62 Down, 100 to Go and the Nats Seem Primed for Something Big in 2016

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Stephen Strasburg retired the last 14 Phillies’ batters he faced on Friday night as the righty moved to 10-0 on the year in Washington’s 9-6 victory over their division rivals.

With two wins in three games against the White Sox in Chicago and two wins so far in their weekend series against the Phillies, this week has been a good one for the Nationals. The team’s record stands at 38-24, which is exactly where it was in 2012 after 62 games in Washington’s 98 win NL East Division Championship season.  Of course the 2016 Nats hope to achieve more than just a division title, and there are signs that this year’s team could be better than the 2012 squad that brought five plus months of excitement to the Nation’s Capital.

THE WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

MOWING THEM DOWN

Stephen Strasburg was touched for four runs on Friday by the Phillies in the first three innings as the Nats fell behind by a 4-0 score, but that only seemed to serve to strengthen the resolve of the Major League Baseball wins co-leader (Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Johnny Cueto of the Giants also have 10 victories).  Strasburg retired the final 14 Phils he faced, striking out seven of them, to (with the help of the team’s bats) put Washington in the driver’s seat in the first game of the weekend series.

The 14 batters in a row retired by Strasburg marked the sixth time in his career where he’s retired at least that many batters in succession:

STRASBURG- MOST CONSECUTIVE OUTS RECORDED IN A GAME

Batters Retired    Date         Opp      Notes

19                             4/1/13       Mia       Gave up leadoff hit and retired next 19 batters.

15                             6/18/10     CWS     First two batters had hits, then 15 in a row retired.

15                             8/25/15       SD       Retired last 15 batters he faced.

14                             4/10/14      Mia      Fanned six of the 14 he retired in a row.

14                             4/19/15      Phl        Retired 14 straight to start the game.

14                             6/10/16      Phl        Struck out seven during this stretch.

In his career, Strasburg has 32 instances where he has retired at least 10 batters consecutively.

GOON SQUAD II

Who says a sequel can never be as good as the original!   The 2012 Nats, with their bench players dubbed the “Goon Squad” leading the way, posted a .786 OPS in pinch-hit appearances.  That mark was the second highest in the Major Leagues.  So far in 2016, Nationals’ pinch-hitters have put up a robust .995 OPS which is the third highest mark in the Majors.  Washington’s eight pinch-hit homers trails only St. Louis (with 10).

HOT HITTERS

Nats’ shortstop Danny Espinosa has been great with the glove in 2016, and he’s starting to show that he can be solid at the plate as well.  Since May 1, Espinosa has nine homers and 17 RBI in 131 at bats. His 10 home runs on the year trails only Trevor Story of Colorado (16) and Corey Seager of the Dodgers (14) among National League shortstops.    Espinosa had two three hit games over the past week, going 3 for 5 on June 8th against the White Sox and picking up three hits in four at bats in Friday’s win over the Phillies.

Espinosa did not play in Saturday’s 8-0 whitewashing of the Phillies, but another hot hitter did…reserve infielder Stephen Drew.  Drew has six hits with 3 runs scored, a double, two home runs and six RBI in his last 12 at bats.

Veteran Jayson Werth has looked better both at the plate and in the field over the past weeks.  Since May 29th, Werth has four home runs and 13 RBI in 37 at bats. He also made perhaps his best defensive play of the year on Friday night, ranging to his right and laying out to make the catch to rob Mikael Franco of an extra-base hit.

The Nats’ best hitters on the year have been probable 2016 National League All-Stars Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper.  All three players currently sport OPS marks of .918 or better.  In Nationals’ history, the only season in which two or more players were over .900 in OPS was in 2006 when Nick Johnson (.948) and Alfonso Soriano (.911) did the trick.

 

TANNER TERRIFIC

In Saturday’s win, Tanner Roark shut the Phillies out over seven innings pitched to earn his fifth win of the year and even picked up a RBI with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt in Washington’s four run second inning.  In 2016, Roark has four games in which he has gone at least seven innings and allowed no runs.  Of his career nine games fitting those parameters, seven (including all four in 2016) have come at Nationals Park.

ODDS AND ENDS

Through 62 games, the Nats’ 591 strikeouts is the most among National League pitching staffs.  Strasburg (with 110) and Max Scherzer (107) are third and fourth in the league, trailing only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (132) and Jose Fernandez of Miami (118).

Tommy Joseph of the Phillies had two home runs in Friday night’s loss to the Nats, making him the second player to have a multiple home run game against Washington this year.   Back on May 6th at Wrigley Field, Ben Zobrist hit two round-trippers in a Cubs win over the Nats.  In 2015, there were 14 instances of a player having a multi-home run game against the Nats.

Today’s series finale against the Phillies will be played under the sun, which may not be a good thing for the already battered Phils’ staff.  In day games in 2016, Bryce Harper has a 1.102 OPS, seven home runs and 16 RBI with Daniel Murphy checking in with a 1.007 OPS and 15 runs batted in.  Games during the afternoon have also been good for Buffalo sightings as Wilson Ramos has a 1.091 OPS and five home runs in such contests.

Finally, happy 32nd birthday to former Nationals’ outfielder Roger Bernadina.   Known for spectacular defense plays, including a game saving catch at Houston in 2012 which many observers believe is the best defensive play by an outfielder in Nats’ history,  Bernadina is currently  a Mets’ minor league player.

 

 

 

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