Jayson Werth’s first inning three run home run off of St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia staked the Nats to an early lead that they wouldn’t lose as Washington defeated the home standing Cardinals 6-1 on Saturday.
Like the ever changing weather of April, the Washington Nationals’ past week featured more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster. From the thrills of an extra inning win last Sunday against Minnesota to sweep at home at the hands of the less than powerful Phillies to two impressive wins against the always good St. Louis Cardinals, the week has been an interesting one.
Here’s a recap of some of the key moments and events of the past six games.
April 24- Washington 6 Minnesota 5 – 16 innings
The game had it all, from hot hitting pitchers, a game tying pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, an unlikely game tying run and a walk-off round tripper that finally ended the marathon contest.
Starter Stephen Strasburg, who pitched well on the day, and emergency pinch-hitter Joe Ross both had base hits on the day, marking the first time since April 25, 2012 that two Nats’ pitchers had hits during the same game. In that contest Jordan Zimmermann and Tom Gorzelanny not only each had a hit, but also drove in runs. The only other games where two Nats’ pitchers have reached on hits were only May 23, 2010 (John Lannan and Drew Storen were the hurlers), August 20, 2006 (Pedro Astacio and Travis Hughes) and August 30, 2005 (John Patterson and Jason Bergmann. The Nationals are 4-1 in those games.
Bryce Harper’s dramatic ninth-inning home run that sent the game into extra innings was the first pinch-hit homer of the Nats’ star’s career, and the 53rd pinch-hit home run in Nationals’ history. Six other current Nationals have pinch-hit round trippers for Washington in their careers. Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Matt den Dekker, Clint Robinson and Michael A. Taylor have come off the bench and to go deep for the Nats.
April 26- Philadelphia 4 Washington 3
Philadelphia’s Andres Blanco has been a utility player for most of his Major League career but in recent times, he’s looked like Jimmy Rollins in his prime against the Nats. On Tuesday, Blanco went 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI to pace the Phils to a 4-3 win over the Nats and Max Scherzer.
Blanco has 12 career homers, and the Nats are the only team he’s hit more than one against (Blanco homered on September 27, 2015 against Washington in a game where he went 3 for 6 with three RBI).
April 27- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
What a difference 12 days made. On April 15, 2016 at Citizens Bank Park, Phils’ starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was battered by the Nationals in Washington’s 9-1 victory. This past Wednesday, Hellickson did a 180 and held Washington scoreless over seven dominant innings to lead Philadelphia to victory.
Hellickson’s pitching game score of 78 on the day tied for the second highest he’s had in his 140 starts in the Major Leagues.
April 28- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola and Washington’s Tanner Roark were both superb on a rainy Thursday afternoon in Washington, but neither factored in the decision as the game remained scoreless through eight innings. The visitors finally broke through in the top of the ninth, scoring three runs off of Washington’s Felipe Rivero to put themselves in position to earn a rare sweep of the Nats. Cameron Rupp’s bases loaded double was the big blow in the Phils’ win.
Washington had no extra-base hits on the day, marking the 127th time the Nats have been held without one. Not surprisingly, the Nats are 22-105 in those games. Washington’s last victory without an extra base hit came on June 2, 2015 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
April 29- Washington 5 @ St. Louis 4
Coming into Friday’s game, the Nats had won only seven of their 33 regular season games played at St. Louis since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Stephen Strasburg made sure things would turn out differently in the Nats’ first visit to the Gateway City in 2016.
After fighting through a rocky first inning, Strasburg settled down and eventually dominated the home team as he fanned nine (including three each in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings) to earn his fourth victory in as many decisions on the season.
Strasburg was aided by home runs by Taylor and Espinosa off of St. Louis starter and loser Mike Leake. Taylor led off the game with a round tripper, marking the fourth time in his career that he has done so. The Nats are 3-1 in those contests. Espinosa had two hits, a homer (his first of the year) and two RBI in the game.
April 30- Washington 6 @ St. Louis 1
Fast starts have been common for the Nats in 2016, and that skill was display yesterday afternoon against St. Louis and lefty Jaime Garcia. The Nats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, with the big blow coming on Jayson Werth’s three run home run. The blast was the 29th three run tater in Werth’s career. His .513 career slugging percentage against St. Louis is the third highest he’s posted against National League teams (Werth has a .566 slugging percentage against Arizona, and put up a .539 mark against Washington prior to joining the Nationals in 2011).
Young pitcher Joe Ross made sure the early lead would hold up, holding the Cards to one run in six innings pitched to earn his third win of the year. Ross has not allowed a home run in his last 39.2 innings pitched, dating back to August 22, 2015 when Milwaukee’s Kris Davis homered off of the Nats’ rising star.
Max Scherzer looks to rebound from a pair of relatively disappointing outings as he takes on St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez in the finale of the three game set.
It has pretty much been feast or famine when St. Louis’ Brandon Moss has faced Scherzer in his career. The left-handed veteran has two home runs and four RBI against Scherzer in 22 career at bats, but has also fanned 11 times. Less successful against the Nats’ ace has been Matt Holliday, who is 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.
Martinez has limited opponents to a .867 WHIP so far in 2016, and is 4-0 on the year. Daniel Murphy, Werth and Zimmerman are a combined 0-12 lifetime against the hard-throwing young pitcher, while Anthony Rendon has hits in both of his at bats against Martinez.
Freddie Galvis’ game ending single capped a two run rally by the Phillies in the bottom of the tenth inning today as the home team ended the Washington Nationals’ seven game winning streak with a 3-2 win (USA TODAY images).
Nationals Record- 9-2
WP- Gomez (1-0) LP- Papelbon (0-1, BS 1)
HR- Harper Was (6), Ruiz Phl (1)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Phillies’ outfielder Peter Bourjos came into Sunday’s game as a .239 hitter in his career, and he quickly fell behind Nationals’ closer Jonathan Papelbon 0-2 with one out and the Phils down by one in the tenth inning. But the light-hitting Bourjos came through, driving a double to left field to set the stage for the winning rally.
Second Star- Andres Blanco had a career year for the Phillies in 2015, hitting .292 with seven homers, 25 RBI and a .360 on base percentage in 261 plate appearances. His 2015 form was on display today, as his two out pinch hit single scored Bourjos with the tying run in the bottom of the tenth.
Star of the game- Freddy Galvis stands only 5’10”, but on Sunday he stood as tall as booming 10th inning single scored Blanco from second with the game winning run as the Phillies avoided a three game sweep at the hands of their red-hot rivals from the Nations Capital. Galvis, hitting lead-off in the Philadelphia lineup, was 0 for 4 prior to his game-winning heroics.
Valiant in defeat- We’re running out of superlatives when it comes to describing Nats’ outfielder Bryce Harper. Harper had two hits and a walk on the day, and his laser shot home run on a 3-2 pitch off of Jeanmar Gomez seemed to put Washington over the hump in its pursuit of an eighth straight win. Harper has now homered in six consecutive games at Citizens Bank Park.
Both starting pitchers did excellent work on the day. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez allowed only one run (on a Carlos Ruiz homer) and fanned eight in his seven innings of work. The Phils’ Charlie Morton moved the ball well on Sunday, keeping Washington off balance in his six innings of four hit, one run allowed pitching.
Situational hitting was a problem once again for the Nats, who left eight men on base on the day. Particularly tough to take for the visitors was the top of the ninth when Werth doubled but was left stranded.
Anthony Rendon, Harper and Daniel Murphy combined to go six for 13 in the two, three and four spots in the lineup. Rendon’s single in the sixth scored Washington’s first run. The RBI was the first on the year for the Nats’ third baseman.
On Monday, Tanner Roark will take the mound for Washington in Miami against Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez. Roark is 2-5 with a 3.61 ERA on his career against Miami, and Nats’ killer Martin Prado has six hits in 12 at bats against the Illinois native. The ultra-talented Fernandez has had his way against the Nationals in his career going 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA, but has allowed six runs in his ten innings of work so far in 2016.