It is hard to quibble with the Nationals’ offensive output yesterday. After falling behind by five runs after 3 ½ innings, they fought back to score five by the seventh, tying the game and giving themselves a chance to win in the late innings. They smacked nine hits. Most of the credit went to Ian Desmond, who an RBI single and an RBI double in the fifth and seventh.
But with better situational hitting, the Nationals could have come all the way back and won. They had four chances to score a runner from third base with less than two outs, and they only delivered twice. The wasted at-bat stymied rallies, and continued a trend.
The Nationals, with a .334 team on-base percentage, have given themselves plenty of chances to score. But they could be converting more, exemplified by their performance getting the run home from third with less than two outs. They’ve had 27 such plate appearances this year, and they’ve scored the run nine times. The league average is roughly 50 percent.
“I think the makeup on this ball club is wanting to do it so bad we get overly aggressive,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I keep trying to talk to some guys. The guy’s in the jam, not you. Just look for a cookie and he’s going to give it to you, unless it’s Maddox or somebody out there.”
The Nationals’ best rally came in the fourth inning. They loaded with no outs, and Adam LaRoche delivered a two-run single, moving to second on an error. With no outs, the Nationals had two runners in scoring position and no outs.
Jayson Werth quickly got ahead of Mike Leake, 2-0, and took a wicked hack, missing. With a fly ball or groundout almost certain to score a run, Werth popped up to the infield. Mark DeRosa followed with an easy groundball to the right side, all the Nationals needed. Had Werth delivered, it would have been another run, at least.
Werth didn’t have a bad game – he went 2 for 4 to raise his triple-slash line to .350/.447/.450 – but he needed to more in that at-bat.
Danny Espinosa had a similar opportunity in the fifth. After Desmond double and moved to third on a throw, he stood 90 feet with one out. With the infield in, Espinosa needed a fly ball to score the run. He jumped on the first pitch, a pitch that, in that situation, he should have known he could pummel. But he grounded out to the shortstop, keeping Desmond on third base.
“All of us can do better at that,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s such a small sample size right now. You’re going to go through times in the year where you do it every single time, and you score eight runs a game for that week. Then you go through times, kind of like now, where we don’t get the hit that much. Fortunate for us, our pitching is so good that it’s picking us up. We have a good team. We’re where need to be.”
FROM THE POST
The Nats erased a five-run deficit, but Tyler Clippard gave the winning runs in the 11th in an 8-5 loss while pitching through shoulder discomfort.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 7, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 2: Tyler Moore went 1 for 4 with a home run. Moore has five home runs in 10 games. Bryce Harper went 1 for 5 with a double and a strikeout. Mitch Atkins allowed one run in seven innings on three hits and two walks, striking out four.
Reading 9, Harrisburg 3: Eury Perez went 1 for 3 with two walks. Robert Gilliam allowed six runs in five innings on seven hits and no walks, striking out six.
Lynchburg 13, Potomac 2: Michael Taylor went 1 for 3 with a walk. Wade Moore went 2 for 3 with a walk.
Lakewood 7, Hagerstown 4: Jason Martinson went 1 for 3 with a triple and a walk. Adrian Nieto went 1 for 3 with a walk. Wirkin Estevez allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings on three hits and two walks, striking out five.