ATLANTA - The Nationals haven’t had a problem getting runners on base today.
That’s been relatively easy.
The problem has been doing anything at all with the scoring opportunities that have presented themselves.
The Nats are a ridiculous 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position through just three innings this afternoon. They’ve put the first two runners on base in every inning so far, and have done nothing with those chances.
In the first, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche went down in order after Denard Span and Anthony Rendon had reached to start the game. In the second, Kurt Suzuki struck out, Gio Gonzalez popped up a bunt and Span flied out to end the inning and the threat. In the third, Werth, LaRoche and Ian Desmond were retired to leave two runners stranded.
The Nats have been inept pretty much all season with runners in scoring position, but this is a new low.
Heck, the Braves went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night, but it took them 15 innings to post that sorry stat line.
Thanks in part to the lack of productivity with runners on, the Nats trail 2-0 after three innings.
Gonzalez allowed two runs in the first on RBI singles by Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson. The Nats left-hander has allowed six baserunners through three innings, like Braves starter Julio Teheran, but Atlanta has actually turned those baserunners into something.
Update: While my lack of sleep is starting to settle in, Gonzalez is doing his own settling in.
Since the first inning, the left-hander has worked four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk and striking out eight.
He’s retired 11 of the 13 hitters he’s faced in that time and eight have been via the K.
Gonzalez has thrown 85 pitches, 53 for strikes.
On a day that the Nationals desperately needed him to work deep into this game, regardless of how he was pitching, Gonzalez has done his job so far. If Davey Johnson could get two (or, ideally, three) more innings from his lefty, he’d be thrilled.
Still, the Nats trail 2-0 in the sixth, thanks to an 0-for-10 line with runners in scoring position.
Update II: The Nats finally got on the board in the seventh on Werth’s RBI single to center, plating Rendon. That run cut the Braves’ lead in half. It’s now 2-1 Atlanta.
A big chance to even the score was wasted immediately after Werth’s run-scoring knock, however, as LaRoche struck out swinging and Werth was caught stealing to end the inning.
The strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play came with runners at the corners and just one out. A LaRoche fly ball likely ties the game. A base hit gives the Nats the chance to take the lead. Instead, the double play brought the threat crashing down.
Updating the stat I’ve been monitoring all game, the Nats are now 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and have left 10 on base.
Werth has a 10-game hitting streak and is now batting .334 on the season. Gonzalez has worked six strong so far and looks like he still has a bit left in the tank.
But the Braves still lead and need just six defensive outs to record the series win.
Update III: Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the Nationals will be appreciative of what Gonzalez did this afternoon.
The left-hander went seven strong innings, allowing just two runs. He threw 120 pitches, 74 for strikes, and gave the bullpen a bit of a breather after the ridiculousness that was last night’s ballgame.
This type of performance doesn’t just help the Nats today, it will play a factor in the coming days, as well.
The Nats are down 2-1 going to the ninth after Drew Storen worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth, and they’ll need to get to Craig Kimbrel to have a shot at winning this thing.
Update IV: That’ll do it. The Nats lose 2-1, dropping them back to three games under .500 this season.
Harper went down swinging against Kimbrel for the last out in the ninth. Kimbrel allowed an infield single to Span, but struck out the side to close it out.
The Nats are now 4-12 against the Braves this season. On to Chicago for four against the Cubs.