Nationals Notes- July 30th

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Former National Ian Desmond celebrates his walk-off home run on May 2, 2012 that gave the Nationals a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With the Nationals a comfortable 12.5 games ahead of the Miami Marlins in the National League East on the day before the 2017 trade deadline, here’s a look at a few notes of interest coming out of the past five games.

WELCOME BACK

What is not to like about former National shortstop Ian Desmond?  Desmond plays the game with passion, is beloved by all who have played with him and, by all accounts, is one of the finest people in baseball as well.

Desmond made his return to Nationals Park this weekend as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but unfortunately will not be able to participate in the series due to injury.

The Florida native was a three time Silver Slugger award winner for Washington, and was an integral part of the Nationals’ rise from cellar dwellers to National League East champions.

Probably the best season for Desmond came in 2012, when he hit. .292 with 25 homers, drove in 73 runs and made the National League All-Star squad in Washington’s first division winning season.   The talented infielder was particularly strong at Nationals Park that season, hitting .310 with 16 home runs and posting a .888 OPS.

BANG ZOOM X 10

Brian Goodwin joined the Nats’ double digit home run club by hitting his 10th in the Nationals’ eight home run effort in its 15-2 trouncing of Milwaukee on July 27th.  Goodwin became the sixth Nationals’ player with 10 or more homers in 2017, joining Bryce Harper (27), Ryan Zimmerman (22), Anthony Rendon (21), Daniel Murphy (17) and Michael A. Taylor (12).    The Nationals’ high mark for most players with 10 or more home runs in a season is eight, set in 2015 and equaled last season.  With Jayson Werth and Adam Lind standing at eight round trippers each and with Matt Wieters and Trea Turner both with seven, there’s a decent chance that the 2017 Nationals will be record setters in this category.

BANG ZOOM X 5

There have been 18 instances of a National League team’s hitting five or more home runs in a game this season, and the Nats lead the way with four such games. In addition to the record-setting eight home run performance on Thursday against the Brewers, the Nats clubbed seven in a 23-5 rout of the Mets on April 30th, hit five in a 13-3 win at Oakland on June 2nd and also hit five in their 14-4 win at Cincinnati on July 17th.

Since 2012, Washington’s 13 five plus home run games trails only Colorado’s 15 among National League teams.

MAKE ROOM FOR SOME HARDWARE

Nationals’ players stand at the top of the Wins Above Replacement totals among both National League batters and pitchers.

Among position players, Anthony Rendon’s 4.9 leads the league with teammate Bryce Harper next at 4.7. Harper comfortably leads the league in OPS at 1.075, with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt a distant second at 1.017.

Max Scherzer’s 5.5 mark easily leads the way among hurlers, with teammate Gio Gonzalez second at 4.6.   Stephen Strasburg is eighth among National League pitchers at 3.2,

In his bid for his third career Cy Young Award, Scherzer is on pace to become only the second pitcher since 2003 to have 300 or more strikeouts in a season. Scherzer has a league leading 201 punch outs in his first 21 starts.

Gonzalez allowed only two runs in seven strong innings on Wednesday night, but got a no decision in Washington’s 8-5 comeback win over Milwaukee.  The lefty has allowed three or fewer earned runs in all 10 of his starts at Nationals Park this season.

ODDS AND ENDS

Infielder Wilmer Difo has eight RBI in his last 40 at bats after driving in seven in his first 110 of the season. In his last ten games, Difo is hitting .300 with ten runs scored and a pair of RBI.

New Nationals’ bench player Howie Kendrick is as consistent a player as they come.  In his 12 year Major League career, he’s hit .293 with a .753 OPS in games played at his home park while hitting .288 with a .751 OPS in games on the road. In the first halves of seasons Kendrick has a .287 average and a .746 OPS, while hitting .295 with a .740 OPS in road contests.   Among the reasons why picking up the veteran to fortify the Nats’ bench was a good idea is his performance against left-handed pitchers so far in 2017. In 38 at bats against southpaws, Kendrick is hitting .342 with a .918 OPS.

An unsung performer out of the Nats’ bullpen this year has been veteran Oliver Perez. The lefthander with the funky delivery struck out all three Rockies he faced on Saturday night, giving him 29 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched on the year.  Perez has been scored upon in only two of his last 18 outings, and has given up only six hits in 14 innings pitched during that span.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 90 Review- Nationals 10 Reds 7

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Anthony Rendon homered twice and drove in six runs to lead the Nationals to a 10-7 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on Saturday night.

NATIONALS 10 REDS 7

Nationals Record 54-36, first place in NL East, 9.5 games ahead of Atlanta

WP- Scherzer (11-5)  LP-  Castillo (1-2)   SV- Grace (2)

HR- Rendon 2(18),  Raburn (2), Gennett 16

Saturday’s game two of the Nats’ four game series with the Reds was not as clean a contest as the team’s 5-0 win on Friday, but the bottom line is that the Nats won in a contest where they continued to show their lineup is a force to be reckoned with. Here’s a look at some of the highlights (and a few lowlights) from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Every time Nats’ ace Max Scherzer takes the mound, something exceptional is bound to happen.  The fiery righty was on his game again on Saturday, albeit with a few bumps in the road that he smoothed over by overwhelming the Reds as he has many opponents before them. Scherzer threw six shutout innings and struck out 10 to earn his 11th win of the season, and lowered his ERA to Major League best 2.01 in the process.  Scherzer’s brightest moments in the game came in the first and third innings, where he worked out of two on, no out jams to keep the Reds off of the scoreboard until his mates began their destruction of the Reds’ shaky pitching staff.

Anthony Rendon homered twice, including his second career grand slam, and drove in six runs to pace Washington’s 10 run attack.  Rendon has hit safely in nine straight games, and is 15-31 with five runs scored, five doubles, two homers, 11 RBI and seven walks in those nine contests.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett may be small by Major League Baseball standards, but he certainly comes up big when he plays against the Nationals. Gennett drove in four runs, three coming on his career high 16th home run in the ninth inning, to give the Reds a chance for a miracle comeback. In 18 at bats against the Nationals this year, Gennett has nine hits, three home runs and seven RBI.  His six career home runs against Washington is the  most he’s hit against any opponent.

NATS NOTES

Washington’s Ryan Raburn contributed to the team’s offensive fireworks with a seventh inning solo home run, the 93rd of his career and the second in his time as a National.  The blast came on an no ball, two strike pitch from the Reds’ Michael Lorenzon, making the round tripper the first Raburn his hit in career when down 0-2 in the count.

Excuse the members of the Reds’ pitching staff if they feel queasy when the see players wearing the Nats’ curly W enter the batters box to face them. In Washington’s last ten games against the Reds, the Nats have scored in double digits five times, have put up 81 runs and have hit an astounding 24 home runs.

Trevor Gott’s nightmare outing in the bottom of the ninth marked the sixth time that a Nationals’ pitcher has allowed five or more runs without recording an out in the contest. Prior to last night, former National Felipe Rivero was the last player to achieve the dubious mark. Rivero gave up six runs without getting anyone out in a 7-3 loss at San Diego on June 18, 2016.

The news regarding the Nats’ bullpen was not all bad last night.  Enny Romero struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh, giving him nine strikeouts in his last four innings pitched over four outings.  Romero has not been scored upon in 15 of his last 18 appearances. Fellow lefties Oliver Perez and Matt Grace also registered one, two, three innings, with Grace becoming the first National with saves in back to back games since Koda Glover did the trick at San Francisco on May 29th and 30th.

UP NEXT

Tanner Roark allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of his first 13 starts, but has done so only once in his last four times as the starting pitcher. The righty will look to get things moving in the right direction again when he takes the mound later today.  Both Gennett (5-15, home run, four RBI) and Tucker Barnhart (5-10, double) have had success against Roark in the past, while Billy Hamilton (2-14) and Zack Cozart (1-12) have not.

Opposing Roark will be lanky Texan Homer Bailey, who has allowed only two earned runs over his last two starts after surrendering 14 (including eight at Washington last month) in his first two.  Adam Lind is 3 for 3 with a home run against Bailey in his career, while Bryce Harper has only one hit (a triple) in eight at bats against him.

 

Nationals by the Numbers- June 11th

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Gio Gonzalez was sharp on Saturday allowing only one run and fanning nine in six innings pitched, but saw his bid for his sixth win of the year fall away as the Nats blew a two run ninth inning lead and fell to Texas 6-3 in 11 innings.

This week’s edition of Nationals by the Numbers highlights efforts by the two of the team’s star powered starting rotation, the team’s fleet footed leadoff man, the strong group in the middle of the Nats’ lineup and some ups and downs for the team’s much maligned bullpen.

1.236

There are two outs and the team needs a big at bat.  Who do you want to see at the plate for the Nats?  So far this year, you rarely can go wrong if either Bryce Harper or Ryan Zimmerman are up for Washington.

Harper has put up a Major League seventh best 1.236 OPS in his plate appearances with two outs to date this year.  The Nats’ rightfielder has nine homers, 24 RBI and .473 on base percentage in such appearances.

Zimmerman is not far behind, with his 1.208 mark checking in at the 11th best in the Majors.  Zim has six homers and 22 RBI with a .391 batting average in two out opportunities.

Other Nats with solid two out OPS figures so far this year include Daniel Murphy (.928), Adam Lind (.875) and the injured Adam Eaton (.871).

1.66

Gio Gonzalez did his part to put a curly W in the books yesterday, throwing six innings of one run ball with a season high nine strikeouts against a talented Texas lineup.  Unfortunately a Nats’ bullpen collapse prevented Gio and the Nats from picking up the win, but the game was another example of the lefty’s dominance at home in 2017.

In his 43 innings pitched at Nationals Park this year, Gonzalez sports a very impressive 1.66 ERA with a 9.3 SO/9 mark.  All of that great pitching has given Gonzalez only one win at home so far this year.   Gio is 4-1 on the road, but his ERA away from Nationals Park stands at 4.38 and he has a 7.1 SO/9 figure.

2.8

Among position players, take a guess as to which National sports the best Wins Above Replacement number so far this. It isn’t the team’s super talented rightfielder, its rock solid triple crown candidate at first base or its hit machine playing second.   No, it is third baseman Anthony Rendon whose 2.8 figure trails only Max Scherzer’s 2.9 WAR among Nats players.

Rendon’s gold glove level defense, his ability to draw walks (he has 35 free bases against only 34 strikeouts this year) and his improved power bat (he has 13 doubles, one triple and 11 homers for a .522 slugging mark) have made him one of the National League’s best performers in 2017.

4.6

Nats’ reliever Shawn Kelley has allowed eight home runs in 15.2 innings pitched for an alarming 4.5 home runs per nine innings pitched figure so far this year.  Since 1903, only Kirby Yates of the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays has a HR/9 mark in excess of 4.0 in a year when he threw 20 or more innings (Yates 2105 S0/9 was 4.43 as he allowed 10 long balls in 20 1/3 innings pitched).

Kelley and his bullpen mates have allowed a total of five home runs this year that have brought in three or four runs, including the grand slam Kelley surrendered to Matt Joyce of Oakland last Sunday.  In the entire 2016 season, the Nats’ pen allowed only six such home runs.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the Nats’ pen in recent weeks.  Over his last six appearances, veteran Oliver Perez has given up no hits and one walk while fanning seven in 3 1/3 innings pitched.  Perez picked up a big save in Monday’s 4-2 win at Los Angeles against the Dodgers, earning his first save as a National and his first overall since 2013.

11

Speedy shortstop Trea Turner stole a career high three bases in Thursday’s Nats’ win over Baltimore, giving him 11 games with multiple steals in his career.  Only Nyjer Morgan with 12 multiple stolen base games has more as a National.   Turner’s 56 career steals has him tied for the sixth highest mark for the Nats since their inception in 2005.  Ian Desmond, with 122 bases swiped, is the all-time leader for Washington.

21

Few players have been more consistent at the plate over the past two seasons than Nats’ second baseman Daniel Murphy, and the sweet swinging lefty has been showing his a-game of late.

In his 48 at bats since May 29th, Murphy has 21 hits for a .438 batting average.  On the year, Murphy has 24 multi-hit games after putting up 56 in the 2016 season.

38

Those of us attending this afternoon’s Texas-Washington matchup with Max Scherzer on the hill may be watching a lot of Rangers’ batters take the long slow walk back to the dugout following frustrating at bats.

In his last three starts, Scherzer has 38 strikeouts including a season high 14 against the Dodgers in a June 6th victory.  The game was Scherzer’s seventh 14 plus strikeout game of his career, including four as a National.  Since 2015 when Scherzer donned a Nationals’ uniform, only Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw (with five each) have more such games.