Bryce Harper needs 80 more lead-off home runs to tie Rickey Henderson in the record books, but the Nationals can set a team record today for matching losing streaks with winning streaks of at least 4 games in their first 32-games of the season as the Nats have had losing streaks of 4 games and 5 games. The Nats have had now two winning streaks of 4 games, and if the Nationals win today, they would have at least a 5 game winning streak.
The Nationals are finding that important balance of pitching, hitting, defense, and baserunning while scoring 27-runs during this 4-game winning streak which is 6 1/3 runs per game. Other good news, the Nationals have been able to rest closer Sean Doolittle for 3-days and Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson have had 2-days off.
Manager Dave Martinez has already said that he will be inserting Ryan Zimmerman back into the line-up after a day’s rest. That indicates that there is no platoon at 1st base — for now. Who starts in left field is unknown at this point as to whether Matt Adams gets a day-off or goes back into left field where the Nats are much weaker defensively versus when the option is Andrew Stevenson.
Last night, Stevenson in the first at-bat of the game made a fantastic catch on the line to rob lead-off man Max Moroff of the Pirates.
For today’s afternoon game that wraps up this four game series with the Pirates, the Nationals go with Jeremy Hellickson to face the Pirates righty Trevor Williams.
Williams has been hittable by the lefties in the line-up at a .224 batting average versus .161 by the righties. On the road, Williams has been spectacular giving up only 5 hits in 54 at-bats for a .093 batting average. Williams is susceptible to walking batters. In his last road start, he gave up 5 walks in 6 innings which ran up his pitch count.
For the Nats, they have a fully rested back of the bullpen. Hellickson has not made it past 5 1/3 innings but the good news is in the first 5 innings he has only given up a total of 3 runs over 14 2/3 innings — but the bad news is that in the next 1/3 of an inning he has given up a total of 3 runs. If you are an analytics person, don’t you see an obvious pattern? In Hellickson’s last start 5 days ago against the Diamondbacks, Dave Martinez allowed Hellickson to start the 6th inning with a 2-1 lead after the previous inning when he could have pinch-hit for Hellickson with a runner on 3rd base and one out. Hellickson by the blink of the eye gave up a booming home run and the lead to start the 6th inning and Hellickson was pulled.
These games are about winning, but also self-preservation and Dave Martinez has had to stress his bullpen in each of Hellickson’s starts which has been an issue when the team does not have a long-man. Why has this team been allergic to long-men? Dusty Baker last year forced Matt Grace into long-man roles unsuccessfully. That is like taking the proverbial square peg and forcing it into the round hole. It does not fit. The Nats had called-up Austin Voth and never used him. In fact the Nats sent Voth back to Triple-A Syracuse after one day which has left the Nats in the same dilemma of no long-man in a Hellickson start.
Yesterday, we mentioned in the game-thread comments section that once again Sammy Solis got up to warm-up during the game and was not used which is a practice called dry-humping a reliever. While Solis has officially pitched in 16 of the Nationals first 31 games, we were told by a source inside the team that Sammy has warmed-up in another 12 games meaning he has been up and throwing in 28 of 31 games. What gives? No wonder why he has been ineffective in so many games when he has been in to pitch. Solis has a 4.76 ERA — just saying. This practice has to stop. In a 9-to-3 game, why was Solis warming in the 7th inning?
“You can always tell when [Sammy’s] arm is fatigued from his velocity,” our source said. “Rested, he will be 94-95 [miles per hour]. Pitching back to back to back, he will be 92-93.”
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 1:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN; MLB App out-of-market; MLB Network (out-of-network only)
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
- Bryce Harper RF
- Trea Turner SS
- Matt Adams LF
- Ryan Zimmerman 1B
- Howie Kendrick 2B
- Michael Taylor CF
- Matt Wieters C
- Jeremy Hellickson RHP
- Wilmer Difo 3B