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Nats Hold On To Earn Fifth Victory Of The Season

 

The Washington Nationals survived yet another poor bullpen performance last night en route to their fifth victory of the season, a 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox.

It was a sloppy game overall for the Nationals. While they officially only committed one error in the game, multiple mental mistakes both in the field and at the plate cost them throughout, making the team that was picked by some to win a World Series in 2013, look a bit unpolished. There are certain plays that championship contending teams just do not make. For instance, Gio’s only earned run came in the first inning when he stepped off the rubber with the wrong foot with the bases loaded, a balk was called and the runner was allowed to score. There were also other silly defensive miscues.  Such as Ian Desmond attempting to bare hand a ball he likely could have made a play on with his glove. Or at the plate, with Bryce Harper trying to take second base with two outs and Ryan Zimmerman up behind him. 

Of course, it is April 9. A lack of polish can very easily be a result of too much rust. These are not plays that the Nats were making last summer, and we will likely see less and less of them as the season goes along. Right now though, when they have less than spectacular outings like last night, its important that their confidence stays high. When you are this good of a team, the biggest kryptonite is a sense of doubt.

While Gio coasted through five innings, giving up just four hits and one run, the bullpen struggled mightily this game. Craig Stammen gave up three hits and a run in the sixth, allowing the White Sox to tie the game up. Tyler Clippard gave up a three run dinger in the seventh to Paul Konerko, which pretty much erased a rally the team had made at the plate a half an inning before, and Rafael Soriano nearly blew a second save in a row, as he gave up a two run home run to Alex Rios in the ninth.

On the bright side, Drew Storen pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts.

The silver lining in this game is that the Nats bats continue to roll. In total the club tallied eight runs on 13 hits, three walks, and four home runs. Six guys had multi-hit games on the night, with only Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa going hitless.

A few thoughts:

-       It was good to see Adam LaRoche return from his brief two game stint on the bench  due to a back injury. LaRoche had started the season hitless in his first four games, but swatted two home runs last night.

-       Gio Gonzalez again struggled to command all of his pitches, especially early. The 27-year-old threw over 30 pitches in the first inning, roughly a third of his total pitch count. In total he threw just 57 of 99 pitches for strikes, a big reason he only lasted five innings last night.

-       The home plate umpire tonight was a little inconsistent. Jake Peavy who lives on his two seam fastballs, was catching the outside corner on everything, at least according to the home plate umpire. The Nationals, however, identified this problem and adjusted. Case and point, LaRoche struck out his first two plate appearances, then hit two home runs.

-       The White Sox 1-4 hitters combined for nine hits, seven runs, six RBI, and two home runs. Clearly the team needs to be more careful at the top of the order. 

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