October 22, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 136 Review: Rendon, Harper and Werth Come Up Big

NATS SWEEP BRAVES, NARROW DIVISION GAP TO 4

The Washington Nationals went for their first four-game sweep of the season Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, and they got it, finishing the Atlanta Braves with an 8-4 thumping. The Mets lost in the ninth inning, and the Nationals won, bringing the deficit to be overcome to four games, just in time for a three-game series against the division leader. Powered by home runs from Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, and with 4.2 IP of scoreless ball from the bullpen, the Nationals completed the sweep. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 131 Review: Nats Collapse Continues, Lose 8-5

THE FLOGGINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES

It wasn’t Joe Ross’ night, Tuesday in St. Louis. The young rookie just didn’t have his usual pinpoint command. In 2.2 IP, he walked six, struck out three, and gave up just one hit. It’s not the sort of line score that you hope for out of your recent slumpbuster. The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals battled it out to 5-5 after eight full.

That’s when the bullpen imploded, again, and the Cardinals stole an 8-5 decision over the Nats.

Ross got the top of the third inning off to a start, raking a single to right off Marco Gonzalez, making his first MLB Start. Jayson Werth followed with another single, and Anthony Rendon drove in the first run of the night with a double down the line. That’s likely where Mike Matheny should’ve gone out to calm his pitcher down, but he left him out to hang, instead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 126 Review: Nats Squeak by Padres, Injuries Arise

The Washington Nationals beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Thursday night in D.C. but suffered quite a blow in regards to injuries.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor and third baseman Yunel Escobar were down for the count by the end of the night but Washington still managed to sneak by the Padres.

Taylor ran into the outfield wall tracking down a fly ball and came up lame and needed help get off the field with a knee contusion. Escobar was hit by a pitch in his wrist — which drove in a run — and left the game.

Starting pitcher Joe Ross threw six innings of one-hit, one-run ball while walking two batters and striking out seven for the Nats. He threw 77 pitches and 48 strikes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 123 Review: Nats take 2 of 3 from Brewers

SUNDAY: Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon homered, Danny Espinosa drove in three with a double and the Washington Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 9-5 to take two of three in the weekend series.

The Nats (62-61) remain five games behind the New York Mets, 5-1 winners over Colorado.

Jordan Zimmerman got the win, improving to 10-8, but he wasn’t particularly sharp. The veteran righty allowed four earned runs on eight hits and a walk, striking out seven. Drew Storen allowed a solo home run to Kris Davis leading off the eighth inning, but struck out the next three batters, and Jonathan Papelbon made a rare appearance in a 1-2-3 ninth to lock down the win.

Bryce Harper doubled twice in five trips and Rendon drove in three.

SATURDAY: Rookie Joe Ross was sublime, giving up just one run on six hits and no walks, striking out four, to lead the Nats over the Brewers 6-1.

Blake Treinen and Matt Thornton both pitched a scoreless frame in relief.

Michael Taylor extended a recent power surge, homering for the 13th time this season, and Anthony Rendon finally hit his second of the year, going 2 for 2 with two walks. Wilson Ramos and Taylor had two hits apiece as well.

FRIDAY: The Brewers rocked Gio Gonzalez and knocked him out of the game after just five innings as the Nats dropped the series opener 10-3.

Gonzalez had one of his worst starts of the season, allowing four earned runs (five total) on eight hits and two walks, striking out five. His defense let him down with a pair of errors and several other miscues.

Doug Fister took over and was no better, surrendering four runs (three earned) on four hits and a walk in just 1 1/3 innings. Tanner Roark gave up a run on two hits in an inning and two-thirds.

Bryce Harper hit his 31st homer in the sixth inning off Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson (W, 10-9, 3.60) and Michael Taylor connected for his 12th of the year in the seventh off Kyle Lohse.

Washington Nationals Game 117 Review: Bumgarner sublime, Nats drop sixth straight

TEAM MANAGES JUST THREE HITS, ONLY TWO RUNNERS REACH SCORING POSITION

Rock bottom?

The Washington Nationals fell below .500 after losing their sixth game in a row, shut out by Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants 5-0 on Sunday, completing the first four-game sweep against the Nats since Jim Riggleman’s first four games as a Nats manager.

The Nats, 10-20 since the All-Star break, remaining 4 1/2 games behind the New York Mets, 8-1 losers to Pittsburgh. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 113 Review: Greinke, Puig too much for Nats

HARPER SITS IT OUT WITH INJURED LEFT KNEE

Mama said there would be days like these.

Zack Greinke was his normally dominant self, Yasiel Puig had a monster night and the Los Angeles Dodgers spanked the Washington Nationals 5-0 at Chavez Ravine in the second of a three-game set.

The Nats fell to 58-54, and dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the New York Mets, 4-0 winners over Colorado. [Read more…]

Nats making tough — but correct — call on Ross over Fister

It’s about time.

All season long, the Washington Nationals have limped along without much of their batting order and, at times, part of their starting rotation. Finally, the regular lineup is mostly intact as they envisioned it in spring training. Excuses have been made for the underperforming because of so many players missing from the lineups.

But with Stephen Strasburg’s return on Saturday from the disabled list, the Nats were faced with a tough decision: stick with struggling veteran (and impending free agent) Doug Fister, or continue to ride the effective (but innings limited) rookie Joe Ross.

The decision is in.

After Thursday’s 8-3 win over Arizona — in which Ross pitched six one-run, no-walk innings — manager Matt Williams announced that Strasburg will start on Saturday in Fister’s regular spot in the rotation and that Fister will work out of the bullpen — for now.

In fact, Fister sat in the bullpen on Thursday and loosened up at one point, prompting all sorts of scuttlebutt on social media.

“It’s a difficult task when you’ve been a starter for so long,” Williams said of Fister moving to the bullpen. “But the opportunities will be long. That’s kind of where we see it. It’s never easy, but he’s willing to go out there and do what he can to help us win a ballgame.”

In seven starts, Ross is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 47/4 in 45 innings. Fister, on the other hand, is 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.419 WHIP. More troubling is his ground ball rate. Fister has always relied on his heavy sinker to generate ground balls. He has to. His fastball tops out in the mid-to-upper 80s and he can’t just blow hitters away.

For the past three seasons, his ground ball rate has gone down, to the point of now generating fewer ground balls than MLB average. His ground ball out to fly out ratio has, unsurprisingly, also gone down — precipitously, I might add. Along with the ground ball rate, his strikeout rate has dropped while his walk, home run and extra base hit rates have all gone up.

In the past three years, his line drive rate against has gone from 19 percent in ’13 to 23 percent last year to a whopping 32 percent this season, 11 percent higher than MLB average. That’s alarming.

If Fister isn’t injured, he is fast becoming obsolete and the Nats made a wise decision not re-signing him to a lucrative contract as he hits free agency this season.

It’s hard to imagine Fister going to the bullpen and “working things out.” If this was a mechanical issue, they’d have figured that out by now. It seems, more likely, that it’s a deterioration of skill. Time catches up with all ballplayers.

The Nats have to hope that they can milk enough innings down the stretch from Ross to make the playoffs, where they’ll shorten the rotation to four anyway.

But it’s more likely Fister — or another starter — will be needed in September. Hopefully by then, the offense will have come around and the walking wounded recuperated enough to contribute to a division-winning effort and mitigate the performance of the fifth starter.

So finally this season, the Nats have made a decision about playing time based on performance instead of tenure. Could another move come at shortstop? Or is it too late, anyway.

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)

Washington Nationals Game 102 Review: Duda powers Mets to win over Washington

Lucas Duda homered twice, and went 3 for 3 as the New York Mets moved to within a game behind the Nationals in the N.L. East with a 3-2 win on Saturday night at Citi Field in Queens.

[Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 97 Review: Pirates Top Nationals 3-1

GERRIT COLE QUIETS NATS OFFENSE, PIRATES GET TO ROSS

The Nationals hit the board first in the third inning, with Michael A. Taylor stroking a perfect pitch from Gerrit Cole. Taylor took a 1-0 fastball deep into the right field bleachers to continue his excellent road trip.

The Pirates would respond immediately, putting a single by Chris Stewart, a sacrifice by Gerrit Cole, and a Gregory Polanco RBI-single together for their first run. While Stewart is not the fleetest of feet, the throw from Taylor in center was a little off-line, not that it mattered much with Ramos unable to make a play on the ball.

Joe Ross hit Starling Marte to follow up the scoring play, resulting in a warning for the benches from home plate umpire Chris Conroy. Cole had drilled Yunel Escobar in the second inning as he worked the inside half of the plate. Andrew McCutchen followed that with a single up the middle, good enough to score Polanco from second, making a 2-1 lead for the Pirates.

Neil Walker added his second home run of the series in the fourth inning, taking a 2-0 sinker to deep center field and making it 3-0. Ross calmed down at that point, retiring the next nine hitters in order, his slider finally locating with devastating effect. Ross ended his day at 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 7 K, 1 BB. The rookie continues to put forth strong effort in spot start situations.

Gerrit Cole was nigh unstoppable for the Pirates on Sunday, holding the Nationals to their single run through 7.2 IP, throwing 103 pitches, and notching 8 Ks and surrendering just 6H. In the 8th, he was lifted after giving up singles to pinch-hitter Anthony Rendon and 2B Danny Espinosa, as Tony Watson was called in to face Bryce Harper in a very high leverage situation. Harper pulled the ball hard to the first base side, and defensive replacement Sean Rodriguez made a nice dive-and-pick to his right to retire the side with no damage done.

Casey Janssen threw a scoreless eighth for the Nationals, continuing his excelent performance of late. In the ninth, the Nationals sent Yunel Escobar, Clint Robinson and Ian Desmond to the dish to face Mark Melancon. Escobar popped out on the first pitch, Robinson struck out, and Desmond grounded out.

In 2 hours and 18 minutes, the Nationals dropped the series finale 3-1

HERO: Michael A. Taylor had the Nats’ only run, and had several stellar catches to bolster the defense.

GOAT: Wilson Ramos, for lackluster defense at the plate.

NATS NOTES:

  • The Nationals are off on Monday, resuming play in Miami Tuesday
  • In two innings, the Nats bullpen shut down the Pirates entirely.

NEXT UP: Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jose Fernandez, 7:10pm Tuesday July 28th in Miami

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