February 22, 2020

Washington Nationals Game 27 Review: Late Offense Lifts Nats Over Fish, 6-4

BATS WAKE LATE, POWER NATS OVER FISH

The Miami Marlins went blow-for-blow with the Washington Nationals on Monday night for eight innings. It wouldn’t be enough. Despite a strong seven inning outing from Jordan Zimmermann, in which he surrendered just two runs, the Nats’ bats fell silent until late on the game. The Nationals staged a comeback on the bats of Ian Desmond, who crushed a ball into the center field batter’s eye to tie the game in the eighth, and Yunel Escobar, who went 5 for 5 and drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth.

All told, the Nats won 6-4, but it wasn’t decided until Tanner Roark — filling in for Drew Storen — punched out Giancarlo Stanton a runner on in the ninth.

What happens when two hot teams collide? After a 3-11 start, the Miami Marlins have gone 9-2, and their defensive lock on the infield was in full display Monday night against the surging Washington Nationals. The home team, on a 5-1 tear themselves, was just as ready to put on a defensive show themselves.

Adeiny Hechevarria for the Marlins and Denard Span for the Nationals each made highlight reel plays to rob their opponents of runs and perpetuate the pitchers’ duel.

Jordan Zimmermann was impressive on Monday night, working through six innings on just 65 pitches. The one run he did give up in the first was unearned, as Jayson Werth misread a bullet off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, which allowed Martin Prado to advance on his way around the basepaths.

Zimmermann’s only mistake of the night came in the seventh inning against Justin Bour, who took a 3-2 four-seamer just out of the park to left field, landing just past the flower beds atop the wall. His 7IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 4K, 0BB performance went just 81 pitches before he gave way to Clint Robinson as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Nationals staged an unlikely comeback. Robinson, batting for Zimmermann, drew a four-pitch walk with one out. Michael A. Taylor came on to pinch run for Robinson as Matt Williams opted for speed on the basepaths. It almost came back to bite him. Yunel Escobar singled to right, notching his fourth hit for the night, and on the hit-and-run, Taylor didn’t pick up third base coach Bob Hendley and missed an opportunity to score, and had to settle for third as Stanton booted the ball ten feet. It would’ve been a tight play had Taylor gone full bore from the get-go.

Jayson Werth, at the time 0-for-3 on the night, and with many wondering exactly what he was doing in the three hole for the Nationals, poked a timely single to right to score Taylor from third. Bryce Harper wasted an opportunity with runners at the corner on a pop-up to end the inning with the game just tied at two.

With Zimmermann gone, the Nationals turned to Blake Treinen in relief. Rolaids were in evidence all over Nationals Park as he came in. Almost immediately, he was in over his head.

A five-pitch walk to Dee Gordon, followed by a stolen base, put Treinen in a nearly untenable position. The Nats opted to give Stanton a free pass to setup the best force play, and that was it for Treinen. Matt Grace came in to face Jeff Baker, who promptly put the Marlins ahead 4-2 on a single down the right field line. The bullpen had collapsed a touch and all looked lost.

Neither Ian Desmond nor Yunel Escobar were ready to let things go quietly into the May evening. Ryan Zimmerman lead off the eighth with a full-count walk, Ian Desmond just crushed the ball into the batter’s eye in dead center, about 420 feet from home to tie the game at four.

The Nats weren’t done yet.

Tyler Moore, pinch-hitting for Grace, singled to right, and went first-to-third on a double from Denard Span, which set up the critical at-bat. Escobar was the only National who hit all night long, with five singles off Marlins pitching, and he took 1-1 slider to right field, which plated both Moore and Span.

That meant the Nats took a 6-4 lead into the ninth against the Marlins who’d nickeled and dimed them all night long. With Drew Storen unavailable, having pitched three games of the last four, Matt Williams turned to Tanner Roark, in his first ever save situation. He did not disappoint.

Roark quickly retired Reid Brignac on a brutal curve, a strikeout victim. Dee Gordon racked his first hit of the night on a single up the middle, and that setup the evening’s most dramatic moment. You can’t ignore Giancarlo Stanton when he’s anywhere but ninth in rolling order. You especially can’t ignore him when he’s in the on-deck circle.

A double play would avoid Stanton coming to the plate as the tying run — perhaps one of my own worst nightmares — but that did not come to pass. Martin Prado popped out, bringing Stanton to the dish to face Roark as the tying run. At first, it appeared that Roark would issue an unintentional intentional pass to Stanton, falling behind 3-0. But Roark dialed in a two-seamer for strike one, before fooling Stanton consecutive 87 mph sliders for his first ever save.

HERO: Yunel Escobar was on fire tonight, going 5-for-5, and his eighth inning single drove in two to put the Nats ahead for good. Ian Desmond, honorable mention for his two-run bomb in the eighth.

GOAT: Blake Treinen, for the walk to Dee Gordon, where they needed an out. Treinen has struggled in his eighth inning role, and the Nationals are going to need to streamline the roles in the bullpen.

NATS NOTES:

  • Anthony Rendon was in DC today to see the team doctor. He has been sidelined with left oblique tightness for the last few rehab starts, and it was announced after the game he would be shut down with a strain.
  • Casey Janssen will begin a rehab assignment later this week and could join the Nationals late next week.
  • Reed Johnson is possibly done with the season after undergoing foot surgery to repair a ruptured tendon.

NEXT UP: Nationals/Marlins continues Tuesday night at 7:05pm, Latos (0-3, 6.86) vs. Strasburg (2-2, 4.60)

Washington Nationals Game 21 Review: Cole pounded, but Nats complete miracle comeback

UGGLA THREE-RUN HOMER IN 9TH INNING LIFTS NATS TO IMPROBABLE 13-12 WIN

With Max Scherzer’s regular spot in the rotation skipped due to his bruised thumb, the Washington Nationals called upon No. 2 pitching prospect A.J. Cole to temporarily fill his spot through the rotation, hoping the player making his MLB debut could play stopper of a six-game losing streak.

It didn’t happen.

Cole was pounded, allowing nine runs — though just four were earned due to yet another error  — and the Nats were in a 9-1 hole after two innings.

But they still play nine. And the Nats used all of them. Dan Uggla’s three-run home run in top of the ninth off Atlanta Braves closer Jason Grilli completed a stunning comeback, and the Nats snapped the losing streak in the most incredible of ways, winning 13-12 in front of a small and incredulous crowd at Turner Field. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats roughed up by Mets

The New York Mets victimized two different Washington Nationals starters on Saturday, roughing up Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark for nine runs combined to beat the Nats 10-2 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Strasburg got through the first three innings unscathed, then ran into trouble in the fourth. With one out, No. 8 hitter Ruben Tejada doubled to left. Strasburg struck out opposite starter Jacob deGrom, but then walked Juan Legares. On a 1-2 count, Curtis Granderson clubbed a three-run shot to right, his third of the spring.

David Wright then followed with his fourth of March, an opposite-field homer to right.

Strasburg’s final line: four innings, four earned runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

The Mets got two in the sixth. Jerry Blevins allowed a one-out double to lefty Lucas Duda and Roark was summonsed. He promptly gave up a single to Michael Cuddyer, which plated Duda. Wilmer Flores followed with a double to bring in pinch-runner Cesar Puello.

Roark’s forgettable outing continued in the seventh. Minor leaguer Johnny Monell homered to lead off but Roark looked to right things by retiring the next two batters. Unfortrunately, Dan Uggla’s error on Daniel Muno’s grounder opened the floodgates.

Duda homered with Muno aboard on a 2-2 pitch, and after Puello reached on an infield single, Roark’s day was over. Matt Reynolds greeted reliever Rafael Martin with a double to center to complete the four-run frame.

Meanwhile, the Nats offense was limited to a very long, very loud Bryce Harper home run in the sixth, and Clint RObinson’s RBI single in the ninth.

NATS NOTES:

  • In the battle for the final spots on the roster, Uggla was 0 for 3 with the big error, Robinson was 2 for 4 with an RBI and Ian Stewart was hitless in three at bats. Tyler Moore, who is out of options, went 1 for 4 with a run.
  • Danny Espinosa played shortstop on the road trip and was 1 for 3.
  • After their outings, both Blevins and Roark are sporting ERAs over 9.00.
  • Ryan Zimmerman is scheduled to take a few days off after banging his left shoulder diving for a ball on Friday. Manager Matt Williams told reporters in Florida that no tests were needed “as of right now”.
  • Williams also announced the rest of the Nats season-opening rotation. Max Scherzer, as previously announced, will start opening day, followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats top Mets in Grapefruit opener

The Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in the Nats Grapefruit League opener on Thursday.

Max Scherzer made his Nats debut and pitched two innings, allowing a solo home run to John Mayberry Jr on a offspeed pitch, and an infield single. He struck out two and walked none, throwing 29 pitches, 20 for strikes.

Tanner Roark took over in the third an immediately ran into trouble. A one-out walk and fielder’s choice set up a two-run, two-out home run by Eric Campbell, a line drive shot to left. Kevin Frandsen mishandled a grounder to second by Kirk Niewenhuis and Mayberry followed with a clean single to left. Anthony Recker then delivered another single to bring in Niewenhuis.

The Nats cut into the lead in the bottom. Mike Carp was hit leading off and scored on Tyler Moore’s double to left. Moore moved up on Frandsen’s infield hit and scored on Denard Span’s grounder that was misplayed by Mets 2B Wilfredo Tovar.

Rafael Martin took over in the fourth and had a 1-2-3 inning, getting Matt den Dekker looking for the third out.

Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond both struck out against Gabriel Ynoa to start the fourth, but the Nats then loaded the bases with two outs as Mike Carp singled, Tyler Moore hit a ground rule double and Kevin Frandsen walked. Carp then scored on Derrick Robinson’s fielder’s choice.

In the seventh, free agent NRI Kila Ka’aihue homered off Cory Mazzoni with Robinson aboard to deliver the Nats their first win of the exhibition season.

Nats Notes:

  • NRI reliever Heath Bell struck out three but walked two in his scoreless inning of work.
  • Following Bell, Aaron Barrett, Xavier Cedeno, Eric Fornataro and Blake Treinen all pitched scoreless innings. Cedeno and Fornataro both gave up one hit and struck out one.
  • Clint Robinson took over in right for Bryce Harper in the fourth and went 2 for 3 with a run scored. He was the only hitter other than Moore with more than one hit.
  • New second baseman Yunel Escobar was supposed to make his Nats debut, but was scratched due to “overall soreness” from workouts adjusting to second base.
  • Second base prospect Wilmer Difo was 1 for 1 with a walk.

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Starters

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

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

Max Scherzer
2014 AL: 33 games, 220.1 IP, 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 (6.0 WAR) [Read more…]

Washington Nationals own historic rotation…for now

Once again, we’re in the difficult position of evaluating an off-season move without immediate data, and as far as the Clippard/Escobar trade can be the sort of dejecting move that leans on past data for pessimism, the aquisition of right hander Max Scherzer gives us the sort of situation to be optimistic about and to play with some numbers.

Adding perennial Cy Young candidate to the rotation, the Nationals a shot at a pitching rotation that could be favorably compared to the 1996 and 1997 Braves or the 2011 Phillies.

The Scherzer signing appears to be a massive one in more than just his contract. Scherzer’s 6.0 WAR ranked eighth last year in all of baseball, but his 723 strikeouts over the last three seasons lead the Majors over that period, and outstrip Clayton Kershaw’s 700 and Stephen Strasburg’s 630 by a fair margin.

On paper, the Nationals have now assembled a pitching rotation that joins the 1996 and 1997 Braves, and the 2011 Phillies in terms of quality. We could sit around and talk all day about which of those rotations were the best, but of those four, at least on paper based on this past year’s performance, the 2015 Nationals would likely stack up fourth. The problem here is that we’re getting into that dangerous “predicting the future” part of this job that really isn’t the sort of thing I’m known for doing with any accuracy.

However, we can look at some past data to see the regular season results. I want to focus on three post-strike/post-expansion teams: The 1996 and 1997 Braves, and the 2011 Phillies. I started these comparisons by looking at Cy Young Award Vote-getters, but I decided that data was too subjective, as it was looking for a single best player, and not a best rotation, and that lead me to the Pitching WAR scoreboard over at Baseball-Reference.com.

The 2011 Phillies put together one of the most remarkable pitching staffs we’ve seen in a generation, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels combining for 24.1 WAR that season. Halladay and Lee hardly walked anyone, and though Clayton Kershaw topped many individual categories, the Phillies’ 1-2-3 punch was substantial. Lee threw six complete game shutouts, and Halladay added eight complete games of his own. It’s hard to imagine a more dominant three-man combination.

When it comes to dominant rotations, though, you have to look at the 1990s Braves. The 1997 Braves combo of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Denny Neagle combined for 22.6 WAR, representing the second, fifth, eighth and ninth positions on the NL board for that season. The 1996 Braves combo of Smoltz, Maddux, Neagle and Glavine put up 26.2 WAR, representing second through fifth positions on the board.

Both of those are just absolutely staggering marks, and there’s a reason that Glavine and Maddux are in the Hall of Fame, and Smoltz was just selected.

I’m not saying that the 2015 Nationals are guaranteed be any of those three, but I am saying that this is their best chance at becoming something unique and wonderful for the fans to watch. I, for one, look forward to seeing how a starting rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister will handle a year together. There isn’t an “easy” day in there for the opponents.

Hell, there isn’t even a “just medium-hard” day in there.

If you use the 2014 numbers, Scherzer, Roark, Zimmermann, and Fister would have combined for 20.5 WAR, representing the fourth, seventh, eighth and 10th positions on the NL leader board for pitcher WAR. When you consider that Roark is likely the odd man out, the Nationals rotation combined for 15.2 WAR across the other four starters, which goes to 21.2 WAR when Scherzer gets figured in. For comparison’s sake, the reigning World Champion Giants’ rotation in 2014 ended up with about 8.8 WAR.

The biggest question become: What do you do when you have six pitchers for a five-man rotation? How does Tanner Roark handle a move to the long relief slot in the bullpen? Do you execute a trade for more offense now, and if so, whom?

Zimmermann’s name has been mentioned on the hot stove all winter long as a pending free agent at the end of the year. Over the weekend, media reports said the Nats would listen to offers for Strasburg. Roark has the most cost-certain number of years. Fister is an impending free agent himself. And even the almost-forgotten Gio Gonzalez was mentioned early in the offseason as a potential target for some teams.

These are all impossibly weird questions to consider for a team that was, five years ago, losing ninety to a hundred games a year.

The Nationals are a franchise that has now made the commitment to go for broke in the 2015 season, betting that a championship now — where none have existed in the District in almost twenty-five years — would be the sort of generational uplift that a newer team needs to make for an immensely profitable enterprise, and not just the sort that makes several million in profit. This is a commitment to winning a whole generation of young fans and commit them to a club for decades to come, and it’s the sort of thing that a baseball team needs more than ever right now in a football-heavy market in a time when baseball’s popularity has been on the wane.

The structure of Scherzer’s deal suggests that the Nationals are using this as an uplift contract — much as they did with Jayson Werth’s deal, which has largely proved worth its asking price — with some of the money deferred over the 2022-2028 timeframe. It’s impressive to think that my son, who is barely walking at this point, will be in high school before the deal is paid off, but that’s what has me thinking this deal was a statement to the rest of the players, the division foes, and the league. That statement is unequivocal at this point: this is the year the Nationals go the distance.

Is it enough? Can a team with dominant pitching and a good-if-not-world-class offense go on to win it all?

Suffice to say: this is rarified air, and the sort of thing that can get you deep into the playoffs. But none of those three previous teams won all the marbles. The 1997 Braves lost the NLCS to the Florida Marlins, a team with 10 fewer regular season wins. The 2011 Phillies didn’t make it past the Cardinals in the NLDS, who had 12 fewer regular season wins. The 1996 Braves lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Stellar pitching isn’t the entire playoff picture. They’re not going to win it all based on pitching alone, but without that pitching, this isn’t a team that gets anywhere close.

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 4: Nats fall short in San Fran; eliminated from playoffs

The San Francisco Giants scored three runs — without the benefit of a base hit — and beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 to eliminate the Nats 3-1 in the five game National League Divisional Series.

The game was filled with poor umpiring, bad defense by the Nats, and questionable managerial decisions. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 156 Review: Nats Top Mets, Inch Closer to Securing NL’s Top Spot

Tanner Roark secured his 15th win of the season as the Washington Nationals edged the New York Mets 4-2 Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

The righthander helped the Nats work towards securing the best record in the National League, a spot which would land the team home-field advantage for every round of the MLB playoffs except the World Series.

Both the Mets’ and Nats’ bats were slow to awaken, as the game went scoreless through four innings.

Denard Span singled in the first and, with two outs, Adam LaRoche drew a walk, but Mets starter Bartolo Colon regained control in time to pitch out of the inning unscathed.

In the fifth inning, the Mets actually struck first.

Wilmer Flores doubled and, with one out, scored on a ground-rule double by Kirk Nieuwenhuis before Roark retired Ruben Tejada and Colon in order.

Perhaps the one-run lead led Colon to relax, or maybe it simply energized the Nats to come back with a vengeance. Either way, the Nats’ offense suddenly sprung to life after Kevin Frandsen led off with a single and took second on Roark’s sacrifice bunt. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 150 Review: Nats Clinch NL East with Commanding Win over Braves

EARN SECOND DIVISION CROWN IN THREE YEARS

For the second time in three years, the Washington Nationals are kings of the National League East and, come October, there will be baseball in the nation’s capital.

With a 3-0 win over the second-place division rival Atlanta Braves, the Nats clinched their spot atop an NL East that struggled to play catch-up through the bulk of the 2014 season.

As if to demonstrate how far the Nationals have progressed since April, the very team that struggled to top Atlanta even once through the first half of the season shut out the Braves to secure their ticket to October.

Even more, the starter who so many claimed would come back down to earth following the 2013 season, recorded his 14th win of 2014 after allowing just five hits over seven innings pitched. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 145 Review: Nats Strike Early, Hold Off Mets Late

LAROCHE, RENDON HOMER AS NATS DEFEAT METS

Opening up a three-game series against the New York Mets in Queens, New York, the Washington Nationals got on the scoreboard early and held off the Mets late to take Game 1 of the series, 6-2.

The Nationals got things going early offensively. With Anthony Rendon (3-for-5, 2 RBI) on base with a single, Adam LaRoche (2-for-5, 3 RBI) took a two-out 3-2 pitch off the right field foul pole to give the Nationals an 2-0 lead. For LaRoche, it was his 24th homer of the year and 28th all-time against the Mets, the most homers he’s hit against any team throughout his career. [Read more…]

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