PHILADELPHIA - In the annals of worst innings in club history, this had to rank at the top. The Nationals gave up 12 runs to the Phillies in the first, and that might not even have been the worst thing to happen to them in the frame.
As disastrous as that 12-spot was, with Jeremy Guthrie taking the brunt of the pounding, and as ugly as the Nationals’ eventual 17-3 loss was, the larger concern in the big picture was the sight of Trea Turner departing in the top of the first inning with an apparent leg injury.
The Nationals offered no in-game update of Turner’s condition, but if he pulled a muscle while running the bases, they could find themselves without their dynamic leadoff man and shortstop for some period of time. That would have more long-lasting ramifications for the team than one awful night on the mound.
But about that awful night on the mound ...
It included 16 Phillies stepping to the plate, 13 of them successfully reaching base, 12 of them successfully coming around to score. Those 12 runs represented the most ever surrendered by the Nationals franchise in any single inning, surpassing the previous record by two.
Guthrie was on the mound for the first 12 batters, retiring only two of them, both via sacrifice fly. He surrendered 10 runs on six hits and four walks. He threw 47 pitches. His ERA stands at 135.00. His ERA over a career that includes more than 1,700 major league innings, which stood at 4.37 at the beginning of the evening, now stands at 4.42.
That Guthrie was making this start in the first place was noteworthy, considering he spent all of 2016 struggling for two different franchises’ Triple-A affiliates and wound up pitching in Australia over the winter. But after an impressive spring on a minor league contract in which he posted a 2.41 ERA, the Nationals decided he may have value to them.
Because they needed a fifth starter only once in the season’s first three weeks, the Nats elected to option Joe Ross to Triple-A Syracuse, open the year with an extra bench player and then call up Guthrie to start tonight’s game (on his 38th birthday, as it happened).
Things didn’t go anywhere close to as well as anyone could have hoped, and now the entire pitching staff is in a tough spot because of it.
Needing innings from his starter tonight after his bullpen was overworked the previous two days, Baker instead had to ask his relievers to record 22 outs. Left-hander Enny Romero got only four of those, giving up three more runs on 52 pitches. Veteran Joe Blanton, however, did yeoman’s work in retiring all nine batters he faced on only 35 pitches, perhaps saving the rest of the staff for the immediate future.
Oliver Pérez and Shawn Kelley finished the final three innings, leaving the Nationals pitching staff in somewhat decent shape heading into tomorrow’s series finale, with Stephen Strasburg scheduled to start.
The 17 runs allowed by the Nats are the second-most in club history. They came up short of the record of 18 runs allowed to the Marlins on July 5, 2006.