I wasn’t too surprised to hear Nats manager Jim Riggleman say he mentioned a few things to his team about keeping their intensity going during a 7-0 loss to the Reds tonight. This was as listless as the Nationals have looked in a while. And while some of it had to do with their effort level after a 1:30 a.m. arrival in Cincinnati on Thursday morning, a lot of it was because two Reds players simply crushed them.
Bronson Arroyo threw a two-hit shutout, his breaking pitches keeping the Nationals off-balance all night, and Jonny Gomes hit three homers in his first three at-bats, two off Collin Balester.
“Pitching controls the game,” Riggleman said. “Generally, whoever pitches better generally wins.”
This was one of those nights where everything was working for the Reds. If the Nationals want a point of concern from this one, it continues to be Balester, who served up three homers tonight and has given up nine bombs in five starts this year. His four-seam fastball has little action, which is a problem when it’s located poorly as it was on several occasions tonight.
His ERA this season is now 6.00, and Balester, at one point the top pitching prospect in the organization, is struggling with regularity.
In the innings he didn’t give up home runs tonight, he actually looked sharp. But that doesn’t count for much in the end.
“I just kind of left some pitches up – those three pitches especially that they hit out of the park,” Balester said. “Besides the three pitches I gave up the home runs to, I felt like I’ve pitched the best I have (all year).”
Game 2 of this four-game series is tomorrow at 7:10 p.m.—Garrett Mock against Aaron Harang.