On September 24, 2016, the Nationals clinched the National League East with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The victory gave Washington three division titles in five seasons, and assured that post-season baseball would be played in the Nation’s Capital in again. That division clinching game was the most memorable event in a month full of them. In this edition of “Nats by the Number”, we look at some of the other highlights of the last month of the regular season (thanks as always to baseball-reference.com’s play index for allowing easy access to statistical information on the Nats and all other baseball-related topics).
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez was the winning pitcher in the game that won the East for the Nats, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout relief to earn his fourth victory in seven decisions on the year. Lopez struck out six and allowed only three hits to become the second pitcher in Nationals’ history to throw 5.1 or more scoreless innings in relief in a game. The first time it happened came all the way back in 2005 under much less dramatic circumstances than did Lopez’s effort in the title clinching win. On May 13th of the Nats’ first season, Tomo Ohka stopped the bleeding with 5.2 scoreless innings pitched out of the pen in Washington’s 8-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Slender Trea Turner is known more for his speed and all around ability than he is for his power, but the rookie’s home run hitting ability was on display in a big way in the season’s final month. Turner hit eight home runs in the month to pace the Nationals and finish behind only Atlanta’s Matt Kemp (who had nine) for the most homers in the National League in the final month of the regular season.
Turner’s power outburst included two multi-home run games. On September 9th at Nationals Park, Turner hit a two run homer off of Philadelphia’s Colton Murray in the bottom of the seventh to give Washington a 4-1 lead and ended the contest with a game winning, ninth inning round tripper off of the Phils’ Frank Herrmann to put the Nats in the win column by a 5-4 score. Eight days later in Atlanta, Turner hit a pair of solo homers off of Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter.
On the season, Washington players had eight two run home run games. Like Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa had two such games each. Other Nationals with two homers in game in 2016 where National League MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy and outfielder Michael A. Taylor.
In an 11 game home stand in early September against the Phillies, Braves and Mets, the Nationals did what they had done all season long to their divisional rivals- they dominated them.
Washington won nine of the 11 contests to cement its spot at the top of the National League East. Included in the stretch were walk-off victories over the Braves on September 7th (on a Wilson Ramos hit) and the Phillies on September 9th (on a Trea Turner solo home run).
The Nationals also had two shutouts in the month. On September 10th, Washington defeated the Phillies 3-0 on the strength of excellent pitching by Max Scherzer and the Nats’ bullpen plus Bryce Harper’s eighth inning three run home that broke a scoreless tie.
Four days later, Tanner Roark won his 15th game of the year as he shut the Mets out over seven innings and got all the support he needed when Ramos hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Nats won 1-0.
On the season, Washington was an amazing 41-16 in contests against the Braves, Phillies and Mets.
Closer Mark Melancon was the key pitcher in the Nats’ bullpen down the stretch but he received a lot of help from his bullpen mates, including righty Shawn Kelley.
In the season’s final 27 regular season games Kelley threw 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and allowing only one hit to finish his season with a flourish. Kelley won his only two decisions in the month and finished the 2016 campaign with an impressive WHIP of .897.
Jayson Werth’s two run pinch-hit home run off of former teammate Felipe Rivero helped Washington to a comeback 10-7 win at Pittsburgh on September 25th, and also helped Washington improve on its team record total for pinch-hit home runs in a season.
Werth’s dramatic blast was the 12th home run by a pinch-hitter in 2016 for the Nats, as the team easily shattered the 2006 squad’s record of eight. Washington’s total was the third highest in Major League Baseball, trailing only St. Louis (17) and the New York Mets (13).
Werth was one of three Nationals with more than one pinch-hit homer on the year. The veteran outfielder had two, while bench stalwarts Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey had three each. Other Nationals with pinch-hit homers in 2016 were rookie Pedro Severino, Clint Robinson, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
Nats’ ace Max Scherzer was 5-0 in his six decisions in the season’s final month and ended up with 20 wins on the year. Scherzer became the second pitcher in Nats’ history with 20 or more wins (Gio Gonzalez won 21 in 2012) en route to his second Cy Young Award.
Scherzer struck out 46 batters in 39.1 innings pitched in his final six games, and ended with a National League high 284 punchouts on the year.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit only .247 in the season’s final 27 games, but he certainly made the hits he did have count. The talented Texan drove in a team high 23 runs in the month, tying Daniel Murphy (who had 23 in both May and July) for the most RBI in a month by a Nationals’ player in 2016. Bryce Harper led the way with 24 RBI in April.
After a series in Colorado where the Nats’ bullpen was used heavily, the team needed a long outing by starter Reynaldo Lopez on Thursday in Atlanta. The rookie came through in a big way, striking out 11 and giving up only one earned run in seven innings pitched as the Nats beat the Braves 8-2.
Nats’ Record- 71-49
Nationals 8 Braves 2
WP- Lopez (2-1) LP- Whalen (1-2)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- He did not hit a majestic 461 foot home run as he did on Wednesday in Colorado, but Bryce Harper contributed to the Nats’ cause with a hit, two walks and two runs scored in the victory. Harper’s OPS on the year now stands at .386, and he’s reached base at a .399 clip in 153 career plate appearances at Turner Field.
Second Star- Playing more like his age is the number on the back of his jersey instead of the one on his driver’s license, Jayson Werth was again in the middle of good things for the Nats on Thursday. Werth was two for four with a double, a run scored and a RBI as he reached base for the franchise tying 46th consecutive game.
Star of the Game- While the Braves current lineup certainly doesn’t conjure up images of the 1927 Yankees or the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine, the type of domination Nats’ rookie Reynaldo Lopez displayed on Thursday is impressive against any opponent. Lopez struck out 11 Braves and allowed only a single earned run in seven innings pitched to earn his second win in as many starts against the Braves.
Valiant in Defeat- Atlanta starter Rob Whalen deserved a better fate last night. Whalen allowed only one earned run in six effective innings pitched, but was undone by his defense and by his teammates’ lack of production against Nats’ starter Lopez. Whalen’s record on the year fell to 1-2 despite his impressive performance.
It would be hard to find an uglier half of an inning at any place other than a Little League field than the one the Braves had in the top of the eighth last night. The Nats scored five runs, with only one coming home on a hit (Clint Robinson’s RBI single). The others scored on a passed ball, a walk, a hit batter and Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly as Braves’ fans witnessed why their team resides in last place in the National League East.
The Nats walked seven times in the game, marking the eighth time this year they’ve had seven or more free passes. Prior to last evening, the last time Washington had as many as seven walks came on June 30th at Nationals Park when the Nats were walked seven times in a 13-4 rout of the Reds. The season high for bases on balls for Washington is the 11 walks they received on May 18th in a 7-1 win at New York against the Mets.
Rookie catcher Pedro Severino is likely headed back to Syracuse today as backup catcher Jose Lobaton is primed to return from the disabled list, but the 23 year old rookie can take solace in the fact that he looked like he belonged during his short stint with the big club. Severino had a double and run scored last night, and hit a robust .412 in 17 at bats during his time filling in for Lobaton.
Tanner Roark takes the mound tonight at Turner Field against the Braves’ Julio Teheran in the second contest of the four game series.
Roark, who is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in six appearances at Turner Field, is looking for his 14th win in tonight’s game. His win in Atlanta was a memorable one for the Nats and their fans. On September 16, 2014, Roark held the Braves scorless over seven innings to lead Washington to a 3-0 NL East Division clinching victory over the Braves.
Roark’s opponent on the night gets this year’s vote for the hard luck player of the year. Despite having a sparking 2.81 ERA and a microscopic .965 WHIP this year, Julio Teheran has lost nine of his 12 decisions in 2016. Teheran, who has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 17 of his 21 starts on the year, may want to be especially careful when facing the Nats’ three and four hitters tonight. Daniel Murphy is 8 for 20 with four doubles in his career against the Braves’ righty, while Bryce Harper has hit .429 in 28 at bats with five home runs and 10 RBI.
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez allowed only one run in seven innings pitched to earn his first Major League win in Washington’s 7-6 victory over Atlanta on Saturday evening at Nationals Park. The win and Miami’s loss to the Chicago White Sox at Marlins Park moved the Nats’ lead in the National League East to 8.5 games.
NATS’ RECORD 68-47
Nationals 7 Braves 6
WP- Lopez (1-1) LP- Whalen (1-1) SV- Melancon (33)
HR- Freeman, Atl (22), Murphy, Was (22), Turner, Was (3)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Hitting in the second spot in the lineup, centerfielder Ben Revere went 2 for 4 with two triples and a RBI. He also made a superb catch on an Erick Aybar drive in the top of the first inning, and started a perfect relay that cut down Aybar trying to stretch a double into a triple to record a crucial out in the top of the ninth inning.
Second Star- Another game, another outstanding performance by Nats’ rookie Trea Turner. The exciting leadoff man went 3 for 5 with a triple, a homer and scored three runs to pace Washington’s attack. Turner now has a team leading 11 runs scored so far in August.
Star of the Game- 22 year old first year Major Leaguer Reynaldo Lopez showed the poise of a veteran hurler on Saturday, allowing only one run in seven strong innings to earn his first Major League win. Improved command was key for the hard-throwing righthander, as Lopez threw 71 of his 100 pitches for strikes and allowed only two walks.
Valiant in Defeat- Freddie Freeman was the main man again for the Braves, going 1 for 3 with a homer and two walks. The man Nats’ fans least like to see at the plate in crucial moments also nearly tied the game in the top of the ninth inning, flying out deep to rightfield on a drive that had the collective hearts of Nats’ fans in their throats.
The contest marked the fifth time in Nats’ history that the team has had three or more triples in a game. Prior to Saturday evening, the last time the Nats’ had three three-baggers in a game came on April 14, 2014 in Miami when Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon all tripled in Washington’s 9-2 over the Marlins. The first three triple game by the Nats came against Atlanta, back on April 13, 2005 when Jamey Carroll, Jose Vidro and Termell Sledge each had a three-bagger in Washington’s 11-4 win at Turner Field.
With his two triples last evening, Revere became the fourth player in Nats’ history to triple twice in game. The last player to do so before Saturday was Denard Span, who did so on May 31, 2013 in Washington’s 3-2 victory at Atlanta.
The Nats’ two home runs in last night’s win gave them 152 on the year, the fifth highest total Washington has registered in a season. The team high for home runs in a season was set in 2012 when Washington had 194 round-trippers.
Daniel Murphy had four RBI and his 22nd home run of the year on Saturday. He has 86 RBI on the year, second only to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado (who has 93) in the National League.
The Nats’ Tanner Roark takes on Atlanta’s Tyrell Jenkins in the rubber game of the three game set.
Roark is 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in his career against the Braves, but several Atlanta players have fared well against him. A.J. Pierzynski has seven hits in 10 career at bats against Roark with a double and two homers, while Matt Kemp is 3 for 6 with a pair of round-trippers.
Jenkins is 2-2 with a 3.92 ERA in his rookie campaign but has pitched well in his last three starts, allowing only two earned runs in 18 innings pitched.
Nats’ killer Freddie Freeman celebrates his three run home run with Atlanta starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz in last night’s Braves 8-5 victory at Nationals Park over Washington.
Nationals Record- 67-47
Braves 8 Nationals 5
WP- Foltynewicz (6-5) LP- Strasburg (15-3) SV- Johnson (10)
HR- Peterson, Atl (6), Freeman, Atl (22), Recker, Atl (1), Rendon, Was (14
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Since he’s joined the Braves, catcher Anthony Recker has been among the most productive backstops in the National League, posting a .349 average with eight RBI in 43 at bats. He hit his first home run of the year last night, drilling a long home run to left-center off of Matt Belisle to pad Atlanta’s lead.
Second Star- Braves’ second baseman Jace Peterson is known more for his speed than for his power, but he showed that he can hit with the big boys last night. Peterson hit a soaring home run to right-center off of Nats’ starter Stephen Strasburg to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning for his sixth round tripper of the year. Peterson also drove home Atlanta’s final run with a seventh inning sacrifice fly.
Star of the Game- Atlanta’s talented Freddie Freeman appears to be an affable individual, but to the Nationals he resembles Freddie Krueger. The first baseman slashed the Nats yet again, going 2 for 3 with a run scoring double and a three run homer to pace Atlanta’s winning attack. In his career at Nationals Park, Freeman is hitting a robust .324. After struggling due to injuries at the start of the 2016 campaign, the left-handed swinger now has an impressive .906 OPS on the year.
Valiant in Defeat- All teams want their leadoff hitters to reach base consistently, and Washington’s Trea Turner did just that on Friday night. The speedy Nats’ rookie went 3 for 5 with a run scored and two stolen bases from the top spot in Washington’s order. Turner is now hitting .301 on the year.
Strasburg gave up a season high five extra base hits in the contest, giving him nine extra-base hits allowed in his last two starts (both of them losses). In his seven starts prior to last weekend’s appearance against San Francisco, Strasburg had allowed a total of nine extra base hits.
Speaking of extra-base hits, Washington’s leaders in that category all checked in to pad their totals last night. Nats’ extra-base hit leader Daniel Murphy had his 34th double of the year to pad his XBH total on the year to 60, Anthony Rendon hit his 14th homer of the year to give him 43 XBHs on the season and Jayson Werth’s double put his XBH total at 39.
The Nats surrendered three homers to Atlanta last night, marking only the sixth time in 2016 that Washington has given up three or more homers in a game. Not surprisingly, Washington is 0-6 in those contests. Only the New York Mets (with five) have fewer three plus home runs allowed games in 2016 among National League teams.
The Nats’ loss did not hurt their position in the National League East, as both Miami and the Mets lost last evening as well. With 48 games left to play, Washington holds a healthy 7.5 game advantage over the Marlins.
Rookie hurlers battle in steamy DC this evening, as Atlanta’s Robert Whalen and the Nats’ Reynaldo Lopez both make their third career starts.
Whalen is 1-0 in his two starts, defeating Pittsburgh in his debut game and getting a no decision on August 8th despite pitching well (six innings, three runs, seven strikeouts) in Atlanta’s 4-3 win at Milwaukee.
Fireballing righty Lopez has been erratic in his first two starts, allowing 14 hits and walking six in 8.2 innings pitched, but he has shown an ability to get the strikeout as he’s fanned 13 batters.