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- 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.