The Washington Nationals had a rough series opener against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night losing 15-0, which was the worst loss in team history since 2005. The Nats looked to come in to recover from that beating on Saturday afternoon behind Ross Detwiler, and they did just that, even if it did come off the rails a bit in the late innings.
Speaking of Detwiler, he had quite the first start of the season as he validated his "best fifth starter in baseball" moniker. He threw six innings of one run, six hit effective baseball. He threw just 82 pitches, most of which were fastballs, and he found ways to get out of a few minor jams throughout the game. Detwiler's performance seemed like a totally different game from what happened from the eighth inning on, though.
The Nats bullpen had a 5-1 lead when Detwiler left the game, and Tyler Clippard threw a dominant seventh inning to keep that going. The eighth and ninth inning with Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano, respectively, were less great. Storen was throwing pretty well, actually, but he couldn't have possibly had worse luck. Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper each had an error on the same play that allowed a run to score, which put the Reds within two runs of the Nats who, at one point, had a commanding four run lead.
As unlucky as Storen was, Soriano was just as bad. He missed spots, threw wild pitches, and allowed a home run. It was his first blown save of the season. Soriano looked incredible in his appearance on Opening Day, but none of that pinpoint precision showed up in today's game. It's certainly not a long term concern on April 6th, but he was incredibly ineffective against a very good Reds lineup.
Craig Stammen's performance was a different story. He came in in the 10th and 11th innings and totally dominated, mostly as a result of his slider. He did allow two hits and an earned run, but his performance was exactly what kept the Nats in the game. His slider has always been his best pitch, and he controlled it extremely well and confused batters all the way until the end of the game. Stammen has the unique ability to have dynamic secondary pitches and also throw well for several innings, if necessary. His value can sometimes be understated.
Outside of the pitching stories that evolved in today's game, the offense also made its appearance after a rough start to the series. They hit five home runs: Harper, Ramos, Werth, Desmond, and Ramos again. Desmond was able to recover from his two errors with his 11th inning blast, but it was Ramos' second home run of the game that gave the Nats the runs to put them over the top. According to FP Santangelo on the broadcast, the Nats hit 2,044 feet of home runs at a hitter friendly ballpark. Just about all of the Nats home runs would have left almost every ballpark in the country.
As an aside, I don't like to criticize umpires any more than necessary, but it appeared there were some very questionable calls by the men in blue today. Detwiler has two hit-by-pitches from today's game, and it didn't look like either of them actually hit the batter. The one on Joey Votto really wasn't close, and the one with Shin-Soo Choo seemed to barely (maybe?) graze his jersey. The third base ump blew a check swing on Votto in the 11th inning that almost came back to haunt the Nats, but it didn't end up mattering in the final result.