TEAM ACQUIRES OF JONNY GOMES FROM REDS FOR TWO MINOR LEAGUERS
Manager Davey Johnson stood stoically before the television cameras and reporter's recorders last night, defeated and exasperated, voicing frustration over the lack of offense and increasingly inconsistent pitching efforts he's getting from his Washington Nationals club. Losses in five of the last six games has put his record since taking over at 9-15, a .375 winning percentage.
Overall, after last night's 11-2 loss, the Nationals fell to 49-53 and slipped a game behind the Florida Marlins into last place in the N.L. East for the first time since June 14. Looking closer at the Nats' record though reveals they were 27-36 (.428) before the improbable 13-of-15 streak, and 36-51 (.413) overall with the streak removed.
If anyone -- fans, media, players, coaches or front office -- had based their expectations for the rest of the season on an unsustainable streak of good fortune in mid-June, then the last week must have been a very rude awakening.
Johnson was most candid when asked how he thought his team would respond to this latest bout of losing. "I see us as too good to have any extended losing streaks and I keep waiting for everything to gel a little bit. It's not sitting well with me. I have a high boiling point, and I'm getting closer to it."
Most of his frustration can be directed to an anemic offense that once again has gone stone-cold. The Nats managed just three hits on the night and are mired in next to last place in the league in average and on base percentage. But his Johnson's pitching let him down last night too.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann added 6 2/3 innings to his total pitched this season, inching ever-closer to his team-mandated 160 inning limit in his first full season returning from Tommy John surgery. After a long layoff due to the Major League All-Star game and getting pushed back to start the second half of the season, Zimmermann was not as sharp as he's been previously this season, as he gave up six earned runs on eight hits.
Zimmermann (L, 6-9, 3.27) did not walk a batter in the game, and threw 64 of his 90 pitches for strikes -- which may actually have been part of his problem. Without his "good stuff" early on, he could not get the Marlins to bite on his breaking balls, and pitches without movement were driven for power; five of the eight hits against -- including two home runs -- went for extra bases.
As the evening wore on and he tired a little, his command came back and he actually pitched better, striking out the side in the sixth for three of his five Ks. At 126 2/3 innings at this point, Zimmermann has about 34 innings before he reaches his limit, probably five or six starts.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Nats bats were mostly silent. Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (W, 7-7, 4.04) didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning, when Laynce Nix led off the frame with his 13th home run of the season. Unfortunately, the Nats were already down 5-1 at that point, and it just got worse as the night went along.
Washington trailed 6-2 entering the ninth inning, and Davey Johnson called on Henry Rodriguez, who had a rough outing his last appearance in Los Angeles when he walked three and gave up a run without striking anyone out. Johnson went to the flamethrower trying to get him back on track, but the performance was even worse than the previous, as Rodriguez allowed five earned runs on three hits and three walks, recording just one out with the 33 pitches he threw.
"I thought it was a good time to get him back, get that bad taste out of his mouth," Johnson said. "Last time out didn't... My Ouija board isn't working too good right now."
Johnson didn't hide his feelings for the pitching problems in the game. "I know we're a better ballclub than we've shown at times. Anytime a day like today when your pitching doesn't do what it's capable of doing, when one of my relievers doesn't do what he's capable of doing, it gets ugly. It's painful for everybody in this clubhouse."
THE GOOD: Todd Coffey was perfect in his one inning of relief. Yup, that kind of night.
THE BAD: Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa were a combined 0-for-7 with one walk in the top two spots in the order.
THE UGLY: How could it be anything else but Hot Rod's meltdown? Three walks and three hits in 1/3 of an inning. He threw 33 pitches to seven batters and retired exactly one of them. Even the ground out plated a run.
THE STATS: Three hits, four walks, eight strikeouts. 0-for-3 with RISP, five LOB, zero GIDP. E: Ramos (4).
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 against the Marlins. Livan Hernandez (5-9, 4.04) faces Javier Vazquez (6-9, 5.35).
NATS NOTES: During the National Anthem, news broke that the Nationals acquired OF Jonny Gomes from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for two minor leaguers: OF Bill Rhinehart and LHP Christopher Manno. Gomes, 30, is hitting .211/.339/.399 this season in 265 plate appearances. He gives the Nats a veteran right-handed bat to add to the stable of left-handed outfielders already on the roster.
Rhinehart is a 26 year old outfielder enjoying a fine campaign for Double-A Harrisburg, hitting .283 with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs in 89 games. Manno, 22, a left-handed reliever, earned 12 saves in 34 appearances for Single-A Hagerstown.