The manner in which tonight’s game ended left Davey Johnson and the Nationals’ players a bit steamed following their 4-2 loss, as second base umpire Laz Diaz clearly missed a call that ended the Nats’ comeback hopes in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The call certainly didn’t decide the game, as the Nats had nine innings to try and get things going offensively only to put up just two hits entering the ninth. But it did stifle their chance at a late comeback and gave them their sixth straight loss and 11th defeat in their last 13 games.
Diaz ruled that Pirates second baseman Neil Walker tagged Wilson Ramos before flipping to first to get Denard Span and complete a game-ending double play. Replays showed, however, that Ramos was not touched by Walker’s glove and should’ve been allowed to reach second safely.
Johnson ran out to argue the call and Nationals players threw their arms up in bewilderment in the dugout, but the call stood.
“(Diaz) said he saw the tag,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Were you in position to see the tag?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’ ... I’m looking at a bad angle. I asked (first base umpire and crew chief) Mike Winters, ‘How about you?’ He said, ‘I didn’t see it.’ Wasn’t in position. It’s almost a guess play.”
Things would have been a lot different in the bottom of the ninth had Drew Storen not gotten into trouble in the top-half of the inning. Storen came in with the Nats trailing 1-0, but allowed three runs, (two of which were put on Storen’s line but came around when Fernando Abad allowed a two-run single to Michael McKenry,) making what was a one-run game a four-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth.
Jayson Werth smoked a two-run homer with no outs in the ninth to make the score 4-2, but the longball only cut the Pirates’ lead in half.
“He left the ball up,” Johnson said of Storen. “When he doesn’t keep the ball down, the first two hitters’ fastballs up over the plate. He got better toward the end, but I just didn’t like him in the matchup against the left-hander. I still haven’t lost all confidence in him. I think he will be very productive.”
The Nationals will activate Ryan Mattheus from the DL on Friday for their doubleheader against the Mets. They’re allowed to have a 26th man on the roster for that day, but will need to trim the roster to 25 again once the doubleheader is over.
Johnson was asked whether Storen could be a candidate to go down to the minors, where he could work on straightening things out in a less-pressure-filled environment, at that time.
“There’s not a lot of better options right now (in the bullpen), as far as I’m concerned,” Johnson said. “You try to do everything you can to make it easier for them to do the things you know they’re capable of doing. I feel like if we stay close, he can hold us close, and we’ll be in good shape. I hate to waste the effort of (Stephen Strasburg). That was a great effort. He can’t hardly pitch any better than that. And losing the ballgame in that fashion...”
Strasburg allowed just one run on two hits over eight stellar innings, striking out 12 and walking none, but he was bested by Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, who went 7 2/3 scoreless and allowed two hits.
“(Liriano) made a lot of quality pitches,” Johnson said. “Backdoor cutters. Running the ball in. Pretty good, live fastball. And he made good pitches with it, the whole ballgame.”
Johnson has said in the past that he feels his hitters have been pressing, trying to make something happen. He wasn’t sure if that was the case tonight.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I mean, they’ve got the best pitching staff in the league. So, you can boo-hoo the hitters, but they’ve been doing it to a lot of people.”