In a sloppy, unevenly officiated affair, the Washington Nationals lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 7-3 before 39,890 in attendance for the "Businessman's Special" at Miller Park.
Nats "interim" manager Jim Riggleman earned his first ejection of the season early in the game arguing a pitch that appeared to to be a foul ball that home plate umpire "Country" Joe West ruled strike three.
Riggleman probably would have been tossed later anyway. The pivotal play came in the bottom of the seventh. Mike Cameron led off with a double and took third on Casey McGehee's single.
Catcher Jason Kendall followed with a grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who made a perfect throw to home to nab Cameron, except West ruled that Cameron got in under the tag of Wil Nieves, much to the catcher's disbelief.
The run broke a three-all tie, and apparently the will of the Nationals on the field.
Milwaukee would add another run in the inning when Anderson Hernandez made a poor throw and failed to complete a double play. The Brewers got two more insurance runs in the eighth off Mike MacDougal on a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.
Starter J.D. Martin (L, 0-2, 7.50) took the loss. He pitched six innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits (two home runs) and no walks. He struck out four.
Ryan Zimmerman had just one hit, but it was a big one. His three-run home run in the fourth inning—his 19th of the year—gave the Nats a short-lived 3-2 lead and accounted for all the scoring Washington could muster against Yovanni Gallardo (W, 10-7, 3.13) and two Brewers relievers.
Nyjer Morgan continued his hot hand, going 3-for-4 with a run and his 32nd stolen base, but the situational hitting woes popped up again. Morgan led off the sixth with a double and took third on a Alberto Gonzalez' sacrifice, but he was stranded as Gallardo struck out Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn to end the inning.
Craig Counsel and Prince Fielder hit home runs for the Brew Crew.
OK, so he wasn't actually on the bench at the time, but there's no way Riggleman should have sent Martin out for the seventh. He gave the Nats a "quality start" (six innings, three earned runs) at that point, and Burnett was ready to come in.
But Martin was allowed to start the seventh and the first three batters all reached.
I know he fairly breezed through the sixth and his pitch count was manageable, but the Nats just cannot expect more than six innings out of most of these starters, and especially Martin. He should have pulled him when everyone felt good about the outing.
Nyjer Morgan. Despite Zimmerman's big homer, gotta go with "Captain" Morgan. Since the trade that brought him to D.C. July 3, he's hitting .389/.416/.484 with 17 runs and 13 stolen bases. Feelin' Sexy, indeed.
There's no way Morgan can sustain this pace, as his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) for the season is a ridiculous .439 (N.L. average is .296). His BABIP career-wise is going to be a little high, since he's such a good bunter and obscenely fast, but .439 is unsustainable regardless.
But he certainly is making a difference for this team, both at the plate and in the field.
Andy Hernandez. 0-for 3 with two strikeouts, plus the bad throw. His average is down to .244/.309/.315.
Mike MacDougal. One inning, two earned runs on two hits, a walk, and two wild pitches.
The Nats travel to Pittsburgh to face what's left of the Pirates after GM Neil Huntington's trading frenzy this week. John Lannan (7-7, 3.25) takes the hill against Ross Ohlendorf (8-8, 4.51), if he isn't traded before the deadline.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates plan to recall Lastings Milledge in time for Friday's game against the Nats.