Nationals’ Week in Review- Hanging Tough Against Fellow Contenders

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Jayson Werth acknowledges the crowd at Nationals Park after his pinch-hit grand slam home run on Sunday broke open a game the Nats would win over St. Louis by a 10-2 score.

Winning only three of seven games in a week is not ideal by any means, but the Nats were able to hold their own for the most part against fellow National League playoff caliber teams and they head into Memorial Day with more wins (30) than all but two Major League teams (the Cubs have 34 and the Giants have 32).  Here’s a look at some of the highlights and low points from the past seven games.

NINE IS FINE FOR NATS’ ACE

Two of the team’s three wins in the week came courtesy of solid starts by Stephen Strasburg, who beat the Mets on Tuesday and came back and took care of the Cardinals on Sunday.  Strasburg is 9-0 on the year with a 2.69 ERA and has an impressive 1.089 WHIP so far.   The Nats’ power pitcher struck out only four Cardinals’ in Sunday’s win, marking only the sixth time in 18 decisions where he’s picked up a win while fanning four or fewer. In 111 career starts where he’s struck out five or more batters, Strasburg has posted an impressive 57-25 record.

His two wins gave him 13 career victories in the month of May, the most he’s posted in a month in his career. Strasburg has 12 career victories in August, and 11 in both April and June.  Sunday’s effort improved Strasburg’s record in day games to 28-14, and moved his career mark at Nationals Park to 31-17 with a 2.73 ERA.

MAKING IT COUNT IN A PINCH

Veteran Jayson Werth was scheduled for an off day on Sunday, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.  He made his one at bat on the day count in a big way, driving a Dean Kiekhefer pitch way over the wall in center field for a grand slam that broke open a close contest.

The pinch-hit homer was the seventh of the year for the Nats, moving them within one of the Washington record eight pinch-hit round trippers that were hit by the 2006 squad.  The four run pinch-hit blast was the second in Nationals’ history.  Former National Justin Maxwell hit a grand slam back in September 2007 against Florida.

Werth’s slam was his third as a National.  Only Ryan Zimmerman (5) and former National Michael Morse (4) have more.   Besides Zimmerman and Werth, current Nats with grand slams while wearing the Curly W are Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos with two each, and Danny Espinosa and Michael A. Taylor with one a piece.  Washington has 43 grand slams since the team’s move to Washington in 2005, and Werth’s blast was the 18th grand slam hit by a Washington player at Nationals Park.

A BLAST BY BRYCE

Nats’ star Bryce Harper hit is 12th and 13th home runs of the year during the Cardinals’ series, and number 12 was one to remember.

The 437 foot blast to right field off of Cards’ starter Mike Leake evened the score on Thursday night at 1-1 in a game Washington would win over the Cards by a 2-1 score.  According to ESPN’s Home Run tracker, the round tripper tied for the sixth longest Harper has hit at Nationals Park:

Longest Home Runs at Nationals Park by Bryce Harper

Distance             Date                   Pitcher

453 feet                9/4/15                 Julio Teheran

452 feet               4/18/15                Aaron Harang

444 feet               9/8/13                 Mark Buehrle

441 feet               5/6/15                  Tom Koehler

438 feet               7/18/15                Kenley Jansen

437 feet               8/6/13                  Julio Teheran

437 feet               5/26/15                Mike Leake

 

AN ODD OUTING INDEED

Friday’s Nats’ loss to St. Louis was all but sealed when the Cards scored five runs in the third inning against Nats’ starter Max Scherzer.   The game marked the 24th time in Scherzer’s career as a starter where he’s pitched at least seven innings and surrendered three or fewer hits.    Scherzer is 21-1 in those contests.   Friday’s game marked the second time this season that Scherzer has walked four batters in a game, and he’s 0-2 in those contests.  The Nats’ righthander did not walk more than three batters in any game during the 2015 season.

HOT HITTING IN A HOT WEEK

Especially in the latter part of the week, the weather felt more like a typical summer climate than it did like one would experience in spring.  Several Nats’ hitters were as hot as the weather during the week.

In Saturday’s loss to St. Louis, Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two home runs. The multi-homer game was Zimmerman’s second on the year, and the 16th in his career.   The veteran National has three two home run games against St. Louis in his career, the most multi-homer games he’s had against any opponent.  Zimmerman’s four hits marked the 11th time he’s done that in his career. Before Saturday, the last time Zimmerman achieved the feat was on 7/5/2014 when he went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles in the Nats’ 13-0 rout of the Cubs.

Daniel Murphy was New York’s favorite son during the Mets’ playoff run in 2015, but New Yorkers (particularly fans of the Mets) could be forgiven if they’re not particularly fond of the Nats’ second basemen these days.  Murphy had two hits in each of the three games against the Mets on the week, giving him 10 hits in 23 at bats in 2016 against his former teammates.  Murphy hit his second home run of the season off of struggling New York starter Matt Harvey on Tuesday.  Only former National Jordan Zimmerman (with four) has given up more home runs to Murphy in his career.

Wilson Ramos came up big on Sunday, continuing a hot spell in May.  The Nats’ catcher went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBI, marking the eighth time he’s driven in at least four runs in a game. Ramos’ career high for RBI is five, set on three different occasions during the 2013 season.  So far in May, Ramos has posted a .967 OPS with four home runs and 17 RBI.

ROSS REBOUNDS

Thursday’s winning pitcher for the Nats was Joe Ross, who allowed only one run and struck out four in seven innings of solid work. The win evened Ross’ record on the year to 4-4 and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.52.   The game marked a nice bounce back effort for the young righty, who had allowed 10 runs in 11.2 innings pitched in his previous two starts at home.

UP NEXT

The Nats will spend Memorial Day in the City of Brotherly Love, as Tanner Roark takes on Jeremy Hellickson this evening.   Those keeping score at the game might want to have extra ink available, as neither pitcher has fared well at Citizens Bank Park. Roark is 1-4 wit a 8.27 ERA at CBP, while Hellickson’s 2016 campaign his shown that he’s generally more effective on the road (.347 ERA, 1.101 WHIP) than he’s been at home (4.87 ERA, 1.475).

The fans of the Phillies are generally not the most hospitable bunch, but Bryce Harper could be forgiven if he considers a trip to Ben Franklin’s home town as enjoyable as a young child’s visit to the Magic Kingdom. Harper has a lifetime 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs in 130 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park.

If Roark is to have success this evening, he’s probably going to have to control two young Phillies’ outfielders who have had success so far in the month of May. Speedy leadoff man Odubel Herrera is hitting .327 with eight RBI, while Rule 5 pickup Tyler Goeddel has hit at a .313 clip two home runs on the month.

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