NATS NOTES- 9/2/16
As the 2016 regular season’s final month begins, one of the top stories for the Washington Nationals has been the rapid development of speedy rookie Trea Turner into a top-flight leadoff man and centerfielder. Turner’s emergence has made the Nats a much better team, and potential post-season opponents will have to account for his multiple talents come October.
With October still on the horizon it is time to look back at August, a month where the Turner achieved great things. In the month, Turner hit .357 with five homers, 15 RBI and 11 steals while posting a .938 OPS. His 45 hits on the month tied Turner for the most hits in August and for the fourth highest total in any month in the 2016 season:
Player Month Hits
Bogaerts, Bos May 49
TMurphy, Was May 47
Ozuna, Mia May 46
Betts, Bos August 45
Turner, Was August 45
The speedster’s 11 steals in August was the most in a month for a Nationals’ player in six years, and tied Turner for the second most steals in any month in Nationals’ history:
Player Month/Year Steals
Nyjer Morgan July 2009 14
Felipe Lopez Sept/Oct 2006 11
Nyjer Morgan July 2010 11
Trea Turner August 2016 11
WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
Veteran outfielder Jayson Werth was once a driving force in making the Philadelphia Phillies one of the Major League’s best teams. These days, Werth is driving the Phillies and their fans crazy.
With two key home runs in the Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week, Werth has tied Lucas Duda of the Mets for the most home runs by an opponent at Citizens Bank Park since 2011 with 12. Werth has consistently terrorized the Phils since 2013 with three home runs at Philadelphia this season, four in 2015, two in 2014 and three in 2013.
96 miles north of Philadelphia, another fan base has watched a former member of their team terrorize the home squad this season. At New York’s Citi Field this season, former Met Daniel Murphy has four home runs. He is tied with nine other players (including Anthony Rendon and former National Adam LaRoche) for the second most by an Mets’ opponent in a single season at Citi Field. Giancarlo Stanton of Miami had five home runs at Citi Field this season for the top mark, but things could change this weekend!
The Nats’ sweep of Philadelphia this week marked the ninth series sweep (for series’ of three games or more) in the 2016 season. Both the 2012 and 2014 National League East division winning Nationals’ teams had nine sweeps in those seasons. With nine series left to go in 2016, the current Nats’ squad has a good shot at besting that mark.
Another week, another 10 strikeout plus game for Nats’ ace Max Scherzer. The National League Cy Young candidate fanned 11 Phillies on Tuesday, giving him 12 games of double digit strikeout totals this season. Since 2005, only two pitchers have more such games in any season. Last year, both Chicago’s Chris Sale and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw had 13 double digit strikeout games.
RUN PRODUCERS INC.
So far this season, Daniel Murphy (with 98), Bryce Harper (75) and Wilson Ramos (71) have at least 70 RBI. With a month left to go in the campaign, the 2016 squad has a chance to surpass the 2014 and 2007 teams for the most 70 plus RBI men in a single year. Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have 62 RBI so far, with Jayson Werth right behind them with 61. In 2014 Adam LaRoche (92), Ian Desmond (91), Rendon (83) and Werth (82) did the trick, while in 2007 it was Ryan Zimmerman (91), Dmitri Young (74), Austin Kearns (74) and Ryan Church (70) with 70 or more RBI.
The highlight of a mostly rocky six game stretch for the Nationals was Max Scherzer’s dominant effort in Washington’s 4-0 win over Baltimore on August 25th at Nationals Park.
Despite some poor play over the past week, a week that saw the Washington Nationals go 2-4, the Nationals are eight games up in the National League East with only 34 left to play. The eight game lead is the second largest in the Majors, behind only the Chicago Cubs’ mammoth 14 game spread over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. And with the six game stretch ending with two encouraging wins, there is hope that the ugly four games to begin the week were just a minor blip on the radar screen.
Here’s a look at some of the lowlights and highlights of the past six days for the Nats.
BURN THE TAPE OF THIS ONE
As ugly games go, it would be hard to find one to top Sunday’s 7-6 ten inning loss at Atlanta that prevented Washington from earning a four game sweep at Turner Field. The Nats committed five errors and blew a four run lead, with the end of the contest coming on Jace Peterson’s game ending home run off of Shawn Kelley with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. The game ending home run was the second of the season allowed by Washington, with the first coming back on May 8th at Wrigley Field when Javier Baez’s 13th inning solo homer off of Blake Treinen gave the Cubs a 4-3 win over Washington. No opponent has had more walk-off home runs against the Nats than Atlanta with four (see details below).
DATE NATS PITCHER BATTER SCORE/INN AT TIME OF HR RUNNERS ON
9/1/2005 Luis Ayala Andruw Jones 7-7 10th None
5/13/2006 Chad Cordero Jeff Francouer W 5 A 4 9th Three
8/16/2013 Ian Kroll Justin Upton 2-2 10th Solo
8/21/2016 Shawn Kelley Jace Peterson 6-6 10th Solo
NOT SO CHARMING FOR THE NATS
Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark and many Nats’ fans made the trek north to see Washington play in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday. Those fans probably aren’t calling the Baltimore Charm City after seeing Washington struggle in two losses to the O’s.
On Monday, the O’s nipped the Nats by a 4-3 score despite a valiant effort by Nats’ rookie A. J. Cole who stepped in for injured All-Star Stephen Strasburg and threw seven solid innings. Unfortunately for Cole and the Nats, Baltimore did touch him for two home runs that plated three of the four runs to give the O’s their advantage. Zach Britton’s ninth inning of work was nightmarish for the visitors, as the lefty blew Washington away to save a win for Baltimore rookie Dylan Bundy.
Tuesday’s game was anything but competitive. The Orioles won 8-1, giving the Nats their worst loss since they fell by seven runs (in a 12-5 game) at home against the Phillies on September 27, 2015. The Nats had ten hits on the day but only one went for extra bases, with the O’s registering three doubles and home among their 13 hits as they cruised to victory. Trea Turner’s 4-4 game out of the leadoff spot was the highlight of the game for Washington.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The Nats seemed headed to another lopsided loss on Wednesday night as they trailed Baltimore 10-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. But Washington rallied, scoring five and bringing the winning run to the plate before Britton induced a double play ground ball to end the threat and give the O’s their 17th win in their past 23 games against their Beltway rivals.
Washington’s rally included the first grand slam home run of Daniel Murphy’s career. For the game, Murphy went three for five with five RBI, but it was another talented infielder who stole the show. Baltimore’s Manny Machado had four hits in six at bats, scored four times and hit a two run home run to pace Baltimore’s attack. In his career at Nationals Park, Machado is hitting .425 in 40 at bats and has posted a 1.169 OPS.
PLAYING THEIR ACE
Ending the team’s four game losing streak on Thursday with another sterling performance, Washington’s Max Scherzer showed why he’s among a handful of pitchers who are true stoppers.
Scherzer threw eight shutout innings and struck out 10 as he dominated a dangerous Orioles’ squad in tense contest that the Nats ended up winning 4-0. Scherzer’s 88 pitching game score on the date was his highest of the 2016 season, and the ninth 80 plus pitching game score he’s put up in his two years in DC. Over that time period, only Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw (with 14) has more.
The top of the Nats order provided the offense on the night for the home team, as Turner, Jayson Werth, Murphy and Bryce Harper combined to go seven for 16 with four runs scored, four RBI, two doubles, a home run and two stolen bases.
WELCOME TO THE CENTURY CLUB
The highlight of Friday’s 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies was Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez earning the 100th win of his career. Gonzalez allowed the Rockies two runs and four hits in six strong innings pitched. He struck out five and walked only one, as he improved his 2016 record to 9-9. As with many pitchers, not giving up walks seems to be a key for the Nats’ lefty. In games where he has allowed two or fewer bases on balls while pitching for Washington, Gonzalez 47-24. In contests where he’s given up three or more walks, Gonzalez’s record is 15-19.
The Nats’ Fearsome Foursome at the top of the team’s order were at it again, as Turner, Werth, Murphy and Harper combined for seven hits in 17 at bats, with four runs scored and six driven in. Werth had a double and his 18th home run of the year in the contest, while Harper had a double and his first triple of the season.
August has been a big month for the big four, all of whom are sizzling so far in the season’s penultimate month:
TURNER- .355 average, four homers, 13 RBI, nine steals, .946 OPS
WERTH- Six homers, 13 RBI, .938 OPS
MURPHY- .325 average, five homers, 22 RBI, .983 OPS
HARPER- .354 average, two homers, 16 RBI, 1.011 OPS
The Nats look to continue their winning ways this afternoon against Colorado as A.J. Cole looks for his first career win while Colorado pins its hopes on veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa.
De La Rosa has three wins in as many decisions in his career at games played at Nationals Park, and is 5-2 overall against the Nats. Werth has hit .368 with a double and two homers against the Rockies’ lefty, while Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos have combined to go two for 20 against him. Ramos’ one hit, however, was a home run.
Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman celebrates his second inning home run off of Atlanta’s Tyrell Jenkins in Washington’s 11-9 victory at Turner Field on Saturday night.
Nationals’ Record: 73-49
Nationals 11 Braves 9
WP- Scherzer (13-7) LP- Jenkins (2-4) SV- Melancon (36)
HR- Zimmerman, Was (13), Murphy, Was (23), Turner, Was (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year for the Washington Nationals, and it may be an MVP-level year for hot-hitting Nats’ infielder Daniel Murphy. The Nats’ infielder went three for four with his 23rd home run in last night’s win. The game marked Murphy’s 11th three or more hit game of the season, second among Nats’ players to only Wilson Ramos who has 12 such games.
Second Star- Anthony Rendon did teammate Murphy one better in the hit column, going four for five with a double, three runs scored and a RBI in the victory. The Nats’ third baseman continued his sparkling second half of the year, moving his post All-Star break OPS to .988 (his OPS was .746 in the season’s first half).
Star of the Game- In his first game off of the disabled list, Ryan Zimmerman set the pace for a Nats’ attack that would put up 17 hits on the game. His second inning home run, the 13th of the season for Zimmerman, got the Nats on the board and he contributed two other hits in the victory. The round-tripper was his ninth at Turner Field and the 21st he’s hit against Atlanta in his career.
Valiant in Defeat- Chase d’Arnaud may be the least known of the baseball playing d’Arnaud brothers, but he was excellent for Atlanta in its losing effort. d’Arnaud went two for five with a run scored and three RBI, and made several excellent defensive plays at shortstop as well.
Last night’s game was not one of Max Scherzer’s most dominant on the mound, as he gave up four runs and six hits with three walks in 6.1 innings pitched. However he did however, come up big with a bat in his hand, going two for four with two RBI and a big base hit in Washington’s eight run fourth inning. Scherzer became the first Nats’ pitcher in over five years to have at least two hits and two RBI in the same game. Before last night, Livan Hernandez (with two hits and two RBI in a Nats’ 4-2 win at Philadelphia on August 12, 2011) was the last Nats’ pitcher to do so.
August has been a good month for reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper. Harper went two for four with a run scored, a walk and a RBI in Saturday’s game, increasing his August OPS to .951. That is the best mark he’s put up in a month since April, when his OPS was an amazing 1.121.
Harper is not the only National who is sizzling in August. Lead off man Trea Turner continued to show his surprising power, hitting a three run home run in Washington’s fourth inning. Turner, who now has four homers and 20 RBI on the year, has hit .321 this month.
Atlanta had five doubles in the game, equaling the most Washington has surrendered in a nine inning game in 2016. The Nats have allowed five or more doubles three times in 2016, one coming in an 18 inning game against Pittsburgh. The Nats are 1-2 in those contests.
Atlanta is 0-5 against Washington at Turner Field in 2016. Against all other National League East foes, the Braves are a relatively respectable 9-11.
Gio Gonzalez goes for the 100th win of his career on Sunday as the Nationals look to wrap up a four game sweep. Atlanta’s scheduled starter Joel De La Cruz has a much more modest goal; he’s looking for his first career win this afternoon.
Gonzalez has been strong in the second half of the year, going 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA. Veteran outfielder Jeff Francouer has had success against Gonzalez in the past, going 11 for 28 (.391) with a home run and three RBI. Freddie Freeman has also hit well against the Nats’ lefty, posting a .290 average with two homers and ten RBI in 31 career at bats. Atlanta catchers Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker have combined to go 0 for 12 with nine strikeouts in their careers against Gonzalez.
De La Cruz is 0-6 in his rookie season, but has put up a 2.00 ERA in games played at Turner Field. Control has been an issue for the big righthander, who has walked nine batters while striking out only eight in 15 innings pitched this month.
Ben Revere’s spectacular leaping grab robbed Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman of a home run and helped the Nationals to a 7-6 victory over the Braves last evening at Turner Field.
GAME 121 REVIEW
Nationals’ Record- 72-49
Nationals 7 Braves 6
WP- Glover (1-0) LP- Johnson (2-6) SV- Melancon (35)
HR- Inciarte, Atl (3), Markakis, Atl (9)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Nats’ centerfielder Ben Revere’s highlight reel of amazing defensive plays in the second half of the 2016 continues to grow and has catch in last night’s win was probably the best of the year, if not his career. Revere raced deep into right-center, leapt at the wall, stretched all of his 5’9″ frame to the maximum and took away a certain home run from Freddie Freeman to make a play that earned the appreciation of not only his Nats’ teammates but the Atlanta crowd as well. Revere also chipped in at the plate, going two for four with a RBI.
Second Star- Rookie Trea Turner continued to ignite the Nats’ offense from the leadoff spot, going three for five with two runs scored an a RBI to move his OPS on the year to an impressive .879. He doubled in the game for the 17th extra-base hit of his brief Major League career, and his signature speed helped him beat out a two out infield single that kept an inning alive where the Nats scored two crucial runs.
Star of the Game- After the Nationals had blown a 5-0 lead and saw the game tied at 6-6 in the eighth inning, some ninth inning magic was needed to help the team avoid a disappointing loss. Clint Robinson came to the rescue with a RBI single that plated pinch-runner Pedro Severino with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Robinson, who was two for three with a pair of runs scored and two walks in the game, has driven in 20 of his 24 RBI on the year in road games.
Valiant in Defeat- Braves centerfielder Ender Inciarte is known more for his speed than for his power, but he had his long ball stroke on display last evening. Inciarte went two for five with three RBI and his third home run of the year to pace Atlanta’s attack.
Wilson Ramos joined Turner, Revere and Robinson as Nationals with multiple hit games in last night’s win. Ramos has 30 games this season where he’s had more than one hit, trailing only Daniel Murphy (46) and Anthony Rendon (34).
Washington won despite allowing two unearned runs, making the Nats 2-5 in games where they have allowed multiple unearned runs this year.
Bryce Harper had two RBI in the game, and he has driven in eight over his past eight games after driving in only two in the previous 13 contests. On the team’s current road trip, Harper has seven hits in 18 at bats with six RBI, two doubles, a home run and six walks.
Mark Melancon was clutch again for Washington, picking up his 35th save as he fanned two and allowed two weak ground balls (one that went for an infield hit) in last night’s game. In nine innings pitched for Washington this season, Melancon has allowed only five hits and one run with no walks while striking out ten.
The Nats’ win allowed them to maintain their 9.5 game advantage over the Marlins in the National League East. The nearly ten game lead in the division at the 121 game mark is ahead of the pace of the other Nats’ division winning teams. In 2012 the Nats were 75-46 at this point and held a five game edge, while the 2014 team was 68-53 with a six game advantage.
Max Scherzer faces off against Atlanta rookie Tyrell Jenkins in Saturday evening’s contest.
Scherzer is putting up another excellent year. He leads the National League in strikeouts, and is among the leaders in WHIP (he is second), strikeouts/nine innings pitched (second), innings pitched (third) and wins (tied for fourth). At Atlanta in his career, the Nats’ righty is 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched.
The youngster Jenkins was rocked for the Nats for seven runs in 4.2 innings pitched this past Sunday, and enters the contest with 30 walks and only 21 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched this year.
Tanner Roark throws a pitch during his masterful performance in today’s 9-1 Nats’ win over Atlanta at Nationals Park.
Nats’ Record- 69-47
Nationals 9 Braves 1
WP- Roark (13-6) LP- Jenkins (2-3)
HR- Rendon, Was (15), Heisey, Was (6)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- We are going with the trio of Trea Turner, Ben Revere and Bryce Harper who were at the top of the Nationals’ order on Sunday, and combined to score seven runs with four hits, two doubles and a RBI. Key to the Nats’ win was a three run first inning rally in which all of the top men in the order participated. Turner led of the game with a two bagger, and scored when Revere bunted for a hit and Atlanta’s Anthony Recker threw wildly to first to try to record an out. Harper followed with a double to left to score Revere, and Washington had jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Atlanta’s starter Tyrell Jenkins got into the flow of the game.
Second Star- The 2016 version of Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon is looking more like the 2014 version of a player many felt was one of the league’s best hitters. Rendon homered and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in four runs in the game, and his three run homer in the bottom of the fifth off of Jenkins broke the game open.
Star of the Game- Gutty, gritty and talented are adjectives that can be used to describe Nats’ starter Tanner Roark, and you might want to throw “underrated” into the mix as well. Roark won his 13th game on a day suited more for sitting in a hammock and drinking lemonade than recording seven innings of superb pitching as Roark did. The Nats’ hurler registered his ninth game in 12 starts at home where he’s thrown at least seven innings, and moved his record to 10-3 in games since May 20th.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ leadoff man Turner wasn’t the only top of the order player who played well on Sunday. Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte went 2 for 4 with a double (the only extra base hit on the day for the visitors) and scored the Braves’ only run of the game.
The Nats scored nine or more runs for the 14th time this season. They’re not five games short of the team record 19 set in 2012 by the 98 game winning NL East Champion team. The only other Nats’ teams with more than the 2016 team’s mark to date were the 2006 squad that had 18 nine plus run games, the 2015 team with 17, the 2008 team with 16 and the 2013 squad with 15.
Washington turned three double plays behind the fast working, strike throwing Roark on Sunday, marking the sixth time this season that the Nats have recorded three or more ground ball double plays in a game. The last time Washington had six or more games where they recorded at least three ground ball double plays was in 2012, when the Nats did the trick in eight games.
Wilson Ramos had two RBI in the game, leaving him three shy of his career mark of 68 set last year.
Since 2014 in games played at Nationals Park, the Nats hold a 21-6 record against the Braves. Washington has held Atlanta to three or fewer runs in 17 of the 27 games played.
A trip to Colorado is usually one highly anticipated by a visiting teams hitters, but dreaded by its pitchers. The Nats open a three game set against the Rockies on Monday night, with Max Scherzer taking on Jorge De La Rosa.
Scherzer, who leads the National League in strikeouts with 208, will be taking on a free swinging Colorado squad whose 958 strikeouts on the year is the sixth highest total in the National League. Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez is 3 for 10 with three homers in his career against Scherzer.
Colorado’s De La Rosa has won five of his seven career decisions against the Nats. In 60.2 innings pitched against Washington, he’s allowed only two home runs.
One National who has to be frustrated that he will be missing the trip to Coors Field is Ryan Zimmerman. In 131 career at bats at the Rockies’ home, Zimmerman has hit 12 doubles, eight homers, driven in 38 runs and posted a 1.090 OPS.
In recent years, trips to Arizona have been very productive. The Nationals continued that trend this week, as sterling efforts by Stephen Strasburg and many others led to a three game sweep of the scuffling Diamondbacks. The sweep gave Washington a season high seven game lead in the National League East.
A trip to Arizona in the middle of summer means heat and lots of it. For the Nationals this week, a visit to Chase Field was just what the doctor ordered to get their bats heated up.
The Nationals scored at will in the three game set, outscoring Arizona by a 32-8 margin to finish their three city road swing with 6-3 record. Since 2012, Washington is 11-4 at Chase Field and has outscored the Diamondbacks by a 101-58 margin.
Some items from note following the series include the following:
Washington’s big three at the head of its rotation all picked up victories in the series. On the year the Nats are 45-2o in games started by Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, while they are 19-24 in games started by others.
Strasburg continued his sterling 2016 season with six innings of three hit, one run allowed pitching in Washington’s 14-1 win on Monday night. On the year, Strasburg’s .980 WHIP puts him on pace to shatter his career best of 1.049 set in 2013. Strasburg also starred at the plate, going 3-4. It was the second three hit game of Strasburg’s career, and marked the sixth time a Nats’ hurler has had three knocks in a game. Livan Hernandez, who had three hit games in both 2005 and 2006, is the only Nats’ pitcher besides Strasburg to do so multiple times.
Few pitchers are as dominant as Scherzer when he is on his game, and he was for most of his appearance on Wednesday. The Nats’ All-Star struck out 11 in eight innings pitched, marking the ninth time he’s had 10 or more punch outs in a game in the 2016. He’s only two games short of the Nats’ record of 11 double digit strikeout games, a mark he set in 2015.
Nats’ hitters also were on display in the series. National League MVP candidate Daniel Murphy was 7 for 12 in the three game set with six runs scored, a double, a homer and four RBI. Murphy leads the National League in batting average (.358), hits (138), doubles (32), slugging percentage (.630) and OPS (1.027), and is third in RBI with 80.
Leadoff man Trea Turner flashed his talent in the series, getting five hits in the three game set. Among those hits was Turner’s fourth triple of the year and a mammoth 450 foot home run in Wednesday’s series finale. The homer was the second longest for the Nats’ in 2016, trailing only Wilson Ramos’ 455 moon shot against San Diego in the final game of Washington’s last home stand.
Another National who was hot at the plate in the series was Anthony Rendon, who went 5 for 13 with five runs scored, two doubles and four RBI. Rendon’s 2016 OPS is now a season high .784.
In Tuesday’s 10-4 win, Washington put up its 19th three plus home run game of the year as Wilson Ramos, Chris Heisey and Jayson Werth all hit round-trippers. The 2016 Nats now are within six games of the 2012 squad’s record of 25 games with three or more home runs. In their 19 three plus homer games this season, the Nats have posted a 15-4 record. In their 25 such games in 2012, the Nats were 23-2.
Is the first week of August too early to be talking about a playoff preview? It may be with a third of the season left to go, but the Nationals and this weekend’s opponent San Francisco could meet again in October when the post-season begins.
Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Nats in the opener of the three game set. Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last five starts, but has not gone seven or more innings in a game since June 9th. Over his last nine starts, Gonzalez has averaged 5.5 innings pitched.
The Giants counter with Jeff Samardzija, who went 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA in his July appearances. The second inning has been particularly problematic for the tall righthander in 2016, as he’s allowed opponents to hit .333 and post a .921 OPS in that frame.
After posting a 8-2 record at Nationals Park from 2008 through 2010, the Giants are only 3-13 in regular season games at the Nats’ home since 2011.
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.
Stephen Drew celebrates his game winning RBI triple with teammates Chris Heisey and Ben Revere last night at Nationals Park in Washington’s 3-2 victory over San Diego.
Nationals 3 Padres 2
Nationals’ Record 58-40
WP- Papelbon (2-2) LP- Quackenbush (6-4)
HR- Schimpf, SD (8)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- 2016 has been a lost year in many ways for Nats’ centerfielder Ben Revere, but the speedy veteran had a good game on Saturday. Revere drove in a run with a double, reached base twice and made a nice diving catch in center to thwart Wil Myers’ attempt at a hit in the sixth inning.
Second Star- Max Scherzer was strong yet again, allowing only two runs on four hits while striking out 10 batters with no walks allowed in seven innings pitched. Since 2015, Scherzer has eight games of 10 plus strikeouts with no walks allowed. Only Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw with 11 has more.
Star of the Game- The job of being a late-inning pinch-hitter is not an easy one, but Washington’s Stephen Drew is making it look so this year. As a pinch-hitter, Drew has an amazing 1.214 OPS and his RBI triple drove Anthony Rendon home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Valiant in Defeat- Ask 1,000 people who consider themselves to be good baseball fans, and chances are that a good portion of them have not heard of San Diego’s second baseman Ryan Schimpf. If the rookie continues playing the way he has, that will change. Schimpf provided San Diego’s runs on the night, hitting a two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the second inning. The homer was a Major League leading eighth for Schimpf so far in July.
With rumors of acquisitions of bullpen help circulating in Washington, the duo that composes the back end of the currently configured pen is not exactly showing signs of weakness. Both eighth inning man Shawn Kelley and current closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched scoreless innings last evening, continuing solid pitching for the pair over the past three weeks. In July Kelley has 11 strikeouts and only one walk allowed in 6.2 innings pitched, while Papelbon has thrown seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and one intentional walk in the month. Papelbon has been particularly effective at home this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.10 ERA and a .735 WHIP.
Anthony Rendon’s leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth last night started Washington on the road to victory, and continued Rendon’s hot hitting ways against the Padres. After going 2-4 in last night’s game, the third baseman has a lifetime .303 average against San Diego in 66 at bats.
Daniel Murphy picked up his 71st RBI of the year on a sacrifice fly last evening, leaving him only seven runs batted in behind his career high of 78 set in 2013 while Murphy was playing for the Mets. Murphy’s .999 OPS so far in 2016 leads the National League.
Kudos to former National Edwin Jackson for a solid effort on the mound against the Nats last evening. Jackson allowed only two runs in six solid innings pitched, and may be earning himself a permanent spot in the San Diego rotation.
It’s a battle of Big and Tall Men’s Shop customers on Sunday, with Washington’s 6’6″ Lucas Giolito taking on San Diego’s 6’4″ Christian Friedrich in the rubber game of the teams’ three game series.
Giolito is looking for his first Major League win, while Friedrich is trying to get his performance in the month of July going in the right direction. So far this month, Friedrich is 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA.
San Diego’s Matt Kemp homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Padres to a 5-3 victory over the Nationals last night at Nationals Park.
Padres 5 Nationals 3
Nationals’ Record- 57-40
WP- Perdomo (4-4) LP- Roark (9-6) SV- Maurer (4)
HR- Kemp, SD 2(22), Werth, Was (12), Murphy, Was (19)
Perhaps the Nationals should be glad that the Los Angeles Angels are not on their 2016 schedule. Against teams from Southern California this season, Washington has only three wins in 11 games. Last night’s 5-3 loss to San Diego put the Nats at 3-4 on the current homestand with two more games left to go against the Padres.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Padres’ reliever Brandon Maurer doesn’t wear his cap tilted to one side or shoot imaginary arrows into the air after recording a save like his predecessor in San Diego did, but the power-throwing righthander has been very effective of late in the Padres’ bullpen. Maurer picked up a four out save last night, retiring four of the five batters he faced to earn his fourth save of the season. Since June 15th, Maurer has allowed only one run and eight hits in 14 innings pitched while recording 15 strikeouts.
Second Star- Young Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo threw the best game of his brief Major League career, allowing Washington only two earned runs in seven strong innings pitched to earn his fourth win on the season. The right-hander limited Washington to four hits and one walk in his outing.
Star of the Game- With six home runs and eight RBI in his last six games, Padres’ rightfielder Matt Kemp is as hot as the summer weather that is hammering most of the United States. Kemp hit is 21st and 22nd homers of the year last night and drove in four of the five San Diego runs to lead the Pads to victory.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos went 3 for 4 with a RBI, picking up his tenth three plus hit game in the 2016 campaign. Ramos is now hitting .334 on the year, the second best batting average in the National League. The Buffalo trails only teammate Daniel Murphy, who is hitting .348.
Nats’ starter Tanner Roark gave up both of Kemp’s home runs last night, making the game only the fourth in 31 starts at Nationals Park where Roark has allowed multiple home runs. Roark’s career high for most home runs allowed in a home start is three, set on June 5th of last season against the Cubs. Unlike last night’s game, that outing had a happy ending as Washington defeated Chicago 7-5.
Jayson Werth’s home run last night was his 90th as a National and his 43rd at Nationals Park. He’s fifth on the all-time list of most homers at the home of the Nats, trailing Ryan Zimmerman (81), Ian Desmond (66), Bryce Harper (61) and Danny Espinosa (45). His first inning solo homer off of San Diego’s Perdomo came on a 1-2 count, making the blast the first Werth has hit on such a count since he took Atlanta’s Eric Stults deep at Nationals Park on May 8th of last season.
Speaking of Nats’ homers, Murphy’s solo home run off of San Diego’s Brad Hand in the eighth inning last night gave the Nats’ All-Star six home runs off of left-handed pitchers in the 2016 season. Only two left-handed batters have more; both Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo have taken lefties deep seven times so far this year.
Troubles at the top of the order continue for Washington, as Ben Revere went 0 for 5 last night. The Nats’ leadoff spot on-base percentage of .252 is far and away the worst in the National League (Cincinnati’s .315 is the next closest mark to Washington’s), and Nats’ leadoff hitters have the lowest batting average in the league as well at .209.
Washington looks to even the series with the Padres tonight with Max Scherzer taking on former National Edwin Jackson.
July has been good to Scherzer in his career. His 2.81 career ERA in the July is the lowest of any month, with September/October (2.93) and June (3.25) next. Several San Diego hitters have struggled mightily against Scherzer in their careers. Kemp is an amazing 1-27 (.033 average) with nine strikeouts, Alexei Ramirez is hitting .133 in 60 at bats and Melvin Upton is 0-9 with four strikeouts. San Diego All-Star first baseman Wil Myers has fared well against Max, going 4 for 6 with two home runs.
Jackson, who won 10 games for the 2012 National League East winning Nationals, won his first game as a Padre last Sunday as he allowed only one hit and two earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched as San Diego beat San Francisco. Werth is 4 for 12 with two doubles in his career against Jackson, while Anthony Rendon (0-5) and Ramos (1-7) have struggled against the veteran righty.
Bryce Harper’s mammoth two run home run off of Los Angeles’ Bud Norris on Wednesday July 20th helped Washington to an 8-1 victory over the Dodgers.
The weather in Washington is heating up, while its baseball team is going through a bit of a relatively, albeit with a limited sample size, cold spell. The Nats have dropped three of their last four games, including two of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as they head into this weekend’s series with San Diego. Despite the mini-slide, Washington still is holding down a 4.5 game lead in the National League East with an impressive 57-39 record.
Here’s some notes of interest from the past four games, with thanks to baseball-reference.com’s Play Index and the ESPN Home Run Tracker (two sites a baseball fan can’t live without) for the information.
LET’S PLAY TWO…..BUT IT ONLY COUNTS AS ONE
Sunday’s Nats’ 2-1 loss in 18 innings to Pittsburgh was the longest game by innings played in team history. The previous high was 16 innings, set on June 24, 2014 in a Nats’ 4-2 win over Milwaukee at Miller Park and equaled earlier this year in Washington’s thrilling 6-5 win over Minnesota. With the loss, the Nats are 4-4 this season in extra-inning games. Washington is 87-90 in games that have gone long, with a 46-44 mark in such games played at home.
A RARE EVENT FOR AN OPENING ACT
Highly touted youngster Reynaldo Lopez made his Major League debut on Tuesday against the Dodgers and was hit hard, allowing six runs and 10 hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Still there were bright spots for the hard-throwing righty, including his striking out nine Dodger batters. According to the Baseball Reference play index, Lopez is the first pitcher from 1913 until today who had nine plus strikeouts, 10 plus hits allowed and six plus runs allowed in his Major League debut. Two other pitchers have achieved the dubious feat so far in 2016. The Yankees’ Michael Pineda gave up seven runs with ten hits allowed while striking out nine in New York’s 8-1 loss to Tampa on April 24th, while former National Jordan Zimmermann gave up eight runs and 11 hits while fanning nine in seven innings pitched on May 16th in a 10-8 Tigers’ win over Minnesota.
On July 20, 1969, United States’ astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. 47 years later at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper hit a ball that looked to be headed for a lunar landing.
Harper’s first innings blast off of the Dodgers’ Bud Norris was the longest home run hit at Nationals Park so far this year, measuring 449 feet according to the ESPN HR tracker. Four of the five longest homers hit at the Nats’ home this year have come this month:
BATTER DATE DISTANCE
Harper, Was July 20 449
Ramos, Was April 14 445
Harper, Was July 3 441
Rendon, Was July 20 440
Maldonado, Mil July 4 438
The Nats had four home runs in their 8-1 win on the 20th, marking the 53rd time Washington has hit four or more round-trippers in a game. The team has seven four plus homer games in 2016, the second highest single season total for Washington since 2005. The 2013 squad had 11 four plus homer games.
RANDY NEWMAN, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE
Singer/songwriter Randy Newman made the song “I Love LA” a hit, and Washington starter Gio Gonzalez may well have been humming a few bars of the tune following another strong performance against the team from Tinseltown on Wednesday. Gonzalez allowed only one run and three hits in six strong innings pitched to earn his third win in four career decisions against the Dodgers. Gonzalez has fanned 34 Dodgers in 32 innings pitched against them in his career, while posting a sparking 1.69 ERA.
AS EASY AS ONE, TWO, THREE
Nats’ rookie Trea Turner tripled twice in the Dodgers’ series, using his top-level speed to navigate around the bases seemingly with ease. Turner’s three baggers in back to back nights on Tuesday and Wednesday marked the fifth time a Nats’ player has had triples in back to back games:
PLAYER DATES OPPONENT
Trea Turner 7/19-20, 2016 LAD
Dan Uggla 4/27-2/28, 2015 @ ATL
Rick Ankiel 5/25-5/26, 2012 @ ATL
Roger Bernadina 5/22-5/23, 2010 BAL
Christian Guzman 5/13-5/14, 2007 Fl (5/13), ATL (5/14)
STRIKEOUTS TIMES TEN
Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Dodgers marked Stephen Strasburg’s first loss of the year, but the All-Star ace did strike out 10 batters (including eight of 10 at one point) in the contest. Strasburg now has 29 10 plus strikeout games in his career, including eight so far in 2016. The Nats have 77 10 plus strikeout pitching performances since 2005, with Max Scherzer (18) and Gonzalez (10) next in line behind Strasburg’s total.
The Nationals look to get back to their winning ways tonight against San Diego at Nationals Park, with Tanner Roark facing the Padres’ Luis Perdomo.
The two finest games of Roark’s career, at least as indicated by the Pitching Game Score statistic, came against the Padres in 2014. On April 26th, Roark threw a complete game three hit shutout in a 4-0 Washington win with the Nats’ righty posting an 88 PGS. On June 6th at San Diego, Roark put up an 87 PGS as he allowed three hits in eight innings pitched while striking out 11 in Washington’s 6-0 win.
Perdomo has struggled mightily so far in 2016, as he’s put up a 7.36 ERA with a ghastly 1.952 WHIP in 69.2 innings pitched. Only Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jiminez (with a 1.971 mark) has a worse WHIP for Major League pitchers with more than 69 innings pitched this year.
The match-up features teams who bring power bats to the plate. The Nats are tied with St. Louis for the most home runs in the National League with 132, while San Diego’s 112 four baggers ranks sixth in the league. Matt Kemp and Wil Myers lead the Pads with 20 homers each, while Melvin Upton has 16. The older Upton brother has resurrected his career while playing in San Diego after struggling mightily in Atlanta. From 2013 through 2014 while a Brave, Upton posted a -2.1 WAR total. For San Diego in 2015 and 2016 to date, Upton’s combined WAR is 3.6.