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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tanner Roark may not be a household name to many who follow Major League Baseball, but he certainly is one for Nats’ fans. Roark won his 15th game on Wednesday in the Nats’ 1-0 victory over the New York Mets.
With only 16 games to play and a ten game lead over the New York Mets in the National League East, it is only a matter of time before the Nationals celebrate their third division title in the past five seasons. There’s still a lot to play for, however, as the Nats need to maintain their five game spread over the Los Angeles Dodgers to assure themselves of the home field advantage in what is squaring up to be an intriguing NLDS series between the teams.
Here’s a look at some items of note as the Nats head into the final weeks of the 2016 regular season.
A SEASON TO REMEMBER
Where would the Nationals be without MVP candidate Daniel Murphy? The new National has at least one hit in all of the team’s 12 games so far in September, and continued his domination of his former mates from New York going 6 for 12 with three doubles in the teams’ recent series at Nationals Park. If Murphy can keep his batting average above .340 down the stretch, he will register only the third season since 1901 where a player who plays primarily (at least 80% of his appearances) at second base has hit over .340 with at least 25 homers, 100 RBI and 45 doubles. The only other player to have seasons like that will playing second base was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did so in 1922 and again in 1929.
HOME RUN HIGHLIGHTS
The 2016 Nationals have 187 home runs so far, a mere seven round-trippers away from the 2012 club’s team record of 194. 95 of the Nats’ homers have come at home, with May (43) and June (38) being the months where Washington hitters have hit the most. Of Washington’s homers so far, 122 have been solo shots, 44 have been with one man on, 14 have come with two aboard and seven have been grand slams. The top inning for Nats’ blast has been the seventh. Washington has 29 home runs in that frame.
MAT THE BAT
Nats’ pitcher Mat Latos is built like an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, so it is no wonder that the veteran righthander is able to generate power with his bat as well as with his right arm. On Monday against the Mets, Latos became the first Nats pitcher to hit a round-tripper at Nationals Park in over three years when he deposited a Rafael Montero pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in Washington’s 8-1 win over the Mets
Before Latos’ shot, the last pitcher to hit a home run at home for the Nats was Gio Gonzalez, who went deep off of Miami’s Kevin Slowey on April 3, 2013. Other Nats’ hurlers who’ve homered in home games include Stephen Strasburg (5/20/12 against Baltimore), Tommy Milone (9/3/11 against the Mets), Ramon Ortiz (9/4/06 against St. Louis) and Livan Hernandez (4/29/05 against the Mets). The Nats are 6-0 at home in games where a Washington pitcher has gone yard.
THE SLIMMEST OF MARGINS
Washington’s 1-0 victory over the Mets on Wednesday was the 16th 1-0 victory for the Nats since 2005 and the second of the 2016 season. Both 1-0 victories this season have come in games started by Tanner Roark and in contests where the only Washington run has come on a seventh inning Wilson Ramos home run. Ramos’ mammoth blast to left center on Wednesday off of Fernando Salas was the game winner this week, and his home run off of San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner won the game back in August.
Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Mets was Washington’s fifth against the New Yorkers, the most against any opponent.
TANNER IS TOPS
Any discussion of the best pitchers in the National League that doesn’t include the name of Nats’ starter Tanner Roark is a discussion without merit.
Roark was fantastic again on Wednesday, shutting the Mets out over seven innings to earn his 15th win of the year. In 2016, Roark has had a Major League high nine games in which he’s pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run. Besides Roark, only Chicago’s Jake Arrieta (with seven), Miami’s Jose Fernandez (6), Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (5), Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman (5) and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (5) have more than four such games.
The Nats make their final visit to Atlanta’s Turner Field this weekend and if there’s any justice, this will also be the last time the Nats (and their fans watching from home) will have to listen to the incredibly annoying “tomahawk chop” song that appears to be played at decibel levels rivaling that of a space launch.
With a winning record for the season at Atlanta for only the third time in 12 years already in hand, the Nats look to reduce their magic number against a depleted but always game Braves’ squad.
Max Scherzer takes the mound tonight for Washington in pursuit of his 17th win of the year. The Nats’ ace is 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA in his career at Turner Field. Outfielder Matt Kemp has provided the Braves with a boost since his acquisition from San Diego earlier this year, but Atlanta fans probably aren’t expecting much out of their left fielder this evening. In 36 career at bats against Scherzer, Kemp is hitting .083 with ten strikeouts.
Rookie John Gant, who the Braves acquired from the Mets in the 2015 trade that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to New York, will be Scherzer’s mound opponent. The right-handed rookie is 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA on the year, but does have an impressive 45 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched.
Bryce Harper reacts after hitting an eighth inning three run homer off of Philadelphia’s Patrick Schuster last night that led Washington to a 3-0 victory over the Phillies.
With the team’s third National League East title in the past five years there for the taking, the Washington Nationals have positioned themselves to be a major player in this year’s post-season. A healthy nine game lead over the Mets with 20 games left to play has left the Nats a near certainty to win the National League East, and the team has a three game lead over the Dodgers for the second seed in the NL playoffs.
Our focus may be turning to October, but there have been plenty of highlights from the early part of September that made the last week memorable.
BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POND
The Nats continue to be the bully of the NL East playground as they have won nine of their past 12 games, all against divisional foes. On the year, Washington is a healthy 44-19 against the NL East. Against the division’s bottom dwellers Atlanta and Philadelphia, the Nats have posted a 27-7 mark.
What a joy it is to watch Nats’ ace Max Scherzer. The energy he brings to each game he starts electrifies both his teammates and Nats’ fans, and he’s showing that he could be the type of pitcher who can dominate a post-season series or two.
Scherzer and three relievers combined to shut Philadelphia out on Saturday, giving the Nats 11 shutouts so far in the 2016 season. His 6.1 WAR ranks second among all National League players (Chicago’s Kris Bryant is first with a 7.0 mark), he leads the league in strikeouts, innings pitched and WHIP, and is tied for the top spot in wins. It appears to be down to Scherzer, Chicago’s duo of Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta and San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner in the competition for the league’s Cy Young Award. Whether he wins the award or not, I doubt that Dusty Baker would rather have any of those pitchers on the mound in game one of a playoff series instead of his current number one hurler.
The Nats’ Daniel Murphy, with a National League East leading 41 doubles, has become the first National with 40 our more two-baggers since Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church had 43 each in the 2007 season. Murphy is six doubles away from the Nats’ best total of 47, set by Zimmerman in 2006.
If Anthony Rendon has at least four more doubles over the season’s final 20 games, the Nats will have multiple players with 40 or more doubles in a year for only the third time. In addition to the 2007 Zimmerman/Church duo, three Nationals exceeded the mark in 2006 (Nick Johnson had 46 and Alfonso Soriano had 41 to go with Zimmerman’s 47).
ONE FOR THREE
Bryce Harper had a largely forgettable game at the plate on Saturday night as he fanned three times against talented Phillies’ righthander Jerad Eickhoff, but he turned his night around in a big way once Eickhoff was out of the game.
Harper’s eighth inning three run homer off of Patrick Schuster broke a scoreless tie and gave the Nats all the runs they’d need in their 3-0 victory. The reigning NL MVP’s blast was his third three run homer of the season, tying Jayson Werth for the most among Nats’ players. Wilson Ramos is the only other National with multiple three run blasts.
The Nats have 13 three run shots on the year, including Chris Heisey’s round-tripper against Atlanta’s Ryan Weber on September 5th. The team record for most three run homers in a season is 22, set in 2011 and equaled in 2015.
On Friday Trea Turner had two home runs, including a dramatic walk-off shot in the ninth inning, to give Washington a thrilling 5-4 win. Turner became the fourth Nats’ player to have a multiple home run game while hitting in the leadoff spot. Alfonso Soriano had four in 2006, Rick Ankiel had two on August 1, 2011 and Denard Span had a pair of homers on September 1, 2014.
Turner’s two homer game came in the 79th contest of his career. Only six Nats’ players have had a multi-homer game earlier in their careers:
PLAYER CAREER GM DATE OPP/SCORE
Brandon Harper 4 8/20/06 W 10 @ Phl 12
Danny Espinosa 5 9/6/10 W 13 NYM 3
Tyler Moore 16 6/13/12 W 6 @ Tor 2
Wilson Ramos 36 4/26/11 W 4 NYM 6
Justin Maxwell 37 9/12/09 W 3 @ FL 13
Roger Bernadina 42 5/12/10 W 6 @ NYM 4
ODDS AND ENDS
Jose Lobaton had two hits last night, giving him two multi-hit contests in the current homestand. Prior to this week, he had only two in the rest of the season. Lobaton went two for three in the Nats’ win over the Twins on April 22nd and had two hits in Washington’s loss to the Cubs on June 14th.
Reliable bullpen pitching is something most successful post-season teams have, and two Nats’ pitchers appear to be on the path to being options to rely on come next month.Both Blake Treinen and new National Mark Rzepczynski have been fantastic over their last six appearances. Treinen has allowed no runs, only three hits and no walks in 6.1 innings while striking out six, while the Rzepczynski has thrown 5.1 innings of scoreless ball with only one hit and two walks allowed.
The Nats say goodbye to the Phillies for 2016 in today’s series finale at Nationals Park, with Gio Gonzalez taking the mound against fellow left-hander Adam Morgan.
Gonzalez strugged mightily in his September 6th start against Atlanta but before that game, he had allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 11 previous starts. In his career, Gonzalez is 23-11 with a 3.14 ERA in September/October. Among Phillies’ players, big Darin Ruf is one against whom Gonzalez has struggled. Ruf has a .357 average with three homers in 28 career at bats against Gonzalez. On the other side of the coin, Mikael Franco is 1-13 with four strikeouts, Ryan Howard is 0-11 with six strikeouts and Peter Bourjos is 3-22 with seven strikeouts against today’s Nats’ starter.
Phildelphia’s Morgan is only 2-9 with an alarming 5.90 ERA on the year, but he has pitched well against the Nats in his last two starts against them (he’s fanned 13 in 13.1 innings pitched while allowing only five earned runs). In his last outing five days ago, Morgan picked up his first win since May 10th in a 4-3 Philadelphia victory at Miami.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In recent years, trips to Arizona have been very productive. The Nationals continued that trend this week, as sterling efforts by Stephen Strasburg and many others led to a three game sweep of the scuffling Diamondbacks. The sweep gave Washington a season high seven game lead in the National League East.
A trip to Arizona in the middle of summer means heat and lots of it. For the Nationals this week, a visit to Chase Field was just what the doctor ordered to get their bats heated up.
The Nationals scored at will in the three game set, outscoring Arizona by a 32-8 margin to finish their three city road swing with 6-3 record. Since 2012, Washington is 11-4 at Chase Field and has outscored the Diamondbacks by a 101-58 margin.
Some items from note following the series include the following:
Washington’s big three at the head of its rotation all picked up victories in the series. On the year the Nats are 45-2o in games started by Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, while they are 19-24 in games started by others.
Strasburg continued his sterling 2016 season with six innings of three hit, one run allowed pitching in Washington’s 14-1 win on Monday night. On the year, Strasburg’s .980 WHIP puts him on pace to shatter his career best of 1.049 set in 2013. Strasburg also starred at the plate, going 3-4. It was the second three hit game of Strasburg’s career, and marked the sixth time a Nats’ hurler has had three knocks in a game. Livan Hernandez, who had three hit games in both 2005 and 2006, is the only Nats’ pitcher besides Strasburg to do so multiple times.
Few pitchers are as dominant as Scherzer when he is on his game, and he was for most of his appearance on Wednesday. The Nats’ All-Star struck out 11 in eight innings pitched, marking the ninth time he’s had 10 or more punch outs in a game in the 2016. He’s only two games short of the Nats’ record of 11 double digit strikeout games, a mark he set in 2015.
Nats’ hitters also were on display in the series. National League MVP candidate Daniel Murphy was 7 for 12 in the three game set with six runs scored, a double, a homer and four RBI. Murphy leads the National League in batting average (.358), hits (138), doubles (32), slugging percentage (.630) and OPS (1.027), and is third in RBI with 80.
Leadoff man Trea Turner flashed his talent in the series, getting five hits in the three game set. Among those hits was Turner’s fourth triple of the year and a mammoth 450 foot home run in Wednesday’s series finale. The homer was the second longest for the Nats’ in 2016, trailing only Wilson Ramos’ 455 moon shot against San Diego in the final game of Washington’s last home stand.
Another National who was hot at the plate in the series was Anthony Rendon, who went 5 for 13 with five runs scored, two doubles and four RBI. Rendon’s 2016 OPS is now a season high .784.
In Tuesday’s 10-4 win, Washington put up its 19th three plus home run game of the year as Wilson Ramos, Chris Heisey and Jayson Werth all hit round-trippers. The 2016 Nats now are within six games of the 2012 squad’s record of 25 games with three or more home runs. In their 19 three plus homer games this season, the Nats have posted a 15-4 record. In their 25 such games in 2012, the Nats were 23-2.
Is the first week of August too early to be talking about a playoff preview? It may be with a third of the season left to go, but the Nationals and this weekend’s opponent San Francisco could meet again in October when the post-season begins.
Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Nats in the opener of the three game set. Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last five starts, but has not gone seven or more innings in a game since June 9th. Over his last nine starts, Gonzalez has averaged 5.5 innings pitched.
The Giants counter with Jeff Samardzija, who went 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA in his July appearances. The second inning has been particularly problematic for the tall righthander in 2016, as he’s allowed opponents to hit .333 and post a .921 OPS in that frame.
After posting a 8-2 record at Nationals Park from 2008 through 2010, the Giants are only 3-13 in regular season games at the Nats’ home since 2011.