PHILADELPHIA -- The game may have been decided by three runs, but the Nationals felt like it came down to one hit. Joe Ross and the Nats were stifled by a decisive fourth inning in a 5-2 loss to the Phillies on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
“I feel like I was one pitch away from being very good,” Ross said.
Ross took a scoreless outing into the fourth. After he got Odúbel Herrera to ground out, Jean Segura reached first base on a fielding error by Josh Bell. It was Bell’s first of the season, one he attributed to footwork and not staying in front of the ball.
“Obviously, you want to make errors when you’re up 15 runs,” Bell said. “I knew I was probably going to make an error at one point or another. But it was just tough watching one unfold and knowing what Joe had going there before that error. It definitely stunk. I’m down at first base like, ‘Please, ground-ball double play right here. Ground-ball double play.’ It didn’t work out.”
Ross then hit Bryce Harper with an errant slider to put two runners on. The right-hander was looking to garner weak contact against Andrew McCutchen, but he noted his slider caught too much of the plate -- and it flew a Statcast-projected 377 feet out of the park. It was his eighth start this season in which he allowed at least one home run.
But Ross was able to buckle down after that and pitch six innings, a boost for the shorthanded Nationals who are going with a bullpen day on Sunday. He allowed three hits and two walks while hitting one batter and striking out four.
“Let’s talk about his overall performance -- I thought he did great,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It was the error, the hit batsman and then he just made one bad pitch to McCutchen. Other than that, he threw the ball really, really well.”
With the defensive miscue still on his mind, Bell closed the gap in the eighth with his eighth home run of the year, matching his total from the shortened 2020 season. But Harper answered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single off Sam Clay to keep Washington at bay.
“As the game goes on, you’re just trying to fight for opportunities to score runs and get back in the game,” Bell said. “Yes, it’s in the back of I think anybody’s mind when you make an error, especially a costly one like that, you really want to win the game at the end of the day.”
While the fourth inning had the Nationals playing catchup later in the game, Martinez sees one way the outcome could have been different. If the Nats had more offensive production, the impact of one hit or one error wouldn’t have been so significant.
“It comes back to the offense. It really does,” Martinez said. “When you’re scoring two runs a game, the mistakes become magnified. That’s what’s kind of happening right now. Once again, our offense, we need to get going. We need to start hitting with runners on base. That’s part of the game. We’ve got to score more runs than the other guys at the end of the day. Look, I’ve said it before, they’re playing hard and hitting is hard. I know it. But we’ve just got to come out and be ready to play tomorrow.”
The Nationals will close the NL East series on Sunday afternoon, capping a stretch of seven straight days against division rivals.
“I feel for these guys because they try, they really do. The effort’s there,” Martinez said. “We’ve got to keep grinding. That’s what this is all about. We’ve got to keep grinding. Sometimes I feel like we’re really close to busting out of it. I’m seeing good at-bats. But today just wasn’t that day.”