Archives for posts with tag: Mets

Out of the pool, kids!  The midsummer hiatus has the Nats atop the NL East with plenty of causes for confidence and concern.  By splitting their series with Atlanta, Bryce Harper and company enter the hiatus nine and a half games ahead of the pack.  They’ve been playing tag with the “16 games over .500 mark” since June 5th…and likely have their fourth busy October in six years on the horizon.  Who wants to trade a reliever?

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead Atlanta by nine and a half games…while Miami and the New York Mets are both double digits off the pace and Philadelphia owns the worst record in the majors.  All four teams bring negative run differentials to the table…and while the Phillies (29th in scoring and 21st in ERA) seem incapable of a second-half run (they’d need to finish 60-15 to catch a Nats team going .500 the rest of the way) it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see the Braves, Mets or Marlins making a move.  Stop laughing.   Atlanta now has Freddie Freeman back in the lineup;  he’ll boost an offense ranking 23rd in slugging while a rotation that has the fifth most quality starts in the majors (Nats are #1) becomes all the more important in the dog days of summer.  The Marlins boast the 4th best batting average in MLB while their pitchers allow the 9th lowest batting average in the bigs.  Unfortunately Miami’s rotation is one of the worst in the bigs (fewest quality starts).  The Mets?  They can’t stop anybody from scoring (28th in ERA, 27th in batting average and 21st in quality starts).  Barring a major collapse by the Nats, the NL East is theirs whether they want it or not.

O’s Woes- the Birds enter the break winners of two straight but still four games under .500.  But they own the fifth worst run differential in the majors and have the worst ERA in the bigs.  How soon will General Manager Dan Duquette enter “sell” mode?  July 31st is less than three weeks away.

Last Week’s Heroes- Wilmer Difo hit .571 with an OPS OF 1.310…while Daniel Murphy hit .435 with 9 RBI.  Joe Blanton and Blake Treinen pitched in a combined seven games and did not allow a run.  Who are those guys?

Last Week’s Humbled- Adam Lind hit .083 while catchers Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton combined to bat 3-for-19.  Stephen Strasburg had a short outing against Atlanta.  Relievers Oliver Perez and Sammy Solis both posted double-digit ERAs.  Now that’s the bullpen I’ve grown accustomed to…

Game to Watch-  Friday the Nats return from the break at Cincinnati. Who’s ready for the ramping up to the trade deadline?

Game to Miss- Sunday they wrap up their series with the Reds.  I’ll be watching Wimbledon. 

 

 

 

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…

 

 

There are four major steps to winning a World Series (actually a fifth if you take the wildcard route, but why bog ourselves down further?)…and winning the division is perhaps the most arduous.  I’m not saying that winning 3 of 5 or 4 of 7 games against a top-flight ballclub isn’t a challenge; nor is prevailing in a winner-take-all one game wildcard showdown (I thought we weren’t going there).  But to be the best team over 162 games with all its ebbs, flows, peaks, valleys, and sideways lurches takes a certain grit.  The 2012 and 2014 Nationals had that grit…and so does the current edition.  Bring on the playoffs…as they begin the mopping-up segment of the season.

Playoff Possibilities, Senior Circuit- the Nats will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Divisional Series as the Chicago Cubs already have home field locked up.  They lead LA by a game and a half for home field in that series.  The Cubs will play the wildcard winner…currently the New York Mets lead San Francisco by one game for home field for that game, while St Louis is one half game behind the Giants.  Should the three teams tie for the two playoff spots there would be a musical chair situation that would have either the Cardinals or Mets hosting the first game with the other team getting to choose to host the second game or be on the road for game one.  The two winners would then meet for the wildcard. I’m going to need a nap.

Playoff Possibilities, AL Version- the Orioles had a chance to catch Boston for the AL East lead this past week but instead were swept at home by the Red Sox (going 2-8 at home to Boston this year).  They were bedeviled once again by David Ortiz (.333, 8 HR & 19 RBI this year vs BAL) and Mookie Betts (.408, 9 HR & 21 RBI).  If somehow the O’s face the Sox in the playoffs…a little hint: DO NOT PITCH TO EITHER OF THESE MEN.  Roll the ball to the plate if you need to.  The Orioles currently own the second wildcard spot in the AL, one and a half games behind Toronto in the race for home field and one and a half games ahead of Detroit in the race for not going home for the winter.  AL West champ Texas awaits the winner–although Boston could easily slip past the Rangers in the race for home field (they’re tied at 92-64, with TEX holding the tiebreaker of best intra-division record) advantage.  Cleveland’s magic number to win the Central is one.

Last Week’s Heroes- Wilson Ramos hit .409 while Danny Espinosa led the team in runs scored (4), homers (2) and RBI (6).  Tanner Roark despite being tagged with a loss allowed just one run over seven innings in his lone start of the week.

Last Week’s Humbled- the injury bug has turned into a major virus.  Bryce Harper’s thumb, Daniel Murphy’s leg and Stephen Strasburg’s elbow remain under the microscope. While many were already writing off the Nats pitcher for the postseason, they can ill afford to lose either one of their most productive bats for any stretch of October.

Game to Watch- Tuesday Max Scherzer pitches against the organization that drafted him.  The Nats ace’s pursuit of 20 wins remains alive… with there always being the chance of something special each time it’s his turn in the rotation.

Game to Miss- Miami comes to DC for the final weekend of the season…and rookie AJ Cole starts the series opener.  Just as a team assured of a playoff berth sets up its rotation and lineup for the postseason, you should set your viewing habits in rhythm.

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.

The final regular season benchmark is cleared this evening as Labor Day issues the end of white pants wearing for the 2016 season…and shuts down the pools.  Even though tomorrow is going to be even nicer outside.

The Nationals find themselves 8.5 games ahead of the hard-charging New York Mets after dropping two of three at Citi Field.  Will they supercharge their offense for the finishing kick?

Schedule Shakeout- over the final 26 games of the season, the Nats play 17 at home…and 20 against teams with losing records.  For clarification, the slumping Marlins (one game under .500) count towards that total while the 67-67 Pirates do not.  The Mets?  Of their 25 games remaining 22 are against clubs with losing marks…the exception being their upcoming trip to DC.  So the magic number of 18 may take a while to whittle down to single digits.

Playoff Positioning- “if the season ended today” can finally be used without strange looks from everybody.  The Nats would host the Los Angeles Dodgers (who get Clayton Kershaw back this week) in the Division Series while the Chicago Cubs would await the Wildcard winner of St Louis at San Francisco.

The Wild East- the AL East remains the most hotly contested division in baseball, with the New York Yankees still inexplicably hanging around.  Don’t they know it’s “2017 or bust!”?  The Orioles inch closer to Toronto after taking two of three from the Pinstripes…and are now three games behind the Blue Jays and two games behind Boston for the #1 Wildcard.  Two other teams are in the mix for the final playoff spot in the AL- Detroit is tied with the Birds at 72-64 while Houston is just two games back.  And then there are the Yankees 3.5 games off the pace.  Don’t they have to schedule a parade for Mark Teixeira or something?

Last Week’s Heroes- in a six-game stretch where the team scored just 15 runs, the pitching staff came up huge.  Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and A.J. Cole each won games while allowing a combined 6 runs over 32 innings pitched.  Gonzalez is especially hot having won 7 of his last 9 decisions.

Last Week’s Humbled- averaging 2.5 runs per game is no way to people confidence in your offense.  The bats also went 0-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday.  Daniel Murphy after using his former team like his personal piñata (.423 with 7 HR and 21 RBI in his first 13 games against them) went 3-11 with one run scored over the weekend.  They may finally be on to him…

Game to Watch- Wednesday Stephen Strasburg returns to the rotation… bringing his 15-4 mark to the mound in a matchup with Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz (8-5, 4.31 ERA).  Will we get the flamethrower that started the season 13-0, or the guy who lost 4 of his last 6 decisions?

Game to Miss- poor Gio Gonzalez.  The lefty pitches on the first Sunday of the NFL season… and against Philadelphia’s Adam Morgan (1-9, 6.21 ERA) no less.  No word if the Phillies will be bringing up minor league catcher Fog E. Botum for the game.

 

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.

Let’s get some housekeeping items out of the way this first day of August (and even though it’s not the end of summer, we can see the finish line from where we stand).  Monday’s “trading deadline” really isn’t the last day you can make deals;  after today’s 4pm deadline teams can still swap players but they have to do so through the waiver wire.  Making it tougher for contenders to make major moves.  Trades will still be made–just more of the stocking stuffer variety as opposed to that big box under the tree (I’m hoping it’s Intellivision).  Just like last year, the Nats have brought in bullpen hope from the state of Pennsylvania while deposing the guy who expected to be the closer all season.  Just like revenge is a dish best served cold, Deja Vu is a dish best served on recyclable plates.

Marc Melancon comes to DC having saved 30 games in 33 chances for Pittsburgh, posting a record of 1-1 and an ERA of 1.51…presumably moving Jonathan Papelbon to a setup role.  Papelbon arrived on South Capitol Street last year at this time with an ERA of 1.59 and 17 saves in 17 chances…nudging then-closer Drew Storen into the eighth inning.  We all know how that move ended:  one was witnessed exploding in the dugout while the other was seen imploding on the mound (2016 isn’t much better for Storen, who was traded by Toronto to Seattle with an era over six).  Melancon at 31 is three years younger than Papelbon was when he joined the Nats and is coming off an NL-best 51 save season with the Pirates.  He’s also pitched in higher stakes games a lot more over the last few seasons than Papelbon had during his stay in Philly (none of his five teams had winning records).  The Nats part with reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn (are we sure it wasn’t Taylor Jordan or Taylor Hill?) and at this moment it doesn’t look like the move will haunt them.  Yes, Aroldis Chapman would have been an A+ move while Andrew Miller would have been the B+ maneuver;  but Melancon appears to be a strong B and GM Mike Rizzo didn’t have to sell the farm to get him.  Famous last words…

Are the Nats now done as far as deadline deals are concerned?  They could use a bat as the team’s lineup appears to be a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.  There’s also always the chance they kick the tires on a starting pitcher or two as one of their spots in the rotation has turned into “audition prospect until Joe Ross gets healthy” time.  Will they risk cracking a few organizational eggs in order to secure one incredible 2016 playoff omelet?  And with Jay Bruce likely landing with the Mets is there newfound pressure to respond with a shot across the deadline bow?

Dissecting the Division- while the Mets are making moves, it’s Miami that is the team directly behind the Nationals- now four games out.  The Marlins are the only team in the division not to have a losing record over their last ten games and have the feel of last year’s Mets, only in a cut-rate version.  They also currently hold down the number two wildcard spot in the NL.  The defending division champs are 6.5 games out in the division and are 6-10 since the All Star Break…will their apparent trade for Jay Bruce yield the same results as last year’s swap for Yoenis Cespedes?  Philadelphia and Atlanta are in the final stages of their “Wheel of Fortune” sale.  “I’ll take the porcelein duck, Pat…”

Division to Digest- is there anything to one team sparking a region?  Some credit the Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams as the moment that jump-started a 14-year stretch resulting in three World Series titles plus NBA & NHL championships (not to mention three more SB wins).  Philadelphia had that run in 1980-81 where the Flyers, Sixers, Phillies and Eagles played in the championship game/rounds of their sports.  There are even though who credit the ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers of 1968 for ushering in the 1970’s where the Steelers and Pirates combined for six championships and 12 division titles.  Cleveland is now “Believeland”–and at least until the Browns begin the season 0-7 with RG3 on a stretcher this is a city of winners.  The Indians parted with everything but the re-scripting rights to “Major League” in trading for Yankee reliever Andrew Miller.  The Tribe currently owns the best record in the AL and is four and a half games clear of second-place Detroit in the Central.  The lineup (6th in the majors in runs scored) is led by 20-somethings Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin while veterans Mike Napoli (he’s there, now?) and Carlos Santana (cue “Black Magic Woman” riff) are both playing well. The pitching (5th best ERA in MLB) is grounded by the fact that each of Cleveland’s five starters have at least 10 quality starts thus far in 2016.  Believeland?  Wake me when they bring the Barons back to the NHL…

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner hit .381 with 3 stolen bases, 2 runs and 4 RBI while asserting himself as a leadoff option to consider moving forward (he’s hitting .306 batting 1st while the rest of the team is hitting .210 in that spot).  Anthony Rendon batted .364 with 6 RBI as the former #2 hitter is working his way back up the lineup card while quietly tying Daniel Murphy for the team lead in runs scored.  Tanner Roark not only went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, his .333 batting average was the third best on the team.  Is that really a good thing?

Last Week’s Humbled- Woe is centerfield for the Nats in 2016:  Ben Revere hit .150 last week while scoring just one run.  Michael A. Taylor is in Triple A Syracuse.  Bryce Harper endured a 2-for-21 week with 7 strikeouts.  Jonathan Papelbon posted an ERA of 81.00 in his last week as the team’s closer.  Daniel Murphy’s left leg tightness is robbing the team of their best hitter and most versatile fielder.  When applying sunscreen at the beach, I missed a spot that resembles the rectangular state of Wyoming on my back.  Red state, indeed.

Game to Watch- Sunday against San Francisco Stephen Strasburg (14-1, 2.68 ERA) squares off against Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.09 and the uncanny ability to belt homers) in the matchup we missed by the Bay because each pitched on the 27th.  This is one of those showdowns that should feel like October-or at least late September.

Game to Miss- Tuesday’s 9:40 gametime doesn’t do Tanner Roark’s fans any favors…and his opponent Robbie Ray (5-10, 4.70 ERA) appears to be an amalgamation of Robbie Rist (cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch) and Jimmy Ray (one-hit wonder from the 90’s who’s hit “Are You Jimmy Ray?” made listeners ask, “why would anyone want to be?”).  Take an early bedtime-especially with Strasburg pitching Monday and Scherzer on the hill Wednesday.  Who wants to know?