Game 96 Review- Nationals 4 Diamondbacks 3

during the MLB game at Chase Field on May 12, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

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.

NATS NOTES

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.

UP NEXT

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).

Game 89 Review- Nationals 5 Reds 0

 
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Bryce Harper circles the bases following his third inning home run off of Cincinnati’s Tim Adleman in Washington’s 5-0 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark on July 14th.

NATIONALS  5  Reds 0

Record 53-36    9.5 games up on Atlanta in the NL East

WP- Gonzalez (8-4)  LP-  Adleman (5-7)  SV- Grace (1)

HR-  Harper, Was 2(22)

The second half of the Nationals’ season began with a great all-around effort as Washington defeated the Reds 5-0 in the first game of a four game series at Cincinnati.   Here’s a look at some of the news and notes from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Gio Gonzalez was razor sharp on the night, allowing only four hits in 8.1 shutout innings to earn his eighth win of the year. Gonzalez induced 14 ground ball outs and struck out six as he registered his 17th game in 19 starts on the year where he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs.   Gonzalez’s 79 pitching game score was his highest in a road contest since September 9, 2013 when he posted a 91 score in Washington’s 9-0 rout of the New York Mets.

Nationals’ rightfielder Bryce Harper is a unique talent, and his power stroke was on display on Friday night.  Harper homered twice for the fourth time this year and registered the 14th multi-home run game of his career to pace Washington’s attack.   The all-star has a nine game hitting streak going, and is 15-34 with 12 runs scored, two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI during that time period.

He may not have been part of the All-Star festivities in Miami earlier this week, but anyone who has watched Anthony Rendon play this year realizes that the Nats’ third baseman is playing at an All-Star level. Rendon was 2 for 3 with a double and a run batted in at the plate and made several sparkling defensive plays to support Gonzalez’s strong outing.

STRONG EVEN IN DEFEAT

The Reds have a large supply of power arms in the bullpen, and righty Asher Wojciechowski’s ability to throw hard was on display on Friday.   The South Carolina native struck out four, including Harper and Rendon, in two scoreless innings pitched.

NATS NOTES

Brian Goodwin led of the contest with a double to right and later scored the game’s first run on a Stephen Drew RBI hit.  The first inning success for the Nats’ rookie is nothing new. In 24 at bats in the first inning so far this year, Goodwin is hitting .375 with a 1.194 OPS.

Catcher Matt Wieters had a strong game, working with Gonzalez to shut down the Reds and picking up two hits in three at bats. The multi-hit game was the 14th of the year for Wieters, but only his third in games played away from Nationals Park.

Rendon was not the only Nationals’ player flashing the leather on Friday night.  Goodwin and Chris Heisey both made sparking catches, with Goodwin’s keeping the Reds off of the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth with Washington holding only a three run lead.  Middle infielders Drew and Wilmer Difo also were strong with the glove, with Drew turning a potential two run single by Tucker Barnhart into a game ending out to end a Reds’ bases loaded threat.

UP NEXT

Later today, Cincinnati fans will get to see something they’ve not had a chance to do previously.  Nats’ ace Max Scherzer will make the first appearance of his career at the Great American Ballpark as he looks for his 11th win on the year.  In his career Scherzer has posted a 2.75 ERA, the best mark in any month for the All-Star righty.

Opposing Scherzer will be rookie Luis Castillo, who is 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. The righthander has been more effective keeping lefties (.222/.286/.469) than righties (.286/.375/.452) off base so far this year.

So far this year the Nationals have not been living it up on Saturday night, or at any time during the weekend’s first day for that matter.  Washington is 6-8 in Saturday contests so far in 2017.

 

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.