What I liked / didn’t like about the Nats’ sweep of the Pirates at PNC Park.
Game 1: 4-1 win on Friday night (June 19)
Game 2: 6-0 win on Saturday (June 20)
Game 3: 9-2 win on Sunday afternoon (June 21)
What I liked:
1. Best series of the season – The Nats, who had lost 14 of their last 20 games coming into this series, swept a Pirates club that had won eight straight, outscoring them 19-3. Included over the three games was a no-hitter in Game 2 and a club-record nine runs in the first inning of Game 3.
2. Max Scherzer’s no-hitter in Game 2 – Scherzer came within one strike of a perfect game, hitting Jose Tabata with a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth. Tabata, who got his on his left elbow, made little effort to get out of the way and in fact leaned into the pitch. My take: don’t blame Tabata, blame home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski for not calling Tabata for not trying to avoid getting hit by the pitch. It’s not Tabata’s job to preserve a perfect game. It’s his job to get on base. If Wilson Ramos had framed a ball into being a strike for a game-ending strikeout, would anyone criticize Ramos? Of course not. The onus is on the umpire to get the call right. Players will always resort to gamesmanship if not outright deception.
But put aside Tabata, who appropriately was booed mercilessly by Nats fans in Game 3. Scherzer’s no-hitter off his 16-strikeout 4-0 one-hit shutout at Milwaukee on June 14 raises the question of were these the best back-to-back starts in major-league history? If you go by Bill James’ Game Score metric, the answer is yes. Scherzer’s start at the Brewers earned a 100; the no-hitter a 97. He is the first pitcher in major-league history with back-to-back Game Scores that high.
Other nuggets from Scherzer’s no-no:
• He threw 82 of his 106 pitches for strikes
• He changed his jersey seven times on a day on which the game-time temperature was 91 degrees
• He was doused with six bottles of chocolate syrup after the game
3. The starting pitching overall – Scherzer, Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez combined to allow one run in 23 1/3 innings, totaling 25 strikeouts versus three walks. The Nats’ pitching staff set a club record with 24 consecutive scoreless innings pitched before the Pirates scored two runs in the top of the ninth of Game 3.
Ross allowed one runs in 7 1/3 innings in Game 1, recording 11 strikeouts.
Gio tossed seven scoreless innings and had an RBI double for his first hit of the season in Game 3.
4. The offense – The Nats scored a franchise-recrd nine runs in the bottom of the first of Game 3 and batted .333 (34-for-102) for the series, including going 11-for-31 with runners in scoring position.
And so much for Bryce Harper’s mild left hamstring strain. He missed Game 1 but then had a solo homer and RBI single in Game 2 and a two-run homer in the Nats’ nine-run first in Game 3.
What I didn’t like:
1. Felipe Rivero gave up a two-run homer in the top of the ninth of Game 3 – That’s about the only thing worth complaining about.