November 20, 2017

Washington Nationals Game 160/161 Review: Scherzer Throws No-Hitter as Nats Sweep Mets

SCHERZER STRIKES OUT 17 IN NEAR-PERFECT GAME TWO AS NATIONALS SWEEP DOUBLEHEADER

Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.
Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

The Lion in Winter, James Goldman

I ran into a friend at the grocery store between games today. Tony’s a long-suffering DC sports fan, and as we passed each other in the parking lot, he said, “Of course, now we can beat the Mets.

That’s how a lot of Nats fans must have felt on Saturday.

Not Max Scherzer.

After a 3-1 victory in the first game against the Mets, the Nationals sent Scherzer to the mound for the nightcap, and Scherzer pitched as if the Nationals were still in it. They might not have been, but Scherzer could’ve fooled anyone.

Even the most meaningless baseball isn’t devoid of meaning. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 147 Review: Nats Beat Marlins on a Sacrifice Fly in Extra Innings

The Washington Nationals made things interesting on Friday night and ended their night with a 5-4 win  over the Miami Marlins on a sacrifice fly hit by Catcher Jose Lobaton. The fly ball hit by Lobaton sent outfielder Jayson Werth home to score and secure the victory.

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer stayed strong through seven innings pitched despite a minor hiccup of a two-run homer hit by Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich in the first inning. Scherzer threw 104 pitches and 70 strikes while giving up five hits and two runs. He walked two, struck out two, and threw one wild pitch.

The Nats offense caught up with Miami the next inning by scoring a run on a solo homer hit by Clint Robinson off Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez making it 2-1 through two innings played. Fernandez lasted five and two-thirds innings while giving up five hits and two runs to the Nats.

Washington tied it up at 2-2 in the sixth inning when outfielder Bryce Harper scored on a wild pitch thrown by Fernandez but the Marlins pulled ahead 3-2 in the eighth while facing reliever Felipe Rivero.

A throwing error made by second baseman Anthony Rendon with reliever Blake Treinen on the mound in the eighth tied it up 3-3  before the Nats pulled ahead by a  run after in the bottom half of that same inning. Wild pitches thrown by Marlins reliever Jose Urena resulted in movement along the base path for the top of the Nats order. Pinch runner Trea Turner scored on a on a sacrifice fly hit by shortstop Ian Desmond to center field to tie it up and Harper scored on a clutch single hit by outfielder Michael A. Taylor giving the Nats a 4-3 lead.

Miami caught up with the Nats to tie it back in the top of the ninth against closer Jonathan Papelbon, whose been ill the past few days with a fever and wasn’t 100% according to Manager Matt Williams. Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas tied it up by scoring off a sacrifice fly hit by Miami’s lead off man Dee Gordon but the Nats would take the game in the tenth inning on Lobaton’s sacrifice fly off reliever Brian Ellington as redemption.

HERO: Lobaton for the sac fly in the tenth.

GOAT: Papelbon for blowing the save.

NATS NOTES:

  • The Nats are 8-2 in extra innings this season now.

UP NEXT: LHP Justin Nicolino (3-3, 3.81) and the Miami Marlins face RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 3.51) and the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. at 4:05 p.m.

Washington Nationals Game 137 Review: Brutal Loss for the Nationals

NATS DROP OPENER TO THE METS 8-5, FALL FIVE GAMES OUT

Some series are more important than others. Some series are where your team distinguishes itself from the competition, comes alive, and works to show their championship pedigree. On Monday afternoon, that was the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Their come-from-behind 8-5 win was the sort of game a playoff-bound team wins.

This Nationals-Mets tilt is the most important either team has played all season, and the atmosphere at Nationals Park was electric on Monday afternoon. The two teams traded haymakers on a holiday afternoon for a sold out crowd at Nationals Park, before it all fell apart for the Nationals in the seventh. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 120 Review: Rockies top Nationals 3-2

WHERE HAS ALL THE OFFENSE GONE, LONG TIME PASSING

Max Scherzer and Yohan Flande went blow for blow on Thursday night in Denver, the Cy Young winner vs. the youngster with less than 100 innings pitched in the majors. Max Scherzer allowed three runs on 8 hits through 6+ IP, while Flande allowed two and drove in one. The Nationals had just four hits in Thursday’s matchup, and fell four games back of the Mets with 42 games to play.

Flande was just as impressive at the plate as he was on the mound, sparking the Rockies’ rally in the fifth, and driving in their second run in the sixth. He finished the night 3-for-3 against Scherzer, tied for second on the year for most hits against Scherzer. Odubel Herrera of the Phillies leads with four in 13 at-bats.

Though Scherzer only gave up a trio of runs, he was not his usual impressive self on Thursday night. Scherzer walked three, and had a number of pitches in the dirt as he worked to locate his slider. Largely dependent on his changeup for his out pitch, Scherzer was having to grind to work his way through the Rockies’ lineup. His final line of 6+ IP, 8H, 3 ER, 3 BB (1 IBB), and 7 K won’t make it to any highlight reels.

The Nationals struck back in the top of the seventh, with Ryan Zimmerman getting a walk, and Michael A. Taylor destroying a fastball down the groove into the center field stands to tie the game at two. Taylor’s 493-foot blast was the 11th of his rookie year, and the longest on record in the majors this year.

The home half of the seventh inning was a peculiar thing to take in. Max Scherzer, at 90 pitches or so, came out to take the rock in the bottom of the seventh. Jose Reyes singled to center to start the inning, and Matt Williams came to get his ace. Felipe Rivero came in to face Carlos Gonzalez, who beat the defense the other way to move Reyes to second. Blake Treinen got the call from the bullpen, and came in to strike out Nolan Arenado on a slider up in the zone. He wouldn’t get so lucky against lefty Ben Paulsen, who drove in Reyes on a bloop single to center, shallow enough and slow enough to score Reyes from second.

Why Williams wanted Treinen with the lefty matchup is unclear to me at press time, especially given that lefties hit .322/.398/.471 against him this year. Given that the bullpen has had a restful series in Colorado, Williams had a panoply of options, and it seems Treinen was an odd choice. The inning would conclude on a wild pitch to another lefty, Daniel Descalso, as Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t commit to running home, or get back to 3rd fast enough.

The ninth saw a leadoff single for Bryce Harper – only the Nationals’ fourth hit of the day – against John Axford. The cagey closer would drop a perfectly placed 3-2 curve on the corner to Yunel Escobar to rack the first out of the ninth. Ian Desmond swung right through a 2-2 slider to put the game on the line with two outs. Ryan Zimmerman forced a walk from Axford in a beautiful at-bat, putting Taylor at the plate for the big moment. He’d swing through a high fastball, and that would end the game.

The Mets were off Thursday, and the Nationals fell to four games back of the Division with 42 to play.

HERO: Michael A. Taylor for his tape-measure blast in the seventh to tie the game at two.

GOAT: Max Scherzer and Matt Williams, for equal parts bad bullpen management and a rough night – his third straight start – with control problems to boot.

NATS NOTES:

  • 493 feet is 9 feet longer than Giancarlo Stanton’s league-leading 484-foot homers for Miami.
  • If the Mets finished 21-21, the Nationals would need to finish 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.

NEXT UP: The Nationals return home to face the Brewers on Friday night. Gio Gonzalez (9-5, 3.86) vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-9, 3.61) at 7:05pm.

Washington Nationals Game 107 Review: Nationals Earn Split, win 8-3

OFFENSE REAPPEARS AFTER LONG ABSENCE; HARPER REACHES FIVE TIMES

The Washington Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-3 in a game that could encapsulate their entire infuriating existence. Starting pitcher Joe Ross pitched six innings, allowing just one run on five hits, striking out seven. Jeremy Hellickson did not last through the fifth, and gave up a pair of runs before departing with two outs. Ian Desmond clubbed his twelfth home run of the season, Clint Robinson smashed his fifth home run of the season in the eighth, and Wilson Ramos added two RBI in the victory.

It wasn’t all that simple, though, and the Nationals struggled in new and unique ways as the game plodded through its three hour and 32-minute run. A 4:05 p.m. start on a day when rain was forecast, the Nationals played all afternoon like they were begging for a rain delay.

The Nats jumped out to a lead on Desmond’s moon shot into the left field bullpen, rattling Hellickson. In the fourth, the meat of the order produced some additional offense. Desmond led off with a double that just missed the top of the wall, followed by a line drive by Wilson Ramos for a single. The contact was late, and Desmond was left at third, for Michael A. Taylor.

The rookie centerfielder grounded into an RBI force out, catching Ramos at second in a play that was appealed, as shortstop Cliff Pennington appeared to come off the bag at the time of the play. Joe Ross put down a perfect sac bunt, moving Taylor to second, but Yunel Escobar flied out to end the fourth at 2-0.

Ross’ only mistake of the day came in the fifth inning, giving up a longball to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a changeup that hung up in the zone. Ross worked around that and a follow-up single to retire the side. Up 2-1, he trusted the offense deliver in the fifth. And deliver they did.

Bryce Harper, on his way to a perfect day at the plate (2 for 2 with three walks), singled with one out. He advanced to third by way of a wild pitch and a passed ball. The wild pitch with two strikes put Jayson Werth aboard with the rare strikeout-turned-into-single. Ian Desmond (2 for 4, BB, RBI) drew a walk to load the bases. That gave Tuesday night’s hero, Ramos a chance to put the Nats up for good, and he delivered. Ramos, who has found something in old videotape from 2011 about his swing, crushed a double to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

Arizona narrowed that lead in the seventh as Casey Janssen came apart at the seams. The veteran reliever gave up a leadoff walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, followed by singles to Yasmany Tomas and pinch-hitter Welington Castillo with no one out. With the bases loaded, he didn’t fare much better. Ender Inciarte knocked him out with a two-run double down the first base line, ending Janssen’s day.

It was at this point when the frustrations of Nats fans crystalized into a horrified Boschian hellscape. The Nats had a lead, but their fabled “A” bullpen was failing them, and four runs was the most than they’d scored since July 29. Would this really be an oncoming train instead of the light at the end of the tunnel?

Ryan Zimmerman calmed fans’ fears in the seventh, adding an RBI double as a pinch-hitter, to give the Nats a 5-3 cushion. Clint Robinson added three more in the bottom of the eighth on a towering home run off the Diamondbacks’ Brad Ziegler.

Blake Treinen, freshly up from Syracuse in swap for Aaron Barrett, struck out the side in the ninth to bring a merciful end to the four-game series, a split, between the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. A game and a half back of the Mets, while they travel to Tampa Bay, the Nationals aren’t out of the NL East, but it sure feels like the road to October is all uphill right now.

HERO: Joe Ross for his continued excellence, plus a thank you to Wilson Ramos for showing up with a 2 for 5 with a clutch double.

GOAT: Casey Janssen, for an abysmal seventh inning that put this game far, far too close.

NATS NOTES:

  • Bryce Harper’s 1.119 OPS continues to be absurd, and his OBP of .455 continues to lead NL Hitters.
  • Joe Ross’ command today was tremendous and something that Nats fans should be excited to see him stay up as long as possible. Matt Williams said after the game that Ross would stay in the rotation through the west coast swing, and Doug Fister would move to the bullpen.

NEXT UP: Colorado is coming to town tomorrow night. 7:05pm start, Jorge De La Rosa (7-4, 4.87) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (8-7, 3.54)

Treinen sent to minors because team doesn’t know how to use him

The Washington Nationals sent struggling right-handed reliever Blake Treinen to AAA-Syracuse and recalled fellow righty Abel de los Santos from AA-Harrisburg to make his MLB debut. de los Santos was acquired (along with SS Chris Bostick) in the Ross Detwiler trade with the Texas Rangers. Detwiler, meanwhile, was DFA’d by the Rangers two weeks ago and has resurfaced with the Atlanta Braves.

But we digress.

The Nats are sending Treinen down to Triple-A with the hope that he can reduce his walks and figure out how to get lefties out. The big problem with that is his age. He’s 27, and whatever he is as a pitcher is pretty much cemented by now. Players in the physical prime of their careers are who they are. It’s up to the team to put him in positions to succeed, and the Nats — to this point in Treinen’s career — have been pretty poor at it.

Treinen has pitched to a 4.39 ERA and 1.561 WHIP this season, getting hit at an overall clip at .276/.363/.378 in 180 plate appearances against. That’s solidly mediocre taken at first blush. He’s given up two home runs and 21 walks in 41 innings pitched. The first number (HR) is very, very good. The second number, not so much.

It’s when we dig deeper that we see the problem in his utilization.

Treinen has been exceptional (and I don’t use that word lightly) against right handed batters, limiting those hitters to a .205/.300/.244 slash line. Look again: the type of batter most prevalent in baseball slugs .244 against Treinen this season. For his career, righties hit .223/.303/.251, so this year’s no fluke. If you’ve got a right-handed batter up in a high leverage situation, you want Treinen to face him.

ON THE OTHER HAND (see what I did there?):

In his career, Treinen allows lefties to hit .341/.396/.466 against him in a statistically equal number of plate appearances as righties (202 career PAs against righties/192 PAs against lefties). That’s “Barry Bonds in the prime of his career” numbers. His numbers this year are even worse at .346/.427/.513, meaning with scouting other teams have figured him out. His BABiP to lefties this season is .413. That’s no joke. He ain’t fooling anyone.

If I can look up these numbers, you can bet the Nats can too.

What if boils down to is this: Treinen has a big league arm, and can get right-handed batters out with the best of any short relievers. What he can’t do is get lefties out. At all. The Nats can send Treinen down to Syracuse and wait for him to figure it out (he won’t, and likely waste any remaining value to his career) or they can admit what he is and utilize him at the big league level in situations that will put him in a position to succeed.

The question is thus: Can the Nats afford to carry a ROOGY (Right-handed One Out Guy) in the current iteration of the bullpen? Now, there are more right-handed batters than left, so he’s more useful than that.

But in no way should he be sent into a one-run game with the reasonable expectation that he’d face very good left-handed hitting batters in two of the first four batters he’d face, exactly what he was tasked with in Sunday’s ninth inning debacle.

That’s not putting the player into a position he can succeed. That’s dooming him to utter failure. And it’s not the player’s fault.

Washington Nationals Game 90 Review: Scherzer outdueled by Greinke

On a sweltering day in the nation’s capital in a battle of National League All-Star pitchers, Zack Greinke bettered Max Scherzer — just barely — and the Los Angeles Dodgers tacked on some late runs to beat the Washington Nationals 5-0 on “Star Wars Day” at Nationals Park.

Overall, the Nats were outhit 15-5. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 73 Review: Fister Excels Against the Braves for a Series Sweep

Starting pitcher Doug Fister shut out the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon leading the Washington Nationals to a 7-0 win at Nationals Park. Fister threw 111 pitches and 72 strikes in seven innings pitched. He gave up four hits, one walk, and struck out four batters while the Nats offense did their best to hit Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 66 Review: Nats shutout 5-0 by Rays

NATS STRUGGLE AGAINST RAYS JUST A DAY AFTER 16-RUN OUTBURST, LOSE 5-0

The Washington Nationals were shutout 5-0 by the Tampa Bay Rays just a day after hanging 16 runs on the board. Stephen Souza Jr. and Curt Casali had home runs, and the Rays would score three additional runs after the Nationals defense fell apart in the rain.

When is a starter not a starter? When the Tampa Bay Rays come to a National League city. The Rays put Steve Geltz on the mound tonight in the first, knowing full well he wouldn’t pitch in the bottom of the third. Trying to combat an offensive deficit as an AL team playing in an NL city, the Rays pinch-hit for their “starter” Geltz in the top of third.

It didn’t work out quite like they planned. Pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer grounded into a double-play, ending a short-lived rally and leaving everyone scratching their heads just a bit. Matt Andriese took over for Geltz in the 3rd, after Geltz threw two perfect innings, and then departed in the seventh, scattering two hits and a walk through four. Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless seventh, and Ronald Belisario a scoreless eighth.

Former Stephen Souza Jr. brought his bat to face his former teammate on Wednesday. Famous for his no-hitter saving catch in the 9th inning of Zimmermann’s no-hitter in late September 2014, Souza was 3-for-4 on the night, complete with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Curt Casali followed Souza’s knock with one of his own on a pitch that got away from Zimmermann, making it 2-0.

Ian Desmond struggled with some defensive issues in the sixth, missing a grounder up the middle for what was arguably an unplayable ball, and then compounded the situation, bobbling what should have been an easy double play. The Nats would escape from the situation, giving up only one run, but the damage was done.

And then the rain came.

As the eighth inning began, a hard rain fell on Nationals Park, causing many to wonder if the game might be paused or even called as the storm cell arrived. With a runner aboard, and two men down, the umpires seemed not to want to suspend the game mid-inning, and despite a healthy downpour, let Blake Treinen pitch to Stephen Souza Jr.

Souza, looking to bunt his way aboard, put a squib down the third base line. Treinen would lunge for the ball with his bare hand, and threw the wet ball down the first base line over the head of Danny Espinosa, advancing both of the runners. Bryce Harper charged in on the errant throw, and attempted to fire a strike to Yunel Escobar at third. Only, the ball was still quite wet, and left his hand a little wild. The ball ended up in the Rays dugout, and Souza claimed his little league home run, making it 5-0.

The Nationals had two hits on the night, and no matter how good your starting pitching is (and Zimmermann went 7IP, 3ER, 8K, BB, a strong evening), if you can’t put runners aboard, you’re going to fall short. A night after they put 16 runs and 23 hits on the board, they made three fielding errors, got just two hits, and scored nary a thing.

Baseball.

HERO: No hero tonight, my friends. Well, maybe Stephen Souza Jr. But they traded him this off-season. So. There’s that.

GOAT: Ian Desmond, Blake Treinen and Bryce Harper for their error-laden performance.

NATS NOTES:

  • The 27-minute rain delay in the 8th was the shortest delay of the season so far for the Nationals
  • Former National Stephen Souza Jr leads all rookies in home runs with 13.

NEXT UP: Rubber match with the Rays tomorrow night, 7:05pm, Chris Archer (7-4, 2.00) vs. Doug Fister (2-2, 4.31)

Washington Nationals Game 51/52 Review: Nats Split Doubleheader with Toronto

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN CRUISES IN GAME 1, BULLPEN SHANKS GAME 2

The Washington Nationals split their Tuesday doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, winning the first game 2-0 behind Jordan Zimmermann’s excellent effort, and dropping the second game 7-3 after the Blue Jays cracked open the Nationals bullpen and ate them like a briny Rappahannock oyster.

Jordan Zimmermann was the star of the show on Tuesday afternoon, walking one, striking out four and scattering six hits in eight innings pitched. His command was top-notch, and he scored one of the two Nationals run in the fifth after a single. The weather worked in Zimmermann’s favor, with cold air deadening the carry in the outfield. [Read more…]

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