Wednesday was not the most brilliant night for a pitching staff nicknamed “K Street.”
The Washington Nationals’ (29-30) 10-1 loss to the New York Mets (23-33) began on a rough note with starting pitcher Dan Haren, and only got worse as it continued through the bullpen. The Nationals needed a strong performance from their starter to keep the momentum from their Tuesday night walk-off victory rolling, but Haren turned out not to be the man to give it to them.
Haren pitched just four innings, and allowed five earned runs on seven hits, three of which were home runs. With Wednesday’s outing, Haren has lasted less than six innings in half of his 12 starts this year, and only five of them have been quality starts. Haren is now one of three pitchers who have given up the most home runs in the Majors (15).
After Haren exited a 5-1 game, the Nationals turned to Craig Stammen, who has been one of their most reliable relievers, to keep the game manageable. But every pitcher has days when the strike zone eludes him, it just happened Stammen’s came on the same day his teammates were also struggling.
Stammen allowed two earned runs, tied for most he has allowed in a single appearance all year. He walked Daniel Murphy and gave up a single to David Wright to lead off the inning, then struck out the next two batters before issuing another walk to Ike Davis to load the bases.
Anthony Recker then singled to bring home two runs and make room for Juan Lagares to single and reload the bases. Stammen escaped his second bases-loaded jam with a Dillon Gee groundout, but the score stood at 7-1 going into the sixth inning, well beyond a comeback the Nationals have been able to surmount this season.
A lonely highlight of the game followed Stammen’s appearance, when Ian Krol, who was acquired in the Michael Morse trade, made his Major League debut. Krol allowed a leadoff double to Omar Quintanilla, which was close to being caught by Steve Lombardozzi in left field, before striking out Murphy, Wright and Duda to end the inning.
As a left-handed pitcher who hit 96 mph on the radar gun, Krol could prove to be an asset to this team after lefty Zach Duke was just designated for assignment, leaving the Nationals with Krol and Fernando Abad as their only left-handers in the bullpen.
But more bleeding followed Krol’s pristine outing, as fellow-rookie Erik Davis failed to put in a repeat performance of his own Major League debut, during which he shut down the Atlanta Braves. Davis gave up three earned runs on four hits and one walk to turn a bad game ugly in the course of a single inning. All three of the outs he got came on strikeouts.
Abad pitched the eighth and ninth innings, facing the minimum six batters with two strikeouts, but the damage had already been done.
It didn’t help the pitchers that the offense had a rough night of its own.
It appeared the momentum from the offense they generated in the ninth inning on Tuesday night would carry over when the Nats started the game off by scoring one run in the first inning on an Ian Desmond single that scored Denard Span after he led off the inning with a double. But the scoring stopped there.
The Nationals had nearly as many hits as the Mets in the loss, 10 to the Mets’ 15, but did a terrible job of bringing runners home.
They left a total of 11 men on base, and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
With the loss, the Nationals fell to third place in the National League East, behind the Philadelphia Phillies. They again find themselves with a record under .500, and are still waiting for something to happen to knock them back into a winning rhythm.
And what exactly is going to knock a team back into a winning rhythm that has 1). a banged up rotation with now two reliable starters, 2). a suspect bullpen in which even the vetrean stalwarts blow games with distressing regularity, 3). one of the least productive lineups in the game, 4). an absolutely horrible bench, 5). no MLB-ready organizational depth whatsoever, 6). the second highest error total in the NL, and 7). its two biggest stars one the DL likely for up to another month? Even Starsburg and Harper coming back fully healthy (a big if) can't overcome all of that.
I hate to say it as much as anyone, but the Nats are not only not a good team right now but are in fact terrible. An above .500 season finish even seems to be in jeopardy.