Nationals Remain a Magnet to .500

At this point in the season a team should recognize they are what they are. You can blame injuries, poor years, bad bullpens, whatever. As you head into September you are either a good team as reflected by your won loss record, an average team or a poor team. The Nationals are an average team. They can not escape .500.

Even the infusion of youth could not light a fire under these group of veterans. Juan Soto has had one of the more phenomenal rookie seasons in baseball, but even this has not been able to get the Nationals past .500. They have even had team meetings once they creeped a couple games below .500 but two weeks later they remain at .500. They are what they are.

A 7-5 loss to the poor Miami Marlins put them at 62-62. A porous bullpen was again the cause of the loss. Koda Glover, the newest National closer since Sean Doolittle, Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson are now on the disabled list had trouble finding outs in the tenth inning. With runners on first and third and two outs the Nationals chose to walk J.T. Riddle intentionally to load the bases to face Isaac Galloway.

Riddle had been riddling the Nationals pitching staff all night with a double, single and homerun in four at bats, driving in four of the five Marlins runs. You can’t fault them for choosing to walk Riddle. Unfortunately, the walk put the pressure on Glover to throw strikes. He got behind in the count 2-0, was forced to throw a meat ball to Galloway and Isaac ripped the ball into center for a two run single. Bryce Harper tried to charge the ball to make the throw home but the ball hit off his glove and prevented any play on the second runner coming home.

It was not a bad night for National starter Jefry Rodrigiuz. He gave up a solo homerun to Derek Dietrich to lead off the second and J.T. Riddle laced one into the right centerfield gap in the fifth inning to score Austin Dean to make it 2-2. In the sixth he gave up two singles to J.T. Realmuto and Brian Anderson to start the inning. Dave Martinez has been careful with not letting Rodriguez face a lineup a third time but with Rodriguez pitching so well and the bullpen shaky he extended his outing.

Tim Collins came on and struck out the lefthanded hitter Dietrich. Jimmy Cordero came on after that, a tough spot to place on the rookie. Coming into the season he was not considered one of the Nationals top prospects but was having a good season at AAA with a 1.96 ERA in 41 games. He also throws hard, hitting the high 90s with his fastball. The Nationals acquired Cordero from the Phillies last year for a playerd to be named later, but later in the season put him on waivers. No other team picked him up leaving him a National for next season.

Cordero appeared to be out of the inning when Starlin Castro hit a hard ground ball to Daniel Murphy. A tailor made double play ball. The ball clanked off Murphy’s glove and everyone was safe, loading the bases. Cordero struck out Austin Dean for the second out. J.T. Riddle ripped a hard line drive over the head of Murphy for a single to drive in two. One could argue a better fielding, more flexible second baseman could have caught the liner, but that is all conjecture. Even Murphy admitted he did not play the line drive well.

The Nationals had difficulty hitting Wei-Yin Chen. Trea Turner clubbed a two run drive in the second to give the Nationals an early 2-1 lead. Jefry Rodriguez helped his cause by driving a single prior to the Turner at bat. That was all the Nationals could muster against Chen. He lasted 5.2 innings and the Nationals could only touch him for five hits.

Down 4-2 in the seventh the Nationals rallied for a couple. Daniel Murphy started the inning off with a single to left center. Adam Eaton pinch hit for Michael Taylor and hit a slow roller to third baseman Brian Anderson, who let the ball roll underneath his glove. The scorer generously gave Eaton a hit. Matt Wieters was hit on the foot with a pitch, a call the Nationals had to challenge to get the hit by pitch ruling. With the bases loaded and no outs Tayron Guerrero bounced one past the catcher for a wild pitch to score one. Adams popped out to shortstop for the first out. Trea Turner blooped a pitch to centerfield. Galloway just missed making a diving catch, Eaton scoring on the hit but Wieters stopping at third. The potential rookie of the year came up to win the game. The crowd was hopeful. But it was not to be. Soto grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and keep the score tied.

J.T. Riddle began the top of the ninth with a homerun off Justin Miller over the Nationals bullpen into the second deck. Adam Eaton led off the bottom of the ninth with a blast into the right field bleachers off Drew Streckenrider, sprinting around the bases as if his hair was on fire.

The Nationals bullpen was spent. Glover came out to hold the lead in the tenth but failed. After making two comebacks the Nationals three hitters could not get the ball out of the infield, all three grounding out to end the game. The magnet had brought them back to .500.

Game Notes: The Marlins had an outfield loaded with AAA players. Rafael Ortega was in right field, Austin Dean played left, Isaac Galloway was in center. Even Brian Anderson, their third baseman was in the minors last year, but he has been playing with the team all season this year…Myworld did not like how Bryce Harper walked after a loose ball sitting in foul territory in right field in the second inning. He picked the ball up, flipped it to the fans in right field then casually walked back to his position while everyone waited. At least do a slow jog. It was as if he had no energy…For J.T. Riddle the four RBIs in a game tied his career high. If not for the intentional walk in the tenth he could have surpassed it. He was also a triple short of hitting for the cycle…Wei-Yin Chen entered this game with a road ERA of 10.27. Perhaps because D.C. is so close to Baltimore, where he started his major league career he did not consider this a road game…The Marlins bullpen lacks veteran presence but they still pitched well. Brett Graves picked up his first career save. Drew Rucinski, Tayron Guerrero, Adam Conley and Drew Streckenrider all came out of the pen for the Marlins.

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