All-star closer Kenley Jansen celebrates his team’s 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in game one of the teams’ National League Divisional Series on Friday at Nationals Park.
DODGERS LEAD SERIES 1-0
WP- Kershaw LP- Scherzer SV- Jansen
HR- Seager, LAD Turner, LAD
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Corey Seager did not play against the Nationals when the Dodgers visited Nationals Park in July, but Nats’ fans got to see the soon to be National League Rookie of the Year’s talent in a big way early in yesterday’s game. After Nats’ starter Max Scherzer fanned Dodgers’ leadoff man Chase Utley to start the game, Seager ambushed the Nats’ ace with a first pitch booming home run to centerfield to give the visitors a lead they would not lose. Doing big things against right-handed pitching certainly isn’t new to Seager, whose .948 OPS against righthanders was the 13th highest total in the Major Leagues in 2016 for batters with at least 200 at bats them. Washington’s Daniel Murphy was third in the Majors with a .985 mark, and his teammate Trea Turner was sixth with a .957 OPS against righties.
Second Star- One has to be impressed with the career transformation Los Angeles’ Justin Turner has undergone. Since joining the Dodgers Turner has become a legitimate power threat, hitting 50 home runs (including a career high 27 this year) and posting a .492 slugging percentage in his time in Dodger Blue. Turner’s power was on display yesterday as he hit a big two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the third inning to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead. Turner’s blast continued his show of power against Washington this year. He hit a home run off of Yusmerio Petit when the Nats faced Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, and hit two more off of Stephen Strasburg when Los Angeles was in Washington in July.
Star of the Game- Los Angeles’ closer Kenley Jansen looks like he could be a defensive end for the Rams, and the intimidating reliever did his job in a big way yesterday. Jansen recorded a five out save, striking out three in the process, as Los Angeles took control of the series. Jansen had five saves of four or more outs in the regular season, second only to Tampa’s Alex Colome and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna who each had six such saves. The Nationals had four four plus out saves in 2016, three by Shawn Kelley and one by Mark Melancon.
Valiant in Defeat- Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits each. Rendon drove in two runs with a clutch two-out single against Kershaw to cut the Los Angeles lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third, and had a line drive single in the fifth as well. Zimmerman hit the ball hard three times, singling in his first two at bats and then lining out to deep right field in his third.
On a dreary Saturday morning in Washington, here’s a bit of news that won’t do much to brighten the city’s mood. Since 2005, 21 teams who were hosts in the first game of a League Divisional Series were down 0-1 after that game. Only five of those 21 teams went on to win their series.
Neither Kershaw or Scherzer were at their best yesterday, but both did keep their teams in the game. Kershaw allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings to win his third game in nine post-season decisions. Scherzer allowed four runs over the first three frames, but shut the Dodgers out over his final three innings of work as he saw his post-season record drop to 4-4.
When the Nats’ offense struggled in 2016, it was often due to an inability to put the bat on the ball in crucial moments. The strikeout bug bit the Nats on Friday, with Turner, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa fanning three times each. Espinosa’s strikeouts were particularly important, as each came with two men on base.
Kudos to members of both teams’ bullpens for their performance under post-season pressure on Friday. Four Dodgers’ relievers and two Nats’ hurlers combined for seven innings of shut out ball, with only three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.
With its season all but on the line, Washington turns to Tanner Roark to right the ship in Game Two of the series. Roark is 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched against the Dodgers. Roark has had great success against the Dodgers’ Chase Utley (.077 average in 13 at bats) in his career, while Adrian Gonzalez has two hits and a home run in four career at bats against the Nats’ righty.
Tall and talented Dodgers’ lefty Rich Hill has reason to be confident when he looks to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, but he’ll probably be a bit wary when he faces Nats’ first baseman Ryzn Zimmerman. In his career against Hill, the Nats’ veteran has six hits in nine at bats with a double and two home runs. Jose Lobaton is scheduled to start at catcher for the Nats’ today, and the veteran backstop has three hits (including two doubles) in as many career at bats against Hill.
Righthander Tanner Roark threw seven scoreless innings on Sunday to pace the Nationals to a 3-2 victory that ended Washington’s grueling seven game losing streak on the team’s road trip from Hades.
A 3-7 road trip is nothing to write home about, especially when seven of the games were played against sub-par San Diego and Milwaukee teams. However the difficult trip did have a happy ending, as Tanner Roark’s pitching and power from unusual sources led Washington to a 3-2 victory and a three game lead in the National League East heading into a showdown series against the Mets at Nationals Park.
Nationals 3 Brewers 2
Nationals Record- 44-32
WP- Roark (7-5) LP- Barnes (0-1) SV- Kelley (3)
HR- Lobaton, Was (1), Robinson, Was (3), Maldonado, Mil (2)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Reserve first baseman/outfielder Clint Robinson doesn’t have flashy numbers, but he passes the eye test when looking for good at bats from a bench player. His two run homer to right field off of Milwaukee reliever Michael Blazek in the eighth inning gave Washington a 3-0 lead, a cushion they’d need when the bullpen surrendered runs in both the eighth and ninth innings.
Second Star- No one doubts Nats’ backup catcher Jose Lobaton’s ability as a defensive player and pitch framer, but he’s not known as much of an offensive threat. Today Lobaton excelled with both the glove and the bat, as his home run to left-center broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and gave Washington a lead it would not lose. The homer was the first of the year for Lobaton, and the first he’s hit since June 28, 2015 when he hit a round-tripper at Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies.
Star of the Game- Starting a day earlier than expected due to Stephen Strasburg’s injury, Tanner Roark threw seven innings of scoreless ball to lead Washington to victory. Roark has five games this season in which he’s thrown at least seven innings and allowed no runs, tying him with Chicago’s Jake Arrieta for the National League lead in that category. Roark is now 7-5 with a sterling 2.96 ERA on the year.
Valiant in Defeat- Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter had two hits a piece for Milwaukee, but the big blow for the home team was a two-out, ninth inning mammoth pinch-hit home run by Martin Maldonado that kept the Brewers’ hopes alive. The home run was the backup backstop’s second of the season.
Washington’s Shawn Kelley earned his third save of the year, working 1.1 innings, striking out three and stranding the tying run on third base to end the game. In 9.2 innings pitched in June, the righthanded reliever has 16 strikeouts.
Prior to the home runs by Lobaton and Robinson, it looked like another “missed it by that much” day for the Nats in terms of the long ball. In the fifth inning with the bases loaded, Bryce Harper narrowly missed hitting a grand slam home run as Milwaukee’s Kirk Nieuwenhuis grabbed Harper’s blast to the deepest part of center to keep the game scoreless.
Joe Ross takes the hill tomorrow night at Nationals Park against the Mets. In his career at the home of the Nationals, the talented youngster is 6-4 with a 2.92 ERA and has held opponents to a paltry .596 OPS.
Ross’s opponent on the mound will be New York’s talented and towering righty Noah Sydergaard, who is 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched this year. Anthony Rendon (4-10 with a double and a homer) has fared well against Syndergaard in the past, while Danny Espinosa (0-6, four strikeouts) has not.
Nationals Record 22-13
WP- Treinen (3-1) LP- Barraclough (2-1) SV- Papelbon (10)
HR- Drew (2), Harper (11), Heisey (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Jose Lobaton
The Nats’ backup catcher may be hitting only .194 on the year, but he did a great job for Washington in the eighth spot in the lineup last night. Lobaton went 1-2 with a run scored and walked twice. His sixth inning two out looping single to left field kept the inning alive, which allowed Stephen Drew to come to the plate and hit a game tying two run home run off of Miami’s Bryan Morris.
Second Star- Dusty Baker
The Nats’ affable skipper pushed the right buttons on Friday night. He used his bullpen masterfully in the sixth to squelch a Marlins rally, getting key contributions from veterans Yusmeiro Petit and Oliver Perez to keep Miami from scoring even after the visitors had loaded the bases with no outs being recorded by tough-luck starter Gio Gonzalez.
Later, Baker’s choices of Drew to pinch-hit in the sixth inning and Chris Heisey to do so in the eighth resulted in the fifth and sixth pinch-hit home runs on the year for the Nationals.
Star of the Game- Bryce Harper
“Miami” Bryce did it again, going 2-2 with two walks and a go ahead two run home run in the seventh inning that led the Nationals to victory. Five of Harper’s 11 home runs in 2016 have come against the Fish, and his 20 career round trippers against Miami is the most he’s had against any opponent.
Valiant in Defeat- Tom Koehler
The lanky Marlins’ starter wasn’t dominant as he allowed six hits and walked five batters, but he was a clutch performer with men on base as he allowed only one run in his 5.2 innings pitched. Koehler’s best moments may have come in the bottom of the first, when he got out of a two on, out jam by retiring red-hot Daniel Murphy on a popout and struck out Ryan Zimmerman to keep the Nats off of the board.
Washington’s two pinch-hit homers marked the third time a team has had two or more pinch-hit blasts in a game in 2016. The St. Louis Cardinals performed the feat the two other times it has been done, first getting pinch-hit blasts from Jeremy Hazelbaker, Aledyms Diaz and Greg Garcia in a 7-4 win against Atlanta on April 8th and then getting pinch-hit homers from Brandon Moss and Matt Adams on April 15th as the Cards defeated Cincinnati.
Washington’s six pinch-hit homers on the year is the most the Nats have had in a season since 2013 when Washington had a Nats’ high eight. The 2006 team also had eight pinch-hit home runs.
The Nats allowed two unearned runs in an ugly top of the fifth inning, making this the first game in the 2016 season where Washington has allowed more than one unearned run. The Nats last allowed multiple unearned runs in a game back on September 5, 2015 when both of Atlanta’s runs were of the unearned variety in Washington’s 8-2 win.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 359th career save last night as he retired the only two batters he faced. The game was only the 16th, and the fourth since 2011, where Papelbon has earned a save while pitching less than one inning.
Max Scherzer’s best start to date in the 2016 season helped the Washington Nationals to a 6-1 victory on Sunday as the Nats wrapped up a three game sweep of the home-standing St. Louis Cardinals.
Nats Record- 17-7
WP- Scherzer (3-1) LP- Martinez (4-1)
HR- Robinson Was (1), Espinosa Was (2), Heisey Was (3), Moss Stl (6)
Excellent starting pitching, solid defense and timely power hitting were the keys as the Nationals finished their three game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-1 victory. The sweep was the Nationals’ first ever in St. Louis.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- His batting average may be below the Mendoza Line and he only had one hit on the game, but Jose Lobaton fought the good fight for the Nationals all weekend long in Wilson Ramos’ absence and certainly was a key to the team’s success on Sunday. Lobaton’s sixth inning single off of Cards’ starter Carlos Martinez set the table for the first run of the game, a run that was tallied after Lobaton moved to second on Max Scherzer’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt den Dekker’s single to center. Over the weekend, Lobaton also helped lead a Nats’ starting pitching staff that held a powerful Cards’ lineup in check.
Second Star- Clint Robinson was a pleasant surprise in 2015, hitting .272 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. His success last season had not translated over to 2016, but perhaps Sunday’s game will get Robinson moving in the right direction. The left-handed swinger had the big blow in Sunday’s game, hitting a two run home run off of Martinez in the top of the seventh inning that extended Washington’s lead to 3-0.
Star of the Game- All Scherzer did on the game was throw seven innings of shutout ball with nine strikeouts and go two for two with a sacrifice bunt at the plate as he won his third game in four decisions on the year. Scherzer allowed only four hits on the game and did not issue a walk, marking the seventh time he’s fanned at least nine batters and walked no one in his time with the Nationals.
Valiant in Defeat- Martinez was suffering from an illness leading into the game and he eventually tired in the seventh inning, but the flame throwing young pitcher showed his tremendous potential in the contest as he struck out eight and looked dominant in stretches. The loss was Martinez’s first in five decisions on the year.
Chris Heisey’s ninth inning pinch-hit home run was the 13th of his career, the most of any active Major League player.
The Nats take their three game winning streak to Kansas City to take on the World Champion Royals. Gio Gonzalez starts for Washington. The left-hander has been strong in May during his career, going 15-6 with a 3.51 ERA. Gonzalez has struggled in interleague contests however, winning only seven of his 18 decisions and allowing a 1.455 WHIP while putting up a hefty 4.74 ERA. His mound opponent Edinson Volquez is 10-5 with a 3.64 ERA in his career at Kaufman Stadium. Volquez is coming off his worst start to date in the 2016 saeason as he allowed eight runs in five innings pitched at the Los Angeles Angels on April 26th. Nats’ second baseman Daniel Murphy is 7 for 20 in his career against Volquez.
Nats Record- 12-4
WP- Gonzalez (1-0) LP- Gibson (0-3)
HR- Werth Was (3), Sano Min (3)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star(s)- The Bottom of the Nats’ Lineup
Jose Lobaton and Danny Espinosa are known more for their glove work and baseball smarts than they are for their hitting but on Friday, both players contributed significantly at the plate.
Lobaton went 2 for 3 on the day with three RBI and a rare triple to aid Washington’s cause. The three RBI game was the second in Lobaton’s time in Washington, with the first coming last season in the team’s epic 13-12 comeback win at Atlanta on April 28th (Lobaton’s RBI came on a three run homer off of the Braves’ Julio Teheran).
Espinosa had two hits as well and drove in a pair of runs. On the year, the Nats’ shortstop has three two hits games, three games in which he has one hit and ten games in which he’s been held hitless. His left-handed stroke looked good against the Twins last night, so perhaps Friday’s game will help Espinosa start on a hot streak.
Pitcher Gio Gonzalez even helped out, driving in Lobaton with a sacrifice fly in Washington’s three run third inning.
Second Star- Throwing Strikes, Getting Outs
Gonzalez helped out at the plate on Friday, but his real contribution to the Nats’ 12th win in 16 games was on the mound. The lefty allowed Minnesota two earned runs in six innings pitched to pick up his first win of the year, and continued to show that 2016 might be a year of better control for the sometimes erratic hurler. Gonzalez threw 60 strikes in his 90 pitches on the night, and walked only one Twin while striking out eight.
Admittedly the season is young and April numbers don’t always stick but on the year, Gonzalez’s BB/9 mark of 1.9 is well below his previous best of 3.2 set in the 2014 season.
Star of the Game- A Performance “Werth-y” of Praise
With two superb defensive plays in left field and his third home run of the year, Jayson Werth’s play on Friday electrified the crowd at Nationals Park. Werth’s 201st home run of his career was a no-doubt blast to left off of Minnesota’s Michael Tonkin that expanded Washington’s lead to 8-1. Perhaps more impressive than the blast was his leaping grab of a third inning deep shot by Minnesota’s Bryon Buxton that prevented the talented Twins’ centerfielder from registering his first home run of the year.
Valiant in Defeat- A Big Man Hits a Big Fly
Minnesota’s 6’4″ 260 pound right fielder Miguel Sano is built like he could play defensive end for the Vikings, and he punished a Felipe Rivero pitch late in Friday’s game for his third home run of the year. Sano was 2 for 4 on the day.
Another game, and it was another multi-hit effort for Washington’s Daniel Murphy. Murphy went 2 for 4 and scored two runs on the game, padding his Major League leading batting average to .411. Murphy has nine multi-hit games on the year, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison, Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and Arizona’s Jean Segura for the Major League lead in that category.
Tanner Roark takes the hill for Washington on Saturday afternoon going up against Minnesota’s Phil Hughes as the Nats try to secure a series win. Roark is 13-8 with a 2.81 ERA in his career at Nationals Park. Hughes is 1-2 on the season with a 4.42 ERA, and is coming off of a 2015 season in which he allowed an American League high 29 home runs. Washington’s Murphy is known as one of the toughest hitters in baseball, but he’s been unable to solve Hughes in his career (Murphy is hitless in eight at bats against the right-hander).