WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants, 7-3, Tuesday night to fall to 7-8. Here are five observations from the game...
1. Not a great night for Stephen Strasburg. He allowed three home runs and four earned runs in six innings. That, by itself, is rough for the Nationals’ No. 2 starter. More troubling is those numbers against the lowly Giants, who came into the game last in the National League in home runs and OPS.
Two of Tuesday’s home runs came on leaking two-seam fastballs which ended up in the middle of the plate. Two of them were also on the first pitch.
“I didn't think they were too bad of pitches, especially early in the count,” Strasburg said. “I think it's more so of not falling into a pattern as much. You go off the scouting report as much as you can, but I think in certain situations guys will come off that, especially with the secondary stuff that I have. So I just have to be more aware of it out there in situations and not just consistently start the guy off with heater, heater, heater, especially as the game goes on. So something to learn from, but not too concerned about it.”
Strasburg’s ERA is 5.56. He’s had one plus-outing during the season. It came against the New York Mets on April 4. Recall that was a day game in New York when the Mets had to fly up the night before, prompting noted travel grumbler Noah Syndergaard to comment on the travel logistics. Syndergaard had a case then.
Outside of that afternoon, Strasburg has not pitched more than six innings or allowed fewer than four earned runs.
2. Want more bullpen fun? We have it.
Austen Williams made his season debut in the seventh inning Tuesday night. He walked Kevin Pillar on a 3-2 pitch. Pillar stole second. Gerardo Parra doubled down the left-field line. Pillar scored. Williams was removed after 11 pitches.
The decision was strange. Parra’s double was the result of him swinging at a pitch out of the strike zone which somehow stayed fair up the line. It was not hit hard or in a way that suggested a pitcher in trouble. Yet, bench coach Chip Hale, working in the place of ejected manager Davey Martinez, pulled Williams in favor of Matt Grace. Another run scored.
Trevor Rosenthal appeared in the eighth inning. His first pitch was a strike. His second hit Brandon Belt. The count went 3-0 to Brandon Crawford, before a strike and the anticipated ball four.
Rosenthal then struck out Evan Longoria on three pitches. Kevin Pillar hit a soft single to center to score a run. Gerardo Parra struck out in an eight-pitch at-bat. Yangervis Solarte flew out to shallow center. Rosenthal threw 27 pitches, 16 strikes. Progress.
“Yeah, I feel a lot more normal today as far as my emotions and my nerves,” Rosenthal said. “Everything feels back to what I remember. I’m happy the way I’m feeling. I think there’s good things to come.”
3. A rarity Tuesday night: Martinez was ejected following the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Nationals were irritated early in the game with the strike zone of home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. Brian Dozier and Anthony Rendon both struck out looking in the bottom of the fifth inning, leading to Randazzo drawing the ire of the strikeout victims and Martinez.
Martinez’s continued arguing of balls and strikes led to his ejection. His ejection led to animated on-field arguing before he departed up the clubhouse ramp. Hale took over for Martinez following his second career ejection.
“I was in the dugout,” Martinez said. “I said, 'Hey, let's go. You gotta be better than that.' I didn't cuss. I didn't say much other than let's go. And what really irritated me was him putting his hand up in my face pretty much. So I can tolerate a lot of things. Don't do that. I have a lot of respect for umpires — everybody knows that. I typically don't complain too much about them. But you know him walking towards our dugout when I'm in the dugout, I hope the league looks at that because like I said, I didn't say much to really get tossed. But he felt like I said enough.”
4. Among the questions at spring training was how Martinez would split playing time between new catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. Six weeks into the season, a clear picture has emerged.
Suzuki will be paired with Anibal Sanchez and Strasburg. Familiarity is the key there. Suzuki caught Sanchez last year in Atlanta during Sanchez’s resurgence. He previously caught Strasburg during his first stop in Washington from 2012-13.
Gomes will catch Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Jeremy Hellickson -- for the most part.
“We’ve got two really good catchers,” Martinez said. “They could play any given day.”
5. Brian Dozier and Victor Robles returned to the lineup Tuesday. Dozier’s appearance meant Howie Kendrick was back to the bench (for most of the night) and Wilmer Difo remained at shortstop. The latter is going to continue until Trea Turner is healed from a broken finger (there remains no timetable).
Difo came into Tuesday hitting .184. Restless folks have asked if there is a way to play someone -- currently on the roster -- at shortstop instead of him. That’s not going to happen.
Kendrick is 35 years old, has never played shortstop in the majors and is coming off an Achilles tendon tear last season as well as a hamstring pull in spring training. He can’t play regularly without a significant risk of injury.
Dozier has not played shortstop since his rookie year in 2012, when he was a below-average defensive shortstop as a 25 year old. Dozier turns 32 in a month.
Rendon is not moving from third. The end.
Difo picked up two hits Tuesday. His offense will never be elite. It will likely not be league average. But, he’s not being removed from shortstop any time soon, and not for anyone currently on the roster.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
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- No Deal: Bud Norris will not join the Nats at this time