Risks, mistakes cost Nationals series finale against Sox

May 12th, 2024

BOSTON -- Chaotic action in the early innings set the tone for the Nationals in the series finale against the Red Sox on Sunday.

The Nats lost, 3-2, at Fenway Park in a game that saw two errors, two caught-stealing attempts and a pickoff mixed with a home run and a pair of stolen bags.

“We made some mistakes,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Dropped fly ball, ran into some outs on the bases. It might have cost us the game; you don’t know that. But when you make those kind of mistakes, it’s definitely going to hamper the way you finish the game.”

Here are four frames that stood out.

Second inning
MacKenzie Gore walked Connor Wong in an eight-pitch at-bat to open the second inning. He then allowed a single to Garrett Cooper. Vaughn Grissom hit what looked like it would be a routine fly ball to Victor Robles in center field, but Robles dropped the ball, loading the bases on a fielding error.

“I’m going to be totally honest with you: I wanted to take him out of the game,” said Martinez. “I couldn’t because [Jesse] Winker was hurting a little bit; I knew that he had back spasms. That can’t happen. It changed the game a little bit there. We could have been out of that inning. Those are the things that as I talk about with Luis García being here so long, and we’ve got to clean those things up with him as well. That just can’t happen anymore.”

The two-time Gold Glove Award finalist committed his first error since 2022. Robles expressed “feeling really bad” for his teammates, notably Gore, and he emphasized the support he received from the Nationals following the miscue.

“It’s something I personally can’t even explain myself; I still can’t believe it,” Robles said of the error. “I take so many fly balls out there and catch so many of them. It was such a routine fly ball; I just have no excuse for dropping that ball.”

Gore induced the forceout at home against Jarren Duran. But the bases were still loaded, and Ceddanne Rafaela drove in two runs with a ground-rule double down the right-field line.

Gore then hurled a wild pitch, allowing Duran to score. The Nationals trailed, 3-0, after the second inning.

Third inning
The Nationals looked to bounce back quickly. Riley Adams recorded a one-out single, and Robles reached first base on a missed catch error by Cooper off the ground-ball assist from third baseman Rafael Devers.

But when CJ Abrams singled into right field, Robles rounded second base and thought Adams had advanced home. Adams hadn’t. With third base still occupied, Robles was caught attempting to get back to second base.

“The ball was hit very well, and as I’m running around second base, I never looked up to look for Riley,” said Robles. “I just saw the ball. It was my mistake.”

Runners were stranded on the corners after Luis García Jr. grounded out to second to end the top of the inning.

Fourth inning
The day after homering into the shadowy left-field corner, Eddie Rosario connected on another dramatic home run. Center fielder Rafaela tumbled over the Red Sox bullpen wall chasing after Rosario’s 380-foot shot. The dinger also drove in Nick Senzel to make it a one-run game.

After batting .088 through the end of April, Rosario has responded with four home runs in his last six contests. He extended his hitting streak to seven games. Martinez noted Rosario, who signed a Minor League deal with the Nats in March, is attacking the strike zone.

“A lot of times when you show up that late to Spring Training, everything quickens up on you,” said Rosario. “I’m just trying to find a good routine to work on and a rhythm, and luckily it’s coming together right now.”

Ninth inning
The game ended the way it began for the Nationals, who rank second among all clubs in stolen bases: they were caught stealing.

“I do believe we did believe we did a good job throughout the series slowing it down,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “You cannot panic, they will run. Especially when they’re ahead, you saw it in the first game. So just got to make sure you mix up your looks, your times and throw to the right base. … They’re very athletic, they’re good at what they do.”

Martinez tabbed the team’s stolen base leader Jacob Young to pinch-run for Senzel in the ninth inning. With two outs, Young bolted for second base against closer Kenley Jansen and catcher Wong. Rafaela, who had moved to shortstop, applied the tag. Young had been caught stealing only once this season, compared to 13 successful swipes.

“We made some mistakes out there, but we’re going to push the envelope,” Martinez said. “That’s the kind of baseball we play. Today, it didn’t work out.”