|Photo by USA Today|
But something about the heat may have actually helped Orioles pitcher Freddy Garcia. The 36-year-old found a groove that had escaped him all season and used a split-finger fastball to baffle the Nationals lineup throughout Baltimore’s 2-0 win.
“The split-finger he was throwing, basically like facing R.A. Dickey,” Ian Desmond said. “I think the humidity and the tackiness on the ball, his fingers, there's probably a little bit of sweat going on there, that pitch was pretty unbelievable tonight.”
“A knuckle or something, I don’t know,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “If a pitcher’s got a good pitch and he throws it as much as he did obviously you start to look for it and we still can’t hit it. It’s just one of those nights where he had a really good pitch and he used it as much as he could and it worked for him.”
Garcia pitched eight airtight, scoreless innings with zero walks and six strikeouts. At one point he retired 14 consecutive Nats hitters after giving up two hits in the second inning. Garcia would allow only three hits on the night.
Garcia was asked by reporters after the game if he liked the hot weather conditions.
“I’m from Venezuela so, you know, of course,” he said. “When it’s hot like that, the splitter’s pretty good.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said everything just came together for the 15-year veteran.
“People miss that Freddy's got a good split,” he said. “He didn't elevate many balls, and when he did, he did it on purpose just to change the eye level and the release point.”
Garcia had his way with most of the Nats’ lineup, but particularly the bottom of the order. Washington’s six through nine hitters - Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Kurt Suzuki, and Danny Espinosa - went a combined 0-for-12 with three strikeouts and six runners left on base.
All of them besides Espinosa would likely be out of the lineup if the team were fully healthy but, as the calendar switches to June, some Nats are tired of using that excuse.
“It’s not early anymore,” Zimmerman said. “We can only say we need to get people back in the lineup for so long. Now we just need to start producing and start scoring runs with the guys we got.”
The Nats were disappointed afterwards, not just because their offense faltered after showing signs of life in previous days, but because their pitcher, Dan Haren, put in one of his best starts of the season. Haren was impressive through 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
The two scores were off RBI doubles, one from Nick Markakis in the third and the other from Manny Machado in the eighth.
Haren was happy with his outing, but dissatisfied with the overall outcome.
“We really needed a win today. It was a tough one yesterday and I was determined today to win this game,” he said.
“It’s an exhausting lineup, one through nine. Anyone can get you. I’m glad I threw the ball well, but obviously not happy with the end result.”
After seing his lineup struggle to get anything going, reverting back to the habits that have plagued them all year in their seventh shutout of the season, Davey Johnson was visibly frustrated in his postgame media session. He attempted to walk away after two questions and answered a total of four.
When asked what he plans to do to get his team going:
“We’ll probably make some changes,” he said. “But that’s for another day.”
Washington dropped their second straight game while their next opponent, the Atlanta Braves, blew out the Blue Jays on the same night. They have won seven of their last ten and sit 5.5 games ahead in the division.
Facing a team they are currently chasing in the N.L. East could provide the Nationals a chance to gather some victories they can really build on, as each win against Atlanta helps close the gap. With that prospect in mind, several Nats players remained upbeat after the loss.
They look at this weekend as a chance to right the ship perhaps a little quicker than they would in another series.
“Anytime someone is in front of you it’s nice to go and cover some of that ground,” Zimmerman said. “They’re a good team. We have to go in there and play good baseball to win.”
“It’s June. It's no more complacency,” Desmond said. “It's time to turn it on. Sometimes a little adversity like this can break teams apart. We're going to stick together. As a team we're going to figure it out.”