The Washington Nationals were swept this weekend to begin a west coast road trip by the Oakland Athletics. The Nationals entered the weekend with a .5 game lead in the NL East, but left Oakland sitting 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
Doug Fister made his career debut for Washington on Friday, and seemed to fit right into the starting rotation as he gave up a first inning run after an error. Fister should help bolster the Nationals’ rotation in the future, but his struggles to hit his spots on Friday night resulted in seven runs allowed and an early call to the bullpen.
Friday night’s struggles on the mound and at the plate were compounded on Saturday evening by Rafael Soriano’s first blown save of the year. Soriano entered the game with a two run lead and a 0.00 ERA for the season. After Josh Donaldson singled with the tying runner on second base, Soriano inexplicably cut off Zach Walters throw from left field that could have resulted in Jed Lowrie being out at the plate. In the bottom of the 10th inning, John Jaso hit a high fly ball to right field that resulted in Nick Punto scoring and an Athletics win.
Sunday afternoon provided another poor performance, and Gio Gonzalez’ start resembled that of Doug Fister from two nights earlier. Gonzalez allowed seven runs in the first two innings, and the game was essentially over before it started.
To see better results in Arizona, Washington must have improved starting pitching and more consistent offense throughout the series. The Nats lost Adam LaRoche to the 15 day DL this weekend, and will need Tyler Moore to adequately replace him if they are going to consistently produce runs without LaRoche in the lineup.
One bright note from the weekend was another solid outing from Tanner Roark. Roark threw 7 and 1/3 innings of one run baseball, and put the Nationals in position to win. If the Nationals make the postseason, Roark may be looked upon as the team’s unsung hero.