Apr 12, 2014, 10:48 AM EDT
ATLANTA — There were no shortage of storylines to emerge from last night’s wild, 7-6, 10-inning loss at Turner Field. I focused more on the big picture in my game story, about the Nationals’ penchant for losing these kind of games to the Braves, but there were plenty more nuggets worth revisiting.
Here’s a run-through of several other observations and news items from a crazy night at the ballpark…
— If you haven’t heard yet, Jayson Werth left the game in the 10th inning with what Matt Williams described as “a little groin tweak.” “We decided it was best to get him out of there and re-evaluate tomorrow,” the manager said. “A little bit of tightness.” We won’t know the extent of this injury until later today, but it did arguably play a role in the outcome of last night’s game.
With Werth in the trainer’s room and Nate McLouth already burned up as a pinch-hitter, Williams had to insert Tyler Moore to play left field and slide Bryce Harper over to right field. Moore wound up getting a bad break on Chris Johnson’s sinking liner to left, a base hit that ignited the Braves’ game-winning rally. Not saying Harper definitely would have made that play if he’s in left field, but he probably would’ve had a better shot at it.
Harper, meanwhile, couldn’t get a handle on Justin Upton’s subsequent bloop base hit to right. If he does, he might have a play at the plate on pinch-runner Jordan Schafer. Again, not saying Werth definitely makes that play. But the fact Harper was in right field for the first time in 2014 (spring training included) certainly couldn’t have left him as comfortable in that spot as a healthy Werth would have been.
— The 10th inning, of course, never would have been necessary if not for Upton’s eighth-inning homer off Tyler Clippard, which came with the Nationals leading 6-5. This continued a particularly rough start to the season for Clippard, who already four times has entered either with the Nats leading or tied but departed with them trailing.
“Obviously the results aren’t there, but I feel good,” he said. “I’m making good pitches, and the occasional home run, unfortunately, is kind of part of who I am. These outings I’ve been in this year — tie games, 1-run games — a few walks here and there have hurt me, but overall, it hasn’t been that far off. Just trying to stay the course and basically stick to my game and the results will come. I’m not worried about that. It’s just frustrating, especially against these guys and the games that we’ve been in to not get the results.”
Clippard noted his struggles against the Braves, and it’s certainly true. Actually, it’s mind-boggling. He has now faced Atlanta nine times over the last two seasons. He’s been scored upon in eight of those nine games.
“They know me,” he said. “They know me well. But I think it just comes down to I haven’t really executed the way I needed to against these guys in particular. There’s no real rhyme or reason. It’s just kind of coincidental, I think. It’s just one of those things.”
— Ryan Zimmerman had a remarkably eventful night, especially at third base, but emerged having made several outstanding plays that helped put the Nationals in a position where they could have won it late. He dodged a broken bat to field a hard smash to his left and fired from his knees to second base to start a double play, one of three twin-killings he started in the game. The sidearm throws weren’t always pretty, but they did get the job done.
“The one with the bat flying is unique,” he said. “You can’t really practice that one. The other ones are plays I expect myself to make, and tonight I made them.”
— Tanner Roark slogged through the worst start of his brief career, and there wasn’t a whole lot of explanation for it. The usually precise right-hander lost all semblance of his command, hitting three of the first 14 batters he faced, walking another and lasting only 4 2/3 innings in the shortest of his seven big-league starts.
“I felt great out there, I just didn’t really have the command of all my pitches that I wanted,” said Roark, who had seven days off since his previous start. “Obviously I hit three guys today. That’s not what I usually do.”
— Lost amid all the craziness of the game were two fantastic performances out of the Nationals bullpen. Ross Detwiler helped bridge the gap from Roark’s short start to the back end of the pen with two scoreless innings, facing the minimum. And Drew Storen was absolutely electric in the bottom of the ninth. Entering just after Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the top of the inning and left the crowd in a frenzy, Storen duplicated the feat, striking out Ramiro Pena, Ryan Doumit and Jason Heyward, all on changeups. Really impressive stuff.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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