Besides the bullpen implosion on April 3 against the Braves, the Nationals pitching staff had looked solid before yesterday's game, and even yesterday it was not entirely the pitching staff's fault. Home plate umpire Tim Tschida was squeezing the zone to, as FP and Bob said, "the size of a tuna can." But Tschida was calling a small zone on both sides, so you can't truly blame him for the loss.
The fact is, the Nats were able to start strong and put up 4 runs early in the game. Besides an ugly baserunning error by Ian Desmond in the 1st, the team was playing smart small ball. They were hitting and running with success and being patient at the plate.
Livan Hernandez had a good outing to start his 2nd appearance this season, but that unraveled in the 5th inning, when Livo gave up 4 runs and allowed the Marlins to tie the game. Chad Gaudin allowed 2 more runs to score in the 6th, and Todd Coffey allowed one in the 8th. The Nats offense then did what it's done in most games this year; it disappeared.
The 9th inning showed some promise with Desmond and Werth getting on base in front of Zimmerman with 2 outs, but Zimm struck out swinging and that was that. The Nats did generate 4 runs, which is considered an onslaught considering the Nats offensive production this season, but the Nats real issue is runners left on base. So far this series (just 2 games) the Nats have left 20 on-base. TWENTY. And they've scored only 6 runs. So it's not that the offense isn't hitting, it's just not producing in the clutch.
There is one positive to glean from Wednesday though. The Ian Desmond that started the season 0-for-14 went 4-for-5 against Chris Volstad, bring his average and OBP up from... well... .000. We'll take it, and now we know why Riggleman decided last minute to allow Desi to lead off. Whatever Riggs was thinking, he was certainly correct.
Hopefully Ian can stay hot now and become a lead off guy that will work for this team. The Nats haven't had a real lead off guy yet in 6 seasons of baseball, so hopefully that's just one piece of getting the offense on track this season.