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.
Jayson Werth’s first inning three run home run off of St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia staked the Nats to an early lead that they wouldn’t lose as Washington defeated the home standing Cardinals 6-1 on Saturday.
Like the ever changing weather of April, the Washington Nationals’ past week featured more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster. From the thrills of an extra inning win last Sunday against Minnesota to sweep at home at the hands of the less than powerful Phillies to two impressive wins against the always good St. Louis Cardinals, the week has been an interesting one.
Here’s a recap of some of the key moments and events of the past six games.
April 24- Washington 6 Minnesota 5 – 16 innings
The game had it all, from hot hitting pitchers, a game tying pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, an unlikely game tying run and a walk-off round tripper that finally ended the marathon contest.
Starter Stephen Strasburg, who pitched well on the day, and emergency pinch-hitter Joe Ross both had base hits on the day, marking the first time since April 25, 2012 that two Nats’ pitchers had hits during the same game. In that contest Jordan Zimmermann and Tom Gorzelanny not only each had a hit, but also drove in runs. The only other games where two Nats’ pitchers have reached on hits were only May 23, 2010 (John Lannan and Drew Storen were the hurlers), August 20, 2006 (Pedro Astacio and Travis Hughes) and August 30, 2005 (John Patterson and Jason Bergmann. The Nationals are 4-1 in those games.
Bryce Harper’s dramatic ninth-inning home run that sent the game into extra innings was the first pinch-hit homer of the Nats’ star’s career, and the 53rd pinch-hit home run in Nationals’ history. Six other current Nationals have pinch-hit round trippers for Washington in their careers. Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Matt den Dekker, Clint Robinson and Michael A. Taylor have come off the bench and to go deep for the Nats.
April 26- Philadelphia 4 Washington 3
Philadelphia’s Andres Blanco has been a utility player for most of his Major League career but in recent times, he’s looked like Jimmy Rollins in his prime against the Nats. On Tuesday, Blanco went 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI to pace the Phils to a 4-3 win over the Nats and Max Scherzer.
Blanco has 12 career homers, and the Nats are the only team he’s hit more than one against (Blanco homered on September 27, 2015 against Washington in a game where he went 3 for 6 with three RBI).
April 27- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
What a difference 12 days made. On April 15, 2016 at Citizens Bank Park, Phils’ starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was battered by the Nationals in Washington’s 9-1 victory. This past Wednesday, Hellickson did a 180 and held Washington scoreless over seven dominant innings to lead Philadelphia to victory.
Hellickson’s pitching game score of 78 on the day tied for the second highest he’s had in his 140 starts in the Major Leagues.
April 28- Philadelphia 3 Washington 0
Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola and Washington’s Tanner Roark were both superb on a rainy Thursday afternoon in Washington, but neither factored in the decision as the game remained scoreless through eight innings. The visitors finally broke through in the top of the ninth, scoring three runs off of Washington’s Felipe Rivero to put themselves in position to earn a rare sweep of the Nats. Cameron Rupp’s bases loaded double was the big blow in the Phils’ win.
Washington had no extra-base hits on the day, marking the 127th time the Nats have been held without one. Not surprisingly, the Nats are 22-105 in those games. Washington’s last victory without an extra base hit came on June 2, 2015 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
April 29- Washington 5 @ St. Louis 4
Coming into Friday’s game, the Nats had won only seven of their 33 regular season games played at St. Louis since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Stephen Strasburg made sure things would turn out differently in the Nats’ first visit to the Gateway City in 2016.
After fighting through a rocky first inning, Strasburg settled down and eventually dominated the home team as he fanned nine (including three each in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings) to earn his fourth victory in as many decisions on the season.
Strasburg was aided by home runs by Taylor and Espinosa off of St. Louis starter and loser Mike Leake. Taylor led off the game with a round tripper, marking the fourth time in his career that he has done so. The Nats are 3-1 in those contests. Espinosa had two hits, a homer (his first of the year) and two RBI in the game.
April 30- Washington 6 @ St. Louis 1
Fast starts have been common for the Nats in 2016, and that skill was display yesterday afternoon against St. Louis and lefty Jaime Garcia. The Nats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, with the big blow coming on Jayson Werth’s three run home run. The blast was the 29th three run tater in Werth’s career. His .513 career slugging percentage against St. Louis is the third highest he’s posted against National League teams (Werth has a .566 slugging percentage against Arizona, and put up a .539 mark against Washington prior to joining the Nationals in 2011).
Young pitcher Joe Ross made sure the early lead would hold up, holding the Cards to one run in six innings pitched to earn his third win of the year. Ross has not allowed a home run in his last 39.2 innings pitched, dating back to August 22, 2015 when Milwaukee’s Kris Davis homered off of the Nats’ rising star.
Max Scherzer looks to rebound from a pair of relatively disappointing outings as he takes on St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez in the finale of the three game set.
It has pretty much been feast or famine when St. Louis’ Brandon Moss has faced Scherzer in his career. The left-handed veteran has two home runs and four RBI against Scherzer in 22 career at bats, but has also fanned 11 times. Less successful against the Nats’ ace has been Matt Holliday, who is 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.
Martinez has limited opponents to a .867 WHIP so far in 2016, and is 4-0 on the year. Daniel Murphy, Werth and Zimmerman are a combined 0-12 lifetime against the hard-throwing young pitcher, while Anthony Rendon has hits in both of his at bats against Martinez.