WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Lucas Harrell #64 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
This one was a nail biter from start to finish. The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, gave it back in the seventh, took it back in the top of the eigth, and then gave it back for good in the bottom of the eight. Speaking of that bottom of the eight, that's where things really got interesting. Fernando Rodriguez started the inning by walking Danny Espinosa and then gave up a single to Ryan Zimmerman. Wesley Wright then entered the game and walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases with nobody out. Rookie rule 5 pick Rhiner Cruz then entered the game showing that Mills has a lot of faith in the rookie right now. Rhiner made several borderline pitches to Jayson Werth that did not go his way and ultimately walked in a run. He later allowed another inherited runner to score on a Wilson Ramos sacrifice fly to Schafer. Even though things did not bounce his way Rhiner pitched very good considering the situation and the fact that the strikezone was almost non existent while he was on the mound.
Harrell labored through his first two innings before getting in a groove in the third that led to retiring seven in a row. He led off the fifth inning with a walk to Wilson Ramos, but was right around the strikezone throughout Ramos' at bat. He then retired Roger Bernadina on a very nice Changeup-curveball-curveball sequence for the strikeout. Jordan Zimmerman grounded out to Johnson on a fake bunt swinging grounder to the third baseman that advanced Ramos to second. The next batter hit a shot to deep center that looked to tie the game, but Schafer got a good jump on the ball tracking it all the way and making a great catch at the wall to end the inning. Harrell allowed the leadoff batter to get on again in the sixth but induced a flyout of Zimmerman, and then induced a comeback grounder to the mound by LaRoche to get out of the inning.
The Nats finally got to Harrell in the seventh when Ankiel doubled off the wall to left center with one out. Justin Maxwell almost caught the ball at the wall, but was unable to reel it in and Jordan Schafer did a good job of holding Ankiel to a double. Harrell was then called for a somewhat controversial baulk call that advanced Ankiel to third. He then recorded a big strikeout to Wilson Ramos before Bernadina doubled to left to tie the game. Fernando Rodriguez then entered the game and immediately walked pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi before inducing a foul popup to Carlos Lee off the bat of Ian Desmond.
All said it was a very solid outing for Lucas Harrell tonight. He ended going 6.2 innings, allowed 4 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts. He threw a total of 97 pitches with 57 of them going for strikes. The bullpen on the other hand struggled with control in the eigth and ultimately ended up giving this game back to the Nationals. All said the bullpen allowed three walks in the inning and only one hit. Rhiner Cruz got tagged with the blown save even though he entered a tough situation and pitched okay all things considered.
The offense was once again stymied by Nationals pitching logging six hits on the night. Four of those hits were singles by Jordan Schafer, Jed Lowrie, and Carlos Lee, with Marwin Gonzalez and Jason Castro both logging doubles. The Astros got on the board in the fourth inning Astros style by never getting the ball out of the infield. Jordan Schafer got things started with a drag bunt single down the first base line. He then stole second, advanced to third on Lowrie's groundout to first, and then scored on a groundout by Travis Buck.
The Astros went quietly for the most part for the rest of the night until Jason Castro led off the eight inning with a leadoff double. Marwin Gonzalez then came up with the goal of advancing Castro to third, which proved to be an unattainable goal with Gonzalez popping up a bunt attempt. Jose Altuve who did not start the game smacked a liner to third that Zimmerman speared for out two. With two outs Schafer then hit a liner between first and second to score Castro from second to take a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately thats where the excitement ends as the Astros were unable to get anything else going against the Nats.
No errors committed on the night and overall the defense played pretty well. Jordan Schafer made a great play in center, and Lucas Harrell also initiated a double play. That's all I got for defense.In short it was an exciting game, but a very disappointing ending. Eventually the Astros will start winning some of these one run ballgames. Hopefully Bud Norris can put a stop to this four game losing streak tomorrow.