It was a second consecutive bizarre game at Nationals Park as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 3-2. Even though the Nats only trailed by one run after four-and-a-half innings, it felt like the deficit was far greater, as the Nats managed just one hit in the final six innings.
Edwin Jackson had one of your typical Edwin Jackson starts. He looked dominating at times, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced, but he had to get out of trouble several times in the next three innings. The only three runs he gave up were solo home runs, so his four walks didn’t haunt him in that sense, but they did cause a few very high-pressure innings. Still, he tiptoed out of danger and kept the Nats in the game by striking out six and allowing just those three runs. The Nats offense wasn’t able to do much either against Vance Worley.
Worley gave up just six hits on two runs, none of which were earned, in seven solid innings. According to ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume, he is the first Phillies pitcher to give up zero runs and record zero strikeouts in seven innings since Nino Espinosa in 1980. That alone is a tall task, as the Nats hitters have the second-most strikeouts in the National League.
Outside of the general game story, there are several keys to the game that are worth pointing out:
- In the second inning, third base coach Bo Porter sent Edwin Jackson home from second base with two outs on a grounder fielded in shallow left by Domonic Brown. Brown threw Jackson out by at least three steps. Jackson is an outstanding athlete and may be one of the fastest pitchers in the game, but it was a terrible call. Even with recently-activated Chad Tracy due up, Jackson could have been hurt on the collision at home, and it may have affected his performance in the next few innings.
- In the eighth inning, Ryan Zimmerman pinch hit for Tracy and reached with a single, which was followed up by a Michael Morse strikeout. With Adam LaRoche up, Zimmerman tried to steal second and was thrown out, ending the inning. Zimmerman had gotten most of the day off with a back issue and seeing him steal at all in that situation was questionable, even without one of your best power hitters at the dish. It’s one of many decisions that may have cost the Nats the game-tying run.
- One of the most serious problems with the Nats at the moment is keeping baserunners from stealing on their pitchers and catchers. Nats catchers have thrown out one of their last 37 base stealers. The blame can’t be placed entirely on the catching. The pitching deserves some, too, but it’s gone from a concerning trend to a serious problem. Cliff Lee stole on Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday, and Juan Pierre stole second and third in one at-bat on Sean Burnett on Wednesday. I’m not sure what the solution is, but the team needs to find one, and quick.
As a friendly reminder, despite the loss and a few really ugly points of Wednesday’s game, the Atlanta Braves lost, and the Nats still have a 2.5 game lead over them in the NL East. A series loss to the Phillies in late-July and early-August means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and there is still little reason to be concerned about the big picture.