On September 24, 2016, the Nationals clinched the National League East with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The victory gave Washington three division titles in five seasons, and assured that post-season baseball would be played in the Nation’s Capital in again. That division clinching game was the most memorable event in a month full of them. In this edition of “Nats by the Number”, we look at some of the other highlights of the last month of the regular season (thanks as always to baseball-reference.com’s play index for allowing easy access to statistical information on the Nats and all other baseball-related topics).
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez was the winning pitcher in the game that won the East for the Nats, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout relief to earn his fourth victory in seven decisions on the year. Lopez struck out six and allowed only three hits to become the second pitcher in Nationals’ history to throw 5.1 or more scoreless innings in relief in a game. The first time it happened came all the way back in 2005 under much less dramatic circumstances than did Lopez’s effort in the title clinching win. On May 13th of the Nats’ first season, Tomo Ohka stopped the bleeding with 5.2 scoreless innings pitched out of the pen in Washington’s 8-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Slender Trea Turner is known more for his speed and all around ability than he is for his power, but the rookie’s home run hitting ability was on display in a big way in the season’s final month. Turner hit eight home runs in the month to pace the Nationals and finish behind only Atlanta’s Matt Kemp (who had nine) for the most homers in the National League in the final month of the regular season.
Turner’s power outburst included two multi-home run games. On September 9th at Nationals Park, Turner hit a two run homer off of Philadelphia’s Colton Murray in the bottom of the seventh to give Washington a 4-1 lead and ended the contest with a game winning, ninth inning round tripper off of the Phils’ Frank Herrmann to put the Nats in the win column by a 5-4 score. Eight days later in Atlanta, Turner hit a pair of solo homers off of Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter.
On the season, Washington players had eight two run home run games. Like Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa had two such games each. Other Nationals with two homers in game in 2016 where National League MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy and outfielder Michael A. Taylor.
In an 11 game home stand in early September against the Phillies, Braves and Mets, the Nationals did what they had done all season long to their divisional rivals- they dominated them.
Washington won nine of the 11 contests to cement its spot at the top of the National League East. Included in the stretch were walk-off victories over the Braves on September 7th (on a Wilson Ramos hit) and the Phillies on September 9th (on a Trea Turner solo home run).
The Nationals also had two shutouts in the month. On September 10th, Washington defeated the Phillies 3-0 on the strength of excellent pitching by Max Scherzer and the Nats’ bullpen plus Bryce Harper’s eighth inning three run home that broke a scoreless tie.
Four days later, Tanner Roark won his 15th game of the year as he shut the Mets out over seven innings and got all the support he needed when Ramos hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Nats won 1-0.
On the season, Washington was an amazing 41-16 in contests against the Braves, Phillies and Mets.
Closer Mark Melancon was the key pitcher in the Nats’ bullpen down the stretch but he received a lot of help from his bullpen mates, including righty Shawn Kelley.
In the season’s final 27 regular season games Kelley threw 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and allowing only one hit to finish his season with a flourish. Kelley won his only two decisions in the month and finished the 2016 campaign with an impressive WHIP of .897.
Jayson Werth’s two run pinch-hit home run off of former teammate Felipe Rivero helped Washington to a comeback 10-7 win at Pittsburgh on September 25th, and also helped Washington improve on its team record total for pinch-hit home runs in a season.
Werth’s dramatic blast was the 12th home run by a pinch-hitter in 2016 for the Nats, as the team easily shattered the 2006 squad’s record of eight. Washington’s total was the third highest in Major League Baseball, trailing only St. Louis (17) and the New York Mets (13).
Werth was one of three Nationals with more than one pinch-hit homer on the year. The veteran outfielder had two, while bench stalwarts Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey had three each. Other Nationals with pinch-hit homers in 2016 were rookie Pedro Severino, Clint Robinson, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
Nats’ ace Max Scherzer was 5-0 in his six decisions in the season’s final month and ended up with 20 wins on the year. Scherzer became the second pitcher in Nats’ history with 20 or more wins (Gio Gonzalez won 21 in 2012) en route to his second Cy Young Award.
Scherzer struck out 46 batters in 39.1 innings pitched in his final six games, and ended with a National League high 284 punchouts on the year.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit only .247 in the season’s final 27 games, but he certainly made the hits he did have count. The talented Texan drove in a team high 23 runs in the month, tying Daniel Murphy (who had 23 in both May and July) for the most RBI in a month by a Nationals’ player in 2016. Bryce Harper led the way with 24 RBI in April.
As the visiting Dodgers celebrate their National League Divisional Series win on Thursday at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper and the Nationals are left to wonder what might have been.
The 2016 season was a joyride for the Washington Nationals and their fans. New manager Dusty Baker oversaw a squad that erased the bad feelings from the disappointing 2015 campaign by taking control of the National League East and finishing with the second best record in the Senior Circuit. In the end, however, the 2016 season ended in the same fashion that the 2012 and 2014 seasons did; with a bitter defeat in the post-season.
Here’s our post-season edition of “Nats by the Numbers”, powered as always by Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index.
Although he pitched effectively for the most part (particularly in Game Five), Max Scherzer saw his Nationals lose both games the Cy Young Award candidate started in the 2016 NLDS. During the regular season, the Nationals only had two times when the team lost back to back games started by Scherzer.
In April, Scherzer fell to the Marlins 5-1 in Miami in a game where he surrendered five runs in five innings pitched while recording a season low three strikeouts. Five days later at home against the Phillies, Scherzer picked up a no-decision while throwing six relatively effective innings (three runs allowed, seven strikeouts) but the team lost 4-3.
In June at San Diego, Scherzer struck out 10 Padres and allowed only one run but got a no decision when the bullpen imploded in a 7-3 Nats’ loss. Six days later in Milwaukee, the Brewers beat Scherzer and the Nationals by a 5-3 score.
The Nationals lost game one of the NLDS by a 4-3 score despite picking up nine walks in the contest. There have been only three nine inning games in LDS history where a team has lost while having nine or more walks in the contest.
You have to go all the way back to 2000 to find that last time it happened before the 2016 Dodgers-Nationals series opener. On October 3, 2000, the Atlanta Braves lost 7-5 to the St. Louis Cardinals despite getting nine free passes. One year earlier, the Cleveland Indians walked nine times but were trounced by the Boston Red Sox 23-7 in Game Four of the teams’ ALDS.
A point of emphasis for Nationals manager Dusty Baker when he took over the team’s reigns was to cut down on situations where Nationals’ batters failed to put balls in play. While some progress was made in that category during the regular season (the Nats struck out 92 fewer times in 2016 than they had in 2015), the problem came back to haunt the team in the post-season.
The Nats struck out 1o or more times in all five games of the 2016 NLDS, including 12 in the decisive game of the series on Thursday at Nationals Park. 15 of the team’s 63 strikeouts in the series came with runners in scoring position.
Chris Heisey’s dramatic seventh inning pinch-hit home run in Game Five was only the 25th pinch-hit home run in LDS history. Los Angeles’ Carlos Ruiz also had a pinch-hit home run in the series (in Game Three), making the series only one of two in LDS history that has included more than one pinch-hit home run. In a 2002 LDS match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Dusty Baker-led San Francisco Giants, St. Louis’ J.D. Drew had a pinch-hit round tripper in Game One of the series, with teammate Eduardo Perez matching him with a pinch-hit homer in Game Two.
During the regular season, the Nats posted a 77% winning percentage in games where their starting pitchers threw 6.1 or more innings. In games where the starters threw six innings or fewer, the percentage dropped 34 points to 43%. The Nationals did not have a starter with more than six innings pitched in any of the NLDS games against Los Angeles.
Nats’ fans will be left to wonder what might have been had one of their team’s best hitters against left-handed pitching would have been available for the series against a heavily left-handed Dodger pitching staff.
In 103 at bats during the season, Wilson Ramos posted a .631 slugging percentage while hitting nine homers and driving in 23 runs. Ramos’ slugging percentage was the sixth highest in the Major Leagues for players with at least 100 at bats against left-handed pitchers.ten
Nationals Record 22-13
WP- Treinen (3-1) LP- Barraclough (2-1) SV- Papelbon (10)
HR- Drew (2), Harper (11), Heisey (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Jose Lobaton
The Nats’ backup catcher may be hitting only .194 on the year, but he did a great job for Washington in the eighth spot in the lineup last night. Lobaton went 1-2 with a run scored and walked twice. His sixth inning two out looping single to left field kept the inning alive, which allowed Stephen Drew to come to the plate and hit a game tying two run home run off of Miami’s Bryan Morris.
Second Star- Dusty Baker
The Nats’ affable skipper pushed the right buttons on Friday night. He used his bullpen masterfully in the sixth to squelch a Marlins rally, getting key contributions from veterans Yusmeiro Petit and Oliver Perez to keep Miami from scoring even after the visitors had loaded the bases with no outs being recorded by tough-luck starter Gio Gonzalez.
Later, Baker’s choices of Drew to pinch-hit in the sixth inning and Chris Heisey to do so in the eighth resulted in the fifth and sixth pinch-hit home runs on the year for the Nationals.
Star of the Game- Bryce Harper
“Miami” Bryce did it again, going 2-2 with two walks and a go ahead two run home run in the seventh inning that led the Nationals to victory. Five of Harper’s 11 home runs in 2016 have come against the Fish, and his 20 career round trippers against Miami is the most he’s had against any opponent.
Valiant in Defeat- Tom Koehler
The lanky Marlins’ starter wasn’t dominant as he allowed six hits and walked five batters, but he was a clutch performer with men on base as he allowed only one run in his 5.2 innings pitched. Koehler’s best moments may have come in the bottom of the first, when he got out of a two on, out jam by retiring red-hot Daniel Murphy on a popout and struck out Ryan Zimmerman to keep the Nats off of the board.
Washington’s two pinch-hit homers marked the third time a team has had two or more pinch-hit blasts in a game in 2016. The St. Louis Cardinals performed the feat the two other times it has been done, first getting pinch-hit blasts from Jeremy Hazelbaker, Aledyms Diaz and Greg Garcia in a 7-4 win against Atlanta on April 8th and then getting pinch-hit homers from Brandon Moss and Matt Adams on April 15th as the Cards defeated Cincinnati.
Washington’s six pinch-hit homers on the year is the most the Nats have had in a season since 2013 when Washington had a Nats’ high eight. The 2006 team also had eight pinch-hit home runs.
The Nats allowed two unearned runs in an ugly top of the fifth inning, making this the first game in the 2016 season where Washington has allowed more than one unearned run. The Nats last allowed multiple unearned runs in a game back on September 5, 2015 when both of Atlanta’s runs were of the unearned variety in Washington’s 8-2 win.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 359th career save last night as he retired the only two batters he faced. The game was only the 16th, and the fourth since 2011, where Papelbon has earned a save while pitching less than one inning.