Aggressive approach backfires on Yunel, Nats
With the tying run at third base, infielder grounds into inning-ending DP on 3-0 pitch
WASHINGTON -- Yunel Escobar knew the drill. With the Nationals' comeback almost complete and the tying run 90 feet away, Escobar's job was to hit a fly ball, drive Anthony Rendon in and hand the baton over to a hot Ryan Zimmerman.
Instead, on a 3-0 offering from Padres sinkerballer Marc Rzepczynski, Escobar grounded into an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play. The opportunity turned out to be the Nationals' last, as the score never changed and San Diego evened the series with a 6-5 win on Wednesday night.
"It's not that I prefer or not prefer [swinging 3-0]," Escobar said through a translator. "I just thought it was the right situation. I felt I got a good pitch and was unable to do what I was trying to do."
Before Wednesday, MLB hitters were hitting .369 on 3-0 counts, grounding into five double plays. Escobar is hitting .308 on the season, but he ranks in the top five of National League hitters for grounding into double plays.
"He also hits fifth in our lineup and is hitting .308," manager Matt Williams said. "And he's a good RBI guy. We do it all the time. We do it with Jayson [Werth]. We do the same with Bryce [Harper]. We do it with just about everybody in our lineup. Pick a pitch and get one to hit."
Down 6-2 entering the seventh, the Nationals loaded the bases with one out as the inning turned to the heart of their order. Rendon walked on seven pitches to drive in a run and Harper hit a two-run single right back up the middle, cutting the deficit to a run.
"I thought I was going to get a first-pitch heater on the inside half," Harper said. "Tried to step in a bucket and hit it as far as I could, and then tried to lock in a little bit more, tried to battle it off. I got a pitch over the heart of the plate, just tried to not do too much with it, and get those guys in."
In stepped Escobar, and he watched the first three sinkers drop well below his knees. The fourth and final pitch was over the middle of the plate but in the lower half of the zone.
"It's a good situation for him," Williams said. "He's hitting five in our lineup. [It's a good time] to pick a pitch and get it airborne. He just happened to get on top of that one."
The loss snapped the Nationals' three-game winning streak and, coupled with a Mets win in Philadelphia, dropped Washington to 6 1/2 games back in the NL East.