The Washington Nationals (48-52) turned what they had hoped would be a post-All-Star break winning streak into a verifiable losing streak, as they dropped four games below .500 with a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates (59-39).
The Nationals remain winless in five games since the break, and have lost 10 of their last 12. Their losses have been almost entirely due to their inability to bring home the few runners they put on base. After going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, the Nationals decreased their RISP success rate to 6-for-their-last-78.
The lack of small ball has developed into a homers-or-nothing offense for the Nats, as the last eight runs they scored over a span of three games all came via balls hit out of the park.
Wilson Ramos contributed to that scoring philosophy with a home run in the third inning, accounting for the Nationals’ lone run of the day.
The lack of run support spoiled a solid outing by rookie pitcher Taylor Jordan, who has yet to earn a win in five starts with the Nationals.
Jordan pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his major-league career, lasting seven and two-thirds innings on 99 pitches. He allowed four earned runs (five total), on nine hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
Besides a rough second and eighth inning, when the Pirates did all their scoring, Jordan cruised through his outing, facing just one over the minimum through five innings.
Twice the Nationals made errors with Jordan on the mound. Anthony Rendon dropped a potential double-play ball, which could have allowed Jordan to escape the third inning having allowed just one run, and Ramos threw a ball into centerfield trying to catch Russell Martin stealing second base in the eighth.
If Ramos had thrown Martin – who eventually came around to score – out at second, it would have ended the inning. However no good can come from playing the “what if” game after the final box scores have been printed, except to highlight yet another dreadful Nationals factoid.
The Nationals are owners of MLB’s worst caught-stealing rate by seven percentage points, at 12 percent. Nats pitchers and catchers have thrown out only nine of 73 base stealers.
This sequence of failures has not been as noteworthy as it was last year, when the team fought with the same problem of holding base runners, because they have been mired in a slew of other struggles. But poor success rates even on small matters like base stealers don’t translate to successes in the win column, and account for one more reason why the Nationals are not a winning team.
Overall, the Pirates out-hit the Nationals 10-3, as Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, Gerrit Cole and Home Run Derby participant Pedro Alvarez – who hit his 25th home run of the season – were all credited with RBIs.
After Adam LaRoche grounded out for the final out of the game, boos rained down from the stands as Nationals fans expressed their frustration with their home team. While the Nationals’ losing streak grows, so does their fans’ right to be frustrated. But as Johnson is fond of saying, tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to turn things around.
However, losing game 100 of a 162-game season doesn’t leave much room for the spectacular comeback that many Nats fans are beginning to lose faith in.