The Washington Nationals biggest free-agent acquisition of 2010 got off to a rocky start as Jason Marquis earned a loss in his first start of the season tonight. Marquis allowed eight hits and six earned runs in four innings, while walking three and only striking out two.
The Nationals were able to bounce back after giving up an early two run deficit when 25-year-old Ian Desmond hit a solo homer in the bottom of the third to put the Nats down by one. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn then walked to set up Josh Willingham's RBI double to tie it at 2-2 going into the fourth. The Wheels fell off in the fifth, however, as Jason Marquis could not record an out and the club allowed three earned runs off of a Chase Utley single and a Ryan Howard bomb. The Nationals ultimately fell 8-4.
The game saw a minor injury as right-fielder Mike Morse went down with a strained calf in the seventh inning. As a result Cristian Guzman saw his first action in the outfield, with little excitement. At the plate Guzman hit a triple and scored a run. One of the Willie(y)'s will fill in tomorrow as the Nats take on the Phils and try to fight off the opening series sweep.
(WPA Charts from Fangraphs.com, the BEST stat site on the net)
As you can see after Willingham hit his RBI single the Nats had their highest chance of winning, 55 %, that they did the entire night. Even entering the fifth they had a 50% chance of earning the victory but as you can see their chances fell off the map when Ryan Howard hit his home run.
The Nationals most valuable players according to win probability (the players who gave the Nationals the biggest probability of winning based on their situational performance) were Josh Willingham and Ian Desmond. Willingham posted a Win Probability Added (WPA) of .164 by going 3-4 with an RBI and a walk. Desmond posted a .142 WPA going 2-5 with a homer and 2 RBI. Desmond also struck out three times on the night.
The Nationals least valuable players according to win probability were Jason Marquis and Mike Morse. Marquis posted a -.432 WPA with his aforementioned poor start. His untimely walks did him no favors, nor did his wild pitch. Morse went 0-3 with two strikeouts as the starting right-fielder posting a -.138 WPA.
Among the pitchers, only Tyler Walker was able to escape the night with a positive WPA with a .059 mark. Walker entered the game in the fifth with the Phillies rallying but was able to strikeout three in two scoreless innings of work from the pen. Walker was considered one of the last players to make the roster this spring as he and Jesse English were both brought on as bullpen hands until Livan Hernandez could be activated for his start. Walker made a strong bid to be kept on the roster tonight.
Getting Through The Top Four: The Phillies top four hitters Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard combined to go 7-16 with seven runs, four RBI, and three walks. In Mondays game the same four combined to go 8-18 with five runs, nine RBI, and five walks.
Playing For Contact: Ian Desmond is 2-7 early this season. While his two hits have been for extra bases, all of Desmond's five outs have come by strikeout. Desmond improved in his second game driving in two of the Nationals four runs, but an early strikeout rate of 78% is something to watch out for. Desmond also committed another error in the field today, making it his second straight game at short-stop with an E-6.
Wear On The Bullpen: With Lannan's poor outing that saw him only pitch 3.2 innings on Monday, and Marquis' poor outing tonight that saw him only pitch four, the Nats bullpen has now tossed 10.1 innings in three days. This is the opposite of what Mike Rizzo wanted when he went after Jason Marquis as a work-horse with a track-record. A major problem last season was that the young starting pitching was not putting in enough innings and as a result the bullpen was gaining too much wear-and-tear to be effective as the season went on. The Nationals will play again tomorrow at 4:35 and the club will count on Craig Stammen at least getting to the sixth inning.