Game #124 EJax is trying to build on his recent success for the #Nats

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Winning this series against the Houston Astros has some bragging rights for TBOTPB inhabitants along with some benefits in the standings and possible impact on home-field advantage in the World Series. Sure, that is putting the cart waaaay before the horse, but you heard it here first — just in case there was a tie-breaker scenario in a World Series match-up between these two teams, this series could matter.

The new CBA ended the All-Star game winning team receiving home-field advantage for their league, and now HFA goes to the team with the best regular season record. If the Nationals and Astros were to face each other in the World Series, and the teams finished with identical regular season records, say 97-65, then home-field advantage would then look next to head-to-head games which exists between these two teams. Statistically it is highly unlikely, but you never know. Actually for any of the post-season games, this is how you determine HFA:

Determining Home-Field Advantage in Two-Team Tiebreakers
1. Head-to-head winning percentage during the regular season.
2. Higher winning percentage in intradivision games.
3. Higher winning percentage in intraleague games.
4. Higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games.
5. Higher winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between the two tied clubs. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until the tie has been broken.

Tonight’s game features two veteran pitchers in Edwin Jackson for the Nationals and right-hander Mike Fiers for the Astros. Jackson is coming off of two strong back-to-back starts for the Nats where he improved his ERA to 2.92 with his new team. Fiers has had his ups and downs and lately it has been a downward trend losing 4 of his last 5 starts.

After last night’s back and forth game that went the Nationals’ way, this is the second of the three games in the only regular season series between these two teams which features the heavyweight bout tomorrow between former Cy Young pitcher Dallas Keuchel and the 2009 “can’t miss” phenom and All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg. As it turns out, Keuchel and Strasburg were in the same draft class, but Keuchel was chosen 220 players after the #1 pick which was Strasburg’s spot. Continue reading

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Matt Wieters powers the offense; “The Firm” gets it done!

Photo by Marideth Sandler for TalkNats

It wasn’t a pretty game, but in the end the Nats got it done in a nailbiter 4-3 win. The Nationals starter, Tanner Roark, didn’t have his “A” game but he grinded it out on 116 pitches lasting 5 2/3 innings giving up 3 runs of which 2 were earned and held the 4-3 lead he was given. That lead came on a 2-run home run by Matt Wieters.

The Nationals defense wasn’t exactly crisp as Tanner couldn’t handle a doubleplay ball that hit off of his leg and Wilmer Difo threw away a ball for a forceout for an error and in the 8th inning Difo had a hard grounder hit directly at his right foot but he didn’t get his glove down and a sure doubleplay ball became a single putting men on 1st and 2nd base with one out. Kintzler kept pounding the sinkers and after an intentional walk to load the bases got his doubleplay ball on Max Stassie that was bobbled by Anthony Rendon and then bobbled by Daniel Murphy but they turned it anyway on a slow running Stassie for a “hold” for Brandon Kintzler. Video is on this link. Continue reading

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Game #123 Nationals to face one of the best teams in the American League

Photo by Kevin Nibley for TalkNats

The good news is the Nationals will get to rest some regulars this week in the DH (designated hitter) role as they play in an American League series in Houston. There was a time back in June where the Astros and Nationals were ranked #1 and #2 in the power rankings, and these are still two of the best teams in baseball. This 3-game series between the Nationals and Astros won’t be a great indicator of their real teams since so many players on both sides are on the DL. Most notable are the absences of Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Lance McCullers, Jayson Werth, Evan Gattis, Max Scherzer, and Adam Eaton.  That is a lengthy list and there are more players missing like Brian McCann who is set to come back for the game on Thursday against the Nationals.

Both teams have clearly been hobbled by injuries, but the Astros will get back all of their key players by mid-September, and the Nationals should get everyone back with the notable exception of Adam Eaton unless a miracle happens.

In Spring Training, they faced each other a total of 7 times in games and as neighbors at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. There was fun talk about “what if” they were to face each other in the post-season which could only be possible if that was in the World Series. Yes, funny talk, but both teams will make it to the Division Series of their respective leagues and be two of the remaining “Elite 8” at that point and part of the “Final Four” in their leagues. What if, what if. Continue reading

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Split Squad line-up beats their “A” line-up in 6 of 9 games since Bryce Harper’s injury

Since Bryce Harper‘s injury almost 10-days ago, the Washington Nationals have a record of 6-and-3 against the Giants, Angels and Padres. Some of the line-ups have looked like a Spring Training concoction like this one against the Twins on a road trip to Ft. Myers:

Here is the line-up:

  1. Michael Taylor CF
  2. Anthony Rendon 3B
  3. Chris Heisey LF
  4. Clint Robinson 1B
  5. Matt Skole DH
  6. Stephen Drew SS
  7. Jose Lobaton C
  8. Brian Goodwin RF
  9. Corban Joseph 2B

This was the Syracuse Chiefs line-up from last night:

  1. Trea Turner SS
  2. Irving Falu 2B
  3. Jayson Werth LF
  4. Clint Robinson 1B
  5. Neftali Soto RF
  6. Matt Skole 3B
  7. Spencer Kieboom C
  8. Rafael Bautista CF
  9. Erick Fedde P

This line-up (below) was the actual line-up the Nationals used on Saturday against the San Diego Padres. Daniel Murphy and Matt Wieters got the day off.

The Nationals have had to dig so deep for players that they signed Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal on June 14th. De Aza had been out of organized baseball since he was released by the Oakland A’s in Spring Training. De Aza had actually signed a deal according to the Washington Post with Tijuana in the Mexican League before the Nationals came calling with a deal. We were kind of thinking they should have tried to coax Rick Ankiel out of retirement (joking). The Nationals have now played 13 different players in the outfield this season with the addition of De Aza. To put that into perspective would be to say they could fill all of the 3 outfield spots in 4 groups deep with 1 extra.

On Saturday, Dusty Baker only penciled in 2 opening day starters with Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. A coincidence, Rendon was the only projected starter who played in that game in Ft. Myers back in February with Michael Taylor and Jose Lobaton. Three other names on that spring training line-up have started for the Nationals this season like Chris Heisey, Stephen Drew and Brian Goodwin. Continue reading

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Syracuse Chiefs Game #128 features #Nats Trea Turner & Jayson Werth

The Washington Nationals technically do not have a game tonight, but a few of their key players will be the star attractions when the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs play near Philadelphia at 7:05 pm in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Both Trea Turner and Jayson Werth are on rehab assignments with the Chiefs in a game with starting pitcher Erick Fedde on the mound tonight. Expect Turner and Werth to play about have the game tonight as they work themselves back into form.

Honestly speaking, this lineup is not too different with Trea and Jayson from the lineup quality the Nats put together on Saturday when the only opening day regulars Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman started alongside Alejandro De Aza, Andrew Stevenson, Adrian Sanchez, Michael Taylor and Jose Lobaton of which three of those players were recent Syracuse Chiefs starters and the other two were Nats bench players in April.  Continue reading

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The #Nats bullpen goes from a weakness to a strength

Who knew there was a “Bullpen of the Week” award sponsored by The Hartford Insurance Company?  The Washington Nationals bullpen won their first ever award this past week. The bullpen award began last season as a recognition of bullpens then in May of 2016 they started awarding it based on an industry wide panel with Bill James as they created a calculation to give it a firm scoring system.

Here’s how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:

• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save

If you search on this link you will see past winners and also a familiar face on April 30th of 2016.

“The Firm” and their new Junior Partner (since July 21st) Matt Albers have been dominant in closing out 11 wins in that span with no blown leads or losses. It has been an incredible run, and with the absence of Ryan Madson, Dusty Baker has had to rely on Brandon Kintzler for the 8th inning “holds” with Sean Doolittle still finishing the games. Continue reading

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Gio pitches a gem lowering his ERA to 2.39; Nats win 3 of 4 in San Diego

First of all, Gio Gonzalez pitched a great game after a 32-pitch first inning that resulted in 1 unearned run. He took control after the first inning and went 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs lowering his ERA to 2.39 which is still 3rd in the Majors trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Gio’s teammate Max Scherzer. Unfortunately, Gio threw a season-high 121 pitches in this game, and that certainly raised some eyebrows when you are looking to ease up on your pitchers down the stretch with the large 14.0 game lead the Nationals hold in the NL East.

“[Gio Gonzalez] took one for the team,” Dusty Baker said. “We needed him to go as deep as he did. We were thinking about it around the fifth and the sixth, but we needed some innings.”

Clearly Matt Grace was unavailable due to his Friday night workload, and Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Albers all pitched late in the game on Saturday night and they all pitched on Friday night as well. Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle didn’t pitch on Friday or Saturday night which would have made Kintzler available for more than one inning if needed. Joe Blanton was the multi-inning pitcher ultimately, and Oliver Perez certainly was good for at least one inning as he has done for Dusty Baker this season.

“We couldn’t fill those innings,” Dusty Baker said as the reason he kept Gio Gonzalez in the game for so long.

But that statement sounded like Dusty Baker said that as if it was a fact. It just is not true. Continue reading

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Game #122 The Nationals final regular season game in California

You never know when you will return to southern California so you must make the most of every chance. The Nationals are playing with few regulars but finally have their 2009 chosen one back in a dominating Stephen Strasburg.

In time, the Nationals expect to get every key player back from the disabled list except for Joe Ross and nobody will throw in the white towel or white wristband on Adam Eaton who is working earnestly to return to play for his Washington Nationals in 2017. Continue reading

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Stephen Strasburg looked great even though he takes the 2 ER loss

One pitch was the difference in this game in a 3-1 Nats loss. Stephen Strasburg gave up a 2-run home run in the first inning to Solarte and that was really the only bad pitch on the outing by Stras. He went 6.0 innings striking out 8 batters while giving up only 4 hits and 1 walk and departed behind 2-to-1. Stras flashed 99 mph on the radar gun tonight and averaged 97.3 mph on his four-seamer. Stras threw almost an equal amount of fastballs to a combo of changeups/curveballs.

The game started off looking promising for the Nationals as they worked Travis Wood for 36 pitches in the 1st inning, but then Michael Taylor led-off the top of the 2nd inning seeing just one pitch for a quick out followed by De Aza and a quick at-bat by Jose Lobaton that seemed to right Travis Wood’s pitch count as he got through the second inning on only 9 pitches.

Continue reading

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Game #121 Stephen Strasburg the kid from San Diego!

Stephen Strasburg (top left) and Mike Leake (top, fourth from left) led the San Diego Sting into the 11-under nationals in 1999. Thomas Neal (top, second from left) and Brett Bochy (bottom left) are also professional ballplayers.
(Photo by Vicky Polk)

San Diego’s travel program had some incredible seasons in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s as the San Diego Sting produced not only All-Star Stephen Strasburg but also Mike Leake. The team included Thomas Neal and Brett Bochy who also were drafted. Strasburg was born in San Diego and grew up in the eastern suburb of Santee where he attended public school at West Hills High School. Strasburg wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and settled on playing for Tony Gwynn‘s San Diego State Aztecs. Strasburg was transformed physically and mentally at San Diego State into the best collegiate pitcher in the country, and the rest is history for the number 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Washington Nationals.

Today, Strasburg will stand on the mound in the city he calls home. He will have hundreds of family, former teammates from his youth, and other friends in attendance. Strasburg returns from right elbow impingement and a team-controlled slow road back to step on the mound. He made one rehab start 5 days ago with the High-A Potomac Nationals to get ready for this start where he threw 66 pitches in the game and 9 more afterwards in the bullpen.

This is the third game of this four game series between the Padres and Nationals in which the Nationals have taken the first two games with a pieced together lineup and pitching staff.

The Padres will start lefty Travis Wood today and he is 2-4 with a 6.46 ERA. Wood has dominated the Nats in the past except for Ryan Zimmerman. Continue reading

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