Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roger Bernadina and the Nationals were no match for Detroit's pitching staff.
"I think [Detroit] is a really, really good team," Adam Dunn said. "And I think they just beat the crap out of us. They out-pitched us, out-hit us and just flat-out beat us."
No debate here. The Nationals were inferior to the Tigers in every department, rarely looking like they could compete with a team that currently owns the American League's sixth-best record. (Shudder to think what might happen if Washington played the Yankees or Rays right now.)
There are any number of ways to measure the disparity between these two teams during this series, but here's perhaps the best one. Detroit starting pitchers recorded 27 strikeouts while issuing only two walks (one of them intentional). The strikeout-to-walk ratio for Washington's starting pitchers: 4-to-11.
"Every starter they've got throws 100 mph," Ian Desmond said. "It just seems like over here in the American League, they're growing 100-mph, hard-throwing, fastball pitchers on a tree in the backyard."
The Nationals, of course, have their own homegrown flamethrower. Unfortunately, Stephen Strasburg can only pitch once every five days, even though this club could sure use him more often.
Washington doesn't have another strikeout pitcher in its current rotation, and very few of them waiting in the wings. Scott Olsen was striking guys out before his surgically repaired shoulder acted up, but there's no telling when (or if) he'll return. Ross Detwiler has the potential to be a strikeout pitcher, but it's tough to count on a guy who has such limited experience and is still rehabbing from his own injury.
No, the Nationals are a team full of "pitch-to-contact" guys, which puts added pressure on the guys in the field to play crisp, clean baseball. That hasn't happened, either. The Nats were charged with two errors today and made a couple other defensive miscues that left the manager feeling the need to address it with his players afterward.
"We've got to continue to realize that it's attention to detail," Jim Riggleman said. "Tighten the game up, in terms of being prepared for the ball to be hit to you, where it's going to go if it is hit to you. Same old stuff, but we're not getting the results in that area yet."
So the Nationals will carry a three-game losing streak (and a record five games under .500) into this weekend's series against the White Sox. For the third time in 10 days, they'll ask Strasburg to be their stopper.
It's not a role they wanted to thrust upon him at such a delicate stage of his career. But right now, they have no choice.
"That's what happens when he's the best we've got right now," Dunn said. "We need him to go out and pitch like he's been pitching. That's why he's up here: To give us a chance to win."
The Nationals have to be careful not to rely too much on Strasburg saving the day.
"We like to have him out there any time we can, but we've got to win ballgames other than when Stephen's pitching," Riggleman said. "You can never take for granted you're going to win a game when anybody's pitching. You know, Koufax lost games."
Koufax also had Drysdale for a teammate. What the Nationals would give for a No. 2 starter like that right now.