With this win today for a split in this four game series in Miami, the Washington Nationals head back to D.C. on a happy flight. This 5-1 win did not come easy as the game was tied 1-1 in the sixth inning when Trea Turner delivered with a two-run opposite field 400 foot homer to back Max Scherzer for the win. Josh Bell added two insurance runs with a 419 foot oppo blast for the final scoring of this game.
The Nats won on a familiar formula — get great starting pitching and score five runs. Maybe that just makes commonsense, but when the Nats score 5 or more runs in a game, they are an incredible 22-6. Also, to drill down further, the Nats are 16-7 when they hit multiple home runs which is a side note for this team since they have done that in 23 games, but you would expect that winning percentage to be higher. When they don’t hit multiple home runs, the team is 21-31 so there’s that. The key point for these Nats is when scoring 5 or more runs — the winning percentage is .786.
“I’d say we should try to hit a [two-run home run] every day then,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can hit the ball out of the park and the stats show that. The guys in between, those guys work good at-bats and get on-base, and these guys that are supposed to drive the ball out, and hit home runs in a big moment. That’s what you’re going to get.”
It turned out to be a good day for Scherzer who drove his ERA on the season down 2.14 and he came out for the first inning looking shaky then pulled it together to go 6.0 innings on 102 pitches with only 1 run given up. His 7 strikeouts on the day pushed his career total over the 2,900 mark, and he is now just 97 K’s from the 3,000 strikeout club. Scherzer love the two 2-run homers by Turner and Bell as that gave him career win #182.
“The biggest thing was that our offense went,” Scherzer said. “I’m a big believer that — I don’t care about your solo shots — I want [my teammates] two-run shots. … I get really excited when they hit their two- and three-run shots because I know that’s usually when you win the ballgame.”
Spoken like a true pitcher as there is an ole saying that solo home runs won’t beat you. Those two-run homers will.
The game was not all smiles as the Nats had two baserunning blunders and another injury in the game. Victor Robles had to exit the game after taking a pitch off of the inside of his knee. Fortunately, x-rays were negative according to Martinez who called it just a knee contusion. Unfortunately, it was Robles who was part of another baserunning blunder as he was caught stealing in the fifth inning with the world’s hottest hitter, Kyle Schwarber, stranded at the plate as it happened with two outs. Earlier in the game, it was the veteran Alex Avila who took a primary lead that was too far, and he was picked-off rather easily off of second base with no outs.
The strategy set forth by Martinez before the game was to move Robles to the 9th spot in the order to try to get Schwarber up with runners on-base and when Robles got on-base via a walk he erased himself.
“[Robles] is hitting basically in front of Schwarber, see if we can get him some pitches [to hit] and get on-base for the top of the lineup,” Martinez said before the game. “Let’s see if we can get him pitches to hit. … Trying to get another guy on there for [Schwarber].”
A sound strategy for sure to try to get men on-base for Schwarber because eight of his last thirteen home runs have been the solo variety. So why did Robles not heed that strategy as his manager was clear of the two-pronged reason to move Robles to the spot ahead of Schwarber?
“Something we’ll sit down tomorrow, and I’ll talk to [Victor Robles] about it, and ask what he was thinking,” the Nats’ manager said.
Part of getting on-base, is staying on-base so your teammates can drive you in. The problem with the traditional on-base percentage is it does not account for “taking” yourself off of the base.
Robles, before this game, had a -1.6 baserunning below average. That is mind-boggling for the third fastest runner on the team who thinks he is Turner, too often, and clearly is not. Someone needs to take away Robles’ ability to steal, and only have him steal with the “go” sign. According to Statcast, Robles has an identical sprint speed (28.1) to Adam Duvall of the Marlins. Contrast the two: Duvall is 5-for-5 (100%) in steals and Robles is a mediocre 7-for-11 (63.6%). Those 4 caught stealings also don’t include Robles other baserunning infractions aka TOOTBLANs.
Because the Nats won the game, the mistakes should not overshadow the great efforts of rest of the team in this game. There was Josh Harrison who had the lone RISP hit for the Nats that put the team up 1-0 in the first inning, and the bullpen was shutdown for the final three innings of the game. Also, it was good to see Schwarber take a walk that was there for the taking as compared to yesterday when he expanded outside the zone. Schwarber also hustled on two other players that were errors on Marlins’ fielders so in all, Schwarbs was on-base 3 times.