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Instant analysis: Reds 4, Nats 3 (15)

May 20, 2014, 12:04 AM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: You never know what kind of ballgame you might see on a random Monday night in May. The 24,505 who came to Nationals Park tonight — or, at least, those who made it all the way to the end — were treated to one of the best-played, back-and-forth, dramatic, random Monday night games in May they’ll ever see.

The Reds pushed across two runs against Stephen Strasburg, who was hurt by a couple of uncharacteristic hit-by-pitches but battled through some tough situations and notched some big outs. Mike Leake, meanwhile, carried a shutout into the seventh inning until Nate McLouth and Denard Span combined to bring home the Nationals’ first run of the night and cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Reds have had the NL’s worst bullpen this season, while the Nationals have boasted the majors’ most-productive lineup from the seventh inning on, and those reputations held true for most of the night. The Nats scratched out the tying run off the imposing Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to Danny Espinosa’s double and subsequent flyballs from Kevin Frandsen and Scott Hairston.

That sent the game to extra innings, where Rafael Soriano escaped a jam in the top of the 10th thanks to a whopper of a play at third base by Anthony Rendon and then a catch at the warning track in left by Frandsen. Drew Storen had to escape a jam of his own in the top of the 11th, striking out Ryan Ludwick with the go-ahead run on third thanks to a beautiful changeup. The Nationals set the stage for a winning rally in the bottom of the 12th, and Wilson Ramos thought he delivered a walk-off single up the middle … only to be stone-cold robbed by Brandon Phillips. Two innings later, Billy Hamilton robbed Rendon of a game-winning hit with a diving catch in center that left the Nats bench stunned.

Try as they might to keep pitching perfect baseball, the Nationals’ relief corps just couldn’t hang on forever. Ross Detwiler served up a two-run homer to Todd Frazier in the top of the 15th, snapping a ridiculous, 27 2/3-innings scoreless streak by this bullpen. The Nats managed to score one run in the bottom of the inning but couldn’t produce the second run needed to keep this fantastic ballgame for a random Monday night in May going on.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It takes something special to take down Chapman in the bottom of the ninth, but the Nationals are perhaps as well-equipped as anyone to do it. Espinosa, Frandsen and Hairston all hit lefties well, and they showed it during their game-tying rally. Espinosa turned on a 99-mph fastball and roped it down the left-field line for a double. Frandsen then sent a 100-mph fastball to deep left-center, advancing Espinosa to third. Hairston finished it off by lofting another 99-mph fastball to deep left field, allowing Espinosa to easily score the run that gave the Nationals new life.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was an odd outing by Strasburg, though by no means a poor one. The Reds put a man in scoring position in all seven innings he was on the mound, yet only two scored. And each of those reached base when hit by a Strasburg pitch. All things considered, the right-hander did a nice job escaping a whole lot of jams, with Cincinnati going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position through the game’s first three innings. Strasburg also was well aware of Billy Hamilton’s baserunning antics and deftly quick-pitched when the speedster tried to steal home in the seventh. Strasburg didn’t get the win tonight, but he pitched well enough to earn it.

KEY STAT: With 27 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before Frazier’s homer, the Nationals bullpen briefly held a collective 1.97 ERA, best in the majors.

UP NEXT: Johnny Cueto hasn’t been getting a whole lot of attention this year, but he deserves it. The Reds right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.25 ERA and is the first pitcher in modern MLB history to throw at least seven innings and allow five or fewer hits in his first nine starts of a season. So that’s quite a challenge for the Nats at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night. Doug Fister, who was excellent last time out in Arizona, will need to be in top form once again.

  1. pchuck69 - May 20, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    This is why you can’t use Detwiler in games that are close. He’s the equivalent of Henry Rodriguez.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      I disagree but not one of his finer moments.

      • manassasnatsfan - May 20, 2014 at 12:11 AM

        Look at the ERA if the 6 pitchers before him, he is nowhere near tgem.

        Maybe not HROD but a pathetic effort compared to his piers

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:12 AM

        Yes, that is true. To compare him to HRod is like calling him a total hack. He’s just in a bad place.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 1:19 AM

        Okay then, let’s compare him to Yunesky Maya. 5/21/13. SFG 4, WAS 2 (10).

  2. David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    What are you going to do? We hit liners everywhere and they rob us. It’s just poor luck and good defense by them.

    MW choosing to let Lobaton hit baffles me.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:09 AM

      That’s where I’m at David. I said it as soon as he swapped in Lobaton. It made no sense.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 20, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      And great positioning by their advance scouts

      • lowstrikes - May 20, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        Yes, giving credit where credit is due. Plus, up-the-middle defenders with their heads in the game. Very entertaining game, despite the curly L in the Lose column.

    • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      I had no problem with Lobaton hitting there. Bunt afficionados always assume a successful bunt, which is a heck of an assumption to make under any circumstances. And leaving the pitcher in (or pinch hitting Roark) limits the offensive option TO the bunt, telegraphing the play and allowing the defense to sell out to stop it. Eff that. If I only have three shots to bring a run home from second, I don’t want to give away one.

  3. Danny - May 20, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    Fun game to be at. Had to leave after the 13th to make the metro home. Boo Ross boo.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - May 20, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Frustrating. Three runs in the equivalent of a game and two-thirds. I don’t care where they end up playing Ryan Zimmerman, they just need him back in the line-up.

    • David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:13 AM

      Mr. Clutch would have come in hand tonight. They can’t make a play on a ball in the seats.

  5. manassasnatsfan - May 20, 2014 at 12:13 AM

    Unfortunately for Srrasburg. Hits 2 guys they both scored.

  6. veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    I put loss squarely on Ross. Everyone battled and picked each other up all game, even when we had opportunities to win it. Then, his selfish mental “why am I in the pen” azz blew everyone elses’ hard work. Time to move Ross. Adios.

    • texnat1 - May 20, 2014 at 12:16 AM

      Oh knock it off. It isn’t easy to just transition from a starter to a bullpen pitcher who doesn’t pitch with any regularity.

      You want to blame someone, how about the manager who is unable to understand basic baseball strategy. This is not the first game he has blown by refusing to bunt in a situation that absolutely demanded it. He needs to learn how to manage a baseball game or find another line of work.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        It is easy to transition if you’re a team player. He’s not, imo.

      • texnat1 - May 20, 2014 at 12:25 AM

        Ridiculous nonsense. It’s easy to transition if you are a team player? Because getting your arm warmed up on short notice is about your attitude?

        He is not pitching well now, but reducing it to having a bad attitude is baseless.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:27 AM

        It’s not like he hasn’t pitched out of the pen before, and he’s been a pen pitcher all season. B.S.

      • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        “Basic baseball strategy” in this case is simply wrong. I was pleased that the manager had the intestinal fortitude to put his last position player in to take a shot at winning the game.

    • conatsguy - May 20, 2014 at 1:10 AM

      Put the blame on:
      Nats hitting- 2 for 18 with RISP.
      Reds showing some unbelievable leather when it counted

      This loss hurts, but you suck it up, and and play the next game

  7. manassasnatsfan - May 20, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    Strange stat great bullpen but we are 1-4 in extra inning.

    M!w poor excuse for non bunting

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    BS excuse by Matt Williams in the presser on not bunting Frandsen over. You have to do it Matty. You F’d up.

    • texnat1 - May 20, 2014 at 12:17 AM

      What did he say? That he was hoping he would hit a grounder to the right side like he said with Walters earlier in the year?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        Something like “I got one guy left on the bench and I’m going to use him there to win the game”. Really? You bunt Frandsen to 3rd and there are several ways to score him then with 2 chances to do it.

      • texnat1 - May 20, 2014 at 12:27 AM

        That’s just a non-answer. I hope the media holds his feet to the fire.

    • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      For reasons given elsewhere in the thread I’m completely with Williams on this one (although I’ve differed with him on other items over the season). I have three shots (outs) to get the winning run home, I’m not giving one away in an attempt to move the runner over. If I could simply tell the umpire “this batter is out, the runner advances” and it would automatically work I’d strongly consider it there. Baseball doesn’t work that way. Send in a bat and hit the ball. Just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right call.

  9. Eric - May 20, 2014 at 12:19 AM

    Wow. That was a helluva game.

    Gotta take one from Cueto to keep pace for 30 wins on 6/1. Here’s hoping…!

  10. Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    I put the loss on great defensive plays by the Reds, and one way, or the other, our guys didn’t get guys in several times long before Det even came in.

    • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:24 AM

      But that’s not the way it worked out. We needed Ross to be strong right there, and he failed miserably. Things don’t always work out the way they’re suppose to. That was his chance to really help the TEAM.

      • David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:27 AM

        I think you’re being a bit harsh. Our bullpen was going to give up a run sometime. I don’t think Det is pouting about being put in the bullpen, I think he’s just struggling with the transition.

      • texnat1 - May 20, 2014 at 12:28 AM

        No, no, no. It’s purely about his attitude. Going from being a starter to the bullpen (and a very random role in the bullpen) is actually very very easy. Ask veejh.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:29 AM

        Maybe so, I’m pissed.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:30 AM

        Texnat….He didn’t get demoted last week. Come on.

    • conatsguy - May 20, 2014 at 1:16 AM

      I agree Joe, we just did not execute at the plate. Should have shredded that bullpen

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    I was very impressed with Dobbs around the bag and his bat was decent.

    • David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:24 AM

      Made one bad mistake when Frazier was picked off, but it didn’t end up hurting us. Made some nice picks.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2014 at 12:27 AM

      Dobbs had av overall good game at 1B, but he did screw up on the play when the runner was caught off first and he didn’t make the throw to second.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2014 at 12:29 AM

        Owe you one, DP.

      • natsguy - May 20, 2014 at 1:56 AM

        Wilson Ramos threw to the wrong base on that one.

    • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:58 AM

      I was, too. Excellent pickup.

  12. NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    Well, the Astros are leading the Angels in the top of the 9th. You think Bo’s Boys can do it?

  13. David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:30 AM

    How do we have the best bullpen ERA in baseball, but such a poor record in extra inning games?

    • Eric - May 20, 2014 at 12:33 AM

      Can’t pitch your way to victory, only a draw.

    • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:35 AM

      You saw why. Extra inning and one run games are decided by fluky stuff. It’ll even out in the long run. (I also was surprised by MW not bunting. He would bunt if Frandsen only got a single, but not a double? There are so many ways to score from 3rd with one out–didn’t Span have a sac-fly the other time? I know he did, I was there! Ground ball, wild pitcher, balk, you name it…. Get the guy on 3rd.)

      • pchuck69 - May 20, 2014 at 1:01 AM

        When your manager is bad, it doesn’t even out because a bad manager makes so many poor in-game decisions.

      • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:25 PM

        Bunting is not automatic. And not bunting often advances the runner anyway (see, e.g., the 9th inning last night).

        All the “just bunt him over” talk reminds me of the old joke about economists. An engineer, a chemist and an economist are marooned on an island with crates of canned food but no can opener. The engineer says “I’ll solve this using the principles of engineering!” and designs a Rube Goldberg device to catapault a can against a sharp rock. The can is dented, but no food. The chemist smugly says “of course the answer is in proper use of chemistry” and mixes compounds from their surroundings that only manage to burn the label off the can but not to open it. Just as they are despairing, the economist starts to laugh and says “the answer is so simple if one understands the principles of economics.” When the engineer and chemist llok at the economist in disbelief, teh economist gently explains:

        “First, assume a can opener … “

  14. tmac777 - May 20, 2014 at 12:33 AM

    The Reds made great plays, but Matt Williams gave that game away. You bunt Frandsen over rather than bat a guy who hasn’t played in 4 days and strikes out 25% of the time. I knew Lobaton would strike out. Williams’ decision-making very suspect. He bunted Silver Slugger Strasburg with a runners on 1st and 3rd and one out a week ago, and now this inexplicably dumb move. I think we will tread around .500 with Williams as manager and it will take at least 2 years for Rizzo to even consider getting rid of his guy and then the Strasburg window of opportunity will also be over. At the very least the Washington media needs to stop treating Williams with kid gloves.

    • David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 12:48 AM

      You don’t think that’s a bit of an overreaction? Matt Williams is far from perfect, and he is learning, but I think he deserves SOME credit for keeping this team afloat in the wake of all the injuries.

      • tmac777 - May 20, 2014 at 1:09 AM

        i hope it is an overreaction. But I’m worried.

      • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:26 PM

        Williams does all right, for being one of the 30 dumbest people in the world (i.e., major league baseball managers).

  15. veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:34 AM

    Here’s the way I see it moving forward. Ross sucks out of the pen. Move him. Way too many rising starters on the fringe. Bye, bye Ross.

    • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:41 AM

      I’m sure RIzzo is on the phone. But you are selling low at this point. I was thinking when Ross pitched that scoreless inning the other day that he was coming around, but here he was with the chance to be the hero, and no go.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 12:56 AM

        How much, in losses, will it cost us to get his stock up? Not worth it. He’s wasted space in our BP, especially the way MW has been using him.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 1:23 AM

        Three letters: DFA.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 1:25 AM

        DFA is crazy talk. Someone will definitely give us something for a legit #5 on a lot of teams in the MLB.

  16. pchuck69 - May 20, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    What makes Williams a bad manager is that he still doesn’t understand the limitations of his players. He’s like Davey in that respect.

    To EXPECT Lobaton to get a hit there or even make solid contact is foolhardy. It’s a manager who doesn’t understand the limitations of his players, period.

    If you’re a good manager who knows your players, you bunt there because you know you have no other option.

    • therealjohnc - May 20, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Heh. It is foolhardy to expect a hit/solid contact from a player with an OPS+ of 82 (career OPS+ of 84), because that is not understanding the limitations of his players. But it’s utterly reasonable for him to expect one of the pitchers to successfully get the bunt down and advance the runner when the pitcher and defense are selling out to stop the bunt. The entire Nats team has a total of 12 successful sacrifice bunts, and there have been many times where the bunt was not successful.

      Perhaps it isn’t Williams who doesn’t understand the limitations of his players.

  17. David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 1:06 AM

    When will we learn to not overreact to reliever performances? Detwiler has been used in the lowest leverage situations possible. People wanted Storen off the team last year. They wanted Clippard demoted earlier this year. Every single year we go through this.

    Our bullpen has the best ERA in baseball. Detwiler is the weak link in there, but he’s a part of that bullpen and he’s not killing the team. He’s an overpaid mopup guy at the moment. Do you really think Detwiler is that much worse than a guy like, say, Tom Gorzelanny? No, he’s not. And the upside is better because we’ve seen it.

    • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 1:11 AM

      I hope you’re not saying we should ride out Det. He has cost us at least 3 games , so far, if my half burnt brain is working correctly, and that’s having minimal opportunities.

      • David Proctor - May 20, 2014 at 1:16 AM

        Here is Detwile’s game log in games he’s given up runs this year:

        He gave up 4 runs (none earned) in a blowout in Atlanta.

        He gave up 1 run in 2 innings in a game we won against the Angels.

        He gave up 3 runs in a close game against the Padres.

        He gave up 4 runs against the Dodgers, game not close.

        He gave up 1 run in Oakland, blowout.

        2 runs tonight.

        I have that as two games he’s cost us. I bet you could look back at most relievers and find 2 games where they cost us. But look, I’m not saying Detwiler is thriving. He’s clearly not. But he’s not hurting the team as much as you think either. Most mopup guys are there for a reason.

      • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 1:20 AM

        I’m not the guy to look back on game logs, but I see way more bad than good. Waaaaay too many games getting totally shelled. He doesnt want to be a pen guy, and I think we should oblige him.

    • dcwx61 - May 20, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      ++++
      Late night over-reactions that will settle come morning

  18. NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    Here’s the thing about using Lobaton. He’s not used to being a pinch hitter. We had endless discussions about how the mindset it takes to sit on the bench for days and then come in and have a productive at-bat. Not easy.

    National League starting pitchers, on the other hand, are TRAINED to bunt. They may not succeed (Gio), but they’ve all done it many times. Also, you could see from Roark’s face that he was ready, that he would love to be in the game. Again, you don’t know that he will succeed. But your best chance, it seems to me, is to get the runner to third with one out and a not-great reliever (in his second inning of work) on the mound.

    • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 1:35 AM

      I was driving to the local pub in between innings and didnt get to see the bottom 14th unfold, but clearly, if we had a man on 2nd w no outs, bunt was the move. Booooooo, MW, especially since Lobo has been crap in PH situations. I still put the loss Det.

  19. natsguy - May 20, 2014 at 1:53 AM

    I have never understood why after all these years Detwiler has never learned how to throw a breaking pitch. 2 seamers and 4 seamers as the total repertoire just don’t cut it.

    I love Wilson Ramos but those two throws tonight were straight out of little league. Without that throw to second this game would not have gone to extra innings.. Pretty ugly.

    These guys have to get their heads out of their proverbial asses. Whew

  20. manassasnatsfan - May 20, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Bunt……

  21. Jackson - May 20, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Horrible offensive performance. BTW, why is McLouth still playing?

    • secretwasianman - May 20, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      Because MW keeps putting him out there. MW is a terrible manager.

  22. raleighnat - May 20, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    I almost puked when Loboton was sent to pinch hit. I couldn’t believe it. It was so OBVIOUSLY a mistake to hit given that Loboton was the hitting option. As for Det, you play long enough and someone’s eventually going to score – so, I’m not nearly as upset with Detwiler as I am with MW. The bunt may have flopped but the odds were much better that Roark gets the bunt down and Span follows with contact than Loboton gets a hit or moves the runner.

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