Game One NLDS Review- Dodgers 4 Nationals 3

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All-star closer Kenley Jansen celebrates his team’s 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in game one of the teams’  National League Divisional Series on Friday at Nationals Park.  

DODGERS LEAD SERIES 1-0

WP- Kershaw    LP- Scherzer   SV- Jansen

HR-  Seager, LAD   Turner, LAD 

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star-  Corey Seager did not play against the Nationals when the Dodgers visited Nationals Park in July, but Nats’ fans got to see the soon to be National League Rookie of the Year’s talent in a big way early in yesterday’s game.   After Nats’ starter Max Scherzer fanned Dodgers’ leadoff man Chase Utley to start the game, Seager ambushed the Nats’ ace with a first pitch booming home run to centerfield to give the visitors a lead they would not lose.  Doing big things against right-handed pitching certainly isn’t new to Seager, whose .948 OPS against righthanders was the 13th highest total in the Major Leagues in 2016 for batters with at least 200 at bats them.  Washington’s Daniel Murphy was third in the Majors with a .985 mark, and his teammate Trea Turner was sixth with a .957 OPS against righties.

Second Star-  One has to be impressed with the career transformation Los Angeles’ Justin Turner has undergone.  Since joining the Dodgers Turner has become a legitimate power threat, hitting 50 home runs (including a career high 27 this year) and posting a .492 slugging percentage in his time in Dodger Blue.  Turner’s power was on display yesterday as he hit a big two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the third inning to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead.  Turner’s blast continued his show of power against Washington this year. He hit a home run off of Yusmerio Petit when the Nats faced Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, and hit two more off of Stephen Strasburg when Los Angeles was in Washington in July.

Star of the Game-  Los Angeles’ closer Kenley Jansen looks like he could be a defensive end for the Rams, and the intimidating reliever did his job in a big way yesterday. Jansen recorded a five out save, striking out three in the process, as Los Angeles took control of the series. Jansen had five saves of four or more outs in the regular season, second only to Tampa’s Alex Colome and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna who each had six such saves.  The Nationals had four four plus out saves in 2016, three by Shawn Kelley and one by Mark Melancon.

Valiant in Defeat-  Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits each. Rendon drove in two runs with a clutch two-out single against Kershaw to cut the Los Angeles lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third, and had a line drive single in the fifth as well. Zimmerman hit the ball hard three times, singling in his first two at bats and then lining out to deep right field in his third.

NOTES

On a dreary Saturday morning in Washington, here’s a bit of news that won’t do much to brighten the city’s mood.  Since 2005, 21 teams who were hosts in the first game of a League Divisional Series were down 0-1 after that game.  Only five of those 21 teams went on to win their series.

Neither Kershaw or Scherzer were at their best yesterday, but both did keep their teams in the game. Kershaw allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings to win his third game in nine post-season decisions.  Scherzer allowed four runs over the first three frames, but shut the Dodgers out over his final three innings of work as he saw his post-season record drop to 4-4.

When the Nats’ offense struggled in 2016, it was often due to an inability to put the bat on the ball in crucial moments.  The strikeout bug bit the Nats on Friday, with Turner, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa fanning three times each. Espinosa’s strikeouts were particularly important, as each came with two men on base.

Kudos to members of both teams’ bullpens for their performance under post-season pressure on Friday.  Four Dodgers’ relievers and two Nats’ hurlers combined for seven innings of shut out ball, with only three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.

UP NEXT

With its season all but on the line, Washington turns to Tanner Roark to right the ship in Game Two of the series. Roark is 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched against the Dodgers.  Roark has had great success against the Dodgers’ Chase Utley (.077 average in 13 at bats) in his career, while Adrian Gonzalez has two hits and a home run in four career at bats against the Nats’ righty.

Tall and talented Dodgers’ lefty Rich Hill has reason to be confident when he looks to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, but he’ll probably be a bit wary when he faces Nats’ first baseman Ryzn Zimmerman.  In his career against Hill, the Nats’ veteran has six hits in nine at bats with a double and two home runs.   Jose Lobaton is scheduled to start at catcher for the Nats’ today, and the veteran backstop has three hits (including two doubles) in as many career at bats against Hill.

Nats by the Numbers- September 30th

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159 down, three to go in 2016 the regular season for Jayson Werth and the Nationals, who look to wrap up the home-field advantage in the NLDS this weekend as they take on the Miami Marlins. 

October is a day away, and the start of the National League Divisional Series begins one short week from now.   With help from Baseball-Reference.Com’s amazing Play Index and with playoff baseball right around the corner, here’s another edition of “Nats by the Numbers” for what has turned out to be a very special 2016 season.

1.474

The casual baseball fans in this area may not have been familiar with Arizona’s Jean Segura before this week, but they certainly are now.

Segura was the driving force behind the Diamondbacks’ wins against the favored Nationals in the teams’ split of the four game series, and the infielder’s 1.474 OPS against Washington is the highest for any opposing hitter with 20 or more at bats on the year. Segura had 10 hits in 21 at bats with a double, three homers and four RBI against the Nats this year.   Colorado’s D.J. LaMahieu was next at 1.435, followed by the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist (1.359), Segura’s teammate Yasmany Tomas (1.323) and San Diego’s Wil Myers (1.223).

No NL East opposing hitter is above the 1.000 mark so far, with Miami’s Derek Dietrich’s .988 OPS leading way among Washington’s divisional opponents.

7

After stealing only 57 bases in 2015, the Nationals have brought the stolen base back as a weapon in their arsenal in the 2016 season. The team’s 116 steals on the year ranks second in Nats’ history, only seven steals behind the 123 bags that were swiped by the 2006 Nationals.  This year’s Nats have been more efficient in their steal attempts than the 2006 squad was, as they’ve been caught stealing only 39 times v.s. 62 failed attempts for the 2006 team.  It is no coincidence that the 2006 and 2016 teams have the most stolen bases in Nats’ history. The link between the two teams is stolen base guru Davey Lopes, who coached first base for both squads.

Washington has five players who have double digit stolen base figures this year, tying the 2011 team for the most players with 10 or more steals in a season.  Speedy rookie Trea Turner leads the way for the Nats with 29 followed by Bryce Harper (21), Ben Revere (14), Michael A. Taylor (13) and Anthony Rendon (12).  Back in 2011, Ian Desmond led the way with 25 steals, with Jayson Werth (19), Roger Bernadina (17), Danny Espinosa (17) and Rick Ankiel (10) also posting double digit stolen base totals.

8

Anyone who follows the Nationals regularly knows that Jayson Werth is in many ways the heart and soul of the squad.  Whether it is watching him lead the charge out of the dugout in last weekend’s squabble with the Pirates or seeing him grind out at bats in tough situations, it is easy to see that #28 is a driving force behind the Nats’ success.

This year’s division title brings to eight the number of times the veteran outfielder has been part of a division winning team in his 14 year Major League career. Werth was on the 2004 NL West winning Los Angeles Dodgers, played a major role in the Philadelphia Phillies’ four straight NL East crowns from 2007 through 2010 and has been a fixture on the Nats’ NL East champioship teams in three of the past five seasons.

23

Max Scherzer’s 277 strikeouts so far in 2016 not only set a career high for the National League Cy Young Award front-runner, but has also put him in very select company.  Since 1961, only 22 other National League pitchers have recorded 277 or more strikeouts in a season.   Clayton Kershaw had 301 strikeouts in 2015 but before that, Randy Johnson of Arizona was the last to do so with 290 back in 2004.

Scherzer’s feat is made more special by the fact that he has posted his total with the fewest innings pitched among the pitchers who have had 277 plus strikeouts in a season.  Going into his last start on Sunday, Scherzer’s innings pitched total is 223.1.  The next fewest innings pitched among players on the list is Kershaw’s 232.2 last season.

33

The low point of the past week for the Nats was seeing All-Star catcher and fan favorite Wilson Ramos leave Monday’s game with a season ending injury that may have ended his time in Washington.  Ramos’ season ended on a sour note, but we should not sleep on the fact that we have witnessed a remarkable offensive season by someone playing at the game’s most demanding defensive position.

Since 1961, Ramos is only the 33rd player who played at least 80% of his games at catcher with more than 20 home runs, 80 RBI and a .300 plus batting average. The Buffalo hit 22 homers, drove in 80 runs and put up a .307 average in what was truly a special season.

Prior to Ramos’ special 2016 campaign the last catcher to reach these totals was San Francisco’s Buster Posey, who hit .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI in a season where he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.

503

Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon makes everything look easy on the baseball diamond.  Whether it is diving to make a great defensive play, hitting a home run with a batting stroke that is as smooth as silk or speeding around the bases with  ease,  Rendon’s top-level talent is evident.

This week, Rendon picked up his 500th hit with a clutch three run homer in Washington’s 4-2 win over Arizona on Tuesday and ended the Diamondbacks series with 503 career hits. Since his coming into the league in 2013, only 30 National Leaguers have more hits in that time period than Rendon.

Four players who either play, or have played, with Rendon are on the list.  Teammate Jayson Werth with 504 hits is one ahead of Rendon, with Bryce Harper two ahead with 505 base knocks.  Former top of the order mate Denard Span has the 17th highest total with 576 hits, and current teammate Daniel Murphy has the highest hit total in the National League since 2013 with a whopping 684.

Nats by the Numbers- September 24th

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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.

80

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.

9

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.

19

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.

240

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.

47

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.

12.76 

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.

10 

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.

 

Nats Notes- September 16th

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Tanner Roark may not be a household name to many who follow Major League Baseball, but he certainly is one for Nats’ fans. Roark won his 15th game on Wednesday in the Nats’ 1-0 victory over the New York Mets.

With only 16 games to play and a ten game lead over the New York Mets in the National League East, it is only a matter of time before the Nationals celebrate their third division title in the past five seasons.  There’s still a lot to play for, however, as the Nats need to maintain their five game spread over the Los Angeles Dodgers to assure themselves of the home field advantage in what is squaring up to be an intriguing NLDS series between the teams.

Here’s a look at some items of note as the Nats head into the final weeks of the 2016 regular season.

A SEASON TO REMEMBER

Where would the Nationals be without MVP candidate Daniel Murphy?  The new National has at least one hit in all of the team’s 12 games so far in September, and continued his domination of his former mates from New York going 6 for 12 with three doubles in the teams’ recent series at Nationals Park.  If Murphy can keep his batting average above .340 down the stretch, he will register only the third season since 1901 where a player who plays primarily (at least 80% of his appearances) at second base has hit over .340 with at least 25 homers, 100 RBI and 45 doubles. The only other player to have seasons like that will playing second base was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did so in 1922 and again in 1929.

HOME RUN HIGHLIGHTS

The 2016 Nationals have 187 home runs so far, a mere seven round-trippers away from the 2012 club’s team record of 194.   95 of the Nats’ homers have come at home, with May (43) and June (38) being the months where Washington hitters have hit the most.  Of Washington’s homers so far, 122 have been solo shots, 44 have been with one man on, 14 have come with two aboard and seven have been grand slams.  The top inning for Nats’ blast has been the seventh. Washington has 29 home runs in that frame.

MAT THE BAT

Nats’ pitcher Mat Latos is built like an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, so it is no wonder that the veteran righthander is able to generate power with his bat as well as with his right arm. On Monday against the Mets, Latos became the first Nats pitcher to hit a round-tripper at Nationals Park in over three years when he deposited a Rafael Montero pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in Washington’s 8-1 win over the Mets

 

Before Latos’ shot, the last pitcher to hit a home run at home for the Nats was Gio Gonzalez, who went deep off of Miami’s Kevin Slowey on April 3, 2013. Other Nats’ hurlers who’ve homered in home games include Stephen Strasburg (5/20/12 against Baltimore), Tommy Milone (9/3/11 against the Mets), Ramon Ortiz (9/4/06 against St. Louis) and Livan Hernandez (4/29/05 against the Mets).   The Nats are 6-0 at home in games where a Washington pitcher has gone yard.

THE SLIMMEST OF MARGINS

Washington’s 1-0 victory over the Mets on Wednesday was the 16th 1-0 victory for the Nats since 2005 and the second of the 2016 season.   Both 1-0 victories this season have come in games started by Tanner Roark and in contests where the only Washington run has come on a seventh inning Wilson Ramos home run. Ramos’ mammoth blast to left center on Wednesday off of Fernando Salas was the game winner this week, and his home run off of San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner won the game back in August.

Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Mets was Washington’s fifth against the New Yorkers, the most against any opponent.

TANNER IS TOPS

Any discussion of the best pitchers in the National League that doesn’t include the name of Nats’ starter Tanner Roark is a discussion without merit.

Roark was fantastic again on Wednesday, shutting the Mets out over seven innings to earn his 15th win of the year.  In 2016, Roark has had a Major League high nine games in which he’s pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run.  Besides Roark, only Chicago’s Jake Arrieta (with seven), Miami’s Jose Fernandez (6), Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (5), Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman (5) and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (5) have more than four such games.

UP NEXT

The Nats make their final visit to Atlanta’s Turner Field this weekend and if there’s any justice, this will also be the last time the Nats (and their fans watching from home) will have to listen to the incredibly annoying “tomahawk chop” song that appears to be played at decibel levels rivaling that of a space launch.

With a winning record for the season at Atlanta for only the third time in 12 years already in hand, the Nats look to reduce their magic number against a depleted but always game Braves’ squad.

Max Scherzer takes the mound tonight for Washington in pursuit of his 17th win of the year.   The Nats’ ace is 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA in his career at Turner Field.  Outfielder Matt Kemp has provided the Braves with a boost since his acquisition from San Diego earlier this year, but Atlanta fans probably aren’t expecting much out of their left fielder this evening. In 36 career at bats against Scherzer, Kemp is hitting .083 with ten strikeouts.

Rookie John Gant, who the Braves acquired from the Mets in the 2015 trade that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to New York, will be Scherzer’s mound opponent. The right-handed rookie is 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA on the year, but does have an impressive 45 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched.

 

 

 

 

 

Nats Notes- September 1th

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Bryce Harper reacts after hitting an eighth inning three run homer off of Philadelphia’s Patrick Schuster last night that led Washington to a 3-0 victory over the Phillies.

With the team’s third National League East title in the past five years there for the taking, the Washington Nationals have positioned themselves to be a major player in this year’s post-season.  A healthy nine game lead over the Mets with 20 games left to play has left the Nats a near certainty to win the National League East, and the team has a three game lead over the Dodgers for the second seed in the NL playoffs.

Our focus may be turning to October, but there have been plenty of highlights from the early part of September that made the last week memorable.

BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POND

The Nats continue to be the bully of the NL East playground as they have won nine of their past 12 games, all against divisional foes.  On the year, Washington is a healthy 44-19 against the NL East.   Against the division’s bottom dwellers Atlanta and Philadelphia, the Nats have posted a 27-7 mark.

(MAX)IMUM EFFORT 

What a joy it is to watch Nats’ ace Max Scherzer.   The energy he brings to each game he starts electrifies both his teammates and Nats’ fans, and he’s showing that he could be the type of pitcher who can dominate a post-season series or two.

Scherzer and three relievers combined to shut Philadelphia out on Saturday, giving the Nats 11 shutouts so far in the 2016 season.   His 6.1 WAR ranks second among all National League players (Chicago’s Kris Bryant is first with a 7.0 mark), he leads the league in strikeouts, innings pitched and WHIP, and is tied for the top spot in wins.  It appears to be down to Scherzer, Chicago’s duo of Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta and San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner in the competition for the league’s Cy Young Award.  Whether he wins the award or not, I doubt that Dusty Baker would rather have any of those pitchers on the mound in game one of a playoff series instead of his current number one hurler.

DOUBLE TROUBLE 

The Nats’ Daniel Murphy, with a National League East leading 41 doubles, has become the first National with 40 our more two-baggers since Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church had 43 each in the 2007 season.  Murphy is six doubles away from the Nats’ best total of 47, set by Zimmerman in 2006.

If Anthony Rendon has at least four more doubles over the season’s final 20 games, the Nats will have multiple players with 40 or more doubles in a year for only the third time.  In addition to the 2007 Zimmerman/Church duo, three Nationals exceeded the mark in 2006 (Nick Johnson had 46 and Alfonso Soriano had 41 to go with Zimmerman’s 47).

ONE FOR THREE

Bryce Harper had a largely forgettable game at the plate on Saturday night as he fanned three times against talented Phillies’ righthander Jerad Eickhoff, but he turned his night around in a big way once Eickhoff was out of the game.

Harper’s eighth inning three run homer off of Patrick Schuster broke a scoreless tie and gave the Nats all the runs they’d need in their 3-0 victory.  The reigning NL MVP’s blast was his third three run homer of the season, tying Jayson Werth for the most among Nats’ players.  Wilson Ramos is the only other National with multiple three run blasts.

The Nats have 13 three run shots on the year, including Chris Heisey’s round-tripper against Atlanta’s Ryan Weber on September 5th.  The team record for most three run homers in a season is 22, set in 2011 and equaled in 2015.

LEADING MEN

On Friday Trea Turner had two home runs, including a dramatic walk-off shot in the ninth inning, to give Washington a thrilling 5-4 win. Turner became the fourth Nats’ player to have a multiple home run game while hitting in the leadoff spot.  Alfonso Soriano had four in 2006, Rick Ankiel had two on August 1, 2011 and Denard Span had a pair of homers on September 1, 2014.

Turner’s two homer game came in the 79th contest of his career.  Only six Nats’ players have had a multi-homer game earlier in their careers:

PLAYER                     CAREER GM            DATE          OPP/SCORE

Brandon Harper           4                            8/20/06        W 10 @ Phl 12

Danny Espinosa            5                            9/6/10           W 13   NYM 3

Tyler Moore                   16                           6/13/12           W 6 @ Tor 2

Wilson Ramos               36                          4/26/11           W 4  NYM 6

Justin Maxwell              37                           9/12/09           W 3 @ FL 13

Roger Bernadina           42                          5/12/10           W 6 @ NYM 4

ODDS AND ENDS

Jose Lobaton had two hits last night, giving him two multi-hit contests in the current homestand.  Prior to this week, he had only two in the rest of the season.  Lobaton went two for three in the Nats’ win over the Twins on April 22nd and had two hits in Washington’s loss to the Cubs on June 14th.

Reliable bullpen pitching is something most successful post-season teams have, and two Nats’ pitchers appear to be on the path to being options to rely on come next month.Both Blake Treinen and new National Mark Rzepczynski have been fantastic over their last six appearances.   Treinen has allowed no runs, only three hits and no walks in 6.1 innings while striking out six, while the Rzepczynski has thrown 5.1 innings of scoreless ball with only one hit and two walks allowed.

UP NEXT

The Nats say goodbye to the Phillies for 2016 in today’s series finale at Nationals Park, with Gio Gonzalez taking the mound against fellow left-hander Adam Morgan.

Gonzalez strugged mightily in his September 6th start against Atlanta but before that game, he had allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 11 previous starts.  In his career, Gonzalez is 23-11 with a 3.14 ERA in September/October.   Among Phillies’ players, big Darin Ruf is one against whom Gonzalez has struggled. Ruf has a .357 average with three homers in 28 career at bats against Gonzalez.  On the other side of the coin, Mikael Franco is 1-13 with four strikeouts, Ryan Howard is 0-11 with six strikeouts and Peter Bourjos is 3-22 with seven strikeouts against today’s Nats’ starter.

Phildelphia’s Morgan is only 2-9 with an alarming 5.90 ERA on the year, but he has pitched well against the Nats in his last two starts against them (he’s fanned 13 in 13.1 innings pitched while allowing only five earned runs).  In his last outing five days ago, Morgan picked up his first win since May 10th in a 4-3 Philadelphia victory at Miami.

 

 

 

Nats’ Notes- September 2, 2016

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NATS NOTES- 9/2/16

TREA TERRIFIC

As the 2016 regular season’s final month begins, one of the top stories for the Washington Nationals has been the rapid development of speedy rookie Trea Turner into a top-flight leadoff man and centerfielder.   Turner’s emergence has made the Nats a much better team, and potential post-season opponents will have to account for his multiple talents come October.

With October still on the horizon it is time to look back at August, a month where the Turner achieved great things.  In the month, Turner hit .357 with five homers, 15 RBI and 11 steals while posting a .938 OPS.    His 45 hits on the month tied Turner for the most hits in August and for the fourth highest total in any month in the 2016 season:

Player                      Month                  Hits 

Bogaerts, Bos          May                       49

TMurphy, Was           May                       47

Ozuna, Mia               May                       46

Betts, Bos                 August                  45

Turner, Was             August                  45  

The speedster’s 11 steals in August was the most in a month for a Nationals’ player in six years, and tied Turner for the second most steals in any month in Nationals’ history:

Player                        Month/Year              Steals

Nyjer Morgan         July 2009                          14

Felipe Lopez           Sept/Oct 2006                11

Nyjer Morgan          July 2010                         11

Trea Turner              August 2016                   11  

WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

Veteran outfielder Jayson Werth was once a driving force in making the Philadelphia Phillies one of the Major League’s best teams.   These days, Werth is driving the Phillies and their fans crazy.

With two key home runs in the Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week, Werth has tied Lucas Duda of the Mets for the most home runs by an opponent at Citizens Bank Park since 2011 with 12.  Werth has consistently terrorized the Phils since 2013 with three home runs at Philadelphia this season, four in 2015, two in 2014 and three in 2013.

96 miles north of Philadelphia, another fan base has watched a former member of their team terrorize the home squad this season.   At New York’s Citi Field this season, former Met Daniel Murphy has four home runs.  He is tied with nine other players (including Anthony Rendon and former National Adam LaRoche) for the second most by an Mets’ opponent in a single season at Citi Field.  Giancarlo Stanton of Miami had five home runs at Citi Field this season for the top mark, but things could change this weekend!

GOING STREAKING

The Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week marked the ninth series sweep (for series’ of three games or more) in the 2016 season.   Both the 2012 and 2014 National League East division winning Nationals’ teams had nine sweeps in those seasons.  With nine series left to go in 2016, the current Nats’ squad has a good shot at besting that mark.

MAX-IMUM DOMINANCE

Another week, another 10 strikeout plus game for Nats’ ace Max Scherzer.  The National League Cy Young candidate fanned 11 Phillies on Tuesday, giving him 12 games of double digit strikeout totals this season.  Since 2005, only two pitchers have more such games in any season. Last year, both Chicago’s Chris Sale and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw had 13 double digit strikeout games.

RUN PRODUCERS INC.

So far this season, Daniel Murphy (with 98), Bryce Harper (75) and Wilson Ramos (71) have at least 70 RBI.  With a month left to go in the campaign, the 2016 squad has a chance to surpass the 2014 and 2007 teams for the most 70 plus RBI men in a single year.  Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have 62 RBI so far, with Jayson Werth right behind them with 61.   In 2014  Adam LaRoche (92), Ian Desmond (91), Rendon (83) and Werth (82) did the trick, while in 2007 it was Ryan Zimmerman (91), Dmitri Young (74), Austin Kearns (74) and Ryan Church (70) with 70 or more RBI.

Nats Still Comfortably Ahead in NL East Despite 2-4 Stretch

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The highlight of a mostly rocky six game stretch for the Nationals was Max Scherzer’s dominant effort in Washington’s 4-0 win over Baltimore on August 25th at Nationals Park.

Despite some poor play over the past week, a week that saw the Washington Nationals go 2-4, the Nationals are eight games up in the National League East with only 34 left to play. The eight game lead is the second largest in the Majors, behind only the Chicago Cubs’ mammoth 14 game spread over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.  And with the six game stretch ending with two encouraging wins, there is hope that the ugly four games to begin the week were just a minor blip on the radar screen.

Here’s a look at some of the lowlights and highlights of the past six days for the Nats.

BURN THE TAPE OF THIS ONE

As ugly games go, it would be hard to find one to top Sunday’s 7-6 ten inning loss at Atlanta that prevented Washington from earning a four game sweep at Turner Field.  The Nats committed five errors and blew a four run lead, with the end of the contest coming on Jace Peterson’s game ending home run off of Shawn Kelley with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning.   The game ending home run was the second of the season allowed by Washington, with the first coming back on May 8th at Wrigley Field when Javier Baez’s 13th inning solo homer off of Blake Treinen gave the Cubs a 4-3 win over Washington.  No opponent has had more walk-off home runs against the Nats than Atlanta with four (see details below).

DATE              NATS PITCHER         BATTER         SCORE/INN AT TIME OF HR       RUNNERS ON

9/1/2005        Luis Ayala                Andruw Jones          7-7   10th                                 None

5/13/2006       Chad Cordero        Jeff Francouer          W 5 A 4  9th                            Three

8/16/2013       Ian Kroll                  Justin Upton             2-2  10th                                   Solo

8/21/2016       Shawn Kelley        Jace Peterson             6-6  10th                                  Solo

NOT SO CHARMING FOR THE NATS

Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark and many Nats’ fans made the trek north to see Washington play in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday.   Those fans probably aren’t calling the Baltimore Charm City after seeing Washington struggle in two losses to the O’s.

On Monday, the O’s nipped the Nats by a 4-3 score despite a valiant effort by Nats’ rookie A. J. Cole who stepped in for injured All-Star Stephen Strasburg and threw seven solid innings. Unfortunately for Cole and the Nats, Baltimore did touch him for two home runs that plated three of the four runs to give the O’s their advantage.  Zach Britton’s ninth inning of work was nightmarish for the visitors, as the lefty blew Washington away to save a win for Baltimore rookie Dylan Bundy.

Tuesday’s game was anything but competitive. The Orioles won 8-1, giving the Nats their worst loss since they fell by seven runs (in a 12-5 game) at home against the Phillies on September 27, 2015.  The Nats had ten hits on the day but only one went for extra bases, with the O’s registering three doubles and home among their 13 hits as they cruised to victory.   Trea Turner’s 4-4 game out of the leadoff spot was the highlight of the game for Washington.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

The Nats seemed headed to another lopsided loss on Wednesday night as they trailed Baltimore 10-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. But Washington rallied, scoring five and bringing the winning run to the plate before Britton induced a double play ground ball to end the threat and give the O’s their 17th win in their past 23 games against their Beltway rivals.

Washington’s rally included the first grand slam home run of Daniel Murphy’s career. For the game, Murphy went three for five with five RBI, but it was another talented infielder who stole the show. Baltimore’s Manny Machado had four hits in six at bats, scored four times and hit a two run home run to pace Baltimore’s attack. In his career at Nationals Park, Machado is hitting .425 in 40 at bats and has posted a 1.169 OPS.

PLAYING THEIR ACE

Ending the team’s four game losing streak on Thursday with another sterling performance, Washington’s Max Scherzer showed why he’s among a handful of pitchers who are true stoppers.

Scherzer threw eight shutout innings and struck out 10 as he dominated a dangerous Orioles’ squad in tense contest that the Nats ended up winning 4-0. Scherzer’s 88 pitching game score on the date was his highest of the 2016 season, and the ninth 80 plus pitching game score he’s put up in his two years in DC. Over that time period, only Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw (with 14) has more.

The top of the Nats order provided the offense on the night for the home team, as Turner, Jayson Werth, Murphy and Bryce Harper combined to go seven for 16 with four runs scored, four RBI, two doubles, a home run and two stolen bases.

WELCOME TO THE CENTURY CLUB

The highlight of Friday’s 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies was Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez earning the 100th win of his career. Gonzalez allowed the Rockies two runs and four hits in six strong innings pitched. He struck out five and walked only one, as he improved his 2016 record to 9-9.   As with many pitchers, not giving up walks seems to be a key for the Nats’ lefty.  In games where he has allowed two or fewer bases on balls while pitching for Washington, Gonzalez 47-24.  In contests where he’s given up three or more walks, Gonzalez’s record is 15-19.

The Nats’ Fearsome Foursome at the top of the team’s order were at it again, as Turner, Werth, Murphy and Harper combined for seven hits in 17 at bats, with four runs scored and six driven in. Werth had a double and his 18th home run of the year in the contest, while Harper had a double and his first triple of the season.

August has been a big month for the big four, all of whom are sizzling so far in the season’s penultimate month:

TURNER-  .355 average, four homers, 13 RBI, nine steals, .946 OPS

WERTH-    Six homers, 13 RBI, .938 OPS

MURPHY-  .325 average, five homers, 22 RBI, .983 OPS

HARPER-    .354 average, two homers, 16 RBI,  1.011 OPS

UP NEXT 

The Nats look to continue their winning ways this afternoon against Colorado as A.J. Cole looks for his first career win while Colorado pins its hopes on veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa.

De La Rosa has three wins in as many decisions in his career at games played at Nationals Park, and is 5-2 overall against the Nats.  Werth has hit .368 with a double and two homers against the Rockies’ lefty, while Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos have combined to go two for 20 against him. Ramos’ one hit, however, was a home run.