Archives for posts with tag: Atlanta Braves

The Nats almost went from the ridiculous high of sweeping San Francisco behind the oh so unpredictable arms of Joe Ross and Erick Fedde (plus Anibal Sanchez) to a nightmare weekend in New York.  Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin both pitched well enough, but the bullpen blew up both Friday and Saturday nights and the team was fortunate on Sunday to beat the Mets 7-4.  Juan Soto’s strained ankle is day to day and Max Scherzer remains on the long road back, but for the moment the Nats are still trending upward: 4-2 for the week, 5-4 for the month and 15-13 since the All Star Game.  They won’t go back inside the division until August 30 but will play 21 of their final 30 games against NL East foes.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta remains atop the NL East thanks to a 4-3 week; they’re 70-50 mark is two games better than where last year’s division champs were at this point.  The Nats (62-55) inch to within six and a half games of the lead while the streaking New York Mets (61-57 after a 6-1 week) are eight behind the Braves.  Philadelphia (60-58) drops nine games back after a 2-5 week; they’re 4-7 this month and 13-15 since the All Star Game.  Thank goodness the basement is a few levels down as Miami (44-73) is zeroing in on a tenth straight losing season (after five winning years the previous decade).

The Wild Wildcard Race- Sunday’s win over the Mets kept the Nats a half game ahead of St. Louis for the Wildcard lead; a loss would have dropped the team into a tie with Milwaukee a half game behind the Cardinals and Mets.  Of the five teams in the mix (Philadelphia is just two and a half games behind the Nationals), the Nats own the worst record in one-run decisions (12-18).  The best?  The Brewers are 20-13 in such games.

O’s Woes- the Birds beat back the brooms by outslugging Houston 8-7 thanks to a Rio Ruiz walkoff homer.  The victory ends a five-game losing streak that included a 23-2 rout at the hands of the Astros the night before.  The home run coughed up Sunday was the 241st allowed this year by the Orioles-tying the American League record set by the 1996 Detroit pitching staff.  They’re also 17 homers shy of Cincinnati’s major league record of 258 set three years ago.  This week the Birds battle the New York Yankees- as the current elimination number is eight the O’s could be eliminated from the AL East by Thursday night.

Harper’s Weekly- the former face of the franchise hit .286 with three homers and seven RBI, putting him back on pace to hit .250 with 30 HR and 110 RBI.  He’s also on track to strike out 188 times (he’s currently tied for the  league  lead at 137).  All while the Phillies sink into the Wildcard quicksand.

Last Week’s Heroes- Juan Soto hit .368 with three homers and six RBI while Trea Tuner (.304) and Adam Eaton (.400) each scored seven runs. Erick Fedde and Joe Ross may be the back end of this rotation, but each tossed six scoreless innings at San Francisco.

Last Week’s Humbled- Sean Doolittle and Fernando Rodney had late-inning hiccups Friday and Saturday against the Mets. Brian Dozier went 0-for-14 at the plate while Matt Adams went 5-for-21 with nine strikeouts.

Game to Watch- Wednesday the Nats wrap up their series with Cincinnati as Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 3.72 ERA) faces midseason pickup Trevor Bauer (10-8, 3.74).  It’s also the final game for the Reds in DC, meaning Marty Brennaman will say one last time, “So long, everybody” as he closes the broadcast.  The longtime announcer is calling it a career after 46 years with the team.

Game to Miss- Marty’s final tour distracts the faithful from another disappointing campaign;  the Reds haven’t had a winning record or made the playoffs since 2013 (a Wildcard loss to Pittsburgh).  In his first 23 years at the mic, Cincinnati posted 16 winning records and finished first or second in the division 15 times while winning three World Series (two via sweep).  Over the last 22 and a half years (including this season’s 56-60 start) the Reds have finished over .500 just five times.  Tuesday they pitch Alex Wood, who won 16 games two years ago for the Dodgers but has a 5.65 ERA over three starts.  Watch old videos of the Big Red Machine instead.

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MLB’s Trading Deadline saw the Nationals make multiple moves-each for a bullpen bandage (as opposed to previous bandaids or napkins like Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings).  Dan Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland (yes, that guy) come to DC to patch up the worst bullpen in the big leagues.  And while the Nats still need to get solid starting pitching plus continue to produce on offense to make the middle relievers worthwhile pickups, it’s a step in the right direction even in the middle of a week where the team dropped four of six to now lose three straight series.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta (66-47) went 4-3 last week with a huge road series win at the Nationals.  While the Braves aren’t running away with the NL East (they’re 12-10 since the All Star break), they aren’t imploding either (6-4 against division foes since the hiatus).  Philadelphia’s 3-3 week moves Bryce Harper’s Bunch into a second-place tie with the Nats, just in time to visit fellow Wildcard contenders Arizona and San Francisco.  The New York Mets (55-56) had the best week in the division at 5-1, and their trade for Marcus Stroman keeps them in the conversation for some time.  Miami’s irrelevance was underscored at the deadline as Derek Jeter spent all of 2018 getting rid of their servicable players.  Dark days, indeed.

Wild Wildcard Race-  three and a half games separate seven teams competing for two playoff spots.  While St. Louis and Milwaukee are also involved in the NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs, it’s Wildcard or bust for Arizona and San Francisco (barring a collapse of epic proportions by the Los Angeles Dodgers).  While right now it’s the Cardinals followed by the Nats and Phillies, expect weekly and even daily changes to the pecking order over the final 50 games of the season.

O’s Woes- the Birds are 38-73 after a 3-3 week that has them now on pace to win 55 games; while a sub-100 loss campaign remains a possibility they’d have to finish 25-26 to get there.  This week’s bright spot in the Charm City is Trey Mancini, who’s already reached a career high with 26 home runs and is on pace to pass his career mark of 78 RBI while counting down the days to when he’ll eventually sign years from now as a free agent with Atlanta.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted .111 as his average drops to .248.  He’s still on pace to hit 28 homers and 107 RBI while the free-swinger remains on track to strike out 190 times.  He also has seven weeks to prepare for a potential showdown with Hunter Strickland, who hit Harper in the hip on Memorial Day 2017 in retaliation for two homers hit in the 2014 playoffs.  What are the odds they face one another once in the four-game September series?

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .304 with a pair of homers and 9 RBI (SIGN HIM IMMEDIATELY) while Howie Kendrick went 5-for-10 at the plate and Juan Soto belted 3 home runs.  Joe Ross (!?!) one week after getting roasted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home tossed 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona (an infield single ruining the no-hit bid), while Tony Sipp, Daniel Hudson and Roenis Elias were all sharp out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled– after being named July’s NL pitcher of the month, Stephen Strasburg hiccuped by allowing nine earned runs over 4.2 innings against the Diamondbacks. Patrick Corbin had a less than ideal start in the rubber game Sunday. Anibal Sanchez allowed four runs over five innings against Atlanta.  And Roenis Elias suffered a strained hamstring running out a grounder.  At the plate, Yan Gomes batted .091 while Victor Robles hit .063.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats face the New York Mets with Stephen Strasburg attempting to regain his July groove (5-0, 44 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.14) against the Mets deadline-week pickup Marcus Stroman (6-11 but with a 3.07 ERA this year).  Will the Nationals still be in the Wildcard lead?

Game to Miss- Wednesday the team wraps up its series with San Francisco, who starts “Shaun Anderson”. Not to be confused with former Navy scoring machine “Sean Anderson” or current WTOP PM Drive Anchor “Shawn Anderson”.  I’m not ready to have multiple worlds collide…even on a weekday afternoon.

Half-full or half-empty?  How do you view the last week where the team went 3-3? The 2019 season continues with the Nationals splitting a pair of series against the Chicago White Sox and Arizona.  Not ideal, but after their string of 11 wins in 15 games, somewhat acceptable.  This week the stakes get a little higher as they take on the top two teams in the NL East-beginning with four games against Philadelphia before hosting division-leading Atlanta on the weekend.  At 33-38 and 7.5 games off the pace, the Nats can ill afford a poor showing here.  They’ll be almost 50% through the regular season slate when the Braves leave Sunday, and while they’re almost assured of wrapping up the homestand under .500 it would be a nightmare to be double digits off the pace.  And given the way things turn on a dime in DC, not completely out of the realm of possibility. Buckle up…

Digesting the Division- Atlanta takes a two and a half game lead at 42-30 and the Braves have won nine of ten. They’re also getting free agent pickup Dallas Keuchel to bolster a pitching staff that currently owns the tenth best ERA in the majors.  Philadelphia’s dropped five of seven to slide towards the pack, and the Phillies’ run differential has shrunk to +6.  The New York Mets (34-37, 7.5 GB) remain the driver who can’t find a parking spot on the P1 level, losing three of four at home to St. Louis.  Miami has lost eight of ten and at 25-44 isn’t competing with the Nats, Mets, Phillies and Braves as much as they’re scoreboard-watching with the Orioles–for the first pick of 2020.

O’s Woes- Bad days for the Birds.  A twelfth straight series loss (they haven’t won a series since late April).  A sweep at the hand of the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.  This week the team is far from Baltimore–and just as far from successful. At 21-50 they’re 22.5 games back in the AL East. Although they are one game better than last year’s 47-115 club at this time.  And while the team is no longer allowing more than two homers per game, they’re still on pace to cough up over 300 this year.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted 4-for-20 (.200) while striking out eight times.  While he’s still on pace to post 27 HR with 112 RBI, Harper’s 91 K’s keep him on track to break the 200 mark. But, Harper is hitting .321 against the Nats this year. And he comes back to DC this week with the proverbial chip on his shoulder.

Last Week’s Heroes- Matt Adams made his mark on Father’s Day, belting a grand slam as well as a three-run homer (the best drive of the day was by his dad, Jamie, who came down from Pennsylvania–I hope he didn’t take the Turnpike); Adams hit .308 for the week. Howie Kendrick batted .400 while scoring seven runs and Trea Turner had an on base-percentage of .448. Kurt Suzuki drove in eight runs.  Max Scherzer struck out ten for the fifth time this year and the 87th time in his career, while Javy Guerra notched five scoreless innings over three appearances.

Last Week’s Humbled- Patrick Corbin has been sliding.  In his last three starts, the lefthander is 0-3 with an ERA of 11.37.  He had a rough outing against the White Sox (7 runs over 5 innings).  Kyle Barraclough had an ERA of 20.25 for the week before landing on the Injured List while Wander Suero struggled in spots.  Brian Dozier is hitting .211 and could be the odd man out whenever Ryan Zimmerman is healthy enough to return, as his at-bats at first base will move Howie Kendrick to second more often.

Game to Watch- Wednesday the Nats host Philadelphia with Max Scherzer squaring off against a former Nationals prospect for the second time in a week:  Nick Pivetta (dealt in the trade for Jonathan Papelgon) is 4-1 with an ERA of 5.00 over eight starts this year. It’s the semi-pivotal third game of the series.

Game to Miss- Saturday Patrick Corbin pitches against Mike Foltynewicz in prime time.  Both starters have hit snags in the early season:  while Corbin’s dropped three straight decisions Foltynewicz has an ERA of 5.53.  Stay late at the pool–which closes at 8 p.m. even though it stays light until nine this month. Really?

The Nationals wrapped up their long journey into nowhere Sunday in Colorado.  The 12-0 loss was the perfect whimper to a season that had shown plenty of promise and problems.  It was fitting that the team finished 82-80 during a season where we saw a ton of potential (a pythagorean record of 90-72) but fail to execute when it mattered (18-24 in one-run games and 4-10 in extra innings).  With the exception of the team’s dominant play in May, it was two steps forward and two steps  back.  Instead of seeing if they can get further in October…the Nats head into winter wondering if they have what it takes to get back to the playoffs.

Clutch Metrics- combining the one-run games record with the Nats extra-inning results is an interesting exercise:  their 22-24 mark is the worst in the NL East–10.5 games behind Atlanta’s 29-20 record in such games.  They finished eight games out.  I know, some extra-inning games are one run affairs, but an extra inning victory or loss should count double towards the “clutch factor”.

Last Week’s Heroes- stars past, present and future reigned as Bryce Harper hit .348 in what could be his final week as a Washington National.  Anthony Rendon actually finished with a higher WAR this year and hit .348 with 2 homers and 9 RBI.  The future is bright with prime prospect Victor Robles batting .467 with a homer and 5 RBI…and Juan Soto hitting a pair of HR while driving in five en route to six and 20 in September (and Rookie of the Month honors).  Max Scherzer struck out 10 in his final start of the season, finishing with 300 on the season.

Last Week’s Humbled- Austen Williams, Tim Collins and Jefry Rodriguez each had ERA’s in the double digits, but Sammy Solis wrapped up a rough 2018 with an infinity week- no outs recorded and a home run surrendered in his only outing.  The first base tandem of Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Reynolds combined to hit 3-for-21.  Wilmer Difo hit .143 to wrap up a .191 September.  Upon further review- Difo had the fifth most at-bats on the Nats this year.  That is just one reason why the Nats are home in October.

Who could be Gone:  Bryce Harper isn’t the only National with an expiring contract.  Matt Wieters, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Jeremy Hellickson and Joaquin Benoit all come off the books this winter.  One would think that Wieters might be the only one to come back out of that pack.  The crowded outfield of Robles, Soto and a presumably healthy Adam Eaton could give cause for the trading of Michael A. Taylor-especially if Harper re-signs.

 

Opening Day Lineup for 2019?  If Bryce Harper departs…

RF- Adam Eaton- hopefully Mighty Mouse will be healthy…as he was limited to 95 games this year and even when he played seem a gear or two shy of what he showed in April 2017.

SS- Trea Turner- one needs his speed close to the top of the order…although I’m tempted to put Victor Robles in this spot.

3B- Anthony Rendon- the best overall hitter in this lineup the last two seasons…this is where you put that guy.

LF- Juan Soto- the 19-year old performed beyond expectations…can he duplicate a season for the ages?  Or at least avoid a sophomore slump?

1B- Ryan Zimmerman with Mark Reynolds- Zim when healthy is still a dangerous player–but the veteran’s been limited to fewer than 120 games in four of the last five seasons.

CF- Victor Robles with Michael A. Taylor- if Soto’s 116 games is a small sample size, then what to make of the prime prospect’s 59 at-bats?  And can Taylor’s bat (.176 after the All Star Break) catch up to his glove?

C- Matt Wieters…and Spencer Kieboom?- is this the duo the Nats want, the tandem they need or the combination they’ll have to settle for?  And if Wieters walks, who comes to DC?

2B- Wilmer Difo/Adrian Sanchez/Howie Kendrick- can the veteran come back from his torn Achilles?  If so, he switches spots with Robles.  If not, this position bats eighth and tries to outhit Max Scherzer.

NL East and Wildcard contention officially ended this past weekend for the Washington Nationals.  It’s mop-up time on South Capitol Street–and the team with a ton of talent but just enough shortcomings prepares to watch October from their couches.  Now the focus is finishing above .500 for a seventh straight season…and award season.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats can still finish second…because flailing Philadelphia proved that they were actually a year away down the stretch.  Four straight losses drops the Phils one half game ahead of the Nationals.  The Nationals can still finish fourth…if they lose out and the Mets win the remainder of their games.  Meanwhile, the NL East becomes the Braves’ new world.

O’s Woes- it’s one thing to finish last. Another to post 100+ wins.  But the Birds blew by the team record of 107 losses and will likely break the St. Louis Browns’ franchise record 111 set in 1939.

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .435 with 8 RBI while Trea Turner bats .429 with 8 runs scored.  Prime prospect Victor Robles hit .292 with 2 homers.  Max Scherzer struck out 13 in his lone start while Stephen Strasburg continues his strong second half-(3-0 with a 2.64 ERA over his last five starts).

Last Week’s Humbled- two less than ideal starts for Eric Fedde: 5 runs allowed over 7.2 innings.  Jimmy Cordero, Koda Glover and Wander Suero posted ERA’s of 8+.  Wilmer Difo hit .125 while Juan Soto turned into a 19-year old rookie, batting .087 with 5 strikeouts.

Games to Watch- Monday night Stephen Strasburg makes his final home start of the season while Max Scherzer takes his turn Tuesday.  Wednesday in the home finale we could be witnessing the last time Bryce Harper dons the Nats’ #34.  It’s been quite a ride if this is the end.

Game to Miss- Saturday they visit Colorado and play at 8:10 p.m…right around the time I’m flipping between Stanford-Notre Dame and Ohio State-Penn State.

 

 

This year’s Washington Nationals have never made things easy for us.  The sluggish start that turned into a memorable May before fizzling out in a summer of discontent.  The constantly playing tag with the .500 mark when the window of opportunity still existed.  The frustrating lack of moves at the deadline.  The slow slide from contender to pretender status.  The shedding of talent in August.  A September that’s seen the team play just well enough to stay hanging by a thread in the NL East (7.5 games back) and Wildcard (8 games) races.  All that’s left for this team is experiencing the actual moment of elimination and the chasing of milestones.

Bryce Harper:  three runs away from reaching 100 for the first time since the MVP season, two doubles away from reaching 30, three RBI away from getting to the century mark for the first time in his career.

Trea Turner: three homers away from getting to 20 and eight runs away from reaching 100-both would be career highs.  He’s one double shy of last year’s career high 24 and is seven stolen bases away from equalling the 46 tallied in 2017.

Anthony Rendon: one double away from tying last year’s career high of 41.

Wilmer Difo: three triples away from 10…although the way he’s hitting in September (.237) I’m not holding  my breath.

Max Scherzer: 20 wins is out of the question, but he needs just seven strikeouts to tie his career high of 284.

Tanner Roark: despite the nightmare season he’s one win shy of reaching double-digits.  He’ll likely have two more starts.

Stephen Strasburg:  two wins away from 10…with three starts left in the season. It’d be a nice way to end a year interrupted by injury.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta leads Philadelphia by six and a half games with 13 games remaining for the Braves while the Phillies have 14 games left in their season.  The two teams tangle seven times over the final two weeks of the year, starting Thursday in Atlanta.  Meaning the division could be clinched by Sunday night.  The Nats have to hope for the Braves to bomb with the Phillies losing the bulk of the rest of their games–not an impossible order as we’ve seen both teams struggle lately.

Last Week’s Heroes- Juan Soto hit .393 with four homers and eight RBI…as the 19-year old passes his age with his 20th HR.  Spencer Kieboom hit his first two big league home runs.  Eric Fedde struck out nine over five and two-thirds innings.  Sean Doolittle tallied two saves and rode the bullpen cart.

Last Week’s Humbled- Max Scherzer’s drive for 20 wins ended when he allowed six runs over four innings against Atlanta…and prevented a potential sweep of the Braves that would put the Nats within seven games of the lead.  Sammy Solis and Jimmy Cordero cared 10+ ERA’s…again.  Adam Eaton hit .167 while Wilmer Difo batted .143.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats host the New York Mets as Max Scherzer battles Jacob deGrom in a showdown of the top two Cy Young contenders.  Scherzer is 17-7 with a league-high 277 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.53;  deGrom is 8-9 with 251 strikeouts and an MLB-best 1.78 ERA.

Game to Miss- Monday the Nats begin their series in Miami with Eric Fedde dueling Trevor Richards:  the duo are a combined 5-11 (not to good) on the season and each has an ERA that’s well over four.  Enjoy “Better Call Saul”…

The Washington Nationals reach Labor Day one game under .500, eight games back in the Wildcard race and eight and a half games off the pace in the NL East.  The worst record to win the NL East this decade is 90-72; in order to get there this team would need to finish 22-3.  As they pass the final marker of the regular season, it’s hard to imagine this team was nine games over .500 on Memorial Day.  Instead of the season ending with a bang, it’s going to end with a whimper in 25 games.

Gio Gone- two more waiver-wire deals on August 31 saw the Nats part with reliever Ryan Madson and starter Gio Gonzalez.  In his seven seasons with the team Gio went 86-65 with an ERA of 3.71; his best year came in his first with the team (21-8, 2.89 in 2012).  The lefthander was a mainstay in the rotation (averaging 30+ starts per year) and his departure means that just Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are still around from the 2012 team that first reached the postseason.  With Harper and five other players on the current roster hitting free agency this fall, the winds of change could certainly be hitting Washington this winter.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta leads Philadelphia by four games.  While the two will meet seven times over the final eleven days of the season, the Phillies play 15 of their other 19 remaining games against clubs with losing records (for the Braves its 10/19).

O’s Woes-  enter another tragic number for the Birds after the sweep by Kansas City over the week:  last place in the AL East can be secured with a combination of four losses or Toronto wins.  Lost in the shuffle is the fact that Trey Mancini has had a decent second half for the O’s (.299 with nine homers and 24 RBI in 40 games since the All Star break) while Chris Davis is hitting 62 points higher since this mid-summer hiatus.

Last Week’s Heroes- Juan Soto hit .478 with a team-high six RBI and Anthony Rendon led the Nats with six runs scored and added four RBI.  Stephen Strasburg struck out 12 over 12 innings while posting an ERA of 3.00 and Matt Grace Koda Glover each tossed three scoreless frames.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez’ last start in a Nats uniform was not awesome as the lefthander allowed six runs over five innings against the Phillies.  His August was not ideal: 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA over six starts.  Matt Wieters hit .133 while Bryce Harper batted .125.

Game to Watch- Saturday Max Scherzer pitches against the Cubs Cole Hamels at Nats Park.  With 25 games left in the season Max has potentially five starts remaining…and one should try to see every last inning of his campaign.  As today is the final day most area pools are open, the Saturday night game takes precedence.

Game to Miss- the Nats have yet to name a starter for Sunday’s game against the Cubs. It’s also the first Sunday of the NFL regular season.  Enjoy the games…