The Nationals season series against the Diamondbacks will wrap-up this weekend, and there is a good chance the next times these two teams could see each other is in October if both teams advance to the post-season. The Diamondbacks currently own the best record in the National League while the Nationals are another long winning streak away from getting on top of the NL East.
As most Nationals fans have noticed, with the addition of Jeremy Hellickson and manager Dave Martinez‘s better feel for pulling his pitchers — the Nationals starting pitchers are looking very good as a group and are first in the National League in ERA. The issue still is in the Nationals dugout and last night was emblematic of the problem where the lack of “clutch” has eluded the Nationals who lost another one-run game last night. With last night’s defeat by the slimmest of margins, the microscope again goes to the front of the bullpen and the players who are failing to move runners.
Some of the blame maybe has to go to the manager who can affect outcomes by putting on plays such as bunting and other small ball tactics. The only run the Nats scored last night was from an Anthony Rendon home run. The Nationals went 0-for-6 in RISP situations and the Nationals in the 6th and 7th innings went for the kill with runners on 2nd base and no outs. What if Davey Martinez went for the lead in the 6th or 7th innings in a 1-to-1 tie game? If the Nationals took the lead, they don’t turn to Trevor Gott who eventually lost the game.
When you have a team starter’s ERA of 3.08, and “The Firm” as your 7th-8th-9th inning relief pitchers, you have to be in first place? Right? Wrong. The Nationals are 10th in runs scored per game just behind the Phillies. That seems on the surface as good balance between offense and defense but the issue comes back to winning those one-run games. The bullpen won/loss record is 2-and-8. Trevor Gott took the loss in last night’s game as he had no margin for error when he entered in a tie game.
With the Nationals leading the Majors with 34 steals, they have yet to employ a hit-and-run or a double steal last night when they had Michael Taylor and Trea Turner on-base and as often happens a sinkerballer induces a groundball and you kill a promising inning just like last night when Rendon rolled over into a doubleplay.
During the off-season, manager Dave Martinez promised his team would be aggressive. In games, you must pick your spots for aggressiveness and for small ball and always smart ball must be in-play. Twice the Padres starter Joey Lucchesi picked-off Nats base stealers. But these were not the Nats fastest runners. Lucchesi nabbed Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo. In crunch time, Martinez got conservative and the Nats lost a game they could have won.
If there is good news, the back of the Nats bullpen rested as well as Bryce Harper got the day-off, and Matt Adams entered the game as a pinch-hitter only. The Nationals also have a much needed day-off on Monday.
Tonight the Nats have Tanner Roark starting against the righty Zack Greinke. With Greinke, he continues his success at home. Expect a low scoring game, and Roark will need to be at his best.
Speaking of being your best, Juan Soto was promoted today to Double-A Harrisburg. It is Soto’s second promotion this season. He has 12 home runs on this young season as well as compiling the best OPS in all of baseball at 1.278.
Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Stadium: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
1st Pitch: 9:40 pm EDT
TV: MASN2; MLB App out-of-market
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
- Bryce Harper RF
- Trea Turner SS
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Matt Adams 1B
- Howie Kendrick 2B
- Matt Wieters C
- Michael Taylor CF
- Tanner Roark RHP
- Andrew Stevenson LF