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.
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.
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.
All-star closer Kenley Jansen celebrates his team’s 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in game one of the teams’ National League Divisional Series on Friday at Nationals Park.
DODGERS LEAD SERIES 1-0
WP- Kershaw LP- Scherzer SV- Jansen
HR- Seager, LAD Turner, LAD
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Corey Seager did not play against the Nationals when the Dodgers visited Nationals Park in July, but Nats’ fans got to see the soon to be National League Rookie of the Year’s talent in a big way early in yesterday’s game. After Nats’ starter Max Scherzer fanned Dodgers’ leadoff man Chase Utley to start the game, Seager ambushed the Nats’ ace with a first pitch booming home run to centerfield to give the visitors a lead they would not lose. Doing big things against right-handed pitching certainly isn’t new to Seager, whose .948 OPS against righthanders was the 13th highest total in the Major Leagues in 2016 for batters with at least 200 at bats them. Washington’s Daniel Murphy was third in the Majors with a .985 mark, and his teammate Trea Turner was sixth with a .957 OPS against righties.
Second Star- One has to be impressed with the career transformation Los Angeles’ Justin Turner has undergone. Since joining the Dodgers Turner has become a legitimate power threat, hitting 50 home runs (including a career high 27 this year) and posting a .492 slugging percentage in his time in Dodger Blue. Turner’s power was on display yesterday as he hit a big two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the third inning to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead. Turner’s blast continued his show of power against Washington this year. He hit a home run off of Yusmerio Petit when the Nats faced Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, and hit two more off of Stephen Strasburg when Los Angeles was in Washington in July.
Star of the Game- Los Angeles’ closer Kenley Jansen looks like he could be a defensive end for the Rams, and the intimidating reliever did his job in a big way yesterday. Jansen recorded a five out save, striking out three in the process, as Los Angeles took control of the series. Jansen had five saves of four or more outs in the regular season, second only to Tampa’s Alex Colome and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna who each had six such saves. The Nationals had four four plus out saves in 2016, three by Shawn Kelley and one by Mark Melancon.
Valiant in Defeat- Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits each. Rendon drove in two runs with a clutch two-out single against Kershaw to cut the Los Angeles lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third, and had a line drive single in the fifth as well. Zimmerman hit the ball hard three times, singling in his first two at bats and then lining out to deep right field in his third.
On a dreary Saturday morning in Washington, here’s a bit of news that won’t do much to brighten the city’s mood. Since 2005, 21 teams who were hosts in the first game of a League Divisional Series were down 0-1 after that game. Only five of those 21 teams went on to win their series.
Neither Kershaw or Scherzer were at their best yesterday, but both did keep their teams in the game. Kershaw allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings to win his third game in nine post-season decisions. Scherzer allowed four runs over the first three frames, but shut the Dodgers out over his final three innings of work as he saw his post-season record drop to 4-4.
When the Nats’ offense struggled in 2016, it was often due to an inability to put the bat on the ball in crucial moments. The strikeout bug bit the Nats on Friday, with Turner, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa fanning three times each. Espinosa’s strikeouts were particularly important, as each came with two men on base.
Kudos to members of both teams’ bullpens for their performance under post-season pressure on Friday. Four Dodgers’ relievers and two Nats’ hurlers combined for seven innings of shut out ball, with only three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.
With its season all but on the line, Washington turns to Tanner Roark to right the ship in Game Two of the series. Roark is 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched against the Dodgers. Roark has had great success against the Dodgers’ Chase Utley (.077 average in 13 at bats) in his career, while Adrian Gonzalez has two hits and a home run in four career at bats against the Nats’ righty.
Tall and talented Dodgers’ lefty Rich Hill has reason to be confident when he looks to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, but he’ll probably be a bit wary when he faces Nats’ first baseman Ryzn Zimmerman. In his career against Hill, the Nats’ veteran has six hits in nine at bats with a double and two home runs. Jose Lobaton is scheduled to start at catcher for the Nats’ today, and the veteran backstop has three hits (including two doubles) in as many career at bats against Hill.
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.
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.
Tanner Roark throws a pitch during his masterful performance in today’s 9-1 Nats’ win over Atlanta at Nationals Park.
Nats’ Record- 69-47
Nationals 9 Braves 1
WP- Roark (13-6) LP- Jenkins (2-3)
HR- Rendon, Was (15), Heisey, Was (6)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- We are going with the trio of Trea Turner, Ben Revere and Bryce Harper who were at the top of the Nationals’ order on Sunday, and combined to score seven runs with four hits, two doubles and a RBI. Key to the Nats’ win was a three run first inning rally in which all of the top men in the order participated. Turner led of the game with a two bagger, and scored when Revere bunted for a hit and Atlanta’s Anthony Recker threw wildly to first to try to record an out. Harper followed with a double to left to score Revere, and Washington had jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Atlanta’s starter Tyrell Jenkins got into the flow of the game.
Second Star- The 2016 version of Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon is looking more like the 2014 version of a player many felt was one of the league’s best hitters. Rendon homered and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in four runs in the game, and his three run homer in the bottom of the fifth off of Jenkins broke the game open.
Star of the Game- Gutty, gritty and talented are adjectives that can be used to describe Nats’ starter Tanner Roark, and you might want to throw “underrated” into the mix as well. Roark won his 13th game on a day suited more for sitting in a hammock and drinking lemonade than recording seven innings of superb pitching as Roark did. The Nats’ hurler registered his ninth game in 12 starts at home where he’s thrown at least seven innings, and moved his record to 10-3 in games since May 20th.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ leadoff man Turner wasn’t the only top of the order player who played well on Sunday. Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte went 2 for 4 with a double (the only extra base hit on the day for the visitors) and scored the Braves’ only run of the game.
The Nats scored nine or more runs for the 14th time this season. They’re not five games short of the team record 19 set in 2012 by the 98 game winning NL East Champion team. The only other Nats’ teams with more than the 2016 team’s mark to date were the 2006 squad that had 18 nine plus run games, the 2015 team with 17, the 2008 team with 16 and the 2013 squad with 15.
Washington turned three double plays behind the fast working, strike throwing Roark on Sunday, marking the sixth time this season that the Nats have recorded three or more ground ball double plays in a game. The last time Washington had six or more games where they recorded at least three ground ball double plays was in 2012, when the Nats did the trick in eight games.
Wilson Ramos had two RBI in the game, leaving him three shy of his career mark of 68 set last year.
Since 2014 in games played at Nationals Park, the Nats hold a 21-6 record against the Braves. Washington has held Atlanta to three or fewer runs in 17 of the 27 games played.
A trip to Colorado is usually one highly anticipated by a visiting teams hitters, but dreaded by its pitchers. The Nats open a three game set against the Rockies on Monday night, with Max Scherzer taking on Jorge De La Rosa.
Scherzer, who leads the National League in strikeouts with 208, will be taking on a free swinging Colorado squad whose 958 strikeouts on the year is the sixth highest total in the National League. Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez is 3 for 10 with three homers in his career against Scherzer.
Colorado’s De La Rosa has won five of his seven career decisions against the Nats. In 60.2 innings pitched against Washington, he’s allowed only two home runs.
One National who has to be frustrated that he will be missing the trip to Coors Field is Ryan Zimmerman. In 131 career at bats at the Rockies’ home, Zimmerman has hit 12 doubles, eight homers, driven in 38 runs and posted a 1.090 OPS.
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.
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.
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.