BALTIMORE -- Erick Fedde's audition for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation on Wednesday night had gone swimmingly for six innings. Eleven of the 18 outs Fedde recorded came on the ground. He scattered five hits across his outing, keeping the Orioles off the board aside from a solo homer from Trey Mancini in the fourth inning. And Fedde did it all in an efficient 66 pitches.
But considering this was Fedde’s first appearance since July 2, Nationals manager Dave Martinez elected to turn to his bullpen to start the seventh inning, using Wander Suero to protect a one-run advantage rather than allow Fedde to face the middle of the Orioles' lineup for a third time. The decision backfired. Four of the next five Baltimore hitters reached base, snatching the lead from Washington before the O's turned the game into a rout, handing the Nats a 9-2 loss at Camden Yards.
After the game, Suero revealed he received some “bad news” earlier Wednesday that sapped his concentration on the mound and led to his poor outing. Suero did not inform Martinez of the issue before the game began.
“I didn't think of that,” Suero said through an interpreter. “To be honest, I'm a competitor. I like to compete any way I can, so I wanted to go out there and do my job. And unfortunately things didn't work out the way I expected them to. With stuff going on, my head was not in it. But I just tried to go out there and do my job, and today it just didn't work out.”
Suero said that he was OK physically but did not specify what threw him, simply stating that his mind was elsewhere. Suero walked the first batter of the seventh inning and the Orioles collected three more singles before he was taken out of the game. All season, Suero has been one of the Nats' most puzzling pitchers, appearing virtually unhittable one night and then pedestrian the next.
Including Suero’s outing, it took the Nationals three pitchers to complete the seventh, and by the time the inning was over, the Orioles had a lead. By the ninth, Baltimore put the game out of reach. The Nats used four relievers -- Suero, Tony Sipp, Javy Guerra and Matt Grace -- on Wednesday, and they combined to give up eight runs (six earned) on nine hits and two walks.
With under two weeks to go until the July 31 Trade Deadline, it was a quick reminder that even though Nationals relievers have been steady lately, Washington's bullpen still owns the worst ERA in the National League (second worst in the Majors only to Baltimore).
“Today we didn't hit the ball,” Martinez said. “We had one good opportunity, couldn't get any big runs, but sometimes you've got to win the 2-1 games. Today, we just didn't do it.”
Perhaps if Martinez had known about Suero’s personal issue, the manager would have been more inclined to push Fedde deeper into the game. But Fedde’s track record suggests a turn can often come swiftly and suddenly when he faces a lineup for a third time. In his brief Major League career, opposing batters entered the game hitting .403/.467/.791 with seven home runs in 75 plate appearances when facing him a third trip through the lineup.
And while Fedde said he would have liked to remain in the game longer, he said he respected the Nationals' decision to pull him.
"I was feeling good, but they told me it was more of a safety thing in a sense, which I can always respect,” Fedde said. "Just one of those ones wish I could've gone more, but you have to respect the decision."