WASHINGTON -- Colby Rasmus chortled before Thursday's game when asked how it's felt watching the Orioles' current struggles."Well, I haven't watched," Rasmus said with a laugh. "I don't know what's been going on. Just here to play."Maybe it's for good reason, since Rasmus took the field for Thursday's 4-2 loss
WASHINGTON -- Colby Rasmus chortled before Thursday's game when asked how it's felt watching the Orioles' current struggles.
"Well, I haven't watched," Rasmus said with a laugh. "I don't know what's been going on. Just here to play."
Maybe it's for good reason, since Rasmus took the field for Thursday's 4-2 loss to Washington at Nationals Park like his team was in the middle of a pennant race. With a home run off Max Scherzer in his first Major League at-bat since April 6 -- and an outfield assist to keep the game tied in the seventh inning -- Rasmus excelled in his first big league appearance since a left hip flexor strain landed him on the 60-day DL.
But it was youngster Juan Soto's eighth-inning, two-run double and the Nationals' unrelenting late-inning relievers that spoiled the journeyman's return.
"He's put in a lot of work to get back here," manager Buck Showalter said of Rasmus, "so everybody was excited to see him come back in the locker room today."
Rasmus, who was activated from the disabled list after batting .275 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 rehab games with Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie, was thrust right against the finest the big leagues have to offer with Scherzer. But Rasmus had no fear of the reigning back-to-back National League Cy Young Award winner.
"I'm glad it's Scherzer," Rasmus said before the game. "Get to face one of the best in the game. That is what it's all about. … You play in the big leagues, you want to compete and play against the best. Definitely not scared about it, that's for sure."
"Baseball don't lie," Rasmus added of his homer after the game. "Ball don't lie."
A Bryce Harper sac fly and Anthony Rendon's solo homer were the only runs given up by starter Kevin Gausman. Mychal Givens took the mound in the seventh, looking to extend his streak of four consecutive scoreless outings.
It was Rasmus who bailed Givens out in the seventh inning with a double play at the plate, but a leadoff double from Harper in the eighth, followed immediately by a single from Trea Turner, had Givens back in trouble. It also put the Nationals' most lethal hitter as of late at the plate in Soto. The 19-year-old sent a two-run double the opposite way to score two, ending the Orioles' hopes of their first victory in a series of at least three games since May 11-13.
Gausman continued his improvement in the outing, allowing three runs or fewer for his third straight start. He was worked hard by the Nationals' lineup and was forced to throw 61 pitches through just three innings.
After Harper's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, Mark Trumbo quickly responded with a homer -- his third in his last four games -- to quickly regain a one-run lead. It was the first time since July 21, 2017, that Scherzer has given up multiple homers in a game.
Scherzer fought through to take his team into the seventh, and the one-two punch of newly acquired Kelvin Herrera and closer Sean Doolittle soundly shut the door, not allowing a baserunner in the final two innings.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Rasmus makes himself at home: As if his home run wasn't enough, Rasmus showcased what he can provide to the Orioles defensively in the seventh inning. With Wilmer Difo on third and one out, Daniel Murphy lined out to Rasmus, who proceeded to fire a dart home to throw out Difo trying to tag up, keeping the game tied at 2.
"I got excited with a chance to throw him out," Rasmus said, "so I just came out and aimed high, let it fly. Luckily, [catcher Caleb Joseph] came down with it and we were able to get him."
Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini was unavailable on Thursday due to a sore neck. Mancini, who was getting treatment in the clubhouse postgame, is day to day, and Showalter said he hopes he can play in Friday's opener in Atlanta.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Thursday wasn't infielder Steve Wilkerson's first big league appearance -- he was a defensive replacement in the Orioles' win Wednesday -- but his first big league putout couldn't have come on a prettier play. With two outs in the bottom of the second, Wilkerson dived to snag a bouncing ball down the third-base line, then fired a strong throw to nab Michael A. Taylor running to first.
HE SAID IT
"Obviously, whenever [Scherzer's] on the mound, you know runs are going to come at a premium. You just try to take advantage of those opportunities you get. Trumbo and Colby did a good job of putting a good part of the bat on the ball. That type of guy, two runs is tough. He's obviously one of the best pitchers in the game and has been for a long time. You know he's going to go seven innings every time he pitches, so it's tough." -- Gausman, on facing Scherzer
The Orioles will continue Interleague Play with a three-game series in Atlanta, starting Friday night at 7:35 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park. Alex Cobb, owner of an 8.10 ERA in June, will get the ball in Game 1 after fighting through seven innings while allowing five runs in his last outing. Lefty Sean Newcomb will take the mound for the Braves.
** Zachary Silver** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.