Nats unable to cash in on limited chances Sunday in 6-2 loss

The 5-0 deficit in the first inning was a difficult predicament for the Nationals, but they faced a similar situation Friday night and found a way to make another comeback.

This time, the Nats ultimately got as close as 6-2 against the Reds, but were never able to put together the big rally needed to come back from the early hole, as they have 19 times this season.

Michael-A-Taylor-swing-white-sidebar.jpgMichael A. Taylor hit a two-run shot in the fourth to get the Nats on the board. But that turned out to be the only offense they got.

The Nationals had opportunities to score runs in the first, third and fifth innings, only to see the threats evaporate pretty quickly.

Manager Dusty Baker said the Nats have done a good job in the past of finding clutch hits to get back into games.

In Friday's game, the Reds scored four runs on five hits in the first inning off of Stephen Strasburg. The Nats came back to win the game 6-5 in 10 innings.

Sunday, the Nats weren't able to string together the big inning to even the score.

"Just like the other day, they got four or five hits with two outs," Baker said. "You can't guide the ball. We should get 'em all. You kind of go through streaks where you get the two-out base hits, and other times where you don't get the two-out base hits."

In the first inning, the Nats had men on second and third with one out. But Daniel Murphy flew out to left field and Anthony Rendon watched a third strike from Reds starter Scott Feldman.

In the third inning with two outs, the Reds walked Bryce Harper, and Murphy singled him to third base. But with runners on the corners, Rendon grounded into a fielder's choice force out to shortstop.

"There were some missed opportunities for us to get back in the game," Baker said. "Anthony had a few of them, and he's usually one of the best at getting the two-out hits. So the averages were against us."

In the fifth, Brian Goodwin singled and Harper doubled to the right field corner. Goodwin rounded third and was waved home by third base coach Bobby Henley. Goodwin was tagged out at the plate on a dramatic 9-4-2 relay from right fielder Scott Schebler to second baseman Scooter Gennett to catcher Tucker Barnhart. It was the first out of the inning. The Nats went quietly after that play.

Did Baker think it was a good call by third base coach Bobby Henley to send Goodwin in that situation, especially with Murphy and Rendon coming up and fewer than two outs?

"He thought that the ball, the ball stuck in the corner down there, it didn't ricochet back to (Schebler)," Baker said. "Whenever guys get thrown out, no one feels worse than Bobby Henley in the whole ballpark. I gotta tell him, 'Stay aggressive.' Most of the time, they gotta make two perfect throws. That probably wasn't the optimum time to send him because we were threatening. Who knows what can happen? But that's the job I never wanted. I think that's the toughest job on the field, third-base coach."

Taylor, who drove in the only runs for the Nats, can empathize with the split-second decision Henley is trying to make at that moment to help spark a comeback.

"He's an aggressive third base coach," Taylor said of Henley. "It's worked out for us time and time again. Every once in awhile, guys are going to get thrown out. It's just part of the game. I think you just keep doing what he's doing, and we score runs."

Schebler was surprised Goodwin was heading home.

"Just...get to the ball as fast as possible," Schebler said. "It kind of took a weird hop. Honestly, it just sat, like a golfer hit it on the green. It was really weird. I was like, 'oh shoot.' I just pick it up and I knew the play was at home, just because it was two outs and he was running on contact, it's a little different.

"Sometimes you freeze if there's not two outs, so I know I had a chance. I know he's a good runner, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to get Harper at second, so you just kind of turn and burn and try to get it there. I made a really good throw. I honestly watched it after I threw it and thought, 'there's no way he's going.' He just kept going. I was like, 'this is gorgeous, this is going to be great.' Scooter just needs to make a decent throw, he doesn't even need to make a good throw and then he made a really good throw and beat him by quite a bit."

Schebler was surprised that Henley sent Goodwin. He thought maybe Henley had read advanced reports that Schebler did not have an above average arm from right field.

"It's really cool to watch something devolp like that," Schebler said. "I threw it and thought, 'there's no way he's going to wave him on.' You know, I'm sure news gets around the league about my arm and people try to take advantage of that as much as possible. Maybe that's what the third-base coach (Henley) was thinking, that I wouldn't get it there that fast. I made a really good throw and obviously Scooter has to make a good throw as well. When things happen like that, it's really cool. There's a lot of moving parts. For it to work, it's really cool."

In the 18-3 win Saturday, the Nats went 12-for-18 (.667) with runners in scoring position. Reds right-hander Scott Feldman did a nice job of limiting scoring chances on Sunday, going seven innings and allowing only two runs on seven hits. Sunday, the Nats were 0-for-5 with runners at second or third base.

Taylor said they did have some scoring chances, but unlike Saturday, they weren't able to find that big inning or two or three.

"We fought the whole time," Taylor said. "We did have some chances. You're not going to cash in every run you have on base. He's making good pitches. He threw a good ball game today. I think we fought all the way to the end. That's all you can ask for."

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