Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break, as the Nationals defeated Pittsburgh 5-1 to start the post-All Star break portion of the season with a big win.
Nationals 5 Pirates 1
Nationals’ Record 55-36
WP- Strasburg (13-0) LP- Liriano (5-9)
HR- Taylor, Was (7)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Michael A. Taylor’s home run to right-center off of Pirates’ hard-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz gave the Nats a four run lead and with Stephen Strasburg on the mound, the deficit probably seemed like 44 to Clint Hurdle and the Pirates. Taylor’s home run was his first since he hit two round trippers in a June 19th game at San Diego. Taylor now has three career home runs against the Pirates, more than he’s had against any teams other than the Phillies and Marlins (he also has three against each of those teams).
Second Star- Filling in for an injured Daniel Murphy, Clint Robinson had two hits and drove in a run out of the eight hole in Dusty Baker’s lineup to help Washington to victory. Robinson has 19 RBI in only 97 at bats on the year, making him the only player in the Majors with that many RBI and fewer than 107 at bats.
Star of the Game- As he’s been for most of the 2016 season, All-Star Stephen Strasburg was on his game last night as he earned his 13th win in as many decisions on the year. Strasburg allowed only three hits and one run in eight innings pitched, posting a pitching game score of 76 that was his second highest on the year (he had an 84 PGS on April 19th at Miami). Strasburg allowed one or fewer earned runs for the eighth time in 17 starts on the season, and for the 70th time in his 148 career starts.
Valiant in Defeat- Poor defense and perhaps some fatigue from pitching in hot conditions were his undoing in the Nats’ four run seventh inning, but Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano pitched well for most of his outing. The lefty retired the first nine Nationals he faced, and had allowed only one run and four hits through six innings before the rug was pulled out from under him in the seventh inning.
Reliever Shawn Kelley pitched the ninth inning for Washington, and recorded all three outs on strikeouts. It was the eighth time in Kelley’s career, and the second time as a National, where Kelley has pitched one inning and all of his outs were strikeouts. On the season, Kelley has 52 strikeouts in only 33.2 innings pitched. For pitchers with 30 or more innings pitched this season, Kelley’s 13.9 SO/9 rate trails only Dellin Betances of the Yankees (15.9), Betances’ teammate Andrew Miller 15.79) and Miami’s Kyle Barraclough (15.0).
Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates each stole a base in the game, making last night only the seventh time this season where a Nats’ opponent has stolen two or bases in a game. The Nats have allowed on 32 steals on the year, the fourth best mark in the National League. Arizona is first in that category with only 27 steals allowed, followed by San Francisco (29) and Miami (31).
The Nats’ win last night was their 10th in 14 games played on Fridays so far this season. The best day of the week so far for Washington is Wednesday, with the Nats’ posting a 11-3 record on that day. Washington is also 10-4 on Sundays.
The Nats look to earn a series win tonight with Tanner Roark taking on Pirates’ hard-thrower Gerrit Cole.
Roark has generally been very effective in his career after the All-Star break, posting a 14-8 record with a 2.77 ERA. He’s also excelled in his career at Nationals Park, going 16-10 with a 2.78 ERA.
Cole is 5-4 with a 2.77 ERA on the season, but there are some warning signs that point to potential problems for the Pirates’ ace. He’s allowed a 1.317 WHIP this year against a career mark of 1.168, and his SO/9 ratio of 7.2 is down from the numbers he put up over the past two seasons (in 2014 Cole’s SO/9 rate was 9.0, and he put up a 8.7 rate in 2015). One National who is glad to see Cole in town is outfielder Ben Revere. In 12 career at bats against Cole, Revere has seven hits.
Ryan Zimmerman watches his mammoth home run to left field that got the Nationals off on the right foot on Friday as Washington defeated Miami 4-1 for its third win in a row.
Five games this week against division rivals Miami and New York showed the ebbs and flows a team goes through during the course of a Major League season. The Nats were dominated by superb pitchers in the first two games of the week, but bounced back to score runs and pick up wins as the week moved into its second half.
Here’s a look back, which was made possible in large part by Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index, at the past five games for the Nats.
SUN May 15- Miami 5 Washington 1 Nationals Record 23-15
WP- Fernandez (5-2) LP- Ross (3-3) SV- Ramos (11)
HR- Zimmerman, Was 4), Stanton, Mia (11)
This matinee at Nationals Park became the Jose Fernandez show, as the Marlins’ superb righty was dominant on the mound and helped out at the plate to give Miami the win. Fernandez allowed only one run and fanned 11 in seven innings pitched, to move his career mark against Washington to 5-0 with an eye popping 1.09 ERA. With the bat, Fernandez had two sacrifice bunts and helped put the Marlins into a comfortable lead with a two run single off of Nats’ starter Joe Ross that gave Miami a four run lead.
Ross allowed five runs (three earned) in a so-so start. The game was only the third in 20 career starts for Ross where he’s allowed more than four runs.
Washington’s only run came on Ryan Zimmerman’s inside the park home run that resulted from a horrific looking crash between Marlins’ outfielders Marcel Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton on Zim’s deep shot to right center field. The inside the park homer was the third in Nationals’ history, all of which have come at home. On May 12, 2007, Austin Kearns circled the bases at RFK Stadium with Washington’s first ever inside the park homer, and Willie Harris did the trick on September 24, 2010 at Nationals Park against Atlanta.
TUES May 17- NY Mets 2 Washington 0 (at Citi Field) Nationals Record 23-16
WP- Syndergaard (4-2) LP- Scherzer (4-3) SV- Familia (13)
HR- Granderson, NY (7), Conforto, NY (6)
On Tuesday at Citi Field Washington’s starter Max Scherzer was good, but good rarely beats great and it didn’t on this night. Mets’ ace Noah Syndergaard was so awesome in this one that those of us watching couldn’t help but wonder how he ever loses.
The tall New York hurler allowed only five hits, no walks and struck out 10 in his seven innings of work, marking only the second time in his career where he’s had 10 or more strikeouts while pitching at least seven innings and walking no one.
Mets’ leadoff man Curtis Granderson gave Syndergaard all the support he’d need when he hit Scherzer’s first pitch of the night over the right field wall to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. The homer was the 38th leadoff round tripper of Granderson’s career.
Scherzer’s strikeout pitches were working as well, as he fanned 10 Mets. The game marked the second time in his career where Scherzer has been tagged with a loss while striking out at least ten and allowing two or fewer runs. The other time came last season on May 1st at, you guessed it, Citi Field against Matt Harvey and the Mets when Max allowed only one run and punched out 10 in a 4-0 loss.
WED May 18- Washington 7 @ NY Mets 1 Nationals Record 24-16
WP- Gonzalez (3-1) LP Colon (3-3)
HR- Cespedes, NY (13)
Affable Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez usually wears a smile wherever he goes, but that smile is probably a little bit bigger when he’s in New York to face the Mets. Gonzalez moved his career record at Citi Field to 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA as he led the Nats to a convincing win.
Gonzalez’s efficiency was in stark contrast to that of Colon and the relievers that followed him, as New York walked 11 Nationals’ batters. The 11 free passes tied the Nats’ record for most bases on balls in a nine inning game. The feat was done twice previously, once on May 7, 2005 at San Francisco in Washington’s 11-8 victory, and again on August 9, 2006 at RFK Stadium as Washington defeated Florida 5-2. Nats’ two and three hitters Jayson Werth (with three) and Bryce Harper (with four) combined for seven of the walks.
Werth also contributed two hits and scored three runs in the contest.
THURS May 19- Washington 9 @ NY Mets 1 Nationals Record 25-16
WP- Strasburg (7-0) LP- Harvey (3-6)
HR- Murphy, Was (6)
It was anything but “Happy Harvey Day” at Citi Field on Thursday as a dominant effort by Stephen Strasburg and some fireworks by the Nats left Mets’ starter Matt Harvey perplexed and the Citi Field faithful in a sour mood.
Strasburg moved to 7-0 on the year, fanning 10 and allowing only one run in six innings. The win was his fifth in eight career decisions against the Mets, and marked the fourth time in 10 starts against the New Yorkers where he’s had 10 or more strikeouts.
To add to the misery of the Mets’ fans, 2015 favorite son Daniel Murphy went 2 for 4 with a key two run, first innings home run off of Harvey that got the burly righthander’s night off to a bad start. Murphy’s homer against his former team was the 68th of his career. He has now hit home runs against every National League team with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Murphy’s teammates Ben Revere and Anthony Rendon contributed to the Nats’ big night. Revere went 2 for 5 with a two run triple, marking the second time this season the Nats’ speedster has had multiple hits in a game (he had 49 such games in 2015). Rendon did Revere one better in the hits department, going 3 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI. In 101 career at bats at Citi Field, Rendon is hitting .337 with eight doubles, six home runs and a .959 OPS.
FRI May 20- Washington 4 @ Miami 1 Nationals Record 26-16
WP- Roark (3-3) LP- Nicolino (2-2) SV- Papelbon (12)
HR- Zimmerman, Was (5), Taylor, Was (4), Ozuna, Mia (8)
Ryan Zimmerman’s 425 foot blast deep into the seats at Marlins Park was a marvel to watch, except if you happened to be Marlins’ starter Chris Nicolino or one of his teammates. Zim’s homer was his longest of the year and his first 425 plus blast since last September (when he hit a 427 foot home run at St. Louis on 9/2), and gave the Nats a lead they’d never lose in the opening game of what seems to be the 20th series of the young season between the Nats and the Marlins.
Michael A. Taylor added to the home run party in the second innings, as his laser blast to the left field seats gave the Nats a 4-0 lead. Six of the Nats’ eight hits on the game went for extra bases, although they couldn’t add on to the 4-0 lead and saw the Marlins threaten on several occasions. Starter Tanner Roark and relievers Felipe Rivero, Shawn Kelley (who navigated expertly through troubled waters in the eighth innings) and Jonathan Papelbon made the lead hold up however, as the Nats won their third consecutive game. The Nats’ pitchers were particularly effective against the suddenly struggling Stanton (who has no hits in his last 15 at bats), holding him hitless in four at bats and striking him out three times.
Washington’s defense helped out on Friday. Werth’s strong throw to nail Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria as the Marlins’ shortstop tried to stretch a hit into a double in the seventh inning kept Miami from getting a runner into scoring position, and shortstop Danny Espinosa ended the game with a sparkling play that kept Miami from bringing the tying run to the plate.
Anthony Rendon scores ahead of the tag from Miami’s Jeff Mathis on Ryan Zimmerman’s first inning sacrifice fly to give Washington a lead they’d never relinquish in the Nats’ 6-4 victory over Miami this afternoon (PHOTO- Miami Herald.com).
Nationals’ Record- 23-13
WP- Strasburg (6-0) LP- Nicolino (2-1) SV- Papelbon (11)
HR- Ramos Was (4), Yelich Mia (5)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Anthony Rendon
The Nats’ third baseman went 2 for 4 with a run scored and a RBI to help the Nats’ offense to its six run output. Rendon’s nifty head-first slide on Ryan Zimmerman’s first inning sacrifice fly gave the Nats a lead they’d never lose, despite the pesky Marlins almost battling back several times to tie or go ahead in the contest.
Second Star- Shawn Kelley
The right-handed reliever got the job done on the day, recording five outs and keeping the Nats’ lead in place in the latter part of the game. One of the biggest at bats of the game came in the top of the seventh with Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton representing the go-ahead run at the plate. Kelley got ahead of Stanton, and then struck him out swinging on a 92 mile per hour fastball to end the threat.
Star of the Game- Michael A. Taylor
The Nats’ young leadoff hitter was on base four times in the game, recording two hits and two walks. It was a day of deuces for Taylor, as he also scored two runs and stole two bases.
Valiant in Defeat- Christian Yelich
There’s no denying the talent of the Marlins’ young outfielder, who hit a solo home run to deep centerfield off of Stephen Strasburg in the first inning and brought home another run with a double off of Strasburg in the top of the fifth. Yelich’s home run was his fifth of the season, and his two hits in four at bats raised his batting average to .328.
Strasburg’s win was his sixth in a row to start the season, tying him with reliever Tyler Clippard (who won six straight decisions to start the 2010 campaign). In his next start, the Nats’ stalwart will try to match Tanner Roark’s seven straight wins to begin a campaign, which Roark set in 2013 (thanks to Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index for this information). Strasburg struck out seven Marlins on the game making this the 80th game in his career, and seventh in eight starts this year, where he’s recorded at least that many strikeouts.
Washington stole three bases on the game, marking the second time this season the team has had three or more steals in a game. In addition to Taylor’s aforementioned thefts, Bryce Harper stole third base in the first inning of today’s game. Taylor and Harper also were responsible for Washington’s first three plus stolen base game in 2016, as each player stole two bases in the Nats’ victory over Atlanta on April 11th. The Nationals did not steal three or more bases in any of the team’s games last season.
Washington scored two of its runs in the first inning on sacrifice flies by Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, marking the 57th time the Nats have had two or more run scoring fly ball outs in the same game. The two sacrifice flies in one inning was the seventh time Washington has accomplished that feat, with the last time coming on August 5th of last season when Zimmerman and Jayson Werth brought home runs on a flyout off of Arizona’s Rubby De La Rosa.
Two of the hardest hit balls of the day for the Nationals came off of the bats of Werth and Wilson Ramos. Werth’s scorching line drive single past shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria plated Harper with Washington’s run in the first inning, and Ramos’ laser shot home run to left center off of Miami’s Nick Wittgren in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Washington a 5-3 lead. Miami had some hard hit balls of its own, with Yelich’s first inning homer leaving the park in a hurry. The bad luck award for a hard hit ball goes to Stanton, whose shot in the fifth inning that could have tied the score was turned into an inning ending out on a fine play by Washington’s shortstop Danny Espinosa.
It’s Fun Fact Friday, courtesy of Baseball Reference.com’s Play Index, with the focus this time on trivia and numbers related to the players expected to be patrolling the outfield for the Nationals in 2016.
- New Nationals’ outfielder Ben Revere always seemed to be a thorn in the side to some of Washington’s better hurlers. For example Revere is 8 for 22 (.364) with a home run lifetime against Max Scherzer, and has a .400 average in 25 at bats against Gio Gonzalez. It turns out that Scherzer and Gonzales are not the only talented pitchers against whom the speedy outfielder has had success. Revere is 7 for 14 in his career against Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, has a .583 in 12 at bats against Pirates’ flame thrower Gerrit Cole and has six hits in 10 at bats against Houston’s Tony Sipp.
- Jayson Werth has 198 career home runs, with 78 coming as a National. Werth has gone deep against 28 of the 30 Major League teams, and has a chance to add another notch to his belt in May when the Detroit Tigers visit Nationals Park. The Nats’ left fielder will have to wait a few years to get a shot at homering against the other team he’s yet to go yard against. The Nats won’t be playing the Oakland A’s, at least in the regular season, until 2018.
- Bryce Harper hit 42 homers and posted a 1.109 OPS in his MVP season of 2015. Harper’s breakout year was the 53rd in the Majors since 1914 where a player hit at least 40 homers and had an OPS of at least 1.10. If he can match the numbers this year, Harper will join a select group of players who have had more than once such season in their careers. All-time great Babe Ruth has 11 such seasons, with Barry Bonds posting six, Lou Gehrig having five, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire and Hank Greenburg doing the trick three times each, and Mickey Mantle and Todd Helton having two each.
- In his rookie season of 2015, Nats’ center fielder Michael A. Taylor became the first Major League rookie since 2012 with at least 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases in a season. In an injury plagued 2012 Harper had 22 taters and 18 steals, Mike Trout of the Angels hit 30 long balls and stole 49 bases and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes hit 23 round-trippers and swiped 16 bags. Since 1914, Taylor is one of only 51 Major Leaguers who have achieved this goal.
- Both Clint Robinson and Matt den Dekker served in backup roles for the Nationals in 2015, and both contributed significantly down the stretch. Robinson posted a .938 OPS in 35 at bats in August of last season, with eight runs scored, a double, three home runs and seven RBI. den Dekker saved his best in 2015 until the season’s final month, as he hit .298 with three homers, seven RBI and a .948 OPS in September. One area where the two outfielders differed was in their home v. road splits. Robinson was much better on the road (.897 OPS) than at home (.676) last year, while den Dekker (.993 home, .564 road) was almost his polar opposite.