BULLPEN ALLOWS FOUR RUNS IN LATE INNINGS SPURRED BY WALKS
The Washington Nationals seemed to have things going for them last night, as they took a 6-3 lead into the late innings with a rested bullpen. But as is their way right now, the Nats couldn't seal the deal, and the Milwaukee Brewers scored four runs across the seventh and eighth innings to snatch victory from the Nats, 7-6, before 24,722 at Miller Park.
Washington has lost four in a row, six of seven, and nine of 12. The loss lowers their overall record to 21-27 and their road record to 10-18. Milwaukee has won five in a row.
The Nats cruised through the middle innings with a three-run lead. But Tyler Clippard gave up two runs in the seventh on a massive Rickie Weeks home run after walking veteran light-hitting middle infielder Craig Counsell with one out. Clippard managed to get through the rest of the inning with a one-run lead intact.
Manager Jim Riggleman called on Sean Burnett to start the eighth, and he did his job, retiring Prince Fielder on a grounder to third. At that point, Riggleman had his choice of right-handed relievers. Unfortunately, Riggleman chose Henry Rodriguez instead of Todd Coffey or Drew Storen.
Rodriguez (L, 1-1, 2.53) immediately allowed a line drive single to Casey McGehee. The fireballer was then able to strike out Mark Kotsay on a 100-MPH fastball for the second out of the inning. But Rodriguez lost the strike zone, walking pinch-hitter Brandon Boggs, a lifetime .209 hitter -- on four pitches.
The following Jonathan Lucroy soft liner down the right field line that drew chalk was almost predictable. Two runs scored on the play, and all that was left was for Brewers closer to walk a tightrope after striking out the first three batters of the ninth inning.
Axford K'd Laynce Nix and Roger Bernadina easily to start the ninth. He should have ended the game with a swinging strikeout of Ian Desmond, but Lucroy couldn't handle the breaking ball in the dirt that Desmond swung through and Desmond hobbled down to first in obvious discomfort, perhaps a recurance of the quadriceps injury that forced him to sit a game last week.
Axford then ran into some trouble, as he allowed a looping single to Jayson Werth and walked Wilson Ramos to load the bases for Michael Morse, who in the third inning hit his first career grand slam. Unfortunately for the Nationals, Axford found his composure and did not allow Morse to be the hero, coaxing a lazy fly ball from the new first baseman to end the game.
The bullpen implosion robbed Livan Hernandez of a win. The Nats starter pitched six innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk, striking out four.
The final game of the series is today at 1:10 pm, pitting Jason Marquis (5-1, 4.08) against Zack Greinke (2-1, 6.43). The Nats then head home for a six-game homestand. I'm sure they are looking forward to some home cooking for a little while.
THE GOOD: Michael Morse went 3-for-5 with a double and a grand slam, the first of his career. He's hitting .282 now for the season.
THE BAD: Roger Bernadina went 0-for-5 out of the leadoff spot, dropping his average to .246.
THE UGLY: Both late inning rallies were started by walking light hitters. Craig Counsell and Brandon Boggs shouldn't scare anybody, and neither are threats to hit one out. But Clippard and Rodriguez couldn't find the strike zone to either of them, allowing more dangerous hitters to come to bat with runners on in the seventh and eighth.
THE STATS: 11 hits, three walks, nine strikeouts. 4-for-11 with RISP, eight LOB, two GIDP. E: Espinosa (4)
NEXT GAME: Today at Milwaukee at 1:10 pm. Jason Marquis (5-1, 4.08) against Zack Greinke (2-1, 6.43)
NATS NOTES: During the game, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported 1B Adam LaRoche, placed on the 15-day D.L., was injured more extensively than previous reported. Not only does he have a large tear in his labrum, LaRoche also has a small tear in his rotator cuff. LaRoche told Ladson by phone, “Hopefully a miracle happens so we can get it playable. If not, I’m not going to milk it here and hope for the best. If this doesn’t work, I’m pretty sure I’ll make the decision to get it fixed.”