Al Galdi’s rundown: What I liked / Didn’t like in the Nationals’ three game run at Fenway.
Game 1: 9-4 loss on Monday (April 13)
Game 2: 8-7 loss on Tuesday night (April 14)
Game 3: 10-5 win on Wednesday afternoon (April 15)
1. The offense coming alive in Games 2 and 3 – The Nats had an MLB-worst .185 team batting average exiting Game 1, in which they totaled four hits. Manager Matt Williams then made some lineup changes starting with Game 2, including moving third baseman Yunel Escobar from the no. 2 hole to the leadoff spot and dropping center fielder Michael Taylor from the leadoff spot to the no. 9 spot. Who knows how much those changes had to do with what happened next, but the Nats scored 17 runs, batted .297 (22-for-74), went 9-for-22 with runners in scoring position and worked nine walks over Games 2 and 3.
2. Jayson Werth being back – The Nats on Monday activated Werth from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on since April 5 off undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right AC joint in January. Werth went just 1-for-11 with a walk in the series but don’t discount the significance of him being back. He was fourth in the National League with a 149 wRC+ over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, meaning that he created 49 percent more runs than a league-average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances.
3. Rafael Martin’s MLB debut in Game 3 – Martin, a career minor-leaguer currently in his age-31 season, recorded five strikeouts in two scoreless innings. The Nats on Tuesday had selected his contract from Triple-A Syracuse and designated lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno for assignment. Cedeno had allowed two runs in three innings over five games with the Nats this season.
What I didn’t like:
1. The defense in all three games – Game 1 was one of the worst defensive games in the history of the franchise. No, that is not hyperbole. The Nats were officially charged with just one error, but they made six defensive screw-ups by my count.
• The Red Sox’s one-run first included (1) the returning Werth starting in on a ball that flew over his head for an RBI single by David Ortiz and (2) second baseman Danny Espinosa fumbling with a ground ball by Hanley Ramirez on a play that resulted in a force out at second as opposed to an inning-ending double play.
• (3) The Red Sox’s three-run second included shortstop Ian Desmond committing a throwing error that pulled Ryan Zimmerman off first base off a ground ball by Xander Bogaerts.
• The Red Sox’s four-run third included three defensive miscues, including two misplays by the Nats’ outfield. (4) A high fly ball by Mike Napoli fell harmlessly near Werth and Taylor for single that loaded the bases. (5) A fly ball by ex-Nat Sandy Leon fell harmlessly between Taylor and right fielder Bryce Harper for an RBI single. Additionally, (6) Desmond and Escobar failed to handle a grounder by Mookie Betts for an RBI infield single.
• The irony is that reliever Tanner Roark in the bottom of the fourth had one of the great defensive plays you’ll ever see by a pitcher, making a sliding catch of a pop up in foul territory behind the first-base line by Ramirez.
The Nats committed three errors in the Red Sox’s three-run seventh in Game 2. Desmond was unable to come up with a grounder while going to his left to begin the inning, committing his sixth error in eight games and putting Ramirez on first. Reliever Blake Treinen later committed two errors on one play: first bobbling a ball off the bat of Ryan Hanigan, then making a wild and pointless throw past catcher Wilson Ramos. Two runs scored on that play. The next play saw Desmond inexplicably not throw home when he had plenty of time to, instead throwing to first on an RBI groundout by Brock Holt.
Finally came two defensive mistakes in the Red Sox’s two-run second in Game 3. Taylor misplayed what was officially a triple by Napoli, and then Escobar committed a throwing error.
2. The starting pitching in all three games – The defense behind Jordan Zimmermann was awful in Game 1, but it’s not like he pitched extremely well: eight runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings on nine hits, a walk and two hit-by-pitches. The two hit-by-pitches came on consecutive plate appearances to begin the Red Sox’s four-run bottom of the third.
Then came Game 2. With the Nats just 2-5, their offense and defense reeling and their bullpen taxed, this outing begged for Stephen Strasburg to be a “stopper.” I know that he’s not technically the Nats’ no.1 pitcher, but if he is going to be the dominant starter that we know that he can be, this is the type of game that Strasburg dominates. But he did not: five runs in 5 1/3 innings on a career-high 10 hits allowed. Strasburg exited the game with a 4.25 ERA on the road since the start of the 2013 season.
Gio Gonzalez in Game 3 was the best of the bunch but not by much. He allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings on six hits and two walks, throwing 104 pitches. Gio did record six strikeouts.
3. Craig Stammen now being out – The Nats on Wednesday placed Stammen on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm stiffness and recalled reliever Taylor Jordan from Triple-A Syracuse. Forearm stiffness can be a precursor to needing Tommy John surgery. We shall see. Stammen has pitched more relief innings (246 2/3) than anyone in MLB since the start of the 2012 season.