Will tonight be the night the Nats add another National League East title to their resume? Last night’s disappointing late inning loss to the Pirates may have put a temporary block in Washington’s inevitable celebration of its third division crown in five years, but perhaps Pittsburgh will soon join Atlanta (in 2014) as road cities where the Nats have clinched a title.
Here’s a look at some of the events of recent days, in our “Nats by the Numbers” format.
Four Nationals (Daniel Murphy with 88, Anthony Rendon with 86, Bryce Harper with 82 and Jayson Werth with 80) have scored 80 or more runs so far in the 2016 season, making this the first campaign in Nationals history where four or more players have achieved the feat. This quartet of 80 plus run scorers surpasses the 2006, 2012 and 2014 seasons in which three Nats players crossed the plate more than 80 times. In 2006, Alfonso Soriano had 119 runs scored to lead the team, with Nick Johnson (100) and Ryan Zimmerman (84) also having big scoring years. The 2012 Nats’ division winning team was paced in runs scored by Harper (98), with Zimmerman (93) and Danny Espinosa (82) also cracking the 80 run barrier. And in 2014, Rendon broke the century mark with 114 runs scored with Denard Span chipping in with 94 and Werth scoring 85 times.
Both Espinosa and Wilson Ramos homered off of left-handed pitchers this week, giving each nine homers against lefties on the year. In Nats’ history, only two players have had more than nine homers against southpaws in a season. In 2006 Soriano took lefties deep 12 times, and Adam Laroche hit 11 against left-handers in 2012.
The Nats have 19 home runs so far in September, and are on pace to have the fewest homers of any month in the 2016 campaign. Only four Major League teams have fewer round trippers than Washington so far this month. The Nationals high mark for homers in a month this year was in May when Washington blasted a National League leading 43 long balls. The Nats had 38 homers in June, 37 in August, 32 in July and 26 in April.
Nationals ace Max Scherzer leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts with 267, and has struck out at least 240 batters in each of the last four seasons. Since 1969, only five players have more 240 plus strikeout seasons than Scherzer’s four. Randy Johnson leads the way with 10 such seasons, with Nolan Ryan (9), Roger Clemens (6), Steve Carlton (5) and Tom Seaver (5) also in the exclusive group. Among active pitchers, only three hurlers have more than one 240 plus strikeout year on their resume. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Corey Kluber of Cleveland and Justin Verlander of Detroit have two each.
Daniel Murphy’s 47 doubles on the year has equaled the Nats’ mark set by Zimmerman in his outstanding 2006 rookie campaign. The 47 two baggers by the Nats’ second baseman is the most by any National League East player since Dan Uggla had 49 for Florida in the 2007. In that year, Hanley Ramirez (48, also for Florida) and Chase Utley (48 for Philadelphia) also exceeded the 47 doubles mark. Murphy’s recent injury situation has likely robbed him of a shot at becoming the first NL East player with 50 plus doubles in a year since 2006 when Florida’s Miguel Cabrera reached the half-century mark. Since divisional play’s current format began in 1994, only four NL East players have had 50 or more doubles.
Nats’ setup man Shawn Kelley has 12.76 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in the year so far, the third best mark in the National League. Kelley’s 78 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched gives him a SO/9 mark that trails only Miami’s Kyle Barraclough (14.01) and the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (13.64).
Among National League starters, Stephen Strasburg (11.15) and Scherzer (11.06) trail only Miami’s Jose Fernandez (12.49) and Arizona’s Robbie Ray (11.39) in this category.
Zimmerman’s three run homer off of Miami’s Tom Koehler on Wednesday was the tenth the Nats’ veteran his hit since Marlins Park opened in 2012, the most by any Miami opponent during that time period. Zimmerman’s teammate Harper is next with seven homers at the cavernous park, with former Braves Evan Gattis (6) and Jason Heyward (5) next in line.