Sep 22, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals took the field on Tuesday winners of seven of their last eight, but their momentum both on the mound and on offense was stalled as the Baltimore Orioles controlled the series opener from start to finish with the final result a 4-1 Washington loss. The Nats have lost 9 of their last 13 games to the Orioles.
Gio Gonzalez stumbled to his shortest start of September and the Nats couldn’t produce much of anything against right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. That was a marked change from the recent prowess shown by the Nats’ rotation, and the recent surge by their offense, which had scored 23 runs in their previous three games.
Gio made it just 4 2/3 innings and left with a three-run deficit. He was in and out of the strike zone and gave up two walks and six hits.
Jimenez went six innings and gave up only one run, which wasn’t earned. It was only the fourth time this season Jimenez has gone at least six innings with no earned runs allowed. He did walk five batters, but the Nats couldn’t make him pay for them.
It was a tough 24 hours for the Nationals’ fleeting playoff hopes. The Mets won on Monday and the Nats’ loss on Tuesday dropped New York’s magic number to six with only 12 games remaining on the Nationals’ schedule.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: Jimenez had a 4.31 ERA before Tuesday, but was able to keep the Nationals’ lineup at bay despite giving up five walks. He only allowed three hits and was not charged with an earned run.
The Nationals did get one run against Jimenez, but it was aided by a Jonathan Schoop error at second base. It came in the fourth inning and Schoop bobbled a groundball hit directly to him by Jonathan Lobaton. The mistake allowed Clint Robinson to score from third base. The Nats had two men on with one out after Robinson scored, but Gonzalez quickly grounded into a double play to dash those hopes.
The Nationals scored only one run for the first time since Sept. 12. They had notched four runs or more in eight straight games before Tuesday’s loss.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Gonzalez entered Tuesday carrying a streak of four consecutive solid outings, but he was no match for the deep Orioles lineup on this particular night. After zooming through the first inning, he quickly found trouble in the second and allowed two runs in the frame. He then gave up two more in the fifth before exiting after only 4 2/3 innings.
The two runs Gio allowed in the second inning were on singles to Jimenez and Nolan Reimold. The two runs in the fifth were on doubles by Chris Davis and Steve Pearce.
It was Gio’s shortest start in nearly a month and it included four earned runs on six hits and two walks. This is the 10th time in 28 starts this season that Gonzalez has allowed four earned runs or more. That is compared to six times in 27 outings last year.
Gonzalez left the mound with a 3.94 ERA. He should have a few more chances to lower that mark before the season is out, but it looks like a safe bet for Gio to finish with his worst season ERA since 2009.
KEY STAT: Harper had two walks in the game. The first tied Adam Dunn’s Nats’ single season record of 116 and his second set a new mark. He actually walked a third time in the eight inning and now has 118 total on the season. Harper has walked three times in a game nine times in his career and eight of those performances have come this year.
UP NEXT: The Nationals and Orioles continue their series with a 7:05 p.m. start on Tuesday night. Max Scherzer (12-11, 2.90) will pitch for the Nats, while Chris Tillman (9-11, 5.19) will get the ball for Baltimore.
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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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