Series recap: Angels at Nationals
Series dates: April 21-23
Series location: Washington, D.C.
Results: The Nationals lost the April 21 game, 4-2; lost the April 22 game, 7-2; and won the April 23 game, 5-4
Nationals' record: 12-10 (.545)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY WASHINGTON PLAYERS: First baseman Adam LaRoche has been one of the most consistent hitters for average during the first month of the season, and he came through with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth to score Jayson Werth April 23. The Nationals scored four runs to come back and win against the Angels' bullpen. Washington now has seven comeback wins this season. It was the third hit of the game for LaRoche, who is batting .315.
During the April 21 game, right-handed starter Tanner Roark continued to shine at Nationals Park, where he has given up one earned run in 26 innings during his career. During the April 21 game, he went 6.2 innings and did not allow any runs, but did not figure in the decision.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE NATIONALS: Not a lot went the Nationals' way until the bottom of the ninth during the series finale April 23. Catcher Jose Lobaton led off the inning with a home run to make it 4-2. Denard Span singled with one out, and Anthony Rendon drew a walk, then Werth crushed a 3-0 pitch down the left-field line for a double. Washington got a break when the ball caromed off a wall in foul territory, which allowed Rendon to score the tying run. LaRoche then followed with the game-winner.
Right-hander Drew Storen continues to pitch well out of the bullpen. He got the final out in the top of the ninth April 23, and did not allow a run even though he gave up a hit and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 1.17.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE NATIONALS: Reliever Tyler Clippard had a meltdown during the April 21 game. He gave up four runs (all unearned) as the Angels came back to win, 4-2.
The Nationals continued to fall behind early during games. They gave up four runs in the first inning to the Angels April 22, and the Angels lead MLB in first-inning runs.
"We don't want to have to come from behind, that's for sure," manager Matt Williams said. "We've done it, but it's not ideal, by any stretch. We've just got to do a better job of getting back in the dugout and let our offense go to work. But over the course of multiple games or a whole season, it's difficult to come back that many times. And it wears on you a little bit. We've got to [do] a better job of getting out of the first or the second and letting our offense go to work a little bit."
Washington made two more errors April 22 and one April 23. Rendon, playing third base, made a throwing error in the first inning April 22 on a ball hit by Mike Trout.
"I'm baffled, because it's … first of all, the ball that Trout hit, that's a hard ball," Williams said. "And Anthony had five or six of them tonight, balls that were hit extremely hard. I think he rushed a little bit. Misplaying the ball a little bit initially with Mike up there, we know he runs well. He rushed a little bit and pulled the ball to his left."
Albert Pujols hit two home runs during the April 22 game to give him 500 for his career. He hit a three-run homer in the first against pitcher Taylor Jordan.
Jordan has had trouble in the first inning this year.
"It's just happening," he said. "I'm trying to figure it out, right now. I really don't know. If I knew, it wouldn't happen."
THE M*A*S*H WATCH: Washington ended the Angels series with starting pitcher Doug Fister, catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Scott Hairston and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list. Fister continues to make progress, and most likely will pitch a minor league game before returning to the Washington rotation, perhaps in May against the Dodgers.
OTHER ROSTER MOVES: The Nationals brought back reliever Aaron Barrett from Triple-A Syracuse before the April 22 game, and he retired the side with two strikeouts in the top of the ninth that night. He fanned Trout for the final out. Barrett allowed one run in two innings out of the bullpen during the April 23 game -- the first run he has allowed in the big leagues during eight outings. He also did not allow any runs during spring training.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Even after earning a four-game split against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals didn't hit well against the Angels -- until late during the April 23 game. Washington keeps falling behind early during games. Williams admitted during the series that trying to come from behind to win games is not a good recipe. This series was also a reminder that baseball is a team game: the series featured young stars Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, but they were overshadowed by Pujols and the wild finish April 23.
WHAT IS NEXT: The Nationals will begin a series at home April 24 against the Padres. The scheduled pitchers are right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.92) of the Nationals against left-handed pitcher Eric Stults (1-2, 4.35) of the Padres. San Diego reliever Tim Stauffer played at the University of Richmond and was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles, but did not sign.