The Nationals certainly didn’t have a problem creating offense in Saturday, but clutch hits were a different story. Even with a very solid start by Dan Haren, one key member of the Nats bullpen had another bad inning, and the offense couldn’t help the team quite enough in a 5-3 loss.
Dan Haren was dealing through the first five batters, retiring four of those five on strikeouts. The pitch movement that got him that success didn’t quite work with Domonic Brown and Erik Kratz who hit back-to-back home runs off of Haren in the second before striking out Ben Revere looking to end the inning. So despite good stuff early and five of his first six outs being strikeouts, Haren served up some bad pitches to put the Nats behind 2-0 early.
The Nats offense did some of their own damage in the third and fourth innings. Denard Span, who had a remarkable game, scored on an Adam LaRoche single in the third inning, and then Steve Lombardozzi scored in the fourth on a Span single, which tied the game at two. Kurt Suzuki stranded the bases loaded in the third inning, though, blowing the Nats best offensive opportunity of the game at that point.
After the Nats tied it up in the fourth, Haren retired the first two batters of the inning before Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone hit a double and scored on a Jimmy Rollins double in the next at bat, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. The Nats wouldn’t let that stand for long, though. In the bottom half of the inning, Adam LaRoche hit his eighth home run of the season into the opposing bullpen to tie it back up at three.
In the sixth inning, Haren struck out Ryan Howard go earn his 10th strikeout of the evening. He is the only Nats pitcher to have a double-digit strikeout game this season, and it was the 14th game of his career with ten or more strikeouts. It was one of the best starts for the veteran starter in a Nats jersey.
In yet another curious decision by Davey Johnson, Haren was pinch hit for in the sixth inning. He was at just 88 pitches and had allowed just four hits in a tie game. Henry Rodriguez game in to pitch the seventh, causing Nats fans everywhere to hold their breaths. Despite a hit-by-pitch with two outs, HRod was throwing regularly in triple-digits and good command, and he got out of the inning successfully.
Drew Storen came in to pitch the eighth inning, and things went off the rails for him, as it has all too often this season. He walked Michael Young and then gave up a single and double to Delmon Young and Domonic Brown, respectively, to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.
The Nats got another offensive rally going in the eighth with a gutsy bunt base hit to lead off the inning by Kurt Suzuki. Tyler Moore then walked to give the Nats a two-on, none-out opportunity that was squandered by the next three batters. The Nats had 10 stranded base runners after this latest failure.
A comeback wasn’t in the cards tonight, and Stephen Strasburg will face Cole Hamels tomorrow to try to win the rubber match.