Previous versions of this Washington Nationals team would have ended up dejected after Ryan Ludwig hit a first inning grand slam against Ross Detwiler. Not the 2012 Nationals though. A certain resiliency is part of this team’s DNA, and that’s why, despite this loss, there are a lot of things to look forward to in the coming months.
It was only a matter of time before the absolutely ludicrous pitching from the Nats hit some sort of bump in the road. Entering action on Sunday, the pitching staff had a cumulative 1.82 ERA with an outstanding 0.952 WHIP. Through those first nine games, the pitching staff hadn’t allowed more than four runs in a single game. In the previous five games, Detwiler, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Jackson gave up a grand total of six runs, capped by Jackson’s incredible 92 pitch complete game two-hitter.
Ross Detwiler’s start on Saturday was mired in a bit of controversy from the start. After a single to Reds rookie shortstop Zach Cozart, the Nationals looked to be out of the inning when third baseman Scott Rolen grounded to third. Ian Desmond threw to first wide of the bag, but Adam LaRoche was able to grab it at first. The umpires said he was safe, replay showed LaRoche came down on the bag. In the next at-bat, Jay Bruce walked on a pitch that looked to be strike three. In the seventh pitch of the very next at-bat, Ryan Ludwig took Detwiler deep for a grand slam.
When you see your team give up a grand slam, you immediately get the feeling that the game is out of reach. To give up four runs on one swing of the bat is deflating and frustrating, but the Nationals refused to give up. Little by little, the Nats got hits and tacked on runs to eventually tie the game at five in the seventh inning. More incredible pitching performances by Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus and a passable one by Brad Lidge took the Nats to extra innings for their third time in four games. Because of the results from the previous extra inning games, it was easy to feel optimistic about the Nationals’ chances.
Henry Rodriguez entered in the tenth inning and threw another lights out inning for the Nats. He’s still sporting the 0.00 ERA with 4.1 innings under his belt. Even though they went 1-2-3, fans had to feel confident with Tyler Clippard coming in. The omen was bad when Tyler Clippard literally fell over when attempting to deliver his first pitch. The ball never made it out of his hand, and he ended up on his backside. Long story short: he gave up three runs on four hits in the eleventh inning and earned the loss for the Nats.
If you remove Clippard’s outing and the terrible calls from the top of the first inning, the Nats put forward another product to be happy about on the field today. They ended up scoring five runs, the third most they’ve scored yet this season, and continued to show ability to get a few clutch hits. Desmond and LaRoche showed no signs of slowing down, and they both earned two RBI on the day. With those two lighting it up, Jayson Werth has slowly come on and, after going 2-for-4 today, is now hitting .350 on the season, which is just below Desmond’s team-leading .354.
I can’t remember the last time I was at any baseball game and watched a team go down by four with a grand slam at the beginning and still believed that team could come back. With this year’s Nats, you truly get the feeling every time they face adversity, they have the ability to come back. With a shutdown bullpen, outstanding rotation, and an offense that, despite missing some key bats, never seems to quit, this Nats team just might be this fun to watch for 152 more games.