WASHINGTON - Asher Wojciechowski struck out the first and last batter he faced tonight in the first inning.
The stuff in between eventually would decide the outcome. All of it bad for the Orioles.
The Nationals hit for the cycle in the span of four batters, scored five runs and made the Orioles settle for another split of a two-game series with an 8-4 victory in D.C.
Juan Soto delivered a two-run triple, Kurt Suzuki launched a two-run homer and the Orioles’ winning streak ended at three games. They’re 44-89 as they head to Kansas City.
Wojciechowski found his rhythm after the first, Brian Dozier’s one-out single the last hit from the Nationals until he singled again in the fourth. Wojciechowski retired 10 of the last 12 batters, with a Chris Davis error wedged into the sequence.
Anthony Santander delivered a run-scoring double off Max Scherzer in the third and Chance Sisco led off the fifth with a home run to cut the lead to 5-2, but the Nationals expanded it against left-hander Richard Bleier in the bottom of the fifth and stayed in front.
Davis homered for the first time since Aug. 2, his two-run shot in the sixth inning coming on a 100 mph fastball from Tanner Rainey. The ball traveled 401 feet with an exit velocity of 105.5 mph per Statcast and landed in the second deck in right field.
Wojciechowski began his start by striking out Trea Turner, but he hit Adam Eaton below the right knee, Anthony Rendon doubled and Soto tripled to center field - the ball eluding an awkward attempt by Santander.
Eaton was hobbling to third base and came out for a pinch-runner, the only misstep from the Nationals.
Asdrúbal Cabrera had an RBI single and Suzuki followed with his home run deep into the left field seats.
A five-run deficit isn’t usually the ideal positioning against Scherzer, but he was making only his second start since coming off the injured list and exited after 89 pitches. The Orioles had Trey Mancini at the plate as the potential tying run with one out in the fifth inning, but Rendon made a diving stop of a scalded ground ball and started a 5-4-3 double play.
Jonathan Villar singled with two outs in the third, stole his 29th base and scored on Santander’s double. Mancini walked, but DJ Stewart - batting cleanup with no home runs and three RBIs - struck out.
The lead was whittled more in the fifth after Sisco’s first home run since July 7, with 26 games in between.
Rio Ruiz in the fourth inning became Scherzer’s 200th strikeout victim of the season - the eighth summer in a row that the three-time Cy Young Award winner has reached that total. Only Tom Seaver, with nine, had a longer streak in major league history.
Wojciechowski threw 36 pitches in the first, but only 12 in the second and third and eight in the fourth. Stevie Wilkerson pinch-hit for him in the fifth after Sisco’s homer.
The Orioles bullpen allowed three runs in the last 24 innings before tonight. Richard Bleier was charged with three in one-third of an inning after Wojciechowski left.
Cabrera had an RBI double and Suzuki followed with a two-run double that forced Dillon Tate into the game. The MASN cameras caught Bleier and third base coach Jose Flores, who instructs the infielders, exchanging words in the dugout.
Bleier might have been upset with the defensive positioning. Reliever Shawn Armstrong also got involved after Flores, taking exception with something said to him, followed Bleier down the steps. Wilkerson tried to calm the situation.
Davis also made a loud noise with his home run, but the Orioles couldn’t extend the comeback and were beaten.
Note: Mark Trumbo homered again tonight with Triple-A Norfolk, his second in two nights. He had two hits and three RBIs.
Hyde on oddity of game: “We just had two bad innings on the mound. The five-spot and the three-spot. But we battled back again and gave ourselves a chance. They played really good defense. That play that Rendon made in a big spot there, that kind of changes the game right there if that ball gets through. They made the plays defensively and we just gave up too many runs.”
Hyde on whether Scherzer didn’t seem like himself: “I thought he was Max Scherzer. I mean, he was throwing 96 with command of all his other pitches. I thought we did a nice job of getting his pitch count up a little bit and battling. Santander drove a ball in the gap on him to score a run, but yeah, tough to be down by five against Scherzer early and try to scratch your way back.”
Hyde on Bleier on the mound and in dugout: “After he left the game, I guess there was some disagreement about some positioning during his inning. On the mound, he just left it a little bit too early for me. But I haven’t talked to him, honestly, since.”
Hyde on Davis and Sisco home runs: “That ball that Davis hit was absolutely mashed. So that was great to see him really click a ball. Chance has been struggling but really grinding and working hard, trying to get out of this mini-slump that he’s in. So to see him backspin a ball into right center, I’m sure was a great feeling.”
Bleier, who has a 6.30 ERA, on tonight’s difficulties: “I just gave up a couple of hits there and didn’t quite make pitches when I needed to. Things just didn’t work out.”
Bleier on dugout confrontation: “I think I just let frustration kind of boil over about some stuff that ... some balls that I thought maybe defensive positioning, I guess. I probably could have done better for myself to keep my mouth shut, and unfortunately, I may have said something and you guys saw the rest.”
Bleier on whether he’s talked to Flores since the incident: “I haven’t said anything to anyone.”
Bleier on whether he wants an opportunity to clear the air: “Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I mean, I think that we’re all adults. It’s not like I’m mad at anybody. Right now, we’re not thrilled with each other, maybe, but I’m sure we can move past this and get back to a healthy relationship.”
Wojciechowski on the first inning: “It’s that first inning. I had good warm-ups in the bullpen and then came out there and just a little out of whack. Getting too (much) rotation on my fastball, yanking some pitches and then trying to correct and just really missing middle-middle with a lot of pitches. It is a frustrating first inning, but I was able to settle down after that and make some pitches the second, third and fourth inning. But still, that first inning, giving up five like that really puts us in a hole.”
Wojciechowski on what was different after first: “Just really quieting my front side and just driving the pitches to their spot. I think I was just getting a little too rotational in the first inning and really just pulling my fastballs and my sliders. And my misses were bad misses. They were not competitive misses. I really had to focus on quieting my front side and really just driving to the target.”
Wojciechowski on whether deficit felt larger vs. Scherzer: “Yeah, definitely. Anytime you have a great pitcher like him on the other side, it’s definitely not what you want to do is put your team in a 5-0 hole in the first inning against a pitcher like that. But we battled back and fought and clawed, but I’ve got to be better than that in the first inning. I’ve got to go deeper in games and just execute pitches from pitch No. 1, and continue to execute pitches throughout the game.”