Nats, Bacsik fall victim to long ball
Early baserunning mistakes haunt Washington in loss
ATLANTA -- Lack of offense and three mistakes by Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik proved costly as Atlanta defeated Washington, 6-2, in front of 22,508 fans at Turner Field on Tuesday night.
The offense is the No. 1 reason the Nationals have a 32-44 record. Entering Tuesday's action, they were last in the Nationals League in runs scored, total bases, home runs and slugging percentage. They also are known to make mistakes on the bases and Tuesday's game was an example of what can happen if a team make mistakes and has problems hitting the baseball.
Take the first inning for example: With right-hander Buddy Carlyle on the mound, the Nationals had runners on first and second and one out. Dmitri Young came to the plate and, on a 1-2 pitch, hit the ball to left field for a base hit.
Felipe Lopez, who was on second, was just getting to third base when left fielder Matt Diaz threw the ball to the plate. Third-base coach Tim Tolman sent Lopez to the plate and he was thrown out. Ryan Zimmerman, the runner on first, then tried to advance to third and was cut down for the last out of the inning. Zimmerman thought he was safe and argued the call with third-base umpire Marty Foster to no avail.
"We know that with our offense, we can't be giving away outs on the bases. We took a chance at the plate. Diaz made a good throw," manager Manny Acta said. "But we made that baserunning mistake -- making the last out at third base. We can't afford to be doing that. It's tough for us to win 2-1 and 1-0 with our offense."
On the replay, it looked like Lopez could have scored if he slid in feet first because the throw was a little wide to the right, but he chose to slide away from home plate and use his hands to touch the plate.
"He made a good throw and got me out," Lopez said. "I could have [slid feet first]. I saw [catcher Brian McCann] on the other side of the plate, that's why I decided to touch the base with my hand."
Zimmerman acknowledged that he made a mistake and should have stayed at second.
"I haven't looked at the replay to determined if I was safe or not," Zimmerman said. "It was probably not the smartest thing to do to make it that close. I should have just stayed at second. I was just being aggressive."
Watching from the dugout, Bacsik acknowledged that he wasn't happy to see the Nationals lose a golden opportunity against Carlyle. After that, Carlyle gave up just two hits in the next six innings.
"We were going to get to him early and we gave them the opportunity to get out of it unscathed," Bacsik said. "We let Carlyle get into a little bit of a groove. He took advantage of it. He stayed with me the whole game."
The Nationals showed once again that they need more just than just Young to step up on offense. Lopez, Austin Kearns and Zimmerman are not providing the production the Nationals need so badly. And with Cristian Guzman out for the rest of the season because of a broken left thumb, they also need a leadoff hitter. For now, it seems that that Ryan Langerhans will get a chance to be the leadoff hitter because of his high on-base percentage.
"We need someone to step up badly," Acta said. "We are not hiding the fact that we win a lot of games when we do things right. ... We are not hiding the fact that we are [near the bottom] in hitting, last in runs scored, last in home runs. We know that runs are not easy to come by for us. So we have to grind it out and see if we can get a couple of guys hot."
It was the Braves, who found some fire in their bats against Bacsik, who threw six innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. All of the runs came on the long ball.
After the Nationals gave Bacsik a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI double by Langerhans, the Braves tied things up in the bottom of the inning when Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a home run over the center-field fence.
The Braves took the lead in the fifth by scoring four runs. Saltalamacchia hit another homer, this time over the left-field wall. Five batters later, Andruw Jones hit a three-run shot.
"I'm going to have a sleepless night tonight; it's pretty frustrating what happened. In a five-minute span -- 10 to 15 pitches, we lose the game," Bacsik said. "I lost the game. I didn't give us a chance to win."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.