Pitchers' duel becomes battle of bullpens in Nationals 10-4 loss

Pitchers' duel becomes battle of bullpens in Nationals 10-4 loss
July 31, 2014, 10:45 pm
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(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It could've been a great pitching showdown between a pair of accomplished lefties. Instead it turned into a laborious battle of bullpens after both Gio Gonzalez and Cliff Lee were knocked out early, for very different reasons.

Lee retired eight of the first nine batters he faced, but after throwing only his 31st pitch of the night, he winced, called for a trainer and pointed to his elbow. The Phillies soon after announced Lee had strained his flexor pronator, the same injury that sidelined him earlier this season. Gonzalez appeared to be physically fine, but he was torched by the Philadelphia lineup during a 5-run fourth inning, earning an early hook from manager Matt Williams.

Down 5-0, the Nationals tried to mount a comeback against the Phillies bullpen, and drew to within 5-3 after RBI hits from Wilson Ramos and Denard Span. But Jerry Blevins immediately gave two runs back in the sixth, and Craig Stammen (pitching for the first time in nine days) gave up three more runs in the eighth to put this one out of reach.

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HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There were a few positives at the plate tonight, despite the outcome. Denard Span finished off his torrid July in style, going 2-for-4 with two RBI. For the month, he finished with a .368 batting average (35-for-95). Danny Espinosa, meanwhile, made the most of what could be his final chance to start for awhile, given today's trade for Asdrubal Cabrera. Espinosa had a pair of hits, both of them off lefties. Williams said earlier in the day he expects Cabrera to be his regular second baseman once he arrivesFriday. But there's still a case to be made for Espinosa starting against lefties as part of a platoon, as he showed tonight.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: The evening started fine for Gonzalez, who put up three straight zeroes. But then it got ugly, and in a hurry. He surrendered three straights hits to open the top of the fourth, and it only devolved from there. By the time the Phillies batted around, Williams emerged from the dugout asking for the ball. Gonzalez muttered something into his glove and departed to a smattering of boos following an especially disappointing performance n what has become a wildly erratic season. The lefty has five appearances in which he allowed one or fewer runs over seven or more innings, but he also has four starts in which he allowed five or more runs.

KEY STAT: In his last 16 appearances, spanning 13 2/3 innings, Jerry Blevins has given up 13 earned runs and put 24 men on base.

UP NEXT: The series continues Friday night when Doug Fister looks to earn his 11th win in only 15 starts, facing Phillies right-hander Roberto (Don't Call Me Fausto Carmona) Hernandez. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.