Archives for posts with tag: Gio Gonzalez

Well…that was one interesting month of baseball.  Make that one ridiculous week.  Or perhaps just one scintillating Sunday?  What is going on?  One can write off the Colorado air for the 15 and 16-run explosions…but 23?  And all in the same week? One month into the season the Nats boast the best bats in the bigs…and are threatening to run away with the NL East.  Which is great, because we all know how Washington teams fare when they coast their way down the stretch.

Plan B in CF- the loss of Adam Eaton to a torn ACL for the season means Michael A. Taylor takes over in centerfield and Jayson Werth likely returns to the #2 spot in the batting order.  The Nats offense really took off in 2016 when Turner and Werth settled into the one and two spots…and there’s no reason to think it won’t be a solid engine again.  But what a shame for the Nationals to lose their sparkplug in Eaton.  The 28-year old ranked second on the team in walks, runs scored and steals while boasting the third-best on-base-percentage.  His clubhouse energy was contagious…and now the Nats will have to play the final 137 games of the 2017 regular season without last winter’s major acquisition.

Early Returns from the East- after one month the Nats lead the NL East by five games…and the other four teams are all under .500.  Philadelphia’s the only other team with a winning record against the East…and they’ve just lost three in a row.  The Phillies may have Cesar Hernandez (.323 with 20 runs scored) and Jeremy Hellickson (4-0 with an ERA of 1.80), but their lineup walks the 7th fewest times and the team’s ERA ranks 21st in the majors.  Add in four games with the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, they might not be in the best shape to face the Nats this weekend.

Last Week’s Heroes- Ryan Zimmerman hit .500, scoring 11 runs while notching 5 homers and 13 RBI.  Zim finished April with 11 home runs and 29 RBI…after a nightmare 2016 where he was held to 15 blasts and 46 runs batted in.  Trea Turner and Matt Wieters both hit over .400;  getting production from less-offensive positions like shortstop (Turner scored 13 runs while driving in 11) and catcher (Wieters belted 3 homers) are the little things that lift an offense.  Reliever Matt Albers went 1-0 while pitching 5.1 scoreless innings over 4 games…allowing 1 just one hit.

Last Week’s Humbled- in a week where EVERYBODY HIT, Jose Lobaton batted just .091 with 3 strikeouts. Joe Blanton’s April wraps up with three appearances and 6 earned runs over 2 innings.  Joe Ross posted an ERA of 10:38 over 2 starts.

Game to Watch- Wednesday Gio Gonzalez tries to top what’s been a stellar April (3-0, 1.62 ERA) by facing a team that he hasn’t beaten since 2011. In 2016, Gio had an April ERA of 1.42 before posting a May ERA of 5.23.  Arizona counters with former Nats draft pick Robbie Ray.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Kentucky Derby takes front and center.  Sadly, the Nats play Philadelphia at 7:05…with Joe Ross pitching against Aaron Nola (who may be scratched as he’s dealing with back issues and has missed two turns in the rotation).  Even if the Capitals get swept by Pittsburgh (they’d host a Game Five that would be played Saturday), if you’re going to skip a game against the Phillies…

 

Break up the Nationals!  Seven straight wins and a 6-0 start to their road trip give Dusty Baker’s team the best record in the big leagues.  And this is happening in the middle of a bullpen shuffle and a three-city, ten game journey.  While 18 games represents just one-ninth of the schedule, sweeping the Mets at Citi Field is a nice early statement.

Starting with the Closer/Closers- looks like the Blake Treinen era was brief:  last week Manager Dusty Baker announced that Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley would share the ninth-inning role.  While the duo answered the challenge over the weekend at the Mets, it’s a long way from late July and the trading deadline.  One thinks that once again the Nats will be in the market for a closer.

Dissecting the Division- the sweep puts the Nats three games in front of the pack…with Miami (10-8, 3 games back) and Philadelphia (9-9, 4 off the pace) giving chase.  The Mets aren’t just 8-11 but are -3 in run differential and 4-8 at home.  Granted, it’s only April.

Meanwhile in the Other East- the Orioles took two of three from Boston (despite some shenanigans) to stay atop the AL Quintet…with Trey Mancini making his case to stay and play every day.  The 25-year old leads the team in homers and RBI….while playing perfect defense in the field.  Before we begin a season-long tango with the Orioles and Red Sox, we have to notice the New York Yankees.  Their +30 run differential just happens to be the best in the major leagues and maybe this team is closer than a year away.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .550 with 10 runs scored while notching 3 homers and 7 RBI en route to taking NL Player of the Week honors.  He’s off to a better start than he was last April when he was the player of the month (when do they visit the Cubs?).   Ryan Zimmerman hit .500 with 10 RBI.  Last year the veteran had just one month where he drove in more than 12.  Max Scherzer tallied 16 strikeouts while going 2-0 and posting a 1.80 ERA.  Koda Glover saved two games over the weekend.

Last Week’s Humbled- Michael A. Taylor’s opportunities are few and far between…but to go 1-for-10 with four strikeouts over five games is not going to inspire confidence in the Nats’ brain trust.  Adam Eaton hitting .208 with an on-base percentage of .321 isn’t an issue- it’s doing that from the leadoff spot.  And after dealing with the spotlight of being the team’s closer, Blake Treinen meets a different spotlight as the ex-closer.

Game to Watch- Same teams, different weekend.  After sweeping the Mets at Citi Field, the Nats try to push their NL East rivals further back in the standings.  Max Scherzer allowed a pair of home runs in his most recent start while Jacob deGrom struck out ten Nationals the day before.  They’ll meet up this Friday at Nationals Park.  Break out the Rick Astley fan safety video.

Game to Miss- With Scherzer pitching Friday and Stephen Strasburg (after paternity leave) slated to start Sunday, Joe Ross matches up with Zack Wheeler and his 5.40 ERA.  Meanwhile, a certain hockey team in the district will be hosting a certain nemesis that night.  While Game One is Thursday, I want to see Gio Gonzalez and his 1.35 ERA at Coors Field in the late-afternoon air.  Plus, the Caps are 8-1 in Game Ones against Pittsburgh while just 3-6 in Game Twos against the Penguins.  Rock the Red…

 

 

Apologies for getting the weekly feature underway two weeks later than normal.  Who’s ready for a semi-informative and occasionally amusing look at the Nats from a guy who is at the ballpark more often than not?

The 7-5 start has given fans plenty of thrills (Daniel Murphy picking up from where he left off in 2016), chills (Bryce Harper screeching home from first on a double in Friday’s win over Philadelphia) and spills (a leaky bullpen that’s less than ideal). Welcome to the 162-step marathon that involves plenty of missteps in every direction.

Causes for Confidence- an offense that leads the majors in OPS, ranks second in batting average and seventh in runs scored.  The addition of Matt Wieters extends the lineup as many thought it would…and even with Wilmer Difo still finding his bat this team has the potential to bring buckets of runs to the table.

Causes for Concern- the bullpen ranks 25th in ERA and has the fifth most blown saves (3) in the early season.  There’s the thinking that this is just an early hiccup…while the other school of thought labels the subpar start as the beginning of a season-long problem.

Dissecting the Division- it’s never too early to freak out about the rest of the NL East.  The Nats are tied for first with Miami and the New York Mets are one-half game behind the leaders.  Two weeks into the season, the club owns the third best run differential (-2) as a 17-3 loss to Philadelphia will cook the numbers a little bit.  Nobody has cause to panic in April–unless you’re 2-10 Toronto.

Meanwhile in the Other East- how about those plucky Orioles?  Despite not having Fort Knox at their disposal like the Yankees and Red Sox, Buck Showalter’s team owns a half-game lead in the division with the best record in the bigs.  Even without Chris Tillman, the Birds are getting it done (although the pitching staff allows the second-highest batting average in the majors).  Now Zach Britton’s on the disabled list…and they still take three of four from the Blue Jays.  Break out the Old Bay…

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .391 with 2 HR and 8 RBI…and scored the game-winning run Friday night against the Phillies before smacking a walk-off homer Sunday.  This is the Bryce of 2015 that was a registered force of nature.  Chris Heisey makes the most of his opportunities, consistently delivering productive at-bats.  Gio Gonzalez tossed 14 and a third innings over two starts, posting an ERA of 1.88.  Shawn Kelley posted two wins in relief, striking out four over three and a third innings.

Last Week’s Humbled- Wilmer Difo is NOT Trea Turner.  Nobody expected the infielder to light up the league with the Nats’ leadoff man on the DL…but hitting .190 with six strikeouts and no walks is far from ideal.  Anthony Rendon hit .240 last week with four strikeouts…hopefully his RBI double last Friday is the start of a turnaround.   Joe Blanton pitched in three games and allowed a home run in each.

Game to Watch- Friday the defending NL East champs face the 2015 division winners for the first time this year.  Tanner Roark (2-0, 3.50 ERA) has a 12-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio and will pitch against a Jacob deGrom who’s coming off a 13-strikeout performance.

Game to Miss- Wednesday the novelty of the Braves’ new ballpark will be worn off…as no doubt Atlanta fans will be clamoring for a new venue.  It’s not Joe Ross’ fault he’s making his 2017 debut the same night the Capitals visit Toronto and the Wizards host Atlanta.  I’ll be curious to see how he fares, but one will be rocking a different red that night.

The NL East remains technically in doubt…but the Nationals in taking two of three from the New York Mets last week pushed the defending division champs to the precipice of playoff elimination.  The quirky crew from Queens can still qualify for the postseason as a wildcard, but barring a major collapse the Nats are en route to a third division title in five years.  That in conjunction with the current road trip means that several cases of champagne will be on hand as the team goes from Miami to Pittsburgh this week.  With the magic number standing at six…they could conceivably wrap it up in the sunshine state (the Marlins at 74-75 are already out of contention for the division) with a sweep plus a Mets implosion.  Most likely the spraying will occur this upcoming weekend in Pittsburgh.  Is there an Iron City Sparkling Wine?

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by eight games…and the defending division champs bounced back nicely from dropping two of three in DC to sweep Minnesota.  The hot bat on the ballclub belongs to Curtis Granderson…who despite hitting .208 this month is clubbing 6 homers and 13 RBI.  Ageless Bartolo Colon is 2-0 this month with a sub-2 ERA while Seth Lugo has won four straight starts.  Could the division still be up for grabs when the Nats come home next week?

Playoff Positioning- if the postseason began today, the Nats would have home field advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.  The Chicago Cubs would host the wildcard winner (New York Mets hosting San Francisco).  St. Louis is the only other NL team with a winning record; the Cardinals are one game behind the Giants and two games in back of the Mets.  The American League matchups would have the Orioles hosting Toronto in the Wildcard game with the winner facing Texas…while Cleveland would own home field advantage over Boston in the other Divisional Series.

No Scully Sightings- Sadly, Vin Scully will not be announcing any postseason games this fall-preferring to finish his Dodgers broadcasting career by the Bay in the regular season finale.  Interestingly enough, he was once a prime announcer for the NFL on CBS before losing the #1 job (and pairing with John Madden) to Pat Summerall in 1981.  Vin’s final football game?  The classic 1981 NFC Championship Game (Montana-to-Clark) at Candlestick Park.

The Wild Wildcard Race– while the Orioles can still win the AL East (they have four games with Boston this week), the Birds have plenty of company scraping for the final two playoff spots in the AL.  Toronto’s one game back…while Seattle and Detroit are two games behind the Blue Jays.  Houston remains in the mix one game behind the Mariners and Tigers while the New York Yankees getting swept by the Sox pushes the pinstripes to the precipice.  Defending World Series champ Kansas City is technically in contention…with a tragic number of nine.

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner bats .462 and scores 8 runs while notching 3 HR and 4 RBI.  Daniel Murphy makes his former team rue the day they let him go by getting a hit in all 19 games played against the New York Mets this year.  Tanner Roark ties a career high with his 15th win of the year…striking out 7 over 7 scoreless innings.  Max Scherzer wins his 17th while striking out 8 over 7 innings of work.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez lost for the first time since July…but for the second time in three starts the lefthander failed to reach the sixth inning.  Bryce Harper walked 7 times but went 1 for 17 at the plate.  Ryan Zimmerman (.211) is still searching for his swing while Danny Espinosa is hitting .120 in September.  Will the back end of the lineup be able to bounce back by October?

Game to Watch- Tuesday in Miami it’s matching 15-8’s.  Tanner Roark pitches against Jose Fernandez.  While this game won’t be for the division title, it’s the best mound matchup of the week.  And it falls on a non-football night.

Game to Miss- Sunday AJ Cole (1-2) squares off against Pittsburgh rookie Steven Brault (0-3).  Don’t be surprised if both bullpens get emptied as each manager maximizes his 40-man roster.

You never like it when you’re out and about and that one guy in your crew brings up the worst possible result when you’re having a good time.  And then his vision comes true.  Before the west coast swing (that involved Milwaukee, which is on the west shore of Lake Michigan- so there is some semblance of completion) manager Dusty Baker openly mentioned how dreadful a trip like this could be.  Really?  After taking two of three from the Cubs?  Fans chuckled-perhaps even compared him to Lou Holtz dreading Notre Dame-Navy games-as the Nats won their first two from San Diego.  Scherzer pitched well enough to win in the third game…and then the bottom dropped out.  A magnificent seven game losing streak where hitting was weak, pitching was porous, fielding was fickle and the ace had to be reshuffled to the bottom of the deck.  Thank goodness for Tanner Roark…

Adding Injury to Insult- Stephen Strasburg missed his Monday night showdown with Clayton Kershaw due to a strained back…and then six days later was placed on the disabled list.  In a month where pitching has been less than ideal (4.40 ERA), this was not a desired situation.  Avid eyes await his return…

Division Dissection- despite the recent slump, the Nats find themselves three games ahead of the New York Mets and Miami.  The Mets in signing Jose Reyes officially have hit the panic button regarding their inefficient offense-and they’ve been hitting it like a five-year old on an elevator.  The Marlins have won 7 of 10 and have become the “little engine that could” story of the early season…scraping to victories right and left.  Philadelphia and Atlanta remain on the outside looking in…while the Braves have quietly gone 17-21 after losing 28 of their first 39 games.  Traction…

Division to Digest- the Orioles’ five game winning streak gives them a bit of a cushion over Boston and Toronto.  The American League East boasts three of the top nine offenses in the majors while the O’s are the highest scoring team in June (the Blue Jays rank third).  The Orioles are getting this done thanks in part to the best offseason pickup in the AL- Mark Trumbo.  His 22 home runs has already matched his total from last year…and he looks to be on pace to surpass career highs in HR and RBI (34 & 100, set in 2013 while with the Los Angeles Angels).  They’re also winning thanks to a shut-down bullpen:  20-7 with a 2.91 ERA.  Very necessary when your starters are 25-23 with a 4.96 ERA (and that includes Chris Tillman’s 10-1 start). 

Last Week’s Heroes-  TANNER ROARK earns capital letters as he tossed seven strong innings Sunday to help snap the losing streak.  In two starts Roark was 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 2 walks.  He also shined at the plate-going 2-5 with 2 walks.  Danny Espinosa tied for the team lead in most home runs and led the club in RBI.  Even if they were 1 and 4, that’s still more than expected for a guy batting eighth.  Wilson Ramos hit .409 in what’s becoming a ho-hum solidly stellar season for the catcher.

Last Week’s Humbled- Michael A. Taylor hit .143 with 8 strikeouts and no walks while committing an error that brought home the deciding run in their last game with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Ben Revere as a leadoff hitter went .111 with just one walk.  While Gio Gonzalez endures another rough outing (6 earned runs in 3 innings pitched), Max Scherzer continues to cough up home runs (he now leads the National League with 20).  With Strasburg on the shelf, this can’t happen…

Game to Watch- Wednesday Max Scherzer pitches against the Mets’ Steven Matz (I’m already hearing the Seinfeld “salsa-seltzer” bit) in the series finale.  Metz in his last visit to DC struck out 7 over 8 scoreless innings…prompting manager Dusty Baker to name-drop John Matlack in the postgame press conference. Hopefully this series wrap-up will be more Seinfeld than MASH…

Game to Watch II- Tuesday the Nats face the Mets’ Matt Harvey…who has had issues early and often this season.  While he’s yet to win this month, Harvey does boast a 2.88 ERA in June.  Facing him is TBA…thanks to Strasburg’s absence.  Instead of trotting out Yusmeiro Petit (after he pitched well last Monday in a spot start against LA) or a AAA bandaid (Austin Voth is 4-3 with a 2.99 ERA, AJ Cole is 6-4 with an ERA OF 4.35, Paolo Espino is 4-7 but with an ERA of 3.31 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 67-15), it’s prime prospect Lucas Giolito.  I WILL NOT be re-watching the TURN season finale…

Game to Miss- Thursday the Nats exhale with a series opener against NL East cellar-dwelling Cincinnati.  Gio Gonzalez has lost six straight decisions while Brandon Finnegan has lost two consecutive starts.  I will be re-watching the TURN season finale…

These are the series this team would have lost last year.  Two thirds of their way through a nine game divisional gauntlet, the 2016 Nationals remain in front of the NL East pack after taking two of three from the Mets and two of three from the Marlins.  The load doesn’t lighten up with three more games against the Mets and four against a St. Louis team still smarting from a sweep earlier this year against the Nats.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by 1.5 games, the Phillies by 2, and Miami by 4.5 entering this week.  Atlanta decided that a 9-28 start was the perfect time to re-boot, and Fredi Gonzalez says goodbye two and a half years removed from a playoff appearance.  That and a dispersion of talent that would make Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman (before he fell for Julia Roberts) proud.  Since then, the Braves have won 3 of 6.  I’d joking say “Break up the Braves” but they still have the look of a once-good band that only has one remaining original member touring with them.

Division to Watch- just up I-95 the Preakness was run this past weekend at Pimlico.  But there’s another intriguing race involving Baltimore as the Orioles and Boston are tied for first in the AL East.  Fans of a certain age will recognize this Red Sox team…they lead the majors in runs scored but have a pitching staff filled with tires ready to blow at any moment.  We only need Bill Lee to come out of retirement to join the back end of the rotation to make it complete.

Last Week’s Heroes- remember in elementary school when a teacher would move two kids’ desks apart and their work would improve dramatically?  Manager Dusty Baker dropped Anthony Rendon from second to sixth in the order last week… and the third baseman responded by hitting .500 with 7 RBI.  The guy he was following in the order, Ben Revere, came out of his early season slumber by hitting .348 with 4 runs scored.  Hopefully Mr. Baker will keep Anthony and Ben’s desks apart during class but still let them sit together at lunch.

Last Week’s Humbled- Danny Espinosa (.158 with 9 strikeouts) remains a liability in the #8 spot.  With a lineup where the prime offensive positions (first base and left field) aren’t producing (27th and 26th in OPS respectively), you need every little bit from every spot at this time.  The shadow of Trea Turner in AAA Syracuse (.317 with 35 runs scored and 14 stolen bases) looms large.

Game to Watch- Saturday evening Gio Gonzalez pitches against St. Louis.  The lefthander is off to a 3-1 start with a 1.86 ERA…enjoying a career rebirth under new manager Dusty Baker.  The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright-who’s off to an atypical start in 2016 (4-3 but with an ERA of 5.92).  Can he shake his early-season struggles?

Game to Miss- Thursday Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70 ERA) pitches against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07).  Unfortunately on a staff where one pitcher (Scherzer) is tying major league records, another is still unbeaten (Strasburg), a third has cool hair to match his hot start (Gio) and a fourth is sneaky good (Tanner Roark), Joe Ross is the Gummo Marx.  Plus, after nine straight games against division foes, it’s okay if you catch up on TURN and The Americans that you’ve DVRd, TiVoed or simply recorded on Betamax.