Max Scherzer allowed only one run in seven innings pitched on Friday night to lead the Nats to a 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The win was Scherzer’s 11th of the year in 17 decisions, and the 61st of the season for the Nationals.
There have been few weeks like this one in Nationals’ history. It started off with heart-breaking losses on Sunday and Tuesday where the Nats’ bullpen imploded, got back on track with three dominant pitching performances against potential playoff teams including one game where the Nats pulled off the first triple play in team history, and ended with an acquisition of a dominant closer who is tasked with giving the Nats the late inning stability they need to avoid the pitfalls they had in 2012 and 2014.
Here’s a look at the good and bad from the past week.
Last Sunday at Nationals Park, the Nats were up 6-4 on San Diego heading into the top of eighth inning. Two innings later, Washington was on the wrong end of a 10-6 score in what may have been the most disappointing loss of the season to date. The Padres climbed back into the game in the top of the eighth on the strength of solo home runs by Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf off of Shawn Kelley, and then broke things open with four runs off of Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth. The game marked the first time Washington has allowed two home runs in an eighth inning since that fateful day last September 9th when the Mets homered off of Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen to help turn a 2-1 Washington lead into a 5-3 Mets’ victory.
Anthony Rendon may be a native of Houston, Texas, but Cleveland seems to be the Nats’ third baseman’s home away from home. On Tuesday, Rendon went 3 for 4 with two runs scored, a double and a home run in Washington’s 7-6 loss to the Indians. Even after going 0 for 3 in Wednesday’s contest, Rendon is 9 for 16 with four runs, three doubles, two homers, three RBI and a 1.713 OPS in games played at Progressive Field.
A CALL TO ARMS
Again this week, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Max Scherzer showed the baseball world why no team may be as equipped as the Nationals to dominate the post-season with superb starting pitching. Washington’s three victories on the week came in games where the terrific trio combined to throw 21 innings while allowing only two runs on 12 hits. The three games give the Nats’ a National League high 25 contests on the year where a Washington starter has thrown at least seven innings while allowing one run or fewer. Scherzer leads the way with eight such games, followed by Roark’s seven and Strasburg’s five.
A BUFFALO BLAST
Last Sunday’s loss to the Padres was a major downer, but the game did feature an event that none who watched will soon forget. In the bottom of the third inning, Wilson Ramos launched a home run deep to left field off of San Diego’s Christian Friedrich that almost cleared the outfield seats. Ramos’ blast measured at 455 feet, making it the longest at Nationals Park this season. After homering in Cleveland later the week, Ramos now has 15 home runs and is only one short of his career high of 16 set in 2013.
A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
Trea Turner looks like he’s 16 years old, runs like the wind and is a versatile athlete who appears at home in both the infield and outfield. On the week Turner was 10 for 22 with four runs, two doubles, three RBI and four steals, and may be on the way to solving the leadoff hitter production issue the Nats have had so far in 2016.
AN ENEMY OF OUR ENEMY IS OUR FRIEND
The Nats’ September schedule, like that of all teams, is laden with games against divisional opponents. Newly acquired closer Mark Melancon seems ready and able to help shut down the Nats’ foes, as he has fared extremely well against them in his career: career:
OPPONENT W/L IP ERA SVS WHIP
Atlanta 2-1 15 1.80 5 1.000
Miami 0-0 14.1 0.63 6 0.767
NY Mets 2-0 17 2.12 8 0.882
Philadelphia 0-0 18.1 0.98 8 1.036
The Nats look to win their third game out of four against the Giants in San Francisco today, with Gio Gonzalez going up against Matt Cain.
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA so far in July, after struggling to a 1-4 record and 6.95 ERA in June. The Giants’ fan base is extremely charged up against the return of fan favorite Hunter Pence on Saturday but if history is a guide, Sunday may not be a great day for the talented outfielder. In 16 career at bats against Gonzalez, Pence has only two hits. In a smaller sample size, Pence’s outfield mate Angel Pagan has done well against Gonzalez putting up four hits in eight at bats.
At one time, Cain was one of the best pitchers in baseball but injuries appear to have reduced his effectiveness greatly. He has allowed 81 hits and 13 home runs this season in 65 innings pitched, and has surrendered 12 runs and five homers over 11 .1 innings pitched over his last three starts. Jayson Werth is 5 for 10 on his career with a homer against Cain, while Danny Espinosa has homered twice in 12 at bats against him.