Tanner Roark was money in the bank again for the Nationals last night, throwing eight shutout innings and leading the Nats to a 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park.
Nationals’ Record- 56-36
Nationals 6 Pirates 0
WP- Roark (9-5) LP- Cole (5-5)
HR- Rendon, Was (10)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Anthony Rendon was 2-4 with a homer and two RBI on the game. The Nats’ third sacker drove in the game’s first run in the bottom of the first with a RBI single, and hit a booming solo home run to left-center in the bottom of the fifth. It is interesting to note that the last 24 home runs hit by the right-handed hitting Rendon have come against right-handed pitchers. The last home run Rendon has hit against a southpaw came back on June 24, 2014 when he hit a round-tripper at Milwaukee off of Wil Smith.
Second Star- Dusty Baker has masterfully used the Nationals’ bench players and after Clint Robinson played a big role in Friday’s win, fellow bench man Stephen Drew was in the spotlight on Saturday. The versatile infielder went 3 for 4 with two runs scored as he filled in for All-Star Daniel Murphy at second base. All of Drew’s hits were doubles, marking the most two baggers he’s hit in a game in his career. Drew has an impressive .981 OPS in games played at Nationals Park this year, and his overall OPS of .892 is nothing to sneeze at.
Star of the Game- Tanner Roark is not the most flashy or most recognized member of the Nats’ pitching staff, but it is getting impossible to deny that his results make him one of its most effective hurlers. Roark earned his ninth win of the year with eight shutout innings, marking the 11th time he’s pitched seven or more shutout innings in his career. Only Gio Gonzalez (15) and Jordan Zimmermann (13) have had more such games in their time in Nats’ colors, and both have started many more games in Nats’ colors than Roark has (Zimmermann had 178 starts in DC, Gonzalez has taken the hill 140 times and Roark has started 67 times).
Valiant in Defeat- There wasn’t much to cheer about for fans from the Steel City, but they did get to see ultra-talented Andrew McCutchen go 2 for 4 to increase his lifetime OPS at Nationals Park to 1.020. Among opponents with 70 or more at bats at Nationals Park, McCutchen trails only Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers (1.078), Giancarlo Stanton of Miami (1.068) and Joey Votto of the Reds (.1.056) in career OPS.
Rendon’s home run gave the Nats seven players with at least 10 home runs so far this season. The most Nationals’ players with double digit home runs in a season was eight, set last season.
The shutout by the Nats’ staff last night was the 49th for the home team in Nationals Park history, and the sixth of the 2016 season. The most shutouts for the Nats at home in a season came in 2014, when Washington whitewashed opponents 12 times.
The Nats go for the three game sweep behind Max Scherzer this afternoon. Scherzer is 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA and a 12.4 SO/9 ratio against Pittsburgh lifetime. Josh Harrison has struggled mightily against the Nats’ fireballer in his career, going 0 for 12 with five strikeouts. Outfielder Matt Joyce has fared almost as poorly against Scherzer, going 2-20 with a home run and six strikeouts.
Pittsburgh sends young Delaware native Chad Kuhl to the mound and while Kuhl sports a rugged 6.08 ERA over his first three starts, the Pirates have won each of those games. Kuhl is 1-0 on the year, picking up a win in his Major League debut as he bettered Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers back on June 26th at PNC Park.
Baseball fans have long memories, especially when it comes to remembering players on opposing teams who’ve caused their team heartache. While the Washington Nationals have only been around since 2005, there have been many opposing players who’ve made quite an impression on Nats’ fans during that time period.
Here’s a look, fun fact Friday style, at the player from each National League opponent whose made me think he’s a Nats’ killer.
Freddy Krueger had his razor-sharp fingers and Jason of the “Friday the 13th” series fame had his mask but for my money, those two paled in comparison to Craig Kimbrel’s stance. Particularly during the disappointing 2013 campaign, many of us saw that stance in our sleep as we tossed and turned following another Nats’ loss to Atlanta where Kimbrel shut the door on our hopes.
In his time with Atlanta, Kimbrel went 3-1 with 23 saves and 73 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched with a Little League-esqe 0.732 WHIP. I for one am happy that he’s in Boston now. Let our friends in Baltimore start having the nightmares we once did!
Some Nationals’ fans, particularly those who weren’t on board during the RFK Stadium days might vote for Giancarlo Stanton or even Jose Fernandez here, but my vote goes to the multi-talented Ramirez who terrorized the Nats with his bat, glove and legs while playing for the Marlins.
In 481 at bats against the Nats during that time period, Ramirez posted a 1.036 OPS with 31 home runs, 88 RBI, 37 doubles, four triples and 29 stolen bases. Ramirez was one of those opponents who seemed to be up to bat every inning and with the poor state of the Nats’ staff during his glory days in the Sunshine State, there were times when Ramirez almost was!
NEW YORK METS
The Dark Knight has been close to a super hero against the Mets’ (at least currently) fiercest rivals, allowing one run or fewer in eight of his 10 starts against Washington. Harvey has struck out 76 batters in 66 innings against the Nats, allowing only two home runs (9/12/12 to Ryan Zimmerman and 6/28/13 to Ian Desmond).
Despite his dominance Harvey has won only three of his six decisions against Washington, but that doesn’t change the fact that those of us pulling for the guys with the Curly W caps are always nervous when we see Harvey glaring in at our batters from the mound.
During the late part of the last decade, the Philadelphia Phillies were to the Washington Nationals as Muhammad Ali was to Sonny Liston. Many Phillies games against our boys from DC ended in knockouts, much to the joy of Philadelphia’s ravenous fans.
A relatively unassuming player is the one Phillie I remember with the most trepidation. Perhaps it was because he always seemed to hit at least one home run every time I was at a Phils-Nats game from 2009 to 2011, but Raul Ibanez is the player who rattled my cage in this rivalry. Ibanez had a 2009 campaign for the ages against Washington, posting a 1.368 OPS with eight homers, 29 runs scored and 21 RBI.
Chicago Cubs- From 2005 through 2011, Aramis Ramirez was Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson rolled into one against the Nats. He put up a 1.019 OPS against Washington, hitting 15 home runs in 170 plate appearances.
Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto has put up sterling numbers against most Reds’ opponents, and the Nats are no exception. When playing Washington, Votto has hit 12 homers with 34 RBI and posted a 1.068 OPS in 139 at bats.
Milwaukee Brewers- Former Brewer Corey Hart stands 6’6″ and weighs 24o pounds, and he seemed twice as big as that when he played for the Brew Crew against the Nats. Hart hit three home runs in one game against Washington on May 23, 2011, and had 12 taters and 27 RBI when facing Washington for Milwaukee from 2006 through 2012.
Pittsburgh Pirates- Greatness may be hard to define, but it is easy to notice when one sees it. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s shown his A+ stuff to Nats’ fans over the years, hitting 14 homers, driving in 32 runs and a 1.114 OPS.
St. Louis Cardinals- We’re all tempted to point to Pete F. Kozma here, but the real villain in Cards’ colors against Washington was Albert Pujols. The Cooperstown-bound slugger had a 1.218 OPS in 131 at bats for St. Louis against the Nats.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Brandon Webb was a Cy Young Award winner and a three time all-star before injuries derailed his career. Against Washington, Webb was 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA and two complete game shutouts.
Colorado Rockies- Former Nat Jamey Carroll and Tyler Colvin also excelled for Colorado when playing the Nats, but most feared Rockie opponent status goes to Matt Holliday. The veteran put up a .346/.431/.617 slash line in four years for Colorado against the Nats.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Many think Clayton Kershaw is one of the finest pitchers in baseball in the last 50 years. You won’t get a whole lot of arguments on that count from Nats’ fans. Kershaw is 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched when going up against Washington.
San Diego Padres- AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” might as well have been Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights” when Trevor Hoffman entered a game against the Nats, as the Padres’ reliever allowed no runs and only four hits with eight saves in 11 innings v.s. the Nats.
San Francisco Giants- Maybe it was bitterness over the Expos moving to DC, but former Expo Moises Alou punished his old franchise from 2005 through 2007 while playing for the Giants. During those years, Alou had a 1.253 OPS with three homers and 11 RBI in 30 at bats.