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.
Red-hot Danny Espinosa celebrates his fourth inning grand slam home run with his teammates in yesterday’s 12-1 Nats’ win over the Cincinnati Reds.
The fireworks show on the National Mall today will have to be a great one to match the show that the home team’s bats put on yesterday afternoon at Nationals Park against the Cincinnati Reds. The Nats slugged six home runs on the way to a 12-1 rout of the Reds, as the Nats maintained their five game lead in the National League East.
Nationals’ Record- 50-33
Nationals 12 Reds 1
WP- Strasburg (11-0) LP- Lamb (1-5)
HR- Espinosa, Was 2(18), Ramos, Was (13), Harper, Was (17), Rendon, Was (8), Drew, Was (7)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- If Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos is not an all-star in 2016, no one is. The powerful catcher got Washington’s offense moving yesterday with a second inning laser shot of a home run off of the Reds’ John Lamb that staked the Nats to a 1-0 lead. Ramos was 3-4 on the day with two RBI, and improved his OPS while hitting in the fifth spot in the Washington lineup to 1.010.
Second Star- Those of us who made it to the ballpark early yesterday saw an unusual sight about 30 minutes before game time as both Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito headed to the right field corner to begin preparations for the game. Giolito was there as a precautionary move in case Strasburg’s upper back injury flared up and prevented him from taking the scheduled start but fortunately for the Nats, their ace was able to take the hill. All Strasburg did was hold the Reds hitless over 6.2 innings pitched as he earned his 11th win in as many decision on the year. Only four pitchers since 1969 have posted longer consecutive win streaks to start a season:
Consecutive Decisions With Wins to Start a Season Since 1969
Pitcher # of Wins Ending Record Notes
McNally (Bal) 15 20-7
Clemens (Bos) 14 24-4 Won AL Cy Young & MVP
Scherzer (Det) 13 21-3 Won AL Cy Young
Guidry (NYY) 13 25-3 Won AL Cy Young
Star of the Game- Nationals’ shortstop Danny Espinosa had a series to remember against the Reds over the past four days, hitting five home runs, driving in an amazing 15 runs and scoring six times to pace the Nats’ to three wins in the four game series. In yesterday’s game, Espinosa hit his second grand slam homer in the series, giving him three career home runs at Nationals Park (tying Ryan Zimmerman for the most home runs by a player at Nationals Park). Espinosa also made one of the best defensive plays of the year, ranging far to his right and making an incredible throw to retire speedy Reds’ outfielder Jose Peraza in the sixth inning to keep the visitors hitless. Espinosa’s five home run series moved him past teammate Jayson Werth into fourth place for most career home runs at Nationals Park:
Career Home Runs at Nationals Park
Valiant in Defeat- On a day where very little went right for the Reds, Peraza was responsible for the team’s only run as his eighth inning single off of Nats’ reliever Matt Belisle drove home Ramon Cabrera with Cincinnati’s only run.
Espinosa is not the only National who is thriving at the plate over the past week. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon homered in the game, and both continued upward trends in Washington’s current homestand. Harper has 9 hits in 23 at bats (.391) with a double, two homers and five RBI since Monday, with Rendon checking in at 7-21 (.333) with seven runs scored, a triple, a homer and five RBI. The Nats’ third baseman has scored 52 runs on the year, tying him for the eighth most in the National League.
Washington bench player Stephen Drew doesn’t get many at bats, but he certainly makes them count. Drew hit his seventh home run of the year yesterday on a drive to left center field off of the Reds’ Jumbo Diaz in the eighth inning. Drew has his seven round trippers in only 81 at bats on the year. Among players with at least seven home runs, Drew has accomplished that feat with the fewest at bats. Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas is next with seven home runs in 104 at bats.
The Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers in the traditional Fourth of July 11am start with Max Scherzer facing the Brew Crew’s Junior Guerra. Scherzer has posted an 11.6 SO/9 ratio on the year. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts and fellow slugger Chris Carter is 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts against Max.
Milwaukee’s Guerra is not particularly well known, but he’s pitched very well of late. In his last nine starts, he has allowed three or fewer earned runs eight times. He is coming off the best game of career on June 29th when he posted a game score of 83 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The righty is 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA and an impressive 1.069 WHIP on the season.