Diamondbacks 4, Nationals 3
WASHINGTON (AP)—As yet another Washington Nationals starter struggled, team president Stan Kasten wryly observed, “Just your typical 40-pitch inning.”
For the record, Jason Bergmann needed 50 pitches to get through a three-run first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night. Orlando Hudson homered off Bergmann in the third to add to the lead, and Arizona held on for a 4-3 victory over Washington.
“It seems like if we just get rid of that first inning,” Washington’s Ryan Church said, “we’ll be all right.”
Indeed, the Nationals have been outscored 8-0 in first innings so far, and they’ve put themselves in a big hole four times in four games. In their opening three-game series against Florida, the Nationals:
— trailed 3-0 in the second and 6-0 in the fourth inning of Game 1, and lost;
— trailed 5-0 in the second and 6-0 in the sixth inning of Game 2, and lost;
— trailed 5-0 in the third inning of Game 3, but won 7-6.
This time, the Diamondbacks were up 4-0 by the third, and Edgar Gonzalez (1-0) and four relievers made it stand up.
Gonzalez said teammate Livan Hernandez—the right-hander Washington traded to Arizona last season—told him to throw more changeups than usual. So Gonzalez did, and that might have contributed to Washington’s 0-for-13 day with runners in scoring position.
Bergmann (0-1) departed after allowing four runs in 3 2-3 innings—which actually lowered the ERA of Washington’s starters from 11.37 to 11.02.
“We were just patient with him. That was the key,” said Arizona’s Eric Byrnes, who led off the game with a single and eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk. “It wasn’t that we were hitting the ball off him. We made him throw a lot of pitches, and we were fortunate to get a few runs in the first inning.”
Bergmann’s problem was control: The right-hander’s line had more walks (six) than hits (five), and 42 of his 91 pitches were balls.
“He couldn’t throw strikes,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s got to trust it.”
Arizona took its 3-0 lead with the benefit of three walks and two singles in the first, when the big hit was Chris Young’s two-run single. The inning’s other run was forced in when Bergmann walked Conor Jackson with the bases loaded.
Hudson then led off the third by homering to left-center to make it 4-0.
Gonzalez needed 99 pitches to get through his five innings, but he weaved in and out of trouble and gave up only two runs. Two walks helped load the bases in the third, for example, but Gonzalez got Brian Schneider to fly out to the warning track in right.
The Nationals made it 4-1 on reliever Micah Bowie’s groundout to the right side—the lefty’s first RBI since 1999. Dmitri Young’s solo shot made it 4-2 in the fifth. And in the seventh, Austin Kearns singled, moved to third on Young’s double, and scored on Schneider’s fielder’s choice to make it 4-3.
The Nationals stayed close, though, thanks to a bullpen that stretched its scoreless streak to 10 1-3 innings.
“We’ve got to add on when we’ve got them on the ropes,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
The announced attendance of 16,017 was the lowest for a Nationals home game since the team moved to Washington in 2005. … Arizona OF Scott Hairston left in the first inning after fouling a ball off his left knee and was replaced during that at-bat by Robby Hammock, who stayed in the game to play left. Hairston said he expected to be able to play Friday. … Byrnes, who had at least two hits in each of the season’s first three games, went 1-for-3 with two walks. … Schneider has four RBIs this season, but none came thanks to a hit: Instead, he drove in runs with two sacrifice flies, a groundout and Thursday’s fielder’s choice.