Tagged: Bryce Harper

Nats by the Numbers- September 2016 Review

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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).

5.1

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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.

8

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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.

9

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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.

10.1

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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.

12

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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.

20

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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.

23

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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.

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Nats by the Numbers- July 2016 Review

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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

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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.

.779

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).

1.116

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.

3/7

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.

4

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.

6

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.

Nats by the Numbers- April 2016 Review

against the at Nationals Park on April 24, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Chris Heisey is mobbed at home plate by his Nationals’ teammates following Heisey’s 16th inning game-ending home run that gave the Nationals a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on April 24th.

With only three Major League Baseball team fan bases left with hopes of seeing their teams go all the way, the rest of us are left to look back at what was an interesting 2016 campaign.

For the 95 win Washington Nationals, the season featured plenty of superb performances and magical moments.  Our “Nats by the Numbers” series will look at each month of the 2016 season to highlight some of the memorable events of the Nats’ season.  We begin with the season’s opening month, a month where the Nationals showed the Major League world that the up and down play of the 2015 season was a thing of the past.

APRIL 2016- NATS BY THE NUMBERS

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The Nationals spent much of the time between the 2015 and 2016 seasons looking to upgrade their offense, with particular attention being paid to finding someone to take over the second base job. Failed attempts to land Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips frustrated many fans, but they proved to be blessings in disguise when the Nats ended up “settling” on signing free agent and 2015 post-season star Daniel Murphy.

Murphy came out of the gate in April as hot as the Washington DC weather is in July, hitting .370 with seven doubles, two triples, a pair of homers and 11 RBI to let the baseball world know that he may have only scratched the surface of his ultimate potential in his amazing late-season run in 2015.  The fact that the Nats’ gain in signing Murphy helped to weaken the arch-rival Mets’ chances of repeating as divisional champions only made the signing of the veteran infielder even sweeter.

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The Nationals were 16-7 in April 2016, and the team’s .696 winning percentage in the month was the third best in a month in Nationals’ history.  In their inaugural season of 2005, the Nationals had a June to remember as they went 20-6 and posted an amazing .769 winning percentage.  The 2014 division-winning Nats’ team finished that season playing great ball, going 19-8 (.704) to put up the second best winnings percentage in a month in Nats’ history.

3

It wasn’t all cherry blossoms and gentle breezes for the Nats in the first full month of spring, and a home series in late April against the Philadelphia Phillies proved that.  The Phillies swept the Nats in DC in a weekday three game set, holding the Nationals to a measly three runs in the process.  The late April success against the Nats proved to be fluke for the Phillies, who won only five of 19 games against Washington on the season.

7

In all three of their division winning seasons, the Nationals have been blessed to feature very strong starting pitching. Two members of the 2016 staff, rightys Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, started the season off on the right foot as they combined to go 7-0 during April. Strasburg was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched in a year that would see him make the National League all-star team.  Like Strasburg, Ross fell victim to injuries as the year progressed but he was special in April.  The Northern California native went 3-0 with a sparkling 0.97 ERA in the season’s first month.

The Nationals showed they were intent on regaining their National League Eastern division crown from the start of the year in 2016 winning nine of their first 10 games (all against divisional opponents) under new manager Dusty Baker to start the year on the right foot.  The Nationals would win 67% of their games against divisional foes on the year in route to their third divisional title in five seasons.

15 

2015 was, in many ways, a lost season for Nationals’ pitcher Tanner Roark.  Despite performing admirably in the 2014 campaign as a starter, Roark lost his spot in the 2015 Nats’ rotation when the team signed Max Scherzer, and he had an up and down campaign while working out of the bullpen.

Roark regained his spot in the rotation in 2016 and on April 23rd at Nationals Park against the Minnesota Twins, he showed the Nats that he was staking a claim to stay there.  Roark struck out a career high 15 in seven innings to lead the Nats to a 2-0 victory.  Only teammate Max Scherzer (20 against Detroit on May 11th), Colorado’s Jon Gray (16 against San Diego on September 17th) and Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez (16 against San Diego on April 14th) had more strikeouts in a game than Roark’s 15 among National League pitchers in 2016.

16

Fans who attended the Nationals-Twins game on Sunday April 24th at Nationals Park certainly got their money’s worth. The game featured a lead off home run in the bottom of the first by Nats’ outfielder Matt den Dekker, 10 strikeouts by Strasburg, a Minnesota rally keyed by All-Star Brian Dozier that derailed Strasburg’s bid for a win, a dramatic ninth inning pinch-hit homer by Bryce Harper to tie the game in the ninth, a wild 15th inning that saw the Nats’ rally to tie the game on a Twins’ error and a dramatic ending when Chris Heisey blasted a shot over the wall in left-centerfield to give Washington a 6-5 win.

Heisey would prove to be a valuable power source off of the Nationals’ bench in 2016, hitting nine homers in only 139 at bats.

24

The 2015 season had its bad moments for the Nats and their fans, but the campaign did feature a season long story line that was tremendous to follow; the emergence of Bryce Harper as a superstar.

Harper’s outstanding 2015 season carried over to the start of the 2016 campaign, as he had 24 RBI, nine homers and a 1.121 OPS in the season’s first month.

Nats by the Numbers- September 30th

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

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

1.474

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

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

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

7

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

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

8

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

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

23

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

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

33

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

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

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

503

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

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

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

Nats by the Numbers- September 24th

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Will tonight be the night the Nats add another National League East title to their resume?  Last night’s disappointing late inning loss to the Pirates may have put a temporary block in Washington’s inevitable celebration of its third division crown in five years, but perhaps Pittsburgh will soon join Atlanta (in 2014) as road cities where the Nats have clinched a title.

Here’s a look at some of the events of recent days, in our “Nats by the Numbers” format.

80

Four Nationals (Daniel Murphy with 88, Anthony Rendon with 86, Bryce Harper with 82 and Jayson Werth with 80) have scored 80 or more runs so far in the 2016 season, making this the first campaign in Nationals history where four or more players have achieved the feat.  This quartet of 80 plus run scorers surpasses the 2006, 2012 and 2014 seasons in which three Nats players crossed the plate more than 80 times.  In 2006, Alfonso Soriano had 119 runs scored to lead the team, with Nick Johnson (100) and Ryan Zimmerman (84) also having big scoring years.  The 2012 Nats’ division winning team was paced in runs scored by Harper (98), with Zimmerman (93) and Danny Espinosa (82) also cracking the 80 run barrier.  And in 2014, Rendon broke the century mark with 114 runs scored with Denard Span chipping in with 94 and Werth scoring 85 times.

9

Both Espinosa and Wilson Ramos homered off of left-handed pitchers this week, giving each nine homers against lefties on the year.  In Nats’ history, only two players have had more than nine homers against southpaws in a season. In 2006 Soriano took lefties deep 12 times, and Adam Laroche hit 11 against left-handers in 2012.

19

The Nats have 19 home runs so far in September, and are on pace to have the fewest homers of any month in the 2016 campaign.  Only four Major League teams have fewer round trippers than Washington so far this month.  The Nationals high mark for homers in a month this year was in May when Washington blasted a National League leading 43 long balls.  The Nats had 38 homers in June, 37 in August, 32 in July and 26 in April.

240

Nationals ace Max Scherzer leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts with 267, and has struck out at least 240 batters in each of the last four seasons.  Since 1969, only five players have more 240 plus strikeout seasons than Scherzer’s four.   Randy Johnson leads the way with 10 such seasons, with Nolan Ryan (9), Roger Clemens (6), Steve Carlton (5) and Tom Seaver (5) also in the exclusive group.  Among active pitchers, only three hurlers have more than one 240 plus strikeout year on their resume.  Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Corey Kluber of Cleveland and Justin Verlander of Detroit have two each.

47

Daniel Murphy’s 47 doubles on the year has equaled the Nats’ mark set by Zimmerman in his outstanding 2006 rookie campaign.  The 47 two baggers by the Nats’ second baseman is the most by any National League East player since Dan Uggla had 49 for Florida in the 2007. In that year, Hanley Ramirez (48, also for Florida) and Chase Utley (48 for Philadelphia) also exceeded the 47 doubles mark.  Murphy’s recent injury situation has likely robbed him of a shot at becoming the first NL East player with 50 plus doubles in a year since 2006 when Florida’s Miguel Cabrera reached the half-century mark.  Since divisional play’s current format began in 1994, only four NL East players have had 50 or more doubles.

12.76 

Nats’ setup man Shawn Kelley has 12.76 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in the year so far, the third best mark in the National League.  Kelley’s 78 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched gives him a SO/9 mark that trails only Miami’s Kyle Barraclough (14.01) and the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (13.64).

Among National League starters, Stephen Strasburg (11.15) and Scherzer (11.06) trail only Miami’s Jose Fernandez (12.49) and Arizona’s Robbie Ray (11.39) in this category.

10 

Zimmerman’s three run homer off of Miami’s Tom Koehler on Wednesday was the tenth the Nats’ veteran his hit since Marlins Park opened in 2012, the most by any Miami opponent during that time period.  Zimmerman’s teammate Harper is next with seven homers at the cavernous park, with former Braves Evan Gattis (6) and Jason Heyward (5) next in line.

 

Nats Notes- September 1th

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

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

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

BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POND

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

(MAX)IMUM EFFORT 

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

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

DOUBLE TROUBLE 

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

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

ONE FOR THREE

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

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

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

LEADING MEN

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

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

PLAYER                     CAREER GM            DATE          OPP/SCORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

ODDS AND ENDS

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

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

UP NEXT

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

BURN THE TAPE OF THIS ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT SO CHARMING FOR THE NATS

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

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

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

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

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

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

PLAYING THEIR ACE

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

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

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

WELCOME TO THE CENTURY CLUB

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

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

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

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

WERTH-    Six homers, 13 RBI, .938 OPS

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

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

UP NEXT 

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

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