The Washington Nationals went into Minute Maid Park looking to take advantage of the MLB-worst Houston Astros, and they did just about everything they could to squander the opportunity in game one. Ultimately, the Astros showed why they’re the worst team in baseball as the Nats walked away with a bizarre 5-4 win in the 11th inning.
Edwin Jackson did what he does best on Monday: wiggle out of jams. He ultimately made it through five and two-thirds innings and gave up just two runs on two hits. He struck out eight, tied for the second most strikeouts of the season for him, and he walked just two, which is about average for him this season. He kept the Nats in the game against a bad team, and he had to feel like he had a good chance with the offense and a bad Astros pitching staff.
In the fifth inning, Jackson got a whole lot of help, when Ryan Zimmerman singled into left, scoring Edwin Jackson and Danny Espinosa. It was made possible when first baseman Brett Wallace dropped a pop up in foul territory, and Jackson started a mini rally with a single. Michael Morse drove in Bryce Harper to give the Nats teh 4-1 lead. As has happened many times in the last few weeks, the Nats run column remained quiet for most of the game after that, until extra innings that is.
The Nats poor play would have kept them out of the game against many, if not most, MLB teams this year, but the Astros bailed them out in the top of the 11th. Roger Bernadina reached on a single, and Kurt Suzuki tried bunting him over. On a poor pop up bunt, chaos ensued in the Astros infield. Two errors caused Bernadina to score all the way from first, giving the Nats the go ahead lead. If somehow you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the clip.
The Nats only got into that precarious situation because of a bad outing by Tyler Clippard. Clippard hit a guy, walked a guy, and gave up a double to Jose Altuve that scored pinch runner Lucas Harrell to tie the game in the ninth which caused the extra innings. In his last five appearances, Clippard has a 5.04 ERA, has given up earned runs in three of those five games, and has a negative WPA (win probability added) during that period. It may be too early to be extremely concerned, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
The Nats still have three games to beat up on the Astros, and they'll have to do just that to keep a beat on the extremely hot Atlanta Braves. The matchups definitely favor the Nats, but that's why you play the games.