Game #40 is the 1/4 pole for the regular season!

As we approach the ¼ pole on the season, the thoroughbred known as “Curly W” is making it’s move from 3rd in the race. This thoroughbred has been through many ups and downs this year, and the remaining ¾ should be a wild ride. Like the real Washington Nationals, you pace yourself and learn what your horses are all about. We learn so much about people over time, and manager Dave Martinez seemed to learn something just from Wednesday to Thursday.

When you have great starting pitching like the Nationals do as the best in the National League and you are entrenched in a tight game, go old-school and play for that next run like the Nationals did on Thursday but did not do on Wednesday. The results were the polar opposite. A loss on Wednesday and a win on Thursday. There were still no guarantees on execution, and this time Wilmer Difo did his job to perfection on the sacrifice bunt which led to the first run that tied the game. 

With all that said, the Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday had identical no-out innings with runners on 2nd and 1st base and both big chances ended in doubleplay innings killers. On Wednesday it was Anthony Rendon grounding into the tailor-made DP and last night it was Howie Kendrick who replicated what Rendon did. We have seen these innings end before like this and yesterday was the 12th time the Nationals have done that this season. Yes, 12 times. That was the 4th time Howie Kendrick has rolled into a doubleplay with runners on 2nd and 1st. Ryan Zimmerman has done it twice and Michael Taylor has done it twice. Rendon’s gaffe on Wednesday was his first. So is Howie Kendrick’s history a sign he should be bunting in those spots? The Nats as a team are batting .196 in those situations. Not good. They have bunted ZERO times in over 100 at-bats this season. Yes, the Nats had a lot of those spots when Bryce Harper was being walked with first base open.

As we know, Rendon is not a bunter, but Howie Kendrick when he was with the Angels had 24 sacrifice bunts and maybe the bunt should have been considered. Execution depends on the personnel. Bunting was a staple of old-school baseball, and we were thrilled to see our young Washington Nationals prospects like Juan Soto doing extensive bunting practice in the bucket drill.  Ryan Zimmerman was one of the best bunters in Nationals history if you can remember back to his 8 bunt hits in 2006. The big league Nationals should also try doing some bunting sessions.

When you have great pitching like the Nats do and an offense that is struggling at times to put up runs, it is not acceptable to be so lopsided on one-run losses. The Nationals improved last night to 4 wins in one-run games against 9 previous losses which is an awful .308 winning percentage.  If the Nationals were 9-and-4 in one-run games they would be in first place in the NL East. That is the point about this race. One run games are demoralizing when you lose and uplifting when you win. It’s the racehorsing equivalent of losing by a nose. You sniff that finish line in the run for the roses.

Tonight, the Nationals have Max Scherzer pitching and he will go up against the Diamondbacks righty Matt Koch who has been a starter and a reliever in his 13-game MLB career. Koch has reverse splits and righties hit him better than lefties at an OPS of .752 versus .570. Koch also pitches better away from his home field in Arizona. Koch has given up 3 home runs at Chase Field and none on the road.

We await the roster moves for today and will update. As we reported, Spencer Kieboom was set to be in Arizona. Barring a miracle recovery by Matt Wieters or a trade, Kieboom will be added to the 40-man roster and the active roster requiring another move or moves.

UPDATE: Officially activated Spencer Kieboom and moved Adam Eaton to the 60-Day DL retroactive back to April 9th making him eligible on or after June 8th, and Matt Wieters to the 10-Day DL with a left hamstring strain.

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:

  1. Trea Turner SS
  2. Bryce Harper RF
  3. Anthony Rendon 3B
  4. Matt Adams 1B
  5. Andrew Stevenson LF
  6. Michael Taylor CF
  7. Pedro Severino C
  8. Max Scherzer RHP
  9. Wilmer Difo 2B
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