Last night’s game provided the Nationals just about everything they could have wanted. Jason Marquis’s eight innings saved their bullpen. Ryan Zimmerman gave them two clutch hits. They beat the Astros, the kind of bottom-feeder they should be beating after a series against a very good Braves team. Their bullpen got rest, their best player showed signs of breaking out and they washed away that brutal ending from Sunday. Perfect.
Except two plays at the end of the game still stuck with Manager Davey Johnson, “the kind of plays I’m trying to stop around here,” Johnson said.
First, Jayson Werth ended the Nationals’ three-run rally in the ninth inning with a base-running blunder. Werth stood on third and Rick Ankiel stood on first with one out. When Ramos popped up to shallow left, Werth bluffed as if he were running home after tagging, sprinting a few steps. He was trying to a draw a throw from Angel Sanchez, who caught the ball in shallow left.
Werth hoped Sanchez would make a wild throw home and either allow him to score on a bobbled ball or let Ankiel scoot to second. But Sanchez called the bluff and threw behind Werth. Werth restarted his sprint home but tripped and was tagged out in a rundown, tumbling backward, head over heels, as the play ended.
“I had a conversation with [third base coach Bo Porter],” Johnson said. “In a situation like that, you can’t take it for granted. The shortstop threw to third. You need to hold all the way or go home. He was trying to get a throw to home in case it bounced away from the catcher and he scored. That’s one thing I fear – you can’t take anything for granted.”
Werth has made a few unconventionally heady plays this season, some of which have paid enormous dividends – remember when he stole third off Carlos Marmol, which allowed him to score the winning run on a passed ball? Sometimes, though, Werth’s attempts at them have backfired – remember when he tried to barehand a ball in the outfield, only to bobble it and turn a single into a double?
Last night might have been a case of trying too hard to make something happen when status quo – two down, two on for Wilson Ramos – would have been just fine. The play might have even worked had Werth not tripped. But it was probably a gamble not worth taking.
Anyway, closer Drew Storen ensured the gaffe wouldn’t hurt the Nationals, pitching a scoreless ninth that included three strikeouts. But the Nationals also made that half of the ninth harder than it had to be.
Carlos Lee led off with a flare to left center. Ankiel sprinted from center, gliding into to make the catch until Roger Bernadina streaked from left and cut him, nearly leading to a collision. “Bernadina came out of nowhere after Ankiel called him off,” Johnson said. The ball plopped in for a bloop double.
In regard to raw athleticism and potential, few players match Bernadina. But that’s the kind of simple play that’s holding him back. Sometimes he can look graceful, instinctive and powerful. And sometimes he can make one of the simplest mistakes on the field.
Johnson could laugh about those plays late at night; after all, plenty of good had come out of that game. But he also wants to eliminate those kind of plays, so they don’t hurt the Nationals on night when everything else does not go so well.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals and their tattered bullpen got a lift from Jason Marquis in a 5-2 victory over the Astros, which Ryan Zimmerman secured with a game-tying homer and a game-winning single.
They gave their fans hope, and now the Orioles are in the throes of another monumental collapse, Dave Sheinin writes.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was rained out. Chien-Ming Wang was down to pitch tonight. I’ll try to check later and see if he still will or if he gets pushed back.
Bowie 4, Harrisburg 2: Bryce Harper went 0 for 3 with a walk. He’s 6 for 31 at Harrisburg with no extra-base hits and three walks, which works out to .194/.265/.194 over a limited sampling of 31 at-bats in nine games. Hassan Pena allowed no runs in 2 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out three.
Potomac 1, Lynchburg 0: Cameron Selik allowed no runs in six innings on four hits and no walks, striking out four. Francisco Soriano went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk.
Lexington 8, Hagerstown 6: Robbie Ray allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings on three hits and four walks, striking out five. Blake Kelso went 2 for 5. Mills Rogers went 2 for 4 with a double. Michael Taylor went 1 for 4 with a home run.
Auburn 4, Batavia 3: Roberto Perez went 3 for 4 with a double. Gregory Holt allowed no runs in three relief innings on no hits and a walk, striking out three.