When a celebration ends with an L

The 26,719 paid attendance was even larger at Nationals Park for James Wood‘s debut because every player/coach in the Nats’ dugout was a fan last night. Wood’s teammates and coaches all joined in the cheering and ovations as Wood got his first hit in his first career at-bat and danced at 1st base. The storybook ending didn’t finish with Wood scoring the winning run. Instead, it was a heartbreaking L.

Starting pitcher, MacKenzie Gore, did his part in exiting with a 2-0 lead for the Washington Nationals. But manager Dave Martinez once again tabbed reliever Derek Law to get the final out in the 6th inning and preserve that 2-0 lead. This is the same pitcher who has now allowed 67 percent of his inherited-runners to score. Last night was the 18th inherited runner to score on another pitcher’s ledger.

Law inherited a runner at second base. Did we mention there were two outs? The first batter Law faced ripped an RBI single on a center-cut cutter. The next batter hit a screaming groundball right between CJ Abrams legs, and the Mets were in business. The floodgates opened and two more runs scored, and the Nats trailed 3-2 at that point in the 6th inning.

Then it looked like the Nationals were going to win this game when Joey Meneses ripped a single into right field that hit a divot or sprinkler head and changed directions and Jesse Winker scored from first base. The Mets’ right fielder, Tyrone Taylor, was a member of that 2019 Milwaukee Brewers team that lost to the Nats in the Wild Card game when a similar ball hit a sprinkler head off of the bat of Juan Soto.

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

It felt like the baseball gods had the script for this one with Wood leading-off in the 9th inning. Instead of a home run, it was an infield single (ruled an error) and Wood scampered on to 2nd base after the ball got away from the Mets’ first baseman. With Wood’s speed on second base, all the batter, Keibert Ruiz, had to do was move Wood up to third base at the very least. As usual, Ruiz was first pitch swinging and rolled a 68 mph groundball to the Mets third baseman which froze Wood at second base. Then Luis Garcia Jr. in a 2-0 count swung at a pitch that nearly hit him, and he rolled it over to the right-side for an easy groundout.

With Wood ready to score in the 9th inning, it was up to Jacob Young. And the baseball gods turned on the Nats as Young smoked a line drive at 96.0 mph and 296 feet into right field and this time Taylor made a spectacular snow cone catch to rob Young and the Nats.

The 3-3 game went to the 10th inning. Hunter Harvey had a meltdown that was worse than his blown-save-loss in San Diego last week. Harvey gave up 5-runs in this one, and before you knew it, the hopes and dreams for a dramatic win in Wood’s debut had all but evaporated.

Most fans stayed around for a 10th inning miracle, and it almost happened as the Nats scored four times in the 10th inning — but once again Garcia went fishing in a key at-bat. He didn’t see a ball near the zone but swung and missed at three pitches and that equaled a strikeout with the two tying runs on-base. Instead of accepting the walk and moving the line, Garcia once again showed his poor plate discipline, and the Nats lost 9-7.

The excitement level in the stadium was special. The fans were cheering all night, but the Nats mistakes would once again bite them. There is the obvious of the Abrams error, and the choice to put Law into the game. But none of this happens if Lane Thomas catches a flyball that traveled 230 feet with 36 degrees of launch angle in that 6th inning. Here is a link to the play. You catch that and Gore gets the final two outs, and the Nats take their 2-0 lead to the bottom of the 6th inning.

We say it over and over and over that DEFENSE MATTERS. The TV booth said Thomas broke back initially on the ball off of the bat. But still, take the direct route to the ball and run through it AND CATCH IT. Instead, Thomas did what he does too often and plays an out into a hit. With two outs in the 6th inning, Gore was at a pitch count of 104 and on fumes. He needed to be pulled, but why not Dylan Floro in that situation instead of Law? This has become a head-scratcher.

The Nats’ manager talks all the time about the little things, but once again, he didn’t do the little things in this game. Forget all of the mistakes by his players and their lack of execution, Martinez has to put players in their best situations to succeed for the team. That did not happen.

We should have been celebrating a Curly W last night, and that was taken from James Wood and the fans.

This entry was posted in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.