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.
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).
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.
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.
Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez connects for a home run in the bottom of the third inning in last night’s Reds’ 7-2 victory over the Nationals at the Great American Ballpark.
Nats’ Record- 33-22
WP- Finnegan (2-4) LP- Gonzalez (3-4)
HR- Werth, Was (9), Suarez, Cin (13), Cozart, Cin (8), Duvall, Cin (15)
Coming off of a three game sweep of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Nats took on the lowly Reds at Cincinnati last night in the first game of a weekend three game set at the Great American Ballpark. Despite their struggles so far in 2016, the Reds proved to be a worthy opponent on this evening as they bashed the Nats by a 7-2 score to start their weekend off on a positive note.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– When one thinks of the best hitting shortstops in Major League Baseball, the Reds’ Zack Cozart is probably an afterthought for most people. Perhaps that needs to change.
Cozart was 2-4 with a home run (his eight) and two RBI last night for the Reds, moving his average on the year to a healthy .310. Among players who’ve played significant time at shortstop this year, Cozart’s 132 OPS + ranks behind only Manny Machado of Baltim0re (159), Xander Bogaerts of Boston (138) and Aledmys Diaz of St. Louis (134).
Second Star– Reds’ lefty Brandon Finnegan is anything but dominant, but he was efficient and effective in last night’s win. Finnegan held the Nationals to five hits and one run over his 6.1 innings pitched as he won his first game at home since July 7th of last season.
Star of the Game- When Todd Frazier was traded from the Reds during the off-season, many thought that third base would be a black hole in Cincinnati’s lineup in 2016. Eugenio Suarez is making sure that will not be the case
Suarez was 3 for 4 with two runs, two RBI and his 13th home run of the year to pace Cincinnati’s healthy offensive attack. Suarez’s homer total, achieved in only 198 at bats, matches the 13 he hit in 2015 with 372 at bats.
Valiant in Defeat- Trea Turner may only be up in the Major Leagues for a few days, but he sure made the best of his situation on Friday night. The speedy infield prospect went 3 for 3 with a double in his 2016 debut.
Jayson Werth’s solo home run off of Finnegan was his ninth of the season, putting him one short of his ninth double digit home run season in the Major Leagues. He has three career home runs at the Great American Ballpark, but last night’s blast was his first since 2013.
Coming off of the bench last evening, Wilson Ramos had only one at bat but he continued his hot 2016 form in that opportunity. Ramos’ double was his 10th of the season, and moved his batting average on the year to .342.
The Nats have now dropped five of their last six games in Cincinnati. Since 2005, Washington has only 14 wins in 38 games played in the Queen City.
Stephen Strasburg looks to pick up his 10th win in as many decisions today when he takes on the Reds. In three career games at Cincinnati, Strasburg has allowed 10 runs in 12 innings pitched.
The Reds send Dan Straily to the mound. In games at home this season, Straily has a 1.90 ERA in 31 innings pitched. He has thrown 29.1 innings in road games this year, with a 3.99 ERA to show for it.
Jayson Werth acknowledges the crowd at Nationals Park after his pinch-hit grand slam home run on Sunday broke open a game the Nats would win over St. Louis by a 10-2 score.
Winning only three of seven games in a week is not ideal by any means, but the Nats were able to hold their own for the most part against fellow National League playoff caliber teams and they head into Memorial Day with more wins (30) than all but two Major League teams (the Cubs have 34 and the Giants have 32). Here’s a look at some of the highlights and low points from the past seven games.
NINE IS FINE FOR NATS’ ACE
Two of the team’s three wins in the week came courtesy of solid starts by Stephen Strasburg, who beat the Mets on Tuesday and came back and took care of the Cardinals on Sunday. Strasburg is 9-0 on the year with a 2.69 ERA and has an impressive 1.089 WHIP so far. The Nats’ power pitcher struck out only four Cardinals’ in Sunday’s win, marking only the sixth time in 18 decisions where he’s picked up a win while fanning four or fewer. In 111 career starts where he’s struck out five or more batters, Strasburg has posted an impressive 57-25 record.
His two wins gave him 13 career victories in the month of May, the most he’s posted in a month in his career. Strasburg has 12 career victories in August, and 11 in both April and June. Sunday’s effort improved Strasburg’s record in day games to 28-14, and moved his career mark at Nationals Park to 31-17 with a 2.73 ERA.
MAKING IT COUNT IN A PINCH
Veteran Jayson Werth was scheduled for an off day on Sunday, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He made his one at bat on the day count in a big way, driving a Dean Kiekhefer pitch way over the wall in center field for a grand slam that broke open a close contest.
The pinch-hit homer was the seventh of the year for the Nats, moving them within one of the Washington record eight pinch-hit round trippers that were hit by the 2006 squad. The four run pinch-hit blast was the second in Nationals’ history. Former National Justin Maxwell hit a grand slam back in September 2007 against Florida.
Werth’s slam was his third as a National. Only Ryan Zimmerman (5) and former National Michael Morse (4) have more. Besides Zimmerman and Werth, current Nats with grand slams while wearing the Curly W are Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos with two each, and Danny Espinosa and Michael A. Taylor with one a piece. Washington has 43 grand slams since the team’s move to Washington in 2005, and Werth’s blast was the 18th grand slam hit by a Washington player at Nationals Park.
A BLAST BY BRYCE
Nats’ star Bryce Harper hit is 12th and 13th home runs of the year during the Cardinals’ series, and number 12 was one to remember.
The 437 foot blast to right field off of Cards’ starter Mike Leake evened the score on Thursday night at 1-1 in a game Washington would win over the Cards by a 2-1 score. According to ESPN’s Home Run tracker, the round tripper tied for the sixth longest Harper has hit at Nationals Park:
Longest Home Runs at Nationals Park by Bryce Harper
Distance Date Pitcher
453 feet 9/4/15 Julio Teheran
452 feet 4/18/15 Aaron Harang
444 feet 9/8/13 Mark Buehrle
441 feet 5/6/15 Tom Koehler
438 feet 7/18/15 Kenley Jansen
437 feet 8/6/13 Julio Teheran
437 feet 5/26/15 Mike Leake
AN ODD OUTING INDEED
Friday’s Nats’ loss to St. Louis was all but sealed when the Cards scored five runs in the third inning against Nats’ starter Max Scherzer. The game marked the 24th time in Scherzer’s career as a starter where he’s pitched at least seven innings and surrendered three or fewer hits. Scherzer is 21-1 in those contests. Friday’s game marked the second time this season that Scherzer has walked four batters in a game, and he’s 0-2 in those contests. The Nats’ righthander did not walk more than three batters in any game during the 2015 season.
HOT HITTING IN A HOT WEEK
Especially in the latter part of the week, the weather felt more like a typical summer climate than it did like one would experience in spring. Several Nats’ hitters were as hot as the weather during the week.
In Saturday’s loss to St. Louis, Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two home runs. The multi-homer game was Zimmerman’s second on the year, and the 16th in his career. The veteran National has three two home run games against St. Louis in his career, the most multi-homer games he’s had against any opponent. Zimmerman’s four hits marked the 11th time he’s done that in his career. Before Saturday, the last time Zimmerman achieved the feat was on 7/5/2014 when he went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles in the Nats’ 13-0 rout of the Cubs.
Daniel Murphy was New York’s favorite son during the Mets’ playoff run in 2015, but New Yorkers (particularly fans of the Mets) could be forgiven if they’re not particularly fond of the Nats’ second basemen these days. Murphy had two hits in each of the three games against the Mets on the week, giving him 10 hits in 23 at bats in 2016 against his former teammates. Murphy hit his second home run of the season off of struggling New York starter Matt Harvey on Tuesday. Only former National Jordan Zimmerman (with four) has given up more home runs to Murphy in his career.
Wilson Ramos came up big on Sunday, continuing a hot spell in May. The Nats’ catcher went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBI, marking the eighth time he’s driven in at least four runs in a game. Ramos’ career high for RBI is five, set on three different occasions during the 2013 season. So far in May, Ramos has posted a .967 OPS with four home runs and 17 RBI.
Thursday’s winning pitcher for the Nats was Joe Ross, who allowed only one run and struck out four in seven innings of solid work. The win evened Ross’ record on the year to 4-4 and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.52. The game marked a nice bounce back effort for the young righty, who had allowed 10 runs in 11.2 innings pitched in his previous two starts at home.
The Nats will spend Memorial Day in the City of Brotherly Love, as Tanner Roark takes on Jeremy Hellickson this evening. Those keeping score at the game might want to have extra ink available, as neither pitcher has fared well at Citizens Bank Park. Roark is 1-4 wit a 8.27 ERA at CBP, while Hellickson’s 2016 campaign his shown that he’s generally more effective on the road (.347 ERA, 1.101 WHIP) than he’s been at home (4.87 ERA, 1.475).
The fans of the Phillies are generally not the most hospitable bunch, but Bryce Harper could be forgiven if he considers a trip to Ben Franklin’s home town as enjoyable as a young child’s visit to the Magic Kingdom. Harper has a lifetime 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs in 130 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park.
If Roark is to have success this evening, he’s probably going to have to control two young Phillies’ outfielders who have had success so far in the month of May. Speedy leadoff man Odubel Herrera is hitting .327 with eight RBI, while Rule 5 pickup Tyler Goeddel has hit at a .313 clip two home runs on the month.
Hot hitting Daniel Murphy had four hits, including his fourth home run, scored four runs and drove in three to pace the Nats to a 13-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in the rubber game of the teams’ three game series at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
The state of Missouri has more than its share of baseball tradition. It is the home to the Negro League Hall of Fame, the National League’s most successful franchise in the St. Louis Cardinals and to the Kansas City Royals who have represented the American League in the two World Series showdowns. Over the past six days however, the best team playing Major League baseball in the state has been the team with the Curly Ws on its hats.
After sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis over the weekend, the Nats journeyed to Kansas City and won two out of three games to improve their record to 19-8 and maintain a one and a half game lead over the New York Mets in the National League East.
Some notes coming out of the series include:
-Monday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Royals was the fourth of the season for the Nats. That total, reached on the second day of the season’s second month, is one more than the 2006 and 2009 Nationals’ staffs registered in a full season. The most team shutouts in Nats’ history is 19, set in 2014 by the National League East championship squad.
-Gio Gonzalez has started 216 Major Leagues and on Monday, he did something he’d not done before. Gonzalez threw six shutout innings but fanned only one Royal, making the game the first one Gonzalez has earned a win while starting and striking out one or fewer batters. His previous low was two strikeouts in 2010 when Gonzalez earned the win in Oakland’s 6-2 victory over Texas.
-Left-handed reliever Oliver Perez recorded two key outs in his appearance on Monday, continuing a trend of very solid pitching by the veteran hurler. Left-handed batters are hitting only .071 on the season, and Perez has retired nine (six on strikeouts) of the first batters he’s faced when entering a contest.
-Daniel Murphy has been one of the best hitters in the National League so far in 2016, and he continued his success in Kansas City as he went 8 for 13 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBI in the three games. Other Nats with very strong results in the series were Ryan Zimmerman (7 for 14, four doubles, two RBI) and Wilson Ramos (6 for 9, two doubles, two RBI).
-Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth all homered in the Nats’ 7-6 loss to the Royals on May 3rd. Rendon’s home run was his first since September 14th of last season when he went deep at Citizens Bank Park off of the Phillies’ Aaron Nola. Werth’s home run was his fifth of the year. Of his last 25 home runs, 16 have come on the road.
-Bryce Harper struggled for most of the series, but hit his 10th home run of the this afternoon. The blast off of Dillon Gee was the third of Harper’s career against the former Met. Only Tom Koehler of Miami (6) and Julio Teheran of Atlanta (5) have allowed more to the reigning National League MVP.
-Superb starting pitching efforts are becoming routine for Stephen Strasburg, who earned his fifth win in as many decisions on Wednesday as he allowed the Royals only two runs in six innings pitched. Strasburg’s WHIP on the season is at 1.00. His career best in a season where he’s qualified for the league’s ERA title was the 1.05 mark that he put up in 2013.
The Nats and the Cubs face off on Thursday night at Wrigley Field in the first of four games between the National League’s best teams so far in 2016. Harper is hitting .333 with a 1.174 OPS in his 27 career at bats at the home of the Cubs. Both Harper and Murphy have homered in their careers off of Thursday’s Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks, although the lanky righty is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two career starts against the Nats.
Joe Ross takes the hill tomorrow against a powerful Cubs’ lineup. Perhaps his biggest challenge will come from all-star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is coming off a series in Pittsburgh where he had seven hits in 14 at bats with five doubles, a home run and three RBI.