Ryan Mattheus gave up a deep fly ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy to begin the top of the 11th, and when center fielder Rick Ankiel tracked it down at the wall in front of the 402-foot sign, it looked like Mattheus might have escaped his one mistake in the inning.
But then Nick Markakis took a slider that stayed down and in, and crushed it deep over the right-field wall, giving the Orioles their second run of the game and leading them to a 2-1 win.
Normally you hear about pitchers leaving a ball up and getting burned for a home run. This time, Mattheus got the ball too far down in the zone, putting it right in Markakis’ wheelhouse.
“I tried to go in with a slider, cut it more and try to get in up under his hands,” Mattheus said. “It ended up hanging kind of down and in, and he got the barrel of the bat to it.”
It looked like Mattheus might have had Markakis struck out two pitches before the homer when he fired a sinker just off the corner, but the pitch was called a ball (correctly, according to BrooksBaseball) and the at-bat continued.
“I think I made a good pitch,” Mattheus said. “That’s not my job to call balls and strikes. Of course I was upset after the home run. You know, he’s a professional. He’s the best in the business, and that’s his job, not mine.”
Even after the homer, Mattheus’ ERA sits at a solid 2.67, and this marks the first longball he’s given up in 19 innings this season.
“(I’ve been) throwing the sinker for strikes, and keeping the ball on the ground,” he said. “Like I said, I made a bad pitch. He’s a good hitter, and that’s what good hitters do with bad pitches.”
Danny Espinosa went 0-for-3 today with two strikeouts, one of which came when he was unable to get a bunt down with two strikes in the seventh inning.
Manager Davey Johnson suggested the Nationals might have been pressing tonight when they had a chance to move a runner over or come through with runners in scoring position. Espinosa gave the perspective of the guy in the box trying to get that runner up a base.
“I don’t know. I have no answer for that,” Espinosa said. “I really don’t know. You’re just up there trying to get your job done. You try and you work on it every day as far as bunting and sometimes it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. I know everyone thinks it is but when you’ve got a guy throwing hard and the ball comes up and in, you want to bunt it. At the same time, you’re trying to just protect yourself and move and you foul it off.
“So, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s something that we’ll continue to work on every day, we do it in BP. We’ll be there when we need it. It’s going to be there the rest of the year. We’ll be fine.”