Archives for posts with tag: NL East

This year’s Washington Nationals have never made things easy for us.  The sluggish start that turned into a memorable May before fizzling out in a summer of discontent.  The constantly playing tag with the .500 mark when the window of opportunity still existed.  The frustrating lack of moves at the deadline.  The slow slide from contender to pretender status.  The shedding of talent in August.  A September that’s seen the team play just well enough to stay hanging by a thread in the NL East (7.5 games back) and Wildcard (8 games) races.  All that’s left for this team is experiencing the actual moment of elimination and the chasing of milestones.

Bryce Harper:  three runs away from reaching 100 for the first time since the MVP season, two doubles away from reaching 30, three RBI away from getting to the century mark for the first time in his career.

Trea Turner: three homers away from getting to 20 and eight runs away from reaching 100-both would be career highs.  He’s one double shy of last year’s career high 24 and is seven stolen bases away from equalling the 46 tallied in 2017.

Anthony Rendon: one double away from tying last year’s career high of 41.

Wilmer Difo: three triples away from 10…although the way he’s hitting in September (.237) I’m not holding  my breath.

Max Scherzer: 20 wins is out of the question, but he needs just seven strikeouts to tie his career high of 284.

Tanner Roark: despite the nightmare season he’s one win shy of reaching double-digits.  He’ll likely have two more starts.

Stephen Strasburg:  two wins away from 10…with three starts left in the season. It’d be a nice way to end a year interrupted by injury.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta leads Philadelphia by six and a half games with 13 games remaining for the Braves while the Phillies have 14 games left in their season.  The two teams tangle seven times over the final two weeks of the year, starting Thursday in Atlanta.  Meaning the division could be clinched by Sunday night.  The Nats have to hope for the Braves to bomb with the Phillies losing the bulk of the rest of their games–not an impossible order as we’ve seen both teams struggle lately.

Last Week’s Heroes- Juan Soto hit .393 with four homers and eight RBI…as the 19-year old passes his age with his 20th HR.  Spencer Kieboom hit his first two big league home runs.  Eric Fedde struck out nine over five and two-thirds innings.  Sean Doolittle tallied two saves and rode the bullpen cart.

Last Week’s Humbled- Max Scherzer’s drive for 20 wins ended when he allowed six runs over four innings against Atlanta…and prevented a potential sweep of the Braves that would put the Nats within seven games of the lead.  Sammy Solis and Jimmy Cordero cared 10+ ERA’s…again.  Adam Eaton hit .167 while Wilmer Difo batted .143.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats host the New York Mets as Max Scherzer battles Jacob deGrom in a showdown of the top two Cy Young contenders.  Scherzer is 17-7 with a league-high 277 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.53;  deGrom is 8-9 with 251 strikeouts and an MLB-best 1.78 ERA.

Game to Miss- Monday the Nats begin their series in Miami with Eric Fedde dueling Trevor Richards:  the duo are a combined 5-11 (not to good) on the season and each has an ERA that’s well over four.  Enjoy “Better Call Saul”…

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The Washington Nationals’ long September road isn’t even halfway complete, but this month already feels too long with rain delays, postponements, doubleheaders and makeup games.  What is certain is that the Nats remain on the cusp of contention…not being good enough to make a move and not being bad enough to fall out of the race just yet.  I’m already into the NFL and college football season.  But the games continue.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta owns a four and a half game lead over Philadelphia;  the Nats’ tragic number is now 12.  The Marlins were eliminated over the weekend despite being out of it since April, while the Mets have won seven of ten to remain alive-but just barely.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .438 with seven RBI and six runs scored, taking NL Player of the Week honors.  Anthony Rendon hit .370 while driving in five.  Max Scherzer struck out 22 over 16 innings and tossed a complete game last Saturday.

Last Week’s Humbled- Austen Williams, Sammy Solis and Jimmy Cordero each posted ERA’s over 10.  Juan Soto had a rough week during an otherwise sensational season, hitting .211 with eight strikeouts in 19 at bats.

Game to Watch- Friday Max Scherzer pitches against Kevin Gausman in Atlanta.  Max has been must-see TV anytime he goes to the mound.  That’s not going to change in the final month of the season.

Game to Miss- Wednesday Stephen Strasburg pitches, but the Washington Mystics will host their first-ever WNBA Finals game at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.  Can they climb out of a two games to none deficit?

The Washington Nationals remain on the outskirts of playoff contention after another week where we saw this team at it’s most thrilling (an 8-7 win over Philadelphia with Ryan Zimmerman belting a walk-off home run) and its most underwhelming (three straight shutout losses).  The Nats may have won the aggregate-run week, 33-19, but after another 3-3 showing still find themselves a game under .500.  And while they’re not out of the NL East race just yet, it’s going to take one remarkable September to revive the team’s sagging postseason hopes.  Another week, another slow boil.

Double-Dealing- the Nats made a pair of waiver-wire trades, sending Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs and dealing Matt Adams to St. Louis.  Murphy hit .329 over 342 games with the team and was arguably their best offensive player each of the last two years.  If not for a bad knee last fall and a glut that wouldn’t hold up in 2016,  Murphy could have won an MVP award.  Adams was second on the team in homers but had cooled off since the All Star break and was hitting .061 in August.  While Adams’ at-bats were dwindling with a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, Murphy’s absence gives Wilmer Difo the chance to prove he’s an everyday Major League second baseman.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta (73-57) dropped two of three over the weekend in Miami, keeping the Braves eight and a half games ahead of the Nats in the NL East.  They host red-hot Tampa Bay twice this week before facing the Chicago Cubs for one game.  Philadelphia (70-60) has lost five of their last six series (the other being a miniseries split with Boston) and while their next six games are at home, they’re against the Nats and the Chicago Cubs.  If the Braves and Phillies both finish 16-16 (not out of the realm of possibility), the Nationals would need to go 25-6 to take first.

Wildcard Watch-  the Nats currently trail five teams in the NL Wildcard race; and those clubs have created a little separation between themselves and the second group of clubs currently playing tag with the .500 mark.  On the bright side, the Nats have the second best run-differential among Wildcard contenders.  On the not so bright side, the Nats’ 13-21 record in one-run games is the worst among those teams.

O’s Woes- at 37-94 a 100-loss campaign is all but a certainty (some can dream of a 26-5 finish, but I won’t)-so now we move on to the all-time worst record in Baltimore: the 54-107 crater of 1988 that began with 21 straight losses.  To avoid that this team has to go 18-13.  One wonders what this winter will bring for Adam Jones, Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .304 with a team-high 5 RBI, while Adam Eaton led the regulars with a .381 batting average.  Juan Soto scored a team-high 6 runs…and kept a ninth inning rally alive with a two-out, two-strike double.  Ryan Zimmerman merely added to his legend with his 11th career walk-off home run.  Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez combined to allow 2 earned runs over 16 innings.  Max Scherzer struck out 10 over seven frames.  Stephen Strasburg is back from the disabled list.

Last Week’s Humbled- as a team the Nats were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position during their three game shutout streak (first time in franchise history since they were the Montreal Expos playing in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2004), leaving 18 on base.  They lost those three games by two, two and three runs.  In a race where they can’t afford to lose much more ground, those three losses (especially while getting solid pitching performances) were deadly.

Game to Watch- Tuesday Max Scherzer takes his 16-6 mark to the mound in Philadelphia to face 15-3 Aaron Nola–who outdueled Max just this past Thursday  Scherzer allowed a pair of hits but one was a two-run homer that was the difference.  Looking forward to the rematch.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats host Milwaukee…and it’s not the Brewers’ fault for not being a divisional foe.  Nor is it Jefry Rodriguez’ fault for not being a name-pitcher like Max, Stras, Gio or even Roark.  But September first is the first Saturday of the college football season (okay, there were games last week but really) and #23 Texas comes to FedEx Field to exact revenge against a Maryland team that had the gall to beat the Longhorns in Austin last year.  Fear the Hook’em…

The Wizards/Bullets and Capitals used to have a nice benefit of being a DC resident- their slow starts for years were often ignored because of the area’s obsession with all things Redskins.  We called it “Skinsanity” and it ruled the roost between August and December…meanding the Wiz and Caps didn’t have to really get their act together until Christmas.  Not so with the Nationals– who since the night the Capitals won the Stanley Cup are 26-38.  Not to diss the Valor, Spirit, Kastles or DC United, during the time the Nats have had the stage to themselves they’ve resembled a last-place team (.406 may be good for Ted Williams, but translates to 65-97).  A roster that includes multiple All Stars has been less than the sum of its parts…and the team continues to take on water.  When does the NFL season start?

Dissecting the Division- the Nats trail Atlanta by seven games for the NL East lead and are six and a half behind second-place Philadelphia.  While neither the Braves nor the Phillies are pulling away in a manner that should have a team playing tag with the .500 mark like the Nats overly concerned, it’s a slow boil and even though there are games to be played against both clubs the window of opportunity is sliding slowly.  The elimination number for both the division and the wildcard is 32.

O’s Woes- the Birds are just a week and a half removed from being eliminated from playoff contention…and now stare into the face of a 100-loss campaign.  The O’s need to finish 26-12 to do so…and that is so ridiculous one just wants to wonder what it will take to avoid the worst-ever season in Baltimore.  That’s a 55-107 record…meaning the Birds need an 18-20 finish.  Not impossible, but for a team that hasn’t been two games under .500 since April–not exactly attainable.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .379 with two homers and eight RBI.  Matt Wieters hit .368 with four RBI and Anthony Rendon batted .348 while scoring five runs. Max Scherzer struck out seven in his only start of the week while Tanner Roark won his fourth straight decision and helped the Nats avoid a sweep in St. Louis.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez went 0-2 with an ERA of 13.50…and has won just once since May.  Trevor Gott and Koda Glover post posted double-digit ERA’s last week, while Sammy Solis was charged with two runs and didn’t record an out.  Trea Turner hit .182 while Michael A. Taylor batted .125.

Game to Watch- I know that Stephen Strasburg is returning Wednesday night, but Thursday afternoon Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11 ERA) starts against the Phillies’ Ivan Nola (14-3, 2.24) in a series finale that could feature a revitalized Nats team or one that is looking to avoid getting swept at home.  Either way, he’ll be working on six days rest.  

Game to Miss- Friday Jefry Rodriguez pitches against the New York Mets as the Nats’ band-aid to a battered rotation.  It’s also the final Friday before Labor Day weekend:  do yourself a favor and enjoy one last sunset over the Key Bridge while enjoying a fried clams basket at Tony & Joe’s.  You’ll thank me…

On the surface the Nationals dropped four of seven to fellow playoff contenders Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs.  The way they got there is a microcosm of how frustrating this season has been for a team that appears to be less than the sum of its parts.  In three of the seven games the Nats’ bats produced six or more runs–and they won all three.  Three of those games were decided by two runs or fewer–and the Nats lost all three.  Including Sunday night’s come-from-ahead defeat at Wrigley Field.  While Ryan Madson hitting a pair of batters before giving up a grand slam was not ideal (especially with one of the base-runners reaching on an error), Friday’s loss was even more frustrating. Nine left on base after going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Jeremy Hellickson walking the bases loaded in the sixth to secure a shower despite having a no-hitter going.  Greg Holland walking in what would be the decisive run in the seventh.  And Juan Soto getting picked twice off of first base in a one-run game.  These are the Nationals- a team that is 11-20 in one-run games.  As they trail Atlanta and Philadelphia plus five other teams in the Wild Card race, the little things become big over the final 44 games.  Can the team that has been admittedly sloppy for four-plus months finally turn the corner? 

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta takes a half game lead after blasting Miami 9-1 Monday afternoon. The Braves and Philadelphia are both within striking distance of the Nats in the standings, but the five to six game cushion has existed for some time.  And the longer the cushion stays in place the quicker it hardens.

O’s Woes- well, at long last the Birds have been officially eliminated from AL East contention and are assured of a losing record.  Their chances at avoiding a 100-loss campaign are dwindling (they need a 28-15 finish) by the day and the worst mark in team history (54-107 from 1988) isn’t too far away (they need to finish 20-23 to avoid that distinction).

Last Week’s Heroes- Ryan Zimmerman captured NL Player of the Week honors after hitting .476 with three homers and 12 RBI. Matt Wieters hit .353 while Trea Turner batted .345.  Max Scherzer struck out 17 while walking a pair over 14 innings and the Nats also got solid starts from Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark.

Last Week’s Humbled- let the record show that the bullpen is shorthanded, but Matt Grace, Wander Suero and Ryan Madson each posted ERA’s over six.  Same case with Kelvin Herrera who’s on the disabled list.  Adam Eaton hit .200 with eight strikeouts and no walks while Juan Soto batted .182 and got picked off first base twice Friday in a one run game.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats begin a series with Miami, and while Max Scherzer takes to the mound in search for his 16th win of the year it’s also Hawaiian Shirt night at the ballpark.  Very, very tough to pass this one up.

Game to Miss- Saturday Tommy Milone pitches against Wei-Yin Chen in a duel of starters with ERA’s over five. Pool time is slowly but surely shrinking with Labor Day looming. Get a full day in the water if you can.

The Nationals entered the season as the team to beat in the NL East. But after posting losing records in April, June and July the Nats instead of being the pursued are the pursuers.  Yes, they still have 16 games remaining against Atlanta and Philadelphia but with every day a little bit of sand slips through the division hourglass.  They’re currently in a stretch of five games over three days thanks to the summer weather, and while the rotation appears to be finding itself Stephen Strasburg remains on the disabled list.  Like sands through the hourglass…

Let’s Make a Deal? Minimal movement at the non-waiver trading deadline for the Nationals who opted not to bring in a starting pitcher nor a catcher.  Instead they dealt middle reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs for a minor leaguer.  The challenge to a team that’s played under its abilities for four months:  bring it.  Since that vote of confidence they’ve gone 5-1, which given the fact they played a pair of last-place teams is what they needed to do to stay relevant in the race.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats begin the week five and a half games behind Philadelphia and five games behind Atlanta.  Everybody’s schedule ratchets up a little bit in August as the Phils face division-leading Boston and Arizona, the Braves battle Wildcard contenders Milwaukee and Colorado and the Nats play their next 11 games against clubs with winning records.  Miami has taken a one-game lead over the New York Mets for the East Division Cellar…with both team’s offenses offensive in the wrong way. The Marlins and Mets are tied for 26th in the Majors in runs scored–and at least Miami is consistent in that the team that Derek Jeter blew up ranks 26th in team ERA.

O’s Woes- how will the Dog Days affect the Birds?  So far they’re 2-3 this month…which at .400 is actually an improvement of their full body of work (gulp!-.304).  They’re four losses away from clinching a second straight losing record and the O’s “Tragic Number” is six.  The Wildcard elimination number is 16—and that’s with Oakland not losing games to Seattle.  Last week saw multiple deals at the deadline as the Birds are in rebuild mode.  The final July haul:  14 prospects plus a major leaguer for five guys either with expiring deals or not in the long-tearm plans of the club.  The watered down bunch needs to finish 29-21 to avoid a 100-loss campaign, a tough task for a team that had just 28 wins at the All Star break.  A much more reasonable 21-29 finish means they avoid the worst record in team history (1988).

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .476 with six runs and six RBI while Trea Turner tallied six stolen bases.  Max Scherzer struck out his customary 10 while Tanner Roark appears to have found himself, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA-which is impressive until you realize it took him less than a month to grow his hair and beard back after shaving in early July.  Those are mad skills.

Last Week’s Humbled- Shawn Kelley not only allowed a three-run homer in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 25-4 rout of the Mets, but the reliever slammed his glove on the mound and reportedly glared into the dugout.  Unfortunately for the Nats front office that was enough as they designated the right-hander for assignment the next day.  Kids, nothing good comes out of a tantrum.

Game to Watch- Tuesday night Max Scherzer brings his 15-5 mark to the mound in search for his sixth straight victory.  In a year with an injury-mangled lineup and a scrambled rotation, Scherzer has been the one constant-with the exception of his April loss in Atlanta the righthander has been spot-on.

Game to Miss- Tuesday afternoon Jefry Rodriguez makes his fourth Major League start against Atlanta’s Max Fried.  While the Braves’ starter’s name is pronounced “freed” he’s off to a “fried” 1-4 start in 2018.  Smart fans should nap by the pool to gear up for the evening affair.

So much for a sweep of the last-place Marlins.  And then so much for a series win over the cellar dwellers.  After dropping two of three to NL Wildcard-leading Milwaukee, the Nationals once again missed out on an opportunity to pull closer to floundering Philadelphia and eroding Atlanta.  Once again this club wins its blowouts but botches nailbiters:  they’re now 10-18 in one-run games, third-worst in the National League.  Instead of breathing down the Phillies’ necks the Nats are assured of a third sub-500 month (the 20-7 May looking more like an isolated incident).  And not only are they chasing the Phils and Braves, there are also five teams between the Nats and the final playoff spot in the NL.  It was expected they’d be buyers (especially with the pre-emptive move to bring Kelvin Herrera aboard), but could the preseason World Series favorites possibly be in the process of shedding salaries?  Relievers Ryan Madson and Herrera are in the final years of their contracts, as are Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy and-GULP-Bryce Harper.  Do the Nats dare try to get prospects/players for the Home Run Derby champ?  Tune in Tuesday at 4:15 to 103.5 FM in Washington.

Dissecting the Division- what’s frustrating about the Nats’ middling season has been the fact that the NL East is still theirs to win.  Neither Philadelphia (14-11 this month) nor Atlanta (9-13) are running away with this thing.  And both are under .500 since the All Star break.  Ten of the Nats’ 29 games next month will be against those two clubs…and one has the feeling that by this time in August we’ll know if they’re a contender or a pretender.

O’s Woes- back to back to back wins for the Birds?  Scoring 11+ runs in each game?  When did Don Buford and Boog Powell return to Camden Yards?  While there’s no more Zach Britton to not bring into extra innings at Toronto (sorry) nor Brad Brach to eat up late innings, there is Adam Jones who refused a trade.  As mentioned there’s also a three game winning streak, meaning the Orioles are over half way towards not posting a 100-loss campaign this year.  Can they go 31-25 the rest of the way?  They are 4-5 since the All Star break.  Compared to the rest of the season, they’re skyrocketing.

Hall Swing and a Miss- all eyes were on Cooperstown Sunday when Baseball’s Hall of Fame added six…and because there was a full plate of games it felt like an afterthought.  Unlike the Pro Football HOF–which inducts its new class in mid-summer and the Basketball HOF which adds its newest class the week after Labor Day, baseball honors its best in midseason.  Making one wonder why they don’t move the ceremony to the All Star Break…you know, when there are no other games going on and there’s a major news vacuum.

Last Week’s Heroes- Tanner Roark dug deep and struck out 11 over 8 innings to notch his first win since early June–one will be paying attention to see if this is something that will be sustained.  Max Scherzer merely struck out 11 while winning his MLB-best 14th of the season…while going 1-2 at the plate with a run scored.  Juan Soto led the team with 3 homers and 6 runs scored while Bryce Harper paced the club with 6 RBI.

Last Week’s Humbled- Mark Reynolds hit .077 (for the record Matt Reynolds got a hit in his lone at-bat last week).  Meanwhile, Wilmer Difo, Matt Wieters and Michael A. Taylor each hit under .200.  A lineup can survive one crater, but not three or four.  Jeremy Hellickson had a rough start Sunday, but even if he pitched well it’s rather difficult to allow fewer than the zero runs the Nats put on the board that day.

Game to Watch- Thursday Max Scherzer goes for his 15th win of the season by pitching against Cincinnati.  Remember the Reds and how woeful they looked opening weekend when the Nats blasted them to bits?  Since the end of May, the Reds are 28-21 while the Nationals are 19-30.

Game to Miss- Sunday Tanner Roark starts against the Reds in the series finale…but the Citi Open Tennis Finals are slated to start at 12:30 p.m. (weather permitting).  Not to mention the season four premiere of “Better Call Saul” in the evening.  Keep your sunroof closed–just in case.