What I Liked / Didn’t Like about the Nationals three-day stand against St. Louis.
Game 1: 2-1 10-inning win on Tuesday night (April 21)
Game 2: 7-5 loss on Wednesday night (April 22)
Game 3: 4-1 loss on Thursday (April 23)
What I liked:
1. Yunel Escobar’s two big hits – Escobar, returning from a two-game absence caused by a groin injury, blasted a walk-off solo homer off Carlos Villanueva with two outs in the bottom of the 10th of Game 1. Perhaps the best part? Escobar’s head-first slide into home and the awaiting celebration with his teammates. He then had a game-tying three-run double in the third inning of Game 2.
2. Ryan Zimmerman – Zimmerman had a rough series in other ways (see below), but he produced offensively, going 5-for-13.
3. Denard Span – Span, in his first full series of the season, went 4-for-13 with a walk.
4. Gio Gonzalez’s start in Game 1 – This was a classic example of “run prevention.” Gio tossed six scoreless innings despite giving up eight hits and four walks. You hate the lack of efficiency (107 pitches over the six innings), but ultimately pitching is about run prevention, and Gio delivered in that regard.
5. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 3 – Scherzer allowed two runs in seven innings, leaving after just 82 pitches due to having jammed his thumb on a swing in the fifth inning.
What I didn’t like:
1. The offense overall – The Nats batted just .218 (22-for-101) in the series, including going just 6-for-32 with runners in scoring position.
2. The state of the bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow five runs in 10 innings in the series, giving up 12 hits and four walks.
Closer Drew Storen had a blown save in Game 1, allowing a run on two singles and a wild pitch. It was the Cardinals, of course, against whom Storen imploded in NLDS Game 5 in 2012: four runs in one inning on three hits and two walks.
The Nats on Wednesday placed Felipe Rivero on the 15-day disabled list with gastrointestinal bleeding (yikes) and recalled Matt Grace from Triple-A Syracuse. Grace made his major-league debut in Game 2, tossing a scoreless seventh inning. But then came the rest of the game. Blake Treinen allowed a run in the eighth on two hits and two walks, and Rafael Martin allowed a run in the ninth on a solo homer by Matt Adams.
Nothing captures the state of flux the bullpen is in more than this: Martin (April 15), Rivero (April 17) and Grace (April 22) all have made their major-league debuts over the last 10 days.
Also, the Nats dealt Xavier Cedeno to the Dodgers for cash on Wednesday, having designated him for assignment on April 14.
3. Costly defensive plays in Games 2 and 3 – The Nats’ defense continues to be an issue.
Ryan Zimmerman committed an error during the Cardinals’ two-run third in Game 2.
Aaron Barrett committed a throwing error in the Cardinals’ two-run eighth in Game 3, allowing former Oriole Mark Reynolds to score on his RBI double. This play was total amateur hour. Barrett’s poor throw appeared to be a function of Danny Espinosa’s relay throw sailing over Jose Lobaton, as Barrett, who was backing up Lobaton, collected the ball and hurried a throw to second in an attempt to get Reynolds. The ball went into center field, and Reynolds had, as MASN’s Bob Carpenter called it, a “little-league home run.”
4. Another injury to worry about – We learned after Game 3 that Zimmerman is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, though, for now, he is not expected to miss any substantial length of time.
5. Doug Fister’s start in Game 2 – Fister allowed five runs (four earned) over the first three innings, giving up five hits (including two homers). He then settled down with three straight scoreless innings, but this was not the Fister we’re used to seeing.