Game #153 EJax is now playing for a contract next year

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

With the recent record of Edwin Jackson, it is almost a certainty that he won’t be part of the Nationals post-season roster which makes his appearance tonight and next week a chance to show other general managers that he is worth signing in the off-season when he becomes a free agent. Jackson has been with 12 MLB teams and the next one could tie him with Octavio Dotel’s all-time record of 13 different teams.

The Nationals got tucked into their beds in New York last night around 3:30 AM, and Dusty Baker has promised to play the youngsters tonight. In the outfield that is easy, but in the infield Dusty Baker is only carrying Wilmer Difo and Adrian Sanchez which means either Trea Turner will have to play or Anthony Rendon. Expect an outfield of Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson, and Rafael Bautista. Behind the plate will be a mystery guess between Pedro Severino, Raudy Read, and Jose Lobaton.

There are now 10 games remaining on the Nationals regular season schedule and tonight the Nats begin the first of a three game series against the New York Mets to finish their season series. The Nats have won the last 6 of their 7 games against the Mets in New York.

The scuffling Edwin Jackson has a good history against the Mets in 12 career games (7 starts), and he holds a 3.77 ERA which is his second best record versus any National League team.  At CitiField in particular, EJax’s career ERA is 3.00. 17 runs in his previous 3 games which was sadly only 11 1/3 innings total for an ERA of 12.71. Which Edwin Jackson will show up tonight and can he go deep in the game? Jackson last pitched exactly one week ago and only threw 55 pitches so his arm should be fresh. Continue reading

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What to Expect this Postseason from the Washington Nationals

(Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

Winning a single series (finally) is a must, but Nats fans should be setting their sights higher.

With 10 games to go and a seemingly insurmountable 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League’s top seed, the Nationals have little left to play for down the stretch. Yes, surpassing the Cleveland Indians (three losses back) or Houston Astros (one loss back) could be meaningful if they meet in the World Series, but that is far down the list of priorities when preparing for the post-season.

While keeping an eye on how hitters finish down the stretch, and setting the rotation for the NLDS, there isn’t (and you shouldn’t) put much on the results the final two weeks. Remaining healthy — and getting healthy (especially a certain flowy-haired right fielder) — should be the top request from everyone involved.

Predicting a playoff series is a fool’s errand — an entire 162 game season can be proved to be meaningless in a five game series — but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to read about how their team matches up and where they can gain an advantage. Nor does it mean I am against writing it.

While one can assume the Nationals’ first round opponent will be the Chicago Cubs, crazier things have happened. I’ll discuss the potential opposition throughout this piece, but I’ll stick with generalities for now as we forecast something which hasn’t been cemented.

The more certain task is to take a look at the Nationals, but therein lies issues of its own as right now — the status of one of their best players is still up in the air. One of the main points of this piece is to focus on how the team has been playing recently, but everyone knows if Harper was on the roster these past several weeks, the outcomes would have ended up differently. Continue reading

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This was one of those games that you just flip the page to tomorrow…#Nats

The Nationals lost 3-to-2 to the Braves, and it just was not a well played game by the 1st place Nats. Four hits with no walks by the offense and a costly pick-off gave the Nationals a net of just 2 baserunners since one of the Nationals hits was a home run by Ryan Zimmerman. The Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey baffled the Nats tonight and Tyler Flowers worked his magic framing up pitches to frustrate the Nationals all night long.

On top of that, the Nationals had 2 errors and a few balls were not defensed well. The net-net for Tanner Roark was 3 earned runs given up over 7 innings. Once again Roark gave up a first inning run but he wasn’t helped by his defense. Continue reading

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Game #152 Roark gets another chance against the Braves

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

Last week, Tanner Roark was working on a shutout until Braves rookie Ozzie Albies took him deep in the 6th inning for 2 earnies to ruin Roark’s shutout. Since the All-Star break, Roark got back on track with a much better 3.18 ERA bouncing back from that 8.31 ERA he had in June. The starts that were skipped before the All-Star break did the trick for Roark and now he looks ready to dominate in the post-season.

The one warning sign for Roark that should not be ignored is that he has struggled under heavy pitch loads and in the 6th inning and beyond his ERA is 5.46 and that Albies home run in the 6th inning is part of those issues. On the other side of the game, Roark has pitched to a 5.79 ERA in the 1st inning this season. In between, Roark has been lights out in the last 2 months pitching to a 1.82 ERA from innings two to five.

What we have seen in our scouting of Roark is that he sometimes doesn’t show his full repertoire of pitches in his first innings of work against the other teams best hitters, and the opposition has taken advantage too often. Some pitchers can get away with saving some of their pitches for later in the game. In the post-season, Roark should not holdback with his best pitches from the start of the game and should keeping going until he is pulled which could very well be after he completes 5 innings of shutout baseball and then he can hand the ball off to the bullpen. Continue reading

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Do you remember when the #Nats bullpen was the weakness and was made a strength?

Pitching coach Mike Maddux should be smiling. There was that time the Nationals bullpen was teetering near a 6.00 ERA this season and the doom and gloom ensued and now the Nats bullpen is statistically the best bullpen in the National League in the second half of the season. We were 3 games into the 2017 when the Nationals suffered their first blown save in the 9th inning. Now the Washington Nationals bullpen has been a strength for the team since the All-Star break.

The Nationals bullpen’s statistics can’t be erased from April, May, June and early July which will skew the current numbers that have the Nationals as the 22nd best bullpen in the Majors at a 4.47 ERA. The Nationals could end up near the 19th best bullpen ERA which is occupied by the Astros at a 4.44 ERA which separates the Nats by just 0.03 now.

When you talk about “what have you done for me lately” you get to the Nats as the 3rd best bullpen in the Majors behind only the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.

The additions of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler in July have worked. It moved other relief pitchers to roles they could thrive in.

“Everybody got comfortable and there was direction,” Ryan Madson said. “You know what to expect more than before probably. When that happens, it is a recipe for success.”

Brandon Kintzler credits Ryan Madson for setting the tone in the bullpen and mentoring the players. Continue reading

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Nats score 6 times in the 8th inning to win it!

Besides Trea Turner and Michael Taylor, the Nats bats were silent for 7 innings, and pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo led-off the 8th inning in a 2-to-1 deficit with a swinging bunt single over the pitcher’s mound. Trea Turner followed with a double, and that is where things got bizarre. The Braves walked 4 straight walks before Adam Lind delivered the big 2-RBI single to blow the game open.

The game started off 1-t0-0 on a lead-off home run to begin the game on the first pitch by Trea Turner, but then the Nats bats went silent. The Braves had two solo home runs off of Gio Gonzalez. It was a strong  7 inning pitching line for Gio as he exited the game behind 2-to-1 but earned the win because of the 8th inning rally. Gio only gave up 3 hits and 1 walk in the game and lowered his ERA to 2.68 which is the 4th best mark in the NL and the 5th best in the Majors.

It was a much needed bounceback performance from Gio and those 3 extra days of rest seemed to do the trick as he was aggressive and didn’t fall behind many batters. Gio stayed just under 15 pitches per inning to finish his outing at 104 over the 7 innings. Gonzalez struck out 8 batters in the game.

The Nationals win coupled with a Dodgers loss separates the two teams by just 3 1/2 games for best record in the NL and with a Cubs loss the Nationals Magic # against them is 4 games which worse case would assure home-field-advantage against them in an NLDS series. Continue reading

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Game #151 Gio looking to get back to being a Cy candidate

It flew under the radar it seems and never got any mention in the media that Gio Gonzalez’s scheduled start on Sunday against the Dodgers got pushed back when A.J Cole was inserted on Saturday for a “spot” start. With Monday’s team day-off, Gio should have then pitched yesterday, but Max Scherzer took the start yesterday on one extra day’s rest and Gio was moved to tonight on 3 day’s extra rest. Normally you would expect the beat media to ask about such a move which leaves us with no intel as to why it was done — the most obvious answer would be for extra rest.

Last week the Braves tagged Gio for 5 runs over 5 innings. Gonzalez has given up 12 earned runs in his last 4 games over 22 2/3 innings in his toughest stretch of the season that started after he went a season-high 121 pitches on August 20th. Gonzalez has now received some extra rest, and we hope it works.  Continue reading

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Scherzer battles for the win; Trea steals; Doolittle saves; Zim 100th!

This time the Washington Nationals flipped the script on the Atlanta Braves and Luiz Gohara to earn the win for Max Scherzer. On this night, the Nationals held on to win 4-to-2 behind a trio of milestones.

It was a game of milestones in this Washington Nationals win. Max Scherzer became the 4th pitcher in MLB history to record 4 consecutive seasons striking out 250 batters. Ryan Zimmerman would drive in his 100th RBI of the season. Trea Turner stole two bases in the game to tie and surpass Alfonso Soriano‘s Washington Nationals’ single-season steal record which now stands at 42 for Turner who stole 3rd base uncontested then later in the game stole 2nd base uncontested. Soriano’s stolen-base record had stood for almost 12 seasons since 2006 when Soriano had his 40-40-40 season. Continue reading

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Game #150 All eyes on Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper in Atlanta

If you missed our report a few days ago, tonight was supposed to be Gio Gonzalez’s start but he was pushed to tomorrow giving him 3 extra days of rest. Max Scherzer will start tonight coming after a very controversial finish to his start last week against the Braves when Scherzer remained in a meaningless game to pitch the 7th inning in a tie game and was tagged for 5 runs in the inning after he walked the bases loaded and still remained in the game as his pitch count soared. Scherzer exited the game at 116 pitches, and both Dusty Baker and Scherzer in post-game interviews tried to explain away the thinking of fatiguing Scherzer and stretching him out. The tweet (below) summed up initially by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post as:

The key tonight is Max Scherzer needs to pitch like an ace. It will also help to give him some better outfield defense then he received last week. The Braves scored their first 2 runs on balls hit to Jayson Werth in rightfield and neither were played well.

All eyes will also be on Bryce Harper today as he is reportedly the star of a “sim” game being played for Bryce as the Nationals are bringing in some Minor Leaguers to pitch to him. The reports also say the game will be held in Atlanta. Continue reading

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Looking ahead; how did the #Nats do against the probables in the post-season

Now that the Nationals have finished up the regular season series with all of the elite teams we can compile how they did head-to-head in the small sample sizes that exist.

The Nationals outside of the NL East (which isn’t complete) had a tie or winning record with every team except the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates who the Nationals finish the regular season in a 4-game series.

The teams the Nationals will most likely meet in the post-season if you go by the mid-August betting lines are the Cubs in the NLDS, the Dodgers in the NLCS, and either the Boston Red Sox or the Houston Astros in the World Series if you believe those odds. The Cleveland Indians and Astros look like the favorites now in the AL. The only AL team the Nationals have faced on that list is the Houston Astros.

The Nationals went 3-to-3 against the Dodgers in the season series, and 4-to-3 against the Cubs and 2-to-1 against the Houston Astros. We can debate what that all means and not much since none of these series seemed to have that post-season feel but some of the individual games did. Joe Maddon and Dave Roberts seemed to play each game as if it was a playoff game. The pitching match-ups over the weekend were not what you would expect in a playoff game such as Ryu – Strasburg or Hill – Cole or Wood – Jackson. Continue reading

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