GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It was billed as a star-studded showdown between Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, but the two phenom outfielders played little role in the outcome of this game. Instead, unheralded starting pitchers Tanner Roark and Garrett Richards kept pitching themselves out of jams, with a lone fourth-inning run manufactured by the Nationals holding up for seven innings.
But then came the top of the eighth, and with it came disaster for Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond and Matt Williams. Desmond was charged with two more errors in the inning, helping put Clippard in a jam. Clippard then blew another late-inning lead, allowing an RBI single to Erick Aybar and then walking Chris Iannetta to load the bases in what was now a tie game. With left-handed pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez stepping to the plate, Williams couldn't summon one of his three lefties from the bullpen, because none began warming until that moment. Ibanez made them pay for it, lashing a 3-run double to put the Angels on top for the first time all night.
The Nationals couldn't muster a late rally of their own and wound up with only three hits on the entire evening. They also wound up with a particularly disheartening loss in a ballgame they surely felt like they should have won.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals appeared to have Richards on the ropes in the bottom of the fourth, when the Angels right-hander lost all semblance of control for a stretch that included two wild pitches off the backstop and a fastball way up and in to Jayson Werth. Having been handed a bases-loaded rally without producing one hit, though, the Nats managed to push across only one run, via Adam LaRoche's fielder's choice, which came on the first pitch he saw right after Richards plunked Werth. Anthony Rendon and Desmond also grounded out, killing a potential rally against a pitcher who seemed ripe for trouble at that moment.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It's been a dismal April for Clippard, who entered this game having been scored upon in four of his 10 appearances to date. It's now 5-of-10 after possibly the worst of his outings this season. Clippard wasn't helped by his defense — Desmond was charged with his eighth and ninth errors of the year during the fateful eighth inning — but he did little to pick his teammates up. While still protecting a 1-0 lead with two outs and two on, he gave up an RBI single to Aybar, then walked No. 8 hitter Iannetta. That set the stage for longtime Nats nemesis Ibanez to deliver the big blow: a bases-clearing double. Ibanez is now 4-for-10 with two doubles, two homers and nine RBI in his career against Clippard, who has now blown a lead five times this month.
KEY STAT: Five first-round picks in the 2009 draft were on the active rosters of these two teams tonight: Stephen Strasburg (1), Drew Storen (10), Mike Trout (25), Tyler Skaggs (40) and Garrett Richards (42).
UP NEXT: This star-studded series continues Tuesday night with another matchup of young hurlers. Taylor Jordan starts for the Nationals, still seeking his first win of the season. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs, acquired from Arizona in last winter's Mark Trumbo trade, is on the mound for the Angels.