June 1, 2015
The Nationals’ lead in the NL East shrunk to 1/2 a game after a three-game sweep by the Reds last weekend. After the Nats won a three-game series against the Cubs 2-1, they continued their Midwest road trip in Cincinnati hoping for a similar outcome. Instead the Reds, who entered the series having lost 10 of their previous 11 games, dominated, sending Washington home empty-handed.
The Nationals’ troubles started on Friday, when Stephen Strasburg left the game after just 16 pitches due to neck tightness. Combined with an anemic offense, Washington lost 2-5. They looked to bounce back the next day behind Gio Gonzalez, who had not lost a game all month.
Unfortunately, their luck ran out on Saturday. Despite an early 1-0 lead in the first, an RBI single in the fifth and a 3-run homer in the sixth, the Nats were unable to hold on for the win. After cutting the deficit to one in the sixth, the Reds rallied in the eighth, scoring four runs for an 8-5 lead which they would not relinquish.
The Nationals’ woes continued on Sunday when they were unable to compete the Reds’ bats. Washington was shut out until the seventh inning, when, with his team trailing 0-2, Michael Taylor hit a 2-run single. With the game tied, the Reds’ bats once again came alive late in the game.
They scored six runs in the bottom of the inning en route to an 8-2 victory and completion of a three-game series sweep of the Nationals. It was the first time Washington was swept since they lost three in a row to the Marlins in late April.
The Reds’ victory wasn’t without some controversy. With one out and leading by just one run, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto drew a three-ball walk which gave his team the momentum, and opportunity, to score six more runs.
“Things didn’t go our way, but we have a chance to correct that tomorrow,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. After a six-game road trip, Washington will head home for their next eight games. However, they will have to wait another day to correct their mistakes, as their first of three games against the Blue Jays was postponed due to rain. They are slated to play a split doubleheader on Tuesday.
Last season, Stephen Strasburg posted a 3.14 ERA, 14-11 record, and registered 242 strikeouts in 215 innings. Last Friday, when he took the mound against the Reds, he owned a 6.50 ERA, had a 3-5 record, and hadn’t completed at least 4 innings in 4 of his last 5 outings.
On numbers alone, it’s obvious that the 26-year old pitcher has been struggling. After his exit from last Friday’s game in the second inning, a possible reason was revealed. Has neck tightness been plaguing Strasburg these last couple of months, or has something else been impacting his performance?
The Nationals hope those questions will be answered during the right-handed starter’s stay on the 15-day day disabled list. “We gotta get to the bottom of what’s going on,” manager Williams said. “It’s perplexing because it’s not anything you can point to. So Stras will go on the DL, get this thing worked out, and hopefully be back in 15 days.”
While the Nationals are focused on getting Strasburg healthy, they still have to fill his place in the rotation. With Tanner Roark already filling in for the injured Doug Fister, the team has not yet determined who will start in his place. Potential replacements include Taylor Jordan, who stepped in for Strasburg last Friday, and A.J. Cole, who could be called up from the Syracuse AAA league.