The Nationals' fourth straight loss, which came on Wednesday night, was virtually sealed by the time Scott Olsen walked off the mound four outs into his 11th start of the season. They were down 5-1 by that point, with two more runs soon to come in and be charged to Olsen's account.
The final result was a 9-5 loss to the Marlins, a defeat that dropped the Nationals back to a season-low 16 games under .500 and put further stress on a bullpen that's already been overworked.
The Nationals' relievers threw 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday, and have pitched 12 1/3 over the last two days. The bullpen has pitched 374 1/3 innings, the third-most in baseball. And it looks questionable at this point how much the Nationals' established pitchers that just returned from the disabled list, like Olsen and Jason Marquis, will help them.
Ian Desmond: The rookie had his first career multi-homer game, blasting solo shots in the third and seventh innings. He is hitting .313 in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. "There's no way around it: You get better pitches to hit when you've got (Adam) Dunn and (Ryan) Zimmerman hitting behind you," Desmond said. "I feel like in the first half of the season, I was still competing. Now, I'm just getting better pitches to hit and I'm doing a little more damage."
Ryan Zimmerman: Three more hits on Wednesday for the third baseman, who now has a 1.244 OPS in August. He also drove in the Nationals' first run with a first-inning single.
Adam Dunn: The first baseman had been in an 0-for-13 skid heading into Wednesday, but resumed his torrid August with his seventh homer of the month, a solo shot to center field in the fifth inning.
Scott Olsen: We covered most of Olsen's struggles in the game story, and the outing raised the question again of how integral the left-hander can be in the Nationals' rotation. Wednesday was his 11th start of the season, and he's now collecting bonus money for every start he makes from here. That has to be hard for the Nationals to stomach when Olsen's doing what he did on Wednesday. He hit 94 mph once on the radar gun, and sat between 90 and 92 mph, but his pitches had no movement. He now has an 8.27 ERA in three starts since coming off the DL.
Michael Morse: The groundswell of fan support for Morse to play every day has pretty much died since they got their wish. Morse went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Wednesday night, dropping his average for the year to .295, and made an error in right field that was later changed to a hit. He's started all nine games this month, and is hitting .125 in that stretch, though he's homered twice. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein was in an animated discussion with Morse in the clubhouse after the game, and the outfielder isn't helping his case for more regular playing time.
In Case You Missed It:
--Olsen's pitch on Hanley Ramirez's first inning homer was a belt-high fastball on 0-2, and Ramirez made him pay for coming right over the plate on an 0-2 pitch. But that wasn't the only 0-2 pitch hit for a homer on Wednesday night; Ian Desmond also hit one off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. And Desmond's first homer came on a 1-2 pitch. Mike Stanton was also behind 0-1 when he hit his. Good night for hitters behind in the count, or a case of pitchers not being able to put anyone away? Probably more of the latter - at least in Olsen's case.
--On Desmond's error in the eighth inning, the shortstop made an impressive move to the ball, ranging well to his left and tracking it down behind second base. But he threw on the run, missing Adam Dunn at first base. Manager Jim Riggleman defended Desmond, though. "Who else gets to that ball?" he said.
1. It's getting more and more expensive to keep Scott Olsen in the rotation. How long would you keep paying out incentive bonuses to him?
2. Jim Riggleman was quick to defend the Nationals after Wednesday's game, saying they played better than the score indicated and he was proud of the way the team fought back. "I know people sometimes get tired of hearing anything positive when you lose ballgames," Riggleman said. "But I thought we played with great effort, ran the bases hard, played hard. We hit the ball well, got down a lot of runs, kept battling back, had chances." React to that quote, if you will. Tell me what you think of it, one way or the other.