Dusty Baker goes Plan B when Max Scherzer is scratched. Plan B worked like a charm!

From the Nationals Twitter

About an hour before first pitch, word came that Max Scherzer was scratched and put on the 10-day DL with a neck injury. Dusty Baker went to Plan B which was 9 innings of bullpen work to get it done, and oh did they get it done. The Nats used 6 of their 8 bullpen arms to hold the Padres to just 1-run with some very good pitching and some tremendous defense that included home run robbery and some slick doubleplays and catches in the gap.

In the process of holding a 7-1 lead, Dusty Baker did not have to use the back of his bullpen saving the arms of Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle. The usage of the Nats bullpen and their pitch efficiency also kept all of the Nats bullpen arms at 15-pitches or less except for Matt Grace who certainly “took one for his team” going 4 1/3 innings and throwing 52 pitches.

“Gracie saved my bullpen to where I could just go 1 inning or a fraction of an inning,” Dusty Baker said. “That worked out perfectly, and we still have a couple fresh guys that we didn’t use. Hopefully everybody should be available tomorrow as well.”

The offense started the game with a Howie Kendrick lead-off home run and the offense kept going until they scored 7 runs with all Nats starting position players getting at least one hit except for Matt Wieters. The positive impact of Wieters was felt on the basepaths — yes, the basepaths. Wieters scored the second run of the game based on hustle. It all started when the Nats starting catcher beat-out an almost certain doubleplay ball and was safe at first base. He then hustled to second base on a groundball in the hole by Michael Taylor and the Padres shortstop threw the ball away and Wieters got back on his feet after his slide at second base and motored around third base and was sent home by third base coach Bobby Henley and Matt lumbered home and scored!

Andrew Stevenson‘s impact was once again felt with the glove with some great plays in rightfield, and in this game Stevenson would also use his speed to steal 2nd base and take an extra base on an error. That allowed Dusty Baker to insert Alejandro De Aza for a pinch-hitting opportunity and De Aza turned on a fastball and sent it deep to centerfield (video here) which scored Stevenson. The official scorer ruled it an error which didn’t seem fair, but at least De Aza got the RBI as it was a sacrifice fly at the very least.

Matt Grace went 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball as he started the game and was informed he was starting about the time BP began. Yes, he was helped by a Michael Taylor catch above the centerfield wall to rob a home run and some other great defense, but credit to Grace who threw 52 pitches on the evening. Grace had never gone more than 2 2/3 innings before in his career and was able to do it with an efficient pitch count. On August 1st for instance, Grace went only 2 2/3 innings while throwing a career high 53 pitches. The only reliever who gave up a run tonight for the Nationals was Shawn Kelley who surrendered it on a booming home run which cut the Nats lead from 2-to-0 to 2-to-1.

“I was trying to just take it an inning at a time — pretty much,” Matt Grace said. “I knew I could give 3 [innings], for sure. I think any inning after that was a plus, so that was kind of my mindset going into this.”

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Game #120 The second game in the series; Max is also a road warrior!

With all of the time spent talking about road and home splits, it is hard to believe that Max Scherzer is even better on the road (1.79 ERA) than he is pitching at Nats Park. Tonight’s matchup will feature Max Scherzer going up against Luis Perdomo of the San Diego Padres.

This is the second game in this four game series in San Diego’s Petco Park. The Nationals won last night’s game in a pitcher’s duel that featured a lot of small ball and one long ball by Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals have a lot of players who could use another day off. It is the dog days of summer, but there is a day off coming on Monday for the Nationals players with a scheduled day off.

We have also updated “The Firm” statistics and have included Matt Alber‘s stats in the graphic but not in the totals. Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle‘s stats are all in included in the totals.

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What is your stacking order for the Washington Nationals starting rotation?

There is no doubt that your top 3 pitchers for the Washington Nationals this year have been Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg. Seeding them at this point by ERA is easy in that order. Scherzer and Strasburg were chosen as 2017 All-Stars, and Gio was a snub, but the simple peripherals say Gio Gonzalez is your second best pitcher, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter except the best matchups. The statistics say Gio Gonzalez is the best pitcher in his “home” stadium in baseball at a 1.79 ERA. Conversely, Stephen Strasburg does not pitch well in that hot/humid weather in DC and overall his home ERA is 4.13 but Strasburg is a beast on the road at a 2.37 ERA.  Shouldn’t you seed these pitchers in the post-season based on putting them in their best situations to succeed? Continue reading

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EJax gem ☑️ Clutch Zim game-winning home run ☑️ “The Firm” ☑️

The Nationals knew that facing Jhoulys Chacin in Petco meant a low scoring game, and Edwin Jackson matched him in runs 1-to-1 for a pitching gem in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. Dusty Baker’s strategy seemed to be to score some runs with some small ball, and that is how the Nationals pushed across the first run of the game. The difference in this game came from the only true long-ball via a clutch Ryan Zimmerman solo home run off of the Padres’ bullpen while “The Firm” held the opposition to zero runs for a Nationals win!

For the Nationals first run, they played some small ball after a lead-off double by Howie Kendrick. Wilmer Difo bunted Kendrick to 3rd base, and he scored on an Adam Lind sacrifice fly in a 2-strike count deep to the opposite field. The Nationals second run and game-winner was a trademarked Ryan Zimmerman oppo home run that was a laser shot to rightfield. That made the score 2-to-1 which was also the final score of the game.

The high flyballs were not carrying in this game and several were caught on or near the warning track. Runs were at a premium, and the Nationals had other chances to score runs as did the Padres. Maybe some extra credit to the pitching and the defense which was good by both teams. Both Anthony Rendon and Adam Lind got robbed by Padres leftfielder Jose Pirela, and Rendon returned the favor in the 7th inning by robbing the first batter of the inning, Austin Hedges, of a sure double.  Continue reading

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Game #119 The first of four games in Petco Park, San Diego

The Washington Nationals arrived last night in Stephen Strasburg’s city for a four-game series in San Diego against the Padres. It is the last regular season series for the Nationals west of Texas.

Tonight the Nationals face Jhoulys Chacin who happens to be the 2nd toughest pitcher in the Majors when pitching in his home stadium. Of course you already knew that Gio Gonzalez was the #1 toughest pitcher in his home park in the Majors with that 1.79 ERA.

Edwin Jackson gets the start for the Nationals and will face another team he once played for tonight. Jackson had 13 starts for the Padres in 2016 and was very good in Petco with a 3.05 ERA overall.  Continue reading

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Who are these guys? Mike Rizzo digs deep to find an outfielder.

It is fitting that the newest addition to the Nationals team is like the old white pages of your C&P phone book if you are old enough to know what that means. Phone books had alphabetical listings from A-Z. Mike Rizzo added a player DE AZA who is the ultimate A-Z-A. This team is missing so many players that even backups to backups are now on the DL like Ryan Raburn and Rafael Bautista who is on the Minor League 7-day DL. Same with Trevor Gott. The following graphic (below) was the actual 2017 Washington Nationals opening day roster with an extra position player as Joe Ross was the 5th starter who wasn’t needed initially.

The Nationals now have 10 of their original 25 projected opening day roster on the DL which is 40% of the team and 12 of the actual opening day players are either on the DL, a DFA or traded which is 48% .  The Nats entire opening day outfield of Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Jayson Werth is on the DL, their opening day shortstop Trea Turner, plus starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross. The entire back of the opening day bullpen is on the DL or traded. Reliever Blake Treinen was traded and Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Enny Romero are all on the DL. Bench player Chris Heisey was DFA’d from the DL and Stephen Drew is on the DL. Replacement outfielders Brian Goodwin and Ryan Raburn are both on the DL.

Look at that opening day outfield. Only Michael Taylor is on the roster currently, and he should still be on a rehab assignment but was hurried back when Bryce Harper was injured.

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One mistake pitch and a lot of missed opportunities add up to a 3-2 loss

Most one run losses can be traced back to one or two mistakes. Tanner Roark was the hard luck loser in this game going 7.0 innings holding the Angels to 4 hits and 2 walks but 2 of the hits were home runs adding up to 3-runs. It was the Kole Calhoun‘s 2-run home run in a 2-1 game in the 6th inning which was the difference in this one.

Ryan Zimmerman staked the Nationals to a 2-0 lead on a booming home run. After that it was a whole lot of missed opportunities with runners in scoring position for the Washington Nationals.

In relief, Sammy Solis was excellent once again out of the bullpen striking out Mike Trout on his way to a perfect 1 2/3 innings.

Michael Taylor turned in a Web Gem to run down a ball in the left-center gap that ended in a full dive to catch the ball. It was just another great defensive play that this team has turned in on this 9 game homestand. Continue reading

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Game #118 Nationals and Angels wrap-up their season inter-league series

Photo by Kevin Nibley for TalkNats

On the season finale with the Angels, you have to wonder if they will be able to get their way into a wild card spot for the post-season. If they do, you never know if the Nats and Angels could meet in October. It is certainly a long-shot, and most likely this will be the last time that these two teams meet in 2017, and the next time they could play each other in other in the regular season projects to 2020. It gets you thinking what these 2 rosters will look like in 3 years, and Mike Trout would be in his final year with the Angels under his current contract. In 2020, Pujols would be 40-years-old and in his second-to-last season under his 10-year contract with the Angels. How time flies! Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will hopefully still be pitching to them, and Trea Turner at shortstop and Adam Eaton in centerfield, but imagine how different these teams will look in 3-to-5 years.

Say what you want about Bryce Harper, but Trout is the perfect example of a superstar who has only been with his team once to the post-season and they were swept in 3 games in the 2014 ALDS and Trout batted .083. It is something rarely talked about in the Trout and Harper comparisons. You can see the Trout treatment. He seems to get the benefit of the doubt, but last night he was called out on strikes on a pitch that was millimeters from the top of the strike zone and Trout unloaded on homeplate ump Tony Randazzo who did not eject Trout. We have seen Harper called out on strikes for more egregious calls, and tossed out of the game for far less. There seems to be different treatment for these superstars. Continue reading

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The Dodgers weren’t willing to see if Howie Kendrick could bounceback

The Los Angeles Dodgers were trying to do some housekeeping and dump Howie Kendrick and his $10 million salary after the worst season of his career slashing .255/.326/.366/.691. The Phillies came calling and it was one of the first trades made after the World Series on November 11th of 2016.

One the bizarre parts of the trade was that the Dodgers received Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney and both players are off their roster now. Ruf is in Korean baseball and Sweeney was purchased by the Reds.

For Kendrick, he had never played for a team outside of Los Angeles before the trade to the Phillies. The issue for the now 34-year-old Kendrick was staying on the field due to injuries. The Phillies were hoping to trade Kendrick for a haul, but the fish weren’t biting. Kendrick had an oblique injury that landed him on the DL then a hand injury at the time he was traded to the Nationals. He had only accumulated 156 plate appearances with the Phillies before the trade to Washington. Continue reading

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Gio with the shutout; Howie with 2 homers; “The Firm” closes the case!

Tonight, Gio Gonzalez moved into the upper echelon of pitchers in baseball leapfrogging over Chris Sale in ERA.  Gio threw a 6-inning shutout and had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning when Cameron Maybin got an infield hit. Gio’s ERA was lowered to 2.49, and the combination of Matt Albers, Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle (9th save for the Nats) finished the game in a 3-1 win.

Gio’s ERA in Nats Park this year is 1.79, and that dominance would be wonderful in a home start in the post-season. Dusty Baker made a good decision to go to the bullpen for the 7th inning even though Gio was at 91 pitches.

The scoring offense was mostly provided by two solo home runs from Howie Kendrick and his first home run was a milestone #100 in his career. The Nationals had many other chances to push across runs but went 0-for-9 in RISP spots. Anthony Rendon had 3-hits and Daniel Murphy added 2 hits. Wilmer Difo was 1-for-3 with a walk.

For the Nats, this game was won with another split-squad looking line-up and they played without Brian Goodwin tonight. The starting outfield was Kendrick, Michael Taylor and Andrew Stevenson. Continue reading

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