Last night was a game that baseball purists love as Stephen Strasburg was dominating through six innings last night. He knew the 7th inning would be his last, and maybe he knew that he had to plunk a batter. That batter he hit also hurt his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, who took the deflection off of his left ear. That seemed to unnerve Strasburg and his inning quickly unraveled. If you had a great bullpen, maybe you make a move there and call it a night in a 0-0 game. Instead, Strasburg remained in the game and gave up two singles to load the bases. At this point the former first overall draft pick had to save his own game, and he nearly did. Stras got a key strikeout for the second out of the inning, but then Lorenzo Cain ripped a bases clearing double to put the game in quick peril. The ending for the Nationals matched the same fate of how their season started — as a shutout.
The wheels really came off the wagon when Dan Jennings relieved Strasburg and allowed Cain to score plus 2 more batters. Jennings just is not a strikeout pitcher and 11 of the 21 batters he has faced have reached base in his limited tenure with the Nats. The result: the Nats have lost 10-of-their-last-13 games and are now 7 games below .500 and are trying to salvage another series. The Nationals have not been this far below .500 since 2011. General manager Mike Rizzo thinks they are playing their worst defense ever, and the stats prove that out according to Fangraphs which lists the Nationals last in team defensive ratings.
“Nobody is more upset and disappointed than I am. With that said, we have played bad baseball — just in general,” Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan radio this morning. “The one bright spot is our big three starters have given us a chance to win each and every time out. They pitch well and they deserve better fates. But beyond that, the bullpen has been poor. The offense after the injuries has been practically non-existent and most importantly to me which impacts the starting pitching, the bullpen pitching is our defense. Our defense has been as bad as I’ve seen it since I’ve come to Washington.”
While Rizzo is right on everything he has said, he is the architect of this team, and has to take responsibility for many of the personnel failures that began with the bullpen and has now leaked over to the offense and defense. Many of his decisions have added to the negatives of the season. While injuries happen, he had line-ups where he was playing four sub-Mendoza players during some games. Is it any surprise that this team has scored 3-runs or less in 19 of the team’s 35 games (54.3%) and 10-of-the-last-12 games? These are facts. The bullpen issues have moved to the back seat of issues as you will not win many games scoring one or two runs and you will never win scoring zero runs. The defense must improve and start to play some of the tough plays. If you are not hitting, what else are you doing to help your team win?
Once the rumors surfaced that Gerardo Parra was DFA’d by the Giants, we began speaking of an acquisition that could at least improve the 4th outfielder spot if the team was not going to promote their hottest minor leaguer, Rhett Wiseman, who was just named Double-A minor leaguer for the month of April. As of last night, the Parra ideas of coming to the Nationals seem to be a reality although not official. In addition, Juan Soto is set to come off of the 10-day IL on Saturday, and Mike Rizzo said he believes that Matt Adams is not far behind Soto on the activation list and then Trea Turner. This team will have some tough decisions once all of the injured players return.
Parra just turned 32 years old this week and while his .198 batting average is not an upgrade over Eaton, Robles or Soto, he is an upgrade over Michael A. Taylor who is batting near .100 these days, and maybe just maybe Parra can return to the .280’s hitter he was at last year. On the road this season, Parra was batting .244 and struggled in San Francisco. He certainly is a change of scenery candidate. If Parra cannot return to form, he will probably be DFA’d again, but for now you have to try any incremental upgrades because the current personnel are not getting it done.
Washington Nationals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Stadium: Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1st Pitch: 1:10 pm EDT
TV: MASN; MLB.TV app out-of-network
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
Eaton LF Robles RF Rendon 3B Gomes C Dozier 2B Difo SS Adrian Sanchez 1B Taylor CF Hellickson RHP