Through three-and-a-half innings today the Nationals looked like they were in cruise-control. Up four to nothing entering the bottom of the fourth, and with two consecutive wins under their belt, Nationals fans felt a glimmer of hope that perhaps they were finally turning that elusive corner.
And why not? Jason Marquis, who the club had just signed to a two-year $15 million contract, was pitching a no-hitter and had even slapped an RBI double. The club was producing runs without their star power-hitting third baseman and they were doing it against the reigning National League Champions, with their former World Series MVP on the mound.
But those hopes would have to wait for another day. The Nationals began to unfold in the fourth, and fell apart in the fifth. Washington gave up two runs by the hands of Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard in the fourth before letting the game slip away with five runs in the fifth. Jason Marquis' great start turned into a blowout as he was chased out of the game in the fifth after allowing all of the Phillies seven runs, six of them earned. In 4.2 innings of work he gave up six hits and walked two while striking out only one.
It was a frustrating time for everyone involved. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman visited Marquis on the mound in the midst of his struggles, only to fall into an argument with and eventually draw an ejection from home plate umpire Paul Schrieber. Unfortunately, the ejection didn't fire his team up, but rather preceded its collapse.
The bullpen came on and tossed 3.2 shutout innings to give the Nationals a chance to mount a comeback, but it never came. The Nationals only earned one hit from the fifth inning on, leaving them behind to fall 7-4.
Solid Bullpen: Jesse English, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett, and Miguel Batista combined to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings for the Nationals after Marquis was chased out of the game. The battery walked only one, and allowed only two hits while recording two strikeouts.
Guzmania: Cristian Guzman continues to hit well while serving as a utility man for the Nats early this season. Guzman is batting .300 and has played second base, shortstop, and right field already this season. Of course, despite Guzmans' .300 batting average he is only getting on base at .300 with no walks in 16 plate appearances.
No Rollins, No Problem: The Phillies were without the services of their shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who suffered a minor injury running in the outfield during pre-game warm ups. Rollins had been one of the clubs hottest hitters, batting .391/.516/.739 in six games this season.
When Jason Marquis forced replacement infielder Juan Castro to groundout to second, the Nationals had an 86.9% chance of winning the game. This was the closest they would get as the Phillies battled back, going from a 13.1% chance to win the game with one out in the fourth, to an 87% chance after Chase Utley hit his two run homer in the fifth inning.
Talk about a turnaround.
According to WPA (Win Probability Added), Marquis was both the Nationals least valuable pitcher and their most valuable hitter. His two run double earned him a WPA of .112, however his terrible pitching outing earned him a WPA of -.510.