Bullpen unable to pick up Scherzer in seventh
Nationals' ace allows five runs over six frames before 'pen surrenders three more
WASHINGTON -- In a game with massive playoff implications, in front of a home crowd providing playoff-like energy, Washington's pitching faltered down the stretch, dropping the Nationals to five games back of the Mets with an 8-5 loss.
In the fifth inning with two runners in scoring position and a one-run lead, manager Matt Williams allowed a struggling Max Scherzer to hit for himself with two outs. The decision simultaneously showed Williams' faith in his ace, who staggered through five uneasy innings, and the lack thereof in his bullpen, which posted a 4.64 ERA in August.
Scherzer grounded out to end the inning. Then he gave up the tying run in the sixth, and four relievers combined to allow three runs in the seventh, the difference in the loss.
"We just couldn't hold the fort late," said Casey Janssen. "Just got to get ready for tomorrow."
Janssen threw the pitch that gave New York the decisive run -- a 1-2 fastball that David Wright knocked up the middle, scoring Ruben Tejada from second base.
"I went with my arm-side fastball," Janssen said. "[Wright's] a good hitter and hit the ball to left-center. I attacked him, and he just got it today."
To start the inning, Williams went with righty Blake Treinen, and he planned to play matchups to bridge the gap to Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon in the back end.
Treinen allowed a leadoff single, got the lead runner at second base on an attempted sacrifice bunt and was pulled for lefty Felipe Rivero. Rivero only faced Curtis Granderson, also a lefty, but Granderson walked to move the go-ahead run into scoring position.
"Felipe's at-bat to Granderson," Williams said, when asked about the inning's turning point. "The fact that he walked him there. If he gets Granderson, we let him go through and get to [Daniel Murphy], but since he walked him, a base hit there, they end up taking the lead."
The next matchup was Janssen vs. Wright, which resulted in a 6-5 New York lead.
"If you can't get up for situations like this ...," Janssen said before trailing off. He threw 24 pitches over the two days prior, marking the first time this season that he was called on to throw in three straight games. "Adrenaline takes care of everything."
Lefty Matt Thornton jogged in from the bullpen next, and he surrendered a sacrifice fly and an RBI double, the cap on the series-opening loss.
"Over it," Thornton said. "Ready for tomorrow. We're done. Today is done. We look forward to tomorrow and go out and try to win tomorrow, and that's all that matters, the next day."