San Diego’s Matt Kemp homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Padres to a 5-3 victory over the Nationals last night at Nationals Park.
Padres 5 Nationals 3
Nationals’ Record- 57-40
WP- Perdomo (4-4) LP- Roark (9-6) SV- Maurer (4)
HR- Kemp, SD 2(22), Werth, Was (12), Murphy, Was (19)
Perhaps the Nationals should be glad that the Los Angeles Angels are not on their 2016 schedule. Against teams from Southern California this season, Washington has only three wins in 11 games. Last night’s 5-3 loss to San Diego put the Nats at 3-4 on the current homestand with two more games left to go against the Padres.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Padres’ reliever Brandon Maurer doesn’t wear his cap tilted to one side or shoot imaginary arrows into the air after recording a save like his predecessor in San Diego did, but the power-throwing righthander has been very effective of late in the Padres’ bullpen. Maurer picked up a four out save last night, retiring four of the five batters he faced to earn his fourth save of the season. Since June 15th, Maurer has allowed only one run and eight hits in 14 innings pitched while recording 15 strikeouts.
Second Star- Young Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo threw the best game of his brief Major League career, allowing Washington only two earned runs in seven strong innings pitched to earn his fourth win on the season. The right-hander limited Washington to four hits and one walk in his outing.
Star of the Game- With six home runs and eight RBI in his last six games, Padres’ rightfielder Matt Kemp is as hot as the summer weather that is hammering most of the United States. Kemp hit is 21st and 22nd homers of the year last night and drove in four of the five San Diego runs to lead the Pads to victory.
Valiant in Defeat- Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos went 3 for 4 with a RBI, picking up his tenth three plus hit game in the 2016 campaign. Ramos is now hitting .334 on the year, the second best batting average in the National League. The Buffalo trails only teammate Daniel Murphy, who is hitting .348.
Nats’ starter Tanner Roark gave up both of Kemp’s home runs last night, making the game only the fourth in 31 starts at Nationals Park where Roark has allowed multiple home runs. Roark’s career high for most home runs allowed in a home start is three, set on June 5th of last season against the Cubs. Unlike last night’s game, that outing had a happy ending as Washington defeated Chicago 7-5.
Jayson Werth’s home run last night was his 90th as a National and his 43rd at Nationals Park. He’s fifth on the all-time list of most homers at the home of the Nats, trailing Ryan Zimmerman (81), Ian Desmond (66), Bryce Harper (61) and Danny Espinosa (45). His first inning solo homer off of San Diego’s Perdomo came on a 1-2 count, making the blast the first Werth has hit on such a count since he took Atlanta’s Eric Stults deep at Nationals Park on May 8th of last season.
Speaking of Nats’ homers, Murphy’s solo home run off of San Diego’s Brad Hand in the eighth inning last night gave the Nats’ All-Star six home runs off of left-handed pitchers in the 2016 season. Only two left-handed batters have more; both Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo have taken lefties deep seven times so far this year.
Troubles at the top of the order continue for Washington, as Ben Revere went 0 for 5 last night. The Nats’ leadoff spot on-base percentage of .252 is far and away the worst in the National League (Cincinnati’s .315 is the next closest mark to Washington’s), and Nats’ leadoff hitters have the lowest batting average in the league as well at .209.
Washington looks to even the series with the Padres tonight with Max Scherzer taking on former National Edwin Jackson.
July has been good to Scherzer in his career. His 2.81 career ERA in the July is the lowest of any month, with September/October (2.93) and June (3.25) next. Several San Diego hitters have struggled mightily against Scherzer in their careers. Kemp is an amazing 1-27 (.033 average) with nine strikeouts, Alexei Ramirez is hitting .133 in 60 at bats and Melvin Upton is 0-9 with four strikeouts. San Diego All-Star first baseman Wil Myers has fared well against Max, going 4 for 6 with two home runs.
Jackson, who won 10 games for the 2012 National League East winning Nationals, won his first game as a Padre last Sunday as he allowed only one hit and two earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched as San Diego beat San Francisco. Werth is 4 for 12 with two doubles in his career against Jackson, while Anthony Rendon (0-5) and Ramos (1-7) have struggled against the veteran righty.
Red-hot Danny Espinosa celebrates his fourth inning grand slam home run with his teammates in yesterday’s 12-1 Nats’ win over the Cincinnati Reds.
The fireworks show on the National Mall today will have to be a great one to match the show that the home team’s bats put on yesterday afternoon at Nationals Park against the Cincinnati Reds. The Nats slugged six home runs on the way to a 12-1 rout of the Reds, as the Nats maintained their five game lead in the National League East.
Nationals’ Record- 50-33
Nationals 12 Reds 1
WP- Strasburg (11-0) LP- Lamb (1-5)
HR- Espinosa, Was 2(18), Ramos, Was (13), Harper, Was (17), Rendon, Was (8), Drew, Was (7)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- If Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos is not an all-star in 2016, no one is. The powerful catcher got Washington’s offense moving yesterday with a second inning laser shot of a home run off of the Reds’ John Lamb that staked the Nats to a 1-0 lead. Ramos was 3-4 on the day with two RBI, and improved his OPS while hitting in the fifth spot in the Washington lineup to 1.010.
Second Star- Those of us who made it to the ballpark early yesterday saw an unusual sight about 30 minutes before game time as both Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito headed to the right field corner to begin preparations for the game. Giolito was there as a precautionary move in case Strasburg’s upper back injury flared up and prevented him from taking the scheduled start but fortunately for the Nats, their ace was able to take the hill. All Strasburg did was hold the Reds hitless over 6.2 innings pitched as he earned his 11th win in as many decision on the year. Only four pitchers since 1969 have posted longer consecutive win streaks to start a season:
Consecutive Decisions With Wins to Start a Season Since 1969
Pitcher # of Wins Ending Record Notes
McNally (Bal) 15 20-7
Clemens (Bos) 14 24-4 Won AL Cy Young & MVP
Scherzer (Det) 13 21-3 Won AL Cy Young
Guidry (NYY) 13 25-3 Won AL Cy Young
Star of the Game- Nationals’ shortstop Danny Espinosa had a series to remember against the Reds over the past four days, hitting five home runs, driving in an amazing 15 runs and scoring six times to pace the Nats’ to three wins in the four game series. In yesterday’s game, Espinosa hit his second grand slam homer in the series, giving him three career home runs at Nationals Park (tying Ryan Zimmerman for the most home runs by a player at Nationals Park). Espinosa also made one of the best defensive plays of the year, ranging far to his right and making an incredible throw to retire speedy Reds’ outfielder Jose Peraza in the sixth inning to keep the visitors hitless. Espinosa’s five home run series moved him past teammate Jayson Werth into fourth place for most career home runs at Nationals Park:
Career Home Runs at Nationals Park
Valiant in Defeat- On a day where very little went right for the Reds, Peraza was responsible for the team’s only run as his eighth inning single off of Nats’ reliever Matt Belisle drove home Ramon Cabrera with Cincinnati’s only run.
Espinosa is not the only National who is thriving at the plate over the past week. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon homered in the game, and both continued upward trends in Washington’s current homestand. Harper has 9 hits in 23 at bats (.391) with a double, two homers and five RBI since Monday, with Rendon checking in at 7-21 (.333) with seven runs scored, a triple, a homer and five RBI. The Nats’ third baseman has scored 52 runs on the year, tying him for the eighth most in the National League.
Washington bench player Stephen Drew doesn’t get many at bats, but he certainly makes them count. Drew hit his seventh home run of the year yesterday on a drive to left center field off of the Reds’ Jumbo Diaz in the eighth inning. Drew has his seven round trippers in only 81 at bats on the year. Among players with at least seven home runs, Drew has accomplished that feat with the fewest at bats. Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas is next with seven home runs in 104 at bats.
The Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers in the traditional Fourth of July 11am start with Max Scherzer facing the Brew Crew’s Junior Guerra. Scherzer has posted an 11.6 SO/9 ratio on the year. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts and fellow slugger Chris Carter is 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts against Max.
Milwaukee’s Guerra is not particularly well known, but he’s pitched very well of late. In his last nine starts, he has allowed three or fewer earned runs eight times. He is coming off the best game of career on June 29th when he posted a game score of 83 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The righty is 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA and an impressive 1.069 WHIP on the season.
Milwaukee’s rookie pinch-hitter Keon Broxton watches his first career home run leave the park in the fifth inning of last night’s Brewers’ 5-3 victory over the Nationals at Miller Park.
There are many ups and downs in a 162 game Major League baseball season, and the Nationals are certainly in a down period at present. After losing two in a row to close their series with the Padres and being swept in three games at Dodger Stadium by Los Angeles, the Nats looked to rebound against lowly Milwaukee with Max Scherzer on the mound. Unfortunately it was more of the same for the Nats in the land of cheese, beer and brats, as the Nats lost 5-3 for their sixth straight defeat on what is becoming a brutal road trip.
Milwaukee 5 Nationals 3
WP- C. Torres (1-0) LP- Scherzer (8-5) SV- Jeffress (20
HR- Broxton, Mil (1) Nieuwenhuis, Mil (4)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Acquired from Pittsburgh last season, rookie outfielder Keon Broxton seems to have the tools to succeed at the Major League level. Last night the youngster showed his talent, driving a Max Scherzer slider into the Brewers’ bullpen in left-center to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. The home run was the first of Broxton’s career.
Second Star(s)– The Brewers’ bullpen is a pedestrian group at best, posting a 4.14 ERA (eighth in the Nationals League) and surrendering 33 homers (tied for third worst in the NL) on the season so far. Last night, however, the Brew Crew’s pen went Nasty Boys on the Nats, as winning pitcher Carlos Torres, lefty Will Smith, hard throwing Tyler Thornberg and gusty closer Jeremy Jeffress held the Nats scoreless over the game’s final four innings to secure the win.
Star of the Game- Max Scherzer has allowed 20 home runs on the year, but none have traveled further than Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ 423 blast to right centerfield last night that gave the Brewers their winning runs. The former Met has struggled so far in Milwaukee hitting .224 with 63 strikeouts in 161 at bats, but his impressive round-tripper was the highlight moment of yesterday’s Brewers’ win.
Valiant in Defeat– Wilson Ramos continued his red-hot June, going 4 for 5 with a RBI in Washington’s losing effort. Ramos is hitting .371 with a 1.094 OPS so far this month. On the year, Ramos has posted a .951 OPS. If that mark holds up over the year, Ramos will become only the 14th full-time catcher since 1950 with an OPS of greater than .950.
Danny Espinosa was hit by a Zach Davies pitch in the second inning of the game, marking the 12th time the Nats’ shortstop has suffered that fate this season. Espinosa (in 2011) and former National outfielder Jose Guillen (in 2005) hold the Washington record for most hit by pitches in a season with 19. Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere were also hit by pitches in the game, making last night the 13th time the Nats have had at least three batters hit during a game. The Washington record for HBPs in a game is four, set on April 6, 2006 against the Mets and equaled on June 5, 2011 against Arizona.
Scherzer allowed multiple home runs in a game for the fifth time in 2016, moving him closer to the Nats’ record of eight multi-home run games allowed in a season that he (Scherzer had eight such games last season) shares with Ramon Ortiz (2006), Mike Bacsik (2007) and Dan Haren (2008).
Daniel Murphy doubled and drove in a pair of runs last night, giving him 20 doubles on the year. His career high of 40, set in 2012 for the Mets, appears to be well in reach. The two bagger ended a five game string where the Nats’ second baseman was held without an extra base hit.
Washington had four batters (Michael A. Taylor, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Espinosa) with three strikeouts each last evening. The game was only the second one since 2005 where Washington has had four players with three or more strikeouts. Last season on July 18th against Los Angeles and Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Taylor, Yunel Escobar and Clint Robinson each were fanned three times.
Gio Gonzalez takes on Brewers’ veteran Matt Garza this afternoon in the second game of the three game series.
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in five lifetime starts against Milwaukee, but the Nats’ lefty will likely be treading softly when Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy is at the plate. The Brew Crew’s backstop has six hits in eight with a double and three RBI in his career against Gonzalez.
While Gonzalez may circled Lucroy’s name as an opponent to watch out for, Garza’s attention will likely be focused on many opposing hitters today. Jayson Werth (.412 with two doubles and a homer in 17 at bats), Zimmerman (.357 average with a double in 14 at bats), Ramos (5-13 with a double and a homer), and Harper (3-6, two doubles) have all fared well against the righthander. Garza has had success against Murphy however, holding him hitless in six career at bats.
Stephen Strasburg retired the last 14 Phillies’ batters he faced on Friday night as the righty moved to 10-0 on the year in Washington’s 9-6 victory over their division rivals.
With two wins in three games against the White Sox in Chicago and two wins so far in their weekend series against the Phillies, this week has been a good one for the Nationals. The team’s record stands at 38-24, which is exactly where it was in 2012 after 62 games in Washington’s 98 win NL East Division Championship season. Of course the 2016 Nats hope to achieve more than just a division title, and there are signs that this year’s team could be better than the 2012 squad that brought five plus months of excitement to the Nation’s Capital.
THE WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS
MOWING THEM DOWN
Stephen Strasburg was touched for four runs on Friday by the Phillies in the first three innings as the Nats fell behind by a 4-0 score, but that only seemed to serve to strengthen the resolve of the Major League Baseball wins co-leader (Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Johnny Cueto of the Giants also have 10 victories). Strasburg retired the final 14 Phils he faced, striking out seven of them, to (with the help of the team’s bats) put Washington in the driver’s seat in the first game of the weekend series.
The 14 batters in a row retired by Strasburg marked the sixth time in his career where he’s retired at least that many batters in succession:
STRASBURG- MOST CONSECUTIVE OUTS RECORDED IN A GAME
Batters Retired Date Opp Notes
19 4/1/13 Mia Gave up leadoff hit and retired next 19 batters.
15 6/18/10 CWS First two batters had hits, then 15 in a row retired.
15 8/25/15 SD Retired last 15 batters he faced.
14 4/10/14 Mia Fanned six of the 14 he retired in a row.
14 4/19/15 Phl Retired 14 straight to start the game.
14 6/10/16 Phl Struck out seven during this stretch.
In his career, Strasburg has 32 instances where he has retired at least 10 batters consecutively.
GOON SQUAD II
Who says a sequel can never be as good as the original! The 2012 Nats, with their bench players dubbed the “Goon Squad” leading the way, posted a .786 OPS in pinch-hit appearances. That mark was the second highest in the Major Leagues. So far in 2016, Nationals’ pinch-hitters have put up a robust .995 OPS which is the third highest mark in the Majors. Washington’s eight pinch-hit homers trails only St. Louis (with 10).
Nats’ shortstop Danny Espinosa has been great with the glove in 2016, and he’s starting to show that he can be solid at the plate as well. Since May 1, Espinosa has nine homers and 17 RBI in 131 at bats. His 10 home runs on the year trails only Trevor Story of Colorado (16) and Corey Seager of the Dodgers (14) among National League shortstops. Espinosa had two three hit games over the past week, going 3 for 5 on June 8th against the White Sox and picking up three hits in four at bats in Friday’s win over the Phillies.
Espinosa did not play in Saturday’s 8-0 whitewashing of the Phillies, but another hot hitter did…reserve infielder Stephen Drew. Drew has six hits with 3 runs scored, a double, two home runs and six RBI in his last 12 at bats.
Veteran Jayson Werth has looked better both at the plate and in the field over the past weeks. Since May 29th, Werth has four home runs and 13 RBI in 37 at bats. He also made perhaps his best defensive play of the year on Friday night, ranging to his right and laying out to make the catch to rob Mikael Franco of an extra-base hit.
The Nats’ best hitters on the year have been probable 2016 National League All-Stars Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper. All three players currently sport OPS marks of .918 or better. In Nationals’ history, the only season in which two or more players were over .900 in OPS was in 2006 when Nick Johnson (.948) and Alfonso Soriano (.911) did the trick.
In Saturday’s win, Tanner Roark shut the Phillies out over seven innings pitched to earn his fifth win of the year and even picked up a RBI with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt in Washington’s four run second inning. In 2016, Roark has four games in which he has gone at least seven innings and allowed no runs. Of his career nine games fitting those parameters, seven (including all four in 2016) have come at Nationals Park.
ODDS AND ENDS
Through 62 games, the Nats’ 591 strikeouts is the most among National League pitching staffs. Strasburg (with 110) and Max Scherzer (107) are third and fourth in the league, trailing only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (132) and Jose Fernandez of Miami (118).
Tommy Joseph of the Phillies had two home runs in Friday night’s loss to the Nats, making him the second player to have a multiple home run game against Washington this year. Back on May 6th at Wrigley Field, Ben Zobrist hit two round-trippers in a Cubs win over the Nats. In 2015, there were 14 instances of a player having a multi-home run game against the Nats.
Today’s series finale against the Phillies will be played under the sun, which may not be a good thing for the already battered Phils’ staff. In day games in 2016, Bryce Harper has a 1.102 OPS, seven home runs and 16 RBI with Daniel Murphy checking in with a 1.007 OPS and 15 runs batted in. Games during the afternoon have also been good for Buffalo sightings as Wilson Ramos has a 1.091 OPS and five home runs in such contests.
Finally, happy 32nd birthday to former Nationals’ outfielder Roger Bernadina. Known for spectacular defense plays, including a game saving catch at Houston in 2012 which many observers believe is the best defensive play by an outfielder in Nats’ history, Bernadina is currently a Mets’ minor league player.
Wilson Ramos circles the bases on Sunday following his home run during the Nats’ five run fourth inning in Washington’s 10-9 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark.
Nationals 10 Reds 9
WP- Solis (1-1) LP- Wright (0-1) SV- Papelbon (15)
HR- Murphy, Was (10), Ramos, Was (8), Bruce, Cin (13)
Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver used to call closer Don Stanhouse “Full Pack” because Stanhouse’s save attempts generally were not of the clean variety and often caused the nervous Weaver to smoke cigarette after cigarette to get through another close game. Nats’ manager Dusty Baker favors toothpicks over cigarettes, but perhaps yesterday’s nail biting victory caused him to go through more than his normal supply.
Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon faced down a bases loaded, no out situation with the winning run on second base, as the Nats salvaged the final game of their three game series at the Great American Ballpark. Say what you will about Papelbon’s tightrope acts, but no one can deny that the confident reliever has the guts of a burglar.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– Like NFL cornerbacks, relief pitchers must forget their bad moments and move on to the next challenge. On Saturday, Nationals’ reliever Shawn Kelley surrendered the game winning three run homer to Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall that gave the Reds a 6-3 win. On Sunday, Kelley retired all five batters he faced to preserve Washington’s 10-8 lead.
Second Star- With starter Tanner Roark lasting only three innings, Washington needed someone from its bullpen to step up and fill the void. Sammy Solis was just the man for the job, throwing three scoreless innings and striking out a career high six batters to earn his first win of the season. The lefty has 20 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched on the season, and has held opponents to a .94 WHIP.
Star(s) of the Game- After scuffling at the plate for the first two games of the series in the Queen City, the Nats’ bats came alive on Sunday with the heart of the order doing most of the damage. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos combined for nine hits, seven runs scored and five runs driven in to pace Washington’s 10 run attack. With each member of the trio getting three hits on the game, the Nats picked up their second game of the season where three players each had three or more hits. On May 4th at Kansas City in the Nats’ 13-2 win, Murphy (with four safeties), Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman did the trick.
Valiant in Defeat- Reds’ outfielder Jay Bruce homered for the second consecutive game and for the fifth time in his last 10 contests. His three run homer brought the Reds from 10-5 to within two runs of the lead, and set the stage for the wild and woolly bottom of the ninth innings.
The combined 19 runs scored was the most in a Nats’ game this season. The last time Washington was involved in a game more more combined runs was on August 18th of last season when the Nats topped Colorado 15-6.
Ben Revere had two hits, scored a run and had a RBI on the game, breaking a 23 at bat hitless streak in the process.
June 6th is known as D-Day but for the Nats’, it is B-day! Current Nats Anthony Rendon and Matt Belisle, along with former National Collin Balestar, celebrate birthdays today.
Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez connects for a home run in the bottom of the third inning in last night’s Reds’ 7-2 victory over the Nationals at the Great American Ballpark.
Nats’ Record- 33-22
WP- Finnegan (2-4) LP- Gonzalez (3-4)
HR- Werth, Was (9), Suarez, Cin (13), Cozart, Cin (8), Duvall, Cin (15)
Coming off of a three game sweep of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Nats took on the lowly Reds at Cincinnati last night in the first game of a weekend three game set at the Great American Ballpark. Despite their struggles so far in 2016, the Reds proved to be a worthy opponent on this evening as they bashed the Nats by a 7-2 score to start their weekend off on a positive note.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star– When one thinks of the best hitting shortstops in Major League Baseball, the Reds’ Zack Cozart is probably an afterthought for most people. Perhaps that needs to change.
Cozart was 2-4 with a home run (his eight) and two RBI last night for the Reds, moving his average on the year to a healthy .310. Among players who’ve played significant time at shortstop this year, Cozart’s 132 OPS + ranks behind only Manny Machado of Baltim0re (159), Xander Bogaerts of Boston (138) and Aledmys Diaz of St. Louis (134).
Second Star– Reds’ lefty Brandon Finnegan is anything but dominant, but he was efficient and effective in last night’s win. Finnegan held the Nationals to five hits and one run over his 6.1 innings pitched as he won his first game at home since July 7th of last season.
Star of the Game- When Todd Frazier was traded from the Reds during the off-season, many thought that third base would be a black hole in Cincinnati’s lineup in 2016. Eugenio Suarez is making sure that will not be the case
Suarez was 3 for 4 with two runs, two RBI and his 13th home run of the year to pace Cincinnati’s healthy offensive attack. Suarez’s homer total, achieved in only 198 at bats, matches the 13 he hit in 2015 with 372 at bats.
Valiant in Defeat- Trea Turner may only be up in the Major Leagues for a few days, but he sure made the best of his situation on Friday night. The speedy infield prospect went 3 for 3 with a double in his 2016 debut.
Jayson Werth’s solo home run off of Finnegan was his ninth of the season, putting him one short of his ninth double digit home run season in the Major Leagues. He has three career home runs at the Great American Ballpark, but last night’s blast was his first since 2013.
Coming off of the bench last evening, Wilson Ramos had only one at bat but he continued his hot 2016 form in that opportunity. Ramos’ double was his 10th of the season, and moved his batting average on the year to .342.
The Nats have now dropped five of their last six games in Cincinnati. Since 2005, Washington has only 14 wins in 38 games played in the Queen City.
Stephen Strasburg looks to pick up his 10th win in as many decisions today when he takes on the Reds. In three career games at Cincinnati, Strasburg has allowed 10 runs in 12 innings pitched.
The Reds send Dan Straily to the mound. In games at home this season, Straily has a 1.90 ERA in 31 innings pitched. He has thrown 29.1 innings in road games this year, with a 3.99 ERA to show for it.
Jayson Werth acknowledges the crowd at Nationals Park after his pinch-hit grand slam home run on Sunday broke open a game the Nats would win over St. Louis by a 10-2 score.
Winning only three of seven games in a week is not ideal by any means, but the Nats were able to hold their own for the most part against fellow National League playoff caliber teams and they head into Memorial Day with more wins (30) than all but two Major League teams (the Cubs have 34 and the Giants have 32). Here’s a look at some of the highlights and low points from the past seven games.
NINE IS FINE FOR NATS’ ACE
Two of the team’s three wins in the week came courtesy of solid starts by Stephen Strasburg, who beat the Mets on Tuesday and came back and took care of the Cardinals on Sunday. Strasburg is 9-0 on the year with a 2.69 ERA and has an impressive 1.089 WHIP so far. The Nats’ power pitcher struck out only four Cardinals’ in Sunday’s win, marking only the sixth time in 18 decisions where he’s picked up a win while fanning four or fewer. In 111 career starts where he’s struck out five or more batters, Strasburg has posted an impressive 57-25 record.
His two wins gave him 13 career victories in the month of May, the most he’s posted in a month in his career. Strasburg has 12 career victories in August, and 11 in both April and June. Sunday’s effort improved Strasburg’s record in day games to 28-14, and moved his career mark at Nationals Park to 31-17 with a 2.73 ERA.
MAKING IT COUNT IN A PINCH
Veteran Jayson Werth was scheduled for an off day on Sunday, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He made his one at bat on the day count in a big way, driving a Dean Kiekhefer pitch way over the wall in center field for a grand slam that broke open a close contest.
The pinch-hit homer was the seventh of the year for the Nats, moving them within one of the Washington record eight pinch-hit round trippers that were hit by the 2006 squad. The four run pinch-hit blast was the second in Nationals’ history. Former National Justin Maxwell hit a grand slam back in September 2007 against Florida.
Werth’s slam was his third as a National. Only Ryan Zimmerman (5) and former National Michael Morse (4) have more. Besides Zimmerman and Werth, current Nats with grand slams while wearing the Curly W are Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos with two each, and Danny Espinosa and Michael A. Taylor with one a piece. Washington has 43 grand slams since the team’s move to Washington in 2005, and Werth’s blast was the 18th grand slam hit by a Washington player at Nationals Park.
A BLAST BY BRYCE
Nats’ star Bryce Harper hit is 12th and 13th home runs of the year during the Cardinals’ series, and number 12 was one to remember.
The 437 foot blast to right field off of Cards’ starter Mike Leake evened the score on Thursday night at 1-1 in a game Washington would win over the Cards by a 2-1 score. According to ESPN’s Home Run tracker, the round tripper tied for the sixth longest Harper has hit at Nationals Park:
Longest Home Runs at Nationals Park by Bryce Harper
Distance Date Pitcher
453 feet 9/4/15 Julio Teheran
452 feet 4/18/15 Aaron Harang
444 feet 9/8/13 Mark Buehrle
441 feet 5/6/15 Tom Koehler
438 feet 7/18/15 Kenley Jansen
437 feet 8/6/13 Julio Teheran
437 feet 5/26/15 Mike Leake
AN ODD OUTING INDEED
Friday’s Nats’ loss to St. Louis was all but sealed when the Cards scored five runs in the third inning against Nats’ starter Max Scherzer. The game marked the 24th time in Scherzer’s career as a starter where he’s pitched at least seven innings and surrendered three or fewer hits. Scherzer is 21-1 in those contests. Friday’s game marked the second time this season that Scherzer has walked four batters in a game, and he’s 0-2 in those contests. The Nats’ righthander did not walk more than three batters in any game during the 2015 season.
HOT HITTING IN A HOT WEEK
Especially in the latter part of the week, the weather felt more like a typical summer climate than it did like one would experience in spring. Several Nats’ hitters were as hot as the weather during the week.
In Saturday’s loss to St. Louis, Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two home runs. The multi-homer game was Zimmerman’s second on the year, and the 16th in his career. The veteran National has three two home run games against St. Louis in his career, the most multi-homer games he’s had against any opponent. Zimmerman’s four hits marked the 11th time he’s done that in his career. Before Saturday, the last time Zimmerman achieved the feat was on 7/5/2014 when he went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles in the Nats’ 13-0 rout of the Cubs.
Daniel Murphy was New York’s favorite son during the Mets’ playoff run in 2015, but New Yorkers (particularly fans of the Mets) could be forgiven if they’re not particularly fond of the Nats’ second basemen these days. Murphy had two hits in each of the three games against the Mets on the week, giving him 10 hits in 23 at bats in 2016 against his former teammates. Murphy hit his second home run of the season off of struggling New York starter Matt Harvey on Tuesday. Only former National Jordan Zimmerman (with four) has given up more home runs to Murphy in his career.
Wilson Ramos came up big on Sunday, continuing a hot spell in May. The Nats’ catcher went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBI, marking the eighth time he’s driven in at least four runs in a game. Ramos’ career high for RBI is five, set on three different occasions during the 2013 season. So far in May, Ramos has posted a .967 OPS with four home runs and 17 RBI.
Thursday’s winning pitcher for the Nats was Joe Ross, who allowed only one run and struck out four in seven innings of solid work. The win evened Ross’ record on the year to 4-4 and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.52. The game marked a nice bounce back effort for the young righty, who had allowed 10 runs in 11.2 innings pitched in his previous two starts at home.
The Nats will spend Memorial Day in the City of Brotherly Love, as Tanner Roark takes on Jeremy Hellickson this evening. Those keeping score at the game might want to have extra ink available, as neither pitcher has fared well at Citizens Bank Park. Roark is 1-4 wit a 8.27 ERA at CBP, while Hellickson’s 2016 campaign his shown that he’s generally more effective on the road (.347 ERA, 1.101 WHIP) than he’s been at home (4.87 ERA, 1.475).
The fans of the Phillies are generally not the most hospitable bunch, but Bryce Harper could be forgiven if he considers a trip to Ben Franklin’s home town as enjoyable as a young child’s visit to the Magic Kingdom. Harper has a lifetime 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs in 130 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park.
If Roark is to have success this evening, he’s probably going to have to control two young Phillies’ outfielders who have had success so far in the month of May. Speedy leadoff man Odubel Herrera is hitting .327 with eight RBI, while Rule 5 pickup Tyler Goeddel has hit at a .313 clip two home runs on the month.
Ben Revere’s first inning stolen base led to Washington’s first run on Sunday at Miami in a game that Nats would win 8-2. Revere had two steals on the day to register his first stolen bases of the season.
The Nationals ended their three game series in Miami with an 8-2 victory that allowed them to not only win the set at Marlins Park by two games to one, but also ended their six game road trip against the Marlins and the Mets with a 4-2 record. Heading home to Nationals Park for a rematch with the Mets, Washington is 1.5 games up over the New Yorkers in the National League East.
NATIONALS 8 @ MARLINS 2 Nationals’ Record (27-17)
WP- Scherzer (5-3) LP- Conley (3-3)
HR- Bour, Mia (9)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- It wasn’t a no-hitter or a 20 strikeout performance, but Max Scherzer gave the Nats an excellent effort on Sunday. He struck out eight, walked no one and allowed only six hits as he picked up his fifth win in eight decisions on the season.
Second Star- Leadoff man Ben Revere sparked the visitors on Sunday. He led off the first with a line drive single off of Miami starter Adam Conley, stole second, moved to third on a Jayson Werth grounder to second and scored on Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly to short centerfield. In his second at bat Revere executed a perfect drag bunt for a single, eventually stole third base and scored on Daniel Murphy’s hit. Later, the suddenly hot lefthanded swinger drove home two runs with a sixth inning hit that chased Conley from the game. Revere became the fourth Nationals’ player to have three hits, two runs, two RBI and two steals in the same game, and the first since Ian Desmond did so on September 13, 2014 at Citi Field against the Mets. Other Nats’ hitters to achieve that feat were Elijah Dukes (6/20/2008 v.s Texas in a 14 inning 4-3 Nats’ win) and Lastings Milledge (in Washington’s 8-7 loss at Florida on 9/14/2008).
Star of the Game- Since moving to the sixth spot in the lineup, Anthony Rendon has looked like the player that many considered one of the top hitters in the National League in 2014. Rendon went 2 for 4 with three RBI (his first three RBI game since 8/23/15 when he drove home three runs against Milwaukee), and also shined with the glove as he made several sparkling plays to support Scherzer.
Valiant in Defeat- The ageless Ichiro Suzuki had two more hits on the game, moving within 44 of the 3,000 hit mark. Suzuki almost had a third safety, but was called out by the replay umpires after he had been ruled safe on a slow bouncer to Rendon at third.
Miami walked nine Nats’ batters on the game, marking the second time this season that the Marlins have walked that many opponents. The first time came back on April 7th at Nationals Park, when the Marlins also issued nine free passes. Despite the wildness from their, the Marlins pulled that game out by a 6-4 score.
The Marlins’ Justin Bour hit another impressive home run, this one an upper deck blast off of Scherzer in the bottom of the seventh that gave Miami its only two runs. Bour has three home runs on the season against Washington. The most by any player against the Nats in a season is eight, set by Andruw Jones of Atlanta in 2005 and equaled by Ryan Howard of Philadelphia in 2007 and Raul Ibanez, also of the Phils, in 2009.
Wilson Ramos had a solid game, going 2 for 3 with a run scored and two walks. The two free pass game was the second of 2016 for Ramos. The Nats’ catcher also did the trick back on May 10th in Washington’s 5-4 loss to Detroit.
DC area native Justin Bour admires his two run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning last night that broke a 1-1 tie and led the Miami Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.
MARLINS 3 NATIONALS 2 (at Marlins Park) Nationals’ Record (26-17)
WP- Fernandez (6-2) LP- Ross (3-4) SV- Ramos (13)
HR- Bour, Mia (8)
Down a run but with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the ninth innings, it looked as though Marlins’ closer A. J. Ramos was on the verge of his first blown save of the year. But Ramos got ahead in the count on Nats’ pinch-hitter Jayson Werth, and then induced the veteran outfielder to ground into a third unassisted to catcher double play that torpedoed the Nats’ rally. After Jose Lobaton grounded out to first, the Marlins had the wni and the Nats’ three game winning streak was snapped.
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Playing only because regular leftfielder Christian Yelich was a late scratch due to back problems, Ichiro Suzuki went 4 for 4 and scored a run at the top of Miami’s order. The game was the 52nd of his storied career in which Suzuki had four or more hits.
Second Star- Some starting pitchers, like Washington’s ace Stephen Strasburg, rarely express emotion on the mound. Others like Miami stalwart Jose Fernandez wear their emotions on their sleeve. Perhaps in part due to his passionate approach, Fernandez (like the reserved Strasburg) is one of the National League’s best pitchers, and that was on display again last night. The fiery righty struck out nine and allowed only one run over six strong innings to put the Marlins on the course to victory. Over 52.2 career innings pitched against the Nationals, Fernandez has fanned 72 batters.
Star of the Game- Justin Bour hails from the DC Metro area, and has more career home runs (seven) against the Nationals than any other opponent. Bour’s no doubt two run home run to right field off of Nats’ starter and loser Joe Ross was the difference maker in yesterday’s contest.
Valiant in Defeat- Ben Revere continued his climb back from his slow start, getting two hits in four at bats on the game. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy also had two hits a piece for the Nats.
2015 was a year to forget for Miami’s Marcel Ozuna. Ozuna posted a .691 OPS on the campaign, and even spent some time in the Minor Leauges to get back on track. So far, the five tool talent is making 2016 a year to remember. The centerfielder went 3 for 4 on the game with a double and National League leading third triple, and has a .911 OPS so far this year.
Ross struck out Martin Prado, Derek Dietrich and the slumping Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the first inning, marking the fifth time in his career and the third time in 2016 that he’s fanned three batters in a frame. On April 30th at St. Louis, Ross punched out Kolten Wong, Jaime Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker in the bottom of the third. A week later at Wrigley Field on May 5th, Ross fanned Tim Federowicz, Kyle Hendricks and Dexter Fowler (also in the bottom of the third inning).
The Nats’ second run of the game came on a RBI single off the bat of pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos. The RBI was the 20th of the year for the Buffalo, tying him with Wellington Castillo of Arizona and Francisco Cervelli of Pittsburgh for the most runs driven in by National League catcher.
The rubber game of the three game set is today, with Max Scherzer taking on Miami lefty Adam Conley.
Martin Prado has hit Scherzer hard in his career, registering 11 hits in 22 career at bats. Yelich (4-12, 2b, HR) has also fared well against the Nats’ righty, but Dietrich (2-10, four strikeouts) and Bour (3-15, five strikeouts) have not.
Wilson Ramos has homered twice in six career at bats against Conley, and Anthony Rendon has three hits (including a double) in seven career at bats against the Marlins’ lefty.
Anthony Rendon scores ahead of the tag from Miami’s Jeff Mathis on Ryan Zimmerman’s first inning sacrifice fly to give Washington a lead they’d never relinquish in the Nats’ 6-4 victory over Miami this afternoon (PHOTO- Miami Herald.com).
Nationals’ Record- 23-13
WP- Strasburg (6-0) LP- Nicolino (2-1) SV- Papelbon (11)
HR- Ramos Was (4), Yelich Mia (5)
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Anthony Rendon
The Nats’ third baseman went 2 for 4 with a run scored and a RBI to help the Nats’ offense to its six run output. Rendon’s nifty head-first slide on Ryan Zimmerman’s first inning sacrifice fly gave the Nats a lead they’d never lose, despite the pesky Marlins almost battling back several times to tie or go ahead in the contest.
Second Star- Shawn Kelley
The right-handed reliever got the job done on the day, recording five outs and keeping the Nats’ lead in place in the latter part of the game. One of the biggest at bats of the game came in the top of the seventh with Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton representing the go-ahead run at the plate. Kelley got ahead of Stanton, and then struck him out swinging on a 92 mile per hour fastball to end the threat.
Star of the Game- Michael A. Taylor
The Nats’ young leadoff hitter was on base four times in the game, recording two hits and two walks. It was a day of deuces for Taylor, as he also scored two runs and stole two bases.
Valiant in Defeat- Christian Yelich
There’s no denying the talent of the Marlins’ young outfielder, who hit a solo home run to deep centerfield off of Stephen Strasburg in the first inning and brought home another run with a double off of Strasburg in the top of the fifth. Yelich’s home run was his fifth of the season, and his two hits in four at bats raised his batting average to .328.
Strasburg’s win was his sixth in a row to start the season, tying him with reliever Tyler Clippard (who won six straight decisions to start the 2010 campaign). In his next start, the Nats’ stalwart will try to match Tanner Roark’s seven straight wins to begin a campaign, which Roark set in 2013 (thanks to Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index for this information). Strasburg struck out seven Marlins on the game making this the 80th game in his career, and seventh in eight starts this year, where he’s recorded at least that many strikeouts.
Washington stole three bases on the game, marking the second time this season the team has had three or more steals in a game. In addition to Taylor’s aforementioned thefts, Bryce Harper stole third base in the first inning of today’s game. Taylor and Harper also were responsible for Washington’s first three plus stolen base game in 2016, as each player stole two bases in the Nats’ victory over Atlanta on April 11th. The Nationals did not steal three or more bases in any of the team’s games last season.
Washington scored two of its runs in the first inning on sacrifice flies by Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, marking the 57th time the Nats have had two or more run scoring fly ball outs in the same game. The two sacrifice flies in one inning was the seventh time Washington has accomplished that feat, with the last time coming on August 5th of last season when Zimmerman and Jayson Werth brought home runs on a flyout off of Arizona’s Rubby De La Rosa.
Two of the hardest hit balls of the day for the Nationals came off of the bats of Werth and Wilson Ramos. Werth’s scorching line drive single past shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria plated Harper with Washington’s run in the first inning, and Ramos’ laser shot home run to left center off of Miami’s Nick Wittgren in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Washington a 5-3 lead. Miami had some hard hit balls of its own, with Yelich’s first inning homer leaving the park in a hurry. The bad luck award for a hard hit ball goes to Stanton, whose shot in the fifth inning that could have tied the score was turned into an inning ending out on a fine play by Washington’s shortstop Danny Espinosa.