Aug 26, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Feeling as good as they have about themselves in weeks, the Nationals took the field Wednesday night with a chance to notch their third straight series victory and post a 4-game winning streak for the first time since June. But they wound up digging themselves into a big hole early, then saw a furious rally attempt come up just short.
Things started off poorly, with Yunel Escobar’s error opening the door for a 4-run third inning by the Padres against Gio Gonzalez, who struggled for a third straight outing. Down 5-0 in the fourth, though, the Nationals slowly clawed their way back to make this a game.
Ryan Zimmerman drove in a run in the fourth and another in the sixth, trimming the deficit to 5-2. The Padres got one back in the top of the seventh, when Justin Upton launched his second homer of the night, but the Nationals again rallied in the bottom of the inning, getting a bases-loaded walk from Anthony Rendon and a 2-run single from Bryce Harper. An Escobar double-play grounder on a 3-0 pitch ended that rally in disappointing fashion, but the Nats remained only one run down at that point.
That’s where the deficit remained. The Nationals couldn’t push across the tying run against either Joaquin Benoit or Craig Kimbrel, and so their winning streak was snapped at three games, their deficit to the Mets in the NL East in danger of growing to 6 1/2 games with 37 to play.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: There were a lot of very good at-bats during the Nationals’ seventh-inning rally: Denard Span’s double, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon’s walks, Bryce Harper’s 2-run single. But those became meaningless because of one really bad at-bat by Escobar. With three runs already in and the tying run now at third base with one out, Escobar worked the count to 3-0 against lefty Marc Rzepczynski. A walk would’ve loaded the bases for Zimmerman. Even a strikeout wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Instead, Escobar swung away at the 3-0 pitch and grounded to third. The Padres turned the 5-4-3 double play, getting a headfirst-sliding Escobar at first base to kill that rally in the most crushing of fashions.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Who knows what might have been had Escobar been able to start the 5-4-3 double play that would’ve ended the top of the third. Regardless, Gonzalez still had an opportunity to get out of the inning unscathed. Instead, he served up a 2-run double to Matt Kemp and then a 2-run homer to Justin Upton, turning a scoreless game into a 4-0 deficit in the blink of an eye. Gonzalez labored through most of his outing, which continued a downward trend for the lefty. After going 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over a stretch of eight starts from June 21 through August 10, Gonzalez now has a 10.22 ERA and 2.11 WHIP over his last three starts.
KEY STAT: Derek Norris, who was part of the Gio Gonzalez trade in 2011, is 3-for-4 with two homers, six RBI and a walk in his career against the left-hander.
UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 7:05 p.m. Thursday when the other member of the Ross Pitching Family, Joe, takes the mound for the Nationals, looking to improve his 4-5 record and 3.56 ERA. Right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-12, 4.03) starts for San Diego.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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