#Nats come home with 3 against the Mets. Managerial strategies need execution.

The Nationals and Mets played 3 games last week in CitiField, and the Nats won 2 of the 3 games. Tonight begins the 1st of 3 games at Nats Park and the pitching match-ups are set:

  1. Bartolo ColonGio Gonzalez
  2. Matt Harvey   –  Stephen Strasburg
  3. Steven Matz    – Tanner Roark

“If you look right now, the Nationals have the edge [in this series],” according to Ken Davidoff who is the NY Post beat writer for the Mets as he appeared on MLB Network Radio. Davidoff gave the edge to Gio Gonzalez over Bartolo Colon and Stephen Strasburg over Matt Harvey, but gave the edge to Steven Matz over Tanner Roark. Davidoff said a decision would be made on Lucas Duda today as to whether or not he would go on the DL.

Davidoff in the NY Post wrote, “The Mets will start the slumping Bartolo Colon and the Artist Formerly Known as Matt Harvey in the first two games, in rematches of last week’s final two against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. Hence you can understand why Terry Collins spoke of the need to get a long outing from Syndergaard on Sunday.”

Games aren’t played on paper, and each game will once again have that playoff feel and built around pitching and managerial decisions will be watched closely.

The Nats looked great yesterday with Ben Revere the “Igniter” sparking the way. Ryan Zimmerman is the one player who is struggling in this line-up as his batting average has now dipped to .228 as he went 0-4 yesterday. On Friday night, Zimmerman hit a booming home run and appeared to be finding his stroke, but is just lacking a consistency at the plate.  Bryce Harper has only had 1 extra base hit since May 13th when he hit a double on Friday night in Miami. If both Zimmerman and Harper start hitting more consistently, the Nats offense will be a force to be reckoned with.

The NL East looks like this as of Monday morning:

NL East 5 23 16

Dusty Baker has said that he puts an extra emphasis on the first games in series, and that appears to be a good strategy as Dusty likes to have his starters all in those games.

Tonight with Gio Gonzalez on the mound, will Dusty Baker change the way he approaches Gio’s pitch count and when Gio’s outing will be completed. As of now, Gio’s ERA does not tell the full story of how he has exited games in mid-innings.

Each time Gio has exited mid-inning he has left at least 2 men on base and in 4 of the 5 games Gio has left mid-inning, he has left the bases loaded. He has left 14 inherited runners on base for his relief pitchers in high stress innings and his relief pitchers have pulled off 3 ‘Houdini’ acts for him with bases loaded not allowing a run to score. These aren’t situations with 2 outs either. In the bases loaded situations he has had 0 outs twice and 1 out twice.

In Chicago 2 weeks ago, Dusty Baker did not pinch-hit for Gio who had a 2 run lead in the top of the 6th inning and Gio stepped to the plate with a runner on 3rd and hit into a bizarre doubleplay. Gio fell apart on the mound in the bottom of the 6th inning and the Nats lost the game.

At some point, it is the law of averages always catch up with the reality over time, and these inherited runner situations will catch up with you as we saw in Chicago. That Chicago series should be a constant reminder of how decisions backfire, and September 8th 2015 should be a double reminder that 6 run leads are not a guarantee to be held, and managerial decisions matter.

Overall, Dusty Baker’s touch and feel strategy has worked out more times than not, and sometimes even the soundest decisions do not work. Player execution is always the key, and as Matt Harvey learned when he was booed by his own CitiField fans, what have you done for me lately?

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