The Washington Nationals lost today’s game 6-1 but it really was a close game for 8 innings as the Nats had their chances, and at one point had the winning run with Bryce Harper standing in the batter’s box in the bottom of the 8th inning in a 3-1 deficit and 2 men on-base. Harper shot a missile to 3rd that was caught for the 3rd out. This was just another of those “game of inches” finishes, but the mistakes, the multiple mistakes, in the game were the momentum changers in a frustrating loss.
In the end, the Nats bullpen couldn’t hold the 3-1 score heading into the top of the 9th inning as they gave up the final 3 runs of the game to finish at the final 6-1 score.
Mistakes were at the heart of this loss and blown opportunities. Defensive mistakes were once again an issue as Wilmer Difo and Anthony Rendon had errors and Difo’s resulted in two unearned runs. The other mistakes just piled onto Max Scherzer’s pitch count that prematurely ended his outing at 6 innings with 104 pitches thrown. Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t charged with an error on a missed catch on a pick-off but it extended an inning. Matt Wieters couldn’t block 3 of Max Scherzer’s pitches in the dirt which were all ruled as wild pitches. Scherzer only had 2 wild pitches on his record for the entire 2016 season. Blocking pitches in the dirt is a key component of a catcher’s defense.
Perhaps the mistake with the largest impact was in the bottom of the first inning when Adam Eaton led off with a hit and went to 3rd on a Rendon single. With Eaton and Rendon on 3rd and 1st base respectively, Rendon was caught seemingly by surprise on the throw-over by the pitcher and was tagged out for the 1st out of the inning, and the Cardinals starting pitcher Mike Leake cruised through the rest of that inning retiring Harper and Murphy on six more pitches. Leake’s outing was only tested a few more times while working out of his jams. How different that first inning, and the game, could have been without that Rendon pick-off? Who knows what would have happened if the momentum did not change so suddenly.
Max Scherzer was only charged with one earned run in the game as 2 other runs were unearned off the Difo error, but in the end, Scherzer took the hard-luck loss. Scherzer’s final box score included 10 strikeouts in the losing effort.
“It’s never fun taking a loss,” Max Scherzer said. “Any time that happens, you always reflect on the things you could be better at. The wild pitches, sometimes that happens. You’re just trying to get everything calibrated. Those are going to happen. Other things, some of the pitch executions that came down today that kind of led to some counts that they could drive the ball against me.”
Scherzer is a fierce competitor who was analyzing his own performance and was not happy with his changeup and the general tenor of the game. Scherzer and the Washington Nationals will have to wait for Friday to play their next game as Thursday is a day-off and for some a day to analyze their performance not only for today but for the first 9 games of the season.