Nationals 7, Tigers 5: Reese Olson knocked around again

Bless You Boys

The Tigers swung the bats reasonably well in this one, but the pitching and the defense were atrocious. Reese Olson couldn’t command his fastball and was knocked around all evening long. And when the Tigers finally made a push in the late innings, the Nationals fought right back, holding them off to take their second straight in the series by a 7-5 margin.

After just sort of fumbling away a game they could have won on Tuesday, the Tigers really needed to get out to a good start in this one. They got a good start, as Matt Vierling delivered on that need in the bottom of the first inning by launching his eighth home run of the year to give Reese Olson a 1-0 lead to work with. However, the fumbling would show up later with emphasis.

Riley Greene followed Vierling and ripped a line drive right to Jesse Winker in left, but Wenceel Pérez and Mark Canha followed with sharp singles. Right-hander Jake Irvin was in a bit of early hot water, but he froze Colt Keith with a couple of curveballs and got Gio Urshela to fly out to right field to escape.

Olson allowed a single in the top of the first but cleaned the inning up with three ground outs. The Nationals did a good job not chasing Olson’s slider and changeup too much but still three balls were put in play for outs in the second inning. The Tigers went quietly in the bottom of the second with only a sharply hit drive to the wall in right field by Akil Baddoo registering any real interest.

Olson got the first two outs of the third, including striking out Nick Senzel for his first of the day, but a hanging curveball to C.J. Abrams got smoked into the right field seats to tie the game. Olson’s slider and changeup looked good as usual, but he was missing his spots by too much to bait many swings out of the zone. A walk to Lane Thomas followed, and Thomas promptly stole second base. He was cut down trying to steal third to end the inning after a review overturned the safe call on the field.

The Tigers again hit a few balls hard against Irvin, but only a Pérez single found the grass before Canha flew out to center to end the third.

With one out in the fourth, a comebacker off the bat of Luis Garcia Jr. tipped off Olson’s glove for an infield single. Joey Meneses doubled to left, and a sacrifice fly from Keibert Ruiz scored Garcia Jr. to make it 2-1. Olson got Senzel to ground out to end the inning, but the Tigers needed to put together a longer inning than they’d managed so far and put some runs on the board themselves.

They did neither, btw. Colt Keith hit a liner right to the center fielder, Gio Urshela slapped an oppo single that Garcia Jr. couldn’t quite corral on the outfield grass, but McKinstry and Baddoo flew out to end it.

In the top of the fifth the Tigers just fell apart. For some reason Carson Kelly kept calling for fastballs down, despite the Nationals putting the barrel on most of them. They never really worked up and down or side to side with the heater. Jacob Young was in a 1-1 count after seeing two good sliders. They went fastball down and in and Young pulled a hot grounder for a double down the line in left.

Olson struggled a lot with his fastball command, which was certainly part of the problem as well. CJ Abrams saw two fastballs away, took a slider down for a strike, and whiffed over a changeup. Kelly decided to try to jam the left-handed hitter with a sinker and predictably Olson tailed it right back over the bottom of the zone and Abrams smoked it to left center field where it bounced on the warning track and over the wall for an RBI double.

Olson struck out Lane Thomas, but Jesse Winker pulled a grounder into right field for an RBI single. Eddie Rosario got a first pitch changeup, again down at the bottom of the zone, and ripped a single to get Winker to third. Olson couldn’t get it together and Kelly couldn’t come up with a way to adjust their approach.

And then things got worse as Garcia Jr. slapped a check swing grounder to Urshela at third. Gio charged it and fired home as Winker tried to score. Kelly caught the ball in plenty of time and chased Winker back to third as Zach McKinstry stood at the shortstop position watching this all unfold until realizing too late that covering third was his job there. Kelly had to give up on the speedy Winker and instead fired to second where Keith was covering his base and they got Rosario coming too hard around second base and trying to retreat.

Winker then scored anyway, because with two outs Garcia Jr. stole second and Kelly threw it away into center field. Keith didn’t do a good job of knocking the ball down as it skipped through either. So hey, demerits all around. Clown shoes on the whole inning before Olson finally got Meneses to ground out and end it.

5-1 Nationals.

The Tigers again got runners on, this time courtesy of a two-out Riley Greene single and a walk to Pérez, but Canha grounded out to send it to the sixth. Jake Irvin’s fastball-curve combination was pretty good in this one, but while he’s a good pitcher, he definitely isn’t as overpowering as the non-Wenceel/Vierling portion of the Tigers’ lineup made him look in this one. There was just a lot of routine contact in the air.

More of the same to open the sixth, as Olson missed with a pair of fastballs, running them all armside out of the zone. He landed a slider that was fouled off, missed with a changeup, and again tried to come in with a fastball and leaked it right back into the heart of the strike zone where Keibert Ruiz served it into center field for a single. Nick Senzel was in a 1-1 count, and guess what, another fastball leaked right back middle-middle and got ripped for a single. The command was bad, but they didn’t try anything else and Kelly and Olson made no adjustments to what was happening. Irritating.

Jacob Young tried to sneak his way on with a bunt for some reason, and Olson fielded it and threw out Senzel at second. So it was first and third, one out, and that was the end of Olson’s night. The fastball command was atrocious for the second straight outing, and the Nationals just feasted on it without even swinging for the fences. Just as frustrating was the paint by numbers game calling from Kelly in trying to force a game plan Olson was unable to execute again and again.

Olson: 5.1 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 10 H, 2 BB, 3 K

Joey Wentz inherited the jam and Young did him a solid by getting picked off for the second out of the inning. Nice job by Joey there, as was the cutter that Abrams grounded out to end the inning and strand Ruiz at third.

The bottom of the sixth started with more hard luck for Colt Keith, who continues to hit rockets at fielders. He lined out to Abrams at shortstop. Urshela struck out, and McKinstry tapped one in front of the plate for the final out.

Wentz tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning, recording a strikeout of Winker along the way. The Nationals inserted lefty Robert Garcia to start the bottom of the seventh. The Tigers pinch-hit Andy Ibáñez for Akil Baddoo and were rewarded with a lead off single. A Kelly ground out moved Ibáñez to second base for Matt Vierling, but he and then Riley Greene struck out.

The eighth began with Colt Keith misplaying a routine grounder to allow Garcia Jr. to reach first. Wentz then went full Wentz and walked the next two hitters to load the bases. A.J. Hinch popped out of the dugout looked entirely fed up and called for Mason Englert. The right-hander did a really nice job to escape the inning with a pop-up, a strikeout of Young, and a ground ball to Ibáñez at first base.

Wenceel Pérez, at least, was blameless in this one, leading off the bottom of the eighth with a single for his third hit and fourth time on base in the game. That chased Garcia in favor of right-hander Dylan Floro coming on to face Canha, who promptly singled through the left side of the infield. Colt Keith dumped a blooper into right field and Winker bobbled it, allowing Pérez to score. Urshela then smoked a double into the left field corner, scoring Canha as well as Keith, who raced around from first to make it 5-4.

So after making a mess of the whole game, the Tigers were in business with no outs and a man on second. Davey Martinez turned to Hunter Harvey, and the Tigers were quickly out of business. McKinstry lined one to left and Winker made a nice sliding catch on it to save the Nationals lead. Justyn-Henry Malloy hit for Ibáñez against the hard-throwing right-hander, and he took a called strike three, while Kelly popped out to Abrams to strand Urshela at second.

Will Vest took over in the ninth, with Ryan Kreidler coming in at shortstop. Canha moved to first base, while McKinstry took over in left field. Lane Thomas led off with an infield single, and any hope a momentum shift in this one evaporated. Vest walked Winker, then got a ground out that force Winker at second. Another seeing eye grounder off the bat of Garcia Jr. was unplayable for Kreidler, scoring Thomas. Meneses had the first hard hit ball of the inning, scorching a one-hopper through the left side to score Rosario, and it was 7-4 Nationals.

Vest settled down and collected the last two outs of the inning, but the crowd on hand wasn’t buying any more hopium after the eighth had them locked in hoping for a comeback.

Matt Vierling grounded out to start things off. Riley Greene then went yard into the bullpens for his 12th home run of the year. That was nice, but Pérez struck out and Canha grounded out to end it.

With the loss the Tigers fall to 32-35, and the Nationals climb to 32-35. Another clash of mid-tier teams is set for tomorrow afternoon with Casey Mize set to duel with veteran left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Box Score

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