It was not a weekend series to remember for the Washington Nationals as they played host to the Texas Rangers.
Coming off a hugely successful west coast trip where they compiled a 7-2 record and a Joe Ross masterpiece at home on Thursday night, the expectation was that the good times would keep on rolling. Tanner Roark got the ball in Friday night’s game looking to build off a strong start on Sunday and it was apparent right away that he did not have his “good” stuff. Despite giving up only one run in the first three innings, he was hit hard and bailed out by a couple of key double plays at opportune times. The Nationals offense could not muster any offense against the Rangers starter Andrew Cashner as they were held scoreless through the first four innings. The Rangers finally got to Roark in the fifth when Jonathan Lucroy connected on a 2-run homer following a Ryan Zimmerman error. The Nats defense let Roark down again in the sixth inning as two Trea Turner errors led to another run. A Shin-Soo Choo home run leading off the seventh closed the scoring for the Rangers. The Nationals did get single runs in the sixth and ninth innings, but could never get the big hit as they dropped the first game 5-2.
Game 2 of the series featured a gem of a start by Gio Gonzalez as he gave up one run on only three hits with nine strikeouts. He finished his sixth and final inning strong getting a soft lineout with a man on second. The Nationals offense finally woke up in the bottom of the sixth as an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly followed by an Adam Lind big fly led to three runs and a 3-1 lead heading in the late innings. Lind continued his torrid start as a pinch-hitter and spot-starter for the Nats. The home run was his fifth and he has already driven in 23 runs despite not playing every day. Matt Albers relived Gonzalez in the seventh inning and was dominant as he worked around a single to strike out the side. He continued his brilliance in the eighth getting two meager pop-ups to start the inning and then striking out his final batter to finish his strong two innings of work with four strikeouts. Koda Glover came on for the ninth looking to lock up the save and was immediately greeted by a Shin-Soo Choo homer. It would be an indication of his outing as he gave up a single, a walk, and a double that tied the game rather quickly. Glover was allowed to stay in and did get a lineout double play on a rocket throw by Bryce Harper that nailed Pete Kozma (who had pinch-run for Adrian Beltre) at the plate on a call that was overturned on replay. Dusty Baker had seen enough as he lifted Glover in favor of Oliver Perez who struck out Rougned Odor to end the top of the ninth with the score now tied 3-3. The game went into the 11th where Shawn Kelley continued to give up the gopher ball at an alarming late as Robinson Chirinos took him deep for a three run blast that broke the deadlock and sent the home team to their second consecutive defeat. The more concerning news came after the game when Glover admitted to hiding a back injury from team trainers that he sustained while showering pre-game and that he acknowledged had gotten worse as a result of him trying to pitch through it. More details on the severity of the injury will be revealed in the coming days following a likely MRI for the Nats closer of the present and the future.
Looking to avoid being swept for the first time this season, the Nationals sent their ace Max Scherzer to the mound to stop the bleeding. Brian Goodwin gave Scherzer a cushion right away leading off the bottom of the first with a blast that quickly gave the Nats a 1-0 lead. The Rangers would get the run back in the top of the third on a home run by Shin-Soo Choo that tied the game. Max then notched a career milestone in the fourth by striking out Nomar Mazara for his 2,000th career strikeouts, becoming the third-fastest pitcher to achieve that milestone as he did so in his 287th appearance. Scherzer continued to dominate but was matched by Ranger rookie Austin Bibens-Dirkx as they both got through seven innings while giving up only one run. Scherzer came back out for the eighth and got a quick groundout to start the inning. An Anthony Rendon error followed by a walk to Jurickson Profar on a borderline pitch ended the afternoon for Scherzer and the Nats beleaguered bullpen would quickly falter again. Oliver Perez came on and gave up a double steal and walk to Choo and was immediately replaced by Blake Treinen. With the bases loaded and one out, Matt Wieters was crossed up by Treinen’s first pitch which led to a run. Treinen would then give up three more runs before the inning ended and Scherzer would be handed a hard-luck loss despite another brilliant start. The Nationals went down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings against the Rangers bullpen to finish a lousy weekend having been swept for the first time.
The Nats will look to bounce back at home this week against the Atlanta Braves with Stephen Strasburg taking the hill in game 1 Monday night.