Game 1: 3-1 loss on Monday (April 6)
Game 2: 2-1 win on Wednesday night (April 8)
Game 3: 6-3 loss on Thursday afternoon (April 9)
What I liked and Didn’t Like:
What I Liked
1. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 1 – While it was disappointing to see Scherzer give up a run-scoring hit after each of shortstop Ian Desmond’s two errors, the facts are that Scherzer allowed no earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, recording eight strikeouts versus four hits and two walks. He took a no-hitter into the sixth. The loss wasn’t his fault.
2. Jordan Zimmermann’s start in Game 2 – Zimmermann allowed one run in six innings, giving up five hits and no walks.
3. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to toss eight scoreless innings in the series.
4. Right fielder Bryce Harper – Harper went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series. He had two of the Nats’ three hits in Game 1, including a solo homer to lead off the top of the fourth.
5. Rookie center fielder Michael Taylor – Taylor batted leadoff in all three games and went 4-for-13 in the series, belting two doubles. He didn’t draw any walks, but no complaints about 4-for-13.
What I didn’t like:
1. Overall offensive production – The Nats batted .177 (17-for-96), including going 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position, with 30 strikeouts versus seven walks. This series reeked of slow offensive starts of seasons past and, of course, of the 2014 NLDS loss to San Francisco.
2. Third baseman Yunel Escobar batting second in all three games – Escobar has registered an OPS+ of less than 100 (i.e., below league-average) in four of the last five seasons. The idea with lineup construction should be to have your best batters (as determined by on-base percentage and slugging percentage) high up. Don’t get caught up in traditional roles (the leadoff hitter has to be a “speedster;” the no. 2 batter should be a “slap hitter,” etc.); get your best batters the most plate appearances possible. Why is manager Matt Williams putting Escobar so high? His career screams him batting in the bottom third of a lineup.
Escobar went 2-for-10 with two walks in the series and got caught stealing in Game 3.
3. Desmond’s defense in Games 1 and 3 – Desmond’s two errors in Game 1 immediately preceded run-scoring hits by the Mets. His failure to make the catch of a shallow-right-field pop-up that second baseman Dan Uggla already had called for in the top of the sixth was followed by first baseman Lucas Duda’s two-run single. Desmond’s throwing error in the top of the seventh was followed by catcher Travis d’Arnaud’s RBI triple.
Then in Game 3, Desmond booted a groundball, negating a potential inning-ending double play in what proved a four-run top of the third.
Errors can be a very inaccurate way of measuring defense, but they aren’t meaningless. And Desmond’s history of high-error totals in April is impossible to ignore: eight in April 2014, seven in April 2013 and seven in April 2011. He’s not off to a good start this April.
4. Stephen Strasburg’s Game 3 start – Strasburg allowed six runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings on nine hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch. Compare and contrast that line with that of the Mets’ Matt Harvey, who was making his first regular-season start since Aug. 2013 due to Tommy John surgery: nine strikeouts in six scoreless innings
It should be pointed out, though, that Strasburg did not unravel after Desmond’s error in the four-run top of the third from a standpoint of the giving up hard contact; the three run-scoring singles that Strasburg allowed after the error were not the results of hard contact. That said, he’s much better than what we saw in this game.
5. So many key players being out to begin the season – The Nats on Sunday (April 5) placed third baseman Anthony Rendon, left fielder Jayson Werth, center fielder Denard Span, and relievers Casey Janssen and Erik Davis on the 15-day disabled list. That list includes your 2014 MVP (Rendon), your best offensive player over the last three seasons (Werth), arguably your best offensive player over the last three months of last season (Span) and the potential successor to Tyler Clippard as the Nats’ eighth-inning man (Janssen).