Nationals dig another early hole and bats go cold in loss to Phillies

Nationals dig another early hole and bats go cold in loss to Phillies

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

CJ Abrams rounded first base and eyed second after lining a ball through the infield at Nationals Park, blitzing the Philadelphia Phillies with the sort of calculated aggression Manager Dave Martinez wanted early out of his Washington Nationals on Friday evening in what ultimately became a 4-0 loss.

That aggression, though well-intentioned, didn’t extend to both runners. As Abrams tested the Phillies’ defense, Nick Castellanos delivered a strike to cutoff man Bryce Harper, who delivered another to second to beat Abrams. Luis García Jr., who had just doubled, found himself a third of the way down the third-base line as Castellanos’s throw headed toward the infield. He took a few steps toward home, then a few back toward third, then one more toward home, then back to third again after he was held up by third base coach Ricky Gutierrez.

Garcia’s dance down the line was as close as the Nationals (2-5) came to scoring all night. Lane Thomas struck out looking to end the third, and Washington didn’t get another hit against right-hander Aaron Nola or the bullpen of the Phillies (3-4).

“We’re down three runs, I thought Ricky did a good job not sending him there,” Martinez said. “CJ had his head down and took off. He’s just trying to be aggressive right there. … These are the things you’re going to get sometimes with young aggressive players, so it’s a learning moment for him. He wasn’t happy about it, I can tell you that. He was upset. I told him, just keep playing hard.”

Martinez said before the game he wanted his team to come out in attack mode after falling behind 5-0 in Thursday’s loss to the Pirates. Through seven games, the Nationals have been outscored in the first three innings 21-7.

“We’ve got to try and limit those big innings early,” Martinez said. “It definitely wears on you. You’re always trying to come back, you try to do different things, guys start pressing a little bit.”

“It’s tough for any team to [get behind], but you’ve got to remain united, close, and battle from the first inning to the ninth inning,” Garcia said through an interpreter.

On another brisk Friday night, the ditch didn’t get too big too quickly. Patrick Corbin (0-1) survived three turns against a tough Phillies lineup, working around nine hits and three walks over six innings.

The Nationals took five walks, but three Phillies relievers delivered 3⅓ hitless innings after Nola left with two outs in the sixth.

The Nationals hinted at a threat in the fourth when Joey Meneses and Joey Gallo worked one-out walks against Nola, but the flyout and groundout that followed couldn’t do the trick. After Jesse Winker drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, the Nationals scuttled the chance with Meneses hitting into a fielder’s choice before Gallo struck out and Keibert Ruiz popped up on the first pitch he saw to end the game.

Four of the five of the night’s hardest-hit balls belonged to the Phillies, per Statcast. Washington’s hardest hit, a flyout from Gallo, traveled 320 feet but died in the wind.

A pair of old friends helped put a damper on Corbin’s night. Harper, clad in neon green cleats, gloves and belt, and greeted by a chorus of boos every time he stepped to the plate, hit opposite-field doubles in his first two at-bats. Kyle Schwarber, the recipient of scattered pregame cheers, singled home two in the second after Corbin loaded the bases with no outs.

It appeared Martinez was going to let Corbin work though the Phillies lineup’ a fourth time when he opened the seventh without anyone warming in the bullpen. But that faith only went so far. Schwarber walked, Trea Turner doubled, and Harper singled, scoring Schwarber and ending Corbin’s night.

“They were very aggressive,” Corbin said. “Just trying to locate the first pitch, whether it was a sinker or a couple of change-ups that I threw. Just a little frustrating there to give up those runs.”

Corbin blew on his left hand one more time, the wind blowing at his jersey as he exited with the temperature 45 degrees but feeling like 39. By the seventh inning, five of Washington’s fielders had balaclavas wrapping their faces. Abrams, who didn’t, jumped up and down and kept his hand in his back pocket to stay warm. The bats stayed cold.

Nationals starters have allowed 29 runs in 34⅓ innings (7.60 ERA) through their first seven games.

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