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Instant analysis: Phillies 2, Nats 1

Aug 1, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals, to the surprise of nobody, got another strong start from Doug Fister. They got some quality defense from a host of players, including Jayson Werth and the just-acquired Asdrubal Cabrera. And they consistently hit the ball hard against Philadelphia right-hander Roberto Hernandez.

Sounds like the formula for a win, right? Not exactly. Somehow, the Nationals weren’t able to turn those well-struck balls into actual runs and thus were left to suffer a hard-luck loss to the last-place Phillies, who surprisingly have taken the first two games of this series.

Fister was done in by a misplay in left field by Bryce Harper, leading to the night’s first run, and then a Marlon Byrd solo homer that snapped a 1-1 tie. He wound up suffering only his third loss in 15 starts this season. Hernandez, meanwhile, lived on the edge all night but managed to escape thanks to at least a half-dozen smoked line drives hit directly at one of his defenders.

The Nationals had one last shot in the bottom of the ninth, getting 1-out singles from Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. But Papelbon struck out Harper on a 3-2 splitter, then got Cabrera on three straight pitches to end the game and leave the crowd of 28,410 muttering on the way out of the ballpark. So all of a sudden, the offensively challenged Nationals have lost six of their last nine games. That slump coincides with the loss of Ryan Zimmerman to a significant hamstring strain.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: What happened to the Nationals’ offense? Or, more specifically, their power stroke? They have now gone 83 innings since their last home run (Adam LaRoche in the seventh inning at Colorado on July 22). They did, as stated above, hit the ball exceptionally hard tonight, only to have all kinds of bad luck with their placement of said liners. But at some point, you need your big boppers to actually drive the ball over the fence. And right now, they simply can’t do that. Cause for concern? Maybe not quite yet, but it’s approaching that territory.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Fister certainly deserved a better fate as well as he pitched tonight. The right-hander had two small hiccups — a 3-batter stretch in the second that produced a run, then a sinker left over the plate to Byrd in the sixth — but that was it. He struck out five batters over seven innings, got a bunch of groundball outs and got some nice defense behind him, particularly from Cabrera in his first game with the Nationals and his first game at second base in five years. In the end, seven innings of 2-run ball should be good enough to earn the win. In this case, it wasn’t for Fister.

KEY STAT: With a fifth-inning single, Denard Span has now reached base in 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors.

UP NEXT: Game 3 of this 4-game series sees Jordan Zimmermann getting the ball for the Nationals against veteran A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday evening.

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Sigh…. Hope they get them tomorrow….

  2. Danny - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Lame.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    The cover photo says it all.

    • karlkolchak - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      Hey, at least he didn’t crash into the wall and knock himself out for the rest of the season…so there’s that.

  4. dcwx61 - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    if they hit like this tomorrow, they’ll do well but the pitcher formerly known as Carmona will not be pitching.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    But on the bright side… Fister continues to shine… Scoring only 1 run just won’t cut it….

    • dcwx61 - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM

      not in the live ball era. Where’s Walter Johnson when you need him. 56 scoreless innings…22 shutouts in one year….oh those were the days, I remember them well

  6. David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    There’s nothing you can do about a game like today. You get your pitch, you put a good swing on it and it finds a glove. You can’t help that, you can’t aim it. There is literally nothing you can do and that’s what makes it so frustrating.

    The power outage is an issue because guys can’t catch balls that go over the fence. But Ramos pulled one just foul and Rendon hit one to the edge of the wall.

    I eagerly await the proclamations that the season is over because good teams NEVER, EVER EVER lose games or series to bad teams.

    • knoxvillenat - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:48 PM

      I’ll disagree to a certain extent in that Harper should have caught that ball in the second off of Sizemore’s bat. I’m wondering if he isn’t gun shy on the walls given what happened last year. He makes that catch maybe we go to extra innings.

      • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:49 PM

        That ball should’ve been caught for sure. But I’m not going to say it’s his fault or Fister’s fault. You give up 2 runs, you should win. But I won’t say it’s the offense’s fault either. They had good swings. It just happens.

      • knoxvillenat - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:56 AM

        I didn’t say it was anyone’s fault, I simply said the ball should have been caught.

    • Nats Amore - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:52 PM

      They were very unlucky to be sure, but as Mrs. B so aptly pointed out in the game thread, a good strategy might have been to work some pitch counts, as the Phils had used their bullpen heavily yesterday. Maybe then they get that elusive homer off a tired reliever who grooves one. Or how about some small ball, such as a bunt by Span? But then in the end they had a perfectly good chance to win in the 9th, can’t blame that zero on bad luck.

      BTW, no need to shout in all caps mode. We can read lower case just fine.

      • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:55 PM

        I wasn’t trying to shout, I was just doing it for emphasis. Though I guess that is like shouting in this realm. So I apologize.

        I’m not sure I agree though. If you get your pitch, you can’t take it and fall behind in the count just to try and run up his pitch count. Who is to say you get a pitch that good again? If some of those balls drop in, his pitch count goes way up. But they didn’t so it didnn’t.

      • karlkolchak - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:06 PM

        Gee, what you’re advocating sounds like an actual offensive strategy. Haven’t seen anything like that around here in like, forever. MW seems just as clueless as Davey was last year as to how to squeeze runs out of this team when they aren’t hitting home runs.

  7. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Hernandez went 8 innings… Threw 94 pitches… And he was only really worked the 2nd inning….and I’m actually surprised he didnt go in for the 9th, it wasn’t like he was gassed or anything….

    Unh unh unh…

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    Whelp, hopefully the offense, and the power and some luck comes our way tomorrow….

    And go pads… Hopefully they can help us out..

  9. secretwasianman - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    4 losses out of 5. 2 at home to the phils. this team is never short on disappointment. 9 games over 500 in this very average division stinks. Bryce Harper is an embarrassment and a bust. This team wont finish with a better record than last year.

    • Danny - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Agree that Bryce is a disappointment this year.

      • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        A “disappointment this year” is a lot different than “an embarrassment and a bust.”

      • secretwasianman - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:08 PM

        1 for 4 with two more Ks. I look at trout and Machado and just wanna scream. Bryce is embarrassing to watch. hes a real clown bro. Whens the new guy getting here? oh wait.

    • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Well at least you think the glass is half full.

    • karlkolchak - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      Normally, I find your comments over the top, but I somewhat agree with you on Bryce, who seems headed for mediocrity-ville, population him and Strasburg. Our two “once in a decade/generation talents” are proving to be no more than average ballplayers. If those two were playing at the level their pre-draft hype and 1-1 draft slots predicted, the Nats would be World Series favorites instead of fighting just to keep an injury-depleted Braves team at bay.

      • scmargenau - Aug 2, 2014 at 1:02 AM

        Thank u! I’ve been saying that a while. SS middle of pack starter stats, Bryce is just below LA and a minus def. Why do others not see this clearly? Only this board. Chichester btw I love…but let’s be honest once in a while.

        Was anyone praying for a SS BH trade for some stud while their stock is still high on “expectations”?

  10. David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    Bryce Harper’s career OPS: .818.
    Manny Machado career OPS:. .739.

    Machado’s career OPS is barely above what Harper is doing this year where he’s supposedly been so awful you can’t stand it. Oh, and by the way, Machado likes to throw bats at people. But Harper is the immature headcase, right?.

    Go root for the O’s if Machado is so special. I’ll take Bryce.

    • karlkolchak - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      Guess who has a higher WAR at 9.7 to 8.9? Oh, that would be Machado. Glad you aren’t the GM.

      I friggin’ hate the O’s and don’t care for Machado’s antics, but as a player he is the one making the national highlight reels these days, not Bryce. And he looks like he is getting better with age and experience, not regressing.

      • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        Much of that is because he plays 3B. He plays it exceptionally well, but even just by being there, the positional adjustment over a LF gives him more WAR. It’d be much closer if Harper were allowed to play CF, where he was very good. Machado is a very good player, but he doesn’t have NEAR the offensive upside of Harper.

        Machado has also played in more games. If you want to knock Bryce for not being on the field enough, that’s another conversation. And I’d agree he needs to do a better job staying healthy.

        This fanbase just doesn’t know how to deal with adversity. A 21 year old isn’t allowed to have ANY struggles without being declared an “embarrassment and a bust.” Do you realize how ridiculous that is?

      • Rick Norris - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:14 AM

        Machado is kicking ass (and throwing bats) Bryce is not. He should have kept his mouth shut. Now he really looks foolish.

      • scmargenau - Aug 2, 2014 at 1:08 AM

        Take out year one and rerun Bryce’s numbers

  11. stoatva - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Harper is disappointing since his return, but he has plenty of company. Does MW have an answer (even a wrong one?) or will he just keep trotting the same apparently tired lineup out night after night.

    You can say, with some validity, that it had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, but the failure to pinch run for LaRoche as soon as he got on is symptomatic of the passive, cautious approach that seems to be weighing this team down. Espinosa puts pressure on Papelbon. Enough to make a difference? Probably not. But I’m tired of seeing the guys go down without pulling out all the stops.

  12. David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    By the way, it’s lazy to say Zim is responsible for us going 3-6 over our last 9. In those 9 games, we’ve scored 4, 4, 0, 4, 6, 0, 4, 4 and 2. 4 has been the magic number, but lately it hasn’t been. We’d be 6-3 if we won the games where we scored 4+. The pitching has faltered some, particularly the bullpen as has been discussed. But is anyone really worried about the pitching long-term?

    Every team hits rough patches.

  13. philipd763 - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    Bryce Harper has never lived to his advance billing and each season he diminishes a little more. He has the potential to go down in baseball history as one of the biggest all time busts. I hope I am wrong but so far he’s been a huge disappointment.

    • David Proctor - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      He was much better in 2013 than 2012 He improved his power, his walk rate, his strikeout rate, his OBP, his OPS. Try again.

  14. Danny - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Braves down 5-0. Wish we could take care of out business. We would be 3-4 games ahead.

  15. stanogstel - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    So who would give the Nats a better chance to win tomorrow’s game: Harper or Souza? If Souza, why is he down in the minors and Harper not on the bench? Boras?

  16. Section 222 - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    Nice night at the park. You really can’t fault the effort, or the contact, tonight. Too bad some of those line drives couldn’t fall. The whole park was on its feet for Harper’s AB in the 9th. Fister pitched well too. I was worried his pitch count was too high to go seven, but he did it. Gutsy effort.

    Every time Marlon Byrd plays against us I remember how much I admired his hustle back in the RFK days. He’s had a very nice career. Hard to believe no one wanted him at the deadline.

  17. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Haren pulled after 4 1/3 givung up 7 runs vs Cubs at home in Los Angeles. So much for Haren being homesick and those ridiculous theories.

    I wonder when he gets DFA’d.

  18. Rick Norris - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    Why Cabrera? This team doesn’t need another average hitter. This team is in desperate need of a feared hitter. We have a bunch of good to very good hitters but nobody who puts fear into opposing pitchers.

    • scmargenau - Aug 2, 2014 at 1:10 AM

      We have a bunch of streaky hitters . Hot or cold it seems

  19. dcwx61 - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Back in 2010, We looked at these days as the glory years. So Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg may not have lived up to expectations and with free agency looming the timeline is likely defined. Maybe Harper wants to be traded anyway…Looking ahead to 2017-2018, LaRoche, Werth, Harper, Strasburg, Zimmernmann, Span, Soriano done here and Zimmerman’s role uncertain, these certainly will be looked back as the peak days.

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