April 18, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 16 Review: Nats Held to Two Hits in Wainwright’s Complete-Game Shutout

On nights when the Washington Nationals find their groove, their offense has the power to stun opposing pitchers.

Thursday was not one of those nights.

The Washington Nationals started their 11-game home stretch with a downright frustrating 8-0 loss to Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

From start to finish Wainwright (W, 3-1) was stellar on the mound, holding the Nats to just two hits through nine innings to record his seventh career shutout. And, from the batter’s box, he wasn’t so bad either – adding a double and a single to the Cardinals’ 14 total hits.

To make matters worse, the Nats tallied a whopping four errors on the night – two of which came from shortstop Ian Desmond, who now boasts seven errors on the season. Through 16 games, Washington has 20 total errors.

Desmond’s first error helped the Cardinals run with an early lead. The very first batter of the game – Matt Carpenter – reached first base safely after Desmond failed to field the routine drive.

But, Nats’ starter Taylor Jordan (L, 0-2) certainly committed his share of gaffes. He allowed a single to Kolten Wong and a quick double to Matt Holliday, which brought home Carpenter. Matt Adams’ grounder plated Kolten, and Yadier Molina singled in Holliday to give St. Louis an all-too-easy three-run lead.

After the first, however, Jordan regained at least brief control. Unfortunately, he lacked offense to back him up.

In fact, the bottom of the first marked the first of six total innings in which the Nats’ batters would retire in order.

The second inning proved the only time Washington threatened. Adam LaRoche led off with a walk before Desmond sought some redemption by way of a single up the middle. But, Danny Espinosa and Nate McLouth had no success in the box, and Wainwright intentionally walked Jose Lobaton to strike out Jordan in the nine-spot.

In the fourth, the Cardinals tacked on an insurance run. After Jhonny Peralta doubled with one out, Jon Jay reached on a throwing error by none other than Desmond. And, things went from bad to worse as Wainwright reached on a force attempt, which featured a miss catch error by Espinosa. The play allowed Peralta to score, but Jordan was able to prevent additional runs from crossing home plate.

In the sixth, however, Jordan simply lost control over his pitches. After striking out Peralta, he hit Jay with a runaway fastball before allowing Wainwright to single. By the time Jordan walked Carpenter to load the bases, the Nats had seen enough.

Unfortunately, reliever Blake Treinen had no added luck.

He struck out Wong on a 96-MPH fastball, but allowed Holliday to single in Jay, before Adams singled in both Wainwright and Carpenter.

Despite the sloppy inning and an added run in the seventh, Nationals manager Matt Williams seemingly allowed Treinen to sweat it out until the ninth.

When it came time for Jerry Blevins to take the mound, the Nats were down eight runs and had officially tallied twice as many errors as hits, thanks to a fielding error by Jayson Werth in the top of the eighth. Werth appeared to have lost a line drive by Molina in the lights as he charged forward with no hope of coming close to catching the ball.

The Nats will will want to turn their luck around tonight with left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50) taking on Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (2-0, 1.89).

Last season, the Nats went 0-6 against St. Louis.

 

 

Washington Nationals Game 15 Review: Werth Homer Lifts Nats in Win Vs. Fernandez, Marlins

The Washington Nationals took advantage of costly errors by the Miami Marlins to emerge the victor of a 6-3 finish Wednesday night.

Miami ace Jose Fernandez held the Nats to four hits and 10 strikeouts through seven, but he was dealt a tough break by the Marlins’ defense, namely catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

With Washington trailing 3-0, Jose Lobaton led off the sixth with a double to deep right. Then, on a would-be routine grounder off the bat of Tanner Roark, Saltalamacchia committed a throwing error allowing Roark to reach first and Lobaton to advance to third. After Nate McLouth struck out swinging and Anthony Rendon popped out to second, Fernandez merely needed to retire Werth to get out of the jam.

Luckily for the Nats, however, Werth was prepared to seize the moment. His three-run shot to right center marked his third homer of the season and tied the game, tarnishing Fernandez’s otherwise solid performance with three unearned runs.

Fernandez would go on to earn a final line of 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 10 K and 1 HR, tossing 65 of 97 pitches for strikes.

Nats starter Tanner Roark, in turn, walked away with a no decision after throwing 98 total pitches over 6.1 innings, in which he allowed three runs on seven hits, two walks, five strike outs and one home run.

In the eighth, with Mike Dunn in to relieve Fernandez, Zach Walters broke the 3-3 tie in the Nationals’ favor with his second career homer – and his second long ball in as many nights. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 9 Review: Strasburg dominates, Desmond slams as Nats sweep Marlins 7-1

DESMOND’S SLAM IN THE EIGHTH PROVIDES CUSHION FOR 7TH WIN OF THE SEASON

The Washington Nationals burned through their long-men Wednesday night after starter Jordan Zimmermann managed just five outs. On Thursday afternoon, Stephen Strasburg bailed his beleaguered bullpen out, tossing a masterful 6 2/3 innings as the Nats played a tightly contested game for eight innings until Ian Desmond’s grand slam in the eighth inning opened the flood gates to a 7-1 win for the Nats before 20,869 at Nationals Park.

It was just the performance manager Matt Williams needed from the nominal ace of his rotation. Strasburg finished with 12 strikeouts, the 13th time in his career he has K’d more than 10 batters in a game. He threw 71 of his 98 pitches for strikes and struck out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton twice, putting his newly developed slider to good use.

The Nats went up 2-0 in the third. With one out, Anthony Rendon drew a walk from Marlins starter Tom Koehler. Jayson Werth then clubbed a 1-0 pitch into the Marlins bullpen for his second home run of the season — and second in as many days.

From there, it was all Strasburg. The big righty plowed through the Miami batting order, generating strikeouts and ground outs with equal ease. Strasburg recorded 13 straight outs, including six Ks, between Derek Dietrich’s fielder’s choice in the first and Ian Desmond’s error on a grounder in the fifth.

Strasburg then struck out six of his last 10 batters faced. But a homer allowed to Marcel Ozuna in the seventh, followed two batters later by a walk to catcher Jeff Mathis, signaled the end of his day. Strasburg struck out 12 total in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and three hits allowed.

Jerry Blevins came on and retired pinch-hitter Reed Johnson following the walk to Mathis. He struck out lefties Christian Yelich and Derek Dietrich to start the eighth inning, and Williams then called upon rookie Aaron Barrett to face Stanton. Barrett fed Stanton slider after slider until the hulking slugger finally swung through for strike three.

The Marlins turned to Arquimedes Caminero in the bottom half of the inning, but the Nats battered the reliever. Rendon led off with a double, followed by a single from Werth. Adam LaRoche grounded out to first with the infield drawn in, but Caminero then walked Kevin Frandsen and Bryce Harper — the second forcing in the Nats third run.

Ian Desmond then delivered the big blow, a clout to the Red Porch for the Nats second Grand Slam of the series to make it 7-1.

NATS NOTES: Rendon’s eighth inning double extended his hitting streak to nine games, the longest such streak to begin a season for the Washington Nationals.

 

 

Nats Nightly for April 9: Werth’s slam caps crazy 10-7 win over Marlins

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals crazy 10-7 win over the Miami Marlins.

Listen To Baseball Internet Radio Stations with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 8 Review: Werth’s slam in eighth wins crazy game with Marlins, 10-7

Crazy game.

The Washington Nationals fell behind 5-0 after a stalwart starter got lit up. They clawed back to take the lead in the middle innings. A former 40-save closer gave up a mammoth homer in the seventh to fall behind again. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats hairy guru made the Miami Marlins pay for intentionally loading the bases.

Jayson Werth clubbed a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in left center for his first home run of the season, a grand slam that delivered the Nats a 10-7 win in one of the craziest games we’ll see all season long.

For starters it wasn’t Jordan Zimmermann’s night. The righty struggled with location and pitch count all night long. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Christian Yelich and walked second baseman Derek Dietrich. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a run-scoring single and Dietrich moved up to third. Garrett Jones brought Dietrich home with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0 before most folks had settled into their seats.

The second inning was worse. Adeiny Hechavarria lead off with a triple to the left center gap and scored on Yelich’s single. Dietrich then sent a ball that landed in the first row of bleachers above the out-of-town scoreboard in right center before falling back to the field of play. It was ruled a triple on the field, but after review Dietrich was sent home, correctly having been awarded his first home run of the season.

After singles by Jones and Casey McGehee, Zimmermann was done. He was yanked after 1 2/3 innings — his shortest stint as a big league starter. He allowed five runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks, striking out one.

Marlins’ starter Brad Hand cruised until the fourth inning. Adam LaRoche continued his hot streak, singling to lead off, and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single. After Ian Desmond struck out, Bryce Harper battled through a 10-pitch at bat, culminating in an absolute moonshot – three rows back in the upper tank in straight-away right field. It was Harper’s first home run of the year.

The Nats clawed their way back to one in the fifth. Anthony Rendon tripled to right field with one out and scored a batter later on Werth’s ground out. Washington completed the comeback in the next frame. Zimmerman doubled to the right field corner over Stanton’s head. The big right fielder bobbled the ball in the corner, allowing Zimmerman to move up to third. Ian Desmond’s swinging bunt brought Zimmerman home and all hands were safe.

Harper followed with a single the other way off lefty Dan Jennings to put runners at the corners, still with no outs. Jose Lobaton tapped a comebacker to Jennings, but the reliever fumbled the ball — Desmond scored to make it 6-5 and Lobaton rumbled safely to first on the E-1. Span singled to load the bass with one out, but Arquimedes Caminero came on to get Rendon and Werth to fly out to end the rally.

Drew Storen came on for the seventh and was rudely greeted, as Jerrod Saltalamacchia blasted a shot to dead center to tie it that was every bit as impressive as Harper’s was earlier.

But this game was far from over. The Marlins called upon Carlos Marmol for the eighth inning, and the Nats made them pay for that decision.

Pinch-hitter Nate McLouth was hit with a one-out fastball and went to third on Denard Span’s bunt single and error on the throw by Derek Dietrich, playing his first MLB game at third base. The Marlins walked Rendon intentionally to set up force plays everywhere with bases loaded, but Jayson Werth wouldn’t have any of it. Werth ripped a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen for his first homer of the season, a Grand Slam that gave the Nats a comfortable 10-7 lead.

It STILL wasn’t over. Rafael Soriano put two runners on in the ninth to make sure any fingernails left did not go unchewed, but struck out two to eventually nail down one of the nuttiest wins we’re going to witness in 2014.

Washington Nationals Game 2 Review: Gio paves the way against the Mets

Gio Gonzalez couldn’t have had a better day.

The left-hander allowed a single run on three hits, striking out six, and homered in his first start of 2014, leading the Washington Nationals to a 5-1 win over the New York Mets at Citifield.

Gonzalez (W, 1-0, 1.50) was exceptionally sharp, throwing 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes. The only Mets hitter to have any success was outfielder Juan Lagares, who doubled and tripled for two of the Mets’ three hits.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez’ homer in the fifth inning came off of Bartolo Colon, making his Mets debut (3 ER on 9 hits).

The Nats pounded out 13 hits in total. Jayson Werth went 4-for-5 on the day, while Denard Span and Anthony Rendon, hitting 1-2 in the order, both had a pair of hits. Span scored twice. Ian Desmond homered in the fifth against Colon as well.

Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen each threw a scoreless inning of relief. Storen and Stammen struck out two apiece and Clippard K’d the side while walking one.

About the only negative on the day was Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error.

The Nationals finish off their opening series against the Mets on Thursday at 1:10 pm. Jordan Zimmermann looks to follow up his 19-win season against Zack Wheeler.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part II: The Outfield

Jayson Werth high-fives Bryce Harper after gunning out Greg Dobbs in the ninth inning. - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Health and self-preservation are key for the Nats outfield this season. (Stock photo Sept. 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.

Josie’s on a vacation far away…

THE OUTFIELD

Jayson Werth, RF: Werth was a stealth candidate for MVP last season, and actually ended up 13th on the postseason award ballot. The .318/.398/.532 line he posted at age 34 had everything to do with that. Werth enjoyed one of his finest seasons in the bigs, despite missing 33 games due to injury, which has to be expected from the guy at this point in his career. There’s no way he’ll every live up to the immense contract he signed to come to D.C., but when he’s been in the lineup the past two seasons he’s outdone what could have reasonably been expected of him. How long does that production continue? His defense is already slipping greatly and he has four more seasons to his contract, so it becomes an important question as Werth enters the twilight of his solid career.

Denard Span, CF: Trivia: He’s the only player in Major League history by the name of Denard. Or Span. Anyway, Span rescued his season with a torrid seven weeks at the end of the season, which was along the lines of what GM Mike Rizzo expected when he traded pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for him. Span bottomed out on Aug. 16 at .258/.310/.353, nowhere near what’s necessary in the top spot in the batting order. For the next 39 games, he hit .338/.375/.459, instrumental in the Nats late resurgence. It was too little, too late to save the Nats playoff aspirations, but the Nats have to get more near his career line (.283/.351/.387) on a more consistent basis to make this offense work.

Bryce Harper, LF: Bam Bam put up a .274/.368/.486 line his sophomore season at the age of 20. That’s at once hard to comprehend and easy to overlook. He’s doing remarkable things at such an early age. Unfortunately, he’s his own worst enemy right now with his “balls to the wall” approach at defense. At some point, self-preservation has to take hold. No manager or coach wants to tell Harper to slow down, but he needs to stay on the field – and healthy – to fulfill his promise. After crashing into the wall at Dodgers Stadium in May, he played all season on a knee that required surgery at the conclusion of the season, under the radar while many weren’t paying attention to baseball. He needs to figure out lefties (.214/.327/.321/ in 158 PAs) and breaking balls, but the talent is there. He just needs to stay on the field.

Nate McLouth, OF: Last season was the first time since 2009 McLouth played more than 90 games at the Major League level. His resurgence for the Orioles is nothing short of astounding, considering the trajectory his career was taking. In ’10 and ’11 with Atlanta he hit .190 and .228 with 10 homers combined. His first 34 games with Pittsburgh in ’12 were no better: .140/.210/.175, leading to his release. He rediscovered himself in Baltimore, hitting .26/.342/.435 and .258/.329/.399 the past two years. Now 32, McLouth will see plenty of at bats with the injury-prone Nats outfield and as a late inning pinch-hitter. By default, he becomes the leader of the Goon Squad.

Scott Hairston, Corner OF: Hairston is the right-handed hitting Ying to McLouth’s Yang. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper. But Hairston’s overall numbers last year (.191/.237/.414) and age (34) – not to mention his paltry .214/.259/.484 against LHPs, who he’s supposed to “mash” – signal the end is rapidly approaching the once versatile and useful player. It’s true, all 10 of Hairston’s homers last season came against lefties, but as his slash line indicates, it was literally all or nothing for Hairston. 10 of his 27 hits in 140 plate appearances against LHPs were home runs. Against righties? .097/.147/.276. Can this actually be the Nats primary right-handed bat off the bench? With a walk rate of 5 percent and contact rate of 72 percent, this a guy whose skills aren’t declining, they’ve just about evaporated.

Jeff Kobernus, Corner OF: Kobernus made his MLB debut last year at the age of 25, past prospect status. His tryout lasted 36 PAs and resulted in a .167/.306/.267 slash as he played all three outfield positions. Small sample caveats abound, as the converted second baseman held his own in Syracuse, hitting .318/.366/.388, all minor league career highs. You like to see a player whose numbers rise as he goes up the ladder. He’s had 40+ steals each of the past three seasons in the minors and folks love his work ethic. But there’s not a lot of room in the bigs for a right-handed hitting speedster without obvious elite skills and no pop, especially in the outfield.

Eury Perez, CF: Did you see the last sentence I wrote about Kobernus? It applies even more toward Perez. His stolen base numbers have plummeted as he’s risen through the ranks, from 64 to 51 to 23. He’s always made good contact, as his lifetime .305 average will attest to. But there’s no power, less willingness to walk, and he’s only an average defender despite his speed – though he has a decent arm. Perez is destined for pinch runner/Quad-A status.

Steven Souza, Corner OF: Souza was a third round pick in 2007 out of high school, so he’s been in the system for-e-ver, toiling first in anonymity, then infamously due to his PED suspension in 2010. But Souza has blossomed a little bit the past two seasons and put himself back on the radar of the big club. He has an interesting pop/speed combo (15 homers, 20 SBs in 323 PAs for Harrisburg in ’13) with good plate discipline (.396 OBP) and had a nice appearance in the Arizona Fall League in October. The 25-year-old could have a chance to impact the big roster yet.

Brian Goodwin, CF: Goodwin is the heir apparent to the center field position at Nats Park. The 34th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Goodwin has an impressive arsenal of tools. He possess elite plate discipline, something that might actually hurt his counting numbers in the minor leagues, as he simply won’t expand his strike zone for inferior pitchers. When he does swing, he has a nice blend of pop to go along with squaring up on the ball. Goodwin is a fine defender in center, though his arm isn’t the greatest, and he’s still learning to use his speed on the bases (just 19 of 30 last season). He struggled at the start of last season in Double-A, but picked up as the season went on. There’s plenty of time for the 23-year old as Span plays in his walk year this season (barring Nats picking up Span’s $9M option for ’15).

Michael Taylor, OF: Scouts have been drooling over Taylor’s athleticism since being drafted in the sixth round of the ’09 draft. Unfortunately for Taylor, he’s never really been able to translate all that athletic ability into production on the baseball field. He’s still young (23 in March), so he’s got time to “put it together”, but in over 1600 minor league at bats, Taylor owns a .249/.319/.399 slash. He repeated High-A last season and tore it up on the base paths (51 of 60 on steals) and his slash went up a little bit across the board. Double-A this year will tell the story of whether he’s a baseball player or athlete.

Washington Nationals Game 157 Review: Nats eliminated from playoff chase with loss to Cards

NATIONALS ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF CONTENTION WITH REDS & PIRATES WINS

The Washington Nationals late-season charge for the playoffs ended Monday night, as they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3, Combined with victories by the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nats were mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.

Tanner Roark, outbattled by Cards starter Adam Wainright,  took the loss, allowing four runs on nine hits and a walk in five innings.

The Nats went right to work on Wainright (W, 18-9, 3.01) in the first inning and took an early lead. Denard Span led the game off with a single and after Ryan Zimmerman flew out to deep center, Jayson Werth hit a rocket to left for his 24th home run of the season, giving the Nats a quick 2-0 lead.

That lead would be short-lived, however, as the Cardinals answered in the bottom half. Matt Carpenter drew a walk from Roark (L, 7-1, 1.74), went to third on a Matt Adams two-out single, and came home on Yadier Molina’s base hit.

The Cards tied it up in the fourth. David Freese singled and moved up a base on Daniel Descalsco’s single. Freese then scored on Shane Robinson’s soft line drive that fell in about a foot from the right field line.

Carlos Beltran broke the tie in the next inning. Jon Jay led off the fifth with a single and scored on Beltran’s no-doubt-about-it homer to right field.

The Nats got one back in the eighth. Anthony Rendon singled to lead off the frame and went to second on pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi’s bunt single. Denard Span sacrificed to move both runners up. Zimmerman grounded out to short to bring home Rendon, but Werth grounded to third to end the threat with the Nats still down a run.

THE GOOD: Jayson Werth. Nice homer.

THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-4.

THE UGLY: Bryce Harper fouled a ball off his foot/shin area. Like he needs one more thing to worry about.

THE STATS: 7 hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks. 0-for-4 with RISP, 3 LOB. No errors, one DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday against the Cardinals at 8:15 pm ET. Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) faces Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21).

Jayson Werth’s remarkable comeback from injury and seemingly degrading skills

Jayson Werth broke his wrist on this play during Philles v. Nats, May 6 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jayson Werth broke his wrist on this play during Philles v. Nats, May 6 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jayson Werth has been tearing the cover off the ball since his return from what has become his yearly trip to the disabled list. Playing baseball as an everyday player in your mid-thirties will do that to you. Regardless, he is putting up the best quality numbers of his career. As of Tuesday, the 34-year-old right fielder is hitting an astonishing .328/.401/.548 and his OPS of .949 is leading the National League.

What makes it so astonishing is that two years ago he looked to be nearing the end of the line.

In 2011, his first year with the Nats after signing a ridiculous seven-year, $126 million contract, Werth didn’t hit much better than a pitcher. His slash line of .232/.330/.389 (not a typo in the slugging column) in 150 games was by far the worst full season Werth has posted as a professional. The crazy thing about his slugging number is that it included 20 home runs.

But traditional stats aren’t always the best indicator of eroding skills.

Looking deeper into his 2011 stat line, we can see his ground ball-per-fly ball rate was the highest of his career (indicating “softer” contact) and his line drive rate of just 19 percent was only league average. Those numbers, combined with the lack of power, were indicators consistant with a career winding down.

In 2012, Werth played in just 81 games due to breaking his left wrist trying to make a sliding catch. When he returned from that injury, it became apparent that whatever power Werth still owned would be completely sapped for the rest of the season. The wrist was healed to the point of being structurally sound, but there wasn’t enough time to strengthen it to the point of returning his seemingly waning power.

Werth essentially became a slap hitter and on-base threat, and Davey Johnson employed him in the leadoff spot in the lineup for much of the second half, which saw the Nats end up winning the division and making the playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved to D.C. His .300/.387/.440 was more what the Nats expected out of Denard Span this season rather than the slugger they signed away from Philly to play right field.

Even though his wrist was compromised, a glance at his ground ball-per-fly ball ratio showed regression to established career norms, so there was some hope that Werth might return to a more productive status once he had a chance to stabilize and strengthen his wrist.

The offseason proved to be just that, and Werth’s numbers this season have shown that the veteran still might have something left in him. After a sluggish start, Werth made an adjustment with his hands, holding them higher in his takeaway in order to concentrate on staying on top of the ball. The results were obvious – he was hitting the ball with more authority than he ever had in a Washington uniform.

The midseason hamstring injury that caused him to miss roughly 30 games delayed what might turn out to be a career renaissance. Upon his return, Werth has been the best hitter in the National League. His line drive rate is up to an astonishing 31 percent for the season and his ground ball rate is lower than his career average. It’s not just that it looks like he’s making better contact – it’s measureable. Maybe 31 percent line drive rate for an aging player isn’t sustainable of the long haul, but it’s encouraging nonetheless that he’s able to produce at this level after enduring yet another wrist injury.

Werth returned from a month on the disabled list on June 4. Since then, in 354 plate appearances, Werth has hit .351/.429/.597 with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs. He was the N.L. Player of the Month for July, and damn near won it again in August. Extrapolated over a full season those are MVP numbers.

I won’t actually endorse Werth for the N.L. MVP this season (my vote would be for Andrew McCutchen). It’s hard to stump for a guy for an end-of-season award who missed a month of the season. Still, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, another viable candidate before injury, has missed that much now with his finger issue and it looks like he’s not going to return to full-time duty again this season. In what may be a wide-open race, Werth is at least a candidate that deserves full consideration.

But the best news for Nats fans doesn’t concern postseason hardware. No, the team and its fans should be able to rest comfortably knowing that Werth seems to have found the problem that might have jeopardized his career and corrected it to the point of being a productive member of what should be a potent lineup.

No one should expect Werth to duplicate his career numbers next season based on a half-season worth of stats. But at least there’s some evidence that Werth still should be able to contribute offensively while the bulk of this team is still either in their prime or growing into it.

Washington Nationals Game 144 Review: Werth continues to power Nats late surge

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN BECOMES N.L.’S FIRST 17-GAME WINNER

The Washington Nationals hit three home runs, including Jayson Werth’s 23rd of the season, and Jordan Zimmermann gutted out five innings when he wasn’t his best, to defeat the New York Mets 6-3 before 20,307 at Citi Field.

The Nats have won four in a row to move six games over .500 for the first time all season, and with Cincinnati’s 9-1 loss to the Cubs, they pull within five games in the loss column behind the Reds for the final wild card spot in the N.L. [Read more...]

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