Stephen Strasburg held Cincinnati hitless in 6.2 innings on July 3 as the Nationals routed the Reds 12-1. The start was the first of a month where the All-Star righthander would perform at an elite level.
NATS BY THE NUMBERS- July 2016
The Nationals won 13 of their 25 games in July, and their .520 winning percentage for the month was their lowest in the 2016 season. In the Nationals’ three division winning seasons, the only month where the team had a worse winning percentage was in May of 2014 when the Nats went 11-15 for a .423 mark.
Stephen Strasburg was arguably the Major League’s best starting pitcher in July 2016. The Nats’ stalwart went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 37 batters in 34.2 innings pitched. Among starters, Strasburg’s .779 WHIP in July was the best in the Majors ahead of Aaron Sanchez of Toronto (.824), Brandon McCarthy of the Dodgers (.835), San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (.861), Cincinnati’s Dan Straily (.861) and his teammate Max Scherzer (.882).
Daniel Murphy continued his hot hitting ways in July, putting up a 1.116 OPS with a .346 batting average, six homers and 23 RBI. Murphy had a 13 game hitting streak from July 7th through July 27th, and was particularly hard on his former teammates in New York during a crucial four game set at Citi Field in the early part of the month. In that series, Murphy went 7 for 17 with three homers, four runs and a whopping 10 RBI to lead the Nats to a 3-1 series win.
Top prospect Trea Turner was called to the Major Leagues for good in July, and his top level speed was on display immediately. Turner had three triples and seven steals (in seven attempts) in July as he served notice that the Nats’ search for an electric leadoff man was over.
After losing 9-7 to the Mets in the first game of a four game set in New York in the final series before the All-Star game, the thoughts of many Nats’ fans turned to 2015 when Washington was swept at Citi Field in late July in a series that changed the landscape at the top of the National League East.
With the Nats’ divisional lead down to three games the team’s superb pitching staff took over to give the Nats a six game cushion heading into the All-Star break, holding the Mets to a paltry four runs in the process.
On Friday the 8th, Strasburg allowed only two hits and fanned nine as he outdueled Noah Syndergaard in a 3-1 Nats’ win. The big blow at the plate for Washington came from Clint Robinson, who hit a two run homer off of the Mets’ ace.
It was Scherzer’s turn to excel on Saturday the 9th, as the veteran allowed only three hits, no earned runs and fanned nine to lead Washington to a 6-1 win. Murphy was the chief tormentor of the Mets among Nats’ hitters, as he went 3 for 4 with a double, home run and four RBI.
On Sunday the 10th, Gio Gonzalez (5.2 innings), Tanner Roark (2.1 perfect innings) and Jonathan Papelbon kept the Mets at bay while Murphy hit a two run homer as Washington won 3-2.
The July 4th fireworks spectacular is a staple of summertime in Washington DC and it is always an impressive show, but a show of equal impressiveness was put on by the Nationals one day before the Nation’s birthday celebration.
In a Sunday afternoon game at Nationals Park, Washington hit a season high six home runs in a 12-1 rout of the Reds. Wilson Ramos got the long-ball party started in the second with a solo homer off of John Lamb, and Danny Espinosa rocked the Reds two innings later with a grand slam off of Lamb that put the Nats up 5-0. One inning later, Bryce Harper’s solo off of Lamb gave Washington a 6-0 advantage. Anthony Rendon and Espinosa hit back to back homers off of Reds’ reliever Keyvins Sampson in the seventh inning to make the lead 11-0, and Stephen Drew provided the final homer of the game in the eighth with a solo shot off of Jumbo Diaz.
The contest was the fifth six homer game in Nationals’ history, and the first since August 29, 2014 when Washington hit six round-trippers in a 8 -3 win at Seattle.
Not all of the numbers were good for the Nats in July. Twice during the month the Nats’ pitching staff did something that had not been done by a Washington staff since 2010 by walking nine opponents in a nine inning game.
On July 7th, the Nats gave nine free passes to the Mets in a 9-7 New York win. On the 30th in San Francisco, Washington walked nine Giants’ batters as the Nats fell 5-3.
The most walks for a Nats’ staff in a nine inning game is 11, set on August 13, 2008 in a 12-0 loss to the Mets and equaled in a April 30, 2009 9-4 defeat at the hands of St. Louis.
Stephen Strasburg’s dominant performance on Friday night led the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 victory over division rival New York at Citi Field as Washington expanded its lead in the NL East to four games.
After Thursday night’s slugfest in which the teams combined for 16 runs and eight home runs, Friday’s matchup of all-star pitchers Stephen Strasburg of Washington and Noah Syndergaard of New York promised a game of a different sort. While Syndergaard was not totally on his game and had to leave due to a “tired arm” in the fifth inning, Strasburg kept up his end of the bargain to pace Washington to perhaps its best win of 52 it has so far in the 2016 season.
Nationals’ Record- 52-36
WP- Strasburg (12-0) LP- Syndergaard (9-4) SV- Papelbon (18)
HR- Robinson, Was (5), Cabrera, NYM (12)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- If one is looking for top performers for the Nationals in a game against the Mets, chances are that Daniel Murphy is going to be a viable candidate for that role. On Friday night Murphy was again in the center of the action, driving home Jayson Werth on a third innings double to pad Washington’s lead to 3-0. Murphy’s RBI was his 60th of the year, and he is on pace to shatter his career high of 78 RBI which he set in 2013 while playing for the Mets. Murphy was also big with the glove, snaring a rocket off of the bat of New York’s Juan Lagares to start a crucial double play to end the Mets’ eighth inning and keep Washington’s tenuous two run lead in place.
Second Star- Washington’s Clint Robinson’s story is one of perseverance, as the left-handed outfielder/first baseman toiled through many years in the Minors before getting a shot to play for the Nats last year. In 2016 Robinson is solidifying his place in the Majors, and his two run second inning home run off of Syndergaard was the big hit in last night’s contest. The home run was the third of Robinson’s career at Citi Field, and he is the only player in the Major Leagues with more than one home run against Syndegaard. When he has started a game, Robinson has posted an impressive .275/.348/.422 slash line over his time with the Nationals.
Star of the Game- Stephen Strasburg has been very good with flashes of brilliance during his Major League career, but 2016 appears to be the year when the former number one draft pick is putting everything together. Strasburg toyed with the Mets last night, allowing only two hits and one run in seven innings pitched to earn his 12th win in as many decisions on the year. The Nats’ righty is second among National League pitchers in WAR with 3.7 (Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is first at 4.8), and he is now 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA in games at Citi Field.
Valiant in Defeat- On a day when the Mets lost Syndergaard and fellow All-Star Yoenis Cespedes to injury, an unlikely trio held the Mets in the game and gave the New Yorkers a fighting chance to pull out a win. Relievers Seth Lugo, Jerry Blevins and Erik Goeddel combined to hold the Nationals scoreless and hitless over the last 4.1 innings of the game, fanning five Nationals’ hitters in the process.
So far in 2016, Strasburg (11.14) and teammate Max Scherzer (11.56) have impressive SO/9 numbers. There have never been a pair of teammates to finish a season with 11.0 plus SO/9 totals. If Strasburg, Scherzer and Miami’s Jose Fernandez (whose 12.91 SO/9 number leads the Majors) hold on to finish above 11.0, they will be the first trio to do so since 1997 when Curt Schilling of Philadelphia (11.29), Pedro Martinez of Montreal (11.37) and Randy Johnson of Seattle (12.30) did so.
The key eighth inning double play turned by the Nats’ was their 85th of the season, the third highest total in the National League. The Nats have a .990 fielding percentage on the year, the best figure in the Major Leagues. They also have showed well in the defensive efficiency metric, posting a .700 number that is behind only the Cubs (.725) and Dodgers (.710) in the National League.
Max Scherzer takes the mound tonight for Washington, looking to continue his career success against the Mets. The Nats’ all-star is 4-3 with a 2.03 ERA, a .839 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched against New York. Wilmer Flores is 0 for 10 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Scherzer, while teammate Curtis Granderson has had some success going 8 for 27 (.296) with two home runs.
With Matt Harvey now on the shelf due to injury, New York will send Logan Verrett to the mound tonight. Verrett pitched fairly well in Washington last week despite picking up the loss, as he allowed only two runs and four hits in five innings pitched in the Nats’ 4-2 win. Verrett has struggled with the home run ball recently however, allowing six round trippers in his last 13 innings pitched.
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.
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.