Bryce Harper watches his majestic home run blast off of Arizona rookie Anthony Banda in the first inning of yesterday’s Nationals’ 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
WASHINGTON 4 ARIZONA 3
NATIONALS- 58-38, first place in the NL East, 11 games ahead of Atlanta
WP- Roark (8-6) LP- Banda (0-1) SV- Doolittle (2)
HR- Harper Was (25)
If the first two games of this weekend’s series are an indicator, a Washington-Arizona post-season matchup would be intriguing. On Saturday, it was the Nationals earning a one run victory as strong starting pitching, extra-base power from the team’s superstar and a shutdown effort from the bullpen did the job for the visitors.
STARS OF THE GAME
Striking out 11 and allowing only two runs in seven innings pitched, Tanner Roark was on his game last night. Roark consistently worked ahead of the Diamondbacks’ lineup, and registered his fourth game of 2017 where he’s gone at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs (Roark had 15 such efforts in the 2016 season).
A rookie making his Major League debut has few tougher tasks than facing a red-hot former league MVP who seems intent on putting another such trophy on his resume. Arizona’s Anthony Banda found that out in a big way in the top of the first when Bryce Harper hit a booming 467 foot home run. The home run was the second longest of Harper’s career, behind only his 481 foot blast at Colorado off of Christian Bergman last August. Harper also contributed a run scoring double to the Nats’ effort.
STRONG EFFORT IN A LOSS
Despite giving up Harper’s home run the left-handed Banda showed promising ability in his debut, but A.J. Pollock was the Diamondbacks best player on the night. The talented centerfielder went 2-4 for a triple and two runs scored.
Rookie Brian Goodwin had three hits, including a double, in five at bats. Goodwin now has five three hit games this year. Among National Leaguers who have played 75 or fewer games in their careers, only Los Angeles’ Cody Bellinger (with six) has more.
Another Nats’ youngster who is starting to look as though he belongs in the Majors is infielder Wilmer Difo. Difo had another hit last night, giving him a .395 average and a .490 on base percentage in games played in July.
Despite some slight bumps in the road, Washington’s new back end of the bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle got the job done last night. Madson worked around a one out double to put up his third straight scoreless inning since joining the Nats. Walking the leadoff man is usually not the right path to go down when trying to save a game, but Doolittle survived another free pass and a throwing error to nail down the victory.
Stephen Strasburg takes his 10-3 record to the mound this afternoon against former Nationals’ farm hand Robbie Ray in a battle of All-Star hurlers.
Strasburg is 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his career against the Snakes, with a 3-2 mark and a 4.30 ERA in games played at Chase Field. The fireballing righty has a 7.3 SO/9 record against Arizona in his career, the lowest mark against any opponent. David Peralta is 4-6 with a homer in his career against Strasburg and Paul Goldschmidt has five hits in 16 at bats, while Daniel Descalso (0-6, two strikeouts) and Jake Lamb (0-6, three strikeouts) have struggled.
The left-handed Ray has surrendered three or fewer runs in 13 of his 18 starts this year, and has put up an impressive 145 strikeouts in his 112 innings pitched. Ray has been especially tough on left-handed hitters, allowing them only three extra base hits (two doubles, one home run) in 77 at bats. Two Nats who have had success against Ray in limited appearances are Difo (3 for 6 with a homer) and Ryan Zimmerman (3 for 5 with a double).