In what ended up a 8-0 blowout loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night, a game in which they mustered only two hits off Adam Wainwright, a lot went wrong for the Nationals besides their play in the field.
But after four defensive errors in one game – and an MLB-worst 20 total through their first 16 outings – it’s hard not to look at those simple mistakes as representing a very serious problem. The Nationals simply are not playing fundamentally sound baseball at this point in the season, and it’s costing them.
“It was a sloppy game,” Adam LaRoche said. “We have a really good defensive club, is the thing. It's not showing right now, but I have a feeling that by the end of the year those numbers are going to be our specialty. We are just too good defensively to make the kind of errors we are.”
Two of the errors were committed by Ian Desmond, including one on the first play of the game where he dropped a groundball hit directly to him by leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.
Kolten Wong then reached on the next play thanks to a late throw by pitcher Taylor Jordan to first. Jordan bobbled the ball taking it out of his glove and was a split second behind the runner.
The Cardinals would score three runs in the inning and never look back. With Wainwright on the mound, they didn’t need much.
“The defensive issues, again those happen,” Matt Williams said. “It just seems like it’s happening an extraordinary amount to us.”
Desmond’s second error came in the fourth inning and also helped lead to a Cardinals’ run. With one out and Jhonny Peralta on second, Desmond one-hopped a throw to first on a Jon Jay groundball. Jay was safe with Peralta having moved to third.
The very next at-bat saw the team’s third error, though it was on a technicality. Danny Espinosa couldn’t turn a double play on a throw from Desmond at second base, and dropped the ball while attempting the throw to first as Jay slid into him. He was a victim of the newly enforced ‘transfer rule,' which has drawn controversy of late, but rules are rules.
Desmond’s two errors give him seven on the season through just 16 games. For a player with a not-so-distant history of defensive troubles, Desmond is frustrated those days are not completely behind him.
“If I ever want to be the captain of this team – and I do – I have to be better than that. I’ve been in some dark places defensively, and this is right there with them,” Desmond said.
“The errors in the past have made me who I am today. These are gonna make me a better man, too. Just got to keep fighting through it.”
The Nats’ fourth error was inconsequential to the outcome of the game, but was committed by an unlikely source. Jayson Werth lost a flyball in the lights in the eighth inning, a mistake that allowed Yadier Molina to reach second. That error did not lead to a run.
For the Nationals, their four errors are the most for the team since they had five on July 15, 2011 in a game against the Braves. Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nats have now committed four errors or more 12 different times.
Williams appeared upset after a long delay before his postgame media session. He acknowledged addressing his team about the defensive mistakes in the clubhouse after the loss, but stopped short of revealing what he said.
Williams is now looking forward to tomorrow to see if his team can start cleaning it up.
“What do you do now? You have one choice and that’s to concentrate on tomorrow,” Williams said. “They’re mistakes. So we’ll continue to work. That’s all we can do.”
“I’ve said it all year, regardless good, bad or indifferent, this one’s over now and we have to look forward to tomorrow's game, against a very tough team and we’re going to have to play well to beat them, just like we had to today and we didn’t do that.”