The little things continue to be a big deal for the Nationals, whose division-title hopes look bleaker by the day.
On Monday night the opposing pitcher, Rick Porcello, hit a bases-loaded double to drive in three runs in the top of the second off former teammate Max Scherzer as the Boston Red Sox beat Washington 4-3 before a crowd of 39,0002.
Porcello, who had not driven in a run since 2009, hit a fastball down the middle on an 0-2 pitch from Scherzer with two outs. That came after the Nationals gave an intentional walk to No. 8 hitter Jackie Bradley, Jr., the Virginia native and Red Sox center fielder.
“I am sure he had his reasons,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of that 0-2 pitch by Scherzer.
“I know he can hit. We played together (in Detroit). I’ve seen him hit,” Scherzer said. “Give him a couple sliders to keep him off balance and then was trying to get a fastball up and away and it ran back middle-in. Anybody can hit middle-in. He can do that. I’ve seen him do it. That’s where you’ve got to be better, no matter what. You’ve got to execute pitches against everybody. Just because it’s a pitcher doesn’t mean you can ever let up.”
The third-place Nationals (42-41) are now a season-high seven games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The two-defending division champs are 9-18 since June 1 and have not won two games in a row in nearly a month.
“Things will turn around. The boys were intense. They played really well. I am proud of them,” Martinez said. “The energy was phenomenal today.”
Washington is now 8-16 in one-run games this season. So does that reflect at all on the manager?
“Hey, I come here every day to do my job,” Martinez said. “We have been in every game. We don’t point fingers around here. When we go down we go down together. When we win we win together.”
Scherzer (10-5) has not won a game in nearly a month while Monday was just the second start this year he allowed more than two earned runs in a game.
“They have a lineup that grinds at-bats,” Scherzer said of the Red Sox. “They don’t give in. They have a really professional approach all the way through the lineup.”
Martinez had no problems with the Bradley a walk in the second.
“I will do it one hundred times out of one hundred,” Martinez said of giving Bradley, Jr. an intentional walk.
To make his point Martinez gave a free pass again to Bradley in the sixth and Porcello struck out to end the frame.
But by then the damage had been done.
On the bases, Nationals first baseman Daniel Murphy was thrown out at third in the second inning after a single to right by Wilmer Difo. “I don’t fault him for doing that. We will start winning games. Things will turn around for us,” Martinez said.
The question, of course, is when?