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Instant analysis: Nats 3, Dodgers 2

May 7, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After waiting out a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay — what else is new? — Stephen Strasburg took the mound trying to pitch the Nationals to a series victory over a tough opponent, something they hadn’t yet done this season. The right-hander delivered, though only after another shaky first inning.

Strasburg gave up two quick runs, continuing a disturbing trend, but his teammates immediately picked him up. Adam LaRoche delivered a two-run single off the right-field wall in the bottom of the first to tie the game, and Wilson Ramos (fresh off the DL) roped a double off the wall in left-center. The Nationals squandered an opportunity to take down old pal Dan Haren in that first frame, but they battled and scratched out the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth on Ramos’ sac fly.

Strasburg took over from there. He tossed six straight zeroes after the first inning and even got a chance to take the mound for the eighth with his pitch count at 106 and his team clinging to a 1-run lead. Jerry Blevins and Tyler Clippard wound up entering from the bullpen to finish the inning, then handed it over to Rafael Soriano to close out the game and extend his scoreless-innings streak to 25.

With the win, the Nationals took 2 of 3 from the star-studded Dodgers and headed west for a road trip to Oakland and Arizona with a 19-15 record.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Ramos has shown a flair for the dramatic when returning from the DL before. In his first game back from a hamstring strain last July 4, he clubbed a 3-run homer against the Brewers. He didn’t quite pull that off today, though he only missed by a few feet. On the very first pitch he saw since Opening Day, Ramos crushed a drive off the wall in left-center, a double that normally would have driven home a run except for the fact LaRoche (who was on first base at the time) has a strained quad muscle and couldn’t advance beyond third. Ramos didn’t produce another hit after that, but that didn’t mean he was unproductive at the plate. His line-drive sac fly to right in the bottom of the fifth gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead and solidified a strong return for The Buffalo after five weeks on the DL.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It’s no longer a surprise when Strasburg (or any member of the Nationals’ rotation) struggles in the first inning. He served up four straight singles in his first frame, letting two runs score. That raised Strasburg’s first-inning ERA this season to an even 9.00. But it’s also not a surprise when he rebounds from a rough first inning to dominate the rest of the way. Strasburg simply went to work and retired 19-of-22 batters he faced through the seventh. In doing so, he lowered his ERA after the first inning this season to 2.29. And in a bit of a surprise, Matt Williams let his young ace re-take the mound for the eighth at 106 pitches. Strasburg wound up putting two men on with one out before departing, but this was perhaps evidence that Williams plans to push the right-hander more than anyone has to date in the big leagues.

KEY STAT: Danny Espinosa is now 6 for his last 38 with 17 strikeouts.

UP NEXT: The Nationals head west tonight, then get to spend a day off in Northern California before opening a weekend series in Oakland, the club’s first-ever appearance at O.co Coliseum. Doug Fister makes his much-anticipated Nats debut Friday night at 10:05 p.m. EDT against left-hander Tommy Milone, one of the pitchers who was sent to the A’s in the Gio Gonzalez trade.

  1. Joe Seamhead - May 7, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    WooooooooHooooooo

    • MicheleS - May 7, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      +1

  2. MicheleS - May 7, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Hey we beat a PLAYOFF TEAM! Took the SERIES!!!

    • Joe Seamhead - May 7, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      + another on, Ms. S!

      • natsfan1a - May 7, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        +1 (or would that be +2) for both of you.

        Watched the game on tv after I finished my work and workout. Thanks, rain delay! :-)

  3. Joe Seamhead - May 7, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Now, where is the love for Rafael Soriano?

    • stoatva - May 7, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Hey, he’s no Matt Capps.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    The biggest takeaway to me in this game is the play calling behind the plate. Stephen has so much confidence in Buffalo Wil.

    Strasburg faced the A lineup.

    • nats128 - May 7, 2014 at 6:08 PM

      Big difference having to face both Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig although not facing Kemp was nice.

  5. David Proctor - May 7, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Taking 2/3 from the Dodgers is huge. Can we put the “we can’t beat good team” narrative to bed. There’s one good team we can’t beat: the Atlanta Braves. And we have to fix that. But this year, we’ve done just fine. And by the way, we’re 5-1 against the 19-15 Miami Marlins.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      Went 2-2 against the Cardinals. The difference to me is what Matty did on Monday after the rain delay. He went inning by inning instead of handing the ball to a long-man in a 2-0 game. He also has 6 bullpen pitchers he believes in and a shutdown lefty in Blevins.

      • nats128 - May 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

        You know Davey is thinking to himelf that if he had Matt’s bullpen he would have won more games.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:13 PM

        Yes, he would’ve. Can’t win when you can’t get lefties out late in the game.

    • secretwasianman - May 7, 2014 at 6:19 PM

      Good point David

  6. Candide - May 7, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    Pro tip: Get through the Nats’ 1-5 batters and you’re home free.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      When RZim and Harper are back you won’t be able to say that. Also when Desi gets out of his mini-funk. He’s close.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    Nats were much too kind to Dan Haren. 3 runs was a gift to his ERA. I guess he won’t go undefeated.

  8. Eric - May 7, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Anyone catch the post game interviews and hear anything about Ramos using Wilson for his walkup music? I gotta think Phish were involved, a la Russell Wilson of the Seahawks.

  9. Sonny G 10 - May 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    Great game but I might have to downgrade my opinion of Espi’s comeback. Starting to look like last year’s Espi.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:21 PM

      Don’t be that cruel. He’s much better than 2013. It’s that awful approach with RISP.

      He’s also going to make it easy to insert RZim back in as 2 weeks ago Espi was showing that RZim could’ve been nervous about reclaiming his spot.

      • Sonny G 10 - May 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        I agree re inserting RZim. I almost said as much in the original post. I still have hope that Danny is going to better than 2013 and a good member of the team. I guess I should give him as much time as I’m giving Desi. As Natsjack tweeted, Espi and Desi have been a black hole in our lineup lately.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:11 PM

        Yes, it seems like a blackhole but I don’t agree with that totally because Desi has accumulated 18 RBIs which happens to be #3 on this team. He worked a walk in a Hi Lev spot today and kept the line moving.

        Desi is close to going on a run. Espi got that single in his last at-bat so he can get on the plane and feel better about himself.

  10. secretwasianman - May 7, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Great game. Way to battle guys. Go whip that team in that inferior league now.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:21 PM

      Oh, now your happy after some of you 1st inning posts.

  11. Joe Seamhead - May 7, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    I thought this was a great game as a fan. I also think it was a very well played game by our boys. And I notice that some of our outspoken, esteemed gloom and doomers have seemingly left the building.

    Welcome back, Wilson Ramos! The team did a very good job keeping us in contention while you were out.

    FP was right about who won these games would be largely determined by the lead off batters. Advantage Span in games 1 and 3.

    Terrific job by Strasburg! ( the talking heads on MASN right now don’t seem to be very bright when discussing Stras).

    Great job by Jerry Blevins and Tyler Clippard! (Blevins has looked pretty good so far. I may have been wrong when I said that I didn’t like that trade)

    Did I mention Rafael Soriano? Did you all take note of who he retired 1-2-3 for his 25th consecutive scoreless inning?

  12. ehay2k - May 7, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    Stras is maturing – no panic, no meltdown, just dealt with it, and the Dodgers. That was a heck of an outing and his defense didn’t exactly bail him out.

    Ramos is just such an upgrade over Lobaton/Leon, behind the plate and especially when stepping up to it. However, those guys have played really well for us and I would not be surprised to see Rizzo deal one of our catchers, other than Ramos and Lobaton, if another team has a need later. We have some depth there and demonstrated big league talent to boot. Really interesting comment by FP that Lobaton, an AL catcher until this year, likes the changeup and offspeed stuff, while Ramos is a fastball guy, so Stras threw a ton of fastballs today. I might have bought into that a little more had I not seen Lobaton’s post-game interview last night where he talked about calling only 97MPH fastballs last night because no one could hit them.

    Espi has regressed. Needs a talking to. Is he injured and trying to overcompensate? There is some history to back that up.

    ALR is hurting, so in Oakland needs to DH and swing hard. Singles and HR only while on the left coast.

    Note to Fister – do NOT throw Milone a first pitch fastball down the middle!

    GYFNG!

    (and go Cards tonite!)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      I think Stras plays much better with the #1 defense behind him. He shrugged off the only mis-steps which was that shot at ALRs foot in the 1st and the Espi muff on that tough foul ball.

      Nobody should ever have to endure that hack Hairston in LF.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - May 7, 2014 at 7:34 PM

        I just spit my water out…. ‘That Hack Hairston in LF’

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:44 PM

        Thanks! He makes Matt Holliday and Mike Morse look better.

  13. NatsLady - May 7, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    Oakland is in the 10th inning of the first game of a double-header. They have an off-day tomorrow, and they don’t have to travel, so we can only hope for long games….

    • David Proctor - May 7, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      And one of their best relievers is hurt.

    • natsjackinfl - May 7, 2014 at 6:48 PM

      And they’ve lost Crisp to a neck injury and their reliver Cook just left with some sort of hand injury. And now Seattle scores to take the lead.

  14. David Proctor - May 7, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    Chase Hughes ‏@chasehughesCSN 1m
    Dan Haren on the mound condition after the rain delay: ‘It was good. I haven’t had that much success on that mound.’ #Nats

    • Hiram Hover - May 7, 2014 at 7:22 PM

      And the good news – he still didn’t have that much success on that mound.

  15. Eugene in Oregon - May 7, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    Had to listen to the last inning in the car; great finish. Looking forward to my first-ever trip to Oakland’s illustrious ballpark. Any word on the Saturday-Sunday pitchers? Still not posted anywhere I can find (officially). Assuming Tanner Roark on Saturday and Gio Gonzalez on Sunday?

    • ArVAFan - May 7, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      Per Charlie & Dave, yes, they’re the expected pitchers (Roark & Gonzales). Not that they are official or anything.

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    “@AdamKilgoreWP: Nats option Tyler Moore, will keep three catchers. A surprise, given LaRoche’s mobility.”

    Bam!

    • MicheleS - May 7, 2014 at 6:58 PM

      Ghost, I don’t understand this move? I would have moved Walters before T-mo.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 7, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        You can’t option Zach Walters and still have a legitimate option in the event any of the other non-1B INFs have to leave a game (for whatever reason).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        Michele, it was either going to be TyMo or Walters. I guess Matty covets Walters pinch-hitting abilities more.

        I started hinting last week that the Nats would carry 3 catchers since Lobaton and Leon can both pinch-hit as lefties since they are switch-hitters and Ramos of course could pinch-hit against anyone.

        TBH, I would have kept TyMo over Walters which now makes Frandsen the backup 1st baseman until RZim comes back unless Werth took reps at 1st where he has played before in his career.

      • MiddletownMD - May 7, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        Frandsen can play 1B if LaRoche gets hurt

      • ArVAFan - May 7, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        Or Hairston. Or McLouth. But they probably don’t have options. Given Zach’s propensity for late-inning homers, I might want him around. He would have had one this week, too, except for the cross-wind (which wasn’t a problem in the Marlins’ lime–green “park.”)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:18 PM

        Eugene, Frandsen plays 2nd and 3rd mostly (along with LF and 1st), Rendon 3rd and 2nd, Esp SS and 2nd. The Nats are covered for middle infield.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 7, 2014 at 7:38 PM

        You’re right, of course, on Kevin Frandsen being able to play 2B and 3B.

    • nats128 - May 7, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Good call Ghost. You’ve been hinting for a while that 3 catchers were a distinct probability. When RZim comes back they can DFA Hairston! Haha!

      • scmargenau - May 7, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Tymo was the only legit 1st Base option. With Adam hurt already I’m surprised.

        Ghost, u n Davey r insanely loyal to espi. Over the last 2 seasons he’s cost us a lot of games.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2014 at 5:19 PM

        I’m not speaking for Ghost but I think you got the wrong guy. He’s ready to bench him once RZim is back.

  17. unkyd59 - May 7, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    I’m just sick of hearing these excuses for Stras! If he can’t get focused at game time, he’ll never amount to anything… Move him while he still has some value…. ^

    (BTW… ^ = “the preceding was intended as sarcasm”. A friend of mine came up with that… He calls it a “sarcastrophe”)

    Seriously… So great to have Wilson back’ I’m watching lots more games on TV, these days, but it’s still a treat to let Charlie and Dave paint the picture, once in awhile… It was a great ride home… :)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      Thank the lord your being sarcastic. You had steam coming out of my ears before I read Paragraph #2

      • unkyd59 - May 7, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        Sorry to elevate your BP there, Ghost, heheh… I was smh as much as you, at the first inning posts… ;-)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 8:25 PM

        Stras was snake bitten with seeing eye hits. BTW, Cards up 5-1

  18. adcwonk - May 7, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    veejh – May 7, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    31 innings until Soriano breaks Hershiser’s record!

    Hey! I just thought of something.

    What’s the record for the most consecutive appearances without surrendering a run? Anybody?

  19. nats128 - May 7, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    Ghost of Steve M. – May 7, 2014 at 1:17 PM
    I wonder who gets sent down on Friday. The early bet is Leon although you just never know if MW decides to like the idea of the 2 switch-hitting catchers can also be part of a pinch hitting strategy. I’m thinking TyMo and Walters are also walking a tightrope and both need to play daily.

    ———————————–

    Ghost, you once again are way ahead of the curve. Are you a shill for Rizzo floating these ideas here before they do it?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      Yes, you caught me! Mark just posted on this.

      • nats128 - May 7, 2014 at 7:29 PM

        I knew it!

  20. Joe Seamhead - May 7, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    You all know that I generally am not that crazy about Tyler Moore as a ML player, but I have to say that with ALR being nicked this move surprises me at first glance. But as Ghost said, MW must see more in Walters’ ability to provide hits off the bench. Moore has been mediocre as a pinch hitter. Also, Frandsen did play a more than adequate 1B when filling in for Ryan Howard, much better than he did at 3rd for Polonco. And he has played a surprisingly decent LF. So, in some ways it is Frandsen and Moore that are redundant.

    BTW, I thought that overall this series was MW’s best job so far as manager.

  21. npb99 - May 7, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    TyMo’s regression since 2012 is unfortunate. .840 OPS in 2012 and a huge hit to help win a game in St.L. in the NLDS. I thought he was an option to replace ALR at first base. Now he’s in limbo, can’t stick on the Nats roster.

    • scmargenau - May 7, 2014 at 11:43 PM

      Guy never gets a chance to play full time.
      His BA when starting is near 300 and he’s very good Def at 1st

  22. mrnat7 - May 7, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    When are we going to demand for Espi to choke up and hit the ball to all fields. Have you noticed he gone back to his old ways after hitting a couple of Home Runs. He needs to be like Pete Rose, crouch, choke up and spray the ball around and take the occasional HR. If not, he’s never going to be consistent.

  23. David Proctor - May 7, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    new thread

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