Danny Espinosa can't come down with Ryan Zimmerman's throw. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)

There were a few constants for the Washington Nationals during their eight-game winning streak.  They were the beneficiary of good starting pitching.  They played almost flawless defense.  And there was a growing belief that they were in every game, something that might have lacked earlier in the season.

In today's 7-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, before a packed house on Father's Day, none of things happened.

The Nationals, in their first attempt to reach .500 since May 18, played as lackluster a game as they have in weeks.  They committed three errors and made several other miscues that led to a sloppy defensive game.  The poor defensive effort led to a general feeling of listlessness that -- other than a three run outburst in the fourth and fifth innings -- carried over to the offense.  And the Orioles, one of the worst hitting teams in the American League, scored in six of nine innings to contribute to the feeling of malaise on the day.

On top of all that, Tom Gorzelanny, making his first start since being activated from the 15-day Disabled List due to soreness in his left elbow, was completely ineffective.  The left-hander, who made only one rehab start in Triple-A Syracuse, was tuned up to for 10 hits and five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings.  He walked just one, but struck out no one, after averaging 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his first nine starts this season.

The Orioles got their first run courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error on a potential double play ball that should have cleared the bases.  His errant throw to second that should have forced Derrek Lee instead went into right field, and Lee ended up on third base.  The next batter, Zimmerman's University of Virginia teammate Mark Reynolds, tapped one up the third base line that Zimmerman fielded cleanly and usually would have made a throw on, but he ate it instead, filling the bases.

Zimmerman holds slow grounder instead of making throw to first. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)
Gorzelanny got a double play ball from catcher Craig Tatum, but the error and then held ball allowed Lee to carry a run in on the twin-killing.  It was that kind of day for the Nats, with the Orioles pecking away every inning, scoring at least one run in each of the second through sixth innings.  A solo home run here. Back-to-back doubles there.  Run scoring grounders at the right times.

In addition to Zimmerman's bad throw, Jayson Werth fielded -- then dropped -- a ball hit by Nick Markakis, allowing the runner to advance.  A double play wiped out the Orioles scoring opportunity on that occasion.  Later in the game, Wilson Ramos threw into Nolan Reimold on a stolen base attempt, and the ball ended up in left field, allowing Reimold to advance.  Reimold scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly.

The fielding problems were, as manager Jim Riggleman described them, not of the garden variety for the most part.   "We made some errors that were kind of strange.  Jason [Werth] made a great effort on a ball in right field and then dropped it, so that ends up being an error.  The ball that Ramos threw into the runner a little bit, that ends up as one, but Zim made an error -- that's baseball.  By normal baseball action there we made one error, you know?  The other stuff is a little misleading."

The Nats had a chance to make some waves in the bottom of the fourth, trailing 3-0 at the time, with Gorzelanny obviously struggling.  Back-to-back doubles by Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa cut that lead to 3-2, and with two outs the Nats have the bases loaded against journeyman starter Chris Jakubauskas with the pitcher's spot up.  Riggleman allowed Gorzelanny to hit for himself and he bounced out to first base to end the inning.  Gorzelanny didn't make it through the next half-inning after giving up two runs in the frame.

Did Riggleman consider pinch-hitting for his struggling starter at that crucial point of the game?

"Well you know you can do that, but those starters go to hunt for you and if you don't give them a chance to get through five [innings] and do their thing, the repercussions of that are not favorable. [Gorzelanny] hadn't thrown many pitches so I thought the right thing to do was let him go out there and try to let him pitch the fifth.

The Nats have a day off on Monday to think about how close they were to the elusive .500 mark, before welcoming the Seattle Mariners for a three-game set starting Tuesday.  It will be interesting to see how the Nats respond this week after seeing their winning streak end, not by getting beaten necessarily, but by finding ways to lose Sunday to the Orioles.
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THE GOOD:  Roger Bernadina went 3-for-4 with an RBI, raising his season average to .281.  Danny Espinosa homered and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

THE BAD:  Gorzelanny.  The Nats didn't play well behind him, but he gave up a ton of hits and, most concerning, didn't strike anyone out.  Even in his previous poor starts he still rang up the Ks.

THE UGLY:  The defense.  On top of the errors, Werth had another ball elude his grasp, Bernadina misplayed a ball in center, and Ramos threw another ball into the runner trying to steal that stayed in the infield.  Maybe the wet grass after the shower that came through made the ball slick, but the Orioles didn't have any troubles picking the ball up today.

THE STATS:  Nine hits, one walk, nine strikeouts.  1-for-2 with RISP, five LOB. E:  Zimmerman (2), Werth (4), Ramos (3).

NEXT GAME:  Tuesday at 7:-5 pm against the Seattle Mariners.  Livan Hernandez (4-8, 3.77) hosts Doug Fister (3-8, 3.53).

Tom Gorzelanny struggled in his first start off the D.L. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)

1 comments

  1. Steve // June 19, 2011 at 11:39 PM  

    I hope the Nationals start another long winning streak soon! It would be exciting to see them make the playoffs, something that hasn’t happened since 1981 when the franchise was the Montreal Expos.