Before the Nationals’ strikeouts and late, squandered chances led to their 4-2 loss last night, string of strange happenings defined the game. In the early innings, dark clouds hovered over the park while bright sun reflected off the skyline behind center field, a proper setting for the bizarre events to follow.
Pirates starter Erik Bedard lasted three batters before he left with back spasms, leaving the Pirates’ pitching to good old Johnny Wholestaff.
Adam LaRoche reached on an error by the third baseman on a groundball to the right side. The Pirates put on a shift for LaRoche, but instead moving all their infielders over one spot, they kept Josh Harrison at shortstop and sent Pedro Alvarez into shallow right. When Alvarez botched LaRoche’s dribbled toward second, the announcement in the press box came, “error, third base.”
Ian Desmond hit a ball over the fence for an out. He led off the fourth inning with a fly ball to left field that Yamaico Navarro caught by reaching over the wall. Umpires reviewed the play, and the out stood.
Perhaps oddest of all, Andrew McCutchen scored from second on an infield single. The weirdness reached an apex in the bottom of the third inning, when the Pirates began a rally with a strikeout. Detwiler whiffed Lincoln, the pitcher, with a curve in the dirt. The ball deflected of Wilson Ramos’s shin guard, allowing Lincoln to reach first. Jose Tabata followed with a single off Detwiler foot that bounded to right field.
Neil Walker and McCutchen each smacked conventional singles to score two runs, and then the inning really turned weird.
Casey McGehee hit a groundball to the hole between short and third. Desmond shuffled over to make the play. McCutchen, having started on second base, paused and looked over his right shoulder as he rounded third. Desmond held the ball.
Desmond and McCutchen each sized up the other. Where was Desmond throwing? Which way was McCutchen running? McCutchen sprinted home. Desmond ran at him and held the ball … and held the ball … and held the ball. By the time he realized McCutchen had committed, it was too late. His throw reached Ramos, and McCutchen slid in safe. The Pirates led, 3-0.
“He made a good base running play there,” Desmond explained. “I kept it in the infield. I would say 9 or 10 times out 10, the runner stops and tries to dive back into third. He saw that I fielded it, and he looked at me and then just darted towards home. I had to make sure I had a good grip on the ball. It was just too late. A good base running play by him. And obviously, his speed helped.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals struck out 11 times against five relievers in a frustrating, 4-2 loss to the Pirates, and Davey Johnson demands better.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 15, Durham 8: In a rehab start, Chien-Ming Wang allowed two runs in seven innings on eight hits and one walk, striking out one. Jarrett Hoffpauir went 3 for 3 with two walks. Corey Brown went 2 for 3 with a double and three walks.
Richmond 8, Harrisburg 2: Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4 with a walk. Paul Demny allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings on five hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Salem 10, Potomac 0: Michael Taylor went 1 for 2 with a double and two walks. Adam Olbrychowski allowed six runs in 2/3 of an innings on five hits and three walks, striking out one.
Salem 6, Potomac 2 (5 innings): Robbie Ray allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out one. Rick Hague went 1 for 1 with two walks.
Hagerstown was off.