Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night at Nationals Park:
How it happened: The Nationals have grown accustomed to seeing young starter Joe Ross dominate opposing lineups, often looking wise beyond his age at just 23 years old. The Detroit Tigers, however, are an experienced group and they figured Ross out the more they saw him on Tuesday night. That included a big swing from two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, who pinch-hit to deliver what ultimately served as the game-winning RBI for the Tigers.
Ross matched a career-high with five earned runs, including one too many in this one. Ryan Zimmerman homered twice and Danny Espinosa landed an RBI single to score four runs for the Nats, who fell just short and moved to 20-13 on the season.
What it means: The Nationals have a chance to win a series in the rubber match on Wednesday against their former teammate Jordan Zimmermann. If the Nats can get the victory, they will have won all three interleague series against they've had against AL Central opponents this year. They swept the Twins on April 22-24 and took two of three from the Royals on May 2-4.
Ross runs into trouble: Ross was strong out of the gate with three scoreless frames to begin the game. But Ross quickly hit a snag in the fourth inning, serving a leadoff single to Victor Martinez and then a two-run homer to Nick Castellanos, who also hit a bomb off Stephen Strasburg in the series opener on Monday. It was the first homer Ross has surrendered this season. Ross gave up two runs in the fourth and then three more two frames later in the sixth. That rally was again started by a Martinez single. James McCann would later single home a run. Andrew Romine drove in another on a forceout at second. And then Cabrera added a pinch-hit RBI single. Ross was pulled after six having matched a career-high with five earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He threw 97 pitches, 61 of them strikes.
Replay looms large: Cabrera's RBI single nearly didn't happen, as the Nationals challenged a play that would have ended the top of the sixth before his at-bat. It happened on Romine's RBI forceout. Anthony Gose slid off the bag towards Daniel Murphy, who was trying to turn the double play. The Nats thought it was an illegal takeout slide, but the umpires upheld the call, saying Romine was safe at first. Given the Nats lost by just one run, the call ended up important to the result of the game.
Zim makes them pay: It was a sight that has become quite familiar lately. The Tigers decided to pitch around Bryce Harper and walk him with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. But this time, what followed was different. Zimmerman blasted his second homer of the season to left field, a swing that put the Nats up a run at the time. Zimmerman homered again in the seventh inning, that one a solo shot, to give him three on the year. It was his 15th career multi-homer game. Zimmerman moved to 15 RBI on the season, which is good for third on the team but is far below where many of us thought he would be at this point hitting behind Harper. Even with the homers, Zimmerman has just four hits in his last six games. Before Tuesday, Zimmerman had just one homer in 27 games before hitting two in one night.
Multi-hits Murph: WIn what has become expected, Murphy had yet another excellent game, his 17th multi-hit outing in 32 total appearances this season and his third in as many days. Murphy has recorded at least one hit in 27 of his 32 games this season.
Multi-hits Ramos: Wilson Ramos' .372 average after Tuesday night may be 30 points below Murphy's, but it's an impressive mark for the Nats' backstop. He went 2-for-2 with two walks on Tuesday to continue his strong start to the 2016 season. It's good timing for The Buffalo, who is now the most notable Nats player in a contract year. Ramos did, however, get thrown out at home on a close play for the third out in the bottom of the eighth. Clint Robinson doubled to center field and Ramos came all the way around from first base. Third base coach Bobby Henley made an aggressive call to send him, but a strong relay by the Tigers got him out. That kept the game at 5-4 and helped secure a Nats loss.
What's next: The Nationals close out their interleague series against the Tigers with the pitching matchup we've long been waiting for. Zimmermann (5-1, 1.10) will make his much-anticipated return while Max Scherzer (3-2, 4.60) will pitch for the Nats. Both pitchers will be facing their former teams for the first time. Zimmermann currently boasts the best ERA in the majors.