Archives for posts with tag: Braves

The Nationals entered the season as the team to beat in the NL East. But after posting losing records in April, June and July the Nats instead of being the pursued are the pursuers.  Yes, they still have 16 games remaining against Atlanta and Philadelphia but with every day a little bit of sand slips through the division hourglass.  They’re currently in a stretch of five games over three days thanks to the summer weather, and while the rotation appears to be finding itself Stephen Strasburg remains on the disabled list.  Like sands through the hourglass…

Let’s Make a Deal? Minimal movement at the non-waiver trading deadline for the Nationals who opted not to bring in a starting pitcher nor a catcher.  Instead they dealt middle reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs for a minor leaguer.  The challenge to a team that’s played under its abilities for four months:  bring it.  Since that vote of confidence they’ve gone 5-1, which given the fact they played a pair of last-place teams is what they needed to do to stay relevant in the race.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats begin the week five and a half games behind Philadelphia and five games behind Atlanta.  Everybody’s schedule ratchets up a little bit in August as the Phils face division-leading Boston and Arizona, the Braves battle Wildcard contenders Milwaukee and Colorado and the Nats play their next 11 games against clubs with winning records.  Miami has taken a one-game lead over the New York Mets for the East Division Cellar…with both team’s offenses offensive in the wrong way. The Marlins and Mets are tied for 26th in the Majors in runs scored–and at least Miami is consistent in that the team that Derek Jeter blew up ranks 26th in team ERA.

O’s Woes- how will the Dog Days affect the Birds?  So far they’re 2-3 this month…which at .400 is actually an improvement of their full body of work (gulp!-.304).  They’re four losses away from clinching a second straight losing record and the O’s “Tragic Number” is six.  The Wildcard elimination number is 16—and that’s with Oakland not losing games to Seattle.  Last week saw multiple deals at the deadline as the Birds are in rebuild mode.  The final July haul:  14 prospects plus a major leaguer for five guys either with expiring deals or not in the long-tearm plans of the club.  The watered down bunch needs to finish 29-21 to avoid a 100-loss campaign, a tough task for a team that had just 28 wins at the All Star break.  A much more reasonable 21-29 finish means they avoid the worst record in team history (1988).

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .476 with six runs and six RBI while Trea Turner tallied six stolen bases.  Max Scherzer struck out his customary 10 while Tanner Roark appears to have found himself, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA-which is impressive until you realize it took him less than a month to grow his hair and beard back after shaving in early July.  Those are mad skills.

Last Week’s Humbled- Shawn Kelley not only allowed a three-run homer in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 25-4 rout of the Mets, but the reliever slammed his glove on the mound and reportedly glared into the dugout.  Unfortunately for the Nats front office that was enough as they designated the right-hander for assignment the next day.  Kids, nothing good comes out of a tantrum.

Game to Watch- Tuesday night Max Scherzer brings his 15-5 mark to the mound in search for his sixth straight victory.  In a year with an injury-mangled lineup and a scrambled rotation, Scherzer has been the one constant-with the exception of his April loss in Atlanta the righthander has been spot-on.

Game to Miss- Tuesday afternoon Jefry Rodriguez makes his fourth Major League start against Atlanta’s Max Fried.  While the Braves’ starter’s name is pronounced “freed” he’s off to a “fried” 1-4 start in 2018.  Smart fans should nap by the pool to gear up for the evening affair.

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The Midsummer Classic is upon us, even though it’s not technically in the middle of summer (technically that’s around August 7 or 8) or even in the actual midseason (a few weeks ago) but it gives us a chance to take a break.  And the Nats could use one…last week they had seven games with sub-500 squads in Pittsburgh and the New York Mets.  A team looking to enter the hiatus on a strong note would win five of seven…and instead they were lucky to win three.  While the offense has improved (9th in runs in July), the pitching has begun to spring leaks (25th in team ERA this month).  It’s beginning to feel as though the odor of 2013 and 2015 when defending division champs underachieved their way out of contention is back.  It’s not longer early as just under 60% of the schedule has been played. Max Scherzer likely has only 12-13 starts remaining in the season.  And the deficit isn’t shrinking.  Gimme a break?  One break…coming up.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia despite losing consecutive games to Miami still stand atop the division one half game ahead of Atlanta and five and a half ahead of the Nats.  The Phillies are here because of pitching:  they rank fourth in quality starts and are 11th in team ERA while having major issues at the plate.  They’re 26th in MLB in hitting and 21st in runs scored.  The Braves boast a little better balance:  8th in runs scored and 10th in team ERA.  Meanwhile the Marlins and Mets played spoiler by snatching games from the Nats and Phillies over the weekend…remaining in a tie for last place.  We’ll be by with tragic elimination numbers at the appropriate time.

O’s Woes- the Birds won their first series at home since taking three of four from Tampa Bay Mother’s Day weekend.  Still, the 28-69 slide has the club inhaling elimination fumes: the tragic number is now 26 (Red Sox wins + Oriole losses) and the Manny Machado departure countdown is in full force. Philadelphia, the Dodgers and even Milwaukee is in the mix.  Manny was asked at the All Star Game’s media availability what the strangest rumor he’s heard was and replied– “the Giants.  The Tokyo Giants…”.  Regardless, the end of an era looms and one wonders what is next for this franchise and the key figures in the management team.

Last Week’s Heroes- Daniel Murphy hit .533 while Adam Eaton batted .458 andAnthony Rendon led the team with 3 HR and 6 RBI.  Jeremy Hellickson won both of his starts while finishing with an ERA of 0.82 and Max Scherzer won his second straight.

Last Week’s Humbled- Jefry Rodriguez and Austin Voth allowed 13 runs over 9.1 innings in their starts.  They’re not ready for the Major League level and while that is to be understood, the middle of a pennant race with the Nats losing ground is not where you want to see these guys earn their stripes.  Trea Turner hit .115 while Bryce Harper batted .167 with 11 strikeouts in 24 at-bats.

Game to Watch- well with only three games on the slate I’m going with the series opener against Atlanta Friday.  Will Stephen Strasburg finally make his return from the DL?  Since he went on the shelf the starters are a combined 4-20 with an ERA I’d rather not disclose.  If he doesn’t make the start, this is still a huge game as the Nats need to make a dent into the Phillies’ lead–and they have to get past the Braves first..

Game to Miss- the series with the Braves wraps up Sunday with a 1:35 start on a day when the British Open (or “Open Championship” if you insist) wraps up.  Unless it’s a Scherzer start, I’m out.

It’s a shame that Major League Baseball doesn’t use aggregate runs to determine series victors.  The Nationals dropped three of four games in Philadelphia and while they won 17-7 Friday night, their three losses were each by one run.  They also dropped a 1-0 game in Tampa Bay last Tuesday…making the team 8-15 in one run affairs this year.  The team’s bad showing in nailbiters magnifies bad base-running and sub-par situational hitting while making dry patches at the plate seem like deserts.  An 8-15 showing in one run games turns banged up players absences into major voids.  The Nats are 42-40 and have the feel of an 8th seed in the NBA Playoffs at this point…and while there’s plenty of baseball ahead the team’s worst month (9-16) since 2010 is looking like less of an aberration and more like the norm.

Werth Every Penny- last week Jayson Werth announced his retirement.  The 39-year old was hitting .206 over 36 games with Seattle’s Triple-A team this season, and hamstring issues put him on the road to calling it a career.  While he never hit 30 homers or drove in 90 runs and the Nats never won a playoff series in his seven years with the team, the free agent paid 126 million dollars produced big-time.  Werth brought a veteran presence and changed the clubhouse immediately while giving the team new ideas and a vision of how to handle itself.  Werth challenged his teammates and management.  He also made DC a free agent destination for the likes of Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy.  Most importantly, the cantankerous individual was never a dull moment in postgame interviews.  Even though he didn’t return to the team in 2018, his fingerprints are all over this club.  Bye bye, beard…

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta (48-34) finally has a little breathing room after sweeping St. Louis.  The Braves own a three game lead over Philadelphia (45-37);  both are dominating one-run games this year (ATL is 13-6 while PHI is 17-7).  The Nats? A head-scratching 8-15 in one-run contests.  Meanwhile, the New York Mets and Miami are in an interesting race for the division cellar.

O’s Woes- the Birds avoided a sweep by blasting the Los Angeles Angels 8-2 Sunday.  Everything that hadn’t come together over the first three months of the season was there: Kevin Gausman tossed eight solid innings while the lineup produced four home runs.  The win now means they no longer need a .500 finish to avoid a 100-loss campaign; although they do need to go 39-40-a tall task for a team that hasn’t been one game under .500 since April 1st.  Also notable was the timing of the victory:  the Orioles’ last three wins at Camden Yards have taken place on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and now Canada Day.  Book it for Bastille Day:  July 14th they host Texas.

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner hits .375 while scoring seven runs.  Anthony Rendon scores four runs while driving in five.  Bryce Harper walks 10 times and posts an on-base percentage of .481.  Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark notch solid starts while Sean Doolittle remains sharp.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez had two rough starts, allowing nine runs over six innings.  Michael A. Taylor batted 1-for-14 while Pedro Severino went 1-for-13.  Both players make their impact defensively but each needs to hit over .100 to make this work.

Game to Watch- the week begins with a bang as Boston drops by the district Monday.  Max Scherzer (10-4, 2.04 ERA) faces his former teammate Rick Porcello (9-3, 3.60).  The Red Sox are smarting after two tough losses in their series with the New York Yankees. Could the Nats catch a Sox team with their mind still in the Bronx?

Game to Miss- Sunday Tanner Roark (3-9 with a 4.10 ERA but a 6.08 ERA in June) pitches against Miami’s Elieser Hernandez (0-5, 5.05) at 1:35 p.m. in the DC heat.  How hot is Washington in July?  President Zachary Taylor died after having cherries and milk in 1850 (urban legend says there may have been arsenic in the mix).  Go to the pool and enjoy the crossword.

It’s hot in DC. For those unfamiliar, Washington has a different calendar.  Instead of May it’s called “Monsoon”.  And instead of June it’s “Heatbomb”.  Unfortunately as it’s gotten hot in Washington the Nationals’ bats have cooled off.  The team ranks 26th in MLB in batting average and runs scored this month.  In a game of inches a team’s fortunes can turn on a dime…and since June began the 5-8 Nats resemble their April counterparts more than their May selves.  And with a rotation minus Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson for the time being, the Nats can ill afford getting shut out on consecutive Max Scherzer starts.  Meanwhile, Atlanta and Philadelphia are turning on the heat. 

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta leads by three and a half games….and 70 games into the season it’s obvious the Braves are no fluke with the fifth best run differential in the majors.  Philadelphia moved within four games of the lead by taking two of three from NL Central-leading Milwaukee;  their next four series come against winning ballclubs.  While the New York Mets ended their free-fall by splitting a series with Arizona they’re well on the road to non-contention.  Miami?  Five wins in seven games have the Marlins all of a sudden in contention for fourth place.  Will Derek Jeter hang a celebratory banner?

O’s Woes- the Birds avoided a double-digit losing streak by beating Miami 10-4 Sunday.  The Father’s Day victory was kind of fitting because the O’s last home win came on Mother’s Day (for further reference “Grandparents Day” is September 9th-and the Orioles are on the road that day).  The 20-50 start is one game better than the 1988 Gold Standard- and now Buck Showalter’s team needs to play .467 ball (43-49) the rest of the way to avoid a triple-digit loss campaign.

Last Week’s Heroes- Michael A. Taylor hit .600 while Adam Eaton in his first full week off of the Disabled List batted .333.  Rookie Juan Soto simply led the team in runs scored and RBI.  Max Scherzer struck out ten over six innings while Sean Doolittle notched a save.

Last Week’s Humbled- Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Eric Fedde each posted ERA’s over six. Daniel Murphy’s return from the DL was not as smooth as he hit 2-for-20.  Bryce Harper went 1-for-16. Is Ryan Zimmerman coming back soon?

Game to Watch- Thursday Max Scherzer starts the series finale with the Orioles at Nats Park. Unlike the last few years, there is no “potential World Series preview” chatter about this week’s interleague showdown. Max has been stung by two soft offensive outings in a row.  One thinks he’ll leave little to chance this week.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats face Philadelphia at 4:05, meaning the bulk of your day will be spent at the ballpark on what will probably be a day best enjoyed in the pool or on the Georgetown Waterfront.  Even without the happy hour pricing on weekends, the raw oysters are money (try the fried clam basket).  You’ll thank me later…

These are special times in Washington, D.C.  And I’m not just talking about the Capitals’ quest for their first Stanley Cup.  Max Scherzer was named NL Pitcher of the Month and has been even better this year than he was the previous two–you know, the years he won Cy Young Awards.  Scherzer is currently 9-1 (most wins the majors) with 120 strikeouts (best in the big leagues) and an ERA of 1.92 (second lowest among qualified starters in MLB).  But he’s also hitting .310 with 4 RBI in 29 AB (prorates to 80 over a 580 AB season which is norm for a regular everyday player).  And Saturday Scherzer delivered a key pinch hit in extra innings and scored the go-ahead run from first on a Wilmer Difo triple.  If you live in the DC metro area, I don’t care what you do with your life.  But if you don’t look ahead at the schedule and buy tickets to see every one of Max’s home starts for the rest of this year, you are missing out in a major way.

Dissecting the Division- after entering the four game series with Atlanta atop the NL East for the first time since early April, the Nats dropped three of four to slide a game and a half behind the Braves.  It didn’t help that Jeremy Hellickson had to leave Sunday’s series finale early with an injury…and it didn’t help that they scored just nine runs over those four games.  Atlanta currently owns the third best batting average in the majors while ranking fourth in runs scored.  And it’s only getting warmer.  Philadelphia lost five of seven on a west coast swing and slips three games off of the Braves’ pace.  The Mets?  Swept at home by the Cubs and now three games under .500.  Only Miami (six straight losses and 19 games under .500) is colder this early June.

O’s Woes- the Birds’ final game with the New York Yankees was rained out Sunday…in a season that is a major washout. The 17-41 mark has the team on a pace to win 47-48 games, and they need to dig in and play .442 ball to avoid a 100-loss season.  Is it too early to start looking at “tragic numbers” to figure out when the Orioles are officially eliminated?

Last Week’s Heroes- Max Scherzer had only one start but struck out 12 Orioles in the series finale.  We already mentioned his plate prowess and demon on the basepaths mentality scoring the game-winning run in their only win at Atlanta.  Sean Doolittle notched three saves in three opportunities.  Juan Soto hit .360, giving everyone the impression that #22 is not going back to the minors anytime soon.

Last Week’s Humbled- the catching position of Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom went a combined 4-for-26 at the plate…while the understudy duo of Mark Reynolds and Matt Adams came back to earth by batting a combined 5-for-41.  Get healthy, Ryan and Daniel.  Tanner Roark went 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA…an odd hiccup for the usually solid righthander (in three full years as a starter he averages 15 wins with a 3.40 ERA).

Game to Watch- HAVE YOU BEEN READING ANY OF THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPHS?  Max Scherzer pitches against Tampa Bay Tuesday in DC.  It’s an off night for the NHL and NBA and The Americans won’t torment us with the red herring that is Renee now that their finale is in our rear view mirror.  Who’s ready to see Max pitch, hit and run?

Game to Miss- Sunday the Nats host San Francisco at 4:05.  There is a very good chance the Capitals will be playing up the street in either a season-salvaging Game Six or a Stanley Cup-clinching Game Six.  Either way, the Caps own the day.

Hey- it’s finally good to get some games in after the Nationals played just three the week before thanks to the schedule and rainouts.  It’s also nice for the Nats to play well–and they won five of six to inch closer to the top of the NL East standings (pesky Atlanta continues to win–what gives?).  On Memorial Day the Nats may be in third place but are only one game behind the Braves.  Buckle up for a scintillating summer.

Dissecting the Division- the Braves (30-21) lost consecutive series to Philadelphia and Boston, but looking closer one sees they’ve played very well against the NL East (20-11).  The Phillies are a half game off the lead and one half game better than the Nats–thanks in part to their 8-4 mark in one-run games and 4-1 record in extra-inning affairs.  The Mets are 8-15 this month and are treading water at the .500 mark.  The Marlins are an embarassment and Derek Jeter should be ashamed of himself.

Wildcard Worries- the Nats may currently hold the second wildcard spot, but there is a lot more competition in the NL amongst non-division winners.  Seven clubs at .500 or better competing for two spots…as opposed to just four in the AL.  We’re only a third of the way through the season, but still…

O’s Woes- after splitting a four-game set with the Chicago White Sox, the Birds dropped two of three to Tampa Bay.  They’re on a pace to lose 110 games and we’re still a month away from wondering on a daily basis if Manny Machado and Adam Jones will get moved for prospects.  Manager Buck Showalter is also wearing a Capitals jersey and “rocking the Red”.  Hey–Buck…the team in the Stanley Cup Final, while appreciative, might not need the mojo of a team with a .321 winning percentage.  Watch them take two of three from the Nats this week.

Last Week’s Heroes- Mark Reynolds hit .500 with three home runs.  Anthony Rendon batted .385.  Sean Doolittle notched a win and two saves in relief.  But the week belonged to 19-year old prime prospect Juan Soto, who homered in his Major League Debut on Monday before drawing three walks on Tuesday (his ninth inning leadoff BB led to the game-winning run).  It’s just one week, but wow.

Last Week’s Humbled- Max Scherzer had a rare rough outing, allowing four runs over six innings.  Baseball Karma gave him the win, though, perhaps to make up for the no-decision he was tagged with in his previous start when he struck out 13.  Scherzer is now 8-1 with an ERA of 2.13 and an NL-best 108 strikeouts.  How is this humbling? “You use that word–perhaps it does not mean what you think it does…”

Game to Watch- the Nationals visit Atlanta this upcoming weekend for four games in a series that could be seismic to the standings.  Friday Stephen Strasburg (6-4, 3.13 ERA) pitches against Mark Foltynewicz (4-3, 2.55).  Bring it on…

Game to Miss- Apologies to Max Scherzer. Because I know he’s going to do something awesome in the series finale against the Orioles.  But the Capitals are playing Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Vegas…and “The Americans” wraps up its six-year journey of bad wigs, dead drops gone wrong and 80’s fashion.

After today the Nationals will no longer have the fail-safe phrase at their disposal.  Nothing writes off inefficient offense or porous pitching better than “it’s only April”.  Even though these games count in the standings as much as the games in August and September.  And while one shouldn’t panic at 7-9…one should have cause for concern at 12-16.  They rank a middling 17th in runs scored…and although one can explain that by realizing they’re still missing arguably three of their best four hitters (Eaton-Murphy-Rendon), the regression of Ryan Zimmerman (.191 with 13 RBI in 27 games) isn’t going away.  The bullpen’s ERA of 4.91 is 25th best and has been healthy for the most part.  May means matchups with contenders like Arizona, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers plus surprising Philadelphia.  It’s only April for just one more day…

Dissecting the Division- the New York Mets remain the problem that won’t go away atop the standings after going 3-3 on their road trip.  Yoenis Cespedes ranks second in the NL with 25 RBI while Asdrubal Cabrera’s .340 batting average is one point behind St. Louis’ Tommy Pham.  That’s a good duo to build your lineup around.  Atlanta and Philadelphia are both 1.5 games back;  the Braves rank second in the majors with 151 runs while the Phillies’ 16 quality starts is tied for sixth most in the bigs.  The Nats are 3-3 against the Braves and 2-4 against the Mets this year;  they play Philadelphia for the first time this Friday.

O’s Woes- the Orioles won a series for the first time in three weeks by taking two of three from Detroit.  Anything to stop the profuse bleeding.  There are still fundamental problems facing this fifth place club, from combustible starting pitching (their 5.34 ERA is third-worst in MLB) to underwhelming offense (26th in runs scored, 27th in batting average and 29th in on base percentage).  Will their west coast road trip represent a different direction or a disaster?

Last Week’s Heroes-  Max Scherzer struck out 10 and helped end a Nats losing streak.  We’ll overlook how he’s no longer hitting over .300 for the moment.  Sean Doolittle tossed three scoreless innings.  Andrew Stevenson hit .500 with 5 RBI while Howie Kendrick batted .450 with 2 homers…justifying a move to the #4 spot in the order.

Last Week’s Humbled- Moises Sierra hit .154 with 6 strikeouts while Pedro Severino hit .167.  Stephen Strasburg allowed 5 earned runs in 6.1 innings of work.  Manager Davey Martinez’ strategy and tactics have drawn concern.

Game to Watch- Sunday Max Scherzer pitches against Philadelphia in the series finale against the guy many wanted the Nats to sign-Jake Arrieta (who happens to be 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA).  What could have been…

Game to Miss- Saturday Tanner Roark and Vince Velasquez is your mound matchup…while at Capital One Arena the Caps will be hosting Pittsburgh.  Virginia Gold Cup rages as well.  Oh, and there’s also that Kentucky Derby thing…