Game 1: 4-1 loss on Friday night (April 10)
Game 2: 3-2 10-inning loss on Saturday night (April 11)
Game 3: 4-3 10-inning win on Sunday afternoon (April 12)
What I liked and didn’t like:
1. Doug Fister’s start in Game 2 – Fister tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
2. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 3 – Scherzer allowed one run in six innings, recording eight strikeouts.
3. Gio Gonzalez’s Game 1 start until the bottom of the seventh – Gonzalez was rolling, having tossed six scoreless innings. Then came that seventh inning, in which Gonzalez recorded an out before issuing consecutive walks and a hit-by-pitch and getting pulled. All three runners put on by Gonzalez scored after his departure in what proved a four-run seventh.
4. Yunel Escobar – Given Escobar’s offensive track record (OPS+ of less than 100 (i.e., below league average) in four of the last five seasons), I disagreed with manager Matt Williams continuing to bat Escobar second in all three games in this series. That said, he produced: 5-for-13 with a walk. Escobar, the Nats’ starting third baseman in all six games due to Anthony Rendon being on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left MCL, exited this series leading the Nats in hits (seven) and tied for the team lead in walks (three) without having struck out this season.
5. Clint Robinson – Robinson had a pinch RBI single in the top of the eighth of Game 2 and then had a double, two singles and a run as the starting left fielder in Game 3. Robinson is in his age-30 season but entered this year with just 14 career MLB plate appearances, having totaled 921 minor-league games. The Nats signed him as a free agent this past December.
What I didn’t like:
1. More bad offense – Seven runs in three games and a .210 batting average for the series (including going just 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position) aren’t good enough. Yes, Rendon, left fielder Jayson Werth and center fielder Denard Span are on the 15-day D.L. But those absences don’t excuse the Nats exiting this series last in MLB in team batting average (.194) and tied for last in MLB in runs (13).
Shortstop Ian Desmond went for 1-for-12 in the series.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-12 with two walks in the series, though he made a terrific diving backhanded stop for the final out of Game 3.
2. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow six runs in 8 2/3 innings in the series, giving up 12 hits and three walks versus nine strikeouts.
Xavier Cedeno faced two batters and did not record an out in the bottom of the seventh of Game 1, giving up a two-run single and then a hit-by-pitch. He then allowed a game-tying pinch solo homer to Darin Ruf in the bottom of the seventh of Game 3.
Closer Drew Storen gave up back-to-back walks and a run-scoring infield single in the bottom of the 10th of Game 3.
3. Danny Espinosa already being back to switch hitting – One of the more intriguing spring-training storylines for the Nats was Espinosa, who has been woeful in his career as a left-handed batter, abandoning switch hitting. Then what did we see in Game 2, in which he faced right-handed pitching for the first time this season? Espinosa batting from the left side. And while he wacked a double to lead off the top of the eighth, he also struck out to end the top of the ninth. Espinosa said that this is a comfort thing, and I get that. But how about giving batting from the right side exclusively an actual try given that over the previous three seasons you have a .607 OPS as a left-handed batter versus a .775 OPS as a right-handed batter?