BALTIMORE - The Nationals found themselves down Saturday 4-2 in the top of the sixth inning against Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie. Following an Ian Desmond line out, Laynce Nix drew a walk and Jayson Werth smacked a solid single to get men on first and second.
Designated hitter Matt Stairs stepped in and had a chance to get Washington back in the game. But Stairs grounded into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play. It was one of the few opportunities against Guthrie that the Nationals were afforded in a frustrating middle game of the series.
“He hadn’t thrown me a changeup all night,” Stairs said. “I sat changeup. Instead of just waiting to get up in the zone, I tried to hit it. I hit his pitch instead of being a fastball hitter that I am. He made a good pitch.”
So less than a day after the Nationals pounded out 19 hits, six homers and a Nationals’ record 17 runs, they mustered just two unearned runs against the Orioles right-handed starter.
“That is part of baseball,” Stairs said. “You go out and swing the bats extremely well the night before and then you run into Guthrie who is an outstanding pitcher. He is a gamer. He is a max effort (guy). He threw extremely well.”
One thing that has been good for Stairs this weekend has been the chance to be the designated hitter and get multiple at-bats in a game, instead of waiting to pinch hit.
“Today was nice because I actually saw 15 or 16 pitches,” Stairs said. “My first two at-bats I worked the count 3-2 both times. It is a process where I got to learn to be patient again and look for my pitch and not swing at the pitchre’s’ pitch.
“I wish I could say that I am locked in, but it is nice knowing after your first at-bat that you are going to have a couple more. The first two at-bats yesterday, I felt good and the last two I didn’t feel very good. Today, I felt a little better. I saw some pitches and worked the count a little bit better.”
With a double down into the left-field corner in his final at-bat, Stairs finally was able to get something on a hit and is hopeful he can extend that “good feeling” into Sunday’s finale.
Maybe the opportunity to play three games in a row will help Stairs get into a rhythm at the plate and get past his offensive struggles in the first two months. The Nationals offense could certainly use the boost.