PHILADELPHIA - At the end of a brutal night of baseball that saw the Nationals dig themselves into a 12-run hole in the first inning amid a barrage of hits against Jeremy Guthrie, then burn up what remained of their bullpen just to record the requisite number of outs required to make this 17-3 thumping at the hands of the Phillies official, there was at least some encouraging news.
Shortstop Trea Turner does not appear to be seriously injured after pulling up lame in the top of the first.
Turner will probably miss “a couple days” with a right hamstring strain, manager Dusty Baker said, offering up about the only positive bit of information possible after a loss this lopsided.
The dynamic leadoff man said he first felt something wrong in his leg while he was stealing second base following an infield single to lead off the game. It wasn’t significant enough in his mind to necessitate any action at that point, but when he couldn’t round third and attempt to score on Daniel Murphy’s subsequent single to right, the Nationals dugout realized something was wrong.
Baker and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard came out to check on Turner, who didn’t put up much of a fight before walking with them back to the dugout, his day over barely after it began.
“I don’t think I tore it, or pulled it or anything,” Turner said. “I’m not limping or anything like that. So it’s just a matter of giving it some rest, and hopefully in a few days it’ll feel good.”
Baker echoed his shortstop’s lack of concern.
“They said there’s no defect in the muscle,” the manager said. “It was tight and it was cold. Hopefully, we’ll have him back in a couple days.”
Turner’s condition loomed over the rest of tonight’s proceedings, the injury that came before the insult of one of the worst losses in club history.
The Nationals had only given up more runs in a game once before: 18 to the Marlins on July 5, 2006. They had never before given up 12 runs in the first inning, or in any single inning for that matter. They had lost only one game by a larger margin: 15-0 to the Reds on April 5, 2013 in a game started by Dan Haren.
Few starts in team history have been tougher to watch than this one by Guthrie, not only because he gave up 10 runs without completing one inning but because of the path that brought him to the mound at Citizens Bank Park in the first place.
After laboring for two different franchises’ Triple-A affiliates last season and then pitching in Australia over the winter, Guthrie signed a minor league contract with the Nationals and came to spring training hoping to revive his career one last time. He wound up impressing club officials enough to warrant a spot start in the season’s first week, the only time the Nats need a No. 5 starter until April 22.
But from the moment he threw his first pitch to César Hernández, Guthrie (who turned 38 today) was in trouble. He surrendered a leadoff double, then a single, then the first of four walks he issued. On and on it went, the only outs he could record coming via sacrifice flies, the biggest blow a bases-loaded triple to Howie Kendrick in his second at-bat of the inning.
“I felt physically fine,” Guthrie said. “I just wasn’t getting positive results. And once it started going in the direction it was, stayed focused. I always knew I was one pitch away, but that one pitch just never came for me.”
Under normal circumstances, Baker would have pulled his starter before things got completely out of hand. But after burning through much of his bullpen the previous two nights - Blake Treinen, Sammy Solís and Koda Glover all were unavailable tonight - Baker had no choice but to try to squeeze something more out of Guthrie.
Finally, with the veteran’s pitch count at 47 and still only two outs recorded despite 12 men having come up to bat, Baker emerged from the dugout and signaled for left-hander Enny Romero.
“It was real hard, but I had to do what I had to do for the team,” Baker said. “We were trying to postpone it as long as we could, because like I said, we were short. ... That’s exactly what we didn’t need tonight.”
Guthrie, a veteran of 12 seasons who has thrown 1,765 1/3 big league innings, was stoic in defeat but clearly disappointed he squandered an opportunity he didn’t know if he’d ever get again.
“First of all, in the short term, just a terrible loss, and put some guys in a position where they had to throw more innings than they should have to throw,” he said. “It’s going to shuffle things up a number of ways. And in the long term, you think about the work that you put in and the effort that you give, with new teammates and new coaches, a month and a half of that. And you feel like an outing like this, it kind of erases those feelings.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way I feel right now. I just feel like six weeks of really good results and really good feelings about the work I’ve done and the way I’ve fit on this club, it’s hard to think about it right now. It just kind of goes away in a moment.”