Max Scherzer’s best start to date in the 2016 season helped the Washington Nationals to a 6-1 victory on Sunday as the Nats wrapped up a three game sweep of the home-standing St. Louis Cardinals.
Nats Record- 17-7
WP- Scherzer (3-1) LP- Martinez (4-1)
HR- Robinson Was (1), Espinosa Was (2), Heisey Was (3), Moss Stl (6)
Excellent starting pitching, solid defense and timely power hitting were the keys as the Nationals finished their three game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-1 victory. The sweep was the Nationals’ first ever in St. Louis.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- His batting average may be below the Mendoza Line and he only had one hit on the game, but Jose Lobaton fought the good fight for the Nationals all weekend long in Wilson Ramos’ absence and certainly was a key to the team’s success on Sunday. Lobaton’s sixth inning single off of Cards’ starter Carlos Martinez set the table for the first run of the game, a run that was tallied after Lobaton moved to second on Max Scherzer’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt den Dekker’s single to center. Over the weekend, Lobaton also helped lead a Nats’ starting pitching staff that held a powerful Cards’ lineup in check.
Second Star- Clint Robinson was a pleasant surprise in 2015, hitting .272 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. His success last season had not translated over to 2016, but perhaps Sunday’s game will get Robinson moving in the right direction. The left-handed swinger had the big blow in Sunday’s game, hitting a two run home run off of Martinez in the top of the seventh inning that extended Washington’s lead to 3-0.
Star of the Game- All Scherzer did on the game was throw seven innings of shutout ball with nine strikeouts and go two for two with a sacrifice bunt at the plate as he won his third game in four decisions on the year. Scherzer allowed only four hits on the game and did not issue a walk, marking the seventh time he’s fanned at least nine batters and walked no one in his time with the Nationals.
Valiant in Defeat- Martinez was suffering from an illness leading into the game and he eventually tired in the seventh inning, but the flame throwing young pitcher showed his tremendous potential in the contest as he struck out eight and looked dominant in stretches. The loss was Martinez’s first in five decisions on the year.
Chris Heisey’s ninth inning pinch-hit home run was the 13th of his career, the most of any active Major League player.
The Nats take their three game winning streak to Kansas City to take on the World Champion Royals. Gio Gonzalez starts for Washington. The left-hander has been strong in May during his career, going 15-6 with a 3.51 ERA. Gonzalez has struggled in interleague contests however, winning only seven of his 18 decisions and allowing a 1.455 WHIP while putting up a hefty 4.74 ERA. His mound opponent Edinson Volquez is 10-5 with a 3.64 ERA in his career at Kaufman Stadium. Volquez is coming off his worst start to date in the 2016 saeason as he allowed eight runs in five innings pitched at the Los Angeles Angels on April 26th. Nats’ second baseman Daniel Murphy is 7 for 20 in his career against Volquez.
Jayson Werth’s first inning three run home run off of St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia staked the Nats to an early lead that they wouldn’t lose as Washington defeated the home standing Cardinals 6-1 on Saturday.
Like the ever changing weather of April, the Washington Nationals’ past week featured more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster. From the thrills of an extra inning win last Sunday against Minnesota to sweep at home at the hands of the less than powerful Phillies to two impressive wins against the always good St. Louis Cardinals, the week has been an interesting one.
Here’s a recap of some of the key moments and events of the past six games.
April 24- Washington 6 Minnesota 5 – 16 innings
The game had it all, from hot hitting pitchers, a game tying pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, an unlikely game tying run and a walk-off round tripper that finally ended the marathon contest.
Starter Stephen Strasburg, who pitched well on the day, and emergency pinch-hitter Joe Ross both had base hits on the day, marking the first time since April 25, 2012 that two Nats’ pitchers had hits during the same game. In that contest Jordan Zimmermann and Tom Gorzelanny not only each had a hit, but also drove in runs. The only other games where two Nats’ pitchers have reached on hits were only May 23, 2010 (John Lannan and Drew Storen were the hurlers), August 20, 2006 (Pedro Astacio and Travis Hughes) and August 30, 2005 (John Patterson and Jason Bergmann. The Nationals are 4-1 in those games.
Bryce Harper’s dramatic ninth-inning home run that sent the game into extra innings was the first pinch-hit homer of the Nats’ star’s career, and the 53rd pinch-hit home run in Nationals’ history. Six other current Nationals have pinch-hit round trippers for Washington in their careers. Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Matt den Dekker, Clint Robinson and Michael A. Taylor have come off the bench and to go deep for the Nats.
April 26- Philadelphia 4 Washington 3
Philadelphia’s Andres Blanco has been a utility player for most of his Major League career but in recent times, he’s looked like Jimmy Rollins in his prime against the Nats. On Tuesday, Blanco went 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI to pace the Phils to a 4-3 win over the Nats and Max Scherzer.
Blanco has 12 career homers, and the Nats are the only team he’s hit more than one against (Blanco homered on September 27, 2015 against Washington in a game where he went 3 for 6 with three RBI).
April 27- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
What a difference 12 days made. On April 15, 2016 at Citizens Bank Park, Phils’ starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was battered by the Nationals in Washington’s 9-1 victory. This past Wednesday, Hellickson did a 180 and held Washington scoreless over seven dominant innings to lead Philadelphia to victory.
Hellickson’s pitching game score of 78 on the day tied for the second highest he’s had in his 140 starts in the Major Leagues.
April 28- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola and Washington’s Tanner Roark were both superb on a rainy Thursday afternoon in Washington, but neither factored in the decision as the game remained scoreless through eight innings. The visitors finally broke through in the top of the ninth, scoring three runs off of Washington’s Felipe Rivero to put themselves in position to earn a rare sweep of the Nats. Cameron Rupp’s bases loaded double was the big blow in the Phils’ win.
Washington had no extra-base hits on the day, marking the 127th time the Nats have been held without one. Not surprisingly, the Nats are 22-105 in those games. Washington’s last victory without an extra base hit came on June 2, 2015 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
April 29- Washington 5 @ St. Louis 4
Coming into Friday’s game, the Nats had won only seven of their 33 regular season games played at St. Louis since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Stephen Strasburg made sure things would turn out differently in the Nats’ first visit to the Gateway City in 2016.
After fighting through a rocky first inning, Strasburg settled down and eventually dominated the home team as he fanned nine (including three each in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings) to earn his fourth victory in as many decisions on the season.
Strasburg was aided by home runs by Taylor and Espinosa off of St. Louis starter and loser Mike Leake. Taylor led off the game with a round tripper, marking the fourth time in his career that he has done so. The Nats are 3-1 in those contests. Espinosa had two hits, a homer (his first of the year) and two RBI in the game.
April 30- Washington 6 @ St. Louis 1
Fast starts have been common for the Nats in 2016, and that skill was display yesterday afternoon against St. Louis and lefty Jaime Garcia. The Nats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, with the big blow coming on Jayson Werth’s three run home run. The blast was the 29th three run tater in Werth’s career. His .513 career slugging percentage against St. Louis is the third highest he’s posted against National League teams (Werth has a .566 slugging percentage against Arizona, and put up a .539 mark against Washington prior to joining the Nationals in 2011).
Young pitcher Joe Ross made sure the early lead would hold up, holding the Cards to one run in six innings pitched to earn his third win of the year. Ross has not allowed a home run in his last 39.2 innings pitched, dating back to August 22, 2015 when Milwaukee’s Kris Davis homered off of the Nats’ rising star.
Max Scherzer looks to rebound from a pair of relatively disappointing outings as he takes on St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez in the finale of the three game set.
It has pretty much been feast or famine when St. Louis’ Brandon Moss has faced Scherzer in his career. The left-handed veteran has two home runs and four RBI against Scherzer in 22 career at bats, but has also fanned 11 times. Less successful against the Nats’ ace has been Matt Holliday, who is 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.
Martinez has limited opponents to a .867 WHIP so far in 2016, and is 4-0 on the year. Daniel Murphy, Werth and Zimmerman are a combined 0-12 lifetime against the hard-throwing young pitcher, while Anthony Rendon has hits in both of his at bats against Martinez.