A closer look at Washington’s three-day stand against the Phillies.
Game 1: 5-2 win on Friday night (June 26)
Game 2: 3-2 win on Sunday afternoon (June 28)
Game 3: 8-5 loss on Sunday (June 28)
What I liked:
1. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 1 – Scherzer was great once again, allowing two runs in eight innings on seven strikeouts versus five hits and no walks. Not quite a 16-strikeout one-hitter or a no-hitter, but still pretty darn good. The streak of consecutive scoreless innings from Nationals starters ended at 47 1/3 innings, good for the second-longest such streak during the expansion era (since 1961) (the 1974 Orioles are first at 54 straight scoreless innings from starters). And Scherzer hit another single. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first pitcher with a no-hitter through five innings in each of three consecutive starts since Doyle Alexander of the 1976 Yankees. Scherzer leads the majors with a 9.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is more than twice as good as his rate last season.
2. Stephen Strasburg’s start in Game 2 – Strasburg had arguably his best start of the season so far, allowing two runs in seven innings on nine strikeouts versus four hits and a walk. Still too early to say that Strasburg is “back,” but he has looked quite good since coming off the 15-day disabled list (two runs in 12 innings on 15 strikeouts versus eight hits and two walks).
3. The offense despite a number of key absences – Anthony Rendon joined Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman on the D.L. Yunel Escobar got hit by a pitch on his left hand in the first inning of Game 1 and missed Game 2. Bryce Harper missed Games 1 and 3 as he deals with a strained right hamstring. Denard Span missed Games 1 and 3 as he deals with back spasms. And yet the Nats batted .264 (28-for-106) and totaled 10 walks, and the 10 runs over the three games could have been many more given that the Nats went just 6-for-31 with runners in scoring position.
A number of bench players delivered in this series. Matt den Dekker had a two-run homer in Game 1. Tyler Moore had two singles in Game 1 and a double in Game 3. Dan Uggla had three singles and a walk in Game 2. Clint Robinson had two RBI singles in Game 3. Jose Lobaton had a solo homer and a single in Game 3.
Michael Taylor went 5-for-14, blasting doubles in Games 1 and 2.
Span had a double, a single and a walk in Game 2.
Harper had a double and a walk in Game 2.
Escobar had a double, a single and a walk in Game 3.
4. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined for 7 2/3 scoreless innings, including 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3.
What I didn’t like:
1. Rendon going back on the 15-day disabled list – Rendon missed Thursday’s 7-0 win over Atlanta and then was placed on the D.L. on Friday with a strained left quadriceps.
Rendon was the Nats’ MVP last season, leading the team with 6.5 bWAR. But he, like Zimmerman, now has an injury history that is undeniable:
• 2015 – missed the first 53 games due to a left MCL sprain suffered in March and a left oblique strain suffered in April
• 2012 – fractured his left ankle while playing for Single-A Lynchburg
• 2011 – had to play the majority of his junior season at Rice at designated hitter because of a strained muscle behind his shoulder
• 2010 – fractured his right ankle while playing for Team USA
• 2009 – tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing for Rice
2. The decision to start Game 2 on Saturday – Rain was all over the forecast, and yet it was decided that the Nats and Phillies would try to get the game in. The result? One and-a-half innings were played before there was a lengthy rain delay that eventually led to the game being called in favor of a doubleheader on Sunday. Matt Williams said that he was “extremely” frustrated that the game started to begin with and added, “It burned our pitcher. I’m not very happy about it.” That pitcher was Gio Gonzalez, who said, “I’m trying my best to keep my composure right now. One inning I got out of it. It’s unfortunate. You’re put in a tough situation and it just sucks. I’ve been waiting four days and that’s what happens.”
Starting this game was ridiculous, so much so that you have to wonder if this was the Phillies avenging the Nats playing chessy music during batting practice at Nationals Park earlier this season. The Nats over the years have been pretty quick to call games at Nationals Park. Why did the Phillies move so slowly? The only onus that you can put on Williams is, if he was so sure about the forecast, why didn’t he start a reliever and preserve Gio for Sunday? But while there’s logic behind that, you can only be so sure about a forecast. Playing on Saturday should have never happened.
3. Tanner Roark’s start in Game 3 – Roark essentially had one day to prepare for this start and got slammed, allowing eight runs in 3 1/3 innings on 12 hits. It is worth noting that 11 of the 12 hits were singles. Roark has been yo-yo’d between the rotation and bullpen this season, and his overall results have not been great: 4.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP.