Instant analysis: Padres 4, Nats 3 (12)

Instant analysis: Padres 4, Nats 3 (12)
April 24, 2014, 11:30 pm
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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Fresh off a pair of tough series against the Cardinals and Angels, the Nationals now get a chance to close out their season-long homestand with four games against the offensively challenged Padres, who entered the day with the fewest runs in the majors. But a couple of clutch hits off Jordan Zimmermann gave San Diego a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning and left the crowd of 22,904 murmuring throughout the ballpark.

The Nationals, though, kept giving themselves chances to do damage at the plate, producing 11 base hits through the game's first six innings. Eventually, they figured to turn those hits into some runs. Sure enough, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche each connected for solo homers in the sixth and seventh innings, tying the game 3-3.

The Nationals benefited from an overturned call in their favor — Matt Williams' first successful challenge in five tries — in the top of the ninth when Yonder Alonso was ruled out on a stolen base attempt, preventing him ultimately from scoring the go-ahead run. The Nats nearly took advantage of that immediately, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth, only to see Espinosa pop up to send the game to extra innings.

Things dragged on from there, not to mention got weird. Padres ace Andrew Cashner actually played left field for one batter in the bottom of the 11th. Then in the top of the 12th, they took the lead when Jedd Gyorko singled, stole second, took third on Jose Lobaton's high throw and scored when veteran Xavier Nady (a member of the 2012 Nationals' Opening Day roster) singled up the middle off Craig Stammen. The Nationals went down in the bottom of the 12th, ending a frustrating (and long) night at the ballpark.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: As has often been the case this month, the Nationals gave themselves plenty of opportunities to plate runs. They just couldn't take advantage of them. They produced 16 hits in the game, yet their three runs came on a sac fly and two solo homers. Collectively, they were 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position, including abysmal stretches in the bottom of the eighth, 10th and 12th when they had a man on second with nobody out and couldn't score him. The Nationals have now stranded 176 runners on base this season, tops in the NL.

DEFENSIVE LOWLIGHT: The Nationals played clean baseball all night. Until it really mattered in the top of the 12th. With two outs and a man on first, Gyorko stole second. It wouldn't have been a big deal, except Lobaton's throw sailed into center field, allowing Gyorko to advance to third base. That set the stage for him to score easily on Nady's RBI single up the middle. The Nationals' league-leading 25th error of the season helped create the Padres' winning run.

KEY STAT: Danny Espinosa's slash line on April 24, 2013: .155/.197/.293. Danny Espinosa's slash line on April 24, 2014: .317/.377/.524.

UP NEXT: Game 2 of this 4-game series sees Stephen Strasburg on the mound facing his hometown club. Left-hander Robbie Erlin starts for San Diego, with first pitch scheduled for7:05 p.m.