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Thru 3: Nats up 6-2

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There are two ways, I suppose, to look at the first three innings of today’s game. First way: Wow, the Nats’ bats came out in force early against Josh Johnson and seized control of this one. Second way: Boy, Scott Olsen needs to learn how to pitch with a lead.

The good news is that, yes, the Nats stormed out of the gates with a five-run first inning, highlighted by Austin Kearns’ grand slam to left. Washington put its first four men on base against Johnson, then Kearns turned on a hanging slider and absolutely crushed it into the left-field bleachers for his second career grand slam.

But the flip side involves Olsen, who was handed a 5-run lead and nearly gave it all back in one fell swoop. What’s the last thing you want a pitcher to do with a 5-run lead? Start nibbling around and putting guys on base. The first man Olsen faced to start the second, he fell behind 3-1 before finally surrendering a single. Two batters later, Ronny Paulino belted a 2-run homer to center on a fastball that was clocked at 87 mph. Then Cody Ross doubled, then Olsen walked the No. 8 hitter, Cameron Maybin, on five pitches. It took a fouled off bunt for strike three by Johnson, followed by a groundout to third to keep Olsen from making things worse.

To Olsen’s credit, he did come back out in the third and retire the side in order. Still, the young lefty needs a lesson in how to pitch with a lead.

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Mark Zuckerman

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