The Nationals dropped another one-run squeaker to the Braves, 2-1, failing to take advantage of opportunities presented to them with runners in scoring position.
On Monday, the Nationals were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. On Tuesday, 0-for-5.
First baseman Adam LaRoche reviewed his chance in the seventh. Facing reliever Luis Avilan, LaRoche worked the count to 2-0 on a pair of two-seam fastballs. On the third offering, LaRoche also faced a two-seam fastball that he weakly grounded to first baseman Freddie Freeman for the out to end the inning, stranding the bases loaded.
LaRoche thought Avilan was going to go four-seamer after getting down 2-0. It didn’t happen.
“I have seen him and faced him enough to know that he has got a really good two-seamer that he will run in and he will go back to the four-seamer when he needs a strike,” LaRoche said.
“That was a spot there where it was a good time to get that strike with the four-seamer. He went back with the two-seamer in and beat me to the spot.”
LaRoche said he had not yet looked the video replay of the pitch, but he thought he had a shot at it when it was released.
“I haven’t gone back and looked at it,” LaRoche said. “When it came out of his hand, it looked great. I don’t know how much run at the end it had on it, whether it came in off or not. I have hit that pitch plenty. Again, it just beat me to the spot.”
Earlier in the fifth against starter Julio Teheran, starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez stepped in after Anthony Rendon had led off with a double. Gonzalez was looking to bunt Rendon over with no one out.
Instead, he attempted to bunt on a high pitch and popped out to catcher for the first out.
“The disappointment of tonight’s game is if I had laid that bunt down, it was a different game,” Gonzalez said.
Bryce Harper was then hit by pitch (which caused a stir with the benches clearing but no punches thrown) with men were on first and second with one out. Ryan Zimmerman came up and flew out to center field.
Gonzalez felt that if he had been able to sacrifice Rendon to third base, the Zimmerman flyout would have instead been a sacrifice fly RBI.
“If I lay that bunt down, it changes the whole approach, Zim has an RBI and we have what we wanted,” he said. “It is a tie ballgame.”
Missed scoring chances have been a big weakness for the offense all season. But Gonzalez said he never gets frustrated by a lack of run support because he knows he still has to pitch well. He still believes the offense will be able to turn things around.
“These guys are going to swing,” Gonzalez said. “They are going to help us out as much as possible. They are going up against a good team. Their pitching is going really good. You have got to give them credit. It is a tough situation.”
The reality begins to set in now after another loss to the Braves. The NL East lead for Atlanta has stretched to 14 1/2 games.
But that will not make LaRoche or Gonzalez bail on the season.
“There is nothing you can do now except keep playing,” LaRoche said. “There is no point in looking back and hanging our head. We got two options now - we can cash it in and think about next year or we can grind it out and see what happens. I am pretty sure we are going to keep pushing.”
Gonzalez was solid on the mound, going seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits.
“That is baseball,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone is trying to get wins. We have had a tough break. We have faced nothing but first-place teams. Our offense has been getting nothing but first-place pitching. You give them a break, they are working hard.
“It is not like they are going out there trying to strike out or ground out. When the time comes, they will put the ball in play, it will go our way, we will get our break and we will take off.”