Baseball was at its unpredictable best on the Nats’ road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and the injury bug is, evidently, the size of a bear.
Losing Jayson Werth was a huge blow in the last game of the homestand, then Wilson Ramos went down six days later, just as he was 5-for-16 and had hit his third home run earlier in the game.
The Werth situation presented Roger Bernadina with playing time, and he has responded to the tune of 6-for-17 over four games, flashing his speed and power - the combination he has always possessed but not always shown at the major league level.
Ramos’ injury earns Double-A catcher Sandy Leon his major league debut, which is about to happen in the rain tonight at Nationals Park. His .319 batting average at Harrisburg is enough to get your attention, and he also possesses good hands, a sharp mind and plus arm behind the plate. He’s a line-drive gap-to-gap hitter with probably less power than Jesus Flores and a lot less than Ramos. Flores was magnificent defensively in that excruciating game Sunday in Cincinnati, plus he had two hits and a sacrifice fly.
Good organizations have the depth to deal with injuries, and Washington is deep at all levels, but it’s tough to lose your front line players.
Then, on the trip, were the games themselves.
One would expect the Nationals to win the series at Pittsburgh, then take their chances in hard-to-handle Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. As baseball would have it, things worked out exactly the opposite.
Offense was hard to come by at PNC Park, where the Nats lost two of three, but should have won the series if Henry Rodriguez hadn’t blown a save Tuesday night - a tough one to swallow when light-hitting Rod Barajas hit the walk-off HR. Stephen Strasburg was brilliant in grabbing the salvage game Thursday to break a six-game road losing streak.
In Cincinnati, Washington bats came alive - 15 runs on 34 hits in three games - and that should’ve been enough to sweep. Saturday night’s 2-1 win was a classic and Sunday’s shaped up as a sweeper, but ill-timed walks by H-Rod and Joey Votto’s performance for the ages got in the way.
There’s nothing wrong with a 3-3 trip. It could have been better, but now it’s home sweet home for seven straight against the beatable Padres and Pirates, then the very surprising and looking-good Orioles.