Archives for posts with tag: major league baseball

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Even though the Boston Red Sox have won three World Series this century, many of the Fenway Faithful still look for the dark clouds on sunny days.  Eighty-six years in the wilderness will do that to a fan base.  The generation that watched Ted Williams bat .200 in the 1946 World Series is mostly gone now, and those who knew in their heart of hearts that Yaz’s last best chance at the brass ring faded away the day he popped foul to Nettles in 1978 are beginning to diminish in number as well.  Today’s “Red Sox Nation Generation” of 25-54 year olds celebrates instead of curses the name Mookie.  For them the “Boston Massacre” refers to the Game Three loss in 2004 that preceded the greatest comeback in baseball playoff history.  But as always, the ghosts of Octobers past lurk in the Fenway Park shadows.

Yes, there are more than a few “Sullies From Southie” who will tell you how wicked awesome this year’s team is–108 wins thanks to the highest-scoring offense will do that.  But for every “Donnie from Dorchester” who basks in rally from being down 3-0 in the ALCS to the New York Yankees, there’s another who recalls the late-season collapse of 2011.  While Bill Buckner has been forgiven, the knowledge that baseball’s fickle momentum can turn on a dime is never forgotten.  So despite the best record in baseball, wiser heads are cautiously optimistic.  Or maybe optimistically cautious.  One can never tell these days.

The Sox may have the best record in the American League, but the AL’s top team in 2017-Cleveland-was bounced in the Division Series.  And twice in the last five years the squad with the best record was swept in the ALDS.  There’s also the case of “momentum”– a 15-11 September mark that saw this team lose four of six to the New York Yankees and two of three to Houston and Cleveland is far from ideal.  That’s 4-8 against the other three teams remaining on the AL side of the bracket.  While teams have bounced back from late-season fades before, the glass remains half-empty for Sox fans who still recall Bucky Dent taking Mike Torrez over the Wall in 1978.

A quick glance at the stat sheet will tell you that Boston led the Majors in batting average and runs scored–but look closer.  In September they ranked 13th in scoring.  Pitching?  How about 26th in team ERA over the last month.  From Chris Sale evolving from Cy Young Shoe-in to postseason non-factor (12 innings pitched over four starts) to David Price’s poor performance against ALDS foe New York (0-3 with a 10.34 ERA), it looks like we’re going to bank on Rick Porcello and his flammable 4.28 ERA.  That’s encouraging.

But Boston has the best outfield in the game today–led by likely AL MVP Mookie Betts who led the majors with a .346 batting average.  Slugger J.D. Martinez’s 130 RBI were the most in baseball…and shortstop Xander Bogaerts drove in over 100 runs.  Fellow middle infielder Brock Holt is getting hot at the right time, hitting .341 in September and making the absence of Dustin Pedroia somewhat tolerable.  Will the lineup find its groove in a postseason world where pitchers are flipped like blackjack dealers at a casino?

Yes, it’s the first year at the helm for manager Alex Cora.  But the Sox won it all in John Farrell’s first year and broke the curse during the initial season of Terry Francona (my records seem to be incomplete regarding the first years of Bobby Valentine and Butch Hobson).  Cora’s pushed every button correctly over the 162-game marathon…but can he make the right moves during the five (and hopefully seven and then another seven) game sprint?  Sully’s glass of Sam Adams Octoberfest is more than half-full…but very well may spill on the first sip.  Naturally I’m going to watch every pitch like it’s the end of the world.  It’s our nature in Red Sox Nation…

 

 

 

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What a difference a couple of weeks make.  The Nationals have won 13 of 15 to turn from April underachievers to May movers and shakers…highlighted by a four game sweep of Arizona on the road.  Somehow despite missing major pieces in the lineup the Nats are within a stone’s throw of first place in a continuing to deflate NL East.  Credit a starting rotation that is the second stingiest (2.91 ERA) in the big leagues…and just enough offense (7th in MLB this month) to put W’s on the board and keep this club in contention until in theory the big bats on the DL return to the lineup.

More Aches- add Ryan Zimmerman and a hurting oblique to the growing list of lumber in the land of limbo.  Four of the top six bats in the order (Eaton, Rendon, Murphy and now Zim) have been sat down this spring- with Eaton now on the 60-day disabled list and Murphy past the point of “as long as he’s back by May 1st” concern.  In addition, Brian Goodwin’s stay on the DL nears one month means that the team has been forced to go with Plan C…and sometimes D and E in LF.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta’s Monday matinée victory over the Chicago Cubs gave the Braves a game and a half lead in the NL East…as six wins in seven games keeps them ahead of the surging Phillies (four wins in five games) and Nationals.  The Braves’ bats (#1 in the MLB in average) and the Phillies’ rotation (2nd most quality starts in the majors) have those clubs ahead of the Nats (24-18) for the moment.  The Mets remain over .500, but just barely…

Break up the Birds- who are these people?  Back to back series wins for the Orioles have the team no longer saddled with the worst record in the majors.  Manny Machado is a major monster (.350, 13 HR & 38 RBI) while Jonathan Schoop is off the disabled list.  Unfortunately the nightmare season of Chris Tillman lands the former ace on the disabled list.  The 10.46 ERA this year may not be the largest sample size, but he’s 2-11 since the start of last year.

Last Week’s Heroes- Matt Reynolds homered twice in Sunday’s win over Arizona, while Trea Turner scored 8 runs and Matt Adams drove in 7 runs.  Stephen Strasburg went 2-0 while Max Scherzer struck out 11 and allowed zero walks in his lone start (a victory).  Jeremy Hellickson posted a 0.77 ERA over two starts.  Sean Doolittle saved three games while tossing three scoreless innings.

Last Week’s Humbled- Michael A. Taylor hit .148 with 12 strikeouts (and no walks).  The early-season injuries are making life miserable for the training staff.  Hope they can go fishing on their off day this week.

Game to Watch- Wednesday Max Scherzer takes his 7-1 mark to the mound against C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees.  The Pinstripes are a big-league best 28-12 with four players already at 10+ home runs.  Max leads the majors in strikeouts and is fourth in ERA.  Even with FBI agent Stan Beeman finally realizing his neighbors are more than just “travel” agents, The Americans takes second place.

Game to Miss- the Washington Capitals are on a collision course with destiny…one that will result in me wearing a red suit for one day when they capture the Stanley Cup.  They took the first two games of their Eastern Conference Final with Tampa Bay on the road (and we won’t mention they did the same thing in the 2003 First Round only to lose in six games)…and host the Lightning Tuesday evening.  I’ll be there for WTOP– and even though the Gio Gonzalez-Masahiro Tanaka duel is compelling, the chance to watch the Caps take a 3-0 lead > regular season baseball in May.

 

Every car needs a jumpstart once in a while.  Last week Nats manager Davey Martinez with three strokes was able to give a banged-up batting order the needed juice to recover from its early season slumber.  Bryce Harper going to the leadoff spot made plenty of sense–as he’s walking more than once per game and almost forgot what a good pitch to hit looked like.  Matt Adams to Bryce’s #3 spot made sense as the veteran has been solid  this spring.  But Wilmer Difo to the 9th spot has created a little electricity at the bottom of the order.  Batting behind the pitcher but before Bryce, Difo’s been a difference maker and wrapped up the week with a walk-off single that helped the Nats win their series with Philadelphia.  There will be more moves (Rendon taking over the #3 spot now that he’s off the DL) regarding this lineup–but in a division that is suddenly coming back to .500, a little juice might be all they need to retake the lead by Memorial Day.

Healthy and Hitting- Anthony Rendon not only returned to the lineup…but the third baseman delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning Sunday that began the rally.  The Nats are still missing Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy…and now that it’s May one wonders when the two will return and how effective they’ll be.

Dissecting the Division- don’t look now, but the New York Mets are in free-fall with eight losses in their last ten games.   Atlanta now leads the NL East with a 19-14 mark (despite getting swept at home by San Francisco) thanks to the #3 offense in the majors led by Nick Markakis (.344 with 6 HR and 25 RBI- on pace for his best season since 2008).  Philadelphia at 18-15 are in second while the Mets are in third at 17-15.  The Nats (18-17)after seven wins in eight games have moved within two of the lead.  They may be in fourth, but the rest of the division is chasing the Nats right now.

O’s Woes- wow.  Yeah.  Did anyone see an 0-6 roadtrip happening with the Birds getting outscored 35-17?  At 8-26 they’re not only 17 games out of first place but also tied for the worst record in the majors.  Manny Machado is having a decent season  (.346 with 9 HR and 27 RBI)–and the watch begins on when or if they send their best player packing for a bunch of prospects.  Right now they’re on pace to lose more than 120 games–and while teams always regress (or progress) to the mean, one wonders if this is the end of the current management structure and core on the field nucleus.  For those scoring at home, the Orioles need to finish 55-73 to avoid a 100-loss campaign…almost double their current winning percentage.

Last Week’s Heroes- Wilmer Difo hit .524 with 2 HR and 5 RBI…culminating in the game-winning hit Sunday.  Matt Adams batted .360 with 5 homers…and Bryce Harper went deep 4 times last week.  Max Scherzer was masterful in his 15-strikeout performance on Sunday–and had 8 in his other start.  Sean Doolittle notched a win and a save while Gio Gonzalez tossed 5 scoreless innings in the series opener with Philly.

Last Week’s Humbled- Trevor Gott coughed up 3 earned runs while getting one out Friday against the Phillies–and twisted his ankle in the process.  Michael A. Taylor hit .087 while Ryan Zimmerman has yet to eclipse the .200 mark for the season and missed two games over the weekend with a “side” injury.  Nobody expected the veteran to duplicate last year’s career resurgence (.303 with 36 HR and 108 RBI) but nobody expected this sort of prolonged start from a guy whose bat figured to be relied upon early and often (especially with the injuries).

Game to Watch- Let’s be honest, every Max Scherzer start is must-watch.  This one more so because Friday night he’ll be facing the team that drafted him in Arizona…while squaring off against Zack Grienke.  The 2009 Cy Young winner may own an ERA of 4.10, but he’s 2-0 at home with a 1.85 ERA.  Did we mention the Diamondbacks lead the NL West?  I’ll be watching after my appearance on News Channel 8’s Sports Talk.

Game to Miss- Wednesday there may very well be a Game Seven at Capital One Arena between the Caps and Penguins.  If there isn’t, The Americans final season continues with the most clueless FBI Agent potentially finally realizing his neighbors in Falls Church are really KGB agents and not just Travel Agents.  So far this season has given us a pair of appearances by the Mail Robot as well as bad country music line dancing.  Sorry, Gio Gonzalez as you pitch against a San Diego team that’s 13-22.

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…

 

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.

Just like the janitor who masqueraded as “The Phantom” in that Scooby Doo mystery, the Nats were this close to scaring away the rest of the NL East from the warehouse (underneath the division was a diamond mine, believe it or not) area and selling off 2015.  Philadelphia?  The Fightin’ Phils became the Fire Sale Phils by jettisoning Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere.  Miami?  the Marlins have been playing for 2016 since May…although some think they’re actually playing for 2017.  Atlanta?  The Braves new world is now 11 games under .500 after getting swept by the Phillies.  All the Nats needed was for the Mets to revert to form after a surprising start. But just like kidnapping Daphne is no way to get rid of the Mystery Machine gang, the Nationals took a sluggish lineup and shaky bullpen into Queens last weekend and the ill-fitting Phantom mask came off.  Two walk-off losses and one rough hiccup by Jordan Zimmermann (3 HR allowed in 5 pitches) later, we have a virtual tie for first place in the NL East.  Matt Williams and company would have gotten away with the division, if it weren’t for those meddling Mets and their pitching.  Be ready for a scrappy final two months (nothing good happens when Scrappy is in the equation).

Dealing at the Deadline– the Nats were looking for a bridge to closer Drew Storen and couldn’t find a setup man for the right price.  Instead they made Storen the bridge and brought in Jonathan Papelbon.  The closer with crazy eyes had 17 saves for the Phillies in limited opportunities…but brings a stellar postseason record to DC.  As long as Storen is cool with being moved out of a role he’s earned for the third time in four years…and Doug Fister gets used to pitching with #33 on his back as opposed to #58.  I hope he got something cool from Papelbon to change numbers…

The Boys are Back in Town– one reason why the Nats stood pat on adding a bat before the deadline was the knowledge that they had multiple players coming off the disabled list.  Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth rejoined the Nats Tuesday in Miami.  While the duo is currently hitting .205 (9-44 with 2 walks and 14 strikeouts) since their return, one would imagine each would eventually find their pre-injury groove.  Now all they need is Span and Strasburg to return…

Dissecting the Division– the Mets after losing 18 of their last 21 home games to the Nats find themselves percentage points out of first place.  The team that won’t go away is staying in the conversation thanks to a pitching staff that ranks 3rd in the Majors in ERA and 1st in Quality Starts.  Now that they’ve added a big bat in Yoesnis Cespedes, watch out world!  This week the Mets head to the sunshine state for series against Miami and Tampa Bay.  The Marlins and Rays are both entering that “thank goodness for NFL Training Camps” mode to their seasons, as both are under .500 entering the dog days of summer.

Division of Rings– only one quartet out of the six in MLB can claim that every team has won the World Series…the AL Central.  Now, only one team (Chicago White Sox-2005) can boast a title in the last 20 years and Cleveland boasts the longest drought in the AL…but this has to be something to hang your hats on, right?  Kansas City (1985) owns the best record in the American League, and pulled off a few at the wire deals to bolster an already-strong roster (just imagine how many All-Stars they’d have now!).  Minnesota (1991) is in the middle of the Wildcard mix -owning a 1-game lead over the Orioles for the 2nd WC spot.  Detroit (1984), the White Sox (don’t forget 1917 either) and Cleveland (1948) are all on the outside looking in.  Watch Major League, boys and girls...

Last Week’s Heroes– Bryce Harper belted two homers in Miami Wednesday to take the NL lead with 29 round-trippers…while hitting .348 with a team-high 8 runs scored.  Anthony Rendon in his first full week off the DL batted .292 with 7 runs scored.  Max Scherzer provided another stellar start, scattering 3 hits while striking out 6 over 7 scoreless innings in a matinee against the Marlins.  In a world where starters rack up no-decisions with numbing regularity, Scherzer has 19 decisions in 21 starts.  That is what an Ace does…

Last Week’s Humbled– Wilson Ramos went hitless in 11 at-bats…and is batting .083 since the All Star Break with no walks and 13 strikeouts.  This from a guy who was hitting 4th and 5th for much of the first half of the season.  Ian Desmond also had a rough week (.130, one walk and 11 strikeouts) after hitting .478 the week before.  Thank goodness the Nats are healthy enough that these guys are hitting 6th and 7th… instead of 2nd and 4th.  Jordan Zimmermann went 0-2 last week…suffering a stretch Sunday where he allowed 3 homers over a 5 pitch span (the 4th pitch yielded a single).  Ouch…

Game to Watch– Max Scherzer pitches Tuesday against the team that drafted him…Arizona.  The Diamondbacks trot out Patrick Corbin, who won his last start while striking out 10 in the outing before that.  Get some popcorn…

Game to Miss– Saturday Doug Fister pitches against Colorado’s Yohan Flande.  While I was able to muster excitement for the Fister-Wistler duel, Fister-Flande just doesn’t carry the same mustard (the 29 year old is making his third start of the season after being a bullpen mainstay before the All Star Break).  Even the “58 meets 58” angle is lost thanks to Fister switching to #33.  It’s the final month before football season.  Enjoy a Saturday at Chateau O’Brien off Exit 18 on I-66.  Say hi to the best pourer in Northern Virginia, Irrational Marc (not to be confused with Winesnob Marc).

Talk about coming back with a bang.  The Nationals returned from the All Star break by facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in a duel of division leaders, and in a potential playoff preview (the two teams would face off in the NLDS if the regular season ended today) to boot.  But it was the visitors who hung two stellar starts on the Nats…as Clayton Kershaw (14 strikeouts over 8 scoreless innings) and Zach Greinke (11K’s over 8 shutout frames) mowed down the home team in the DC heat with a little heat of their own.  Not the way one wants to come off the midseason hiatus.  Especially with the second place New York Mets and wildcard leader Pittsburgh on the horizon.  The trip to Miami can’t come soon enough…

She Wears Short Skirts– Max Scherzer wasn’t pitching on the mound Friday, but he may be onto something when he jokingly tweeted that the ballpark amazingly had electrical issues in the first event following Taylor Swift’s concert.  I mean– what is the track record of this songstress?  “You Belong With Me” is the blueprint for passive-aggressively stealing another girl’s boyfriend.  And Swift’s reliance of singing about ex-boyfriends is akin to “Three’s Company” episodes being about misunderstandings– we get it.  Does this make Scherzer a hater?

Getting the Blues from Dodger Pitching– now that was a one-two punch.  Back to back uppercuts.  The one-two combo that many expected when the Nationals inked Max Scherzer.  Sadly Stephen Strasburg has yet to find the form that led the NL in strikeouts last year, but Jordan Zimmermann has posted a 1.92 ERA over his last five starts.  Will we see Scherzer and Zimmermann against Kershaw and Greinke during the August 10-12 series out west?

Digssecting the Division– the New York Mets after their 18-inning victory over St. Louis move within 2 games of the Nats.  The pesky fly that just won’t go away comes to DC this week for a three game series.  They couldn’t actually leave the district with the division lead, could they?  Many didn’t expect the Mets to be in the mix this late in the season.  Atlanta shifts from contender to pretender after losing 7 of their last 10…while Miami and Philadelphia look forward to the upcoming NFL season.  Knowing the recent fun the Dolphins and Eagles have provided, perhaps they shouldn’t.

Division to Watch– the Dodgers are the team to beat in the NL West…and second place San Francisco is the perfect foil.  There’s enough dislike between the longtime rivals to fuel any fire…and the combination of the Dodgers cruising to division last year only to see the Giants get hot in the postseason and take the World Series only turns things up a tiny bit.  The Giants have also taken 9 of 12 games against LA this year…with Madison Bumgarner not only getting the better of Clayton Kershaw twice but also homering off the reigning Cy Young winner.  It’s a shame they play only seven times between now and the end of the regular season.  Who cares if the rest of the West quintet is seriously off-key?

Last Week’s Hero– Yunel Escobar had the best OPS (1.154) of the regulars over the weekend…and the fact that he stepped into the leadoff position underscores his value.  Just like one wonders where the outfield would be minus Michael A. Taylor’s ability to patrol left and center this year, last winter’s pickup of Escobar has helped salvage what could have been a very rough season for the infield.

Last Week’s Humbled– Doug Fister won 16 games last season.  Unfortunately, he’s had one rough 2015.  Saturday Fister coughed up 4 runs over 5 innings…and he’s 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA over his last three starts.  In his last six outings, Fister’s allowed 4 or more runs four times.

Game to Watch– with the caveat that every Max Scherzer start is an automatic watch, I’m intrigued by Tuesday’s tilt with the New York Mets.  ESPN.COM has Joe Ross pitching for the Nationals against Jacob de Grom (9-6, 2.14 ERA).  Ross’s improvement over his first three major league starts last month sets the bar high for this week…can the kid continue to deliver?

Game to Miss–  Thursday the Nats begin a four game series in Pittsburgh… and the least appealing pitching matchup has Doug Fister (3-5, 4.30 ERA) against Francisco Liriano (5-6, 2.98 ERA).  Perfect time to check out the bridges that span the three rivers…