Trea Turner celebrates one of seven Nats’ home runs hit on Friday in Washington’s 17-7 rout of the Phillies at Philadelphia. Unfortunately for the Nats, the Phils have won the other two games played so far in the four game series at Citizens Bank Park,
Friday night was a glimpse of the vast potential of the Washington Nationals’ offense, Thursday and Saturday were examples of the reality of a brutal month of June for the defending National League East champs. Here’s a look at the first three games of Washington’s four game series with division rival Philadelphia.
GAME 79 REVIEW
Phillies 4 Nationals 3 (at Phl)
WP- Nola (10-2) LP- Roark (3-9) SV- Dominguez (6)
HR- Hoskins, Phl (13, one on}
Nats’ Record- 41-38
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Young Domincan native Seranthony Dominguez has the potential to turn what has been a weakness for the Phils into a strength. Pressed into closer duty due to ineffectiveness of the team’s other options, Dominguez has been mostly good for Gabe Kapler’s club. On Thursday, he entered the game with one out and the tying run on secojnd, and proceeded to strike out Mark Reynolds and Wilmer Difo to end the game.
Second Star- Aaron Nola has great command, excellent stuff and a tremendous mound presence. All of those attributes were on display in this contest, as the 10 game winner held Washington to only 1 run in 7.2 innings pitched to earn the victory. The outing was the second longest of the season for Nola, trailing only his eight innings pitched on April 10th v.s Cincinnati. The soon-to-be All-Star has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 13 of his 17 starts on the season.
Star of the Game- Outfielder Rhys Hoskins was 3 for 4 with a double and a key two run homer, continuing his solid play against Washington.
Strong in Defeat- Trea Turner had two hits and scored two of Washington’s three runs on the game.
Nats Note- Tanner Roark’s loss left him with a 3-9 record on the year for a .250 winning percentage. Of all Nats’ pitchers with at least 10 decisions in a season, only three have had worse winning rates. In 2008, Jason Bergmann won only two of his 11 starts for a .154 winning percentage. Two years later, Jason Marquis had a 2-9 record/.182 rate. In 2009, Garrett Mock’s .231 rate came courtesy of a 3-10 record.
GAME 80 REVIEW
Nationals 17 @ Phillies 7
WP- Fedde (1-3) LP- Pivetta (4-7)
HR- Turner, Was (9, one on); Soto, Was 2(8, one w/two on, one w/one on), Rendon, Was (10, two on),; Harper, Was (20, two on); Goodwin, Was (2, solo); Reynolds, Was (7, solo); Hoskins, Phl (14, one on); Kingery, Phl (4, solo); Santana, Phl (14, one one)
Nats’ Record (42-38)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- “Dynamic” is a word that is sometimes used to describe the skills of Nats’ shortstop Trea Turner. Turner demonstrated his vast skills on Friday, going 3 for 5 with four runs scored, two driven in, a stolen base and his ninth homer of the season.
Second Star- Anthony Rendon went 3 for 6 with three runs scored, three driven in, a double and a three run home run in the top of the second that broke the game open.
Star of the Game- 19 year old sensation Juan Soto continues to play beyond his years, and he was sensational in this contest. The sweet-swinging lefty had four hits including two home runs, and drove in a career high five runs in the Nats’ rout. The two home run game was the second of Soto’s rookie season.
Strong in Defeat- When Phils’ first baseman Carlos Santana squares up on a pitch, the ball usually travels a long, long way. The burly veteran crushed a long two run homer off of Washington’s Tim Collins and also had another hit in the contest.
Nats Note- The Nationals’ seven home runs tied a record for most in a game in 2018, tying them with the Dodgers who battered the Mets at Citi Field with seven round trippers earlier in the week. The seven home run barrage fell one short of Washington’s team record of eight four base hits in a game, set last July 27th in a 15-2 thrashing of Milwaukee.
GAME 81 REVIEW
Phillies 3 Nationals 2 (at Phl)
WP- Arano (1-0) LP- Hellickson (2-1) SV- Dominguez (7)
HR- Rendon, Was (11, solo); Herrera, Phl (14, solo)
Nats’ Record- 42-39
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Stars- The often ridiculed Phillies’ bullpen crew was forced into action early for the second night in a row. Unlike on Friday when the team’s relievers threw gasoline on an already burning fire the bullpen crew did the job on Saturday, holding Washington to a single run over the game’s seven final frames. Particularly impressive was the job done by young reliever Yacksel Rios, who entered the game with the go ahead runs on base in the top of the eighth and retired Rendon, Soto and Mark Reynolds to end the threat.
Second Star- Flashy Phils’ centerfielder Odubel Herrera has added a strong power stroke to his offensive game in 2018. His solo home run in the third inning tied the game at 1-1, and gave him 14 homers on the season. He’s only one short of his career high of 15 home runs for a season, set in 2016.
Stars of the Game- With two out and nobody on in the Phils’ fourth, Jesmuel Valentin, Jorge Alfaro and pinch-hitter Aaron Althierr hit back to back to back doubles to give the Phils a 3-1 lead.
Strong in Defeat- June 2018 will be a month to forget for the Nats, but third baseman Anthony Rendon certainly did his part to push the team ahead. On Saturday, the slight but athletic Rendon went 2 for 4 with a 471 foot home run that would have done ex-Phils beheamouths Greg Luzinski and Ryan Howard proud. In June, Rendon hit five homers, drove in 18 runs and posted a sensational .937 OPS.
Nats Note- The Nats’ loss was their 14th in 22 one run games on the year. The undisputed bully of the NL East block in 2016 and 2017 also is struggling against divisional foes this year. The Washington loss made the team 13-15 in intra-divisonal contests on the year.
Washington’s Gio Gonzalez takes the mound on Sunday against Philadelphia veteran Jake Arrieta in the final game of the series.
After allowingly only 15 earned runs in his first 11 starts of the year, Gonzalez has permitted 20 (in 22.1 innings pitched) over his last five. The Washington lefty does sport a good record in his career at Citizens Bank Park, winning six of 10 decisions there while posting a 2.62 ERA. In 21 career at bats against Gonzalez, Philadelphia’s Mikael Franco has only one hit (.048 average). Aaron Althierr has also struggled against the Florida native, hitting a meager .111 with eight strikeouts in 18 career at bats.
Arrieta enters the game with a 5-6 mark, and also sports a 6.3 SO/9 rate that is the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign of 2010 when he went 6-6 for the Orioles. Mark Reynolds has eight hits in 20 career at bats (.400) against Arrieta, while Adam Eaton is only 1-9 (.111) against him.
On September 24, 2016, the Nationals clinched the National League East with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The victory gave Washington three division titles in five seasons, and assured that post-season baseball would be played in the Nation’s Capital in again. That division clinching game was the most memorable event in a month full of them. In this edition of “Nats by the Number”, we look at some of the other highlights of the last month of the regular season (thanks as always to baseball-reference.com’s play index for allowing easy access to statistical information on the Nats and all other baseball-related topics).
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez was the winning pitcher in the game that won the East for the Nats, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout relief to earn his fourth victory in seven decisions on the year. Lopez struck out six and allowed only three hits to become the second pitcher in Nationals’ history to throw 5.1 or more scoreless innings in relief in a game. The first time it happened came all the way back in 2005 under much less dramatic circumstances than did Lopez’s effort in the title clinching win. On May 13th of the Nats’ first season, Tomo Ohka stopped the bleeding with 5.2 scoreless innings pitched out of the pen in Washington’s 8-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Slender Trea Turner is known more for his speed and all around ability than he is for his power, but the rookie’s home run hitting ability was on display in a big way in the season’s final month. Turner hit eight home runs in the month to pace the Nationals and finish behind only Atlanta’s Matt Kemp (who had nine) for the most homers in the National League in the final month of the regular season.
Turner’s power outburst included two multi-home run games. On September 9th at Nationals Park, Turner hit a two run homer off of Philadelphia’s Colton Murray in the bottom of the seventh to give Washington a 4-1 lead and ended the contest with a game winning, ninth inning round tripper off of the Phils’ Frank Herrmann to put the Nats in the win column by a 5-4 score. Eight days later in Atlanta, Turner hit a pair of solo homers off of Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter.
On the season, Washington players had eight two run home run games. Like Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa had two such games each. Other Nationals with two homers in game in 2016 where National League MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy and outfielder Michael A. Taylor.
In an 11 game home stand in early September against the Phillies, Braves and Mets, the Nationals did what they had done all season long to their divisional rivals- they dominated them.
Washington won nine of the 11 contests to cement its spot at the top of the National League East. Included in the stretch were walk-off victories over the Braves on September 7th (on a Wilson Ramos hit) and the Phillies on September 9th (on a Trea Turner solo home run).
The Nationals also had two shutouts in the month. On September 10th, Washington defeated the Phillies 3-0 on the strength of excellent pitching by Max Scherzer and the Nats’ bullpen plus Bryce Harper’s eighth inning three run home that broke a scoreless tie.
Four days later, Tanner Roark won his 15th game of the year as he shut the Mets out over seven innings and got all the support he needed when Ramos hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Nats won 1-0.
On the season, Washington was an amazing 41-16 in contests against the Braves, Phillies and Mets.
Closer Mark Melancon was the key pitcher in the Nats’ bullpen down the stretch but he received a lot of help from his bullpen mates, including righty Shawn Kelley.
In the season’s final 27 regular season games Kelley threw 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and allowing only one hit to finish his season with a flourish. Kelley won his only two decisions in the month and finished the 2016 campaign with an impressive WHIP of .897.
Jayson Werth’s two run pinch-hit home run off of former teammate Felipe Rivero helped Washington to a comeback 10-7 win at Pittsburgh on September 25th, and also helped Washington improve on its team record total for pinch-hit home runs in a season.
Werth’s dramatic blast was the 12th home run by a pinch-hitter in 2016 for the Nats, as the team easily shattered the 2006 squad’s record of eight. Washington’s total was the third highest in Major League Baseball, trailing only St. Louis (17) and the New York Mets (13).
Werth was one of three Nationals with more than one pinch-hit homer on the year. The veteran outfielder had two, while bench stalwarts Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey had three each. Other Nationals with pinch-hit homers in 2016 were rookie Pedro Severino, Clint Robinson, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
Nats’ ace Max Scherzer was 5-0 in his six decisions in the season’s final month and ended up with 20 wins on the year. Scherzer became the second pitcher in Nats’ history with 20 or more wins (Gio Gonzalez won 21 in 2012) en route to his second Cy Young Award.
Scherzer struck out 46 batters in 39.1 innings pitched in his final six games, and ended with a National League high 284 punchouts on the year.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit only .247 in the season’s final 27 games, but he certainly made the hits he did have count. The talented Texan drove in a team high 23 runs in the month, tying Daniel Murphy (who had 23 in both May and July) for the most RBI in a month by a Nationals’ player in 2016. Bryce Harper led the way with 24 RBI in April.
Stephen Strasburg held Cincinnati hitless in 6.2 innings on July 3 as the Nationals routed the Reds 12-1. The start was the first of a month where the All-Star righthander would perform at an elite level.
NATS BY THE NUMBERS- July 2016
The Nationals won 13 of their 25 games in July, and their .520 winning percentage for the month was their lowest in the 2016 season. In the Nationals’ three division winning seasons, the only month where the team had a worse winning percentage was in May of 2014 when the Nats went 11-15 for a .423 mark.
Stephen Strasburg was arguably the Major League’s best starting pitcher in July 2016. The Nats’ stalwart went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 37 batters in 34.2 innings pitched. Among starters, Strasburg’s .779 WHIP in July was the best in the Majors ahead of Aaron Sanchez of Toronto (.824), Brandon McCarthy of the Dodgers (.835), San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (.861), Cincinnati’s Dan Straily (.861) and his teammate Max Scherzer (.882).
Daniel Murphy continued his hot hitting ways in July, putting up a 1.116 OPS with a .346 batting average, six homers and 23 RBI. Murphy had a 13 game hitting streak from July 7th through July 27th, and was particularly hard on his former teammates in New York during a crucial four game set at Citi Field in the early part of the month. In that series, Murphy went 7 for 17 with three homers, four runs and a whopping 10 RBI to lead the Nats to a 3-1 series win.
Top prospect Trea Turner was called to the Major Leagues for good in July, and his top level speed was on display immediately. Turner had three triples and seven steals (in seven attempts) in July as he served notice that the Nats’ search for an electric leadoff man was over.
After losing 9-7 to the Mets in the first game of a four game set in New York in the final series before the All-Star game, the thoughts of many Nats’ fans turned to 2015 when Washington was swept at Citi Field in late July in a series that changed the landscape at the top of the National League East.
With the Nats’ divisional lead down to three games the team’s superb pitching staff took over to give the Nats a six game cushion heading into the All-Star break, holding the Mets to a paltry four runs in the process.
On Friday the 8th, Strasburg allowed only two hits and fanned nine as he outdueled Noah Syndergaard in a 3-1 Nats’ win. The big blow at the plate for Washington came from Clint Robinson, who hit a two run homer off of the Mets’ ace.
It was Scherzer’s turn to excel on Saturday the 9th, as the veteran allowed only three hits, no earned runs and fanned nine to lead Washington to a 6-1 win. Murphy was the chief tormentor of the Mets among Nats’ hitters, as he went 3 for 4 with a double, home run and four RBI.
On Sunday the 10th, Gio Gonzalez (5.2 innings), Tanner Roark (2.1 perfect innings) and Jonathan Papelbon kept the Mets at bay while Murphy hit a two run homer as Washington won 3-2.
The July 4th fireworks spectacular is a staple of summertime in Washington DC and it is always an impressive show, but a show of equal impressiveness was put on by the Nationals one day before the Nation’s birthday celebration.
In a Sunday afternoon game at Nationals Park, Washington hit a season high six home runs in a 12-1 rout of the Reds. Wilson Ramos got the long-ball party started in the second with a solo homer off of John Lamb, and Danny Espinosa rocked the Reds two innings later with a grand slam off of Lamb that put the Nats up 5-0. One inning later, Bryce Harper’s solo off of Lamb gave Washington a 6-0 advantage. Anthony Rendon and Espinosa hit back to back homers off of Reds’ reliever Keyvins Sampson in the seventh inning to make the lead 11-0, and Stephen Drew provided the final homer of the game in the eighth with a solo shot off of Jumbo Diaz.
The contest was the fifth six homer game in Nationals’ history, and the first since August 29, 2014 when Washington hit six round-trippers in a 8 -3 win at Seattle.
Not all of the numbers were good for the Nats in July. Twice during the month the Nats’ pitching staff did something that had not been done by a Washington staff since 2010 by walking nine opponents in a nine inning game.
On July 7th, the Nats gave nine free passes to the Mets in a 9-7 New York win. On the 30th in San Francisco, Washington walked nine Giants’ batters as the Nats fell 5-3.
The most walks for a Nats’ staff in a nine inning game is 11, set on August 13, 2008 in a 12-0 loss to the Mets and equaled in a April 30, 2009 9-4 defeat at the hands of St. Louis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman celebrates his second inning home run off of Atlanta’s Tyrell Jenkins in Washington’s 11-9 victory at Turner Field on Saturday night.
Nationals’ Record: 73-49
Nationals 11 Braves 9
WP- Scherzer (13-7) LP- Jenkins (2-4) SV- Melancon (36)
HR- Zimmerman, Was (13), Murphy, Was (23), Turner, Was (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year for the Washington Nationals, and it may be an MVP-level year for hot-hitting Nats’ infielder Daniel Murphy. The Nats’ infielder went three for four with his 23rd home run in last night’s win. The game marked Murphy’s 11th three or more hit game of the season, second among Nats’ players to only Wilson Ramos who has 12 such games.
Second Star- Anthony Rendon did teammate Murphy one better in the hit column, going four for five with a double, three runs scored and a RBI in the victory. The Nats’ third baseman continued his sparkling second half of the year, moving his post All-Star break OPS to .988 (his OPS was .746 in the season’s first half).
Star of the Game- In his first game off of the disabled list, Ryan Zimmerman set the pace for a Nats’ attack that would put up 17 hits on the game. His second inning home run, the 13th of the season for Zimmerman, got the Nats on the board and he contributed two other hits in the victory. The round-tripper was his ninth at Turner Field and the 21st he’s hit against Atlanta in his career.
Valiant in Defeat- Chase d’Arnaud may be the least known of the baseball playing d’Arnaud brothers, but he was excellent for Atlanta in its losing effort. d’Arnaud went two for five with a run scored and three RBI, and made several excellent defensive plays at shortstop as well.
Last night’s game was not one of Max Scherzer’s most dominant on the mound, as he gave up four runs and six hits with three walks in 6.1 innings pitched. However he did however, come up big with a bat in his hand, going two for four with two RBI and a big base hit in Washington’s eight run fourth inning. Scherzer became the first Nats’ pitcher in over five years to have at least two hits and two RBI in the same game. Before last night, Livan Hernandez (with two hits and two RBI in a Nats’ 4-2 win at Philadelphia on August 12, 2011) was the last Nats’ pitcher to do so.
August has been a good month for reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper. Harper went two for four with a run scored, a walk and a RBI in Saturday’s game, increasing his August OPS to .951. That is the best mark he’s put up in a month since April, when his OPS was an amazing 1.121.
Harper is not the only National who is sizzling in August. Lead off man Trea Turner continued to show his surprising power, hitting a three run home run in Washington’s fourth inning. Turner, who now has four homers and 20 RBI on the year, has hit .321 this month.
Atlanta had five doubles in the game, equaling the most Washington has surrendered in a nine inning game in 2016. The Nats have allowed five or more doubles three times in 2016, one coming in an 18 inning game against Pittsburgh. The Nats are 1-2 in those contests.
Atlanta is 0-5 against Washington at Turner Field in 2016. Against all other National League East foes, the Braves are a relatively respectable 9-11.
Gio Gonzalez goes for the 100th win of his career on Sunday as the Nationals look to wrap up a four game sweep. Atlanta’s scheduled starter Joel De La Cruz has a much more modest goal; he’s looking for his first career win this afternoon.
Gonzalez has been strong in the second half of the year, going 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA. Veteran outfielder Jeff Francouer has had success against Gonzalez in the past, going 11 for 28 (.391) with a home run and three RBI. Freddie Freeman has also hit well against the Nats’ lefty, posting a .290 average with two homers and ten RBI in 31 career at bats. Atlanta catchers Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker have combined to go 0 for 12 with nine strikeouts in their careers against Gonzalez.
De La Cruz is 0-6 in his rookie season, but has put up a 2.00 ERA in games played at Turner Field. Control has been an issue for the big righthander, who has walked nine batters while striking out only eight in 15 innings pitched this month.