'Off-balance' Nats lament missed opportunities

April 13th, 2024

OAKLAND -- The Nationals had chances throughout Friday night to flip the results of the series opener at the Oakland Coliseum.

In a game in which the Nats out-hit the Athletics but went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight players on base, they came up short, 2-1, in 10 innings.

“We created some opportunities,” said manager Dave Martinez. “Just couldn’t get that big run in.”

Washington was given a foundation early on by starter . The right-hander hurled his strongest start of the season, allowing just one hit, one run and two walks to five strikeouts.

“I think we were just off balance today, we really were,” Martinez said. “Chasing balls out of the zone, we didn’t get the ball in the zone. The good news is, Jake Irvin was really good today.”

Irvin was efficient with 77 pitches, and he joined Odalis Pérez and Stephen Strasburg as the only two Nationals starters in team history (2005-present) to allow one hit and be attributed the loss.

“My job is to go out there and challenge those guys, keep us in the game,” said Irvin. “That was what I was doing, just giving us a chance to win.”

The Nationals vied to get on the board in the second inning when Joey Meneses advanced to third base playing small ball. Meneses attempted to score on a Riley Adams chopper to third baseman J.D. Davis, it was determined he was thrown out at the plate after the call was overturned on an Athletics challenge. The frame ended with runners stranded on first and third on a popup by Luis García Jr.

After the sixth inning concluded with a runner on third, the Nationals had an opportunity to do damage with the bases loaded in the seventh. A’s starter Paul Blackburn, who stifled the Nats with 6 1/3 scoreless frames, was out of the game. A pair of singles and a walk put Jesse Winker, Adams and Trey Lipscomb on base for CJ Abrams. The shortstop had hit a grand slam last April 27 against the Mets, but he would not have the same outcome against lefty reliever T.J. McFarland. Abrams struck out swinging in a four-pitch at-bat.

In spite of Winker forcing extra innings with a solo home run in the top of the ninth, his first dinger as a member of the Nationals, they were not able to convert with an automatic runner on second base in the 10th. No. 16 prospect Lipscomb attempted to advance to third base after Abrams was thrown out at first on a ground ball, but Lipscomb was thrown out on the basepaths.

“That was a tricky play,” said Martinez. “As soon as he didn’t get a jump on the first baseman… he didn’t know if he caught it or not, just stay there. He’s in scoring position. We’ve got two more chances at that point to drive him in. He didn’t know. I think he was just trying to be really aggressive. … It’s something that as a young player, you’ve just got to learn.”

One batter, two quick outs. The inning ended in the next at-bat when Lane Thomas popped out to second base. It was an experience that resonated with the rookie Lipscomb.

“When I was at second base, I kind of froze in the moment,” Lipscomb said. “It was a short hop to the first baseman, and then when I took another step, I felt like I was in no-man’s land. It was either go back to second base or go to third. But you’ve got to realize the situation, and then you’ve got to let your hitters hit.”

Ultimately, it was the A’s hitters who hit in the bottom of the 10th. With runners on first and second, Kyle Finnegan allowed a line-drive single into left field to Lawrence Butler. In spite of having an 8-3 hitting advantage on the night, it was the situational moments that escaped the Nationals.

“These are the games here we should try to scratch and claw and get one more run than the other guys,” said Martinez. “It didn’t happen. We’ve got to come back tomorrow, and let’s go 1-0 tomorrow.”