a confluence of injury and altered mechanics, and that notion seemed to be carried out today.
After a tough first inning in which he gave up a homer and some hard contact, Strasburg looked even more uncomfortable in the second, looking uncoordinated as he issued a walk to open the frame. A brief mound meeting later, he left the game with trainer Lee Kuntz. The Nationals reported postgame that the issue was left trapezius tightness, and that Strasburg will be reevaluated tomorrow.
Nats Squander Chances
As if it weren’t tough enough to win when your starter only throws one inning, the Nats did themselves no favors on offense. On the surface, their numbers were good: They grabbed ten hits, drew five talks, and were a respectable 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, sequencing is an important part of offense. Of those three RISP hits, two failed to leave the infield and only two scored runs, driving in one each. The Nats stranded 13 runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and eighth innings. Additionally, they displayed little power: Only two of those hits went for extra bases, and both were doubles.
With a runner on second and two outs in the top of the seventh, Bryce Harper came to the plate representing the tying run. But newly entered reliever Tony Cingrani missed badly on his first pitch, drilling Harper in the small of his back. One would hope both teams could handle the issue maturely, but baseball players can be petulant children sometimes.
Harper openly displayed his frustration after being hit, taking his time removing his shin guard and handing tossing it to the bench. On his way to first, he was accosted by Reds first baseman Joey Votto, and the two jawed on their way down the line until they were separated by an umpire.
Postgame, Harper described their altercation as “just having some playful conversation.” For his part, Cingrani seemed to share Votto’s sentiment, saying, “he should have jogged, but what are you going to do? Be a baseball player. Sorry I hit you, run.”