Click here to watch Nats win #3 on MASN via MLB.TV at 6:30 pm tonight with the rest of us. Just a quick reminder of what we are doing if this is your first time: As a group, we are going to be re-watching all 105 wins from the Nats 2019 season in chronological order at 6:30 pm each night. We will all try to sync up to the same point in the game, and this is a work in progress to maneuver to the same point in the game. Feel free to ask in the comments section where everyone is in the game so you can sync up. Last night, many people joined in at different points, and we all got to enjoy it.
The Washington Nationals start their first road trip of the 2019 season in CitiField against the Mets who have their home opener today. Both teams have last Saturday’s starters on the mound today in Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg who both sport identical 6.00 ERAs. The difference between the two pitchers is Strasburg was victimized by some shaky defense including a couple of misreads in centerfield while Syndergaard if anything was helped by his defense or his numbers could have been worse. For those who remember Saturday’s debacle, the Nats tied the game 4-4 in the 6th inning only to watch their first bullpen implosion in the 8th inning as the Mets scored 4 runs. The Nats battled back but fell short 11-8 in that one.
The story of the first week of play had to be about the bullpen, fundamentals, bad baserunning, and the injuries. While some of that can be fixed, in time, what heals quicker — Trea Turner‘s index finger (4-6 weeks) or the Nats bullpen woes?
“It’s just early,” relief pitcher Justin Miller said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We still got a (157) games. We’ve only played five. It’s a long season. Guys are going to make mistakes. We are going to rebound from it. We’re not all going to be perfect. So guys are going to go out there and keep trying to do their job and attack the zone, attack hitters and just keep trying to fill up the zone.”
The two reliable arms so far are Justin Miller and Sean Doolittle and both are being used — a lot. We have seen heavy usage take its toll on relievers before, and this is not just a Nats issue — it is an issue in baseball especially early in the season when starters are ramping up. Also, the issues with the bullpen are with more than just one reliever and not all of the blame goes on Trevor Rosenthal. It is also Kyle Barraclough, Tony Sipp, Matt Grace, and Wander Suero who have not pitched well for the bullpen. Some of it has been some bad luck, but most of it has been poor execution. When will we see the first bullpen bullpen roster move?
On top of the bullpen woes have been poor baserunning, defensive issues, and stranding runners at 3rd base with less than two outs. We were promised by manager Dave Martinez that those issues that he referred to over and over as “The Little Things” would be tightened up. In Martinez’s postgame presser yesterday he let loose.
“And it’s kind of a bittersweet win,” Martinez said. “I’m not thrilled about how we’re playing, but I’m happy that the boys kept pushing. It’s a testament to them, but we got to start playing better. We worked all spring on doing ‘The Little Things’, and we got to make it happen. The baserunning [mistakes] has got to go away. The defense, every day, we got to be clean. We’re going to be good, but we can’t play like that every day and expect to comeback and win games. We can’t. They know that. I’m proud of them for playing the way they played, but we got to start playing baseball every day. Limit the mistakes and start playing baseball.”
From observations of this early season, the centerfield defensive reads and “shallow” positioning has cost the Nats over and over so far this season. We have been promised that Victor Robles who was advertised as a future Gold Glover will be working in pre-games with Bob Henley and to expect improvement. As we know, Robles has the ability, and we saw him make a highlight reel play on a diving catch on Opening Day. Most teams in the analytics age of baseball have learned that taking away extra base hits is more important than racking up a catch on a bloop single. Getting good reads though separates the best from the rest. Robles has also been on the top of the list for embarrassing baserunning, and he is not alone.
It is just hard to believe that with all the talk in the off-season and Spring Training about “fundys” that the fundamentals in the first five games looked eerily similar to last year so it is not just the bullpen that is the issue as it goes far beyond that.
Onto today’s game and we will see if there are improvements with “The Little Things” and the big things like the bullpen.
Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets
Stadium: CitiField, Queens, New York