What a difference a day makes. On Sunday, the Nationals hit six home runs and scored 12 times in an easy win over the Reds. Today in the annual 4th of July matinee, the Nats fell 1-0 to 31 year old rookie Junior Guerra and the Milwaukee Brewers in a game where they only registered two hits.
Brewers 1 Nationals 0
Nationals Record- 50-34
WP- Guerra (6-1) LP- Scherzer (9-6) SV- Jeffress (22)
HR- Maldonado, Mil (3)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Milwaukee’s Jeremy Jeffress earned his 22nd save of the year and he did it the hard way, navigating through the heart of the Nationals’ lineup and some difficult weather conditions. In earning his third save in as many appearances against the Nats in 2016, Jeffress retired Jayson Werth on a grounder to third, got Bryce Harper on a hard grounder to short and retired Ryan Zimmerman on a comeback grounder after he had walked Wilson Ramos to put the tying run on base.
Second Star– Hitting only .154 at the time of his fifth inning at bat, Brewers’ reserve catcher Martin Maldonado seemed to be an unlikely threat to break a scoreless tie. Maldonado did break the tie however in a big way, driving a mammoth home run to left to score the game’s only run. The homer was Maldonado’s third of the year and his second against the Nats (he also homered on Sunday June 26th off of Shawn Kelley in Washington’s 3-2 victory at Milwaukee).
Star of the Game- 31 year old rookie pitchers in the Majors are as rare as a 70 degree day on the 4th of July in Washington, DC, but Milwaukee’s Junior Guerra continued his surprising success in his first Major League season with 7.2 innings of dominant pitching. Guerra allowed only two hits (singles by Danny Espinosa and Werth) and struck out seven to improve to 6-1 on the year.
Valiant in Defeat- One can’t fault the Nationals’ pitching staff for today’s loss. Max Scherzer, Felipe Rivero, Kelley and recently activated Jonathan Papelbon combined to hold the Brew Crew to five hits and one run in a strong effort. Unfortunately for the Nationals, Milwaukee’s pitchers on the day were slightly better.
The Nationals have been shut out 57 times at Nationals Park since 2008, with seven coming in 1-0 games. The last time the Nats dropped a 1-0 contest at home was on May 14, 2011 when Annibal Sanchez out dueled Livan Hernandez in a game that was won on a seventh inning home run by Giancarlo (then known as Mike) Stanton.
The Brewers white-washing of the Nationals in the Nation’s Capital marked the second time Milwaukee has pitched a shutout in DC since 2005. On July 2, 2013, the Brewers scored four runs in the eighth inning off of Nats’ reliever Drew Storen in top of the eighth inning to score all the runs on the game in Milwaukee’s 4-0 victory. Stephen Strasburg had a tough luck no-decision on that day, as his seven inning, three hit, eight strikeout performance went to waste.
Washington has had two or fewer hits in games at Nationals Park nine times, with the last time before today coming on April 27th of this season when Jeremy Hellickson and two relievers held the Nats to two base hits (a Daniel Murphy double and a single by Espinosa) in Philadelphia’s 3-0 win over the Nats.
Gio Gonzalez looks to win his fifth game of the year on Tuesday night, taking on Brewers youngster Zach Davies.
In his career at Nationals Park, Gonzalez is 28-18 with a sparkling 3.17 ERA. A pitcher-batter match-up to watch on Tuesday is Gonzalez against Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy. In 10 career at bats against the Nats’ lefty, Lucroy has six hits.
Davies threw well for the Brewers in June, finishing the month with a 3-1 record and a 2.89 ERA. Davies has held right handed batters to a .670 OPS on the year, but hasn’t fared as well against lefties who have put up a .834 OPS against him.
Milwaukee’s Chris Carter celebrates his first inning three run homer against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez with teammate Ryan Braun in yesterday’s 6-5 win by the Brewers over the slumping Nationals.
On a day when the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals honored the Homestead Grays and the Milwaukee Bears of the Negro Leagues, Brewers’ slugger Chris Carter led the home team to victory with a blast that would have made Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard or any of the other prodigious home run hitters in the Negro Leagues proud. Carter’s first inning home run got the Brew Crew off on the right foot and continued the first-place but slumping Nationals’ misery, as the Nats dropped their seventh game in a row.
Nats Record 43-32
WP- Garza (1-0) LP- Gonzalez (3-7) SV- Jeffress (21)
HR- Carter (19)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Jeremy Jeffress’ 21st save of the season came the hard way, protecting a one run lead with the Nationals’ best hitters facing him. After Bryce Harper led off the top of the ninth with a single, Jeffress retired Daniel Murphy on a deep fly to right and got Wilson Ramos to ground into a game-ending double play to give Milwaukee the win.
Second Star– When one thinks of the best leadoff men in the National League, chances are that the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar is not one of the first names that comes to mind. Perhaps that should change. Villar went 3 for 4 with a run scored, a RBI and his 26th stolen base of the year to help the Brewers to victory. Villar is hitting .299 with a robust .380 on base percentage this season.
Star of the Game– Milwaukee first baseman Chris Carter doesn’t always make contact, but when he does it is often special. Carter’s booming three run first inning home run set the pace for the Brewers in a game where Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez couldn’t seem to get any traction. Carter has 19 homers on the year and is on pace to beat his personal best of 37 round trippers that he had for Houston in 2014.
Valiant in Defeat– National League batting leader Daniel Murphy was on his game yesterday, going 3 for 5 with a triple, two singles and two loud outs on which he just missed picking up extra base hits. Murphy is now hitting .354 on the year.
After starting with giving up more than two earned runs in only one of his first eight starts, Gio Gonzalez has surrendered an average of five earned runs over his last seven. Gonzalez’s ERA on the year has ballooned to 4.73.
Washington picked up three more sacrifice flies in the game, moving its National League leading total to 33 on the season. The Nats’ total is nine more than second place San Francisco’s and Milwaukee’s 24 scoring fly balls.
Danny Espinosa’s box score line (0 0 0 2) is one you don’t see every day. In his four plate appearances, the Nats’ shortstop drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt, drove in another with a sacrifice fly and walked twice.
Numbers sometimes don’t tell the whole story, but they certainly do provide clues to why the Nats have struggled at times despite being two games up in the National League East. At three positions in particular, Washington has lagged behind its competition in the Senior Circuit. Using the Wins Above Average metric, one can see the lack of production the Nats have had at the three problematic positions:
First Base -1.4 WAA NL Rank (14)
LF -1.1 WAA NL Rank (T11)
CF -2.2 WAA NL Rank (15)
Tanner Roark takes the hill today for the Nats, looking for his seventh win of the year. Roark has gone at least six innings in 12 of his 15 starts on the year. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun has three hits (including a triple) in seven career at bats against Roark, while second baseman Scooter Gennett is hitless in six at bats against the Nats’ righty.
Brewers’ tall righthander Jimmy Nelson leads the National League with 13 batters hit so far this season, so Nats’ shortstop Danny Espinosa best wear his heavy armor in today’s contest. Nelson has allowed 15 earned runs in 18 innings pitched this month. Bryce Harper is 3 for 5 with a home run in his career against Nelson.
Milwaukee’s rookie pinch-hitter Keon Broxton watches his first career home run leave the park in the fifth inning of last night’s Brewers’ 5-3 victory over the Nationals at Miller Park.
There are many ups and downs in a 162 game Major League baseball season, and the Nationals are certainly in a down period at present. After losing two in a row to close their series with the Padres and being swept in three games at Dodger Stadium by Los Angeles, the Nats looked to rebound against lowly Milwaukee with Max Scherzer on the mound. Unfortunately it was more of the same for the Nats in the land of cheese, beer and brats, as the Nats lost 5-3 for their sixth straight defeat on what is becoming a brutal road trip.
Milwaukee 5 Nationals 3
WP- C. Torres (1-0) LP- Scherzer (8-5) SV- Jeffress (20
HR- Broxton, Mil (1) Nieuwenhuis, Mil (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Acquired from Pittsburgh last season, rookie outfielder Keon Broxton seems to have the tools to succeed at the Major League level. Last night the youngster showed his talent, driving a Max Scherzer slider into the Brewers’ bullpen in left-center to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. The home run was the first of Broxton’s career.
Second Star(s)– The Brewers’ bullpen is a pedestrian group at best, posting a 4.14 ERA (eighth in the Nationals League) and surrendering 33 homers (tied for third worst in the NL) on the season so far. Last night, however, the Brew Crew’s pen went Nasty Boys on the Nats, as winning pitcher Carlos Torres, lefty Will Smith, hard throwing Tyler Thornberg and gusty closer Jeremy Jeffress held the Nats scoreless over the game’s final four innings to secure the win.
Star of the Game- Max Scherzer has allowed 20 home runs on the year, but none have traveled further than Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ 423 blast to right centerfield last night that gave the Brewers their winning runs. The former Met has struggled so far in Milwaukee hitting .224 with 63 strikeouts in 161 at bats, but his impressive round-tripper was the highlight moment of yesterday’s Brewers’ win.
Valiant in Defeat– Wilson Ramos continued his red-hot June, going 4 for 5 with a RBI in Washington’s losing effort. Ramos is hitting .371 with a 1.094 OPS so far this month. On the year, Ramos has posted a .951 OPS. If that mark holds up over the year, Ramos will become only the 14th full-time catcher since 1950 with an OPS of greater than .950.
Danny Espinosa was hit by a Zach Davies pitch in the second inning of the game, marking the 12th time the Nats’ shortstop has suffered that fate this season. Espinosa (in 2011) and former National outfielder Jose Guillen (in 2005) hold the Washington record for most hit by pitches in a season with 19. Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere were also hit by pitches in the game, making last night the 13th time the Nats have had at least three batters hit during a game. The Washington record for HBPs in a game is four, set on April 6, 2006 against the Mets and equaled on June 5, 2011 against Arizona.
Scherzer allowed multiple home runs in a game for the fifth time in 2016, moving him closer to the Nats’ record of eight multi-home run games allowed in a season that he (Scherzer had eight such games last season) shares with Ramon Ortiz (2006), Mike Bacsik (2007) and Dan Haren (2008).
Daniel Murphy doubled and drove in a pair of runs last night, giving him 20 doubles on the year. His career high of 40, set in 2012 for the Mets, appears to be well in reach. The two bagger ended a five game string where the Nats’ second baseman was held without an extra base hit.
Washington had four batters (Michael A. Taylor, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Espinosa) with three strikeouts each last evening. The game was only the second one since 2005 where Washington has had four players with three or more strikeouts. Last season on July 18th against Los Angeles and Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Taylor, Yunel Escobar and Clint Robinson each were fanned three times.
Gio Gonzalez takes on Brewers’ veteran Matt Garza this afternoon in the second game of the three game series.
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in five lifetime starts against Milwaukee, but the Nats’ lefty will likely be treading softly when Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy is at the plate. The Brew Crew’s backstop has six hits in eight with a double and three RBI in his career against Gonzalez.
While Gonzalez may circled Lucroy’s name as an opponent to watch out for, Garza’s attention will likely be focused on many opposing hitters today. Jayson Werth (.412 with two doubles and a homer in 17 at bats), Zimmerman (.357 average with a double in 14 at bats), Ramos (5-13 with a double and a homer), and Harper (3-6, two doubles) have all fared well against the righthander. Garza has had success against Murphy however, holding him hitless in six career at bats.