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Instant analysis: Brewers 4, Nats 2

Jul 18, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals entered the All-Star break playing some of their best baseball of the season. They came out of their 4-day vacation a bit on the sluggish side.

Stephen Strasburg served up a pair of early homers and despite settling down and churning out seven innings still departed with his team in a 4-1 hole and in line to take the loss. The Nationals lineup, meanwhile, gave itself plenty of chances against Kyle Lohse (10 hits in seven innings) yet managed only one run off the Milwaukee right-hander.

Bryce Harper (3-for-4) tried to get the crowd of 39,373 into it by launching Francisco Rodriguez’s second pitch of the bottom of the ninth into the right-field bullpen for a homer, but the rest of the Nats couldn’t complete the rally against the Brewers closer. The end result: A thoroughly blah ballgame to kick off the second half of the season. Despite out-hitting the Brewers, the Nationals never really were in this one and now run the risk of falling out of first place in the NL East by night’s end.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals had Lohse teetering on several occasions, putting the leadoff man on base in five of the game’s first seven innings. But aside from Ian Desmond’s RBI single in the fourth, they simply couldn’t deliver a forceful punch to the Brewers starter, going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. It didn’t help when Denard Span ran himself into an out in the fifth, trying to take third base on a grounder hit right in front of him. Span also was involved in the evening’s strangest play when he was initially called safe, then out after a long conference by the full umpiring crew for interference at second base.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Strasburg’s season really has been an enigma. In some ways, he’s never been better. His strikeout rate (10.6 per nine innings) is up from last year. His walk rate (1.8 per nine innings) is a career-best. He’s throwing more innings than before. But he’s giving up way more hits than at any previous point in his career (9.1 per nine innings). Except those hits aren’t home runs (he is giving up 0.95 per nine innings, up slightly from his career mark of 0.8). And tonight’s start was a microcosm of that. Strasburg was at times dominant, striking out nine while walking only one. But he gave up five hits in the game’s first three innings, two of them homers.

KEY STAT: Anthony Rendon is currently on pace to score 116 runs this season. The Nationals’ club record (2005-present) is 119 by Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

UP NEXT: Gio Gonzalez originally was scheduled to start Saturday night, but he missed his connecting flight back to D.C. on Thursday and couldn’t throw his scheduled bullpen session. So he’ll be bumped to Sunday, with Tanner Roark now bumped up to Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Brewers’ Matt Garza.

  1. David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    That sucked. I’m encouraged by Bryce’s night at least. Everything else was pretty bleh. Just win 2/3.

  2. secretwasianman - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Missed a connecting flight? WTF ? How totally unprofessional. What’s next the dog ate my glove? That’s as pathetic as the Nats hitting withRISP

    • ArVAFan - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      Lots of things in life are out of our control, even as professionals. That would include mechanical problems delaying the preceding flight.

      With that out of the way, Go Roark! Go Nats!

    • therealjohnc - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:38 PM

      Relax. He missed it because his connecting flight was cancelled when the airplane had mechanical problems. I suppose it’s unprofessional for him to fly on an airline where that would happen, huh?

    • mwstatsguy - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      For goodness sake,! The guy makes 8.5 million dollars a year and can’t figure out how to get to his obligations on time???? I’ll bet most of us could.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Absolutely. I always travel with my own airplane mechanic, just in case.

      • dcwx61 - Jul 19, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        Well, Superman don’t need no airplane

  3. Rick - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Strasburg was out pitched AGAIN. Clutch hitting wasn’t. Same old story.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    No question that Stephen Strasburg deserves the L, but you can’t win games scoring only two runs.

    Given that I’m going to my first game in Nats Park since the summer of 2010 tomorrow night (assuming my plane’s on time), I’m hopeful this was a bit of ASG rust.

    • dcwx61 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:18 PM

      see you there, Eugene from Eugene…GYFNG

      • sjm308 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        Mr. Oregon – 308 row 3 seats 1-5
        come say hi!

      • sjm308 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:09 PM

        Row E not 3

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        I’ll try. I’m in 205, Row C.

      • dcwx61 - Jul 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        312, Row D.
        I’ll look for you. Enjoy the pleasant weather were having

    • natszee - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:28 PM

      Or 3, 4 or in tonight’s case, 5 runs. Too many outings like this … Given that, grateful for where were are at this point. mark hit this mail on Stasburg … Inconsistent at best.

    • scmargenau - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      Going with kids tom as well. Near 241

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    I hope they play better than that tomorrow…. Going Sunday to get a bobble head…

    Good to see young Harper have a good night but the team still loss and that’s what stinks….

    Here’s to winning tomorrow.

    Go Nats!

    • natszee - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:28 PM

      Me too!

  6. Joe Seamhead - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Keys to the game, in my opinion: 1-10 risp. Third inning, two out, Werth got a crappy jump on a catchable ball. Allowed 2 runs.

    • dcwx61 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      +1
      focus on the stuff that counts

    • David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      Once again, Strasburg pitched better than the line indicates. That ball absolutely should’ve been caught like you said and it was a little bloop. He wasn’t great today (2 homers), but he deserved better than 4ER, imo.

  7. David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Ghost alluded to this in the other thread

    Andrew Simon ‏@AndrewSimonMLB 33s
    Dan Haren, since a great April: 15 starts, 5.11 ERA, 18 home runs. Batters slugging .504 against him.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      Something we’ve discussed and almost an exact situation to earlier this year. 2 outs runners on 3rd and 2nd with the #8 hitter Tony Cruz up and Lynn on-deck. Mattingly intentionally walked Cruz to load the bases to get to Lynn who grounded out to end the inning.

      Haren looked awful. I had it on split screen and he got pulled with 2 outs in the 5th with 2 on and Perez got him out of the inning with no further damage.

      The Dodgers have a wealth of starters but are looking to replace Haren before the trade deadline.

  8. Nats fool - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    A couple of things I noticed. They are pitching Ramos outside breaking stuff that he can’t reach with his open stance. He needs to lay off those pitches. Stras looks good statistically, but doesn’t manage the game well. He may never be an ace. Third, our plate approach will be this team’s downfall. This was an important game to win and we came up small. Typical Nats. I still love them, but they are who they are.

    • David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      Why was tonight’s game any more important than tomorrow’s or the next day’s?

      • Nats fool - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:38 PM

        I would say it was important to start off hot because of what happened last year, because the Brewers were reeling, and because Atlanta has a soft schedule for a little while. We were knocked out during a stretch of games coming out of the break last year. We had momentum out of Philly, and we squandered it. We remain very inconsistent.

      • David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        Does any of that really matter if we win tomorrow? Frustrating loss, but this game was no more important than any other, IMO

      • therealjohnc - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        Momentum only takes you as far as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.

  9. stoatva - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Hate to lose a series opener but Harper and Span were excellent and you know what? Strasburg sucked it up and kept them at four for four more innings, which is what a big time pitcher has to do.

  10. Drew - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    710 from Henry Aaron.

  11. stoatva - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    I am, however, ready to be rid of Frandsen McLouth and Hairston.

  12. nats128 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    • Another Tyler - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Rookie question, but how did you post an image?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 19, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        As best I can tell, if you put in certain links (like tweets), WordSmith will simply recognize what it is and make it show like that.

  13. Mike - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    You have to beat good teams like Atlanta, Milwaukee, LA, O’s, and Detroit to win a division, playoff series, and World Series. Nats are not strong enough or consistent enough this year. This game tonight was similar to their performance in the 2 losses against Baltimore ad several of the defeats to the Braves.

    • David Proctor - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:33 PM

      We’re 2-2 against MIL, 1-2 against Baltimore, 2-1 against LAD.

  14. secretwasianman - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    Couldn’t agree more. We all keep hoping. But they are just not good enough. Not too many clutch guys on this team.

  15. Section 222 - Jul 19, 2014 at 12:25 AM

    Glad to see JoeS’s comment on the winning 2-run single. It looked totally catchable from our vantage point in 314. Werth got a bad jump and then didn’t really seem to hustle to go after the ball. With two guys on and running on contact, he needed to make a better effort. What happened to the sliding catches he used to make?

    Mark wanted Stras to go seven innings and he did. He was very pitch efficient even though he 9 Ks. The HRs were his fault, but that game winning single was not. And the Nats’ bats were pretty silent at key moments. We sure did hit a bunch of balls to the warning track though.

    • David Proctor - Jul 19, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      “What happened to the sliding catches he used to make?”

      His broken wrist in 2012. He’s never been the same defender since. I basically echoed your comments in the new thread.

  16. Candide - Jul 19, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    What kind of command did Lohse have? Couldn’t tell from our seats. Reason I’m asking is the Nats didn’t work a single walk off him last night. Was he that good, or was it the usual Nats lack of discipline?

    • Section 222 - Jul 19, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Seemed like lack of discipline and a friendly ump to me.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
x-WASHINGTON 87 63 -- 0
ATLANTA 75 76 12.5
MIAMI 73 77 14.0
NEW YORK 73 79 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 69 81 18.0
Through Tuesday's early games
x-Clinched division title
UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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