Game 107 Review- Nats 4 Cubs 2

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Daniel Murphy’s two home runs off of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks led Washington to a 4-2 win over Chicago at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon in the first game of a three game series between probable 2017 post-season opponents.

Game 107

Nationals 4 Cubs 2

Nats’ Record 64-43, first place in the NL East, 13 games ahead of Miami 

WP- Roark (9-7)  LP- Hendricks (4-4)  SV- Doolittle (8)

HR- Murphy Was 2 (19),  Baez, Chc (15)

If the Nationals and Cubs end up meeting in the 2017 post-season and play games like the one played at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, the series will be a great one.  On a day where temperatures in the Windy City were more suitable for October than for August, the Nats got solid pitching and clutch hitting by Cubs-killer Daniel Murphy to pull out a 4-2 victory over Chicago.  Washington is now eight games ahead of the Cubs in the loss column in the battle for the second seed (with resulting home field advantage) in the National League playoffs.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Daniel Murphy went 3 for 4 with a pair of homers and three runs driven in to extend his dominance of the Cubs in games played at Wrigley Field.  Among opponents with at least 80 at bats at Wrigley since 1913, only Hall of Famer Eddie Murray (with a 1.111 mark) has a higher OPS than Murphy’s 1.098.    Murphy got the Nats off to a strong start with a booming two run home run to right center in the first inning, and expanded Washington’s lead to 3-0 with an opposite field solo shot in the sixth.

Pitching in his home state of Illinois, Tanner Roark won his ninth game of the year with 6.1 solid innings pitched.  Roark shut the Cubs out through six innings before being removed after giving up Javier Baez’s two run home run in the seventh.  In his last four starts, Roark has allowed eight earned runs in 24 innings pitched while posting a 3-1 record.

Nats’ relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle showed why the revamped Nationals’ bullpen may make the team’s relief pitching a strength down the stretch. The trio recorded the last eight outs of the game, allowing only one hit and striking out three batters in the process.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Lanky Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks had a magical 2016 season, leading the National League in ERA with a 2.13 mark while winning 16 of his 24 decisions in the Cubs’ championship season.  Things have been tougher for the Ivy League product in 2017, but he showed signs of getting his mojo back yesterday as he allowed only five hits and three runs in seven innings pitched.

NATS NOTES

Murphy’s two home run game marked the 18th time a Nationals’ player has had a multiple home run game so far in 2017.  That total leads the National League.  Murphy’s two round tripper game was his second of the year.  Bryce Harper leads the Nats with five multi-homer games this year with five.   With 55 games still left to play, the Nationals’ 18 instances of multiple home run games this year is the most the team has had in a single season since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Prior to this season,  Washington’s high mark for instances of multiple home run games in a season was 15, set in 2010.   Ryan Zimmerman’s 20 multiple home run games in his career is the Nats’ high mark, with Harper (15), Adam LaRoche (8), Adam Dunn (8) and Jayson Werth (6) rounding out the top five.

Madson struck out two Cubs in yesterday’s game, including talented Anthony Rizzo and young slugger Kyle Schwarber, to keep the Cubs at bay in the crucial eighth inning.  On the year, Madson has been equally impressive against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters.   Lefties are hitting only .188 with a .266 OPS against the veteran reliever, and righthanders have a .180 average with a .258 OPS.

Washington’s win was its 35th road victory of the year, the second most in the Major Leagues behind Houston’s 38.   The Nats have a .625 winning percentage (35-21 record) on the road so far this year, and are primed to best Washington’s team best .593 winning percentage in road games from the 2012 season.

UP NEXT

If the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field this afternoon, fans in the bleachers would be smart to bring their baseball gloves with them to the ballpark as both of today’s starting pitchers have had difficulty with the long ball so far in 2017.

Chicago’s John Lackey has surrendered 26 round trippers in 114.2 innings pitched this year.  Only Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, with 27, has given up more among National League hurlers.  Lackey has also shown a difficulty controlling the running game this year, allowing ten steals in 11 attempts.  Look for Adam Lind to be patrolling left field for the Nats today. In 43 career at bats against Lackey, Lind has a .419 average with seven RBI.  Lackey has had success against Bryce Harper, holding the Nats’ star to one hit in 11 career at bats.

Nats’ starter Edwin Jackson has allowed five home runs in his 19 innings pitched for Washington this year.   Anthony Rizzo has four hits in five career at bats against Jackson but the Nats’ righty has had success against Chicago’s Ben Zobrist, holding the versatile veteran to three hits in 15 at bats with five strikeouts.

Nationals by the Numbers- July 2nd

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Gio Gonzalez allowed only one run on two hits in seven dominant innings at St. Louis last night, but was a hard luck loser as the Cardinals defeated the Nationals 2-1.

This week, we look at a less than stellar month for the first place Nats, production at home from many of the team’s key hitters, some tough luck for a starting pitcher who might be an All-Star and some team record-setting thievery on the basepaths.

.500

The Nationals finished an up and down month of June with a .500 record, going 14-14.  If the Nationals hold on to win the 2017 National League East crown as most expect them to do, June 2017 will be the second worst month for any division winning squad in Nats’ history.  In May of 2014, the Nats struggled to an 11-15 record but went 69-39 over the season’s final four months to cruise to their second National League East crown.

1.000

An OPS mark of 1.000 or higher is an indicator of top-level offensive production. So far in 2017, the Nationals have a solid group of players who have beaten that mark in games played at Nationals Park.

Rookie Brian Goodwin has posted a 1.117 OPS in home games in 53 at bats, with bench stalwart Adam Lind checking in at 1.088 in 50 at bats at home.  Among regulars, Michael A. Taylor is at 1.030, Anthony Rendon has put up a 1.027 mark, Ryan Zimmerman is at 1.025 and Bryce Harper has a 1.019 home OPS figure.  Prior to suffering a significant knee injury in the season’s first month, outfielder Adam Eaton’s OPS in home games was 1.011.

So far in 2017, Gio Gonzalez has recaptured the form that made him one of the National League’s best pitchers in 2012.  In recent games however, the left-hander has been the victim of some misfortune.

Last night at St. Louis, Gonzalez took the loss in a 2-1 Cards’ win despite allowing only one run on two hits while striking out nine.  This comes on the heels of an outing five days earlier at home against the Cubs, where Gonzalez lost while giving up only a single run in six innings pitched.

The back to back tough luck losses marks only the third time in Nationals history where a pitcher has lost back to back starts despite allowing only one run in each game.   In 2010, Jason Marquis lost 1-0 to Phiadelphia on 8/20/10 and 4-0 to the Cubs on 8/25/10 while allowing only one run in each contest.  In May of 2011, Livan Hernandez dropped a pair of 1-0 games in consecutive starts (May 14th against Florida and May 19th against the Mets).

5.147

Nats’ ace Max Scherzer is the front-runner to start for the National League in this month’s All-Star game, and is on track to be at the top of the list in the Cy Young balloting later this year.  He also may be on the verge of a season for the ages.

Through 16 starts this year, Scherzer has allowed only 5.147 hits per nine innings pitched. Since 1901, no pitcher who qualified for the ERA crown has allowed fewer than 5.26 hits per nine innings. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan put up the impressive 5.26 mark in 1972 while pitching for the California Angels.

The best mark ever for a Nationals’ pitcher in the category is Scherzer’s 6.5 that he achieved in 2016.

10

Anthony Rendon has a team leading 10 home runs at Nationals Park so far this year.   The Nats’ mark for home runs in games in DC is 24, set by Alfonso Soriano in 2006 while the Nationals played home games at RFK Stadium. At Nationals Park, Bryce Harper’s 23 round trippers in 2015 is the top mark.

13 

With his victory over the Chicago Cubs this past Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg now has victories over 13 of the 14 National League teams who do not play in the Nation’s Capital.  Strasburg will likely get a chance to make it 14 out of 14 later this year when the Nationals play the Brewers at home from July 25th through 27th, and in Milwaukee from August 31st through September 3rd.

The Nats’ righty’s top mark for wins against an opponent is 13 against the Marlins. Among non-National League East squads, Strasburg’s six victories against his hometown Padres is his high mark.

18 

Since the Nationals started playing in DC in 2005, there have been 18 Major League teams with seven or more stolen bases in a single game.

Washington achieved that mark for the first time this past Tuesday in a win over Cubs, as Trea Turner stole four bases, Michael A. Taylor swiped two and Anthony Rendon added one.   The Nats became the second Major League team with at least seven steals in a game in 2017 (the Dodgers stole seven bags in a victory over Milwaukee on June 3rd).

The Nats’ win against the Cubs marked the sixth time in team history where Washington has had more than one player with multiple stolen bases in a single game.  On September 26, 2011, Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth had a pair of steals each in Washington’s 6 -4 win over Florida.   Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina and Bryce Harper swiped a pair each on July 8, 2012 in a 4-3 loss to Colorado.   Denard Span and Anthony Rendon had two steals each on June 18, 2014 in a 6-5 victory over Colorado, and Rendon and Werth did the same in Washington’s 6-4 win over the Dodgers on September 1st of the same season. Prior to Tuesday, the most recent game in this category came on April 11, 2016 when Harper and Michael A. Taylor registered two steals each in the Nats’ 6-4 win against Atlanta.

41

Later today Ryan Zimmerman will be selected to his second All-Star game, probably as the National League’s starting first baseman.

Zimmerman leads the Nationals with 41 extra base hits (22 doubles and 19 home runs) so far this year, with Daniel Murphy’s 40 (24 doubles, two triples and 14 home runs) right behind Zim.  Zimmerman’s career high for extra base hits in a season is 73, set in 2009 when he made his first All-Star team.

Washington’s mark for extra-base hits in a season is 89, set by Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Bryce Harper had 81 in 2015, Murphy had 77 in 2016 and Adam Dunn registered 76 in 2010.

 

Nationals by the Numbers- June 17th

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Reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer struck out 10 in eight innings to lead the Nationals to  7-2 victory over the New York Mets on Friday June 16th.  

This week’s Nationals by the Numbers looks at some of the major events coming out of a week of inter-divisional games, first at home in a disappointing series against Atlanta and then at Washington’s home away from home in Flushing, New York in the first two games of its four game set against the Mets.

.740

For the Mets and their perpetually angst ridden fan base, the site of the Washington Nationals invading Citi Field cannot be comforting.  Since 2012, Washington has won a staggering 74% (40-14) of the games played between the two teams at the home of the New Yorkers.  Washington’s win on Friday night extended its winning streak at Citi Field to five games, and gave the Nats 11 wins in their last 14 contests there.

.909

One of the main reasons for the Nats’ dominance at the Mets’ ballpark has been the performance of Gio Gonzalez while pitching there.   Gonzalez’s sterling effort in Washington’s 8-3 victory on Thursday moved his career winning percentage at Citi Field to .909 (10-1).   In 15 games at the park, Gonzalez has posted a 1.69 ERA.

1

Since 1994 when baseball switched to its current three divisions in each league format, this year’s Washington Nationals’ team is the first National League squad to hold a double digit lead (the Nats are currently 10 games ahead of Miami in the NL East) in its division at the end of play on June 16th.

Only three other teams have achieved such a lead by June 16th.  This year’s Houston Astros stand 11 games up in the AL West, the 2001 Seattle Mariners led the AL West by a staggering 20 games on June 16th of that season and the Cleveland Indians held a 10 game advantage in the AL Central as of the conclusion of play on June 16, 1999.

1.076 

When the Washington Nationals selected Brian Goodwin with the 34th pick in the 2011 Major League Draft, the franchise had big plans for the left-handed swinging, speedy outfielder.  Goodwin’s arrival at the Major League level may have taken a little longer than usual but if his recent performance is a guide, he may be in the Majors to stay.

In 42 at bats so far in June, Goodwin has put up an impressive 1.076 OPS with three doubles, a triple and four impressive home runs.

7

The Nationals allowed five home runs to the Braves in an 11-10 loss at Nationals Park on June 12th, marking the seventh time the Nats have given up five or more long balls in a game.  The only other time the Nats have given up five plus home runs in a game at Nationals Park came on September 20th of last season, when Arizona hit five balls out in a 14-4 victory.

The most round trippers surrendered by Nats’ pitchers in a game is the six given up to Cincinnati in the Reds’ 15-0 thrashing of Washington on April 5, 2013.

12.1

 

Max Scherzer’s 134 strikeouts, which includes 10 in last night’s impressive showing in New York, leads the National League, as does his 12.1 SO/9 mark.

Since 1913, there have been only nine instances where a starting pitcher who qualified for his league’s ERA leadership has posted more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in a season.

Randy Johnson did the trick nine times in his Hall of Fame career, with Pedro Martinez, Kerry Wood and the late Jose Fernandez (in 2016) joining Johnson in the exclusive club.

Like Scherzer, Boston’s Chris Sale is bidding to crash the party this year. Sale has a Major League best (for starter) 12.36 mark so far in 2017.

18

In the Nats’ 10-5 victory over Atlanta on June 13th, Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo home run off of the Braves’ R. A. Dickey in the first inning and followed that up with a two run homer off of the knuckle ball specialist in the sixth to put Washington on top for good in the topsy-turvey contest.  The two homer game was the 18th of Zimmerman’s career, the most for any National.  Oddly, the Nationals are only 8-10 in games where Zim has homered two or more times.

The only other National with double digit multi-homer games is Bryce Harper with 12.  A pair of Adams, LaRoche and Dunn, are next with eight each, with Jayson Werth’s six such games putting him fifth on the list.

Zimmerman (at Baltimore in May 2013), Harper (v.s. Miami at Nationals Park on May 6, 2015) and Dunn (July 7, 2010 at home against San Diego) are three of the five Nationals’ players with three home runs in a game.  The other two players on the exclusive list are Alfonso Soriano, who homered three times against Atlanta in April 2006, and Anthony Rendon, who hit three out against the Mets on April 30th of this year.

249

With a National League leading 103 home runs so far this year, including five so far in their two games in New York this week, the Nationals are on pace to hit a team record 249 in the 2017 season.  The high mark for home runs in a season by the Nationals is 203, set in last year’s National League East winning campaign.  Only the New York Yankees (with 108) and the Houston Astros (with 104) have more round trippers than Washington so far this year.