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.
Chris Heisey is mobbed at home plate by his Nationals’ teammates following Heisey’s 16th inning game-ending home run that gave the Nationals a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on April 24th.
With only three Major League Baseball team fan bases left with hopes of seeing their teams go all the way, the rest of us are left to look back at what was an interesting 2016 campaign.
For the 95 win Washington Nationals, the season featured plenty of superb performances and magical moments. Our “Nats by the Numbers” series will look at each month of the 2016 season to highlight some of the memorable events of the Nats’ season. We begin with the season’s opening month, a month where the Nationals showed the Major League world that the up and down play of the 2015 season was a thing of the past.
APRIL 2016- NATS BY THE NUMBERS
The Nationals spent much of the time between the 2015 and 2016 seasons looking to upgrade their offense, with particular attention being paid to finding someone to take over the second base job. Failed attempts to land Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips frustrated many fans, but they proved to be blessings in disguise when the Nats ended up “settling” on signing free agent and 2015 post-season star Daniel Murphy.
Murphy came out of the gate in April as hot as the Washington DC weather is in July, hitting .370 with seven doubles, two triples, a pair of homers and 11 RBI to let the baseball world know that he may have only scratched the surface of his ultimate potential in his amazing late-season run in 2015. The fact that the Nats’ gain in signing Murphy helped to weaken the arch-rival Mets’ chances of repeating as divisional champions only made the signing of the veteran infielder even sweeter.
The Nationals were 16-7 in April 2016, and the team’s .696 winning percentage in the month was the third best in a month in Nationals’ history. In their inaugural season of 2005, the Nationals had a June to remember as they went 20-6 and posted an amazing .769 winning percentage. The 2014 division-winning Nats’ team finished that season playing great ball, going 19-8 (.704) to put up the second best winnings percentage in a month in Nats’ history.
It wasn’t all cherry blossoms and gentle breezes for the Nats in the first full month of spring, and a home series in late April against the Philadelphia Phillies proved that. The Phillies swept the Nats in DC in a weekday three game set, holding the Nationals to a measly three runs in the process. The late April success against the Nats proved to be fluke for the Phillies, who won only five of 19 games against Washington on the season.
In all three of their division winning seasons, the Nationals have been blessed to feature very strong starting pitching. Two members of the 2016 staff, rightys Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, started the season off on the right foot as they combined to go 7-0 during April. Strasburg was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched in a year that would see him make the National League all-star team. Like Strasburg, Ross fell victim to injuries as the year progressed but he was special in April. The Northern California native went 3-0 with a sparkling 0.97 ERA in the season’s first month.
The Nationals showed they were intent on regaining their National League Eastern division crown from the start of the year in 2016 winning nine of their first 10 games (all against divisional opponents) under new manager Dusty Baker to start the year on the right foot. The Nationals would win 67% of their games against divisional foes on the year in route to their third divisional title in five seasons.
2015 was, in many ways, a lost season for Nationals’ pitcher Tanner Roark. Despite performing admirably in the 2014 campaign as a starter, Roark lost his spot in the 2015 Nats’ rotation when the team signed Max Scherzer, and he had an up and down campaign while working out of the bullpen.
Roark regained his spot in the rotation in 2016 and on April 23rd at Nationals Park against the Minnesota Twins, he showed the Nats that he was staking a claim to stay there. Roark struck out a career high 15 in seven innings to lead the Nats to a 2-0 victory. Only teammate Max Scherzer (20 against Detroit on May 11th), Colorado’s Jon Gray (16 against San Diego on September 17th) and Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez (16 against San Diego on April 14th) had more strikeouts in a game than Roark’s 15 among National League pitchers in 2016.
Fans who attended the Nationals-Twins game on Sunday April 24th at Nationals Park certainly got their money’s worth. The game featured a lead off home run in the bottom of the first by Nats’ outfielder Matt den Dekker, 10 strikeouts by Strasburg, a Minnesota rally keyed by All-Star Brian Dozier that derailed Strasburg’s bid for a win, a dramatic ninth inning pinch-hit homer by Bryce Harper to tie the game in the ninth, a wild 15th inning that saw the Nats’ rally to tie the game on a Twins’ error and a dramatic ending when Chris Heisey blasted a shot over the wall in left-centerfield to give Washington a 6-5 win.
Heisey would prove to be a valuable power source off of the Nationals’ bench in 2016, hitting nine homers in only 139 at bats.
The 2015 season had its bad moments for the Nats and their fans, but the campaign did feature a season long story line that was tremendous to follow; the emergence of Bryce Harper as a superstar.
Harper’s outstanding 2015 season carried over to the start of the 2016 campaign, as he had 24 RBI, nine homers and a 1.121 OPS in the season’s first month.
Will tonight be the night the Nats add another National League East title to their resume? Last night’s disappointing late inning loss to the Pirates may have put a temporary block in Washington’s inevitable celebration of its third division crown in five years, but perhaps Pittsburgh will soon join Atlanta (in 2014) as road cities where the Nats have clinched a title.
Here’s a look at some of the events of recent days, in our “Nats by the Numbers” format.
Four Nationals (Daniel Murphy with 88, Anthony Rendon with 86, Bryce Harper with 82 and Jayson Werth with 80) have scored 80 or more runs so far in the 2016 season, making this the first campaign in Nationals history where four or more players have achieved the feat. This quartet of 80 plus run scorers surpasses the 2006, 2012 and 2014 seasons in which three Nats players crossed the plate more than 80 times. In 2006, Alfonso Soriano had 119 runs scored to lead the team, with Nick Johnson (100) and Ryan Zimmerman (84) also having big scoring years. The 2012 Nats’ division winning team was paced in runs scored by Harper (98), with Zimmerman (93) and Danny Espinosa (82) also cracking the 80 run barrier. And in 2014, Rendon broke the century mark with 114 runs scored with Denard Span chipping in with 94 and Werth scoring 85 times.
Both Espinosa and Wilson Ramos homered off of left-handed pitchers this week, giving each nine homers against lefties on the year. In Nats’ history, only two players have had more than nine homers against southpaws in a season. In 2006 Soriano took lefties deep 12 times, and Adam Laroche hit 11 against left-handers in 2012.
The Nats have 19 home runs so far in September, and are on pace to have the fewest homers of any month in the 2016 campaign. Only four Major League teams have fewer round trippers than Washington so far this month. The Nationals high mark for homers in a month this year was in May when Washington blasted a National League leading 43 long balls. The Nats had 38 homers in June, 37 in August, 32 in July and 26 in April.
Nationals ace Max Scherzer leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts with 267, and has struck out at least 240 batters in each of the last four seasons. Since 1969, only five players have more 240 plus strikeout seasons than Scherzer’s four. Randy Johnson leads the way with 10 such seasons, with Nolan Ryan (9), Roger Clemens (6), Steve Carlton (5) and Tom Seaver (5) also in the exclusive group. Among active pitchers, only three hurlers have more than one 240 plus strikeout year on their resume. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Corey Kluber of Cleveland and Justin Verlander of Detroit have two each.
Daniel Murphy’s 47 doubles on the year has equaled the Nats’ mark set by Zimmerman in his outstanding 2006 rookie campaign. The 47 two baggers by the Nats’ second baseman is the most by any National League East player since Dan Uggla had 49 for Florida in the 2007. In that year, Hanley Ramirez (48, also for Florida) and Chase Utley (48 for Philadelphia) also exceeded the 47 doubles mark. Murphy’s recent injury situation has likely robbed him of a shot at becoming the first NL East player with 50 plus doubles in a year since 2006 when Florida’s Miguel Cabrera reached the half-century mark. Since divisional play’s current format began in 1994, only four NL East players have had 50 or more doubles.
Nats’ setup man Shawn Kelley has 12.76 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in the year so far, the third best mark in the National League. Kelley’s 78 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched gives him a SO/9 mark that trails only Miami’s Kyle Barraclough (14.01) and the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (13.64).
Among National League starters, Stephen Strasburg (11.15) and Scherzer (11.06) trail only Miami’s Jose Fernandez (12.49) and Arizona’s Robbie Ray (11.39) in this category.
Zimmerman’s three run homer off of Miami’s Tom Koehler on Wednesday was the tenth the Nats’ veteran his hit since Marlins Park opened in 2012, the most by any Miami opponent during that time period. Zimmerman’s teammate Harper is next with seven homers at the cavernous park, with former Braves Evan Gattis (6) and Jason Heyward (5) next in line.
Tanner Roark may not be a household name to many who follow Major League Baseball, but he certainly is one for Nats’ fans. Roark won his 15th game on Wednesday in the Nats’ 1-0 victory over the New York Mets.
With only 16 games to play and a ten game lead over the New York Mets in the National League East, it is only a matter of time before the Nationals celebrate their third division title in the past five seasons. There’s still a lot to play for, however, as the Nats need to maintain their five game spread over the Los Angeles Dodgers to assure themselves of the home field advantage in what is squaring up to be an intriguing NLDS series between the teams.
Here’s a look at some items of note as the Nats head into the final weeks of the 2016 regular season.
A SEASON TO REMEMBER
Where would the Nationals be without MVP candidate Daniel Murphy? The new National has at least one hit in all of the team’s 12 games so far in September, and continued his domination of his former mates from New York going 6 for 12 with three doubles in the teams’ recent series at Nationals Park. If Murphy can keep his batting average above .340 down the stretch, he will register only the third season since 1901 where a player who plays primarily (at least 80% of his appearances) at second base has hit over .340 with at least 25 homers, 100 RBI and 45 doubles. The only other player to have seasons like that will playing second base was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did so in 1922 and again in 1929.
HOME RUN HIGHLIGHTS
The 2016 Nationals have 187 home runs so far, a mere seven round-trippers away from the 2012 club’s team record of 194. 95 of the Nats’ homers have come at home, with May (43) and June (38) being the months where Washington hitters have hit the most. Of Washington’s homers so far, 122 have been solo shots, 44 have been with one man on, 14 have come with two aboard and seven have been grand slams. The top inning for Nats’ blast has been the seventh. Washington has 29 home runs in that frame.
MAT THE BAT
Nats’ pitcher Mat Latos is built like an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, so it is no wonder that the veteran righthander is able to generate power with his bat as well as with his right arm. On Monday against the Mets, Latos became the first Nats pitcher to hit a round-tripper at Nationals Park in over three years when he deposited a Rafael Montero pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in Washington’s 8-1 win over the Mets
Before Latos’ shot, the last pitcher to hit a home run at home for the Nats was Gio Gonzalez, who went deep off of Miami’s Kevin Slowey on April 3, 2013. Other Nats’ hurlers who’ve homered in home games include Stephen Strasburg (5/20/12 against Baltimore), Tommy Milone (9/3/11 against the Mets), Ramon Ortiz (9/4/06 against St. Louis) and Livan Hernandez (4/29/05 against the Mets). The Nats are 6-0 at home in games where a Washington pitcher has gone yard.
THE SLIMMEST OF MARGINS
Washington’s 1-0 victory over the Mets on Wednesday was the 16th 1-0 victory for the Nats since 2005 and the second of the 2016 season. Both 1-0 victories this season have come in games started by Tanner Roark and in contests where the only Washington run has come on a seventh inning Wilson Ramos home run. Ramos’ mammoth blast to left center on Wednesday off of Fernando Salas was the game winner this week, and his home run off of San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner won the game back in August.
Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Mets was Washington’s fifth against the New Yorkers, the most against any opponent.
TANNER IS TOPS
Any discussion of the best pitchers in the National League that doesn’t include the name of Nats’ starter Tanner Roark is a discussion without merit.
Roark was fantastic again on Wednesday, shutting the Mets out over seven innings to earn his 15th win of the year. In 2016, Roark has had a Major League high nine games in which he’s pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run. Besides Roark, only Chicago’s Jake Arrieta (with seven), Miami’s Jose Fernandez (6), Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (5), Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman (5) and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (5) have more than four such games.
The Nats make their final visit to Atlanta’s Turner Field this weekend and if there’s any justice, this will also be the last time the Nats (and their fans watching from home) will have to listen to the incredibly annoying “tomahawk chop” song that appears to be played at decibel levels rivaling that of a space launch.
With a winning record for the season at Atlanta for only the third time in 12 years already in hand, the Nats look to reduce their magic number against a depleted but always game Braves’ squad.
Max Scherzer takes the mound tonight for Washington in pursuit of his 17th win of the year. The Nats’ ace is 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA in his career at Turner Field. Outfielder Matt Kemp has provided the Braves with a boost since his acquisition from San Diego earlier this year, but Atlanta fans probably aren’t expecting much out of their left fielder this evening. In 36 career at bats against Scherzer, Kemp is hitting .083 with ten strikeouts.
Rookie John Gant, who the Braves acquired from the Mets in the 2015 trade that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to New York, will be Scherzer’s mound opponent. The right-handed rookie is 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA on the year, but does have an impressive 45 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched.
Jayson Werth circles the bases following his three run home run in the second inning of Washington’s 7-4 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.
Nationals 7 Indians 4
Nats’ Record- 67-46
WP- Gonzalez (8-9) LP- Tomlin (11-5) SV- Melancon (32)
HR- Werth, Was (15) Lindor, Cle (14)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- What a joy it is to watch a talented and determined closer practice his craft. Newly acquired Mark Melancon was on his game again yesterday, retiring all three Indians he faced in the top of the ninth to earn his 32nd save of the year and his second with the Nats. In five innings pitched for Washington, Melancon has allowed only one hit with seven strikeouts and zero walks.
Second Star- Just like the weather in the dog day of August Anthony Rendon has heated up recently, and his play was key to Washington’s win on Wednesday. Rendon was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and two clutch runs driven in to give the Nats some breathing room down the stretch. Rendon is hitting a robust .324 with nine doubles in 77 at bats and a .995 OPS since play resumed following the All-Star break.
Star of the Game- Veteran outfielder Jayson Werth has been a productive hitter for the majority of his Major League career, and his production of late has been a boon to a Nats’ team that has not received much production for its outfield corps recently. Werth went two for three with three runs scored, a double and a three run homer to pace the Nats’ attack. Like his teammate Rendon, Werth has enjoyed second half success in 2016 putting up a post- break OPS of .866 after checking in at .762 before the All-Star game.
Valiant in Defeat- Jose Ramirez is one of many talented young players for Cleveland, and the versatile infielder went 3 for 4 with a RBI and a stolen base in the Indians’ losing effort. On the year, Ramirez is hitting .309 with 47 runs driven in.
Mark Melancon picked up the save when he finished off Cleveland in the top of the ninth, but one of his bullpen mates may have saved the day much earlier. Entering the game in the top of the sixth with two on, nobody out and with Washington up 7-4, veteran Matt Belisle got Lonnie Chisenall to ground into a double play and retired Abraham Almonte on a grounder to keep Washington’s three run lead in place. Belisle has put up an impressive 1.091 WHIP and a sterling 1.84 ERA and has been an under the radar success story out of the Nats’ bullpen this season.
Gio Gonzalez wasn’t in top form, but he did earn his eighth win of the year on Wednesday leaving him two shy of recording his seventh consecutive double digit win season. In his career, Gonzalez has a 6-0 mark with a 1.62 ERA against the Tribe.
With four games to go against Baltimore, the Nats have an impressive 11-5 mark in inter-league games this year. That win total puts them one shy of the Nats’ high of 12 victories in a season against American League teams, set all the way back in 2005 when the first Nats’ squad put up a 12-6 mark against teams from the Junior Circuit.
Wednesday’s win left the Nats with a 7.5 game lead over Miami in the National League East. In their division winning seasons of 2012 and 2014, the Nats’ lead was 4.5 games following wins in the 113th game of those years.
The Nats and divisional foe Atlanta get to renew acquaintances this weekend at Nationals Park, with Washington holding a 6-0 record in games against the Braves so far this season.
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound on Friday looking for a career high 16th win. In 11 career starts at Nationals Park against Atlanta the Nats’ All-Star has a 4-4 mark, but has allowed more than three earned runs in only two of those starts. A matchup to watch on Friday will be Strasburg against Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman. The left-handed swinger is hitting .387 in 31 career at bats against Strasburg, but Stras has retired him the last five times they have met up with three of the outs being recorded on strikeouts.
Atlanta comes into the series playing well, as the Braves have won nine of their last 14 games. On the mound for Atlanta on Friday is Mike Foltynewicz, who is 4-4 with a 4.37 ERA this year. The 6’4″, 220 pound righty has allowed 13 home runs in only 78.1 innings pitched. Ben Revere is 3 for 4 with two doubles and a triple in his career against Foltynewicz.
San Francisco’s Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Belt celebrate the Giants’ 7-1 win over the Nationals on Saturday evening at Nationals Park.
Giants 7 Nationals 1
Nationals’ Record- 65-45
WP- Cain (4-6) LP- Strasburg (15-2)
HR- Belt, SF (13)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- It is well established that San Francisco’s Buster Posey is one of the best all-around players in the National League. Posey’s skills were on display on Saturday night at Nationals Park as he went 2 for 3 with two RBI to aid the Giants’ seven run attack. Posey’s 2016 WAR to date of 3.3 is tops among Major League catchers, with the Nats’ Wilson Ramos (2.9), Jonathan Lucroy of Texas (2.8) and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (2.7) next.
Second Star- In years past, Giants’ Saturday starter Matt Cain was an all-star. These days the gutty veteran is trying to work his way back to that status, but don’t tell the Nationals that he’s lost his game. Cain defeated the Nats for the second time in a week, shutting them out over five innings pitched to earn his fourth win in ten decisions on the year.
Star of the Game- Eduardo Nunez put on a show on Saturday night, going 4 for 5, scoring three runs and picking up three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) in San Francisco’s win. Nunez’s two three-baggers marked only the fifth time a Nats’ opponent has had multiple triples in a game. It was the first such game since September 7th of 2012, when the Marlins’ Jose Reyes tripled twice in Miami’s 9-7 win at Nationals Park. Nunez also contributed a fine defensive play, as he corralled a hot shot of off the bat of Washington’s Jayson Werth in the fourth inning to begin the turning of a key double play that helped keep Washington scoreless.
Valiant in Defeat- Line drives were coming off the bat of Washington’s Wilson Ramos all night long, as the hot hitting catcher went 3 for 4 in his team’s defeat. Ramos also scored the Nats’ only run on the night.
Stephen Strasburg only lasted 4.2 innings on the night, marking his shortest outing of his All-Star year. He surrendered a season high four extra base hits in the game, but did strike out eight to mark the 12th time he’s had eight or more strikeouts in a game this season. Strasburg also had Washington’s only extra-base hit on the night, picking up a fourth inning double. The double was Strasburg’s first since July 1st of 2014.
Danny Espinosa had two hits and a RBI in the contest, marking the second time in his last three games that he’s had multiple hits. Prior to these games, Espinosa had multiple hits in only one of the prior 22 contests.
The Nats and Giants have played six times so far in 2016, with each team winning three times. The tie will be broken on Sunday, as Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner takes on Washington’s underrated 11 game winner Tanner Roark in the rubber game of the series.
Bumgarner is 10-6 on the year with a sparkling 2.25 ERA, but he’s not fared well at Nationals Park in the past. He is 1-3 at the home of the Nats, and has allowed five home runs in his last 14 innings pitched at the park. Bumgarner also has not been as effective on the road (1.268 WHIP) as he’s been at home (.827 WHIP) so far in 2016.
Roark is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his career in August. Hunter Pence (0-7) and Angel Pagan (0-6) have struggled against Roark in their careers, while Posey (4-11, two doubles) and Brandon Belt (3-6 with a double and homer in the regular season, plus a heart breaking home run in the 18th inning of game two of the 2014 NLDS) have not.
Gio Gonzalez was dominant last night, holding the San Francisco Giants to two hits and one run to lead Washington to a 5-1 victory in the first game of a three game set between division leaders.
Nationals 5 Giants 1
Nats’ Record: 65-44
WP- Gonzalez (7-9) LP- Samardzija (9-8)
HR- Turner, Was (2), Ramos, Was (17), Pagan, SF (8)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Wilson Ramos certainly picked a good time to have a career year. The soon to be free agent continued to prove that he’s in line for a big payday at some point soon, hitting his career high 17th home run and plating a run on a sacrifice fly to help the Nats to victory. Ramos’ two RBI game left him only seven short of his career high 68 RBI, set in the 2015 season.
Second Star- For months prior to the 2016 Major League trade deadline, we’d been reading and hearing that Trea Turner was not available for a deal. We’re now seeing why that was the case. The rising star went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored as he continued to show that the Nats’ problem at the top of the batting order may be solved. On the season, Turner has posted an impressive .896 OPS in his 81 at bats.
Star of the Game- Gio Gonzalez was at the top of his game on Friday night, holding the Giants to two hits and one run in seven excellent innings pitched. Gonzalez worked fast, was efficient and showed the form he displayed in his 21 win season in 2012. In picking up his seventh win on the year Gonzalez posted a 75 pitching game score, the best PGS he’s had since an 85 score he earned in a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets at Nationals Park on September 25, 2014.
Valiant in Defeat- It was another forgettable night for the slumping Giants, but Angel Pagan provided some highlights with a laser shot home run to left field (his eighth of the season) and several fine plays in left field.
Bryce Harper and Ramos had sacrifice flies in the game, giving Washington 46 on the season. With 53 games left to play, the Nats are only five short of the Nats’ record 51 run scoring fly balls that was set in 2015. Harper is the team leader in sacrifice flies this season with eight, with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Clint Robinson next with five each.
Denard Span was 1 for 4 for San Francisco in his return to Nationals Park, and it was nice to see the talented and likeable center fielder get a warm reception from the Nationals’ faithful. Span Span now as 11 hits in his last 28 at bats since July 29th.
Stephen Strasburg has been money in the bank for the Nats so far in 2016, and he looks to continue his winning ways as he takes on San Francisco’s Matt Cain in the second game of the series tonight at Nationals Park.
Strasburg has pitched well in August over his career, posting a 13-4 record with a 3.04 ERA. In his career against the Giants, he’s 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA. The Giants’ talented duo of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have hit Strasburg well over their careers. Posey is 7 for 20 with two doubles, while Crawford has six hits in 16 at bats.
Cain won the 100th game of his career last Sunday against the Nationals, gutting out a five inning start in which he did not allow a hit or a run while walking four batters. He’s 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in his career at Nationals Park, with 37 hits allowed (including four homers) in 30 innings pitched.
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.
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.