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Bullpen goes wild in Nats' loss to Rockies

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Bullpen goes wild in Nats' loss to Rockies

Win number 50 will have to wait for the Washington Nationals as uncharacteristic mistakes made late by their bullpen doomed another solid start by Jordan Zimmermann. The Colorado Rockies send the Nats into the All-Star break with 4-3 loss determined by two wild pitches to bring the tying and winning runs home.

Zimmermann took the no-decision after allowing just one earned run, three hits and two walks in seven innings pitched. His only run allowed came on a Wil Nieves sacrifice fly in the second inning.

I really hate for it to come on Zimmermann, Zimm pitched a gem. It was hot out there and he gave a jewel out there, a heck of a game. It was one of the few times the bullpen hadnt done a good job, manager Davey Johnson said.

Theyve been doing a great job all year. Theyve been having our backs in some tight situations all year, Zimmermann said. This one got away. We gotta move past it and focus on the second half.

Johnson took Zimmermann out after the seventh inning even though he had thrown only 95 pitches. The Nats skipper said he didnt even consider bringing his starter back for the eighth because of the heat and humidity.

Johnson decided to go with Sean Burnett to start the eighth inning, one of his best relievers who entered the day with a 1.52 ERA. Burnett was not his usual self, however, and failed to record an out before being replaced.

The Rockies sent Eric Young in to pinch-hit for pitcher Eric Belisle against Burnett and the result was not good. Young took a 2-1 sinker over the fence in left field for a solo home run.

Burnett then allowed consecutive singles to Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro, the second moving Fowler into scoring position at third. Johnson pulled Burnett for Michael Gonzalez who has also maintained a sub-2.00 ERA this season. Gonzalez struck out the first batter, but let a pitch get away from him with Tyler Colvin up. The wild pitch brought Fowler home and tied the game at three.

Just wasnt my day. I threw I think it was a sinker to the guy Young and it just cut. I think I pulled it middle-in and he didnt miss it, Burnett said. Then I got a couple ground balls and they just happened to find a hole. Just one of those things it didnt go my way today.

Tyler Clippard came into to pitch the ninth in a tie game having not allowed a run in 20 straight appearances. He last gave up one up on May 16, a stretch of 19.1 innings pitched. Today was not Clippards day either as his first pitch was a double by Jordan Pacheco to left field. Jonathan Herrera then sacrificed Pacheco to third with a bunt as Jason Giambi came to the plate to pinch-hit. Clippard pulled a changeup against Giambi that got away from catcher Jhonatan Solano and Pacheco came home to score the go-ahead run.

I cant remember the last time I threw a wild pitch, so it was kind of frustrating to do it in that situation, Clippard said. What are you gonna go?

The Nationals put up a fight in the bottom of the ninth by getting two runners on base. Ian Desmond, who had hit a two-run home run earlier in the fourth inning, led off with a single to left field. Roger Bernadina then draw a walk two batters later and both players got into scoring position by way of a double steal. Johnson pinch-hit catcher Jesus Flores who could was quickly retired with a three-pitch strikeout.

It was an unfortunate ending for the Nationals who have grown accustomed to stingy relief pitching and timely hitting at the end of games. The mood around the locker room, however, was that losing their final game before the break could be a blessing in disguise.

Everything happens for a reason in this game. The ball never lies. This is a lesson. Hopefully we can come back and bounce back against the Marlins in a big division series, Desmond said.

I look at it as good timing. You know, I think you dont ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there so this is a little, maybe, check, for ourselves. We can kind of regroup and move forward with a new beginning in the second half, Clippard said.

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Nationals' offense remains quiet in 2-0 loss to Toronto

Nationals' offense remains quiet in 2-0 loss to Toronto

TORONTO  -- Max Scherzer lost his second straight start for the first time since 2015 when Marco Estrada pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings and Devon Travis homered Saturday for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

Scherzer (10-3) gave up four hits, including the two-run homer by Travis, in six innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out 10, increasing his major league-leading total to 152.

The right-hander, who lost to San Francisco in his previous outing, last lost two straight starts in a three-game skid in August 2015. Travis homered for the second game in a row when he connected in the fifth, right after Scherzer hit Luke Maile with a pitch.

Estrada (4-6) allowed three hits, one a bunt single, to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Toronto has won six straight at home after losing 10 of its previous 11 at Rogers Centre.

Trea Turner hit a two-out double in the sixth, but Estrada struck out Bryce Harper looking. An exasperated Harper was caught looking again to end the eighth, stranding a runner at first. Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .221.

Estrada left after Michael A. Taylor's two-out single put runners at first and second in the seventh. Danny Barnes came on and needed two pitches to retire Wilmer Difo on a groundout.

Barnes and Aaron Loup each got two outs and former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard finished the three-hitter for his third save in six opportunities.

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What to watch for in Major League Baseball this weekend

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What to watch for in Major League Baseball this weekend

Nationals brief weekend preview: Get your passports out, because the Nats head north of the border this weekend to take on the Blue Jays in interleague play. The Jays have struggled this season, though they’ve still got plenty of talent on the roster.

Expect lower-scoring games on Friday and Saturday, as Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada are varying levels of good. Sunday afternoon is when the fireworks should come, when Tanner Roark goes up against Sam Gaviglio.

All in all, Toronto is good enough to steal a series from the Nats, especially in their home ballpark where the Jays hit much better. I wouldn’t expect a sweep for either club.

Orioles brief weekend preview: Could this be the weekend the Orioles finally record their first 3-game sweep of the season? If it’s ever going to happen, it’ll probably be against another bottom-5 team in baseball, and given that the Marlins rank dead last in our current MLB power rankings, they are as likely an opponent as any.

The Orioles will put two of their best feet forward in the form of starting pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, so this is one of the only times all season the O’s will be favored to win a series. Here’s to (hopefully) reaching win number 20 by Father’s Day!

Best series to watch: Red Sox at Mariners

This is a matchup between two teams who expected to be really good and compete for playoff spots, but neither likely saw themselves leading their respective divisions in mid-June. The Yankees and Astros were expected to take the AL East and AL West, so it classifies as an upset  to see Boston and especially Seattle in the driver’s seats.

This makes for a great weekend series, as both teams have been hot lately, and this easily could be an ALDS preview (or an AL Wild Card preview, depending on how the next couple of months go).

You definitely want to watch on Friday night, as “Big Maple” James Paxton, who has been superb this season, gets to face a Red Sox lineup that has struggled against left-handed pitching all year long.

Promotion of the Weekend: This is one weekend I don’t want to pick just one, because just about every franchise has something fun planned for Father’s Day, whether it’s a catch on the field, a BBQ picnic, a tie giveaway, or all of the above.

Separately, I’ll give a shout out to the Orioles, who are giving away a Buck SNOWalter snow globe. Points for originality and for reminding fans what it’s like to be cool on a hot June night.

Best pitching matchup: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) vs Alex Wood (Dodgers), Saturday, June 15th at 8:15 p.m.

Madison Bumgarner is the best postseason pitcher of this generation, and he’s a pretty darn great regular season ace as well. Injury troubles have cropped up in the last couple of seasons, but when healthy, this is still one of the six best pitchers on the planet, and you can bet he’ll be ready to bring his A game against the Dodgers.

Alex Wood isn’t quite matching his sub-3.00 ERA of last season (he’s currently porting a 4.43 ERA to go along with a 1-5 record) but the metrics say he’s been a full run better than that. His Field Independent Pitching sits at 3.29, and he’s struck out 66 batters against just 13 walks.

There’s not a clear ace vs ace matchup this weekend, but these are two pitchers who are extremely talented when healthy, and considering the bitter rivalry between the two clubs, it was a clear choice.

This weekend in baseball history: On June 15th, 2016, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,257th career professional hit (including his 1,278 in Japan) and became the sort-of all-time hit leader, much to the chagrin of Pete Rose. June 16th also marks the tragic four-year anniversary of Tony Gwynn’s passing.

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