Both teams were playing like they didn’t much care for winning. But in a game full of bloopers on Thursday night, the Washington Nationals (47-45) ultimately fell victim to the Philadelphia Phillies (46-47), losing the game and the series 3-1.
The Nationals didn’t take advantage of their many potential paths to victory – failing to capitalize on four Phillies errors or yet another unsurprisingly solid outing from Jordan Zimmermann – and their missed opportunities spelled their defeat.
The game started off with an ordinary rhythm. Ian Desmond singled. Bryce Harper hit into a force out, then stole second before Ryan Zimmerman walked. Jayson Werth singled, bringing Harper home.
But it was then that the Nationals caught a tough break that they never seemed to fully recover from. Harper was called out at home plate, despite the replay definitively showing he was safe, ending the inning.
The Phillies spent the rest of the game trying their best to give that out back to the Nationals as they made four errors, three of them committed by second baseman Chase Utley. It was the first time in his career he made three errors in one game.
However, the Nationals were unable to turn those errors into runs, despite Zimmermann putting them in the best position to use those opportunities to do some damage.
Zimmermann held Philadelphia to two runs through six and one-third innings. He gave up eight hits, but walked none and struck out six. He was pulled from the game in the seventh inning after throwing just 79 pitches when Kevin Frandsen delivered the Phillies’ go-ahead run with a double.
Zimmermann has been dealing with a sore neck, which gave Davey Johnson reason for removing him from the game even with such a low pitch count, and may even sideline him from the All Star Game.
The Nats offense did little to support Zimmermann. They managed only five hits and one walk, and left five men on base due in part to several base-running blunders.
One such miscue was committed by Denard Span in the third inning. He assumed his bunt had bounced foul, so he stood at home plate and watched Carlos Ruiz throw Zimmermann out at second base before being thrown out at first himself, completing the second double play of the night he would ground into.
Zimmermann had reached base on a wild pitch after a called third strike call – another gift of a mistake by the Phillies – but when the Nationals seemed to counter each mistake with a misplay of their own, they found it impossible to profit from their opponent’s misfortune.
Werth was the only National of the night to get more than one hit, going 2-for-4 and completing a dominant 6-for-13 series (.462). Harper went 1-for-4 with a triple and scored the Nats’ lone run. Zimmerman went 0-for-2 with a walk and the sacrifice fly that brought Harper home.
The unimpressive offense became responsible for scoring one run or less for the 24th time this season. In those games they have a 1-23 record. It is obvious that this team leans on their pitching, but no starting rotation can pitch perfectly enough to support an offense that doesn’t score runs.