Jul 18, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT
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.
NL EAST STANDINGS
x-Clinched division title
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.
TUE: Mets at Nats 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
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.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
Follow us on Twitter
- Nationals players react to winning NL East on Twitter
- PHOTOS: Harper wears custom firefighters helmet to celebrate
- Nationals clinch NL East with victory in Atlanta
- How did Zimmerman fare in first game action in Viera?
- Nationals play for NL East title tonight in Atlanta
- Has Strasburg earned Game 1 start in playoffs?
- Around the NL East: Braves on the verge of elimination
- After nailbiter, Nationals on the cusp of a clinch
- Strasburg dominates as Nats win 4-2
- Harper latest Nats player to come down with bug