Apr 27, 2015, 10:18 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals showed up at Turner Field on Monday, hoping a change of scenery would be the impetus for a change of fortunes. Instead, they dug themselves into an even deeper hole with another ugly performance that extended their losing streak to six games and may have cost them their starting third baseman.
Doug Fister was shaky over 5 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and committing two costly errors on pickoff attempts. One of those errors set up a play in which Andrelton Simmons slid hard into third base and injured Yunel Escobar’s left hand, knocking Escobar out of the game and perhaps leading to hot tempers later when Nationals reliever Rafael Martin hit Simmons in the back with his first pitch out of the bullpen.
The Nationals did show some fire late, getting a Little League home run (triple-plus-error) from Dan Uggla to trim the deficit to 7-4 in the eighth. But that was too little, too late for a team that has now lost six in a row, dropped to 7-13 and a sits a full 8 games behind the Mets in the NL East.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: There was no singular moment that was lower than the others, but collectively the Nationals offensive showing in this game certainly qualified as a lowlight. One night after managing one run and three hits off Dan Haren, they did the exact same against Eric Stults. Nothing against either pitcher, but we’re not talking about flamethrowers here. The Nationals did hit several balls hard off Stults, with Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth all victims of some bad luck. But overall, this team just isn’t hitting anywhere close to its full capacity right now.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: What exactly is going on right now with Fister? Whatever it is, he hasn’t looked like himself so far this season. He issued four walks a couple of starts ago, then served up two homers his last time out. And in this one, the usually rock-solid right-hander twice was charged with errors on wayward pickoff attempts. The first led to the play that injured Escobar. The second led to a run scoring. When it was all done, Fister had allowed five runs (four earned, though it was his error) and 10 hits in only 5 2/3 innings. The question is whether something’s wrong with him, or whether (like his entire team) he’s just off to a slow start.
INJURY UPDATE: Escobar was forced out of the game in the bottom of the fifth after appearing to get spiked on the left hand on a hard slide by Simmons at third base. Simmons’ slide knocked Escobar’s glove completely off, and left the infielder writhing in pain. He was helped off the field by assistant trainer Steve Gober, with Danny Espinosa taking over at third base and Uggla entering to play second base.
KEY STAT: Nats starters, other than Max Scherzer, haven’t reached the seventh inning in their last seven games.
UP NEXT: The Nationals will need a spot start from either Tanner Roark or rookie A.J. Cole in place of the injured Scherzer when they face the Braves at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. Julio Teheran starts for Atlanta.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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