Tagged: Bryce Harper

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.

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Game 122 Review- Nationals 11 Braves 9

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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.  

GAME 122

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.

NOTES

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.

UP NEXT

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.

 

Game 121 Review- Nationals 7 Braves 6

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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.

NOTES

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.

UP NEXT

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.

 

 

 

 

Game 120 Review- Nationals 8 Braves 2

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After a series in Colorado where the Nats’ bullpen was used heavily, the team needed a long outing by starter Reynaldo Lopez on Thursday in Atlanta. The rookie came through in a big way, striking out 11 and giving up only one earned run in seven innings pitched as the Nats beat the Braves 8-2.

GAME 120

Nats’ Record- 71-49

Nationals 8  Braves 2

WP- Lopez (2-1)    LP- Whalen (1-2)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star-  He did not hit a majestic 461 foot home run as he did on Wednesday in Colorado, but Bryce Harper contributed to the Nats’ cause with a hit, two walks and two runs scored in the victory. Harper’s OPS on the year now stands at .386, and he’s reached base at a .399 clip in 153 career plate appearances at Turner Field.

Second Star-  Playing more like his age is the number on the back of his jersey instead of the one on his driver’s license, Jayson Werth was again in the middle of good things for the Nats on Thursday. Werth was two for four with a double, a run scored and a RBI as he reached base for the franchise tying 46th consecutive game.

Star of the Game-  While the Braves current lineup certainly doesn’t conjure up images of the 1927 Yankees or the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine, the type of domination Nats’ rookie Reynaldo Lopez displayed on Thursday is impressive against any opponent. Lopez struck out 11 Braves and allowed only a single earned run in seven innings pitched to earn his second win in as many starts against the Braves.

Valiant in Defeat-  Atlanta starter Rob Whalen deserved a better fate last night.  Whalen allowed only one earned run in six effective innings pitched, but was undone by his defense and by his teammates’ lack of production against Nats’ starter Lopez.  Whalen’s record on the year fell to 1-2 despite his impressive performance.

NOTES

It would be hard to find an uglier half of an inning at any place other than a Little League field than the one the Braves had in the top of the eighth last night.  The Nats scored five runs, with only one coming home on a hit (Clint Robinson’s RBI single). The others scored on a passed ball, a walk, a hit batter and Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly as Braves’ fans witnessed why their team resides in last place in the National League East.

The Nats walked seven times in the game, marking the eighth time this year they’ve had seven or more free passes. Prior to last evening, the last time Washington had as many as seven walks came on June 30th at Nationals Park when the Nats were walked seven times in a 13-4 rout of the Reds. The season high for bases on balls for Washington is the 11 walks they received on May 18th in a 7-1 win at New York against the Mets.

Rookie catcher Pedro Severino is likely headed back to Syracuse today as backup catcher Jose Lobaton is primed to return from the disabled list, but the 23 year old rookie can take solace in the fact that he looked like he belonged during his short stint with the big club. Severino had a double and run scored last night, and hit a robust .412 in 17 at bats during his time filling in for Lobaton.

UP NEXT

Tanner Roark takes the mound tonight at Turner Field against the Braves’ Julio Teheran in the second contest of the four game series.

Roark, who is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in six appearances at Turner Field, is looking for his 14th win in tonight’s game.  His win in Atlanta was a memorable one for the Nats and their fans. On September 16, 2014, Roark held the Braves scorless over seven innings to lead Washington to a 3-0 NL East Division clinching victory over the Braves.

Roark’s opponent on the night gets this year’s vote for the hard luck player of the year. Despite having a sparking 2.81 ERA and a microscopic .965 WHIP this year, Julio Teheran has lost nine of his 12 decisions in 2016.  Teheran, who has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 17 of his 21 starts on the year, may want to be especially careful when facing the Nats’ three and four hitters tonight. Daniel Murphy is 8 for 20 with four doubles in his career against the Braves’ righty, while Bryce Harper has hit .429 in 28 at bats with five home runs and 10 RBI.

 

 

Game 116 Review- Nationals 9 Braves 1

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Tanner Roark throws a pitch during his masterful performance in today’s 9-1 Nats’ win over Atlanta at Nationals Park.

GAME 115

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.

NOTES

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.

UP NEXT

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.

 

Game 109 Review- Nationals 5 Giants 1

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Gio Gonzalez was dominant last night, holding the San Francisco Giants to two hits and one run to lead Washington to a 5-1 victory in the first game of a three game set between division leaders.

GAME 109

Nationals 5 Giants 1

Nats’ Record:  65-44

WP- Gonzalez (7-9)    LP-  Samardzija (9-8)

HR-  Turner, Was (2),  Ramos, Was (17),  Pagan, SF (8)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star– Wilson Ramos certainly picked a good time to have a career year. The soon to be free agent continued to prove that he’s in line for a big payday at some point soon, hitting his career high 17th home run and plating a run on a sacrifice fly to help the Nats to victory. Ramos’ two RBI game left him only seven short of his career high 68 RBI, set in the 2015 season.

Second Star-  For months prior to the 2016 Major League trade deadline, we’d been reading and hearing that Trea Turner was not available for a deal. We’re now seeing why that was the case. The rising star went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored as he continued to show that the Nats’ problem at the top of the batting order may be solved. On the season, Turner has posted an impressive .896 OPS in his 81 at bats.

Star of the Game-  Gio Gonzalez was at the top of his game on Friday night, holding the Giants to two hits and one run in seven excellent innings pitched. Gonzalez worked fast, was efficient and showed the form he displayed in his 21 win season in 2012.  In picking up his seventh win on the year Gonzalez posted a 75 pitching game score, the best PGS he’s had since an 85 score he earned in a 3-0 victory over the New  York Mets at Nationals Park on September 25, 2014.

Valiant in Defeat-  It was another forgettable night for the slumping Giants, but Angel Pagan provided some highlights with a laser shot home run to left field (his eighth of the season) and several fine plays in left field.

NOTES

Bryce Harper and Ramos had sacrifice flies in the game, giving Washington 46 on the season. With 53 games left to play, the Nats are only five short of the Nats’ record 51 run scoring fly balls that was set in 2015.  Harper is the team leader in sacrifice flies this season with eight, with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Clint Robinson next with five each.

Denard Span was 1 for 4 for San Francisco in his return to Nationals Park, and it was nice to see the talented and likeable center fielder get a warm reception from the Nationals’ faithful. Span  Span now as 11 hits in his last 28 at bats since July 29th.

UP NEXT

Stephen Strasburg has been money in the bank for the Nats so far in 2016, and he looks to continue his winning ways as he takes on San Francisco’s Matt Cain in the second game of the series tonight at Nationals Park.

Strasburg has pitched well in August over his career, posting a 13-4 record with a 3.04 ERA. In his career against the Giants, he’s 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA.  The Giants’ talented duo of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have hit Strasburg well over their careers. Posey is 7 for 20 with two doubles, while Crawford has six hits in 16 at bats.

Cain won the 100th game of his career last Sunday against the Nationals, gutting out a five inning start in which he did not allow a hit or a run while walking four batters.  He’s 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in his career at Nationals Park, with 37 hits allowed (including four homers) in 30 innings pitched.

 

 

News and Notes on the Nats

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Bryce Harper’s mammoth two run home run off of Los Angeles’ Bud Norris on Wednesday July 20th helped Washington to an 8-1 victory over the Dodgers.

The weather in Washington is heating up, while its baseball team is going through a bit of a relatively, albeit with a limited sample size, cold spell.   The Nats have dropped three of their last four games, including two of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as they head into this weekend’s series with San Diego.  Despite the mini-slide, Washington still is holding down a 4.5 game lead in the National League East with an impressive 57-39 record.

Here’s some notes of interest from the past four games, with thanks to baseball-reference.com’s Play Index and the ESPN Home Run Tracker (two sites a baseball fan can’t live without) for the information.

LET’S PLAY TWO…..BUT IT ONLY COUNTS AS ONE

Sunday’s Nats’ 2-1 loss in 18 innings to Pittsburgh was the longest game by innings played in team history.  The previous high was 16 innings, set on June 24, 2014 in a Nats’ 4-2 win over Milwaukee at Miller Park and equaled earlier this year in Washington’s thrilling 6-5 win over Minnesota.  With the loss, the Nats are 4-4 this season in extra-inning games.  Washington is 87-90 in games that have gone long, with a 46-44 mark in such games played at home.

A RARE EVENT FOR AN OPENING ACT

Highly touted youngster Reynaldo Lopez made his Major League debut on Tuesday against the Dodgers and was hit hard, allowing six runs and 10 hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Still there were bright spots for the hard-throwing righty, including his striking out nine Dodger batters.  According to the Baseball Reference play index,  Lopez is the first pitcher from 1913 until today who had nine plus strikeouts, 10 plus hits allowed and six plus runs allowed in his Major League debut.  Two other pitchers have achieved the dubious feat so far in 2016. The Yankees’ Michael Pineda gave up seven runs with ten hits allowed while striking out nine in New York’s 8-1 loss to Tampa on April 24th, while former National Jordan Zimmermann gave up eight runs and 11 hits while fanning nine in seven innings pitched on May 16th in a 10-8 Tigers’ win over Minnesota.

JULY FIREWORKS

On July 20, 1969, United States’ astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.  47 years later at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper hit a ball that looked to be headed for a lunar landing.

Harper’s first innings blast off of the Dodgers’ Bud Norris was the longest home run hit at Nationals Park so far this year, measuring 449 feet according to the ESPN HR tracker.  Four of the five longest homers hit at the Nats’ home this year have come this month:

BATTER                             DATE                    DISTANCE  

Harper, Was                    July 20                  449

Ramos, Was                    April 14                 445

Harper, Was                    July 3                      441

Rendon, Was                   July 20                   440

Maldonado, Mil              July 4                      438 

The Nats had four home runs in their 8-1 win on the 20th, marking the 53rd time Washington has hit four or more round-trippers in a game.  The team has seven four plus homer games in 2016, the second highest single season total for Washington since 2005.  The 2013 squad had 11 four plus homer games.

RANDY NEWMAN, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE

Singer/songwriter Randy Newman made the song “I Love LA” a hit, and Washington starter Gio Gonzalez may well have been humming a few bars of the tune following another strong performance against the team from Tinseltown on Wednesday. Gonzalez allowed only one run and three hits in six strong innings pitched to earn his third win in four career decisions against the Dodgers.  Gonzalez has fanned 34 Dodgers in 32 innings pitched against them in his career, while posting a sparking 1.69 ERA.

AS EASY AS ONE, TWO, THREE

Nats’ rookie Trea Turner tripled twice in the Dodgers’ series, using his top-level speed to navigate around the bases seemingly with ease.  Turner’s three baggers in back to back nights on Tuesday and Wednesday marked the fifth time a Nats’ player has had triples in back to back games:

PLAYER                          DATES                                    OPPONENT 

Trea Turner                   7/19-20, 2016                       LAD

Dan Uggla                      4/27-2/28, 2015                   @ ATL

Rick Ankiel                   5/25-5/26, 2012                    @ ATL

Roger Bernadina         5/22-5/23, 2010                     BAL

Christian Guzman       5/13-5/14, 2007                    Fl (5/13), ATL (5/14) 

STRIKEOUTS TIMES TEN

Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Dodgers marked Stephen Strasburg’s first loss of the year, but the All-Star ace did strike out 10 batters (including eight of 10 at one point) in the contest.  Strasburg now has 29 10 plus strikeout games in his career, including eight so far in 2016. The Nats have 77 10 plus strikeout pitching performances since 2005, with Max Scherzer (18) and Gonzalez (10) next in line behind Strasburg’s total.

ON DECK

The Nationals look to get back to their winning ways tonight against San Diego at Nationals Park, with Tanner Roark facing the Padres’ Luis Perdomo.

The two finest games of Roark’s career, at least as indicated by the Pitching Game Score statistic, came against the Padres in 2014.  On April 26th, Roark threw a complete game three hit shutout in a 4-0 Washington win with the Nats’ righty posting an 88 PGS.  On June 6th at San Diego, Roark put up an 87 PGS as he allowed three hits in eight innings pitched while striking out 11 in Washington’s 6-0 win.

Perdomo has struggled mightily so far in 2016, as he’s put up a 7.36 ERA with a ghastly 1.952 WHIP in 69.2 innings pitched. Only Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jiminez (with a 1.971 mark) has a worse WHIP for Major League pitchers with more than 69 innings pitched this year.

The match-up features teams who bring power bats to the plate. The Nats are tied with St. Louis for the most home runs in the National League with 132, while San Diego’s 112 four baggers ranks sixth in the league.  Matt Kemp and Wil Myers lead the Pads with 20 homers each, while Melvin Upton has 16. The older Upton brother has resurrected his career while playing in San Diego after struggling mightily in Atlanta.  From 2013 through 2014 while a Brave, Upton posted a -2.1 WAR total. For San Diego in 2015 and 2016 to date, Upton’s combined WAR is 3.6.