Ben Revere’s spectacular leaping grab robbed Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman of a home run and helped the Nationals to a 7-6 victory over the Braves last evening at Turner Field.
GAME 121 REVIEW
Nationals’ Record- 72-49
Nationals 7 Braves 6
WP- Glover (1-0) LP- Johnson (2-6) SV- Melancon (35)
HR- Inciarte, Atl (3), Markakis, Atl (9)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Nats’ centerfielder Ben Revere’s highlight reel of amazing defensive plays in the second half of the 2016 continues to grow and has catch in last night’s win was probably the best of the year, if not his career. Revere raced deep into right-center, leapt at the wall, stretched all of his 5’9″ frame to the maximum and took away a certain home run from Freddie Freeman to make a play that earned the appreciation of not only his Nats’ teammates but the Atlanta crowd as well. Revere also chipped in at the plate, going two for four with a RBI.
Second Star- Rookie Trea Turner continued to ignite the Nats’ offense from the leadoff spot, going three for five with two runs scored an a RBI to move his OPS on the year to an impressive .879. He doubled in the game for the 17th extra-base hit of his brief Major League career, and his signature speed helped him beat out a two out infield single that kept an inning alive where the Nats scored two crucial runs.
Star of the Game- After the Nationals had blown a 5-0 lead and saw the game tied at 6-6 in the eighth inning, some ninth inning magic was needed to help the team avoid a disappointing loss. Clint Robinson came to the rescue with a RBI single that plated pinch-runner Pedro Severino with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Robinson, who was two for three with a pair of runs scored and two walks in the game, has driven in 20 of his 24 RBI on the year in road games.
Valiant in Defeat- Braves centerfielder Ender Inciarte is known more for his speed than for his power, but he had his long ball stroke on display last evening. Inciarte went two for five with three RBI and his third home run of the year to pace Atlanta’s attack.
Wilson Ramos joined Turner, Revere and Robinson as Nationals with multiple hit games in last night’s win. Ramos has 30 games this season where he’s had more than one hit, trailing only Daniel Murphy (46) and Anthony Rendon (34).
Washington won despite allowing two unearned runs, making the Nats 2-5 in games where they have allowed multiple unearned runs this year.
Bryce Harper had two RBI in the game, and he has driven in eight over his past eight games after driving in only two in the previous 13 contests. On the team’s current road trip, Harper has seven hits in 18 at bats with six RBI, two doubles, a home run and six walks.
Mark Melancon was clutch again for Washington, picking up his 35th save as he fanned two and allowed two weak ground balls (one that went for an infield hit) in last night’s game. In nine innings pitched for Washington this season, Melancon has allowed only five hits and one run with no walks while striking out ten.
The Nats’ win allowed them to maintain their 9.5 game advantage over the Marlins in the National League East. The nearly ten game lead in the division at the 121 game mark is ahead of the pace of the other Nats’ division winning teams. In 2012 the Nats were 75-46 at this point and held a five game edge, while the 2014 team was 68-53 with a six game advantage.
Max Scherzer faces off against Atlanta rookie Tyrell Jenkins in Saturday evening’s contest.
Scherzer is putting up another excellent year. He leads the National League in strikeouts, and is among the leaders in WHIP (he is second), strikeouts/nine innings pitched (second), innings pitched (third) and wins (tied for fourth). At Atlanta in his career, the Nats’ righty is 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched.
The youngster Jenkins was rocked for the Nats for seven runs in 4.2 innings pitched this past Sunday, and enters the contest with 30 walks and only 21 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched this year.
Tanner Roark throws a pitch during his masterful performance in today’s 9-1 Nats’ win over Atlanta at Nationals Park.
Nats’ Record- 69-47
Nationals 9 Braves 1
WP- Roark (13-6) LP- Jenkins (2-3)
HR- Rendon, Was (15), Heisey, Was (6)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- We are going with the trio of Trea Turner, Ben Revere and Bryce Harper who were at the top of the Nationals’ order on Sunday, and combined to score seven runs with four hits, two doubles and a RBI. Key to the Nats’ win was a three run first inning rally in which all of the top men in the order participated. Turner led of the game with a two bagger, and scored when Revere bunted for a hit and Atlanta’s Anthony Recker threw wildly to first to try to record an out. Harper followed with a double to left to score Revere, and Washington had jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Atlanta’s starter Tyrell Jenkins got into the flow of the game.
Second Star- The 2016 version of Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon is looking more like the 2014 version of a player many felt was one of the league’s best hitters. Rendon homered and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in four runs in the game, and his three run homer in the bottom of the fifth off of Jenkins broke the game open.
Star of the Game- Gutty, gritty and talented are adjectives that can be used to describe Nats’ starter Tanner Roark, and you might want to throw “underrated” into the mix as well. Roark won his 13th game on a day suited more for sitting in a hammock and drinking lemonade than recording seven innings of superb pitching as Roark did. The Nats’ hurler registered his ninth game in 12 starts at home where he’s thrown at least seven innings, and moved his record to 10-3 in games since May 20th.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ leadoff man Turner wasn’t the only top of the order player who played well on Sunday. Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte went 2 for 4 with a double (the only extra base hit on the day for the visitors) and scored the Braves’ only run of the game.
The Nats scored nine or more runs for the 14th time this season. They’re not five games short of the team record 19 set in 2012 by the 98 game winning NL East Champion team. The only other Nats’ teams with more than the 2016 team’s mark to date were the 2006 squad that had 18 nine plus run games, the 2015 team with 17, the 2008 team with 16 and the 2013 squad with 15.
Washington turned three double plays behind the fast working, strike throwing Roark on Sunday, marking the sixth time this season that the Nats have recorded three or more ground ball double plays in a game. The last time Washington had six or more games where they recorded at least three ground ball double plays was in 2012, when the Nats did the trick in eight games.
Wilson Ramos had two RBI in the game, leaving him three shy of his career mark of 68 set last year.
Since 2014 in games played at Nationals Park, the Nats hold a 21-6 record against the Braves. Washington has held Atlanta to three or fewer runs in 17 of the 27 games played.
A trip to Colorado is usually one highly anticipated by a visiting teams hitters, but dreaded by its pitchers. The Nats open a three game set against the Rockies on Monday night, with Max Scherzer taking on Jorge De La Rosa.
Scherzer, who leads the National League in strikeouts with 208, will be taking on a free swinging Colorado squad whose 958 strikeouts on the year is the sixth highest total in the National League. Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez is 3 for 10 with three homers in his career against Scherzer.
Colorado’s De La Rosa has won five of his seven career decisions against the Nats. In 60.2 innings pitched against Washington, he’s allowed only two home runs.
One National who has to be frustrated that he will be missing the trip to Coors Field is Ryan Zimmerman. In 131 career at bats at the Rockies’ home, Zimmerman has hit 12 doubles, eight homers, driven in 38 runs and posted a 1.090 OPS.
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez allowed only one run in seven innings pitched to earn his first Major League win in Washington’s 7-6 victory over Atlanta on Saturday evening at Nationals Park. The win and Miami’s loss to the Chicago White Sox at Marlins Park moved the Nats’ lead in the National League East to 8.5 games.
NATS’ RECORD 68-47
Nationals 7 Braves 6
WP- Lopez (1-1) LP- Whalen (1-1) SV- Melancon (33)
HR- Freeman, Atl (22), Murphy, Was (22), Turner, Was (3)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Hitting in the second spot in the lineup, centerfielder Ben Revere went 2 for 4 with two triples and a RBI. He also made a superb catch on an Erick Aybar drive in the top of the first inning, and started a perfect relay that cut down Aybar trying to stretch a double into a triple to record a crucial out in the top of the ninth inning.
Second Star- Another game, another outstanding performance by Nats’ rookie Trea Turner. The exciting leadoff man went 3 for 5 with a triple, a homer and scored three runs to pace Washington’s attack. Turner now has a team leading 11 runs scored so far in August.
Star of the Game- 22 year old first year Major Leaguer Reynaldo Lopez showed the poise of a veteran hurler on Saturday, allowing only one run in seven strong innings to earn his first Major League win. Improved command was key for the hard-throwing righthander, as Lopez threw 71 of his 100 pitches for strikes and allowed only two walks.
Valiant in Defeat- Freddie Freeman was the main man again for the Braves, going 1 for 3 with a homer and two walks. The man Nats’ fans least like to see at the plate in crucial moments also nearly tied the game in the top of the ninth inning, flying out deep to rightfield on a drive that had the collective hearts of Nats’ fans in their throats.
The contest marked the fifth time in Nats’ history that the team has had three or more triples in a game. Prior to Saturday evening, the last time the Nats’ had three three-baggers in a game came on April 14, 2014 in Miami when Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon all tripled in Washington’s 9-2 over the Marlins. The first three triple game by the Nats came against Atlanta, back on April 13, 2005 when Jamey Carroll, Jose Vidro and Termell Sledge each had a three-bagger in Washington’s 11-4 win at Turner Field.
With his two triples last evening, Revere became the fourth player in Nats’ history to triple twice in game. The last player to do so before Saturday was Denard Span, who did so on May 31, 2013 in Washington’s 3-2 victory at Atlanta.
The Nats’ two home runs in last night’s win gave them 152 on the year, the fifth highest total Washington has registered in a season. The team high for home runs in a season was set in 2012 when Washington had 194 round-trippers.
Daniel Murphy had four RBI and his 22nd home run of the year on Saturday. He has 86 RBI on the year, second only to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado (who has 93) in the National League.
The Nats’ Tanner Roark takes on Atlanta’s Tyrell Jenkins in the rubber game of the three game set.
Roark is 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in his career against the Braves, but several Atlanta players have fared well against him. A.J. Pierzynski has seven hits in 10 career at bats against Roark with a double and two homers, while Matt Kemp is 3 for 6 with a pair of round-trippers.
Jenkins is 2-2 with a 3.92 ERA in his rookie campaign but has pitched well in his last three starts, allowing only two earned runs in 18 innings pitched.
Stephen Drew celebrates his game winning RBI triple with teammates Chris Heisey and Ben Revere last night at Nationals Park in Washington’s 3-2 victory over San Diego.
Nationals 3 Padres 2
Nationals’ Record 58-40
WP- Papelbon (2-2) LP- Quackenbush (6-4)
HR- Schimpf, SD (8)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- 2016 has been a lost year in many ways for Nats’ centerfielder Ben Revere, but the speedy veteran had a good game on Saturday. Revere drove in a run with a double, reached base twice and made a nice diving catch in center to thwart Wil Myers’ attempt at a hit in the sixth inning.
Second Star- Max Scherzer was strong yet again, allowing only two runs on four hits while striking out 10 batters with no walks allowed in seven innings pitched. Since 2015, Scherzer has eight games of 10 plus strikeouts with no walks allowed. Only Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw with 11 has more.
Star of the Game- The job of being a late-inning pinch-hitter is not an easy one, but Washington’s Stephen Drew is making it look so this year. As a pinch-hitter, Drew has an amazing 1.214 OPS and his RBI triple drove Anthony Rendon home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Valiant in Defeat- Ask 1,000 people who consider themselves to be good baseball fans, and chances are that a good portion of them have not heard of San Diego’s second baseman Ryan Schimpf. If the rookie continues playing the way he has, that will change. Schimpf provided San Diego’s runs on the night, hitting a two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the second inning. The homer was a Major League leading eighth for Schimpf so far in July.
With rumors of acquisitions of bullpen help circulating in Washington, the duo that composes the back end of the currently configured pen is not exactly showing signs of weakness. Both eighth inning man Shawn Kelley and current closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched scoreless innings last evening, continuing solid pitching for the pair over the past three weeks. In July Kelley has 11 strikeouts and only one walk allowed in 6.2 innings pitched, while Papelbon has thrown seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and one intentional walk in the month. Papelbon has been particularly effective at home this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.10 ERA and a .735 WHIP.
Anthony Rendon’s leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth last night started Washington on the road to victory, and continued Rendon’s hot hitting ways against the Padres. After going 2-4 in last night’s game, the third baseman has a lifetime .303 average against San Diego in 66 at bats.
Daniel Murphy picked up his 71st RBI of the year on a sacrifice fly last evening, leaving him only seven runs batted in behind his career high of 78 set in 2013 while Murphy was playing for the Mets. Murphy’s .999 OPS so far in 2016 leads the National League.
Kudos to former National Edwin Jackson for a solid effort on the mound against the Nats last evening. Jackson allowed only two runs in six solid innings pitched, and may be earning himself a permanent spot in the San Diego rotation.
It’s a battle of Big and Tall Men’s Shop customers on Sunday, with Washington’s 6’6″ Lucas Giolito taking on San Diego’s 6’4″ Christian Friedrich in the rubber game of the teams’ three game series.
Giolito is looking for his first Major League win, while Friedrich is trying to get his performance in the month of July going in the right direction. So far this month, Friedrich is 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA.
What a difference a week makes! This time last week, the Nationals were still trying to battle out of a five game losing streak that would soon balloon to seven with consecutive losses at Milwaukee. This week, the suddenly red-hot Nationals have won five in a row and stand comfortably atop of the National League East by six games over the New York Mets. Here’s a look at some fun facts (I guess they’re not too fun if you’re a fan of the Metropolitans or the Reds!) coming out of this week.
The Nationals stand at 48-32 on the year heading into July, and the team’s .600 winning percentage stands second in Nats’ history for a winning percentage as of the end of play on June 30th of a season. In 2005, the surprising Nationals were 47-31 (.602 percentage) as they entered play in July. That team would slump over the second half of the year and finish with an 81-81 record, a fate that certainly doesn’t seem likely for this year’s squad. Assuming the Nats win game 81 of the season tonight against the Reds, they will be on pace to match the 2012 squad that won 98 games en route to a National League East title.
A SPECIAL MONTH
Nats’ shortstop ended the month of June with a bang, hitting two home runs and driving in seven in last evening’s 13-4 rout of Cincinnati. But Espinosa’s great game wasn’t a flash in the pan, the hard-working infielder had an entire month to remember. Espinosa’s 1.122 OPS in the month was the ninth highest in the Major Leagues, as he hit nine homers and drove in 21 on the month. Last evening’s multi-home run game was the fourth of Espinosa’s career, with the most recent one prior to last evening coming on May 8th of last season when Espinosa homered twice in the Nats’ 9-2 win over Atlanta.
FIRST IN A LONG TIME
In Washington’s 11-4 win over Noah Syndergaard this past Monday, lead off man Ben Revere had four hits, scored three runs and stole three bases. The Nats’ centerfielder became the first Major Leaguer with at least a 4/3/3 breakdown in the hits/runs/steals categories in a game since former National Emilio Bonafacio had four hits, four runs and three steals in a 12-6 2009 Opening Day win for the Marlins over the Nats. Revere’s numbers for the game have only been equaled or exceeded 23 times since 1969, with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and former steals champ Vince Coleman (with two games each) being the only players with more than one such game during that time period.
DOUBLE DIGIT DAYS
Thursday’s 13 run output for the Nationals marked the ninth time the team has scored at least 13 runs in a contest at Nationals Park. The team record is 15 runs scored, set on September 3, 2015 as the Nats routed Atlanta 15-1. Washington has scored 14 runs at Nats Park three times, the last coming on August 24, 2014 as Washington pounded San Francisco 14-6. 13 has been the Nats’ magic number for runs scored five times in home games since 2008.
IF YOU CAN’T JOIN EM, BEAT EM
Nats’ second sacker Daniel Murphy had another outstanding series against his former team, collecting five hits with four runs scored, two home runs and five RBI in Washington’s three game sweep of the Mets. From the second half of 2015 through yesterday’s game, Murph is hitting .320 in 553 at bats with 23 home runs and 96 RBI.
Ben Revere’s first inning stolen base led to Washington’s first run on Sunday at Miami in a game that Nats would win 8-2. Revere had two steals on the day to register his first stolen bases of the season.
The Nationals ended their three game series in Miami with an 8-2 victory that allowed them to not only win the set at Marlins Park by two games to one, but also ended their six game road trip against the Marlins and the Mets with a 4-2 record. Heading home to Nationals Park for a rematch with the Mets, Washington is 1.5 games up over the New Yorkers in the National League East.
NATIONALS 8 @ MARLINS 2 Nationals’ Record (27-17)
WP- Scherzer (5-3) LP- Conley (3-3)
HR- Bour, Mia (9)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- It wasn’t a no-hitter or a 20 strikeout performance, but Max Scherzer gave the Nats an excellent effort on Sunday. He struck out eight, walked no one and allowed only six hits as he picked up his fifth win in eight decisions on the season.
Second Star- Leadoff man Ben Revere sparked the visitors on Sunday. He led off the first with a line drive single off of Miami starter Adam Conley, stole second, moved to third on a Jayson Werth grounder to second and scored on Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly to short centerfield. In his second at bat Revere executed a perfect drag bunt for a single, eventually stole third base and scored on Daniel Murphy’s hit. Later, the suddenly hot lefthanded swinger drove home two runs with a sixth inning hit that chased Conley from the game. Revere became the fourth Nationals’ player to have three hits, two runs, two RBI and two steals in the same game, and the first since Ian Desmond did so on September 13, 2014 at Citi Field against the Mets. Other Nats’ hitters to achieve that feat were Elijah Dukes (6/20/2008 v.s Texas in a 14 inning 4-3 Nats’ win) and Lastings Milledge (in Washington’s 8-7 loss at Florida on 9/14/2008).
Star of the Game- Since moving to the sixth spot in the lineup, Anthony Rendon has looked like the player that many considered one of the top hitters in the National League in 2014. Rendon went 2 for 4 with three RBI (his first three RBI game since 8/23/15 when he drove home three runs against Milwaukee), and also shined with the glove as he made several sparkling plays to support Scherzer.
Valiant in Defeat- The ageless Ichiro Suzuki had two more hits on the game, moving within 44 of the 3,000 hit mark. Suzuki almost had a third safety, but was called out by the replay umpires after he had been ruled safe on a slow bouncer to Rendon at third.
Miami walked nine Nats’ batters on the game, marking the second time this season that the Marlins have walked that many opponents. The first time came back on April 7th at Nationals Park, when the Marlins also issued nine free passes. Despite the wildness from their, the Marlins pulled that game out by a 6-4 score.
The Marlins’ Justin Bour hit another impressive home run, this one an upper deck blast off of Scherzer in the bottom of the seventh that gave Miami its only two runs. Bour has three home runs on the season against Washington. The most by any player against the Nats in a season is eight, set by Andruw Jones of Atlanta in 2005 and equaled by Ryan Howard of Philadelphia in 2007 and Raul Ibanez, also of the Phils, in 2009.
Wilson Ramos had a solid game, going 2 for 3 with a run scored and two walks. The two free pass game was the second of 2016 for Ramos. The Nats’ catcher also did the trick back on May 10th in Washington’s 5-4 loss to Detroit.
DC area native Justin Bour admires his two run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning last night that broke a 1-1 tie and led the Miami Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.
MARLINS 3 NATIONALS 2 (at Marlins Park) Nationals’ Record (26-17)
WP- Fernandez (6-2) LP- Ross (3-4) SV- Ramos (13)
HR- Bour, Mia (8)
Down a run but with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the ninth innings, it looked as though Marlins’ closer A. J. Ramos was on the verge of his first blown save of the year. But Ramos got ahead in the count on Nats’ pinch-hitter Jayson Werth, and then induced the veteran outfielder to ground into a third unassisted to catcher double play that torpedoed the Nats’ rally. After Jose Lobaton grounded out to first, the Marlins had the wni and the Nats’ three game winning streak was snapped.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Playing only because regular leftfielder Christian Yelich was a late scratch due to back problems, Ichiro Suzuki went 4 for 4 and scored a run at the top of Miami’s order. The game was the 52nd of his storied career in which Suzuki had four or more hits.
Second Star- Some starting pitchers, like Washington’s ace Stephen Strasburg, rarely express emotion on the mound. Others like Miami stalwart Jose Fernandez wear their emotions on their sleeve. Perhaps in part due to his passionate approach, Fernandez (like the reserved Strasburg) is one of the National League’s best pitchers, and that was on display again last night. The fiery righty struck out nine and allowed only one run over six strong innings to put the Marlins on the course to victory. Over 52.2 career innings pitched against the Nationals, Fernandez has fanned 72 batters.
Star of the Game- Justin Bour hails from the DC Metro area, and has more career home runs (seven) against the Nationals than any other opponent. Bour’s no doubt two run home run to right field off of Nats’ starter and loser Joe Ross was the difference maker in yesterday’s contest.
Valiant in Defeat- Ben Revere continued his climb back from his slow start, getting two hits in four at bats on the game. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy also had two hits a piece for the Nats.
2015 was a year to forget for Miami’s Marcel Ozuna. Ozuna posted a .691 OPS on the campaign, and even spent some time in the Minor Leauges to get back on track. So far, the five tool talent is making 2016 a year to remember. The centerfielder went 3 for 4 on the game with a double and National League leading third triple, and has a .911 OPS so far this year.
Ross struck out Martin Prado, Derek Dietrich and the slumping Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the first inning, marking the fifth time in his career and the third time in 2016 that he’s fanned three batters in a frame. On April 30th at St. Louis, Ross punched out Kolten Wong, Jaime Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker in the bottom of the third. A week later at Wrigley Field on May 5th, Ross fanned Tim Federowicz, Kyle Hendricks and Dexter Fowler (also in the bottom of the third inning).
The Nats’ second run of the game came on a RBI single off the bat of pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos. The RBI was the 20th of the year for the Buffalo, tying him with Wellington Castillo of Arizona and Francisco Cervelli of Pittsburgh for the most runs driven in by National League catcher.
The rubber game of the three game set is today, with Max Scherzer taking on Miami lefty Adam Conley.
Martin Prado has hit Scherzer hard in his career, registering 11 hits in 22 career at bats. Yelich (4-12, 2b, HR) has also fared well against the Nats’ righty, but Dietrich (2-10, four strikeouts) and Bour (3-15, five strikeouts) have not.
Wilson Ramos has homered twice in six career at bats against Conley, and Anthony Rendon has three hits (including a double) in seven career at bats against the Marlins’ lefty.
Ryan Zimmerman watches his mammoth home run to left field that got the Nationals off on the right foot on Friday as Washington defeated Miami 4-1 for its third win in a row.
Five games this week against division rivals Miami and New York showed the ebbs and flows a team goes through during the course of a Major League season. The Nats were dominated by superb pitchers in the first two games of the week, but bounced back to score runs and pick up wins as the week moved into its second half.
Here’s a look back, which was made possible in large part by Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index, at the past five games for the Nats.
SUN May 15- Miami 5 Washington 1 Nationals Record 23-15
WP- Fernandez (5-2) LP- Ross (3-3) SV- Ramos (11)
HR- Zimmerman, Was 4), Stanton, Mia (11)
This matinee at Nationals Park became the Jose Fernandez show, as the Marlins’ superb righty was dominant on the mound and helped out at the plate to give Miami the win. Fernandez allowed only one run and fanned 11 in seven innings pitched, to move his career mark against Washington to 5-0 with an eye popping 1.09 ERA. With the bat, Fernandez had two sacrifice bunts and helped put the Marlins into a comfortable lead with a two run single off of Nats’ starter Joe Ross that gave Miami a four run lead.
Ross allowed five runs (three earned) in a so-so start. The game was only the third in 20 career starts for Ross where he’s allowed more than four runs.
Washington’s only run came on Ryan Zimmerman’s inside the park home run that resulted from a horrific looking crash between Marlins’ outfielders Marcel Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton on Zim’s deep shot to right center field. The inside the park homer was the third in Nationals’ history, all of which have come at home. On May 12, 2007, Austin Kearns circled the bases at RFK Stadium with Washington’s first ever inside the park homer, and Willie Harris did the trick on September 24, 2010 at Nationals Park against Atlanta.
TUES May 17- NY Mets 2 Washington 0 (at Citi Field) Nationals Record 23-16
WP- Syndergaard (4-2) LP- Scherzer (4-3) SV- Familia (13)
HR- Granderson, NY (7), Conforto, NY (6)
On Tuesday at Citi Field Washington’s starter Max Scherzer was good, but good rarely beats great and it didn’t on this night. Mets’ ace Noah Syndergaard was so awesome in this one that those of us watching couldn’t help but wonder how he ever loses.
The tall New York hurler allowed only five hits, no walks and struck out 10 in his seven innings of work, marking only the second time in his career where he’s had 10 or more strikeouts while pitching at least seven innings and walking no one.
Mets’ leadoff man Curtis Granderson gave Syndergaard all the support he’d need when he hit Scherzer’s first pitch of the night over the right field wall to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. The homer was the 38th leadoff round tripper of Granderson’s career.
Scherzer’s strikeout pitches were working as well, as he fanned 10 Mets. The game marked the second time in his career where Scherzer has been tagged with a loss while striking out at least ten and allowing two or fewer runs. The other time came last season on May 1st at, you guessed it, Citi Field against Matt Harvey and the Mets when Max allowed only one run and punched out 10 in a 4-0 loss.
WED May 18- Washington 7 @ NY Mets 1 Nationals Record 24-16
WP- Gonzalez (3-1) LP Colon (3-3)
HR- Cespedes, NY (13)
Affable Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez usually wears a smile wherever he goes, but that smile is probably a little bit bigger when he’s in New York to face the Mets. Gonzalez moved his career record at Citi Field to 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA as he led the Nats to a convincing win.
Gonzalez’s efficiency was in stark contrast to that of Colon and the relievers that followed him, as New York walked 11 Nationals’ batters. The 11 free passes tied the Nats’ record for most bases on balls in a nine inning game. The feat was done twice previously, once on May 7, 2005 at San Francisco in Washington’s 11-8 victory, and again on August 9, 2006 at RFK Stadium as Washington defeated Florida 5-2. Nats’ two and three hitters Jayson Werth (with three) and Bryce Harper (with four) combined for seven of the walks.
Werth also contributed two hits and scored three runs in the contest.
THURS May 19- Washington 9 @ NY Mets 1 Nationals Record 25-16
WP- Strasburg (7-0) LP- Harvey (3-6)
HR- Murphy, Was (6)
It was anything but “Happy Harvey Day” at Citi Field on Thursday as a dominant effort by Stephen Strasburg and some fireworks by the Nats left Mets’ starter Matt Harvey perplexed and the Citi Field faithful in a sour mood.
Strasburg moved to 7-0 on the year, fanning 10 and allowing only one run in six innings. The win was his fifth in eight career decisions against the Mets, and marked the fourth time in 10 starts against the New Yorkers where he’s had 10 or more strikeouts.
To add to the misery of the Mets’ fans, 2015 favorite son Daniel Murphy went 2 for 4 with a key two run, first innings home run off of Harvey that got the burly righthander’s night off to a bad start. Murphy’s homer against his former team was the 68th of his career. He has now hit home runs against every National League team with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Murphy’s teammates Ben Revere and Anthony Rendon contributed to the Nats’ big night. Revere went 2 for 5 with a two run triple, marking the second time this season the Nats’ speedster has had multiple hits in a game (he had 49 such games in 2015). Rendon did Revere one better in the hits department, going 3 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI. In 101 career at bats at Citi Field, Rendon is hitting .337 with eight doubles, six home runs and a .959 OPS.
FRI May 20- Washington 4 @ Miami 1 Nationals Record 26-16
WP- Roark (3-3) LP- Nicolino (2-2) SV- Papelbon (12)
HR- Zimmerman, Was (5), Taylor, Was (4), Ozuna, Mia (8)
Ryan Zimmerman’s 425 foot blast deep into the seats at Marlins Park was a marvel to watch, except if you happened to be Marlins’ starter Chris Nicolino or one of his teammates. Zim’s homer was his longest of the year and his first 425 plus blast since last September (when he hit a 427 foot home run at St. Louis on 9/2), and gave the Nats a lead they’d never lose in the opening game of what seems to be the 20th series of the young season between the Nats and the Marlins.
Michael A. Taylor added to the home run party in the second innings, as his laser blast to the left field seats gave the Nats a 4-0 lead. Six of the Nats’ eight hits on the game went for extra bases, although they couldn’t add on to the 4-0 lead and saw the Marlins threaten on several occasions. Starter Tanner Roark and relievers Felipe Rivero, Shawn Kelley (who navigated expertly through troubled waters in the eighth innings) and Jonathan Papelbon made the lead hold up however, as the Nats won their third consecutive game. The Nats’ pitchers were particularly effective against the suddenly struggling Stanton (who has no hits in his last 15 at bats), holding him hitless in four at bats and striking him out three times.
Washington’s defense helped out on Friday. Werth’s strong throw to nail Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria as the Marlins’ shortstop tried to stretch a hit into a double in the seventh inning kept Miami from getting a runner into scoring position, and shortstop Danny Espinosa ended the game with a sparkling play that kept Miami from bringing the tying run to the plate.
In 2015, the Nationals stole only 57 bases to rank 14th in the National League (ahead of only the league champion Mets). While the success of the Mets may minimize the importance of stolen bases to some extend, one watching the Nationals play station to station baseball in 2015 could easily have come to the conclusion that a few key steals here and there might have helped the team create additional scoring opportunities.
This season the Nats could have four players (Ben Revere, Michael A. Taylor, Trea Turner, Danny Espinosa) with elite speed in their lineup, with several others (Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy) also capable of swiping bases at times. Since the team’s inception in 2005, the Nationals have finished in the top half of National League teams in steals only four times in 11 seasons. Will this year’s squad make it five of 12?
New Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker is believed to be a proponent of increased usage of the stolen base, but his past teams’ records show that he has not always had the horses to put together a proficient running game. In his 20 years as a manager, Baker’s teams have stolen 100 or more bases only eight times (seven times with the Giants and once with the Cubs). Baker’s teams have also had lower than acceptable stolen base percentages (69% in 10 years with San Francisco, 69 % in four years with the Cubs and 68% in six seasons in Cincinnati).
The most effective Nationals’ squad in terms of stolen bases was the 2014 NL East champion team that stole 101 bases (Denard Span led the way with 31 steals, with Ian Desmond chipping in with 24) with a sterling 81% efficiency rating. In terms of outright steals, the 2006 team (led by Alfonso Soriano’s 41) had the most steals with 123 but had only a 66% success rate. The three other times Nats’ teams have had over 100 steals were in 2010 (110, 73% success rate), 2011 (106/74%) and 2012 (105/75%).
It will be interesting to see how the Nats use the steal in 2016. If Revere is able to stay healthy and get on base at his usual clip, it is easy to see him easily eclipsing Soriano’s team high total. And if Turner wins the shortstop job and is able to stay above water offensively, he could give the Nationals one of the top one-two punches in the league in terms of stolen base effectiveness.
There are differences of opinion as to the value of the steal. For a team like the Nats that has struggled to move runners at times, the tactic might give Washington’s offense a boost. While we shouldn’t expect the 2016 Nats to resemble the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, one can assume that there will be more speed on display in Washington this season than there has been in the past.
It’s Fun Fact Friday, courtesy of Baseball Reference.com’s Play Index, with the focus this time on trivia and numbers related to the players expected to be patrolling the outfield for the Nationals in 2016.
- New Nationals’ outfielder Ben Revere always seemed to be a thorn in the side to some of Washington’s better hurlers. For example Revere is 8 for 22 (.364) with a home run lifetime against Max Scherzer, and has a .400 average in 25 at bats against Gio Gonzalez. It turns out that Scherzer and Gonzales are not the only talented pitchers against whom the speedy outfielder has had success. Revere is 7 for 14 in his career against Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, has a .583 in 12 at bats against Pirates’ flame thrower Gerrit Cole and has six hits in 10 at bats against Houston’s Tony Sipp.
- Jayson Werth has 198 career home runs, with 78 coming as a National. Werth has gone deep against 28 of the 30 Major League teams, and has a chance to add another notch to his belt in May when the Detroit Tigers visit Nationals Park. The Nats’ left fielder will have to wait a few years to get a shot at homering against the other team he’s yet to go yard against. The Nats won’t be playing the Oakland A’s, at least in the regular season, until 2018.
- Bryce Harper hit 42 homers and posted a 1.109 OPS in his MVP season of 2015. Harper’s breakout year was the 53rd in the Majors since 1914 where a player hit at least 40 homers and had an OPS of at least 1.10. If he can match the numbers this year, Harper will join a select group of players who have had more than once such season in their careers. All-time great Babe Ruth has 11 such seasons, with Barry Bonds posting six, Lou Gehrig having five, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire and Hank Greenburg doing the trick three times each, and Mickey Mantle and Todd Helton having two each.
- In his rookie season of 2015, Nats’ center fielder Michael A. Taylor became the first Major League rookie since 2012 with at least 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases in a season. In an injury plagued 2012 Harper had 22 taters and 18 steals, Mike Trout of the Angels hit 30 long balls and stole 49 bases and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes hit 23 round-trippers and swiped 16 bags. Since 1914, Taylor is one of only 51 Major Leaguers who have achieved this goal.
- Both Clint Robinson and Matt den Dekker served in backup roles for the Nationals in 2015, and both contributed significantly down the stretch. Robinson posted a .938 OPS in 35 at bats in August of last season, with eight runs scored, a double, three home runs and seven RBI. den Dekker saved his best in 2015 until the season’s final month, as he hit .298 with three homers, seven RBI and a .948 OPS in September. One area where the two outfielders differed was in their home v. road splits. Robinson was much better on the road (.897 OPS) than at home (.676) last year, while den Dekker (.993 home, .564 road) was almost his polar opposite.