Ryan Zimmerman, Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes celebrate Washington’s turning a 3-3-5 triple play in last season’s 4-1 Nats’ win over the Giants at AT&T Park on Friday July 29th. The victory was one of only eight in the Nats’ last 18 games played in San Francisco.
Happy Memorial Day to all, with a special thanks going to all military members and their families who have sacrificed so much so we can be free.
As the Nats begin their nine game road trip out west, here’s a look at some of the things on my mind on this holiday morning.
TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD
On Friday and Saturday against the woeful San Diego Padres, all-star hurlers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg threw two of the best games ever by Nats’ starting pitchers. Coming off his strong performance against Seattle on Tuesday, there was hope that number five starter Joe Ross could lead the way to a sweep of San Diego.
Those hopes were dashed, as the young Padres rocked Ross for 12 hits and five runs in only four innings pitched for a 5-3 win. The game marked only the second one in Nats’ history where a starting pitcher has thrown four or fewer innings and give up at least 12 hits. On June 28, 2015 in game two of a doubleheader at Philadelphia, Tanner Roark gave up 12 hits and eight runs in 3.1 innings pitched as Washington fell to the Phillies 8-5.
REUNION BY THE BAY
Three very popular ex-Nationals will go up against their former team in the three game set in San Francisco.
Giants’ closer Mark Melancon was only in Washington for a few months, but the stoic late inning reliever made an impression on the Nats and their fans with his ability to throw strikes and stay calm under pressure. So far this year, Melancon is 0-1 with 10 saves and 2.51 ERA. After putting up a sparkling .809 WHIP figure during his time pitching for the 2016 division winning Nats, Melancon has struggled somewhat in that category in 2017. His WHIP so far this season is 1.256.
When healthy while in DC, centerfielder Denard Span was among the most productive and popular players for the Nats. Span has struggled for the most part this year for the offensively challenged Giants, hitting only .250 with a .294 on base percentage. The left-handed swinger has hit three home runs on the year and has driven in 10 runs, but he seems to no longer be the stolen base threat he was when playing for the Nats. Span has been thrown out in his only two steal attempts so far this year.
Mention “Beast Mode” to any Nats fan from the earlier part of this decade, and the name Michael Morse comes to mind immediately. Morse’s power and infectious enthusiasm made him a fan favorite during his time in Washington. Unfortunately he has not found the success he once had in DC, but he’s back in San Francisco this year trying to get back on track. So far in 34 at bats in 2017, Morse is hitting only .206 with a single home run and 13 strikeouts.
Like their California cousins from San Diego, the 2017 Giants are an offensively challenged squad. San Francisco ranks at or near the bottom in many categories so far this season:
CATEGORY GIANTS’ MARK RANK LEAGUE AVERAGE
Runs per game 3.44 14 of 15 4.60
Home runs 42 15 60
On base percentage .288 14 (tie w/SD) .322
On base plus slugging .640 15 .741
One Giant player who is immune to his team’s struggles is all-star Buster Posey. The talented backstop is hitting .333 with seven homers so far this season.
Perhaps we are headed for some low scoring affairs over the next few days, as the Nats have not exactly lit up the scoreboard for the most part in recent seasons while playing in San Francisco. Washington is 8-10 over the past five seasons at AT&T Park, scoring three or fewer runs in 10 of those 18 contests. Only one current Nationals player with more than 10 at bats at the park has an OPS higher than .800. The surprise is that player is backup catcher Jose Lobaton, whose .842 mark is far and away the highest for Washington. Jayson Werth (.787) and Daniel Murphy (.762) have held their own at San Francisco, while Ryan Zimmerman (.693), Trea Turner (.665), Bryce Harper (.653) and Michael A. Taylor (.575) have struggled.
MOORE, MOORE, MOORE
San Francisco lefty Matt Moore takes the mound this afternoon against Washington’s Tanner Roark in the first game of the series. Moore is 2-5 with a 5.28 ERA, but has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last four starts and in seven of his 10 overall. Moore has had trouble keeping the ball in the park in 2017, allowing 10 in 58 innings pitched.
TIME TO CELEBRATE
Happy 41st birthday for former Nationals utility man Jerry Hairston, who hit .268 with four homers and 24 RBI for the 2011 Nats’ team. Hairston played for nine teams during his 16 year Major League career, hitting .257 and stealing 147 bases.