San Francisco’s Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Belt celebrate the Giants’ 7-1 win over the Nationals on Saturday evening at Nationals Park.
Giants 7 Nationals 1
Nationals’ Record- 65-45
WP- Cain (4-6) LP- Strasburg (15-2)
HR- Belt, SF (13)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- It is well established that San Francisco’s Buster Posey is one of the best all-around players in the National League. Posey’s skills were on display on Saturday night at Nationals Park as he went 2 for 3 with two RBI to aid the Giants’ seven run attack. Posey’s 2016 WAR to date of 3.3 is tops among Major League catchers, with the Nats’ Wilson Ramos (2.9), Jonathan Lucroy of Texas (2.8) and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (2.7) next.
Second Star- In years past, Giants’ Saturday starter Matt Cain was an all-star. These days the gutty veteran is trying to work his way back to that status, but don’t tell the Nationals that he’s lost his game. Cain defeated the Nats for the second time in a week, shutting them out over five innings pitched to earn his fourth win in ten decisions on the year.
Star of the Game- Eduardo Nunez put on a show on Saturday night, going 4 for 5, scoring three runs and picking up three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) in San Francisco’s win. Nunez’s two three-baggers marked only the fifth time a Nats’ opponent has had multiple triples in a game. It was the first such game since September 7th of 2012, when the Marlins’ Jose Reyes tripled twice in Miami’s 9-7 win at Nationals Park. Nunez also contributed a fine defensive play, as he corralled a hot shot of off the bat of Washington’s Jayson Werth in the fourth inning to begin the turning of a key double play that helped keep Washington scoreless.
Valiant in Defeat- Line drives were coming off the bat of Washington’s Wilson Ramos all night long, as the hot hitting catcher went 3 for 4 in his team’s defeat. Ramos also scored the Nats’ only run on the night.
Stephen Strasburg only lasted 4.2 innings on the night, marking his shortest outing of his All-Star year. He surrendered a season high four extra base hits in the game, but did strike out eight to mark the 12th time he’s had eight or more strikeouts in a game this season. Strasburg also had Washington’s only extra-base hit on the night, picking up a fourth inning double. The double was Strasburg’s first since July 1st of 2014.
Danny Espinosa had two hits and a RBI in the contest, marking the second time in his last three games that he’s had multiple hits. Prior to these games, Espinosa had multiple hits in only one of the prior 22 contests.
The Nats and Giants have played six times so far in 2016, with each team winning three times. The tie will be broken on Sunday, as Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner takes on Washington’s underrated 11 game winner Tanner Roark in the rubber game of the series.
Bumgarner is 10-6 on the year with a sparkling 2.25 ERA, but he’s not fared well at Nationals Park in the past. He is 1-3 at the home of the Nats, and has allowed five home runs in his last 14 innings pitched at the park. Bumgarner also has not been as effective on the road (1.268 WHIP) as he’s been at home (.827 WHIP) so far in 2016.
Roark is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his career in August. Hunter Pence (0-7) and Angel Pagan (0-6) have struggled against Roark in their careers, while Posey (4-11, two doubles) and Brandon Belt (3-6 with a double and homer in the regular season, plus a heart breaking home run in the 18th inning of game two of the 2014 NLDS) have not.
Gio Gonzalez was dominant last night, holding the San Francisco Giants to two hits and one run to lead Washington to a 5-1 victory in the first game of a three game set between division leaders.
Nationals 5 Giants 1
Nats’ Record: 65-44
WP- Gonzalez (7-9) LP- Samardzija (9-8)
HR- Turner, Was (2), Ramos, Was (17), Pagan, SF (8)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Wilson Ramos certainly picked a good time to have a career year. The soon to be free agent continued to prove that he’s in line for a big payday at some point soon, hitting his career high 17th home run and plating a run on a sacrifice fly to help the Nats to victory. Ramos’ two RBI game left him only seven short of his career high 68 RBI, set in the 2015 season.
Second Star- For months prior to the 2016 Major League trade deadline, we’d been reading and hearing that Trea Turner was not available for a deal. We’re now seeing why that was the case. The rising star went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored as he continued to show that the Nats’ problem at the top of the batting order may be solved. On the season, Turner has posted an impressive .896 OPS in his 81 at bats.
Star of the Game- Gio Gonzalez was at the top of his game on Friday night, holding the Giants to two hits and one run in seven excellent innings pitched. Gonzalez worked fast, was efficient and showed the form he displayed in his 21 win season in 2012. In picking up his seventh win on the year Gonzalez posted a 75 pitching game score, the best PGS he’s had since an 85 score he earned in a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets at Nationals Park on September 25, 2014.
Valiant in Defeat- It was another forgettable night for the slumping Giants, but Angel Pagan provided some highlights with a laser shot home run to left field (his eighth of the season) and several fine plays in left field.
Bryce Harper and Ramos had sacrifice flies in the game, giving Washington 46 on the season. With 53 games left to play, the Nats are only five short of the Nats’ record 51 run scoring fly balls that was set in 2015. Harper is the team leader in sacrifice flies this season with eight, with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Clint Robinson next with five each.
Denard Span was 1 for 4 for San Francisco in his return to Nationals Park, and it was nice to see the talented and likeable center fielder get a warm reception from the Nationals’ faithful. Span Span now as 11 hits in his last 28 at bats since July 29th.
Stephen Strasburg has been money in the bank for the Nats so far in 2016, and he looks to continue his winning ways as he takes on San Francisco’s Matt Cain in the second game of the series tonight at Nationals Park.
Strasburg has pitched well in August over his career, posting a 13-4 record with a 3.04 ERA. In his career against the Giants, he’s 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA. The Giants’ talented duo of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have hit Strasburg well over their careers. Posey is 7 for 20 with two doubles, while Crawford has six hits in 16 at bats.
Cain won the 100th game of his career last Sunday against the Nationals, gutting out a five inning start in which he did not allow a hit or a run while walking four batters. He’s 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in his career at Nationals Park, with 37 hits allowed (including four homers) in 30 innings pitched.
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.