The frustration was palpable in the clubhouse after the latest Nationals’ loss, this time 4-3 in 12 innings to the San Diego Padres on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann wondered why he couldn’t get past the sixth inning despite dominant stuff. Catcher Jose Lobaton seethed over his 12th inning throwing error that led to the winning run. He remembered his leadoff double in the 10th inning that led to nothing, too.
On that point, Danny Espinosa couldn’t explain how his team batted 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position. A team puts that many men on base, it has to break through eventually. Right?
“Could be some bad luck there,” Espinosa said. “At the same time, they can make pitches. I don’t know. Every guy’s got a different approach there, so you can’t really tell what everyone is doing. Nobody’s trying to get out.”
Meanwhile, reliever Craig Stammen gave his team a few extra chances, pitching three innings out of the bullpen. But eventually the odds caught up to him. Two soft singles – “weak contact hits that I can’t do anything about,” he said – plus Lobaton’s error allowed San Diego to push across the go-ahead run in the 12th inning.
“I guess you’d rather be beat on homers or doubles or something like that. Slow death I guess it went tonight,” Stammen said. “It’s part of baseball. There are times you look back at runs you’ve given up and think, ‘How’d that happen?’ That’s the way it is. We had a lot of chances to win the game with guys in scoring position and we couldn’t come through.”
Indeed, it should never have gone that far in the first place and that left Washington thinking about the at-bats that got away.
“The last play of the game, [Ian Desmond’s] ball to right [in the fifth inning] with two out, second and third,” manager Matt Williams said. “We hit some balls hard and right at people. Just keep doing that. Just keep doing it and if we give ourselves that many opportunities, we’re going to score runs. Didn’t happen tonight.”
Desmond smoked a ball to right fielder Chris Denorfia that Williams referenced. On the final play of the game, with Bryce Harper at second base following yet another leadoff double, Lobaton hit a ball sharply that looked ticketed for left field. But it wasn’t hit quite hard enough. Shortstop Everth Cabrera caught the ball and doubled up Harper, who had taken off with the hopes of scoring the tying run.
“That’s the game,” Lobaton said. “I was trying to do something better after that error. I was trying to get a base hit, at least move the runner. But it’s a pretty good line drive. He made a nice play, and that’s it.”
Not even the normally unflappable Zimmermann was immune afterward. He allowed just one runner to reach base in the first three innings and that man was doubled up anyway. But a walk in the sixth inning was followed by a two-out, two-run double from Yasmani Grandal.
Washington eventually tied the game again after homers by Espinosa and Adam LaRoche in the sixth and seventh innings. But those were both solo shots. The Nats hadn’t done enough to give Zimmermann a cushion and one late-inning chance after another came up short. And they are now 3-5 on this 11-game homestand and have fallen into third place in the NL East at 12-11. It is not where they expected to be even this early in the season.
“It’s just unacceptable going six innings with the stuff I had,” Zimmermann said. “Just frustrating. You throw 90-some pitches and two of them aren’t where you wanted them to be. Kind of sums up your night right there, giving up three runs. I had good stuff and just two mistakes that kind of cost me.”