Game 91 Review- Nationals 14 Reds 4

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Another day, another outburst by the Nationals offense against an over-matched Reds pitching staff.  This time it was National League leading hitter Daniel Murphy doing the key damage as Washington routed Cincinnati 14-4 for its third straight victory coming out of the All-Star break.

NATIONALS 14 Reds 4

Record- 55-36, 9.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East

WP- Roark (7-6)  LP- Bailey (2-3)

HR- Murphy, Was 2(16), Lind, Was (7), Rendon, Was (19), Lobaton, Was (3)

There are slow-pitch softball teams who don’t put up the runs at the level the Washington Nationals have this season.  The Cincinnati Reds are the latest team to run into the Nats’ buzz saw of an attack, falling on Sunday by a 14-4 score. Here’s a look at the key players and numbers from the Nats’ third straight win this weekend and their fourth victory in a row overall.

STARS OF THE GAME

Daniel Murphy is a student of hitting who works at his craft with a dedication matched by few.  Over the past few seasons Murphy has not only been a student, he’s been a teacher of lessons that have been tough to stomach for opposing pitchers.   The Cincinnati Reds know that all too well after today, as Murphy went 3 for 4 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Nats to an easy win.  The two homer game was the second of Murphy’s time in DC, with the first coming against, of course, the Mets in June of 2016.   Murphy’s day lifted his National League leading batting average to .348, 20 points ahead of teammate Bryce Harper’s .328 mark.  Only Houston’s Jose Altuve, at .350, has a better average than Murphy among all qualified Major Leaguers.

While Murphy, Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are typically the Nats’ hitters doing most of the damage, this year’s squad has contributors up and down the roster.  On Sunday, several of those unsung contributors stood out.  Wilmer Difo had three hits, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run.  Adam Lind also had three hits including a home run, scored two runs and drove in three.  Even former Reds outfielder Chris Heisey got into the act against his old team on Sunday, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and a RBI.

NATS NOTES

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark had a strong outing, allowing only three unearned runs and four hits in six innings pitched to earn his seventh win on the year.  Roark and three relievers held the Reds without an extra-base hit.

Washington scored 14 or more runs for the seventh time this year and the 22nd time in Nats’ history.   Washington also registered its 17th five home run plus game since 2005, and its third of the 2017 season.  Three of those 17 games have come against Cincinnati.

Rendon’s long home run to left field was the 19th of season for the talented third baseman, only two shy of career high of 21 set in 2014.  Rendon’s 19 this season have come in 317 fewer at bats than it took him to hit 21 three seasons ago.

2017 has been anything but a smooth campaign for veteran Nats’ reliever Joe Blanton, but the righty has shown signs of improvement recently. Blanton pitched  a scoreless inning with three strikeouts to post his eighth straight appearance without giving up a run.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

A pair of Reds had good games at the plate. Outfielder Jesse Winker picked up a hit, scored a run and walked three times in five plate appearances.  Nats’ killer Scooter Gennett also was up to his old tricks, going 2 for 5 with three runs driven in.

UP NEXT

The Nats go for the four game sweep on Monday afternoon, with All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg taking the mound.  Strasburg, who will be looking to pick up his 10th win in the matinee game, is 1-1 with a 6.75 in four career games started at Cincinnati.   He’s fared well in the past against Zack Cozart (0-10 with two strikeouts) and Eugenio Suarez (0 for 5, two strikeouts), while struggling against Gennett (4 for 8, three home runs).

Opposing Strasburg will be veteran Scott Feldman, who is 7-6 with a 3.94 ERA on the year.  The tall righty has won five of his last seven decisions, and has a 3.00 ERA in home games in 2017.  Stephen Drew (7-16, two triples, two homers) and Lind (three homers and six RBI in 23 career at bats) have done well against Feldman, while Rendon (1 for 6 with two strikeouts) has had difficulty.

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- May 21st

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Pittsburgh rookie Josh Bell homers against Washington’s Tanner Roark on May 18th at PNC Park to lead the Pirates to a 10-4 victory over the Nationals. The home run was one of ten hit against the Nationals so far on their road trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

A Major League baseball season is full of peaks and valleys for all teams, and the Nats experienced some valleys over the past week. This week’s “Nationals by the Numbers” looks at some of those unsightly results, the work of a Nationals stalwart who is aging well and the top level performance Washington is getting from its best hitter off of the bench.

.170 

The Nationals are 1-4 so far on their road trip, and the team has struggled in many facets of the game.  The poor record on the trip is not hard to understand when one looks at how three important Nationals players have fared at the plate in those games.  Bryce Harper (3-20), Ryan Zimmerman (4-18) and Anthony Rendon (2-15) are hitting a combined .170 in the five contests, with only four extra base hits and four RBI between them.

.354

One Nationals hitter who is not slumping recently is centerfielder Michael A. Taylor. Despite going 0-4 in yesterday’s contest, Taylor is hitting .354 with two doubles, two homers and five RBI over his past 31 at bats.  Taylor is still striking out at a high rate, however.  Among players with fewer than 100 at bats so far this year, Taylor’s 36 strikeouts in 90 at bats is the fourth highest total in the Major Leagues.  Only Tampa’s Rickie Weeks (40 strikeouts/77 at bats),  Matt Davidson of the White Sox (39 strikeouts/98 at bats) and Kansas City’s Brandon Moss (38 strikeouts/96 at bats) have worse results than Taylor in this category.

.869

Jayson Werth turned 38 on Saturday, but his .869 OPS so far in 2017 shows that he might be getting better as well.   He’s put up a higher OPS figure than that number only three times in his long career.  Werth’s career best was a .931 mark that he had for the Nationals in 2013.  While playing for the Phillies, Werth had a .921 OPS in 2010 and a .879 OPS in 2009.   So far in May, Werth has been red-hot.  He has hit .315 with a .422 on base percentage and a .519 slugging percentage figure for an impressive .940 OPS.

1.04

Weather permitting, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg looks to end the Nats’ skid today against the Braves in Atlanta. If the Nats’ all-star’s last four games in Atlanta are a guide, we very well may see a curly W being put in the books this afternoon.  In those four starts, Strasburg is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.

3

While Harper, Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy have grabbed most of the headlines associated with the Nationals’ hot start at the plate in the 2017 season, the contributions of bench player Adam Lind should not be overlooked.  Lind, with three, is the only player in the Major Leagues with more than one pinch-hit home run so far this year.  He is hitting a robust .333 in 45 at bats, with four doubles and 14 RBI (the seventh highest total on the team) to go along with his three round-trippers.

4

Saturday’s loss was Washington’s fourth in a row, the longest losing streak through the first quarter of the year for the first place Nats.   While some overly nervous fans may be ready to push the panic button, such streaks are common place even among top level teams.  In their 2016 National League East championship year, the Nats had four streaks of four or more losses in a row. Washington dropped four straight at Wrigley Field against the Cubs from May 5th through May 8th last year.  From June 18th through June 25th, the Nats lost a season high seven games in a row on a road swing to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee.  In August Washington dropped four straight games against Atlanta and Baltimore, and the Nats also finished on the wrong end of the scoreboard four in four straight games in September while facing the Braves and the Marlins.

59 

With 10 home runs allowed in five games on their current road trip, the Nats have allowed more home runs this year than only two National League teams (the Phillies have permitted 62 long balls, with San Diego surrendering 60).  The National League average for home runs allowed this year is 50. The last time Washington was not above league average in home runs permitted in a season was back in 2010, when the Nats permitted 151 home runs against a league average of 150.

68

Their has not been a lot of top level starting pitching on display during the Nats’ road trip, but an exception to that rule came on May 18th in the Pirates 6-1 victory over the Nats.  Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole allowed only one run and three hits in seven dominant innings to pace the Pirates to victory. Cole’s pitching game score of 68 in the contest was the second highest of the year so far against the Nats, trailing only Mike Leake’s 76 from St. Louis’ 6-1 victory over Washington on April 12th.