The Nationals wake up this morning with a 1-3 record, thanks mostly to squandered chances. But they just as easily could be 3-1, thanks mostly to surprisingly excellent starting pitching.
The Nationals promoted athleticism, professionalism and strong defense as their offseason virtues, but those precise things have betrayed them in their past two losses. The winning run last night was not earned, and the runner who scored it reached after Jayson Werth called off Danny Espinosa from a catch Espinosa could have probably made either with his teeth, eyes-closed or behind-the-back. Instead, Werth tried to make a running grab, and the ball dropped in.
That was one of the few plays in baseball in which true chemistry is required, when playing a few thousands innings together really means something. Espinosa insisted as he and Werth become more familiar with one another, plays like the dropped pop-up will cease. “We’re going to know what each other can do and what we can’t do,” Espinosa said.
“We haven’t all played together before,” Werth said. “That takes some time. That was just a feel play, and not really having a feel with Espinosa, that’s basically what the cause of that was. But, again, that’s my fault.”
“We’ve got a fairly veteran group there,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “I’m not going to worry about them. You them out there and let them play. I like the way they’re playing. I’m excited about a lot of things that happened in that ballgame tonight. We had a lot of base runners out there. If we keep putting them out there, we’re going to get them in.”
The most encouraging thing from last night was a pair of pitching performance. Jason Marquis went 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on six hits. The Marlins tattooed several outs, to be sure, but Marquis also allowed no walks. Nationals started have allowed just four walks and seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings so far, good for a 2.66 ERA.
“We just need to go out there and pitch to our capabilities, not anything more or anything less,” Marquis said. “The wins will come if we keep throwing the ball that way.”
Drew Storen took the loss, but the way he pitched, he didn’t deserve it. One of the first things Werth said when addressing his dropping pop fly was, “I feel bad for those kids. Drew pitched great.”
Storen hit 96 miles per hour several times, sitting at 93 and 94 with his sinking fastball. He allowed only one unintentional walk, and that came after Mike Stanton looked at a 3-2 sinker that, replays showed, appeared to be a strike. Storen’s lone hit allowed came from Gaby Sanchez, who hit a grounder to the left side that scooted cleanly past Alex Cora.
“That was the best Drew’s thrown this spring,” Riggleman said.
Now, the Nationals need to start turning their good performances into wins.
FROM THE POST
Two crucial miscues created a 3-2, 10-inning Nationals loss to the Marlins.