Even the pitcher who benefited from the Nationals’ squandering had trouble explaining how a lineup that looks so deep on paper could struggle so mightily to push across runs.
“I couldn’t find many holes on many of their hitters,” Greinke said. “I mean most hitters have places you could go, but I couldn’t fine many on these guys. It was tough because they’re aggressive in the strike zone, so I threw a lot of close pitches and they took it. It makes it tougher. They should be scoring more than they have.”
Gonzalez held the Dodgers scoreless for six overpowering innings and matched his career-high with 11 strikeouts. He helped perpetuate the Nationals’ domination of phenom Yasiel Puig, who has gone 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series.
The Nationals took the lead only with a two-out instant rally in the sixth. Chad Tracy poked a single to right. Ramos walked. Roger Bernadina dumped a pinch-hit, broken-bat single to right field. Tracy scored as Puig’s throw sailed wide.
With Gonzalez out of the game, Johnson chose Drew Storen to protect what would have been Gonzalez’s fifth consecutive win. Storen whiffed the first batter he faced and got a one-hopper to Desmond for the second out.
But left-hander Skip Schumaker golfed Storen’s low slider to the right-center field gap for a double. Mark Ellis flared an 0-2 fastball to left field in front of Bryce Harper, and Schumaker raced home to tie the score.
The Nationals fumbled their chance to strike back. Denard Span led off with a single, but Anthony Rendon could not bunt him to second. Ryan Zimmerman singled, but with two on and one out Harper struck out against tough lefty Paco Rodriguez. Werth had a chance to atone for two earlier crucial outs, but he could only ground out to shortstop.
In the eighth, the Nationals put runners on first and third with one out. Recently acquired Scott Hairston struck out against right-hander Ronald Belisario as Johnson kept switch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi on the bench, preferring Hairston’s fastball-hitting ability. Span flied out to left field.
“I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing it, but it’s got to turn around at some point,” Desmond said. “If it doesn’t then we’re going to keep on trying until we run out of time.”