The Tigers faced a tough task on Monday night -- end a six-game losing streak against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. Ian Kinsler opened the game with a four-pitch walk. Nick Castellanos came to the plate and showed that he likes hitting cleanup, launching a two-run home run. Anibal Sanchez plus Bryce Harper sounded like a fairly simple dinger formula, but Mario Impemba was on the radio, Dan Dickerson was on TV, and everything was backwards. Anibal won round one and this topsy-turvy world was beautiful.
Through three innings, Sanchez was on cruise control and Strasburg was dealing as well. In the fourth inning, Gose ripped a two-out double and National League baseball obtruded. Jose Iglesias was intentionally walked to get to Anibal. Sanchez dropped down an excellent bunt and was very nearly safe, but it was not more entertaining than Victor Martinez hitting.
Anibal's second reckoning with Harper came after Anthony Rendon drew a leadoff walk. Anibal got strike one on a good breaking ball and strike two after Harper fouled off a high fastball. Harper then struck out looking as Rendon stole second base. This was again a very successful encounter. The Cubs walked Bryce Harper thirteen times in a four-game series, but the Tigers were willing to attack him in the early going. The Tigers are either braver or dumber than the Cubs, I am loathe to know the answer. Still, the steal would come back to haunt the Tigers as a Daniel Murphy blooper to center drove home Rendon, 2-1, Tigers. Sanchez walked Ramos as well and needed to get back his command. A fly out to right field ended the inning.
Stephen Strasburg stole the show tonight, as his seven year $175 million dollar contract was announced in the fourth inning. The Tigers did their best to ruin his celebration in the fifth. Kinsler led off with a single and J.D. Martinez drove him home with another two-run home run, 4-1, Tigers. Sanchez exited the fifth after a 1-2-3 inning, sitting at 65 pitches.
The third time Sanchez saw Harper, he walked him. With the way his command sometimes comes and goes, it is unclear if this was strategic. Sanchez's home run problems came back to bite him later in the inning, when Daniel Murphy hit a two-run shot, 4-3, Tigers. Strasburg struck out the side in the seventh, picking up his eleventh strikeout.
Ausmus decided to push it with Sanchez and brought him back out for the seventh. He was at a manageable 85 pitches, but Michael Taylor's leadoff shot against the left field wall was ominous. On an 0-2 pitch, Danny Espinosa singled, putting runners at first and third with no out. Brad came out for a conference, and decided to roll with Sanchez. Sanchez misplayed a bunt off the bat of Strasburg, loading the bases with nobody out. Kyle Ryan came in to put out the flames. A sac fly tied the game, and Ausmus turned to Alex Wilson, 4-4. Alex Wilson struck out Rendon on three pitches. The Tigers prudently issued Harper an intentional walk. Ryan Zimmerman popped out in foul territory, in what was close to a best-case scenario for the Tigers.
Strasburg walked Miguel on four pitches, ending his night. An awkward slide into second after a Castellanos single had Tigers fans everywhere holding their breath. Miguel pushed it on a passed ball and was thrown out at third. The Tigers are not good at base running. Upton struck out looking. This is all from the classic playbook of failure and doom. Self-sabatoge hung thickly in the D.C. air. Victor pinch hit for McCann with two out and a man on second. He was promptly intentionally walked. Brad pinch ran with Romine and Saltalamacchia pinch hit for Gose. Salty struck out and the Tigers burned three bench players in one inning without hitting for the pitcher's spot. All that was missing was the inevitable bullpen meltdown.
Harper was tossed in the bottom of the ninth when Espinosa struck out looking. This ump show was quickly eclipsed by Clint Robinson walking it off. 5-4, Nationals.
Nick Castellanos: The most promising trend of the young season continues as Nick has another good night at the plate with two hits, including a home run.
J.D. Martinez: J.D. broke a streak of futility hitting a big home run.
Anibal Sanchez: The control was in and out and he once again left the mound with a bad taste in his mouth.
Justin Upton: Another 0-4 day with three strikeouts.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- J.D. snapped an 0/18 streak with a single in the top of the third.
- Anibal Sanchez has given up six home runs in 36 and two-thirds innings along with 22 walks.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: