Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Inevitable Happens: Nats Lose Heartbreaker 8-6

Last night's game was bound to happen. At the time, I was a bit too frustrated to objectively blog about it, so I've put it off until this morning.

Scott Olsen looked great again last night, although his outing was shorter than you'd like to see from your starter when your bullpen hasn't been great (minus Clippard and Capps who both needed a day off). Well that day off didn't come for Clipp, or Bruney, or Walker, or Batista, or Slaten. The Nats used 5 relievers in 3 2/3 innings that give up 6 runs and cost the Nationals the game.

It wasn't all bad, so let's go there first. The offense looked dominant again. In the top of the first inning, Adam Dunn hit a 3 run home run (Guzman and Zimmerman scored) for his 7th on the year. In the 5th, Ivan Rodriguez got yet another RBI hit to score Guzman and Zimmerman again. The next batter, Ian Desmond, scored Willingham on a single and before you knew it, the Nats were up 6-1 in the 5th and looked to be well on their way win #19 on the year and 2 games up on the Mets. Then... the bullpen happened.

Tyler Walker, the new #39, came in with 1 out in the 6th and got the next two batters, although he let the runner on third come home, but that earned run went to Olsen. It was not 6-2 going into the 7th. And then Doug Slaten came in for the 7th, gave up a hit and a walk, but got out of the inning with no more runs on the board. The Nats were rolling and looked to have it locked up. And then, as it has happened too often this year, Brian Bruney came in to just ruin the game.

Bruney entered the game in the top of the 8th inning, and in yet another outing failed to retire a batter. Bruney threw 7 pitches to 3 batters, and all of them got on base. Two solid hits by Jason Bay and David Wright, and a throwing error charged to Desmond on an Ike Davis ground ball. That scored Jason Bay. And that was it for Bruney. He failed to retire a single batter and for the 4th time in his last 6 outings, he gave up at least 1 run. This is not the job of someone you're paying $1.5 million to be the "set up guy." Then it was Clippard's turn to try and save the day.

Clippard came in inheriting runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Clipp struck out Jeff Francoeur and looked to be on his way. Instead, on the next batter he left a pitch over the plate for the new-found power hitter Rod Barajas who crushed one to deep left that hit off the wall for a double. It scored both runners on base, so Clippard let his 10th inherited runner score in 16 opportunities. Not the best situation for your #1 set up man to be in. Alex Cora then hit a bunt single moving Barajas to 3rd, Angel Pagan then singled to right, scoring Barajas and blowing his 5th save on the season.

Just to remind you, if you've already forgotten, the Nats entered the 8th up 6-2! It was now 7-6 and the Nats were losing. An epic bullpen meltdown, made possible by none other than the Brian -Gas Can- Bruney. Clippard then gave up another double, scoring Pagan and putting him in line for his first loss of the year. Miguel Batista came in to relieve Clippard (yes, this was the 3rd reliever on the inning, with only 1 out). He immediately intentionally walked Reyes to get the double play in order. Fine and good. Except, then he walked the next batter, Jason Bay, with the bases loaded. That's right, walked in the run. He then struck out David Wright and got Ike Davis to fly out, ending the painful 8th.

There would be no offensive heroics this time. The Nats (Rodriguez, Willingham, Desmond) went in order in the 9th to end the game and move back into a tie for 2nd in the NL East with the Mets.

Today's afternoon game to end the series at Citi Field will really show if the Nats are able to come back from such a meltdown. I know I've used meltdown twice in this post, I simply can't think of another word to describe last night's game. Craig Stammen will try to reverse the momentum of the 8th inning to move the Nats toward another win.

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