The Nationals tied this game in the 9th inning and showed some life only to lose it in the 10th inning with a final score of 2-to-1. The life in the 9th inning also had that familiar frustration when the Nats stranded a runner on 3rd base with one out. Mark Reynolds hit a shallow fly-out not nearly far enough to give the Nationals the lead which was the story of the game.
The Nationals had golden opportunities from the start as Trea Turner singled and stole 2-bases in the 1st inning and was standing on 3rd base with one-out and Ryan Zimmerman struck out while the Marlins were playing the infield back conceding a run early in the game. A simple groundball past the pitcher would have put the Nats on the board. It was not to be as the Nationals were shutout by rookie Trevor Richards and his teammates for 8 innings.
Unfortunately Gio Gonzalez got himself in trouble in the 4th inning, and he walked the bases loaded while fortunately holding the Marlins to just one run as their depleted line-up could not capitalize.
In the 6th inning, Trea Turner hit a line drive single for his second hit of the game but did not steal with Bryce Harper at-bat. Trevor Richards was so pre-occupied with Turner that he ended up walking Bryce Harper. The Nationals had speed on the bases with one out and Ryan Zimmerman in the batter’s box. Zimmerman had a chance for redemption and hit into a doubleplay on a changeup at the bottom of the zone. It was a tailor-made twin killing.
In the 9th inning, Marlins closer Kyle Barraclough just did not have it. He plunked Bryce Harper on the back foot to put a runner on first base. Zimmerman in a 3-2 count singled up the middle to get a mini-rally going. Juan Soto rolled a slow grounder up the middle moving Harper to 3rd base and Soto legged out the fielder’s choice setting up Daniel Murphy who came through in the clutch to tie the game with a single moving Soto to 3rd base and handing the Marlins closer a blown save. This set-up Mark Reynolds who hit a walk-off home run off of Barraclough a few weeks ago. This time Reynolds flew out to shallow rightfield with Juan Soto on 3rd base and this of course would come back to haunt the Nationals who pushed the tie game forward instead of finding that other run they needed.
“We got a guy on third base with less than two outs,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I thought we’d get the job done. We didn’t get that big hit — that big fly ball.”
All of this on a night when the Phillies and Braves both lost so the Nats did not pick-up ground in the NL East. Golden opportunity wasted. The Marlins in the 9th inning led-off with a perfect bunt. The next batter tried to bunt the runner to 2nd base, but was interfered with by the catcher, Spencer Kieboom, which put runners on 2nd and 1st and no outs on the obstruction call. The next batter blooped a ball over the drawn in infield then J.T. Realmuto singled down the line for the walk-off single snapping the Nationals modest 3-game winning streak.
“Clearly the rule states that it’s not obstruction,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He screwed up. That’s not what the rule states. Clearly I know the rules. He had zero chance making it to first [base].”
Umpire Tim Timmons was the homplate ump who botched the critical call that negated one-out and runner at 2nd base.
Home-plate Tim Timmons told a reporter: “I had obstruction because the ball was not in the immediate area of the plate. The runner was obstructed. It wasn’t clear whether Herrera was going to field the ball, or the catcher. The catcher can field the ball, but he can’t obstruct the runner and clear the runner out of the way.”
Replays showed it was the other way around. The runner obstructed catcher Spencer Kieboom. There is no way of knowing whether that play would have changed the outcome, but you sure would have liked to have played it with man on 2nd and one out rather than men on 2nd and 1st and no outs. There seems to be some irony there that the man coveted by the Nationals in a trade, J.T. Realmuto, knocked in the winning run. Before the game rumors were swirling that the Nationals were pushing to acquire Realmuto. That was not lost on the players. Realmuto was the Marlins first baseman in this game. The cameras showed Trea Turner at first base laughing it up with Realmuto. You can imagine that conversation. Bryce Harper also had a comment laced with irony.
“If that guy was on our side, that wouldn’t have happened,” Harper said about Realmuto.
Realmuto walked to start the Marlins fourth inning and eventually scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly while using his speed to barely beat a great throw from Bryce Harper. A slower runner would have been out.
The Nationals are now 10-and-18 in one-run games which is terrible for a team with post-season aspirations. You have to look at decisions that were made or not made. Maybe it started with the line-up and ordering of the players. Maybe it was not double-stealing with Zimmerman up as a doubleplay threat with speed on the bases with Trea Turner and Bryce Harper and one-out. Maybe this, maybe that. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. The main thing was player execution. There are many players to look at who did not come through.
The Nationals defense was spectacular today with some phenomenal plays at 3rd base by Mark Reynolds and a nice outfield assist from Michael Taylor to Trea Turner to ultimately assist their pitcher Gio Gonzalez who pitched 7.0 innings of one-run baseball but issued 4 walks including walking the bases loaded in the 4th inning.
This is a game you have to win. These are the types of games the Nationals have lost too often. Many opportunities with few capitalized on. That has been the on-going story of 2018.