"We had a lot of hits, we just didn't have hits in the clutch situations."—Catcher Wil Nieves, discussing the 13 men left on base in Sunday's game, July 12, 2009.
In Saturday evening's game, the Washington Nationals pounded four home runs, had 21 total hits, and scored 13 runs in pasting the Houston Astros 13-2. On Sunday, the Nats bats looked like they had already taken off for the all-star break, gathering 11 hits and three walks, but failing to score in a 5-0 shutout.
The Nats find themselves with a 26-and-61 record at the All-Star break.
After Sunday's game, the Nationals announced that they demoted starting pitcher Ross Detwiler, sending the struggling left-hander to AAA Syracuse—recalling right hander Garrett Mock, who has been sparkling in his last five starts, going 35 innings with just two earned runs, and 28 strikeouts against three measly walks.
Detwiler was 0-5 with a 6.40 ERA.
"We're extremely happy with the way Detwiler pitched up here," manager Manny Acta said. "If you would have told us in spring training that this kid was going to start 10 big league games this year we wouldn't believe it. Our plan was to have him develop down there [in the minors] and take a look at him in September."
Saturday's game was a breakout for the Nationals.
Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham, and Adam Dunn homered in consecutive at bats and the Nats set season highs for hits and runs.
Washington clobbered Astros starter Mike Hampton for nine hits in three and two-thirds innings, but did the real damage against Houston's bullpen, scoring thrice in the fourth inning, once in the fifth, three more in the sixth, and four in the seventh.
Alberto Gonzalez went 4-for-4 and scored twice with two RBIs, while Johnson, Willingham and Dunn all had three hits. Willingham had two home runs and four RBIs for the day.
Almost lost in the hit parade was starter Craig Stammen (W, 2-4, 4.45), who pitched a complete game, allowing nine hits and one walk for two earned runs.
At least all the offense made the fact that Dunn was called out after he scored on a base hit by Josh Bard, as he was ruled to have missed second base on the play, easier to take.
"Obviously, we should've had one more run," Dunn said. "But we've had chances to break open games a bunch and tonight, we finally did it."
Sunday, they did not.
The Nats left a total of 13 men on base and the principal offending parties were the middle of the order. Ryan Zimmerman, returning to the lineup after missing two games after the passing of his grandmother, went 0-for-5, stranding five runners. Dunn went 0-for-4 with four left on.
Anderson Hernandez took the futility prize though, going 0-for-4 and stranding six Nationals base runners.
Wil Nieves had a career-high four hits in the game.
Washington got their leadoff hitter on in five innings to no avail, left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings, and two more men were left on in the eighth.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched very effectively until the seventh, when he allowed a three-run home run to slap-hitting Kazuo Matsui. Zimmermann (L, 3-4, 4.50) went six and one-third innings, allowing three earned on five hits and three walks. He struck out six in the effort.
The Houston series was a microcosm of the entire season. A brief burst of competence and quality surrounded by squandered opportunity and under-performance.
THE GOOD: Saturday!
THE BAD: Sunday!
Well, the unofficial "first half" is over, and with a 26-61 record there is ugliness everywhere. The non-waiver trade deadline is 19 days away, so you can figure Mike Rizzo to be busy the next two and a half weeks.
Thursday night at 7:05 pm against the Chicago Cubs from Nationals Park.
Enjoy the All Star Game.