Archives for posts with tag: Dodgers

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.

The word “denouement” is defined as “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved”.  After last Sunday’s clinching of the NL East, the Nats were due for a little denouement.  Instead of being hot on the Dodgers’ tail for home field in the National League, manager Dusty Baker’s team dropped the last two series of their homestand and almost assured themselves of the #2 seed (which they had last year).  Denoument!  The usually rock-solid rotation had one of its few subpar weeks, and one writes off the 2-4  thud as a throat-clearing.  Unless it continues…and when I say continues I mean for the next two weeks and into October.  Thirteen games to finish denoumenting (“you keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means”). 

 

Magic and Tragic Numbers- the Nats trail the Dodgers by six games for the best record in the league;  thus LA’s magic number is eight.  The Nats’ magic number to clinch at least the second-best mark in the NL is seven (Cubs are currently in the #3 spot as the NL Central leader).  Miami (eliminated from the NL East race eight days ago) is one loss or one Colorado win away from being officially out for October (and even if they win every game and the Rockies finish 0-12 Milwaukee is four wins away from bouncing the Marlins).

O’s Woes- let the record show that the Orioles have been very good against AL East foes this year:  10-6 against division-leading Boston and 33-26 overall entering last week.  But with three games against last-place Toronto and four games at the Wild Card contending New York Yankees, the Birds blew up.  Five losses in seven games almost eliminates the plucky bunch from the Charm City…as their “tragic number” is eight.  Blame a bad rotation for the 5-11 September…as Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson both own ERA’s at 9+ this month.  An 8-4 finish is needed to avoid the team’s first losing season since 2011.

If the Playoffs Began Today- the Nationals would have home field over the Chicago Cubs in one Divisional Series while the Dodgers would face the winner of Arizona-Colorado.  Cleveland (thanks to the 22-game winning streak) plays the Wild Card winner in the AL (Yankees-Minnesota) while Houston has home field advantage over Boston.

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .353 while Ryan Zimmerman added two homers and four RBI.  But the stage was set for Victor Robles:  the prime outfield prospect went 2-for-5, scoring twice while driving in a run.  Shades were necessary to watch this future.  Stephen Strasburg won his lone start, striking out eight.  The bullpen boasted several solid efforts:  multiple scoreless innings were thrown by Matt Grace, Ryan Madson, Austin Adams, Shawn Kelley, Sean Doolittle, Enny Romero and Matt Albers.

Last Week’s Humbled- for one of the first times all season, multiple starters experienced rough outings.  Edwin Jackson allowed seven runs over two and a third innings, while Max Scherzer (seven over six) and Gio Gonzalez (six over six) didn’t help their cases in the chase for lowest ERA in the NL (Clayton Kershaw still the leader at 2.12).  Howie Kendrick (.167) and Michael A. Taylor (.182) had off-weeks, while Matt Wieters (0-for-12) is hitting .042 this month.

Game to Watch- devoid of potential playoff previews and magnificent mound matchups, I’ve circled Saturday night’s duel at Citi Field against the New York Mets.  Stephen Strasburg since coming off the disabled list is 4-1 with and ERA of 0.66.  He has a decent chance to reach 200 strikeouts for the second time in his career and match his career high of 15 wins in a season.

Game to Miss- thank you Nationals for making things easy for me with the six-man rotation.  A.J. Cole pitches against the Mets Sunday afternoon, amidst a flurry of NFL action.  While the Redskins won’t be playing until Sunday night, we’re going to enjoy afternoon football instead of afterthought baseball.

The Nationals wrapped up a 5-3 homestand with back to back wins over Atlanta.  The weekend was also notable for the release of polarizing reliever Jonathan Papelbon a little over a year after they traded for the closer…and a little less than a eleven months after the reliever choked Bryce Harper in the dugout at Nats Park.  The 35-year old had saved 19 games but had the worst ERA (4.37) of his career while also having his highest WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) since his rookie season.  Clearly he is at the point of his career where he has the closer mindset…and taking a setup role with the trade for Mark Melancon was not going to work long-term for this team.  He’ll be remembered as a bad pickup that blew up in the Nats’ faces as they careened out of contention…despite the fact he saved 26 of 31 opportunities in DC.  General Manager Mike Rizzo can be thankful that this will be viewed as a blip on the radar of his building a contender…while the team now has one less excuse if they don’t win it all.  Not that there’s any pressure now…

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead in the NL East is now 8.5 games over Miami.  The Marlins’ hopes took a major hit over the weekend with Giancarlo Stanton’s groin injury- and now he’s done for 2016.  Even though he’s hitting a career-low .244, Stanton leads the team in homers and RBI.  The ARod to South Beach rumors are already percolating.  The New York Mets are 10.5 games back and are still in the Wildcard race…trailing St. Louis by 2.5 games.  But they’ve lost 12 of their last 18.  Philadelphia (14.5 GB) and Atlanta (26 GB) remain mildly entertaining sub-500 teams that remain in contention in name only.

The Wild, Wild, West- don’t the Dodgers know this is an even year?  LA trails San Francisco by one game (we won’t recognize the candidacies of Colorado, San Diego and Arizona) as the Giants have stumbled to a 9-18 mark since the All Star Break.  In Dave Roberts’ first season in the dugout, the Dodgers have cobbled together the 3rd best fielding team in the bigs while LA’s bullpen has the 2nd best ERA in the Majors.  The two teams tangle 9 times between now and the end of the season- with six of those nine taking place in Los Angeles.  Perhaps Vin Scully perhaps will get to call one final fantastic finish in this rivalry.

Last Week’s Heroes- Jayson Werth hits .333 while notching 2 HR and 5 RBI and scoring 5 runs.  Trea Turner and Ben Revere each score 7 runs and Anthony Rendon drives in 8.  Rookie Reynaldo Lopez scatters 5 hits over 7 innings to post his first Major League win.  Outfielder Brian Goodwin tallies his first ML hit and RBI.  Most importantly, Goodwin made sure that his mother received the ball from his first hit.

Last Week’s Humbled- Stephen Strasburg allowed 6 runs over 5.1 innings to Atlanta- coughing up homers to Jace Peterson and Freddie Freeman (who would go 5-9 with 4 walks against Nats pitching).  Gio Gonzalez staggered to 5+ innings en route to victory.  Danny Espinosa hit .133 with 5 strikeouts.  And the heat in the DC Metro area is beyond unbearable.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats are in Atlanta and under-the-radar Tanner Roark (13-6, 2.81 ERA) tries to win his 5th straight start.  He doesn’t have the presence of Scherzer or command the attention of Strasburg, but Roark has been money since Memorial Day (10-2 with an ERA of 2.90).  Julio Teheran (3-9 but owning an ERA of 2.81 as well) is slated to pitch for the Braves (according to ESPN.COM’s schedule).

Game to Miss- Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 4.24 ERA) matches up against Joel De La Cruz (0-5, 4.09) in the series finale.  It’s the final game before the four games in two cities battle of the Beltways with the Orioles…so if you’re going to clear your throat here is your prime chance.

I know the Nationals are currently on a west coast road trip.  But I can’t get their showdown with the Chicago Cubs out of my head.  Three games that had a distinct October feel.  Three hard-fought outings.  And one incredible finish Wednesday with Jayson Werth’s walkoff hit.  So why do we wake up this Monday with a series split in San Diego?  Momentum often doesn’t travel cross-country…and can vanish in an 8th inning barrage.  A west coast swing is where division leads go to die…and the Nats have six more games where they can ill afford to not be on point.

Digesting the Division- break up the Marlins!  Miami’s recent surge of 7 wins in 10 games has them moving into second place ahead of the Mets…and unlike early in the season all of their wins aren’t seemingly against Atlanta.  Miami trails the Nats by five and a half games…while the slumping New York Mets (losers of three straight and six of ten) slide six games off the pace.  David Wright also has neck surgery…bad news for an offense that ranks 28th in the Majors in runs scores (29th in games played this month).  Philadelphia?  It’s tough to imagine the Phillies were once in contention after six more losses in a row and defeats in nine of their last ten games.  They may just be chasing Atlanta for the division cellar–and the Braves are on a 14-18 surge since firing manager Fredi Gonzalez.  Surges are often subjective…

Division Discussion: Cleveland Rocks- congratulations to the Cavaliers for bringing home an NBA title…the first for the city since 1964 (yes, the Lake Erie Monsters won the AHL’s Calder Cup- but we’re talking major sports leagues here).  Could this spark a resurgence like the one we saw in Boston/New England from 2001-10 (7 titles with each team getting at least 1?)  Or even the Philadelphia Straight Flush of 1980-81 (Flyers, Sixers, Phils & Eagles each playing for titles)?  The Indians currently lead the AL Central by one half game over defending World Series champ Kansas City…thanks to a pitching staff that ranks 7th in the Majors in ERA.  The Royals are the only other team in the division with a winning record (although ex-Nat Jordan Zimmermann remains a bright spot for Detroit at 9-3 with an ERA of 3.24)…and it looks as though the shores of Lake Erie could be settling in for a fun summer.  Just don’t set the river on fire.

Last Week’s Heroes- Jayson Werth’s walkoff hit was only part of his contributions last week- he’s been a fantastic fit in the #2 spot in the batting order (hitting .301 while everyone else in that spot has combined to hit .263), last week scoring four runs while driving in two more.  His ability to get walks (four more) has provided additional traffic for the likes of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.  Shawn Kelley notched two saves after being pressed into the closer role for the injured Jonathan Papelbon.  Max Scherzer posted a 1.38 ERA over two starts–striking out 21 while not allowing a walk.  Max factor, indeed…

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman hit .167 with 11 strikeouts.  The Cubs after walking Bryce Harper last month to get to Zim walked Murphy this month to get to Zim.  Gio Gonzalez posted a 6.17 ERA over two starts and hasn’t won since May 18.  Felipe Rivero allowed 5 runs in the 8th inning Saturday night…wasting a gem tossed by Max Scherzer and setting up the stage for a series split in San Diego.

Game to Watch- Monday night Stephen Strasburg takes his 10-0 record to Dodger Stadium…and Los Angeles counters with 10-1 Clayton Kershaw (1.58 ERA by the way).  Despite Kershaw’s brilliance, LA trails San Francisco by six and a half games.  Needless to say, I won’t be watching TURN.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats meet Milwaukee in a battle between Gio Gonzalez (3-6, 4.25 ERA) and Chase Anderson (4-7, 5.13).  It’s another one of those 4:40pm starts where you hate to leave the pool because you know you can knock out at least one more chapter of that Eleanor of Aquitaine biography you’ve been struggling to finish.  Or the crossword.  Or the pool…

Memorial Day weekend is another guidepost of the season.  One that hopefully eliminates the phrase “well…it’s still early” from fans who refuse to recognize the mounting evidence piling up before their eyes.  Twenty games can be construed a snapshot– and while 51 games may not be the exact picture but it at least qualifies as the outline to eventually be colored in.

The Nationals are off to a 30-21 start…and their NL East lead withstood the nine game division gauntlet (they went 5-4 against the Mets and Miami in that stretch).  They’re still waiting for the bats to come alive:  the Nats rank 19th in the Majors in hitting, and 14th in scoring.  And the rotation has hit a couple of pot holes as of late.  But as opposed to last year’s team that was waiting for everyone to get healthy, this year’s crew feels as though it’s operating from a perspective of warranted confidence as opposed to misguided hope.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by one game.  That’s with Matt Harvey hemorrhaging (3-7, 6.08 ERA).  Philadelphia dropped 7 of 10 to slip three and a half games back…handcuffed by an offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the big leagues.  Miami is also 26-24 to start the season…with a rotation that features Jose Fernandez (7-2, 2.82 ERA) and four straight days of closing your eyes.  Yes, the Nats are far from perfect at this stage of the season-but the company they are competing with is far from unblemished.

Division to Watch- the more things change on the west coast, the more the NL West stays the same.  Yes, Arizona and Colorado have made World Series appearances this century and San Diego is a great place to visit–but those three teams are just the Emeralds and Hawks in the world of the Jets & Sharks.  This being an even calendar year, San Francisco has opened a four and a half game lead on LA in Vin Scully’s final season on the mic.  When you’re a Giant, you’re a Giant all the way…

Last Week’s Heroes-  Ryan Zimmerman hits .333 while slugging .704…leading the team in homers while tying for the lead in runs scored as well as runs driven in.  Batting fifth seems to agree with him.  Stephen Strasburg goes 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA while striking out 15 over 12.2 innings…but hats off to the Zeppo and Gummo of the rotation:  Tanner Roark and Joe Ross both pitched well in their respective starts.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez after a strong start to the season struggled last week…going 0-2 with an ERA of 12.10.  Batters hit .372 off the lefty.  After a surge the week before, Ben Revere hit .182.  Lost in the shuffle of the league-leading 48 walks, Bryce Harper’s hitting an early-season hiccup:  just .167 last week with no walks.

Game to Watch- Saturday in Cincinnati, Stephen Strasburg puts his 9-0 record on the line.  The Reds counter with Dan Straily, who’s off to a decent start (2-2, 2.98 ERA).  The 4:10 start time is perfect-as you can even get in time at the pool while still having time to do something in the evening.

Game to Miss- Sunday Tanner Roark pitches against John Moscot.  He’s 0-2 with an ERA of 4.02 and will be making his second start off the disabled list.  So there’s a chance he might get scratched before then.  The 1:10 gametime not only conflicts with paper and pool time but doesn’t jive with those who like to brunch.  We recommend Fiola Mare on the Georgetown waterfront (get the Uova in Camica).  Just make sure you wear your white pants.

Another week, another benchmark.  The All Star break finds the Nationals two games ahead of the pack in the NL East after the team took two of three against the Orioles (now there’s a team tumbling– with 10 losses in 13 games).  Seven of last year’s ten playoff teams were in postseason position during the All Star break of 2014…and this year the Nats can be comfortable knowing that they are the only team with a positive run differential in their division.  While two wins can’t completely erase going 0-2 against Cincinnati, it’s nice to enter the break off a winning series where your ace has returned to form.  But seriously, what is it with the Reds?  The Nats are 0-5 against the NL Central’s 4th place team.

Alan Alda Would Be Proud– four of the Nats projected eight starting position players this year are on the Disabled List, not including last year’s #1 pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  Ryan Zimmerman (on a pace for 100 RBI when he went down) has missed 31 games.  Jayson Werth (hitting .250 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in 12 May games after hitting .175 in April) began the season on the shelf, has missed 60 games overall and won’t return until early August.  Anthony Rendon didn’t play until June 4th and was just beginning to hit his stride (batting 8-15 over his last four games) when he went down three weeks later…meaning the guy who scored 111 runs last year has missed 69 games in 2015.  Denard Span also began the year on the DL–and back issues sent him back to sick bay last week…making him the most active of the bunch at 28 games missed.  Thus, the projected 1, 2, 3 and 5 hitters in the lineup have missed a combined 188 games…and we’ve only just passed the halfway mark.  But that’s not all:  Stephen Strasburg’s in his second stint on the shelf (5 starts missed) while the guy who led the team in victories last year (Doug Fister) has missed 5 or 6 starts (depending on your rotational math with off days in the mix).  Not to mention the absence of bullpen bulldog Craig Stammen (who led the team in relief innings pitched last year)…who’s been an afterthought since tax day.  The fact that this team is even in contention– let alone in first place– is an achievement for the bench, the manager and the organization.

Digesting the Division– the New York Mets begin this week two games behind the Nats…thanks to their sweep of Arizona.  The Mets regained their mojo against the NL West, taking 7 of 9 games over the last week and a half.  Atlanta’s now five games under .500 after losing five straight entering the midseason hiatus.  Can either team make a second half run?  The Mets pitching (3rd in MLB in ERA and quality starts) is betrayed by their bats (28th in runs scored, 29th in slugging and 30th in batting average–clearly they’re spending too much time working on their 26th ranked on base percentage)… while the Braves are lucky to be in the conversation (22nd in runs scored, 21st in ERA–so at least they’re somewhat consistent).  Miami and Philadelphia continue to provide punchlines.

Division to Watch– Sunday night Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco belted a walk-off single to give the Pirates a 6-5 win over St. Louis for the second straight night.  The previous night Andrew McCutchen ripped a walk-off homer in the 14th to give the Bucs the W.  While Pittsburgh may have momentum, they still trail the Cardinals for the best record in the NL Central as well as all of baseball.  They’re two of the three teams currently playing over .600 ball (Kansas City being the other).  Two playoff teams from 2014 to watch out for this summer.  Meanwhile, the third place Chicago Cubs would also make the playoffs if they began today and they possess the freshest new face in Kris Bryant as well as a manager in Joe Maddon who’s known for getting the most out of his club.  Even the also-rans merit mention:  as previously dwelled upon, fourth place Cincinnati is 5-0 against the Nationals this year and last place Milwaukee boasts Bob Uecker as their announcer (he got locked in the team’s radio booth earlier this year and had to be rescued by ladder).

Last Week’s Heroes– Danny Espinosa led the team with 2 HR and 4 RBI while continuing to play the role of defensive Swiss Army Knife (he’s played 5 of the 8 positions in the field so far this year).  Max Scherzer bounced back from his worst start of the season to toss 8.2 solid innings against the Orioles while Drew Storen tallied saves at Camden Yards on consecutive days.  While much was expected from Scherzer and Storen this year, Espinosa’s risen above even the most inflated of 2015 hopes.  Despite playing 26 fewer games, he’s already surpassed his 2014 totals in runs scored, doubles, homers, runs batted in and walks.  While Bryce Harper is the team’s MVP, Espinosa and Yunel Escobar have been just as essential in their own way.

Last Week’s Humbled– San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy for not adding Drew Storen to the All Star team after Max Scherzer pitched Sunday.  Storen is currently tied for second in the NL in saves…and while Kershaw does lead the majors in strikeouts the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher is 6-6 to start the season.  Storen boasts a sub-2 ERA and has been the backbone of a bullpen that is still finding itself.  In the All Star Game, pitchers only throw 1-2 innings anyways and with Zach Grienke already starting do the Dodgers want to burn another starter?  Maybe that’s the Giants skipper’s MO.

Game to Watch– starters are not announced yet, but if one gives Max Scherzer his normal rest he’s back on the hill Friday in DC against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Do they bring Greinke or Kershaw (providing he pitches Tuesday) on two days rest?  Or do we get one of the staff Zeppos?  Regardless… it’s the Dodgers on a Friday night.

Game to Miss–  Sunday afternoon instead of being focused on the series finale with LA (and potentially either Greinke or Kershaw), I’ll be focused on golf’s British Open.  Spieth shooting for history and the “Hogan Slam” 62 years after Ben won back-to-back-to-back majors.  Is there a better place for a new generation’s Jordan to try to fly than St. Andrews?