July 30, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 87 Review: Zimmerman’s single in eighth delivers Nats 2-1 win

Since moving back to his more familiar third base, Ryan Zimmerman has coincidentally also been on a tear at the plate. The run continued Sunday, as his eighth inning single scored Denard Span, lifting the Washington Nationals to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs before 32,941 at sun-drenched Nationals Park.

Zimmerman is now 11-for-21 with six RBIs since Bryce Harper returned to the lineup and Zimmerman re-took his spot at third base.

Span led off the eighth inning with a hustle double to right field. After Anthony Rendon lined out and Jayson Werth struck out against Cubs reliever Pedro Strop (L, 1-4, 3.03), Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked, bringing up Zimmerman. The Nats’ veteran laced a 1-1 slider to left field which easily scored Span. LaRoche drew the cutoff throw away from the plate and was tagged out between second and third for the final out of the inning.

Rafael Soriano pitched an eventless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth for his 21st save of the season.

Zimmerman’s heroics made a winner of Tyler Clippard, who put his first two runners on, then wiggled out of the jam to pitch a scoreless top of the eighth.

Jordan Zimmermann turned in another exemplary start for the Nats (48-39). The stoic righty gave up no runs on seven hits and one walk over six innings, striking out five.

The Cubs(38-48) managed their lone run off Drew Storen in the seventh, as the reliever gave up two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Jerry Blevins struck out Luis Valbuena with runners on to keep the game tied at that point.

The Nats scored their first run in the first inning off Cubs starter Jake Arrieta. Span doubled, went to third on Rendon’s groundout and scored on Werth’s hard-hit grounder to third.

The Nats start a two-game series with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.53) hosts Chris Tillman (7-4, 4.21) at 7:05 pm.

Statistically Speaking: Bullpen Efficiency

The Washington Nationals bullpen as a unit are having a fantastic season in support of their more acclaimed starting rotation brethren. While the actual ranks differ by which all-encompssing statistic you prefer to use—the bullpen ranks tied for second in MLB with 2.8 wins above replacement (WAR) and fourth in RE24 at 27.53—the overall sentiment that the team’s relief corps is among the best in the business is not lost without the statistical confirmation.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride throughout the course of the season overall, with the likes of ever-dependable setup man Tyler Clippard and immensely talented former starter Ross Detwiler taking their lumps in the form of blown leads and inherited runners scoring. Yet, these shaky outings have been countered and exceeded by the efforts of Drew Storen, Rafael Soriano, and rookie Aaron Barrett, among others, and has kept the bullpen ledger in the black and the team in whispering distance of first place in the NL East.

Looking further at the polarizing outings of Clippard led me to come to this particular stat last week:

With the polarizing outings of Clippard to go along with the some similar clean outings by polarizing personality of Soriano, the Nats have a pair of relievers that face the minimum number of hitters half of their outings, which goes a long way to accruing the WAR and RE24 values the bullpen has thus far. It also speaks to how efficient the guys in the ‘pen are in getting hitters out and preventing the big inning for the opposing team. Do the rest of the Nats relievers follow suit and could this ability to keep additional runners (and potential runs) at bay be a reason for the success of 2014 from a group that hasn’t changed much in terms of roster from last year’s staff that finished 18th and 20th in MLB in WAR and RE24, respectively?

First, let’s outline what bullpen efficiency means. Efficiency is essentially how many batters a pitcher faces over the number that was expected from an outing. From there, we will also look at ‘clean outings’, where a pitcher faces the minimum number of batters for a given outing, with game situation considered. The fewer batters faced over the minimum, the better, as this obviously keeps runners off the base paths.

Let’s look at some data.

Name G IP xIP IP, Diff TBF xBF BF, Diff Efficiency(%) AppClean/Pct. RE24
Aaron Barrett 28 25.2 26.2 1 108 77 31 59.74 13/46.4% 2.77
Craig Stammen 22 38.1 39 0.2 152 115 37 67.83 6/27.3% 6.72
Drew Storen 29 24.1 26.2 2.1 93 73 20 72.80 16/55.2% 5.94
Jerry Blevins 33 27 29.1 2.1 116 81 35 56.80 16/48.5% 2.82
Rafael Soriano 31 31 31 0 114 93 21 77.42 17/54.8% 9.83
Ross Detwiler 20 29 31.2 2.2 137 87 50 42.53 4/20% -7.08
Tyler Clippard 37 34 36.1 2.1 137 102 35 65.70 19/51.4% 2.11

 

The table above is a little busy, but the explanations of the various columns are very straightforward and on the lighter side, mathematically. Aside from the standard games, innings pitched, and RE24 values, we also have a couple of variables that were calculated to help capture efficiency.

The first of these is expected innings pitched (xIP), which is the number of inning pitched that were expected from a pitcher, with game and outing specific information included. For example, if a pitcher has an outing where he pitched 0.2 IP, he could have an xIP of 0.2 if he came in relief with one out in the inning—he was only expected to get the other two outs to complete the inning.

Conversely, he could have a xIP of 1, but failed to get the third out of the inning before being pulled. Calculating xIP and confirming game situations was dine using game log data from Baseball Reference. Total batters faced (TBF) is simply that and expected batters faced (xBF) is calculated similar to xIP, with game situation taken into account. With xIP and xBF, care was taken with the Nats bullpen members who are more situational relivers, in particular, Jerry Blevins, to account for how they were pulled.

If they left an outing due to poor performance with runs scored or runners put in scoring position, then they were allotted the full inning of work expected and the batters faced. If they were pulled due to situation—bringing in Blevins to face a tough lefty, for example—then a full inning pitched was not assumed. Differences between actual performance and expected data re capture with the ‘Diff’ categories. From the game log data also comes the clean outing data (AppClean/Pct.), where the number of clean outings specific to game situation were tallied, with percentages also provided for comparison.

With the variables exhaustively described, let’s talk results. Not surprisingly, the Big Three of the Nats bullpen—Clippard, Soriano, and Storen—lead the way in clean outings, with Soriano and Storen also showing the most efficiency in terms of batters faced over the minimum (BF, Diff.).  Percent efficiency was calculated by taking the percentage difference between xBF and TBF and then subtracting this value from 100 and again shows how well both Soriano and Storen have been, not only in terms of performance, but in terms of being economical.

Not to be forgotten are the performances of Barrett and long man Craig Stammen, who both show a high rate of efficiency, despite subpar clean appearance numbers. Despite some encouraging recent outings, a very rough start to the season skews Ross Detwiler’s numbers greatly and shows a propensity for big innings and difficulties in keeping hitters off of the base paths.

Does this idea of efficiency trend with performance?

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.45.04 PM

In our very small sample, it indeed does, as the above graph of RE24 by number of batter faced of the minimum (BF, Diff in our table above) shows. As the number of extra hitters faced rises, RE24 drops, which makes this a negative correlation with a very strong R-squared of 0.72, providing us confirmation of good fit of the data. However, with seven data points, it would be very unwise to make any grand inferences out of these results. Despite this, we do see an interesting aspect of the bullpen’s success that doesn’t necessarily show up in the box score or in the formulas of the numerous advanced metrics available—not only are they keeping runs off of the scoreboard, they’re doing so in tidy fashion.

Data courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference and current through 6/24/2014.
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Stuart Wallace is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A neuroscientist by day, the Nevada native also moonlights as an Associate Managing Editor for Beyond the Box Score, stats intern at Baseball Prospectus, and a contributor at Camden Depot. A former pitcher, his brief career is sadly highlighted by giving up a lot of home runs to former National Johnny Estrada. You can follow him on Twitter @TClippardsSpecs.

Washington Nationals vs Texas Rangers Series Preview

WASTEX

The Washington Nationals are coming off of a two-game rain-shortened series sweep by the Miami Marlins and have now lost six of their last seven games. Things certainly won’t get easier for the struggling ball club as they now welcome the Texas Rangers to town for a three-game series. Here’s all you need to know to be ready. [Read more...]

Statistically Speaking: Is Drew Storen’s Rising Walk Rate A Concern?

Spring training stats aren’t everything — there are enough grains of salt to fill a dump truck when looking at the results from Grapefruit League games. With that in mind, the numbers that reliever Drew Storen has amassed thus far in 2014 are jarring, but for pitching coach Steve McCatty, there shouldn’t be much worry with respect to the clunker outings. To quote McCatty from the above linked Adam Kilgore article:

“Drew is Drew. At times, the ball is going to be elevated,” McCatty said. “We always work on getting it down. But I do see a good breaking ball.”

In a twist to the usual spring training sound bite ‘he’s working on things’, we find Storen, well, working on things; in particular, his location and his breaking ball (a slider). Fair enough. However, let’s take a look at Storen’s walk percentages from his breakout 2011 season to today, including his spring training rates:

Season BB%
2011 6.6%
2012 6.9%
2013_ST 7.7%
2013 7.1%
2014_ST 26.1%

Even while ignoring the eye-popping walk percentage for this spring (six walks in a little under six innings pitched), we find Storen’s regular season walks to be creeping up as time passes. Adding in the spring training rates for contrast and we find some discouraging trends to pair with the regular season numbers.

Let’s take a cue from McCatty and look at Storen’s walks by pitch type from 2011 onward, for granularity:

Storen Walk Rate

Storen’s changeup (CH) walk rate has gone up, which makes sense, given his increased use of the pitch; his bread-and-butter pitches—the sinker (SI) and slider (SL)  show a drop in walk percentage last season as compared to previous years, which is encouraging. However, there is a troubling hike in Storen’s walk percentage with his fourseamer in 2013, which he used 23 percent of the time.

So it appears a potential bugaboo for Storen is locating his fastball and with McCatty’s quote, it makes sense that Storen is missing up with the heater. Sadly, we don’t have PITCHf/x data for any of Storen’s 2014 spring outings, but we do have plenty of said data from the 2013 regular season. Assuming that Storen isn’t working on a new pitch and is actually improved, having more time to recover from early 2013 season health issues, let’s take a look the PITCHf/x data for each of Storen’s pitches on called balls. For the next four images, we are looking at a given pitch and a probability density map of the pitches that were called balls in reference to the strike zone. The lighter the color, the higher the probability a ball was actually called a ball.

First up, the four-seam fastball:

Storen_FF

…and now the sinker:

Storen_SI

…the slider:

Storen_SL

…and finally, the changeup:

Storen_CH

What’s interesting in these charts is the amount of light blue in the strike zone for each pitch, which are actual strikes that are being called balls. By the looks of it, Storen had a number of fastballs up in the zone called balls and a fair amount of changeups that were strikes incorrectly called balls. The trends are a little more egregious against right-handed batters, but is also seen to some extent against lefties.

The point of all of this? While you should never completely trust spring training numbers, some of the hike in walk rate seen from Storen might be more a result of strike zone interpretation more so than him losing command of his pitches. That being said, a careful eye should be kept on how well Storen commands his fastball up in the zone and his changeup down and out of the middle of the plate this coming season.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats fall to Braves 8-4

For the Washington Nationals, spring training isn’t about winning games or even necessarily finding competition for the precious few spots that might be available for the last bench of bullpen spot. It’s primarily about getting their starting pitching ready, lined up and healthy for opening day.

Another step in that task was taken Tuesday, as Stephen Strasburg made his spring debut. Strasburg pitched two innings, allowing one hit and no walks, striking out one. He was followed by fifth spot candidate Taylor Jordan, who did not fare as well.

Jordan gave up two earned runs on five hits in two innings, He did not walk a batter and struck out three. A.J. Cole was next, and the prospect threw two perfect frames, striking out two.

Drew Storen, coming off an up-and-down 2013, had a rough go of it in his first appearance, allowing two earned runs on a hit and two walks — to the first two batters he faced.

On the other side of the ball, Ian Desmond went 3-for-3, including his first homer of the spring, with two runs and an RBI.

The Nats host the Mets Wednesday at 1:05 from Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

NATS NOTES: The Nats signed LHP Mike Gonzalez to a minor league deal to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part V: The Bullpen

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard pitched 8th inning and earned 10th hold against Baltimore Orioles, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard in action of May 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

THE BULLPEN

Rafael Soriano, RHP: The saves were there last year, the elite skills were not. Soriano’s ERA and WHIP were their highest in any season he’s been a team’s top closer. On top of that, his K rate went down precipitously as he transitioned from a pitcher with a slider out pitch to a fastball pitcher, one who’s lost velocity each of the past four seasons. He lowered his walk rate, which obviously is good, but his hit rate jumped. His ground ball rate has dropped the past three seasons as his line drive and fly ball rates have risen, more evidence of him abandoning anything but the fastball. If the walk rate goes back to his normal seasonal allowance, he could be in a world of trouble. As it is, the velocity and strikeout rate drops are a big warning sign for a 34-year-old pitcher who hates not closing.

Tyler Clippard, RHP: Clippard turned in another exceptional season for the Nats with a 2.41 ERA and ridiculous 0.859 WHIP. All was bolstered by an incredibly unsustainable 4.7 H/9 rate and .172 BABiP, which completely mirrored his 2011 All-Star campaign. Those types of numbers are just unheard of, so he’s unlikely to repeat them, but he’s a funky pitcher. He succeeds with high fastballs and a changeup that almost impossible to identify out of his unusual and, frankly, weird delivery. The strikeout and ground ball rates were down just a tick but not alarmingly so. Clippard should be just fine in his established role. The big thing to worry about him is the price tag. He avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.88 million contract and he isn’t a free agent until after 2016, so the price tags is just going to keep going up. That’s a lot for a non-closer reliever — albeit one of the best in the game.

Drew Storen, RHP: Oh boy. Where do we start? Storen was fairly terrible in the first half, pitching to a 5.95 ERA, fueled by a .355 BABiP and outrageously high hit rate. The walks were fine, the Ks were fine, he was just simply unlucky as to balls finding their way into green space. He was sent to the minors on July 26 after wearing a the final inning of an 11-0 drubbing by the Mets on a day that he ran a 103 degree fever. When he came back Aug. 16, he was the same old Storen. Well, not really. He ditched the silly straight leg kick for a more conventional one that allowed him to have a more consistent delivery, but the results were more attributable to normalization. He held batters to a .200/.263/.214 line upon his return.

Jerry Blevins, LHP: Obtained from the A’s for Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns, Blevins is more than a typical lefty specialist — he actually owned better numbers against righties than lefties last season. Overall, a 3.15 ERA and 1.067 WHIP were solid. He has a four-pitch repertoire and faced four or more batters in more than half of his appearance last season. Blevins won’t overwhelm with his fastball, and his K rates will keep him in a set up or LOOGY role, but he knows how to pitch. Has improved his walk rate each of the past three seasons.

Xavier Cedeno, LHP: Want the good news? Cedeno enjoyed his career year last season at age 26, earning a 1.50 ERA and 1.000 WHIP for the Nats. He struck out 9 per nine innings and walked just 1.5. Want the bad news? He also suffered his worst season as a big leaguer last year, as he allowed 11 runs (eight earned) in 6.1 innings for Houston before they cut him in April. Am I being dramatic? You betcha. But Cedeno’s numbers for the Nats came in just 6.0 over 11 games. Against lefties, Cedeno provided a .231/.333/.269 slash. Against righties, that jumped to .391/.517/.522. Granted, we’re talking 29 and 31 plate appearances here. Call me skeptical, but I just don’t see Cedeno coming anywhere near approaching his numbers for the Nats last season again. He’s not a kid, and nothing in his history indicates this was anything more than a couple of good appearances in a row against limited competition.

Craig Stammen, RHP: Stammen could start for half the teams in baseball. His stuff is that good. All his peripherals continue to go in the right direction and his traditional numbers are solid across the board. Is this a pitcher that has found his spot? Or are the Nats hiding a gem, either intentionally or not. Either way, Stammen has proven to be an absolutely invaluable arm in the long role that he’s occupied the past two season for the team. His walk rate dropped by 0.7 this year over last — if that holds, he should earn higher leverage late innings if Clippard gets too expensive.

Ryan Mattheus, RHP: On the other hand… Mattheus was unlucky, sure. His BABiP of .405 screams it. But look at the rest. Rising walk rate. K rate less than 6 per nine. Lost velocity on his sinker. Punching a locker, breaking his hand and being completely and utterly lost once he returned. The hit rate is going to stabilize somewhat, but how much is luck and how much is just erosion of skill? He’s 30, not a youngster that needs to figure things out. He needs to prove health and competence or there are plenty of arms that will push him out of a job.

Josh Roenicke, RHP: Roenicke is famous for being the son of former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke and also being Ian Desmond’s brother-in-law. Roenicke the pitcher, however, is mediocre at best. He was brought in as an NRI and will provide depth in Syracuse most likely. He walks way too many (5.2 per nine in 62 IP last season) without the high K rate (just 6.5/9) that allows you live with it.

Erik Davis, RHP: Davis made his MLB debut last season at age 26, compiling a 1-0 record, 3.12 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in 8.2 innings, striking out 12 while walking just one. This was after going 3-7 with 15 saves, 3.10 ERA and 1.433 WHIP in AAA, so small sample caveats abound. Davis was slated to compete for a role in this year’s pen, but was placed on the 60-day D.L. with an “elbow strain” on the same day the Nats traded for Jose Lobaton. It’s quite possible he never throws a pitch to Lobaton.

Christian Garcia, RHP: “If only Garcia could stay healthy…” Any Nats fan that knows more than just Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg will cite Garcia as their secret weapon. He’s got the stuff, he knows how to pitch, and he’s still young enough (27) that he could impact the MLB roster. Unfortunately, that part of staying healthy just keeps eluding Garcia. He’s already had two Tommy John’s while he was property of the Yankees and last season he was limited to 13.1 innings in the minors after suffering a torn wrist tendon, which triggered shoulder soreness and hamstring injuries. He owns four quality MLB pitches, he just needs to get on a mound to show them off. Problem is, he can’t.

Manny Delcarmen, RHP: Delcarmen, 32, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2010 with the Rockies. Why is he here? Well, he’s always had good stuff and has had several full seasons of downright goodness at the big league level. In 07-08 with the Red Sox he was a quality righty in their pen and some thought he had closer written all over him. Problem is, his walk rate was always high and got higher the older he got and his K rate plummeted after he hit 27. When he should have been in the peak of his career, he busted. Read into that however you want. Last year in AAA, he went 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 54 innings, so there might be something left. At the triple-A level, anyway.

Aaron Barrett, RHP: Barrett was drafted four times: by the Dodgers in the 44th round of the ’06 draft, by the Twins in the 20th round in ’08, by Texas in the 27th round in ’09 and finally by the Nats in the 9th round in 2010 after his eligibility ended for the University of Mississippi. Barrett, at age 25, dominated AA last year for Harrisburg, going 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 1.093 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 and outrageous 12.3 K/9. In fact, in 149.2 IP in his minor league career, Barrett owns a 12.0 K/9 rate. He does this all with an average fastball, but a slider that Baseball America deemed best in the Nats’ system. At 6’4″, 215 he has a big league build. He needs to pitch against players his own age this year but his arm is definitely intriguing.

Clay Hensley, RHP: Hensley is a slight (5’11″, 190) righty that for the past few seasons has been able to fool enough batters to keep getting chances in the big leagues. But at 33 now, he’s running out of gas. Last season for San Francisco in 50.2 IP he walked 5.3 per nine and his ERA (4.62) showed it. Coupled with a 5.19 ERA for Florida in ’12, Hensley’s hanging on to the end of his rope.

Nationals avoid arbitration with Desmond, JZimm with two year deals

TEAM SIGNS BLEVINS, STOREN AND RAMOS TO ONE-YEAR CONTRACTS

The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration with most of their players eligible, signing Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to two-year contracts, and Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Wilson Ramos to one-year deals, according to multiple reports.

With Stephen Strasburg, Ross Ohlendorf and Ross Detwiler signing before Friday’s deadline, it means the only Nats players still eligible for arbitration are recently acquired starter Doug Fister and veteran reliever Tyler Clippard.

MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports that Desmond will make $17.5 million on his deal, while Zimmermann is set for $24 million. The two-year deals for both players buys out their remaining arb-eligible years leading to free agency.

It is widely reported that the team would like to ink both players to long-term deals, but having them under contract for the next two seasons also makes them easier to trade due to salary assurance, should the Nats feel that they can’t get them under long-term contracts.

Zimmermann, entering his age 28 season and an All-Star for the first time in 2013, went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.088 WHIP with a 4.03 K/BB ratio. He finished seventh in Cy Young voting in the National League.

Desmond, 28, was an All-Star in 2012 and has been the N.L. Silver Slugger at shortstop the past two seasons. He hit .280/.331/.453 last season with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and 21 steals in 27 attempts.

Ladson further reports that Ramos will make $2.095 million and Storen $3.45 million.

Washington Nationals Weekend Review: Nats drop series after HBP drama

The Washington Nationals, in dire need of a winning streak to spark any chance at catching Cincinnati for a wild card playoff spot, instead traded wins with the Atlanta Braves over the weekend to drop the series to the division front-runners. The Nats fell to 60-63 overall and 4-12 to the Braves this season. After play on Sunday, the Nationals trailed the Reds by 9 1/2 games for the final playoff spot with just 39 games to play.

SATURDAY: In a marathon, 15-inning affair, the Nats dropped the Braves 8-7, courtesy of Adam LaRoche’s 18th home run of the season leading off the 15th inning against the Braves’ Kris Medlin. Medlin (L, 10-11), who was slated to start Tuesday’s gave for Atlanta, was in his third inning of relief.

Both teams used nine pitchers and had to use a starter to pitch their final innings. For the Nats, Dan Haren came in to the bottom of the 15th and recorded the first save of his career, retiring the Braves allowing just one hit and striking out two.

The drama of extra innings would not have necessary were it not for the efforts of Rafael Soriano, who allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, letting the Braves tie it up to force extra time.

The game had a strange feel to it all night, as neither starter made it two innings. Braves starter Mike Minor was done after 1 2/3 after he allowed four earned runs on four hits and four walks to put the Braves in a hole early.

On the other side, Nats starter Stephen Strasburg was tossed two batter into the second inning, after throwing three wild pitches — the last two behind batter Andrelton Simmons. Were it any other game, Strasburg would have been allowed to work out whatever problems he was having with his control. But Strasburg plunked Braves outfielder Justin Upton on the behind with his first pitch after allowing a homer to Jason Heyward in the first inning and both benches were warned.

After the two pitches behind Simmons, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson took matters into his own hands and ejected Strasburg and manager Davey Johnson, as per the rule after benches have been warned. Both Strasburg and Johnson face fines and suspensions as well.

The Nats built a 6-2 lead in through the sixth inning and entered the bottom of the eighth with a 7-4 lead. But Freddie Freeman homered of Tyler Clippard in the eighth, and Heyward hit his second of the night, a two-run shot, off Soriano in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up.

There were heroes abound for the Nats bullpen though, as Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Ian Krol, Craig Stammen and Haren combined to throw 11 scoreless innings of relief. Stammen, who earned the win (6-5), struck out five in three hitless extra innings.

SUNDAY: The Nats went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners total, in a 2-1 loss to the Braves in the series finale. Despite putting two runners on with less than two outs in each of the first three innings, the Nats were never able to dent Julio Teheran’s ERA.

The offensive woes made a loser of Gio Gonzalez, who allowed two first inning runs before shutting the Braves down for the rest of his seven innings pitched. Gonzalez (L, 7-6), struck out nine in seven frames. He had his share of issues all day long, allowing five hits and four walks, but after Saturday’s marathon, the bullpen was fried and Gio was able to gut through 120 pitches, giving the Nats a chance to stay in the game.

Unfortunately, the hitters weren’t up to the task. The Nats got good days from Denard Span (3-for-5) Bryce Harper (2-for-4) and surprise starter Chad Tracy (2-for-4, subbing for Ryan Zimmerman who took a hard foul of fhis lower leg in the Saturday marathon). But they weren’t able to sustain an attack, as only one other hitter in the lineup was able to hit safely.

That one other hit belonged to Jayson Werth (19-for-39 in his last 10 games, .334/.407/.531 for the season), who drove in the Nats only run with a single in the seventh off reliever Scott Downs, which plated Anthony Rendon, who walked earlier in the inning.

Drew Storen pitched a perfect eighth inning, needing just five pitches to retire the side. Since returning from the minor leagues, Storen has pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out five.

NATS: Happy Birthday, Drew Storen

HAPPY 26th BIRTHDAY DREW STOREN!

Washington Nationals RHP Drew Storen was born on 08/11/1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Storen is currently playing in Syracuse.

Follow Drew Storen on Twitter (@DrewStoren) and be sure to wish #22 a Happy 26th Birthday.

I think I would fall over if I tried to lift my leg this high - Drew Storen - Chicago White Sox v. Washington Nationals, 4/9/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

I think I would fall over if I tried to lift my leg this high – Drew Storen – Chicago White Sox v. Washington Nationals, 4/9/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Drew Storen and Kurt Suzuki after win and Nats clinch playoff berth - Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, September 20, 2012, (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Drew Storen and Kurt Suzuki after win and Nats clinch playoff berth – Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, September 20, 2012, (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Drew Storen pitched a scoreless 8th inning - Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals, 9/3/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Drew Storen pitched a scoreless 8th inning – Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals, 9/3/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

 

Washington Nationals two flat brim closers – Former All-Star Closer Chad Cordero threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Drew Storen before the Nats game against the Braves on July 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nats Closer Drew Storen pitching in 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals Game 103 Review: Mets unmercifully pound Nats in first game

In what might actually be the low point of the 2013 season, the Washington Nationals were completely shut down by a pitcher making his season debut while giving up 11 runs on 13 hits — including a six-run ninth inning, en route to a 11-0 shutout by the New York Mets, who are now just one game behind the Nats in fourth place in the N.L. East.

To make matters worse, the Nats have no time to dwell on the shellacking, as they face these Mets again at 7:05 pm in the split double-header.

Jordan Zimmermann, who has not been especially sharp since his last appearance before the All-Star game, gave up five runs in 6 2/3 innings on six hits and three walks. Uncharacteristically, Zimmermann needed 118 pitches and did not complete seven innings. [Read more...]

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