Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon, right, follows the flight of his two-run home run with Washington Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 24, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
This week’s Tuesday Tidbits focuses on potential bullpen woes, hot starts by two Nationals’ stalwarts and other items of note as we move closer to the end of the 2017 season’s first month.
The Nats dropped the first game of their four game set with Colorado last evening by an 8-4 score. Of all non-NL East opponents, the Rockies have the most games against Washington with eight or more runs scored with 18 in the Nats’ 12 plus years in the Major Leagues. The St. Louis Cardinals are next with 13 such games, followed by the Cincinnati Reds (11), Los Angeles Dodgers (10), Milwaukee Brewers (10) and San Francisco Giants (10).
THE MAX FACTOR
Sunday’s victory by Max Scherzer made the Nats’ ace 3-0 on the year and gave him his 37th win in Nationals’ uniform. His win total trails only the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta (with 43) among Major League pitchers in wins since the start of the 2015 season. Scherzer has allowed only 15 hits in 27.2 innings pitched on the year, has struck out 33 batters and has posted an impressive 1.95 ERA.
THE SLAM STORY
Daniel Murphy’s grand slam on Sunday against the Mets not only continued his torment of his former team, it gave the Nationals 10 grand slams since the start of the 2016 season. That mark is the highest in the Major Leagues. Colorado and Los Angeles are next with eight each, with the New York Mets checking in with seven.
The Nationals are not only good at hitting grand slams, they’re good at preventing them as well. Washington and the New York Yankees lead the Majors with only one grand slam allowed since the start of the 2016 campaign. St. Louis’ Stephen Piscotty did the honors against Scherzer and the Nats in Washington on May 27, 2016 as the Cardinals won 6-2.
RED HOT RYAN
Nats’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is known as a somewhat streaky hitter, and it is clear that he’s at the top of his game so far in 2017. Zimmerman’s home run in last night’s loss at Colorado was his seventh of the month, equaling the seven round trippers he hit in May 2016. Zimmerman’s best month ever for home runs was September of 2013 when he clubbed 11.
While many of us probably think that the national media’s obsession with the Nationals’ bullpen’s purported issues is somewhat overblown, there’s no denying that the 2017 bullpen group is off to a less than solid start. Almost across the board, the group’s admittedly early results in key categories is mostly below that of their counterparts in previous Nationals’ seasons since 2012:
YEAR ERA WHIP SO/9 OPP OPS
2017 5.54 1.442 8.5 .830
2016 3.37 1.187 8.8 .673
2015 3.46 1.223 8.1 .674
2014 3.00 1.202 8.2 .640
2013 3.56 1.232 8.2 .674
LIGHT THE CANDLES
Happy birthday to former Nationals Garret Mock and Danny Espinosa.
Mock, who turns 34 today, was 4-13 in three seasons with Washington after coming to the Nats from Arizona in a 2006 trade that sent Livan Hernandez to the Diamondbacks.
Espinosa, who turns 30 today, hit 92 homers, drove in 285 runs and played top level defense at both second base and shortstop during his tenure in Washington. The hard swinging switch-hitter has 29 strikeouts in 77 at bats so far in Los Angeles, but he has shown a flair for the dramatic while playing in his home state. All three of Espinosa’s home runs this year have come in the ninth inning, including a clutch three run shot on April 4th that gave Los Angeles a 7-6 comeback win at Oakland