Trea Turner celebrates one of seven Nats’ home runs hit on Friday in Washington’s 17-7 rout of the Phillies at Philadelphia. Unfortunately for the Nats, the Phils have won the other two games played so far in the four game series at Citizens Bank Park,
Friday night was a glimpse of the vast potential of the Washington Nationals’ offense, Thursday and Saturday were examples of the reality of a brutal month of June for the defending National League East champs. Here’s a look at the first three games of Washington’s four game series with division rival Philadelphia.
GAME 79 REVIEW
Phillies 4 Nationals 3 (at Phl)
WP- Nola (10-2) LP- Roark (3-9) SV- Dominguez (6)
HR- Hoskins, Phl (13, one on}
Nats’ Record- 41-38
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Young Domincan native Seranthony Dominguez has the potential to turn what has been a weakness for the Phils into a strength. Pressed into closer duty due to ineffectiveness of the team’s other options, Dominguez has been mostly good for Gabe Kapler’s club. On Thursday, he entered the game with one out and the tying run on secojnd, and proceeded to strike out Mark Reynolds and Wilmer Difo to end the game.
Second Star- Aaron Nola has great command, excellent stuff and a tremendous mound presence. All of those attributes were on display in this contest, as the 10 game winner held Washington to only 1 run in 7.2 innings pitched to earn the victory. The outing was the second longest of the season for Nola, trailing only his eight innings pitched on April 10th v.s Cincinnati. The soon-to-be All-Star has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 13 of his 17 starts on the season.
Star of the Game- Outfielder Rhys Hoskins was 3 for 4 with a double and a key two run homer, continuing his solid play against Washington.
Strong in Defeat- Trea Turner had two hits and scored two of Washington’s three runs on the game.
Nats Note- Tanner Roark’s loss left him with a 3-9 record on the year for a .250 winning percentage. Of all Nats’ pitchers with at least 10 decisions in a season, only three have had worse winning rates. In 2008, Jason Bergmann won only two of his 11 starts for a .154 winning percentage. Two years later, Jason Marquis had a 2-9 record/.182 rate. In 2009, Garrett Mock’s .231 rate came courtesy of a 3-10 record.
GAME 80 REVIEW
Nationals 17 @ Phillies 7
WP- Fedde (1-3) LP- Pivetta (4-7)
HR- Turner, Was (9, one on); Soto, Was 2(8, one w/two on, one w/one on), Rendon, Was (10, two on),; Harper, Was (20, two on); Goodwin, Was (2, solo); Reynolds, Was (7, solo); Hoskins, Phl (14, one on); Kingery, Phl (4, solo); Santana, Phl (14, one one)
Nats’ Record (42-38)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- “Dynamic” is a word that is sometimes used to describe the skills of Nats’ shortstop Trea Turner. Turner demonstrated his vast skills on Friday, going 3 for 5 with four runs scored, two driven in, a stolen base and his ninth homer of the season.
Second Star- Anthony Rendon went 3 for 6 with three runs scored, three driven in, a double and a three run home run in the top of the second that broke the game open.
Star of the Game- 19 year old sensation Juan Soto continues to play beyond his years, and he was sensational in this contest. The sweet-swinging lefty had four hits including two home runs, and drove in a career high five runs in the Nats’ rout. The two home run game was the second of Soto’s rookie season.
Strong in Defeat- When Phils’ first baseman Carlos Santana squares up on a pitch, the ball usually travels a long, long way. The burly veteran crushed a long two run homer off of Washington’s Tim Collins and also had another hit in the contest.
Nats Note- The Nationals’ seven home runs tied a record for most in a game in 2018, tying them with the Dodgers who battered the Mets at Citi Field with seven round trippers earlier in the week. The seven home run barrage fell one short of Washington’s team record of eight four base hits in a game, set last July 27th in a 15-2 thrashing of Milwaukee.
GAME 81 REVIEW
Phillies 3 Nationals 2 (at Phl)
WP- Arano (1-0) LP- Hellickson (2-1) SV- Dominguez (7)
HR- Rendon, Was (11, solo); Herrera, Phl (14, solo)
Nats’ Record- 42-39
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Stars- The often ridiculed Phillies’ bullpen crew was forced into action early for the second night in a row. Unlike on Friday when the team’s relievers threw gasoline on an already burning fire the bullpen crew did the job on Saturday, holding Washington to a single run over the game’s seven final frames. Particularly impressive was the job done by young reliever Yacksel Rios, who entered the game with the go ahead runs on base in the top of the eighth and retired Rendon, Soto and Mark Reynolds to end the threat.
Second Star- Flashy Phils’ centerfielder Odubel Herrera has added a strong power stroke to his offensive game in 2018. His solo home run in the third inning tied the game at 1-1, and gave him 14 homers on the season. He’s only one short of his career high of 15 home runs for a season, set in 2016.
Stars of the Game- With two out and nobody on in the Phils’ fourth, Jesmuel Valentin, Jorge Alfaro and pinch-hitter Aaron Althierr hit back to back to back doubles to give the Phils a 3-1 lead.
Strong in Defeat- June 2018 will be a month to forget for the Nats, but third baseman Anthony Rendon certainly did his part to push the team ahead. On Saturday, the slight but athletic Rendon went 2 for 4 with a 471 foot home run that would have done ex-Phils beheamouths Greg Luzinski and Ryan Howard proud. In June, Rendon hit five homers, drove in 18 runs and posted a sensational .937 OPS.
Nats Note- The Nats’ loss was their 14th in 22 one run games on the year. The undisputed bully of the NL East block in 2016 and 2017 also is struggling against divisional foes this year. The Washington loss made the team 13-15 in intra-divisonal contests on the year.
Washington’s Gio Gonzalez takes the mound on Sunday against Philadelphia veteran Jake Arrieta in the final game of the series.
After allowingly only 15 earned runs in his first 11 starts of the year, Gonzalez has permitted 20 (in 22.1 innings pitched) over his last five. The Washington lefty does sport a good record in his career at Citizens Bank Park, winning six of 10 decisions there while posting a 2.62 ERA. In 21 career at bats against Gonzalez, Philadelphia’s Mikael Franco has only one hit (.048 average). Aaron Althierr has also struggled against the Florida native, hitting a meager .111 with eight strikeouts in 18 career at bats.
Arrieta enters the game with a 5-6 mark, and also sports a 6.3 SO/9 rate that is the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign of 2010 when he went 6-6 for the Orioles. Mark Reynolds has eight hits in 20 career at bats (.400) against Arrieta, while Adam Eaton is only 1-9 (.111) against him.
Jayson Werth acknowledges the crowd at Nationals Park after his pinch-hit grand slam home run on Sunday broke open a game the Nats would win over St. Louis by a 10-2 score.
Winning only three of seven games in a week is not ideal by any means, but the Nats were able to hold their own for the most part against fellow National League playoff caliber teams and they head into Memorial Day with more wins (30) than all but two Major League teams (the Cubs have 34 and the Giants have 32). Here’s a look at some of the highlights and low points from the past seven games.
NINE IS FINE FOR NATS’ ACE
Two of the team’s three wins in the week came courtesy of solid starts by Stephen Strasburg, who beat the Mets on Tuesday and came back and took care of the Cardinals on Sunday. Strasburg is 9-0 on the year with a 2.69 ERA and has an impressive 1.089 WHIP so far. The Nats’ power pitcher struck out only four Cardinals’ in Sunday’s win, marking only the sixth time in 18 decisions where he’s picked up a win while fanning four or fewer. In 111 career starts where he’s struck out five or more batters, Strasburg has posted an impressive 57-25 record.
His two wins gave him 13 career victories in the month of May, the most he’s posted in a month in his career. Strasburg has 12 career victories in August, and 11 in both April and June. Sunday’s effort improved Strasburg’s record in day games to 28-14, and moved his career mark at Nationals Park to 31-17 with a 2.73 ERA.
MAKING IT COUNT IN A PINCH
Veteran Jayson Werth was scheduled for an off day on Sunday, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He made his one at bat on the day count in a big way, driving a Dean Kiekhefer pitch way over the wall in center field for a grand slam that broke open a close contest.
The pinch-hit homer was the seventh of the year for the Nats, moving them within one of the Washington record eight pinch-hit round trippers that were hit by the 2006 squad. The four run pinch-hit blast was the second in Nationals’ history. Former National Justin Maxwell hit a grand slam back in September 2007 against Florida.
Werth’s slam was his third as a National. Only Ryan Zimmerman (5) and former National Michael Morse (4) have more. Besides Zimmerman and Werth, current Nats with grand slams while wearing the Curly W are Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos with two each, and Danny Espinosa and Michael A. Taylor with one a piece. Washington has 43 grand slams since the team’s move to Washington in 2005, and Werth’s blast was the 18th grand slam hit by a Washington player at Nationals Park.
A BLAST BY BRYCE
Nats’ star Bryce Harper hit is 12th and 13th home runs of the year during the Cardinals’ series, and number 12 was one to remember.
The 437 foot blast to right field off of Cards’ starter Mike Leake evened the score on Thursday night at 1-1 in a game Washington would win over the Cards by a 2-1 score. According to ESPN’s Home Run tracker, the round tripper tied for the sixth longest Harper has hit at Nationals Park:
Longest Home Runs at Nationals Park by Bryce Harper
Distance Date Pitcher
453 feet 9/4/15 Julio Teheran
452 feet 4/18/15 Aaron Harang
444 feet 9/8/13 Mark Buehrle
441 feet 5/6/15 Tom Koehler
438 feet 7/18/15 Kenley Jansen
437 feet 8/6/13 Julio Teheran
437 feet 5/26/15 Mike Leake
AN ODD OUTING INDEED
Friday’s Nats’ loss to St. Louis was all but sealed when the Cards scored five runs in the third inning against Nats’ starter Max Scherzer. The game marked the 24th time in Scherzer’s career as a starter where he’s pitched at least seven innings and surrendered three or fewer hits. Scherzer is 21-1 in those contests. Friday’s game marked the second time this season that Scherzer has walked four batters in a game, and he’s 0-2 in those contests. The Nats’ righthander did not walk more than three batters in any game during the 2015 season.
HOT HITTING IN A HOT WEEK
Especially in the latter part of the week, the weather felt more like a typical summer climate than it did like one would experience in spring. Several Nats’ hitters were as hot as the weather during the week.
In Saturday’s loss to St. Louis, Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two home runs. The multi-homer game was Zimmerman’s second on the year, and the 16th in his career. The veteran National has three two home run games against St. Louis in his career, the most multi-homer games he’s had against any opponent. Zimmerman’s four hits marked the 11th time he’s done that in his career. Before Saturday, the last time Zimmerman achieved the feat was on 7/5/2014 when he went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles in the Nats’ 13-0 rout of the Cubs.
Daniel Murphy was New York’s favorite son during the Mets’ playoff run in 2015, but New Yorkers (particularly fans of the Mets) could be forgiven if they’re not particularly fond of the Nats’ second basemen these days. Murphy had two hits in each of the three games against the Mets on the week, giving him 10 hits in 23 at bats in 2016 against his former teammates. Murphy hit his second home run of the season off of struggling New York starter Matt Harvey on Tuesday. Only former National Jordan Zimmerman (with four) has given up more home runs to Murphy in his career.
Wilson Ramos came up big on Sunday, continuing a hot spell in May. The Nats’ catcher went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBI, marking the eighth time he’s driven in at least four runs in a game. Ramos’ career high for RBI is five, set on three different occasions during the 2013 season. So far in May, Ramos has posted a .967 OPS with four home runs and 17 RBI.
Thursday’s winning pitcher for the Nats was Joe Ross, who allowed only one run and struck out four in seven innings of solid work. The win evened Ross’ record on the year to 4-4 and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.52. The game marked a nice bounce back effort for the young righty, who had allowed 10 runs in 11.2 innings pitched in his previous two starts at home.
The Nats will spend Memorial Day in the City of Brotherly Love, as Tanner Roark takes on Jeremy Hellickson this evening. Those keeping score at the game might want to have extra ink available, as neither pitcher has fared well at Citizens Bank Park. Roark is 1-4 wit a 8.27 ERA at CBP, while Hellickson’s 2016 campaign his shown that he’s generally more effective on the road (.347 ERA, 1.101 WHIP) than he’s been at home (4.87 ERA, 1.475).
The fans of the Phillies are generally not the most hospitable bunch, but Bryce Harper could be forgiven if he considers a trip to Ben Franklin’s home town as enjoyable as a young child’s visit to the Magic Kingdom. Harper has a lifetime 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs in 130 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park.
If Roark is to have success this evening, he’s probably going to have to control two young Phillies’ outfielders who have had success so far in the month of May. Speedy leadoff man Odubel Herrera is hitting .327 with eight RBI, while Rule 5 pickup Tyler Goeddel has hit at a .313 clip two home runs on the month.