Tagged: Danny Espinosa

Nats by the Numbers- July 2016 Review

strascinjul3.jpg

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

.520

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- June 2016 Review

werth-ramos

Wilson Ramos douses teammate Jayson Werth with Gatorade after Werth’s RBI hit gave the Nationals a 12th inning 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on June 15th.

The Nats posted a 16-11 record in June, a month that featured both highs and lows for a team that would end up with 95 wins on the year and its third National League East title in five seasons.  In this edition of Nats by the Numbers, we look at some of the big moments and accomplishments from that month.

0.71

Left-handed Sammy Solis was picked by the Nationals in the second round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft with the thought that he would someday find his spot in the team’s starting rotation.  Injuries caused Solis’s career to go in another direction, and he made his debut in 2015 as a reliever. In June 2016, the Nats saw that Solis has the potential to be more than just another body in the bullpen.

Solis posted a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings in June, striking out 17 batters and allowing opponents a .947 WHIP in the process.  Perhaps Solis’s shining moment in the month came on June 5, 2016, when he struck out six and allowed only one run in three innings to earn the win in Washington’s 10-9 win at Cincinnati.

2

Since his signing in the off-season before the 2011 campaign, Jayson Werth has been a leader in the clubhouse and on the field for the Nationals.  In June, he showed that he still had some life left in his bat as he put up a .926 OPS with two homers and 14 RBI.

Werth also had two walk-off hits to give Washington thrilling comeback victories in June.

On June 12th, a Makiel Franco ninth inning home run off of struggling Nats’ closer Jonathan Papelbon put the Phillies up 4-3 and left Nats’ fans anxious.  Werth put those fears to rest one half inning later, driving home Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa with a two out single that gave Washington a 5-4 win.

Three days later, the Nats entered the bottom of the 12th inning down 4-3 to the eventual National League champion Chicago Cubs.  After Michael A. Taylor tied the game with a hit, Werth performed some more two out magic as he scored Taylor from first on a booming blast that hit the scoreboard in right center and sent Nationals Park into a frenzy.

7

June saw the Nationals lose a season high seven games in a row, all on the road, from the 18th through the 25th of the month.  Losses in the final two games of a four game series at San Diego were followed by a three game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, with two of the defeats coming in one run games. Two more losses followed in Milwaukee, before the Nats hung on to beat Milwaukee 3-2 on June 26th to right the ship.  That win sent the Nats on a six game winning streak, including three in a row against divisional rival New York, and the Nats’ train was quickly back on the rails.

9

Shortstop Danny Espinosa hit .309 with a 1.122 OPS and nine  home runs and 21 RBI in June.  Espinosa’s biggest game came on the month’s final day, when he had a grand slam, a three run homer and drove in a career high seven runs in Washington’s 13-4 win over the Reds. The seven RBI performance was the second highest RBI total in Nats’ history, trailing only Josh Willingham’s eight runs driven in during a 2009 Nats’ win at Milwaukee.

10

The Nats tied a team record by scoring 10 or more runs in three consecutive games from June 5th through June 8th.

On the 5th, Daniel Murphy had three hits, three RBI, a homer and three runs scored and Wilson Ramos chipped in with three hits and two RBI as Washington beat the Reds 10-9.

Two days later in Chicago against the White Sox, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper drove in three runs each as Washington won 10-5.

On June 8th, Werth had three hits, four RBI and a homer, with Stephen Drew, Ryan Zimmerman and Espinosa also going deep in Washington’s 11-4 win over the ChiSox.

The only other time Washington has scored double digit runs in three or more games in row came in 2012, when Washington did the trick in a three game series at Coors Field against the Rockies.

32

Whether it was his off-season surgery on his eyes, overall general good health throughout the year or simply a result of hard work and determination, 2016 was a breakout campaign for Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos.  In May of the year Ramos posted a career high for hits in a month with 30, and he exceeded that mark in June by putting up 32 hits while hitting a robust .364 with six doubles, six home runs and 19 RBI.

Included in the month was a career tying four hit game at Milwaukee against the Brewers. The four hit game came during an 11 game hitting streak for the Nats’ catcher, a stretch where he went 18 for 47 and drove in seven runs.

58

Max Scherzer tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a nine inning game in May of 2016, and he continued to punch batters out with regularity in June.  Scherzer fanned 58 hitters in his six starts in the month, putting up 10 or more strikeouts in five of his six starts.

Included in the month were two of the best pitching performances of the year by a Nats’ hurler. On June 13th, Scherzer fanned 11 Cubs and registered an 80 pitching game score as the Nats won 4-1.  At the end of the month on the 29th during Washington’s three game sweep of the Mets, Scherzer allowed only two hits and no runs while striking out 10 in Washington’s 4-2 win.

Nats by the Numbers- September 24th

nats_championship_banner46eb264870b765acf14ec6842c08c34c59be49a0_original

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.

 

Game 110 Review- Giants 7 Nationals 1

nunezbeltaug6

San Francisco’s Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Belt celebrate the Giants’ 7-1 win over the Nationals on Saturday evening at Nationals Park.

Game 110

Giants 7 Nationals 1

Nationals’ Record- 65-45

WP-  Cain (4-6)     LP- Strasburg (15-2)

HR-  Belt, SF (13)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star-  It is well established that San Francisco’s Buster Posey is one of the best all-around players in the National League. Posey’s skills were on display on Saturday night at Nationals Park as he went 2 for 3 with two RBI to aid the Giants’ seven run attack. Posey’s 2016 WAR to date of 3.3 is tops among Major League catchers, with the Nats’  Wilson Ramos (2.9), Jonathan Lucroy of Texas (2.8) and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (2.7) next.

Second Star-  In years past, Giants’ Saturday starter Matt Cain was an all-star. These days the gutty veteran is trying to work his way back to that status, but don’t tell the Nationals that he’s lost his game. Cain defeated the Nats for the second time in a week, shutting them out over five innings pitched to earn his fourth win in ten decisions on the year.

Star of the Game-  Eduardo Nunez put on a show on Saturday night, going 4 for 5, scoring three runs and picking up three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) in San Francisco’s win.   Nunez’s two three-baggers marked only the fifth time a Nats’ opponent has had multiple triples in a game.  It was the first such game since September 7th of 2012, when the Marlins’ Jose Reyes tripled twice in Miami’s 9-7 win at Nationals Park.  Nunez also contributed a fine defensive play, as he corralled a hot shot of off the bat of Washington’s Jayson Werth in the fourth inning to begin the turning of a key double play that helped keep Washington scoreless.

Valiant in Defeat-  Line drives were coming off the bat of Washington’s Wilson Ramos all night long, as the hot hitting catcher went 3 for 4 in his team’s defeat.  Ramos also scored the Nats’ only run on the night.

NOTES

Stephen Strasburg only lasted 4.2 innings on the night, marking his shortest outing of his All-Star year.  He surrendered a season high four extra base hits in the game, but did strike out eight to mark the 12th time he’s had eight or more strikeouts in a game this season. Strasburg also had Washington’s only extra-base hit on the night, picking up a fourth inning double. The double was Strasburg’s first since July 1st of 2014.

Danny Espinosa had two hits and a RBI in the contest, marking the second time in his last three games that he’s had multiple hits.  Prior to these games, Espinosa had multiple hits in only one of the prior 22 contests.

UP NEXT

The Nats and Giants have played six times so far in 2016, with each team winning three times.  The tie will be broken on Sunday, as Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner takes on Washington’s underrated 11 game winner Tanner Roark in the rubber game of the series.

Bumgarner is 10-6 on the year with a sparkling 2.25 ERA, but he’s not fared well at Nationals Park in the past. He is 1-3 at the home of the Nats, and has allowed five home runs in his last 14 innings pitched at the park.    Bumgarner also has not been as effective on the road (1.268 WHIP) as he’s been at home (.827 WHIP) so far in 2016.

Roark is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his career in August.  Hunter Pence (0-7) and Angel Pagan (0-6) have struggled against Roark in their careers, while Posey (4-11, two doubles) and Brandon Belt (3-6 with a double and homer in the regular season, plus a heart breaking home run in the 18th inning of game two of the 2014 NLDS) have not.

 

Game 83 Review- Nats 12 Reds 1

espigrandslam.jpg

Red-hot Danny Espinosa celebrates his fourth inning grand slam home run with his teammates in yesterday’s 12-1 Nats’ win over the Cincinnati Reds.

The fireworks show on the National Mall today will have to be a great one to match the show that the home team’s bats put on yesterday afternoon at Nationals Park against the Cincinnati Reds.  The Nats slugged six home runs on the way to a 12-1 rout of the Reds, as the Nats maintained their five game lead in the National League East.

GAME 83

Nationals’ Record-   50-33

Nationals 12 Reds 1

WP- Strasburg (11-0)     LP-  Lamb (1-5)

HR- Espinosa, Was 2(18),  Ramos, Was (13), Harper, Was (17), Rendon, Was (8), Drew, Was (7)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star-  If Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos is not an all-star in 2016, no one is. The powerful catcher got Washington’s offense moving yesterday with a second inning laser shot of a home run off of the Reds’ John Lamb that staked the Nats to a 1-0 lead.  Ramos was 3-4 on the day with two RBI, and improved his OPS while hitting in the fifth spot in the Washington lineup to 1.010.

Second Star-  Those of us who made it to the ballpark early yesterday saw an unusual sight about 30 minutes before game time as both Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito headed to the right field corner to begin preparations for the game. Giolito was there as a precautionary move in case Strasburg’s upper back injury flared up and prevented him from taking the scheduled start but fortunately for the Nats, their ace was able to take the hill.   All Strasburg did was hold the Reds hitless over 6.2 innings pitched as he earned his 11th win in as many decision on the year.  Only four pitchers since 1969 have posted longer consecutive win streaks to start a season:

Consecutive Decisions With Wins to Start a Season Since 1969

Pitcher                  # of Wins                  Ending Record                      Notes

McNally  (Bal)        15                               20-7

Clemens (Bos)       14                               24-4                                  Won AL Cy Young & MVP

Scherzer (Det)       13                                21-3                                   Won AL Cy Young

Guidry   (NYY)        13                                25-3                                   Won AL Cy Young  

Star of the Game-  Nationals’ shortstop Danny Espinosa had a series to remember against the Reds over the past four days, hitting five home runs, driving in an amazing 15 runs and scoring six times to pace the Nats’ to three wins in the four game series.  In yesterday’s game, Espinosa hit his second grand slam homer in the series, giving him three career home runs at Nationals Park (tying Ryan Zimmerman for the most home runs by a player at Nationals Park).  Espinosa also made one of the best defensive plays of the year, ranging far to his right and making an incredible throw to retire speedy Reds’ outfielder Jose Peraza in the sixth inning to keep the visitors hitless.  Espinosa’s five home run series moved him past teammate Jayson Werth into fourth place for most career home runs at Nationals Park:

Career Home Runs at Nationals Park

Zimmerman-  80

Desmond-  66

Harper-    59

Espinosa-  45

Werth-   41

Valiant in Defeat-  On a day where very little went right for the Reds, Peraza was responsible for the team’s only run as his eighth inning single off of Nats’ reliever Matt Belisle drove home Ramon Cabrera with Cincinnati’s only run.

NOTES

Espinosa is not the only National who is thriving at the plate over the past week.  Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon homered in the game, and both continued upward trends in Washington’s current homestand.  Harper has 9 hits in 23 at bats (.391) with a double, two homers and five RBI since Monday, with Rendon checking in at 7-21 (.333) with seven runs scored, a triple, a homer and five RBI.  The Nats’ third baseman has scored 52 runs on the year, tying him for the eighth most in the National League.

Washington bench player Stephen Drew doesn’t get many at bats, but he certainly makes them count. Drew hit his seventh home run of the year yesterday on a drive to left center field off of the Reds’ Jumbo Diaz in the eighth inning.  Drew has his seven round trippers in only 81 at bats on the year.   Among players with at least seven home runs, Drew has accomplished that feat with the fewest at bats. Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas is next with seven home runs in 104 at bats.

UP NEXT

The Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers in the traditional Fourth of July 11am start with Max Scherzer facing the Brew Crew’s Junior Guerra.  Scherzer has posted an 11.6 SO/9 ratio on the year.   Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts and fellow slugger Chris Carter is 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts against Max.

Milwaukee’s Guerra is not particularly well known, but he’s pitched very well of late. In his last nine starts, he has allowed three or fewer earned runs eight times.  He is coming off the best game of career on June 29th when he posted a game score of 83 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.    The righty is 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA and an impressive 1.069 WHIP on the season.

 

 

Game 82 Review- Reds 9 Nats 4 (10 Innings)

barnhartjuly2.jpg

Reds’ catcher Tucker Barnhart watches his 10th inning, go-ahead single head to right center during last evening’s Reds’ 9-4 victory of the Washington Nationals that ended the home team’s winning streak at six games.

GAME 82

Nats Record 49-33

WP-  J. Smith (1-1)    LP-  Solis (1-3) 

HR-  Espinosa, Was (16)

Saturday night was a game of missed opportunities for the Nationals. After trailing for most of the game, Washington mounted a furious rally in the eighth inning that tied the game at 4-4.  Some clutch pitching from the normally less than formidable Reds’ bullpen prevented further disaster for the visitors, and the Reds eventually put five on the scoreboard in the top of the tenth inning to win the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star– Reds’ starter Dan Straily’s outing may have ended in a less than satisfactory fashion as he saw a potential win go up in smoke as a result of the Nationals’ eighth inning rally, but there’s no denying that Straily was special on this night. He allowed the Nats only one hit and one run through his first seven innings of work, bouncing back from his last three starts in which he allowed 17 earned runs in only 14 innings pitched.

Second Star–  With Nationals Park rightfield line stands fans’ number one enemy Joey Votto out with a sore shoulder, Adam Duvall drove in the 57th and 58th runs of his surprising season with a first inning double that got the Reds off to a quick start. He doubled again later in the contest.  The Reds’ slugger has an impressive .892 OPS so far this season.

Star of the Game–  Tucker Barnhart went 3 for four with two runs scored and plated the go-ahead run with a tenth inning single that led to Cincinnati’s win.  The unheralded backstop has six hits in nine at bats in the last two games of the series.

Valiant in Defeat-  June was month to forget for Nationals’ reliever Felipe Rivero. The lefty was 0-2 with a 10.64 ERA and a 2.091 WHIP in the month.  On Saturday, he helped the Nationals stay in the game as he threw 2.2 scoreless innings with a pair of strkeouts.

NOTES

What a difference 48 hours make. On Thursday night, young Reds’ reliever Josh Smith allowed five runs in 1.2 innings pitched in the Nats’ 13-4 rout of Cincinnati.  Last night, Smith was perfect over 1.1 innings to earn the first win of his Major League career.

Washington starter Joe Ross battled and eventually righted the ship after allowing four runs over the first two innings of the game, but the young righty is not performing recently as he did in the season’s first months.  Since the end of May, Ross has seen his ERA go from 2.37 to 3.49, and he has allowed 27 hits in his last 17.2 innings pitched.

Danny Espinosa homered again on Saturday, hitting a two run blast in the eighth that triggered Washington’s game tying rally. Espinosa has 16 homers on the year, only five short of his career high of 21 set in 2011.  Among Major League full-time shortstops, Espinosa’s 16 round trippers is behind only Colorado’s Trevor Storey (19), Los Angeles’ Corey Seager (17) and Oakland’s Marcus Semien (17).  Even more amazingly, Espinosa’s 12 home runs on the year while hitting in the eighth spot is six ahead of his closest competitors.  Seattle’s Leonys Martin and Chicago’s David Ross have six home runs each so far while hitting eighth.

 

 

 

 

Fun Fact Friday- Five in a Row, Leading by Six

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy

Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper (34) celebrates with Daniel Murphy (20) after Murphy’s two-run home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in Washington. The Nationals won 4-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

What a difference a week makes!  This time last week, the Nationals were still trying to battle out of a five game losing streak that would soon balloon to seven with consecutive losses at Milwaukee.  This week, the suddenly red-hot Nationals have won five in a row and stand comfortably atop of the National League East by six games over the New York Mets.  Here’s a look at some fun facts (I guess they’re not too fun if you’re a fan of the Metropolitans or the Reds!) coming out of this week.

RARE HEIGHTS

The Nationals stand at 48-32 on the year heading into July, and the team’s .600 winning percentage stands second in Nats’ history for a winning percentage as of the end of play on June 30th of a season.  In 2005, the surprising Nationals were 47-31 (.602 percentage) as they entered play in July.   That team would slump over the second half of the year and finish with an 81-81 record, a fate that certainly doesn’t seem likely for this year’s squad. Assuming the Nats win game 81 of the season tonight against the Reds, they will be on pace to match the 2012 squad that won 98 games en route to a National League East title.

A SPECIAL MONTH 

Nats’ shortstop ended the month of June with a bang, hitting two home runs and driving in seven in last evening’s 13-4 rout of Cincinnati.  But Espinosa’s great game wasn’t a flash in the pan, the hard-working infielder had an entire month to remember.  Espinosa’s 1.122 OPS in the month was the ninth highest in the Major Leagues, as he hit nine homers and drove in 21 on the month.  Last evening’s multi-home run game was the fourth of Espinosa’s career, with the most recent one prior to last evening coming on May 8th of last season when Espinosa homered twice in the Nats’ 9-2 win over Atlanta.

FIRST IN A LONG TIME

In Washington’s 11-4 win over Noah Syndergaard this past Monday, lead off man Ben Revere had four hits, scored three runs and stole three bases.  The Nats’ centerfielder became the first Major Leaguer with at least a 4/3/3 breakdown in the hits/runs/steals categories in a game since former National Emilio Bonafacio had four hits, four runs and three steals in a 12-6 2009 Opening Day win for the Marlins over the Nats.   Revere’s numbers for the game have only been equaled or exceeded 23 times since 1969, with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and former steals champ Vince Coleman (with two games each) being the only players with more than one such game during that time period.

DOUBLE DIGIT DAYS

Thursday’s 13 run output for the Nationals marked the ninth time the team has scored at least 13 runs in a contest at Nationals Park. The team record is 15 runs scored, set on September 3, 2015 as the Nats routed Atlanta 15-1.  Washington has scored 14 runs at Nats Park three times, the last coming on August 24, 2014 as Washington pounded San Francisco 14-6.   13 has been the Nats’ magic number for runs scored five times in home games since 2008.

IF YOU CAN’T JOIN EM, BEAT EM

Nats’ second sacker Daniel Murphy had another outstanding series against his former team, collecting five hits with four runs scored, two home runs and five RBI in Washington’s three game sweep of the Mets.  From the second half of 2015 through yesterday’s game, Murph is hitting .320 in 553 at bats with 23 home runs and 96 RBI.

Game 75 Review- Brewers 6 Nationals 5

cartermil.image

Milwaukee’s Chris Carter celebrates his first inning three run homer against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez with teammate Ryan Braun in yesterday’s 6-5 win by the Brewers over the slumping Nationals.

On a day when the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals honored the Homestead Grays and the Milwaukee Bears of the Negro Leagues, Brewers’ slugger Chris Carter led the home team to victory with a blast that would have made Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard or any of the other prodigious home run hitters in the Negro Leagues proud.  Carter’s first inning home run got the Brew Crew off on the right foot and continued the first-place but slumping Nationals’ misery, as the Nats dropped their seventh game in a row.

GAME 75

Nats Record 43-32

WP- Garza (1-0)     LP-  Gonzalez (3-7)   SV-  Jeffress (21)

HR- Carter (19)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star–  Jeremy Jeffress’ 21st save of the season came the hard way, protecting a one run lead with the Nationals’ best hitters facing him.  After Bryce Harper led off the top of the ninth with a single, Jeffress retired Daniel Murphy on a deep fly to right and got Wilson Ramos to ground into a game-ending double play to give Milwaukee the win.

Second Star–  When one thinks of the best leadoff men in the National League, chances are that the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar is not one of the first names that comes to mind.  Perhaps that should change.  Villar went 3 for 4 with a run scored, a RBI and his 26th stolen base of the year to help the Brewers to victory.  Villar is hitting .299 with a robust .380 on base percentage this season.

Star of the Game–  Milwaukee first baseman Chris Carter doesn’t always make contact, but when he does it is often special.  Carter’s booming three run first inning home run set the pace for the Brewers in a game where Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez couldn’t seem to get any traction.  Carter has 19 homers on the year and is on pace to beat his personal best of 37 round trippers that he had for Houston in 2014.

Valiant in Defeat–   National League batting leader Daniel Murphy was on his game yesterday, going 3 for 5 with a triple, two singles and two loud outs on which he just missed picking up extra base hits.  Murphy is now hitting .354 on the year.

NOTES

After starting with giving up more than two earned runs in only one of his first eight starts, Gio Gonzalez has surrendered an average of five earned runs over his last seven.  Gonzalez’s ERA on the year has ballooned to 4.73.

Washington picked up three more sacrifice flies in the game, moving its National League leading total to 33 on the season.  The Nats’ total is nine more than second place San Francisco’s and Milwaukee’s 24 scoring fly balls.

Danny Espinosa’s box score line (0 0 0 2) is one you don’t see every day. In his four plate appearances, the Nats’ shortstop drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt, drove in another with a sacrifice fly and walked twice.

Numbers sometimes don’t tell the whole story, but they certainly do provide clues to why the Nats have struggled at times despite being two games up in the National League East.  At three positions in particular, Washington has lagged behind its competition in the Senior Circuit.  Using the Wins Above Average metric,  one can see the lack of production the Nats have had at the three problematic positions:

First Base      -1.4 WAA        NL Rank (14)

LF                     -1.1 WAA         NL Rank (T11)

CF                     -2.2  WAA        NL Rank (15)

UP NEXT

Tanner Roark takes the hill today for the Nats, looking for his seventh win of the year.  Roark has gone at least six innings in 12 of his 15 starts on the year. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun has three hits (including a triple) in seven career at bats against Roark, while second baseman Scooter Gennett is hitless in six at bats against the Nats’ righty.

Brewers’ tall righthander Jimmy Nelson leads the National League with 13 batters hit so far this season, so Nats’ shortstop Danny Espinosa best wear his heavy armor in today’s contest.   Nelson has allowed 15 earned runs in 18 innings pitched this month.  Bryce Harper is 3 for 5 with a home run in his career against Nelson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game 74 Review- Brewers 5 Nationals 3

broxtonmilNOTES

Milwaukee’s rookie pinch-hitter Keon Broxton watches his first career home run leave the park in the fifth inning of last night’s Brewers’ 5-3 victory over the Nationals at Miller Park.

There are many ups and downs in a 162 game Major League baseball season, and the Nationals are certainly in a down period at present.  After losing two in a row to close their series with the Padres and being swept in three games at Dodger Stadium by Los Angeles, the Nats looked to rebound against lowly Milwaukee with Max Scherzer on the mound.  Unfortunately it was more of the same for the Nats in the land of cheese, beer and brats, as the Nats lost 5-3 for their sixth straight defeat on what is becoming a brutal road trip.

GAME 74

Milwaukee 5   Nationals 3

WP-  C. Torres (1-0)     LP-  Scherzer  (8-5)    SV- Jeffress (20

HR-  Broxton, Mil (1)      Nieuwenhuis, Mil (4)

STARS OF THE GAME

Third Star–  Acquired from Pittsburgh last season, rookie outfielder Keon Broxton seems to have the tools to succeed at the Major League level. Last night the youngster showed his talent, driving a Max Scherzer slider into the Brewers’ bullpen in left-center to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. The home run was the first of Broxton’s career.

Second Star(s)–  The Brewers’ bullpen is a pedestrian group at best, posting a 4.14 ERA (eighth in the Nationals League) and surrendering 33 homers (tied for third worst in the NL) on the season so far.  Last night, however, the Brew Crew’s pen went Nasty Boys on the Nats, as winning pitcher Carlos Torres, lefty Will Smith, hard throwing Tyler Thornberg and gusty closer Jeremy Jeffress held the Nats scoreless over the game’s final four innings to secure the win.

Star of the Game-   Max Scherzer has allowed 20 home runs on the year, but none have traveled further than Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ 423 blast to right centerfield last night that gave the Brewers their winning runs.  The former Met has struggled so far in Milwaukee hitting .224 with 63 strikeouts in 161 at bats, but his impressive round-tripper was the highlight moment of yesterday’s Brewers’ win.

Valiant in Defeat–  Wilson Ramos continued his red-hot June, going 4 for 5 with a RBI in Washington’s losing effort. Ramos is hitting .371 with a 1.094 OPS so far this month.  On the year, Ramos has posted a .951 OPS. If that mark holds up over the year, Ramos will become only the 14th full-time catcher since 1950 with an OPS of greater than .950.

NOTES

Danny Espinosa was hit by a Zach Davies pitch in the second inning of the game, marking the 12th time the Nats’ shortstop has suffered that fate this season. Espinosa (in 2011) and former National outfielder Jose Guillen (in 2005) hold the Washington record for most hit by pitches in a season with 19.  Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere were also hit by pitches in the game, making last night the 13th time the Nats have had at least three batters hit during a game.   The Washington record for HBPs in a game is four, set on April 6, 2006 against the Mets and equaled on June 5, 2011 against Arizona.

Scherzer allowed multiple home runs in a game for the fifth time in 2016, moving him closer to the Nats’ record of eight multi-home run games allowed in a season that he (Scherzer had eight such games last season)  shares with Ramon Ortiz (2006), Mike Bacsik (2007) and Dan Haren (2008).

Daniel Murphy doubled and drove in a pair of runs last night, giving him 20 doubles on the year. His career high of 40, set in 2012 for the Mets, appears to be well in reach.  The two bagger ended a five game string where the Nats’ second baseman was held without an extra base hit.

Washington had four batters (Michael A. Taylor, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Espinosa) with three strikeouts each last evening.  The game was only the second one since 2005 where Washington has had four players with three or more strikeouts.  Last season on July 18th against Los Angeles and Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Taylor, Yunel Escobar and Clint Robinson each were fanned three times.

NEXT UP

Gio Gonzalez takes on Brewers’ veteran Matt Garza this afternoon in the second game of the three game series.

Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in five lifetime starts against Milwaukee, but the Nats’ lefty will likely be treading softly when Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy is at the plate. The Brew Crew’s backstop has six hits in eight with a double and three RBI in his career against Gonzalez.

While Gonzalez may circled Lucroy’s name as an opponent to watch out for, Garza’s attention will likely be focused on many opposing hitters today. Jayson Werth (.412 with two doubles and a homer in 17 at bats), Zimmerman (.357 average with a double in 14 at bats), Ramos (5-13 with a double and a homer), and Harper (3-6, two doubles) have all fared well against the righthander.  Garza has had success against Murphy however, holding him hitless in six career at bats.

 

 

62 Down, 100 to Go and the Nats Seem Primed for Something Big in 2016

strasvphljune10.jpeg

Stephen Strasburg retired the last 14 Phillies’ batters he faced on Friday night as the righty moved to 10-0 on the year in Washington’s 9-6 victory over their division rivals.

With two wins in three games against the White Sox in Chicago and two wins so far in their weekend series against the Phillies, this week has been a good one for the Nationals. The team’s record stands at 38-24, which is exactly where it was in 2012 after 62 games in Washington’s 98 win NL East Division Championship season.  Of course the 2016 Nats hope to achieve more than just a division title, and there are signs that this year’s team could be better than the 2012 squad that brought five plus months of excitement to the Nation’s Capital.

THE WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

MOWING THEM DOWN

Stephen Strasburg was touched for four runs on Friday by the Phillies in the first three innings as the Nats fell behind by a 4-0 score, but that only seemed to serve to strengthen the resolve of the Major League Baseball wins co-leader (Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Johnny Cueto of the Giants also have 10 victories).  Strasburg retired the final 14 Phils he faced, striking out seven of them, to (with the help of the team’s bats) put Washington in the driver’s seat in the first game of the weekend series.

The 14 batters in a row retired by Strasburg marked the sixth time in his career where he’s retired at least that many batters in succession:

STRASBURG- MOST CONSECUTIVE OUTS RECORDED IN A GAME

Batters Retired    Date         Opp      Notes

19                             4/1/13       Mia       Gave up leadoff hit and retired next 19 batters.

15                             6/18/10     CWS     First two batters had hits, then 15 in a row retired.

15                             8/25/15       SD       Retired last 15 batters he faced.

14                             4/10/14      Mia      Fanned six of the 14 he retired in a row.

14                             4/19/15      Phl        Retired 14 straight to start the game.

14                             6/10/16      Phl        Struck out seven during this stretch.

In his career, Strasburg has 32 instances where he has retired at least 10 batters consecutively.

GOON SQUAD II

Who says a sequel can never be as good as the original!   The 2012 Nats, with their bench players dubbed the “Goon Squad” leading the way, posted a .786 OPS in pinch-hit appearances.  That mark was the second highest in the Major Leagues.  So far in 2016, Nationals’ pinch-hitters have put up a robust .995 OPS which is the third highest mark in the Majors.  Washington’s eight pinch-hit homers trails only St. Louis (with 10).

HOT HITTERS

Nats’ shortstop Danny Espinosa has been great with the glove in 2016, and he’s starting to show that he can be solid at the plate as well.  Since May 1, Espinosa has nine homers and 17 RBI in 131 at bats. His 10 home runs on the year trails only Trevor Story of Colorado (16) and Corey Seager of the Dodgers (14) among National League shortstops.    Espinosa had two three hit games over the past week, going 3 for 5 on June 8th against the White Sox and picking up three hits in four at bats in Friday’s win over the Phillies.

Espinosa did not play in Saturday’s 8-0 whitewashing of the Phillies, but another hot hitter did…reserve infielder Stephen Drew.  Drew has six hits with 3 runs scored, a double, two home runs and six RBI in his last 12 at bats.

Veteran Jayson Werth has looked better both at the plate and in the field over the past weeks.  Since May 29th, Werth has four home runs and 13 RBI in 37 at bats. He also made perhaps his best defensive play of the year on Friday night, ranging to his right and laying out to make the catch to rob Mikael Franco of an extra-base hit.

The Nats’ best hitters on the year have been probable 2016 National League All-Stars Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper.  All three players currently sport OPS marks of .918 or better.  In Nationals’ history, the only season in which two or more players were over .900 in OPS was in 2006 when Nick Johnson (.948) and Alfonso Soriano (.911) did the trick.

 

TANNER TERRIFIC

In Saturday’s win, Tanner Roark shut the Phillies out over seven innings pitched to earn his fifth win of the year and even picked up a RBI with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt in Washington’s four run second inning.  In 2016, Roark has four games in which he has gone at least seven innings and allowed no runs.  Of his career nine games fitting those parameters, seven (including all four in 2016) have come at Nationals Park.

ODDS AND ENDS

Through 62 games, the Nats’ 591 strikeouts is the most among National League pitching staffs.  Strasburg (with 110) and Max Scherzer (107) are third and fourth in the league, trailing only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (132) and Jose Fernandez of Miami (118).

Tommy Joseph of the Phillies had two home runs in Friday night’s loss to the Nats, making him the second player to have a multiple home run game against Washington this year.   Back on May 6th at Wrigley Field, Ben Zobrist hit two round-trippers in a Cubs win over the Nats.  In 2015, there were 14 instances of a player having a multi-home run game against the Nats.

Today’s series finale against the Phillies will be played under the sun, which may not be a good thing for the already battered Phils’ staff.  In day games in 2016, Bryce Harper has a 1.102 OPS, seven home runs and 16 RBI with Daniel Murphy checking in with a 1.007 OPS and 15 runs batted in.  Games during the afternoon have also been good for Buffalo sightings as Wilson Ramos has a 1.091 OPS and five home runs in such contests.

Finally, happy 32nd birthday to former Nationals’ outfielder Roger Bernadina.   Known for spectacular defense plays, including a game saving catch at Houston in 2012 which many observers believe is the best defensive play by an outfielder in Nats’ history,  Bernadina is currently  a Mets’ minor league player.