Game 107 Review- Nats 4 Cubs 2

Nationals_Cubs_Baseball_88290

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).

Game 95 Review- Diamondbacks 6 Nationals 5

pollock 

Arizona’s A.J. Pollock scores from third with the winning run on Brandon Drury’s RBI single as the Diamondbacks beat the Nats 6-5 on Friday night in a battle of probable National League playoff squads.

NATIONALS 57-38, first in the NL East, 10 games ahead of Atlanta 

Arizona 6  Washington 5

WP- Rodney (4-3)  LP- Romero (2-4) 

HR-  Peralta AZ (10), Pollock AZ (4), Lamb AZ (23)

The Nationals began a three series stretch against potential playoff teams last night in Arizona, and dropped a tough one to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Washington battled back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the score in the eighth, but Arizona got the last laugh on a one out bases loaded single by Brandon Drury that was the game winner.  Here’s a look at some of the key happenings from game one of the series.

STARS OF THE GAME

A.J. Pollock went 3 for 5 with three runs scored, a home run and a triple to pace Arizona’s attack. The Diamondbacks’ centerfielder led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple off of Enny Romero to set the stage for Arizona’s walk-off win.

With seven career home runs against the Nats, the most he’s had against any non-National League West team, Jake Lamb is earning a reputation as a Nats killer.  The left-handed swinging third baseman was at it again on Friday, going 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI.

The Nats eventually got to Arizona starter Zack Godley for four runs in 5.2 innings pitched, but the young hurler was impressive on the night. Godley registered a career high 10 strikeouts, and displayed a tremendous curveball that baffled the Nats’ hitters on occasion.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Southpaw Matt Grace has flown under the radar to become a solid contributor in the Nats’ bullpen. Grace was amazing on the night, allowing only a scratch single and fanning three in 1.2 scoreless innings.  In his last four outings over four innings pitched, Grace has allowed no runs, only one hit and has struck out five batters.

NATS NOTES

Daniel Murphy broke out of an 0 for 11 slump with three hits in four at bats, a pair of doubles and a RBI. The three hit game was the 13th of the season for the Nats’ hitting machine, only two fewer than the 15 three plus hit games Murphy had in his sensational 2016 campaign.

In 87 career starts for the Nats, Max Scherzer has gone five or fewer innings only nine times.  The Nats’ ace’s five innings pitched was the fewest in a start since May 20th when he went five frames in Washington’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta.  Scherzer’s shortest outing as a National came on August 14, 2015 when he went only three innings in Washington’s 8-5 loss at San Francisco.

Bryce Harper went 1 for 3 with a run scored and a double and walked twice.  Harper’s two free passes give him 63 on the year, tied with Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona for the third most in the National League.  The Reds’ Joey Votto leads the way with 69 walks, and St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter is next with 66.  Harper’s .444 on-base percentage is the second best in the Senior Circuit, trailing only Los Angeles’ Justin Turner’s .467 mark.

UP NEXT

Washington’s Tanner Roark looks for his eighth win of the year tonight at Arizona, with lefty Anthony Banda making his Major League debut for the home team.

Roark is 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA lifetime against Arizona, and is 109 with a 1.80 ERA at Chase Field.  Jake Lamb is 2 for 8 with two homers against Roark and Chris Hermann is 2 for 3 with a homer, while Jeff Mathis is 0-9 with six strikeouts.

Banda was 7-5 with a 5.08 ERA at AAA Reno so far this year, and the Corpus Christi, Texas native gave up a whopping 15 hits and seven runs in five innings pitched in his last start against Salt Lake (Angels’ affiliate).

 

 

Game 91 Review- Nationals 14 Reds 4

Nationals_Reds_Baseball_85098

Another day, another outburst by the Nationals offense against an over-matched Reds pitching staff.  This time it was National League leading hitter Daniel Murphy doing the key damage as Washington routed Cincinnati 14-4 for its third straight victory coming out of the All-Star break.

NATIONALS 14 Reds 4

Record- 55-36, 9.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East

WP- Roark (7-6)  LP- Bailey (2-3)

HR- Murphy, Was 2(16), Lind, Was (7), Rendon, Was (19), Lobaton, Was (3)

There are slow-pitch softball teams who don’t put up the runs at the level the Washington Nationals have this season.  The Cincinnati Reds are the latest team to run into the Nats’ buzz saw of an attack, falling on Sunday by a 14-4 score. Here’s a look at the key players and numbers from the Nats’ third straight win this weekend and their fourth victory in a row overall.

STARS OF THE GAME

Daniel Murphy is a student of hitting who works at his craft with a dedication matched by few.  Over the past few seasons Murphy has not only been a student, he’s been a teacher of lessons that have been tough to stomach for opposing pitchers.   The Cincinnati Reds know that all too well after today, as Murphy went 3 for 4 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Nats to an easy win.  The two homer game was the second of Murphy’s time in DC, with the first coming against, of course, the Mets in June of 2016.   Murphy’s day lifted his National League leading batting average to .348, 20 points ahead of teammate Bryce Harper’s .328 mark.  Only Houston’s Jose Altuve, at .350, has a better average than Murphy among all qualified Major Leaguers.

While Murphy, Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are typically the Nats’ hitters doing most of the damage, this year’s squad has contributors up and down the roster.  On Sunday, several of those unsung contributors stood out.  Wilmer Difo had three hits, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run.  Adam Lind also had three hits including a home run, scored two runs and drove in three.  Even former Reds outfielder Chris Heisey got into the act against his old team on Sunday, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and a RBI.

NATS NOTES

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark had a strong outing, allowing only three unearned runs and four hits in six innings pitched to earn his seventh win on the year.  Roark and three relievers held the Reds without an extra-base hit.

Washington scored 14 or more runs for the seventh time this year and the 22nd time in Nats’ history.   Washington also registered its 17th five home run plus game since 2005, and its third of the 2017 season.  Three of those 17 games have come against Cincinnati.

Rendon’s long home run to left field was the 19th of season for the talented third baseman, only two shy of career high of 21 set in 2014.  Rendon’s 19 this season have come in 317 fewer at bats than it took him to hit 21 three seasons ago.

2017 has been anything but a smooth campaign for veteran Nats’ reliever Joe Blanton, but the righty has shown signs of improvement recently. Blanton pitched  a scoreless inning with three strikeouts to post his eighth straight appearance without giving up a run.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

A pair of Reds had good games at the plate. Outfielder Jesse Winker picked up a hit, scored a run and walked three times in five plate appearances.  Nats’ killer Scooter Gennett also was up to his old tricks, going 2 for 5 with three runs driven in.

UP NEXT

The Nats go for the four game sweep on Monday afternoon, with All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg taking the mound.  Strasburg, who will be looking to pick up his 10th win in the matinee game, is 1-1 with a 6.75 in four career games started at Cincinnati.   He’s fared well in the past against Zack Cozart (0-10 with two strikeouts) and Eugenio Suarez (0 for 5, two strikeouts), while struggling against Gennett (4 for 8, three home runs).

Opposing Strasburg will be veteran Scott Feldman, who is 7-6 with a 3.94 ERA on the year.  The tall righty has won five of his last seven decisions, and has a 3.00 ERA in home games in 2017.  Stephen Drew (7-16, two triples, two homers) and Lind (three homers and six RBI in 23 career at bats) have done well against Feldman, while Rendon (1 for 6 with two strikeouts) has had difficulty.

Game 90 Review- Nationals 10 Reds 7

Nationals_Reds_Baseball_15984

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- April 23, 2017

Gio Gonzalez won again at Citi Field against the Mets on Saturday, moving his all-time record at the Mets’ home to 8-1 as the Nationals won their sixth game in a row. (PHOTO- Anthony Grupposo, USA Today Sports).

Our first edition of Nationals by the Numbers for the 2017 season features notes on the Nats’ dominance of former tormentors within their division, long balls hit with the bases full and the consistently good efforts Washington gets from its starting pitching staff.

.717

Since 2011, Nationals’ wins at Citi Field in Queens, New York have been as common as jets flying over the stadium or Mets’ fans venting their displeasure with boos.

The Nats have won 43 of the 60 games (.716 winning percentage) played at New York since 2011.  Yesterday’s winning pitcher Gio Gonzalez is 8-1 lifetime at Citi Field, and teammate Stephen Strasburg has won five of his six decisions at the park.  Both Anthony Rendon (.889 OPS) and Bryce Harper (.880) have excelled against Mets’ pitching, and Daniel Murphy’s work against his former teammates has caused angst among his one-time supporters.

Despite their overall dominance on the road against the Mets, the Nationals have not swept a series in New York since August 12-14, 2014.  Washington will look to change that behind ace Max Scherzer this evening.

.790

Their divisional opponents in the Big Apple are not the only former bully who the Nats have turned the tables on.  Since June 21, 2014, Washington has won 49 of the 62 games it has played against the Atlanta Braves.   Washington’s 14 runs scored against Atlanta on April 19th is the most the Nationals have scored at Atlanta, beating the mark of 13 runs set in the Nats’ amazing comeback 13-12 win over the Braves on April 28, 2015.

1

Washington is 12-5 through 17 games in the 2017 campaign, one game behind the team’s best mark through 17 games in its 13 years in DC.   The 2012 and 2016 teams, which both won National League East titles and had 98 and 95 wins respectively, were 13-4 at the 17 game mark.

6

Ryan Zimmerman has started the 2017 season looking like he did in his All-Star years, and he showed that form to the fans at Sun Trust Park in Washington’s 14-4 win on Wednesday.  Zimmerman hit the sixth grand slam home run of his career in the rout, the first since he cleared the bases with a home run against San Diego on August 25, 2015 in Washington.  Bryce Harper also hit a slam in the game, a year after his last four run round tripper on April 19, 2016 at Miami.

9

Bryce Harper’s no doubt home run to right-center in the first inning of Friday night against talented Matt Harvey of the Mets was the ninth of Harper’s career at Citi Field. That total trails only the 66 the Nats’ right fielder has hit at home at the 12 he has blasted at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.  With two grand slams already, a talented and powerful lineup and 145 games left to play, the Nationals may have a shot at besting the 2009 squad’s Nats’ record of eight in a season.

12

Gio Gonzalez’s 6.1 innings pitched with only one run allowed marked the 12th time in 17 games that the Nationals’ starting pitchers have pitched at least six innings with two or fewer earned runs allowed.  The Nats’ sole lefty starter leads the way with four such efforts, followed by Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer with three each and Tanner Roark with two.

15

It only took fire-balling lefty reliever Enny Romero 15 pitches to record five straight outs in the Nats’ 3-1 win at New York on Saturday.  Included in that effort was a three pitch (all fastballs), see you later strikeout of the good-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera in which Romero’s velocity approached triple digits.

30 

Trea Turner scored his first run of the season in yesterday’s 3-1 victory at New York.  The game continued a trend where good things seem to happen to the Nats when the speedy Turner rounds the bases.  In the 44 games in which Turner has scored at least one run as a National, Washington has won 30 of them.

33

Following Sunday’s prime-time match-up with the Mets, the Nationals head west to Coors Field to take on the Colorado Rockies in a four game series.   Superstar Nolan Arenado has been excellent so far in 2017 (.328, six homers, 12 RBI, 1.087 OPS) and Mark Reyonlds has shown that Ryan Zimmerman isn’t the only former UVA player with a hot bat (.339, five homers 16 RBI) so far, but the real story of the Rockies’ hot start has been their pitching.

A major part of that effort has been the job done by the back end of the Colorado bullpen. Former Kansas City closer Greg Holland has converted all nine of his save attempts this year, and Holland, Adam Ottavino and lefty Mike Dunn have combined to struck out 33 batters in 25 innings pitched this year.

71

Stephen Strasburg’s win over the Braves on Thursday gave him 71 victories in his career, the most for any Nationals’ pitcher since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.  The recent victory game Strasburg one more curly W than former teammates Livan Hernandez and Jordan Zimmermann.