A No-Hitter turns into a No Win situation

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and that was the case today in Miami. Max Scherzer had a no-hitter into the eighth inning and left with 121 pitches and a complete-game loss while giving up no earned runs.

The Nationals lost 2-1 on 2 unearned runs on an Adam Lind error that prolonged the inning which turned into a complete-game loss.

Once the no-hitter ended in the 8th inning, Dusty Baker did not go to the bullpen but the 3rd out should have been recorded before a run scored which came later on a Scherzer wild pitch and then a single to Giancarlo Stanton.

Max Scherzer finished at 121 pitches which was a season-high for him eclipsing the 118 pitches he threw 5 days ago. That’s a total of 239 pitches in the last week.

Ryan Raburn was the offense and was the reason the final score wasn’t 3-1 after he threw out Dee Gordon at the plate in the decisive 8th inning. Raburn scored the only Nats run today on a solo home run.

This is only the second time in Washington Nationals history that a pitcher has lost a complete-game giving up no earned runs — the other time was Jordan Zimmermann losing to Dan Haren of the Angels 1-0 in 2011. This was also the second time in Washington Nationals history that a pitcher gave up 2 or fewer hits in 8 innings or more and was debited with a loss — the other time was Stephen Strasburg losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013.

While it seemed what happened today was rare, it has happened to other great pitchers in Washington Nationals history. Of course in any rare feat, it is never apples to apples in comparison as Jordan Zimmermann only needed to throw 93 pitches in his complete game loss with no earned runs.

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Game #72 Winner takes this series as Dusty rests all the regulars older than 28!

Last night’s win behind Gio Gonzalez made the frustrating loss on Monday just one of those games that is now easier to forget, and last night’s game one you want to remember for a while as Gio never relinquished the lead and worked in-and-out of trouble in his “bend but don’t break” style he has done all season plus the offense put up 6 runs between the 8th and 9th innings to make it a laugher at the end.

Yes, Gio Gonzalez teeters on the edge sometimes, but really clamps down when runners are in scoring position where the opposition has an MLB worst batting average and that makes Gio the best pitcher with 20 innings or more as he is at a .107 batting-average-against (BAA).

By the way, Gio Gonzalez has exited 11 of his 15 games this season with his team ahead and 2 other games he departed in a tie game which is another reason he is back to being one of the elite pitchers again in baseball. Gio is now 7th in NL ERA at 2.96, and Gio’s official record is now 7 wins and 1 loss (7-1) but the team is only 9 wins and 6 losses in games he has pitched in and that is what has to improve as much of that is predicated on how deep Gio Gonzalez goes into games but also on the amount of run support he receives.

This afternoon, the best pitcher in all of baseball takes the mound if you trust what Brian Kenney of MLB Network has to say to about Max Scherzer:

Scherzer takes the mound almost 4 1/2 days after his 8 inning performance on Friday night in New York where he came back on the mound for the 8th inning seemingly laboring with a 4-0 lead before surrendering a home run and continued in the game as he was audibly grunting from pitch number 104 to pitch number 118 when he finished the inning. Serena Williams was known for her loud grunts which became a popular ringtone, but Scherzer may have topped Serena on the decibel level on Friday night.

We just hope Max Scherzer is alright as that was a new season high in pitch count at 118 pitches and it also moved Scherzer into the lead of most pitches thrown through 14 starts at a total of 1,496. One suggestion was to move Scherzer to Friday for his next start to give him 2 extra rest days since tomorrow is a day-off but that clearly wasn’t an option that was considered by the Nationals.

The Dodgers and Dave Roberts just adjusted their pitcher workloads again for all of their pitchers during their long stretch of consecutive games and inserted Kenta Maeda back in the rotation for one start to push everyone back a day. Clayton Kershaw just made his 15th start and has now thrown a pitch efficient 1,491 pitches in total over 103 1/3 innings.

With the day-off tomorrow, Dusty Baker is wisely resting Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters. You may have noticed that Wieters has been scuffling with the bat and his batting average dropped to .249. Wieters was batting .278 just 2 weeks ago. Since Opening Day, Wieters had not been below the .700’s on his OPS and he has now dropped to a disappointing .690 OPS. That has moved Wieters to 23rd on qualified catchers on OPS, and unfortunately his fWAR is now a -0.1.

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Nats win 12-3 behind Gio Gonzalez and a lot of offense!

This game stayed close for a while behind Gio Gonzalez until the Nationals offense kept adding runs. Gio pitched 7 full innings and only made a few mistake pitches but limited the damage. Blake Treinen pitched a scoreless 8th when the score was 7-3, and we finally saw Matt Albers pitch after 7 rest days. Albers pitched a scoreless 9th inning as he struck out the side.

Bryce Harper opened the scoring tonight with a 2-run single. It remained a 2-1 lead until the 5th inning when the Nats scored 4 runs. The Nats added 1 in the 8th and 5-runs in the 9th. The hitting star was Stephen Drew who was 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs. Matt Wieters went 0-for-5 and his slump continues with his batting average dropping below .250.

The Nationals were 7-for-14 with runners-in-scoring-position tonight. Gio Gonzalez improves his record to 7-1.

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Game #71 Ten games away from the halfway point in the season; Gio Gonzalez pitching in his hometown

In the winter months, we can’t wait for baseball, and after midnight we are technically in the summer months with ten games remaining for the halfway point in the season at the 81st game. We will then be able to multiply many of the statistics by two to project the full season, and some of the statistics for the Nationals players as well as players around the league look very good.

The Nationals blew an opportunity last night, and it happens as their 6-run lead quickly evaporated. Today is a new day as they say, and in the last day of spring, “Hope springs eternal”.

What we keep learning and reminded of is that you cannot keep pushing on human beings for more than their bodies can handle. The mind may think it can do what the body will not allow. For instance, throwing 44 pitches at maximum effort in an inning is not good for the arm. Throwing 52 pitches in an inning for a younger arm is potentially even worse. We sound like a broken record sometimes, but there has to be a voice of reason which the mainstream media doesn’t want to touch as they want to maintain a good working relationship with the coaches and manager of the Washington Nationals. We would like to also, but we also feel we can be the conscience for those who want to hear our opinions. In the end, these are just our opinions. Two years ago, we were right about Terry Collins handling of his pitching staff as he worked his starters and his closer sometimes like they had rubber arms. We saw Collins once throw Jeurys Familia at 57 pitches over a 3 day period and were shocked, but now we see young Trevor Gott throw 59 pitches over 2 days, Matt Grace has thrown 52 over the last 3 games, and Enny Romero throwing 68 pitches over 3 days. These are not long-men in the bullpen.

This chart over the weekend says all you need to know about pitch counts for the starters and Tanner Roark threw 663 pitches in the  month of May which is the most of any pitcher in one calendar month this year.

Cause and effect when you look at Roark’s June results could be poor mechanics, but Tanner Roark didn’t forget how to pitch. Tanner Roark now owns an 8.02 ERA in June and that gives him the benefit of 3 unearned runs on June 9th that does not impact his ERA.

Tonight Gio Gonzalez goes up against the right-handed Edinson Volquez who threw a no-hitter two starts ago and ignited the Marlins to go on a nice streak of wins and believe in themselves again. Expect Adam Lind to be in tonight’s line-up as he hits Volquez well. Ryan Zimmerman also has a good track record against Volquez. One player who has struggled is Bryce Harper who is 1-for-11 in his career. Continue reading

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One opinion: Dusty Baker’s glasses and sour grapes

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

We see you Dusty Baker, put your glasses on, sit down and tell us the story about how glad you are to be back in baseball, and how wonderful it is to be in the nation’s capital skippering a team with such great potential. Tell us you never want to kick a player on a bad day. Tell us how you’ll pick that player up again and again until he gets it right.

When Baker signed with the Washington Nationals on November 3, 2015, he was handed a team with the makings for a great comeback from a less than sterling (83-79) 2015 season with Matt Williams at the helm, and Mike Rizzo gave him help immediately by signing the 2015 NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy and traded for speedy lead-off man Ben Revere along with a new bench and a promising group of prospects led by Trea Turner and Lucas Giolito. Baker would inherit possibly the best starting rotation in baseball with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross.

Baker admitted he consulted with Matt Williams, a good friend, before signing his contract. Surely Williams told him straight up about his dealings with the Nationals’ front office and ownership. Of course he did, and Baker admitted it in an interview several days ago. That was the same interview when he complained that he’s being underpaid for the job he does, in addition to not having his contract extended. With all due respect, Baker’s gift of gab with politicians, celebrities, and journalists hardly contributes to in-game strategy in winning baseball games. Continue reading

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Roark throws a stinker; Bullpen throws 6 innings in relief; Nats lose 8-7

The Washington Nationals blew a 6-run lead on what looked like a laugher until Tanner Roark gave up 6-runs in the 3rd inning and was pulled at 2 2/3 innings. Dusty Baker had A.J. Cole in his bullpen as he replaced Shawn Kelley yesterday on the roster, and this was Cole’s regular day to pitch. Baker did not pull Roark as he was over 30 pitches in that 3rd inning on his way to a 44-pitch inning. Roark faced Justin Bour who hit a poorly located change-up into the Marlins bullpen for a grand slam completing a 6-run inning and Roark faced one more batter after the Bour grand slam.

To exacerbate the disaster at-hand, Dusty Baker had Enny Romero pitch the 8th and 9th innings as Enny Romero’s pitch count grew over 30 pitches and he lost his location on pitches and finally gave up the walk-off single in the 9th inning. Romero had thrown 31 pitches on Saturday, and Baker left in Romero to throw 37 pitches tonight for a total of 68 pitches over 3 days.

Anthony Rendon left the game with an injured neck after he dove for a groundball that manager Dusty Baker described as a “stinger” in his neck. He was replaced by Stephen Drew. Continue reading

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Game #70 Nats are in Miami; Roark for the #Nats

The Washington Nationals can tie for the top spot in the NL for best road record with a win tonight in Miami. This is actually the Nationals first series in Miami this season, and with a domed stadium, we do not have to worry about the rain in south-Florida.

The Marlins just lost their last 2 games via the walk-off as their bullpen imploded. The Nationals who were accused of poor bullpen performance have been perfect in save opportunities for the last week. Of course, the Nationals hope these trends continue. The Marlins were briefly in 2nd place on Friday night, but quickly fell into 4th place behind the Mets and Braves. The Mets get to face Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles tonight if you want to watch that game after the conclusion of the Nats game.

Tonight’s game features Tanner Roark for the Nationals and left-handed Justin Nicolino for the Marlins. Bryce Harper hits Nicolino well and Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor both have home runs off of Nicolino. Trea Turner is 1-for-2 and has an opportunity to improve his stats against lefties. Continue reading

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Eyes on October and players who can handle the intense pressure of post-season baseball

(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Many names are popping up as the media tries to piece together who would be a good fit for the Nationals roster as the trade deadline approaches.

Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio mentioned Trevor Rosenthal today as a good fit for the Nationals but he isn’t even the primary closer for the Cardinals these days, and his post-season history in the last few years looked like a pitcher who folded under the pressure. Rosenthal walked 5 batters in his previous 2 2/3 innings of post-season work. Do we think all of a sudden he has improved?

We have mentioned five or six names of under the radar relievers. Raisel Iglesias is the closer for the Reds and is rated as the 6th best closer in baseball right now with a closing success rate of 92.3%, and he pitches in a hitter’s park in Cincinnati. The issue with Iglesias is he has no post-season experience. If you look to find a closer who fits that post-season profile, Roberto Osuna could work, but he is only at an 85% closer success rate this year, and he had a prolific loss in the 2015 ALCS against the Royals.

There’s this closer named Koda Glover who could be available. He had an 88.9% closing success rate until he blew a save a week ago before going on the disabled list.  Glover is at 80% right now on his save conversions.

Is the answer not going for the closer and loading up on specialists like Pat Neshek who is a side-armer and having a great year with his 0.81 WHIP and 0.67 ERA. Then there is the virtually unknown Tommy Kahnle with the White Sox. Kahnle is the league’s best set-up man with a 0.74 WHIP and a 1.27 ERA. Lefty specialists has two top names. One is a name well-known to Nats fans, Felipe Rivero, and the other is Scott Alexander who has a 0.96 WHIP and a 1.57 ERA. In this article about the poor Royals bullpen and their issues you can read about Alexander. The issue with both of them is neither have post-season experience and Rivero struggled at times with the Nationals.  Continue reading

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You can’t win them all; Get ’em tomorrow kids! #Nats

The Washington Nationals are wrapped up in CitiField and will pack-up and fly to Miami for their first road trip there this season. The Nationals head there with a nice 3 win series in NY after dropping the 4th game today in the finale.

Joe Ross pitched well today but Jacob deGrom was excellent in this game with a 5-1 final score. Joe Ross had 2 earned runs on his record and we will say it again — you will not win many games scoring just one run.

The highlight for the Nationals was 4 stolen bases by Trea Turner which was a National’s record but with the 3 times that Trea was in scoring position, he was stranded each time on the bases. Trea Turner also forced another throwing mistake in the game which was ruled a fielder’s choice. Speed kills.

Dusty Baker was able to rest the back of his bullpen which will help in this next series.

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Game #69 The Father’s Day finale of the 4 game series in NYC

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there and to all those who mentor children. To the coaches and teachers and those who take their time with a child, we say thank you. The Nationals are clad in baby blue this weekend to honor those father figures and to raise funds for prostate cancer and awareness.

The business trip in New York finishes up today, and Dusty Baker would tell you there is more work to take place. The Nationals won the first three games in this four game series. The pitching match-ups seemed to favor the Nationals in this series until today as Jacob deGrom going up against Joe Ross has the Vegas line in favor of the Mets. But there is a reason we play the games.

The Mets did their best in this series to work Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the first three games. The Nationals “elite” starting four occupy 4 out of the top 5 in pitch counts. It continues to be a disturbing trend and is a cautionary tale on baseball’s marathon season.

Part of the reasons for the high pitch counts have been predicated on the success of the Nats starters going deeper into games based on effectiveness, but Clayton Kershaw has pitched in 14 games just like the Nats big four, and Kershaw has pitched 13 more innings than Tanner Roark but 96 fewer pitches. Part of the issue is pitch efficiency and part of it is pushing these starters deeper into games because of the shaky bullpen. Max Scherzer on Friday pitched and grunted his way through pitches 104 to his final pitch at 118.   Continue reading

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