WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-2, Tuesday to fall to 16-25. Here are five observations from the game…
1. The Nationals are nine games under .500, and it’s back to the 2011 schedule listings to find out the last time that happened.
Records show Sept. 8, 2011 as the date and Drew Storen as the losing pitcher. This year’s loser to drop the Nationals to their low point was Jeremy Hellickson. His outing was short, mostly ineffective and repetitive. The night also felt familiar to the offense.
Wilmer Difo’s single in the sixth inning broke up Noah Syndergaard’s no-hitter. Victor Robles hit a two-run homer off Syndergaard -- his third against the Mets’ hard thrower this season -- to produce the runs. Otherwise, three hits, eight strikeouts and just one walk. The Nationals have scored two or fewer runs in 12 games (29.2 percent) this season. Eight of those games were played in May.
2. Start No. 8 for Hellickson made it to the fifth inning, then stalled.
He has made eight starts, four have lasted five innings or fewer. His ERA is 6.00.
Tuesday’s five earned runs were a bit misleading. The Nationals didn’t turn a double play to end the first (more on that below), then Hellickson loaded the bases and allowed a grand slam. His fifth run scored when Matt Grace allowed an inherited runner to cross the plate.
However, Hellickson also need to find a way to be competitive for six innings. It’s not a large ask, even for a back-end rotation pitcher.
Hellickson is making $1.3 million this season. That’s a consumable contract if the Nationals feel they need to make a change. But, who would take his place?
The logical choice is Erick Fedde. But Fedde, who pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings Tuesday, appears to have an effective future in the disastrous bullpen this season.
Which, yet again, is another instance of the Nationals pulling from a thin spot to cover another. Call it the Combover Conundrum.
“For right now, I like what he's doing,” manager Davey Martinez said of Fedde when asked about his future. “The fact, all of a sudden, after the games, he's telling me he feels good. He's not laboring. And I told him, 'We'll see how you feel tomorrow.' He had made comments about being ready to pitch back-to-back days. We'll see about that.”
3. There’s no official record of “plays not made” among all the analytics. If there was, the Nationals would hold a troubling spot on the list.
Tuesday’s non-error error came in the first inning from Wilmer Difo. His throw to first when in line to turn a standard double play pulled Gerardo Parra to the ground. Parra couldn’t hang onto the ball. A replay review showed the runner at first, Robinson Cano, to be safe. No error was charged because the double play can’t be assumed in official scoring.
"That first inning bit us,” Martinez said. “It really did. You're down four, when a double play gets you out of the inning nothing-nothing. Like I've said before, we've got to play clean baseball. We really do. Got to give us a chance. That was a different game (if) we get out of that inning.”
Hellickson gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. Wilson Ramos hit a 1-0 changeup for a two-out grand slam.
The inning should have been over when Difo threw to first. Instead, it went on for a pitcher with little margin for error. The result immediately tilted the game.
“I think I probably rushed it a little too much,” Difo said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I didn’t realize that the runner’s probably not as fast as I expected him to be. I tried to rush the play, and I had more time. But that’s one of those unfortunate things that sometimes happens during a game.”
4. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a bullpen session in Nationals Park on Monday. Martinez said it went well. Rosenthal was sent back to Double-A Harrisburg, where he is currently on a rehabilitation assignment. Rosenthal has pitched one inning for the Senators. He struck out one, picked up a groundout and a fly out. Rosenthal threw 11 pitches, eight strikes.
Monday, his extension was better when throwing in the bullpen.
“Looked like he was a little freer,” Martinez said of Rosenthal’s bullpen session. “Arm angle was up. The biggest thing is he was working on his mechanics. And he looked a lot better. He’s going to go down there and throw an inning [Tuesday] and we’ll see where he’s at.”
Tuesday’s inning was reminiscent of his earlier outings. Rosenthal walked two and threw just 12 strikes among his 26 pitches. He did not allow a run.
Martinez did not suggest a timeline for Rosenthal. Instead, he stressed the need for consistency.
5. More help is on the way.
Trea Turner started a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Single-A Potomac. Turner hasn’t played since breaking his right index finger April 2 when he was struck by a pitch.
Turner has taken batting practice, thrown, and taken infield practice for several days. He did so again Tuesday at Nationals Park before heading to Potomac to play shortstop.
“Just let him go out there and really get the feel of the game again,” Martinez said of priorities on the rehab assignment. “Seeing balls off the bat defensively, getting at-bats, just getting back in the swing of playing nine innings.”
Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) participated in infield drills Tuesday. If he feels better, more work will be added. Zimmerman was placed on the injured list April 28.
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