Archives for posts with tag: MLB

It’s good to be in the NL East.  Instead of falling back in a hotly contested race after losing 4 of 6 on a road trip, the Nationals remain seven games ahead of Atlanta.  The bats that were so hot in April are hitting just .243 in May, yet the team still stands atop the majors in runs scored.  The bullpen resembles a poorly wrapped cigar (reliever’s ERA ranks 29th in the majors), yet the Nationals own the fourth best record and fifth best run differential in the game.  Sometimes hiccups are uncomfortable…but right now they aren’t deadly.

Concerns for Starters- four of the top five pitches per start in the NL belong to Nationals pitchers:  Tanner Roark is tops with Max Scherzer ranking second; Gio Gonzalzez is fourth while Stephen Strasburg is fifth.  Thank Jon Lester for breaking up the quartet.  If Koda Glover can keep up his consistency (four earned runs allowed in 13 innings over 15 appearances) and stay healthy (he’s already done a stint on the DL due to his hip)?  If he can make the ninth inning safe, that allows a lot of flexibility for manager Dusty Baker.

Last Week’s Heroes- Daniel Murphy hit .400 with 3 homers while leading the team in runs scored and RBI.  Stephen Strasburg went 2-0 with 14 strikeouts over 13.2 innings.  His 11-K performance against Atlanta not only ended a four game losing streak, but was his highest total since May 24th of last year.  Koda Glover as mentioned is closing well at the moment (one save over two games, allowing three hits over 2.1 innings).

Last Week’s Humbled- Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Trea Turner each hit under .200 for the week.  Tanner Roark allowed 7 runs over 5 innings in his lone start.  The team also made five errors over its three game series with the Pirates.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats host San Diego…with Stephen Strasburg facing his former hometown team.  Stras is coming off his best performance in almost one calendar year, and even though they no longer play the Rick Astley-inspired “fan behavior” video on Fridays, it’s cool to remember those times.

Game to Miss- Sunday the starter is “TBA”.  The opponent is the Padres.  It’s a 1:35 start (when it might be warm outside).  And it being Memorial Day Weekend, the pools are open and “The Dirty Dozen” is being broadcast somewhere on cable.  Cook up the hot dogs…

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…

 

 

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.

 

It’s finally here.  The Washington-Baltimore Parkway showdown.  Ben’s Chili Bowl vs. Old Bay.  Port City Optimal Wit vs. Natty Bo.  West Wing vs. The Wire.  Sonny vs. Johnny U.  You know the drill.  The upstart Nationals face the establishment Orioles (who rightfully still have more than a few fans on the left bank of the Potomac) in what just one week ago looked like it was going to be a duel of division leaders.  Bring on your area angst. 

The Nationals enter this week’s two-city, four-game showdown eight and a half games ahead of the pack in the NL East while the Orioles are staring up the standings at Boston and Toronto.  Two and a half games separate the three teams and with the Red Sox pitching taking personal days from time to time the order of the three teams could very well change by the end of this sentence.  Both the Blue Jays and Sox boast run differentials (TOR +95, BOS +116) far superior to the Orioles (+18).  With the Birds’ lack of solid starting pitching (26th in ERA and that is with Chris Tillman factored in) is it only a matter of time before they fade?

Comparing the two teams 123 games into the season, the Nats have actually scored more runs (600 to 579) than the O’s despite hitting .255 to the Birds’ .262.  Pitching shows more separation, with the Nationals ERA ranking 2nd for starters, relievers and overall.  The Orioles?  Twenty-sixth for starters, 6th for relievers and 21st overall.  Thank goodness for Orioles Magic.

Sayonara Saturn- while driving home from the Nationals’ 8-5 loss to Atlanta August 12th, my Saturn Ion suddenly lost the “hitch in its giddyup”.  After 13+ years and 240,000 miles the vehicle finally met its end on Fairfax Drive in Arlington.  Thankfully I was able to push the vehicle the necessary 3/10 of a mile with help from a few bros getting out of Ballston bars at the time.  Evidently the motor is a very important and crucial part of driving.  And unfortunately even if said motor was reconstructed the mechanic notified me, “Your car has a lot of other issues too.”  Akin to telling the heart patient that there isn’t just ventricle damage, but they’re missing one kidney and the liver is where one of their lungs should be.  Sadly my Moody Blues CD “To Our Children’s Children’s Children” remains stuck in the CD player.

Last Week’s Heroes- all Bryce Harper needed was five games off…the cleanup hitter cleaning up by hitting .407 with 2 HR and 10 RBI.  Anthony Rendon hit .370 while scoring 7 runs and driving in 3.  Ryan Zimmerman comes off the DL to go 4-8 with a home run.  Rookie Reynaldo Lopez posts the best start of the rotation by striking out 11 over 7 innings.  Mark Melancon tallies 3 saves in 3 opportunities.

Last Week’s Humbled-  Ben Revere hit .182 while Danny Espinosa hit .136 with 10 strikeouts.  Both present great defensive value but the lineup can’t simply give away outs.  With Zimmerman healthy and Daniel Murphy moving back to second base, Trea Turner (still a sparkplug atop the order) gets pushed to centerfield or shortstop.  Despite his error Sunday, Turner looks to be a centerfield fit for this season.  Stephen Strasburg had a rough hiccup last Wednesday, coughing up 9 earned runs over an inning and two thirds.  Do we view that as an isolated incident or part of a bigger picture this August (1-3, 10.19 ERA)?

Game to Watch- Thursday in DC the series finale pits Max Scherzer (13-7, 3.05 ERA) against Chris Tillman (15-5, 3.76).  While both have staggered as of late (Scherzer has a 6.97 ERA over his last two starts while Tillman over his last five outings is 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA), I’m thinking both revert to form on the big stage.

Game to Miss- after all of this inter-city angst, I’ll be exhaling Friday evening when Colorado comes to town. Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 4.30 ERA) pitches against Rockies rookie Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 13.50) who will be making his second career start.  Your perfect opportunity to enjoy one last summer Friday night at Tony & Joes on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Bounceback. Market correction.  Call it whatever you will, but the Nationals notched a key sweep over their NL East foe New York Mets to re-establish themselves after a rough road trip.  The sweep keeps the Mets at bay…and has the Nats in front as we reach another regular season marker.  Fourth of July brings morning baseball to the district and a chance of rain in the forecast.  Pay no mind-nothing but sunny skies on the fourth of July for the Nationals.

Injuries to the Rotation, or rotating the injuries?- Stephen Strasburg comes off the disabled list to toss six and two thirds innings of no-hit ball just as the team places Joe Ross on the DL with shoulder inflammation.  Meaning Lucas Giolito stays a little longer.

Division Dissection- the 6-1 week moves the Nats 17 games over .500 at 50-33.  The Mets after getting swept in DC sweep the best in the Majors Chicago Cubs…taking the finale  14-3.  Five games separate the two teams with Miami now six and a half off the pace.  Philadelphia and Atlanta remain on the outside, looking in.  Or at least pretending to look in.

Division to Digest- So the Cubs won’t clinch the NL Central by Independence Day, even though it looked like that might be the case when they started 39-16.  Even with their four game losing streak, Joe Maddon’s team still leads the division at 51-30.  St. Louis and Pittsburgh both were figured to be in the Wildcard chase this season, and that is exactly where they are–chasing.  The Cardinals recent roll puts them one game out while recent contender Pittsburgh reaches the .500 mark with a summer surge.  Both teams have enough recent regular season experience to give them an edge over newbies Miami or perennial underachievers LA in the race to reach the one game showdown.  Milwaukee and Cincinnati are your proper cellar-dwellers.

Last Week’s Heroes-  Danny Espinosa wraps up one incredible series against the Reds with his second grand slam in four days.  The shortstop hit .423 last week with 5 homers and 17 RBI.  Ben Revere hit .391 with 9 runs scored.the losing streak.   Lucas Giolito tossed four innings of one-hit ball in his major league debut.

Last Week’s Humbled- Michael A. Taylor has not had a fun 2016.  He’s struggled in the leadoff role (.206 in  136 of his 191 at bats).  Last week he went 0-8 with 2 strikeouts.  Joe Ross landed on the disabled list after allowing 8 runs on 11 and a third innings worth of work.

Game to Watch- Friday Stephen Strasburg (11-0, 2.71 ERA) pitches against the NY Mets Noah Syndergaard (9-3, 2.41 ERA).  Can Strasburg string together two solid starts coming off the disabled list?  And can the Nats repeat their performance last week against Syndergaard (5 runs in 3 innings)?

Game to Miss- Wednesday the Nats conclude their homestand by starting Tanner Roark against Milwaukee.  The 4:05 start will be the sixth straight day they’ve had a different start time…so you might just miss the game unintentionally.

 

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…

Something about the air in June.  Schools are getting out and the pools are open (although the water remains frigid).  After a May where the weather made one want to listen to “Baker Street”, June has us rocking to Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”- which after Memorial Day often begins on Thursday.  At noon.  The endless summer ahead has the Nats’ bats blowing up as well this month:  2nd in the majors in batting and runs scored.  The lineup that took a while to gel is finally finding itself and getting hot as the weather does likewise.  Break out the sunglasses and sunscreen.  

Digesting the Division- the sweep of Philadelphia gives the Nats a 39-24 record (tied for second best in the majors) and a four and a half game lead over the Mets.  New York is the only other NL East team not to have a losing record over its last ten games (5-5).  Their pitching alone (second in the majors in staff ERA) gives them sticking power throughout the summer months, while their bats (28th in runs scored) leave a lot to be desired.  The other three clubs?  Miami’s dropped two straight and 6 of 10, Philadelphia’s lost four straight and 7 of 10 and Atlanta just completed another 2-8 lurch.  Although let the record show that after taking 37 games to post nine victories under Fredi Gonzalez, they’ve only taken 25 games to notch 9 games under interim skipper Brian Snitker (who sounds like a minor character from the latter seasons of 90210).

Division to Watch- the team the Nats are tied with for the second best record in the bigs?  Your former Washington Senators, the Texas Rangers.  Ranking 7th in the majors in runs scored and 10th in ERA, the defending division champs are beginning to pull away.  Their five game lead over second place Seattle is the largest in the American League;  for comparison both fourth place teams in the AL East and Central are within six games of the leaders.  Houston, the Angels and Oakland are all under five hundred and resemble swimmers with anvils tied to their bellies.  While Nomar Mazara leads the club in hitting and home runs, it’s former National Ian Desmond who paces the Rangers with 42 RBI.  When Ian and the Nats parted ways it was a tough but necessary break…and there are many of those in and around the beltway happy for his safe landing.

Last Week’s Heroes- Jayson werth hit .500 with a homer and 8 RBI, jumpstarted Friday’s rally with a 2-run double and drove in the game-winning run Sunday.  He also had a sweet catch in left field Friday night to avoid more bleeding for what was a staggering Stephen Strasburg at that moment.  Danny Espinosa hit .429 with 3 HR. Prime pitching performances came in the form of Tanner Roark (7 strikeouts over 7 innings Saturday in the heat) and Max Scherzer (6 K in 7 scoreless against the White Sox Wednesday).  Some weeks you almost run out of gold stars and smiley faces.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos have been hitting 5th and 6th lately, with the two occasionally being flip-flopped.  Last week was not awesome for either:  Zim hit .111 while Ramos batted .176 in prime RBI spots.  Joe Ross (5.09 ERA in two no-decisions) had two rough outings after winning his two previous starts.  Felipe Rivero (allowing a 2-run HR Friday against the Phils) and Shawn Kelley (16.20 ERA in two appearances) were less than stellar over the last seven days.  Blame the heat.

Game to Watch- Wednesday it’s the series finale for the duel of division leaders:  Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Cubs against Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.36 ERA).  After getting broomed in the windy city earlier this month, will the Nats have the necessary answers this time in DC?  Can Strasburg continue his incredible start and turn his record up to 11-0?  And will Bryce Harper see a pitch within five feet of the strike zone?

Game to Miss- Sunday Gio Gonzalez (four straight losses) and the Nats wrap up a series in Milwaukee against Drew Pomeranz (one win in his last five starts).  As if that wasn’t inspirational enough, the 4:40 gametime also seriously conflicts with the final round of the US Open.  In the one major championship that Tiger Woods was never able to successfully defend, can Jordan Spieth win back to back titles?  On the five year anniversary of his tear through Congressional, will Rory McIlroy return to reclaim his crown?  Or will 2016 be the year we finally see Phil Mickelson celebrate a Father’s Day triumph?  Sorry, Gio…