July 3, 2022

Washington Nationals Game 96 Review: Nats Bats Crack in Pittsburgh

OFFENSE STRONG AS NATIONALS TOP PIRATES

The Washington Nationals broke a short skid against the Pirates on Saturday night, picking up a 9-3 victory against the Wild Card leaders. Gio Gonzalez cruised through 5 innings, scattering 5 hits and not issuing a single walk. A.J. Burnett proved too wild for the Pirates’ own good, hitting two in a crucial fourth inning failure, and throwing a wild pitch in the second that would score Ian Desmond.

The Nationals were due a night where things went their way, after a pair of hard luck losses in the Pittsburgh series. They got it Saturday night, as bounces went their way, and as the defense behind Gio Gonzalez was solid enough to keep the crafty lefty in business. Gio would go 5+ innings before departing after a wild bottom of the sixth.

Working with a 5-0 lead, the particulars of which we will get to in a moment, Gio’s day ended poorly. A single by Pedro Alvarez, followed up by a fielding error by Clint Robinson on a ball put in play by Gregory Polanco put Gio at a disadvantage. The Pirates would capitalize on singles from Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, driving Gio from the game.

With no out, and two men on, Aaron Barrett was summoned from the pen to douse the nascent fire. Barrett got an easy double play off Aramis Ramirez, before walking Jung Ho Kang and giving up a single – and Gio’s third charged run – off the bat of Paul Cervelli. Manager Matt Williams saw enough, and got Barrett before things got worse. Felipe Rivero finished the job Barrett could not, and with four pitches got Neil Walker to pop up to right.

The Nationals would strike back in the top of the seventh, putting two back up on the board. A double from Yunel Escobar off the left field wall, followed by an Ian Desmond homer off a Deolis Guerra changeup clocked at 81mph.

The Nationals’ offense quieted the Pittsburgh crowd early, with a run on a Burnett wild pitch in the second for a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Burnett would give up a double to Escobar, then hit Clint Robinson and Jose Lobaton with curve balls at their feet to load the bases. Burnett would get a key strikeout of Matt den Dekker to bring up pitcher Gio Gonzalez to the dish.

This is where things started to really go the Nationals’ way. Gio hit a comebacker to Burnett, who couldn’t react fast enough, and the ball rolled away into no-man’s-land, scoring Escobar. Michael A. Taylor drove the ball through the left side of the email, and Bob Henley sent both Clint Robinson (who scored), and Jose Lobaton (who didn’t), but the damage was done.

Matt den Dekker would add one more to the tally in the fifth on a pair of singles, and a pair of sacrifices, with Anthony Rendon – in his first game off the disabled list – getting the RBI for den Dekker’s run. That would end Burnett’s night at 5.2 IP, 11H, 5ER and 8K.

After the Pirates’ rally in the sixth, the Nationals would add four more runs on monster home runs from Ian Desmond and Michael A. Taylor, both with no-doubter shots into left field at PNC Park. Desmond’s hot streak is music to Nats’ fans ears, who had started to wonder if it would ever come. With the Nationals’ roster decimated by injuries to other starters, the Half Street Regulars might not be the team you were dreaming of in February, but they are the team with three games up on the Mets and now 8 games over .500.

It’s hard to think that this season has been a disappointment, but when the expectations were so high coming into Spring Training, this season has been a challenge for the Nationals. While Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryan Zimmerman are all returning in the near term, there’s still a lot of baseball to play this season. Getting Desmond back from a season-long slump around the same time might be the catalyst this team has needed to get back on 90-win pace.

HERO: Let’s give this one to Ian Desmond, who is just having a stellar week. He’s 10-for-19 this week, with 4 HR, 7 RBI, and 4 BB. His night was pretty stellar. Good to see Desmond finally getting hit.

GOAT: No goats tonight. Well, except these adorable fainting goats.

NATS NOTES:

  • Ian Desmond is a pretty strong player of the week candidate for the NL right now.
  • Anthony Rendon returned to the lineup tonight, with Abel de los Santos optioned back to AA. His 0-4 was, at least productive, with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
  • Michael A. Taylor had his first four-hit game of the season tonight.

NEXT UP: The series finale is tomorrow at 1:35pm, Joe Ross (2-2, 2.70) vs Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31).

Washington Nationals Game 72 Review: Desmond’s Sacrifice Beats the Braves

A sacrifice fly hit to left field by Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond off reliever David Ardsma in the eleventh inning with one out and the bases loaded led Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in D.C. after a solid eight-inning performance from starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday night. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 67 Review: Harper injured in loss to Rays

HARPER INJURED IN 5-3 LOSS TO TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Washington Nationals were washed away in a rain delay by the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night, giving up four runs after a short downpour delay, as manager Matt Williams left Doug Fister on the mound two or three batters too many. The Rays struck for four runs in the sixth, as Fister worked on fumes for ten pitches before Williams came out with the hook. Shortly before Fister’s departure, Bryce Harper came up lame on an errant throw in right field, clutching his left knee and hamstring. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 60 Review: Washington Falls to Milwaukee After Late-Inning Throwing Error

The Washington Nationals fell 6-5 against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night after a throwing error by second baseman Anthony Rendon in the eighth inning allowing the eventual go-ahead run to move into scoring position in a tied game.

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark had a solid outing despite giving up nine hits. Roark gave up five runs, one of which was a solo homer to outfielder Gerardo Parra in the seventh inning, while walking one batter and striking out four. He threw 101 pitches and 67 strikes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

The last time the Cubs and Nationals met both teams were hot, and the series felt like a showcase of talent. This one has more of the feel of a showdown, with both teams struggling in the past week. Both teams begin this four game series losers of six out of ten.

The Nationals (29-24) are clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets, who dropped two out of three in San Diego and open up a series with the Diamondbacks tonight. The Cubs (27-24) are coming off a series where they won the first game of a three-game series with the Marlins and then dropped two straight in Miami. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 44 Review: Nationals win eighth straight series, beat Phillies 4-1

Gio Gonzalez had seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched, and Bryce Harper went 2-3 as the Washington Nationals beat Philadelphia 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

[Read more…]

Washington Nationals Pregame Notes: Rendon to rehab, Cedeno to Dodgers

Before tonight’s matchup between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, featuring Doug Fister (1-0, 0.69) against John Lackey (1-0, 2.77), manager Matt Williams conducted his usual pregame press conference. The big news was 3B Anthony Rendon played five innings in a simulated game at extended spring training in Viera, Florida and will fly to DC to work out with the Nats tomorrow before starting a rehab assignment with AA-Harrisburg on Friday.

Williams said Rendon will mostly play third, but might see some time at second base as well.

When he will return to the Nats lineup is still in question.

“He’s got to get to nine innings for sure,” Williams said. “So, five innings today, day off, we’ll start that process again and go five [innings] and seven in back-to-back games and then another day off and then go seven, nine and see where he’s at.

“As long as he feels good, that’s all we’re concerned about.”

The Nats start a three-game series at the Braves on Monday, then travel to New York for a four-game series with the Mets on Thursday. If all goes well with Rendon over the weekend, he could be activated in advance of either series.

The other pregame news from Nats Park concerned left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno, who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for “cash considerations.” Cedeno was designated for assignment last week after pitching poorly the first week of the season, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks in three innings.

Cedeno is a classic AAAA pitcher; able to play well in AAA but unable to achieve long-term success in the Major Leagues. The Nats recalled Felipe Rivero, a promising young arm, to function out of the pen as the second lefty, and still have veteran Rich Hill in Syracuse, though Hill is not on the 40-man roster and would require a move should the Nats want to bring him to DC.

 

Washington Nationals injury update: Rendon could start rehab stint Friday

Before Tuesday’s series opener with the St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams told the assembled media his start third baseman, Anthony Rendon, was nearing a rehab assignment after completing simulated games at extended spring training. When asked if Rendon was still experiencing discomfort in his sprained left knee, Williams recounted s discussion he had with Rendon.

“I talked to him last night,” Williams said. “I asked him, ‘Do you have pain?’ He said, ‘No, there’s no pain any more…'”

Out since March 9 with the sprained knee that was initially diagnoses “day-to-day,” Rendon played three innings earlier Tuesday and experienced no setback. According to Williams, Rendon is scheduled to play five innings on Wednesday, then have an off day, at which point should there be no setback, he’s begin a rehab assignment at one of the Nats affiliates.

Williams reiterated that at this point, it’s about getting Rendon back into baseball shape.

“So beyond the pain, that’s probably the biggest thing. His swing will come. The timing will come. All of that. But we don’t want him getting out there too quickly and not being in baseball shape and ready to go.”

Williams straddled the fence as to where Rendon might play when he returns, but its most likely he’ll resume playing third base, if for no other reason to prevent wear and tear on the knee.

“Third is a little less demanding right now. So as he gets into the swing of it, he may get over to second base as well, but for right now it’s going to be third just to make sure that we can try to monitor it as much as possible. Doesn’t have to move as much, there’s no real threat of a guy sliding in there a lot, on double play balls things of that nature.”

Regardless of where Rendon plays in the field, the Nats need to get his bat back into the lineup. Entering play Tuesday, the Nats have hit a combined .226/.298/.380 this season and could certainly use the shot in the arm that Rendon’s bat would be.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Scherzer Ks 9, Cards win 1-0

RENDON “IN JEOPARDY” FOR OPENING DAY WITH KNEE INJURY

Max Scherzer struck out nine over six scoreless innings, but the St. Louis Cardinals scratched out a run in the eighth inning to beat the Washington Nationals 1-0 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.

The only run of the game came in that eighth inning, with Aaron Barrett pitching for the Nats. Barrett hit Kolten Wong with his first pitch of the frame, and Charlie Tilson pinch-ran. Tislon immediately stole second, then went to third on a wild pitch by Barrett. Tilson scored on Ty Kelly’s sacrifice fly.

The Nats went quietly against Jordan Walden in the top of the ninth, as Derrick Robinson, Mike Carp and Sandy Leon all struck out. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Infielders

This week, District Sports Page will review the players currently on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster and their potential contributions to the Major League roster this season.

Monday: Catchers
Tuesday: Infielders
Wednesday: Outfielders
Thursday: Starters
Friday: Bullpen

FIRST BASE

Ryan Zimmerman
2014: 240 PAs, .280/.342/.449 with 5 HRs, 184 RBIs (0.4 WAR). .948 FD% at 3B.

We’ve seen this coming for several season. With the expiration of Adam LaRoche’s tenure with the club, the Face of the Franchise ™ moves across the diamond to first base on a permanent basis. Some would say ‘about time.’ Now 30, Zimmerman’s throwing problems at third base were well-documented and his time in the outfield last season can be described as non-harmful at best. He made some plays, but the spectacular nature of some only outlined his lack of mobility for the wide open pastures of left field. It’s a shame, really, because before he injured his shoulder diving head-first into second base he really was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. His bat will play at first, especially if he can get 500 plate appearances, but we’re all left wondering where he could have ranked on the all-time third base list if he could have stayed there.

Tyler Moore
2014: 100 PAs, .231/.300.385 with 4 HRs, 14 RBIs (0.4 WAR). .948 FD% at 1B.

Ah, Tyler Moore. Some saw his power numbers in the minors and salivated. Sure, he was old at every level and didn’t really have a position, but he kept hitting home runs — 31 two years running in Potomac and Harrisburg. Surely, the skill would translate as he ascended into the big leagues! Well, maybe, maybe not. Moore still has power, but more (Moore) often than not flails away at the better pitching in the big leagues. It’s a story told time and again about thick-bodied minor league sluggers without a natural position on the diamond (cough Steven Souza cough). Moore has hit 10 homers in both of the past two seasons at Syracuse and now represents little more than a bat off the bench and emergency starter. If Zimmerman can’t give them 500 plate appearances, the team could be in a little trouble.

SECOND BASE

Yunel Escobar
2014: 529 PAs, .258/.324/.340 with 7 HRs, 39 RBIs (-0.2 WAR) with TBY. .965 FD% at SS.

The Nats traded older prospect Steven Souza Jr Tyler Clippard for the much-traveled shortstop with the hopes of plugging him into the abyss at second base. Escobar was one of the worst fielding shortstops in all of baseball last season by any metric you’d like to use, so the move to second base should help him recover some value. GM Mike Rizzo said Escobar battled back and hamstring issues all season long which affected his fielding. While hamstrings heal, back issues are usually chronic in nature. All that aside, his bat is pretty meh, especially for a guy that stays in the lineup every day, apparently whether he’s healthy or injured. His last good year was in 2011 when he hit .290/.369/.413. But his average has been .253, .256, .258 in the three years since. It’s a shame Rizzo felt like he had to give up a prospect of value for this skill set.

Danny Espinosa
2014: 364 PAs, .219/.283/.351 with 8 HRs, 27 RBIs, 8 SB/1 CS (0.0 WAR). .990 FD% at 2B, .978 at SS.

The reason Rizzo felt like he had to trade for Escobar. Espinosa once tantalized with 20-20 capability with Gold Glove caliber defense. But after playing through shoulder and hand injuries, plus complete ineffectiveness from the left side, Espinosa is left trying to resurrect his career as a backup middle infielder. There’s a shred of hope that within his split against lefties last season (.301/.374/.485) there’s a serviceable right-handed hitter in there, as Rizzo said in the offseason Espinosa would abandon switch-hitting. But Espinosa hasn’t seen a breaking ball go away from him from a right-handed pitcher in 15 years, so it’ll be a fascinating transition should be become proficient at it. His defense is still very good at second and short, and at least we know he can still hit lefties, so there’s utility in that.

Wilmer Difo
2014 Low-A: 610 PAs, .315/.360/.470 with 14 HRs, 90 RBIs, 49 SB/9 CS.

Difo tore up the Sally last season at age 22 for Hagerstown. It came as a shock, since he’d hit a combined five home runs in his previous four minor league seasons and had hit above .265 once. He can run and is a decent fielder but has played all over the infield, so the Nats aren’t really sure where he’ll end up playing. Second base will probably be where he settles though, but he split duties just about down the middle between there and short last season. Difo’s eye-popping numbers from last year put him on the radar, now he’ll have to live up to his newly-minted “prospect” status. Double-A has a way of separating guys that had a good year in the Sally (a year old for the level) from true prospects.

THIRD BASE

Anthony Rendon
2014: 683 PAs, .287/.351/.473 with 21 HRs, 83 RBIs, 17 SB/3 CS (6.5 WAR). .958 FD% at 3B.

It’s hard to articulate how good a season Rendon had in 2014, and where his offensive game could still go. He was fifth in the N.L. in MVP balloting as a 24-year-old and won the Silver Slugger at third. He is, simply, one of the best offensive players in the league and a fine defender at two positions as well. The Nats have elected to keep him at third base, his natural position, choosing to acquire Yunel Escobar to play second base full-time. And oh yeah, still a couple of years yet before he hits “peak.”

SHORTSTOP

Ian Desmond
2014: 648 PAs, .255/.313/.430 with 24 HRs, 91 RBIs, 24 SB/5 CS (2.8 WAR). .963 FD% at SS.

Desmond turned in another 20-20 season, his third in a row and third consecutive Silver Slugger. The production isn’t the concern with Desmond, who’s turned himself into one of the most consistent offensive performers at shortstop in the Majors. The defense isn’t the problem either — though he made a few more errors last season, he makes up for that in range and arm. With Desmond, you know what you’re gonna get on the field. As everyone knows by now, though, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, was subject of trade rumors all winter long, and will probably test the open market once the season concludes. The Nats even took precaution against Desmond leaving by trading for not just one shortstop prospect, but two, over the winter. I’d say the Nats are preparing for the likelihood of Desmond playing elsewhere next season.

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