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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
159 down, three to go in 2016 the regular season for Jayson Werth and the Nationals, who look to wrap up the home-field advantage in the NLDS this weekend as they take on the Miami Marlins.
October is a day away, and the start of the National League Divisional Series begins one short week from now. With help from Baseball-Reference.Com’s amazing Play Index and with playoff baseball right around the corner, here’s another edition of “Nats by the Numbers” for what has turned out to be a very special 2016 season.
The casual baseball fans in this area may not have been familiar with Arizona’s Jean Segura before this week, but they certainly are now.
Segura was the driving force behind the Diamondbacks’ wins against the favored Nationals in the teams’ split of the four game series, and the infielder’s 1.474 OPS against Washington is the highest for any opposing hitter with 20 or more at bats on the year. Segura had 10 hits in 21 at bats with a double, three homers and four RBI against the Nats this year. Colorado’s D.J. LaMahieu was next at 1.435, followed by the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist (1.359), Segura’s teammate Yasmany Tomas (1.323) and San Diego’s Wil Myers (1.223).
No NL East opposing hitter is above the 1.000 mark so far, with Miami’s Derek Dietrich’s .988 OPS leading way among Washington’s divisional opponents.
After stealing only 57 bases in 2015, the Nationals have brought the stolen base back as a weapon in their arsenal in the 2016 season. The team’s 116 steals on the year ranks second in Nats’ history, only seven steals behind the 123 bags that were swiped by the 2006 Nationals. This year’s Nats have been more efficient in their steal attempts than the 2006 squad was, as they’ve been caught stealing only 39 times v.s. 62 failed attempts for the 2006 team. It is no coincidence that the 2006 and 2016 teams have the most stolen bases in Nats’ history. The link between the two teams is stolen base guru Davey Lopes, who coached first base for both squads.
Washington has five players who have double digit stolen base figures this year, tying the 2011 team for the most players with 10 or more steals in a season. Speedy rookie Trea Turner leads the way for the Nats with 29 followed by Bryce Harper (21), Ben Revere (14), Michael A. Taylor (13) and Anthony Rendon (12). Back in 2011, Ian Desmond led the way with 25 steals, with Jayson Werth (19), Roger Bernadina (17), Danny Espinosa (17) and Rick Ankiel (10) also posting double digit stolen base totals.
Anyone who follows the Nationals regularly knows that Jayson Werth is in many ways the heart and soul of the squad. Whether it is watching him lead the charge out of the dugout in last weekend’s squabble with the Pirates or seeing him grind out at bats in tough situations, it is easy to see that #28 is a driving force behind the Nats’ success.
This year’s division title brings to eight the number of times the veteran outfielder has been part of a division winning team in his 14 year Major League career. Werth was on the 2004 NL West winning Los Angeles Dodgers, played a major role in the Philadelphia Phillies’ four straight NL East crowns from 2007 through 2010 and has been a fixture on the Nats’ NL East champioship teams in three of the past five seasons.
Max Scherzer’s 277 strikeouts so far in 2016 not only set a career high for the National League Cy Young Award front-runner, but has also put him in very select company. Since 1961, only 22 other National League pitchers have recorded 277 or more strikeouts in a season. Clayton Kershaw had 301 strikeouts in 2015 but before that, Randy Johnson of Arizona was the last to do so with 290 back in 2004.
Scherzer’s feat is made more special by the fact that he has posted his total with the fewest innings pitched among the pitchers who have had 277 plus strikeouts in a season. Going into his last start on Sunday, Scherzer’s innings pitched total is 223.1. The next fewest innings pitched among players on the list is Kershaw’s 232.2 last season.
The low point of the past week for the Nats was seeing All-Star catcher and fan favorite Wilson Ramos leave Monday’s game with a season ending injury that may have ended his time in Washington. Ramos’ season ended on a sour note, but we should not sleep on the fact that we have witnessed a remarkable offensive season by someone playing at the game’s most demanding defensive position.
Since 1961, Ramos is only the 33rd player who played at least 80% of his games at catcher with more than 20 home runs, 80 RBI and a .300 plus batting average. The Buffalo hit 22 homers, drove in 80 runs and put up a .307 average in what was truly a special season.
Prior to Ramos’ special 2016 campaign the last catcher to reach these totals was San Francisco’s Buster Posey, who hit .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI in a season where he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.
Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon makes everything look easy on the baseball diamond. Whether it is diving to make a great defensive play, hitting a home run with a batting stroke that is as smooth as silk or speeding around the bases with ease, Rendon’s top-level talent is evident.
This week, Rendon picked up his 500th hit with a clutch three run homer in Washington’s 4-2 win over Arizona on Tuesday and ended the Diamondbacks series with 503 career hits. Since his coming into the league in 2013, only 30 National Leaguers have more hits in that time period than Rendon.
Four players who either play, or have played, with Rendon are on the list. Teammate Jayson Werth with 504 hits is one ahead of Rendon, with Bryce Harper two ahead with 505 base knocks. Former top of the order mate Denard Span has the 17th highest total with 576 hits, and current teammate Daniel Murphy has the highest hit total in the National League since 2013 with a whopping 684.
NATS NOTES- 9/2/16
As the 2016 regular season’s final month begins, one of the top stories for the Washington Nationals has been the rapid development of speedy rookie Trea Turner into a top-flight leadoff man and centerfielder. Turner’s emergence has made the Nats a much better team, and potential post-season opponents will have to account for his multiple talents come October.
With October still on the horizon it is time to look back at August, a month where the Turner achieved great things. In the month, Turner hit .357 with five homers, 15 RBI and 11 steals while posting a .938 OPS. His 45 hits on the month tied Turner for the most hits in August and for the fourth highest total in any month in the 2016 season:
Player Month Hits
Bogaerts, Bos May 49
TMurphy, Was May 47
Ozuna, Mia May 46
Betts, Bos August 45
Turner, Was August 45
The speedster’s 11 steals in August was the most in a month for a Nationals’ player in six years, and tied Turner for the second most steals in any month in Nationals’ history:
Player Month/Year Steals
Nyjer Morgan July 2009 14
Felipe Lopez Sept/Oct 2006 11
Nyjer Morgan July 2010 11
Trea Turner August 2016 11
WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
Veteran outfielder Jayson Werth was once a driving force in making the Philadelphia Phillies one of the Major League’s best teams. These days, Werth is driving the Phillies and their fans crazy.
With two key home runs in the Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week, Werth has tied Lucas Duda of the Mets for the most home runs by an opponent at Citizens Bank Park since 2011 with 12. Werth has consistently terrorized the Phils since 2013 with three home runs at Philadelphia this season, four in 2015, two in 2014 and three in 2013.
96 miles north of Philadelphia, another fan base has watched a former member of their team terrorize the home squad this season. At New York’s Citi Field this season, former Met Daniel Murphy has four home runs. He is tied with nine other players (including Anthony Rendon and former National Adam LaRoche) for the second most by an Mets’ opponent in a single season at Citi Field. Giancarlo Stanton of Miami had five home runs at Citi Field this season for the top mark, but things could change this weekend!
The Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week marked the ninth series sweep (for series’ of three games or more) in the 2016 season. Both the 2012 and 2014 National League East division winning Nationals’ teams had nine sweeps in those seasons. With nine series left to go in 2016, the current Nats’ squad has a good shot at besting that mark.
Another week, another 10 strikeout plus game for Nats’ ace Max Scherzer. The National League Cy Young candidate fanned 11 Phillies on Tuesday, giving him 12 games of double digit strikeout totals this season. Since 2005, only two pitchers have more such games in any season. Last year, both Chicago’s Chris Sale and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw had 13 double digit strikeout games.
RUN PRODUCERS INC.
So far this season, Daniel Murphy (with 98), Bryce Harper (75) and Wilson Ramos (71) have at least 70 RBI. With a month left to go in the campaign, the 2016 squad has a chance to surpass the 2014 and 2007 teams for the most 70 plus RBI men in a single year. Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have 62 RBI so far, with Jayson Werth right behind them with 61. In 2014 Adam LaRoche (92), Ian Desmond (91), Rendon (83) and Werth (82) did the trick, while in 2007 it was Ryan Zimmerman (91), Dmitri Young (74), Austin Kearns (74) and Ryan Church (70) with 70 or more RBI.
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.
After a series in Colorado where the Nats’ bullpen was used heavily, the team needed a long outing by starter Reynaldo Lopez on Thursday in Atlanta. The rookie came through in a big way, striking out 11 and giving up only one earned run in seven innings pitched as the Nats beat the Braves 8-2.
Nats’ Record- 71-49
Nationals 8 Braves 2
WP- Lopez (2-1) LP- Whalen (1-2)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- He did not hit a majestic 461 foot home run as he did on Wednesday in Colorado, but Bryce Harper contributed to the Nats’ cause with a hit, two walks and two runs scored in the victory. Harper’s OPS on the year now stands at .386, and he’s reached base at a .399 clip in 153 career plate appearances at Turner Field.
Second Star- Playing more like his age is the number on the back of his jersey instead of the one on his driver’s license, Jayson Werth was again in the middle of good things for the Nats on Thursday. Werth was two for four with a double, a run scored and a RBI as he reached base for the franchise tying 46th consecutive game.
Star of the Game- While the Braves current lineup certainly doesn’t conjure up images of the 1927 Yankees or the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine, the type of domination Nats’ rookie Reynaldo Lopez displayed on Thursday is impressive against any opponent. Lopez struck out 11 Braves and allowed only a single earned run in seven innings pitched to earn his second win in as many starts against the Braves.
Valiant in Defeat- Atlanta starter Rob Whalen deserved a better fate last night. Whalen allowed only one earned run in six effective innings pitched, but was undone by his defense and by his teammates’ lack of production against Nats’ starter Lopez. Whalen’s record on the year fell to 1-2 despite his impressive performance.
It would be hard to find an uglier half of an inning at any place other than a Little League field than the one the Braves had in the top of the eighth last night. The Nats scored five runs, with only one coming home on a hit (Clint Robinson’s RBI single). The others scored on a passed ball, a walk, a hit batter and Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly as Braves’ fans witnessed why their team resides in last place in the National League East.
The Nats walked seven times in the game, marking the eighth time this year they’ve had seven or more free passes. Prior to last evening, the last time Washington had as many as seven walks came on June 30th at Nationals Park when the Nats were walked seven times in a 13-4 rout of the Reds. The season high for bases on balls for Washington is the 11 walks they received on May 18th in a 7-1 win at New York against the Mets.
Rookie catcher Pedro Severino is likely headed back to Syracuse today as backup catcher Jose Lobaton is primed to return from the disabled list, but the 23 year old rookie can take solace in the fact that he looked like he belonged during his short stint with the big club. Severino had a double and run scored last night, and hit a robust .412 in 17 at bats during his time filling in for Lobaton.
Tanner Roark takes the mound tonight at Turner Field against the Braves’ Julio Teheran in the second contest of the four game series.
Roark, who is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in six appearances at Turner Field, is looking for his 14th win in tonight’s game. His win in Atlanta was a memorable one for the Nats and their fans. On September 16, 2014, Roark held the Braves scorless over seven innings to lead Washington to a 3-0 NL East Division clinching victory over the Braves.
Roark’s opponent on the night gets this year’s vote for the hard luck player of the year. Despite having a sparking 2.81 ERA and a microscopic .965 WHIP this year, Julio Teheran has lost nine of his 12 decisions in 2016. Teheran, who has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 17 of his 21 starts on the year, may want to be especially careful when facing the Nats’ three and four hitters tonight. Daniel Murphy is 8 for 20 with four doubles in his career against the Braves’ righty, while Bryce Harper has hit .429 in 28 at bats with five home runs and 10 RBI.
Jayson Werth circles the bases following his three run home run in the second inning of Washington’s 7-4 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.
Nationals 7 Indians 4
Nats’ Record- 67-46
WP- Gonzalez (8-9) LP- Tomlin (11-5) SV- Melancon (32)
HR- Werth, Was (15) Lindor, Cle (14)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- What a joy it is to watch a talented and determined closer practice his craft. Newly acquired Mark Melancon was on his game again yesterday, retiring all three Indians he faced in the top of the ninth to earn his 32nd save of the year and his second with the Nats. In five innings pitched for Washington, Melancon has allowed only one hit with seven strikeouts and zero walks.
Second Star- Just like the weather in the dog day of August Anthony Rendon has heated up recently, and his play was key to Washington’s win on Wednesday. Rendon was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and two clutch runs driven in to give the Nats some breathing room down the stretch. Rendon is hitting a robust .324 with nine doubles in 77 at bats and a .995 OPS since play resumed following the All-Star break.
Star of the Game- Veteran outfielder Jayson Werth has been a productive hitter for the majority of his Major League career, and his production of late has been a boon to a Nats’ team that has not received much production for its outfield corps recently. Werth went two for three with three runs scored, a double and a three run homer to pace the Nats’ attack. Like his teammate Rendon, Werth has enjoyed second half success in 2016 putting up a post- break OPS of .866 after checking in at .762 before the All-Star game.
Valiant in Defeat- Jose Ramirez is one of many talented young players for Cleveland, and the versatile infielder went 3 for 4 with a RBI and a stolen base in the Indians’ losing effort. On the year, Ramirez is hitting .309 with 47 runs driven in.
Mark Melancon picked up the save when he finished off Cleveland in the top of the ninth, but one of his bullpen mates may have saved the day much earlier. Entering the game in the top of the sixth with two on, nobody out and with Washington up 7-4, veteran Matt Belisle got Lonnie Chisenall to ground into a double play and retired Abraham Almonte on a grounder to keep Washington’s three run lead in place. Belisle has put up an impressive 1.091 WHIP and a sterling 1.84 ERA and has been an under the radar success story out of the Nats’ bullpen this season.
Gio Gonzalez wasn’t in top form, but he did earn his eighth win of the year on Wednesday leaving him two shy of recording his seventh consecutive double digit win season. In his career, Gonzalez has a 6-0 mark with a 1.62 ERA against the Tribe.
With four games to go against Baltimore, the Nats have an impressive 11-5 mark in inter-league games this year. That win total puts them one shy of the Nats’ high of 12 victories in a season against American League teams, set all the way back in 2005 when the first Nats’ squad put up a 12-6 mark against teams from the Junior Circuit.
Wednesday’s win left the Nats with a 7.5 game lead over Miami in the National League East. In their division winning seasons of 2012 and 2014, the Nats’ lead was 4.5 games following wins in the 113th game of those years.
The Nats and divisional foe Atlanta get to renew acquaintances this weekend at Nationals Park, with Washington holding a 6-0 record in games against the Braves so far this season.
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound on Friday looking for a career high 16th win. In 11 career starts at Nationals Park against Atlanta the Nats’ All-Star has a 4-4 mark, but has allowed more than three earned runs in only two of those starts. A matchup to watch on Friday will be Strasburg against Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman. The left-handed swinger is hitting .387 in 31 career at bats against Strasburg, but Stras has retired him the last five times they have met up with three of the outs being recorded on strikeouts.
Atlanta comes into the series playing well, as the Braves have won nine of their last 14 games. On the mound for Atlanta on Friday is Mike Foltynewicz, who is 4-4 with a 4.37 ERA this year. The 6’4″, 220 pound righty has allowed 13 home runs in only 78.1 innings pitched. Ben Revere is 3 for 4 with two doubles and a triple in his career against Foltynewicz.
Max Scherzer allowed only one run in seven innings pitched on Friday night to lead the Nats to a 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The win was Scherzer’s 11th of the year in 17 decisions, and the 61st of the season for the Nationals.
There have been few weeks like this one in Nationals’ history. It started off with heart-breaking losses on Sunday and Tuesday where the Nats’ bullpen imploded, got back on track with three dominant pitching performances against potential playoff teams including one game where the Nats pulled off the first triple play in team history, and ended with an acquisition of a dominant closer who is tasked with giving the Nats the late inning stability they need to avoid the pitfalls they had in 2012 and 2014.
Here’s a look at the good and bad from the past week.
Last Sunday at Nationals Park, the Nats were up 6-4 on San Diego heading into the top of eighth inning. Two innings later, Washington was on the wrong end of a 10-6 score in what may have been the most disappointing loss of the season to date. The Padres climbed back into the game in the top of the eighth on the strength of solo home runs by Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf off of Shawn Kelley, and then broke things open with four runs off of Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth. The game marked the first time Washington has allowed two home runs in an eighth inning since that fateful day last September 9th when the Mets homered off of Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen to help turn a 2-1 Washington lead into a 5-3 Mets’ victory.
Anthony Rendon may be a native of Houston, Texas, but Cleveland seems to be the Nats’ third baseman’s home away from home. On Tuesday, Rendon went 3 for 4 with two runs scored, a double and a home run in Washington’s 7-6 loss to the Indians. Even after going 0 for 3 in Wednesday’s contest, Rendon is 9 for 16 with four runs, three doubles, two homers, three RBI and a 1.713 OPS in games played at Progressive Field.
A CALL TO ARMS
Again this week, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Max Scherzer showed the baseball world why no team may be as equipped as the Nationals to dominate the post-season with superb starting pitching. Washington’s three victories on the week came in games where the terrific trio combined to throw 21 innings while allowing only two runs on 12 hits. The three games give the Nats’ a National League high 25 contests on the year where a Washington starter has thrown at least seven innings while allowing one run or fewer. Scherzer leads the way with eight such games, followed by Roark’s seven and Strasburg’s five.
A BUFFALO BLAST
Last Sunday’s loss to the Padres was a major downer, but the game did feature an event that none who watched will soon forget. In the bottom of the third inning, Wilson Ramos launched a home run deep to left field off of San Diego’s Christian Friedrich that almost cleared the outfield seats. Ramos’ blast measured at 455 feet, making it the longest at Nationals Park this season. After homering in Cleveland later the week, Ramos now has 15 home runs and is only one short of his career high of 16 set in 2013.
A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
Trea Turner looks like he’s 16 years old, runs like the wind and is a versatile athlete who appears at home in both the infield and outfield. On the week Turner was 10 for 22 with four runs, two doubles, three RBI and four steals, and may be on the way to solving the leadoff hitter production issue the Nats have had so far in 2016.
AN ENEMY OF OUR ENEMY IS OUR FRIEND
The Nats’ September schedule, like that of all teams, is laden with games against divisional opponents. Newly acquired closer Mark Melancon seems ready and able to help shut down the Nats’ foes, as he has fared extremely well against them in his career: career:
OPPONENT W/L IP ERA SVS WHIP
Atlanta 2-1 15 1.80 5 1.000
Miami 0-0 14.1 0.63 6 0.767
NY Mets 2-0 17 2.12 8 0.882
Philadelphia 0-0 18.1 0.98 8 1.036
The Nats look to win their third game out of four against the Giants in San Francisco today, with Gio Gonzalez going up against Matt Cain.
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA so far in July, after struggling to a 1-4 record and 6.95 ERA in June. The Giants’ fan base is extremely charged up against the return of fan favorite Hunter Pence on Saturday but if history is a guide, Sunday may not be a great day for the talented outfielder. In 16 career at bats against Gonzalez, Pence has only two hits. In a smaller sample size, Pence’s outfield mate Angel Pagan has done well against Gonzalez putting up four hits in eight at bats.
At one time, Cain was one of the best pitchers in baseball but injuries appear to have reduced his effectiveness greatly. He has allowed 81 hits and 13 home runs this season in 65 innings pitched, and has surrendered 12 runs and five homers over 11 .1 innings pitched over his last three starts. Jayson Werth is 5 for 10 on his career with a homer against Cain, while Danny Espinosa has homered twice in 12 at bats against him.
San Diego’s Matt Kemp homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Padres to a 5-3 victory over the Nationals last night at Nationals Park.
Padres 5 Nationals 3
Nationals’ Record- 57-40
WP- Perdomo (4-4) LP- Roark (9-6) SV- Maurer (4)
HR- Kemp, SD 2(22), Werth, Was (12), Murphy, Was (19)
Perhaps the Nationals should be glad that the Los Angeles Angels are not on their 2016 schedule. Against teams from Southern California this season, Washington has only three wins in 11 games. Last night’s 5-3 loss to San Diego put the Nats at 3-4 on the current homestand with two more games left to go against the Padres.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Padres’ reliever Brandon Maurer doesn’t wear his cap tilted to one side or shoot imaginary arrows into the air after recording a save like his predecessor in San Diego did, but the power-throwing righthander has been very effective of late in the Padres’ bullpen. Maurer picked up a four out save last night, retiring four of the five batters he faced to earn his fourth save of the season. Since June 15th, Maurer has allowed only one run and eight hits in 14 innings pitched while recording 15 strikeouts.
Second Star- Young Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo threw the best game of his brief Major League career, allowing Washington only two earned runs in seven strong innings pitched to earn his fourth win on the season. The right-hander limited Washington to four hits and one walk in his outing.
Star of the Game- With six home runs and eight RBI in his last six games, Padres’ rightfielder Matt Kemp is as hot as the summer weather that is hammering most of the United States. Kemp hit is 21st and 22nd homers of the year last night and drove in four of the five San Diego runs to lead the Pads to victory.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos went 3 for 4 with a RBI, picking up his tenth three plus hit game in the 2016 campaign. Ramos is now hitting .334 on the year, the second best batting average in the National League. The Buffalo trails only teammate Daniel Murphy, who is hitting .348.
Nats’ starter Tanner Roark gave up both of Kemp’s home runs last night, making the game only the fourth in 31 starts at Nationals Park where Roark has allowed multiple home runs. Roark’s career high for most home runs allowed in a home start is three, set on June 5th of last season against the Cubs. Unlike last night’s game, that outing had a happy ending as Washington defeated Chicago 7-5.
Jayson Werth’s home run last night was his 90th as a National and his 43rd at Nationals Park. He’s fifth on the all-time list of most homers at the home of the Nats, trailing Ryan Zimmerman (81), Ian Desmond (66), Bryce Harper (61) and Danny Espinosa (45). His first inning solo homer off of San Diego’s Perdomo came on a 1-2 count, making the blast the first Werth has hit on such a count since he took Atlanta’s Eric Stults deep at Nationals Park on May 8th of last season.
Speaking of Nats’ homers, Murphy’s solo home run off of San Diego’s Brad Hand in the eighth inning last night gave the Nats’ All-Star six home runs off of left-handed pitchers in the 2016 season. Only two left-handed batters have more; both Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo have taken lefties deep seven times so far this year.
Troubles at the top of the order continue for Washington, as Ben Revere went 0 for 5 last night. The Nats’ leadoff spot on-base percentage of .252 is far and away the worst in the National League (Cincinnati’s .315 is the next closest mark to Washington’s), and Nats’ leadoff hitters have the lowest batting average in the league as well at .209.
Washington looks to even the series with the Padres tonight with Max Scherzer taking on former National Edwin Jackson.
July has been good to Scherzer in his career. His 2.81 career ERA in the July is the lowest of any month, with September/October (2.93) and June (3.25) next. Several San Diego hitters have struggled mightily against Scherzer in their careers. Kemp is an amazing 1-27 (.033 average) with nine strikeouts, Alexei Ramirez is hitting .133 in 60 at bats and Melvin Upton is 0-9 with four strikeouts. San Diego All-Star first baseman Wil Myers has fared well against Max, going 4 for 6 with two home runs.
Jackson, who won 10 games for the 2012 National League East winning Nationals, won his first game as a Padre last Sunday as he allowed only one hit and two earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched as San Diego beat San Francisco. Werth is 4 for 12 with two doubles in his career against Jackson, while Anthony Rendon (0-5) and Ramos (1-7) have struggled against the veteran righty.
In the second half of the 2015 season, Daniel Murphy could do no wrong in the eyes of the Citi Field faithful. Now that he’s wearing a Nationals’ uniform in 2016, Murphy has become the chief tormentor of the Mets and their loyal fans. Murphy had three hits and four RBI on Saturday night to pace Washington to a 6-1 victory over the Mets that expanded the Nats’ lead in the National League to five games.
Nationals’ Record- 53-36
Nationals 6 Mets 1
WP- Scherzer (10-6) LP- Verrett (3-6)
HR- Murphy, Was (16)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Jayson Werth was 0-3 on the game and made a rare error in the bottom of the first inning, but he gets the third star of the game designation because of his batting eye. Werth worked two walks in the game and ended up scoring two runs, both on hits by Daniel Murphy. Werth’s OBP for the year is now at a season high .343 as he continues to reach base in front of the Nats’ strong middle of the order hitters.
Second Star- After working through a rough first inning in which he held the Mets to one run when it looked as though the home team would put up a crooked number, Max Scherzer was masterful. The Nats’ righty allowed only three hits and struck out nine in seven innings pitched to move to 10-6 on the year. Scherzer now leads the National League in strikeouts with 162.
Star of the Game- Daniel Murphy laid the wood to his former team again, going 3-4 with a double, a home run and a season high four RBI to pace Washington’s attack. On the year, Murphy is hitting .438 with three doubles, six homers and 19 RBI against the Mets. Since 1990, only Ryne Sandberg (22 in 1990) and Ryan Howard (21 in 2006) have more RBI in a season against the Mets. Sadly for Mets fans, Murphy has seven more games to add to his total. The all-time leader for RBI in a year against the Mets is Hank Aaron, who drove in 28 runs against New York in 1962.
Valiant in Defeat- Alejandro De Aza has had a rough start to the 2016 season and has endured the rath of the Mets’ faithful because of it, but he had a solid game on Saturday night. Playing in place of the injured Yoenis Cespedes, De Aza went 2 for 3 and reached base on a walk.
Scherzer’s win made him a double digit game winner for the seventh season in a row. He did not allow a home run, making the start his fifth out of 19 on the season where he has not given up a round-tripper.
Murphy now has 12 four plus RBI games on his career, with the last prior to Saturday night coming on September 13, 2015 when he drove in four in the Mets’ 10-7 win at Atlanta. Murphy’s career high for RBI in a game is five, a mark he’s reached three times. His 19 RBI on the year against New York is the second most runs batted in against an opponent in a season in Nationals’ history, trailing only Ryan Zimmerman’s 22 against Philadelphia in the 2006 season.
Ben Revere tripled in Scherzer in the third inning with Washington’s go-ahead run. The three bagger was the fifth on the season for Revere, making him the 17th player in Nationals’ history with five or more triples. The Nats’ best mark for triples in a season is 11, set by Denard Span in 2013.
With two stolen bases last night, Bryce Harper posted the fifth game of his career with two stolen bases. He now has 12 on the year, only six away from his career high of 18 set in 2012.
The season’s pre-All Star game schedule ends today with a match-up of lefthanders Gio Gonzalez and Steven Matz.
Gonzalez has fared extremely well at Citi Field in his career, going 7-1 with a sparkling 1.53 ERA. Curtis Granderson (.143 in 35 at bats) and Wilmer Flores (2-15 with four strikeouts) have struggled against Gonzalez, while Jose Reyes has four hits in 10 career at bats against him.
Matz has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 12 of his 15 starts in 2016, with his best game coming back on May 25th when he threw eight innings of four hit, shutout ball against Washington in a Mets’ win.
A victory in today’s game will give the 2016 Nationals a .600 winning percentage at the All-Star break, which would be the best in Nationals’ history. In 2005 the Nats entered the break with a .591 percentage, a mark that was almost equaled by the 2012 team that put up a .590 pre-break winning percentage.