Nationals by the Numbers- September 24, 2017

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The torture continues for the New York Mets and their fans.  Former Met Daniel Murphy did it to his old team again last night, hitting a solo home run in the top of the 10th inning to lead the Nats to a 4-3 victory over the Mets.

In this edition of “Nationals by the Numbers”, we look at the Nats’ dominance of the National League East over the past six seasons, achievements by the team in the current season and outstanding performances at the plate by Nats’ players against divisional foes.

.636

Last night’s win in 10 innings at New York was Washington’s seventh in 11 extra inning contests so far in 2017.  The team’s .636 winning percentage in such games has the Nats in line to post the fifth above .500 record in extra inning contests in the team’s 13 year history.

The Nats’ best mark in extra inning games was the 2015 team’s 9-2 record (.818 winning percentage).  The 2012 division winning team won 13 of its 20 extra inning games for a .650 winning percentage. In 2011 Washington went 12-8 (.600), and the 2006 squad won 7 of 13 (.538).

1.414 

While Daniel Murphy is public enemy number one in Flushing, New York these days, teammate Adam Lind is on his way to earning a special place in the hearts of the always vocal Mets’ faithful.

In 40 at bats against the Mets so far this year, Lind has put up a .394 batting average with six homers and 15 RBI.  His 1.414 OPS against New York is the highest for any Nationals’ hitter with at least 30 at bats against the Mets.  Murphy’s 1.139 OPS against New York, which includes nine homers and 35 runs driven in, is the second best total.

6

Stephen Strasburg fanned six Mets’ hitters last night, giving him 196 so far this season.  Strasburg is on the verge of posting the second 200 plus strikeout campaign of his career. The righthander fanned a National League high 242 batters in 215 innings pitched in 2014.   The all-star came close to the 200 mark in 2012 when he struck out 197 opponents.

9

Matt Wieters’ booming home run off of Matt Harvey last night gave him 10 round trippers on the year, and made him the ninth National with at least that many this season.   The Nats, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are tied among National League teams for the most batters with double digit home runs this year.

17 

Sammy Solis earned the win last night with one inning of shutout pitching. In doing so, he became the 17th Nationals’ pitcher to earn a victory so far this year.  The 17 pitchers with a victory on the year is the highest total for Washington since 22 hurlers picked up wins for the 2011 80 win Nationals’ squad (the 2015 Nats’ team also had 17 pitchers with victories).

20

Sean Doolittle earned his 20th save for the Nats’ this year last night, tying Mike Macdougal (2009 season) for the 10th highest save total in a season for Washington.

The high energy lefty has converted on all 20 of the save situations he’s been presented as a National, and he is in line to top Macdougal’s 95.2 save percentage as the best mark in Nats history for a pitcher with at least 20 saves.

Other Nats’ relievers near the top in save percentage in a season include Drew Storen (89.6 in 2011 while earning 43 saves), Chad Cordero (87.9, 29 saves in 2006) and Rafael Soriano (87.8, 43 saves in 2013).

75

It’s no secret to anyone who follows Major League Baseball that the Nationals have been the dominant team in the NL East over the past six seasons.  But how dominant have they been?

Here are the win-loss totals for NL East teams from 2012 through games played last night (Sept. 23, 2017):

WASHINGTON   551-413

ATLANTA            474-488

NEW YORK          470-494

MIAMI                  431-532

PHILADELPHIA  422-543

The Nats have posted above .500 records in all six seasons from 2012 to the present.  The other National League East teams have combined for four (two each by the Braves and the Mets).

UP NEXT

An exceptional matchup of starting pitchers will be the draw in today’s finale of the Nationals’ three game set at New York.  Washington’s Max Scherzer and New York’s Jacob de Grom square off in a battle of two of the Major League’s finest.

Scherzer is 5-2 with a 1.79 ERA in his career at Citi Field, and has struck out 80 Mets in only 55.1 innings pitched.

de Grom has won five of his eight decisions against the Nats, and has a 2.75 ERA when facing Washington.  Anthony Rendon (0-16, five strikeouts), Michael A. Taylor (0-17, 10 strikeouts) and Jayson Werth (1 for 15, five strikeouts) have struggled mightily against the lanky Mets’ hurler.

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The Five Biggest Pleasant Surprises for the 2017 Washington Nationals

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals

Gio Gonzalez’s re-emergence as a All-Star level starting pitcher has helped the Nationals solidify their position atop the National League East.

When a team has practically clinched its divisional title and we’re still 20 or so hours from Labor Day, a lot of things have gone right for that squad.  Going into the 2017 season, the Nationals knew that they could count on Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to be top of the rotation starters and Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon to be offensive forces.  Those players have not disappointed, as Scherzer, Strasburg, Harper and Murphy made the All-Star team and Rendon deserved to be there as well.

However it takes more than five stars to create a team with championship potential, and Washington has benefited from having other players step up and be major contributors when perhaps they were only expected to be role players.  Here’s a look at my five top most pleasant surprises for the 2015 Nats.

#5- WELCOME BACK

Young starter Joe Ross saw his season ended early by injury, leaving a void for the Nats in the fifth starter position of their talented rotation.  Into the breech stepped a figure from the past, who has stepped in and solved what could have been a major problem.

In 2012, Edwin Jackson won 10 games for a division winning Nats’ squad.  He had some great games, including a complete game two hitter to beat Cincinnati 4-1 on April 14th, but had some duds (nine runs allowed in 1.1 innings pitched at St. Louis on September 28th) as well.

The 2017 version of Jackson has been consistent, as he’s thrown at least five innings in all eight of his starts for Washington while allowing no more than four earned runs in any of his starts.

#4- TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

If we were to go back in time to mid-July and listen in to virtually any programming related to Major League Baseball, discussions of the Nationals’ bullpen woes would be prominent.  Six weeks later, the Nats remain firmly entrenched as one of baseball’s top teams and their reshaped bullpen appears to be equipped to do the job into October.

The surprise here is not that veterans Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler have had success in DC, but rather that Washington GM Mike Rizzo was able to resolve what may have been a fatal defect without giving up any of the team’s prized prospects.  The Nats’ three headed monster at the back of the bullpen has been dominant, and the acquisition of those hurlers has allowed Matt Albers and Oliver Perez to thrive in lesser roles.

#3- YOUTH IS SERVED

The 2017 Nationals have been one of baseball’s best teams despite their having more than their share of crucial injuries.  A big reason for that has been the play of a trio of young players who have contributed more than expected this year.

Following the 2016 season in which he struggled mightily, Michael A. Taylor’s career with the Nationals seemed in jeopardy.  An early season injury to starting centerfielder Adam Eaton gave Taylor another opportunity to play, and he has not disappointed this time.  Taylor has hit .269 with 13 home runs and 39 RBI and has provided top level defense in the middle of the Nationals’ outfield.

Another young outfielder also stepped up and contributed mightily for the Nats this year. Left-handed swinging Brian Goodwin suffered an injury of his own about a month ago but before that, the powerful first year player had 13 homers in 251 at bats and showed an ability to play all three positions in the outfield.

Wilmer Difo’s emergence has been a shot in the arm for a Nats’ team that battled through injuries to starting shortstop Trea Turner. The energetic Difo has hit .289 with a .341 on base percentage,  has hit five home runs, stolen eight bases and played solid defense at a variety of positions.

#2-  STILL THE FACE OF THE FRANCHISE

The toll of suffering numerous injuries took Ryan Zimmerman from being an All-Star level player to one who to some seemed incapable of recapturing his old form.  In 2017, Zimmerman has gone a long way toward showing his skeptics the errors of their ways.

A blistering start to the season has helped Zimmerman put up vintage Zim-like numbers (.300 average, 29 homers, 89 RBI through games of Sept. 2nd)  that have given Washington’s opponents another bat to worry about when facing the Nats’ powerful lineup.  Zimmerman has also done a sterling job in the field at first base, showing an ability to deal with wild throws and turn potential errors for his teammates into outs.

#1- AN ACE AGAIN

From 2014 through 2016, Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez had a combined WAR of 5.9. So far in his amazing 2017 campaign, Gonzalez WAR is at 6.5.

Gonzalez has won 13 of his 19 decisions with a 2.58 ERA and a career best 1.139 WHIP so far this year.  With both Scherzer and Strasburg missing time with injuries, Gonzalez has been the anchor for a Nats’ rotation that is among baseball’s best.

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.

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).