A look at the Nationals’ two-game homestand against the Reds.
Game 1: 3-2 loss on Monday night (July 6)
Game 2: 5-0 loss on Tuesday night (July 7)
What I liked:
1. A new streak – Earlier this season, Nats starters set a franchise record with 47 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Currently, the Nats’ pitching staff has allowed two walks or fewer in a major-league record 20 straight games.
2. Doug Fister’s start in Game 1 – Fister, who had struggled in two of his three starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list, allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings, though he gave up eight hits and walk and committed a throwing error during the Reds’ one-run second.
3. The bullpen – Casey Janssen did give up a tie-breaking solo homer to Eugenio Suarez in the top of the eighth of Game 1. But that was the one run allowed by Nats relievers over 7 1/3 innings. Particularly impressive was Taylor Jordan, who tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 2.
What I didn’t like:
1. Denard Span being out at least through the All-Star break – Span left Game 1 after two innings due to back spasms, which have plagued him for weeks, and will not play in this weekend’s series at the Orioles. Starting with a 6-3 loss to the Cubs on June 7 through Game 2 of this series, Span has either been out of the Nats’ lineup or removed mid-game with back spasms nine times.
What’s odd is how well he’s been playing: his on-base percentage has increased 32 points since June 7.
What’s troubling, though, is the comments by Span on Wednesday, when he let out some frustration and perhaps hinted that the Nats share some of the blame: “The last month, it was kind of hard to tell because I was bouncing back. It was a lot of professional guessing, I guess you could say. Thinking that this is what it might be, this is what it might be. I was doing a bunch of exercises, and I was responding fairly well. I was still maintaining my play on the field, so we didn’t think it was anything serious. But, like I said, it’s gotten to the point now where I’ve got to figure out what is going on. This is bigger than today. Hopefully, I want to play for another 10 years. So I’ve got to figure this out.”
Span’s back issue marks at least the fourth tricky and arguably mishandled injury situation for the Nats in 2015.
• Anthony Rendon missed the first 53 games due to a left MCL sprain suffered in March and a left oblique strain suffered in April. The knee injury was initially labeled as being “mild.” It turned out to be anything but. He’s now on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps.
• Jayson Werth has been on the D.L. since May 19, retroactive to May 16, due to a broken left wrist. Initially he was thought to have a left wrist contusion, as x-rays were negative and an MRI exam revealed no fractures or tendon damage. But we learned on May 28 that a CT scan had revealed two small fractures and that he likely would not be back until August.
• Ryan Zimmerman has been on the D.L. since June 11 due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Should Zimmerman have gone on the D.L. sooner? We know that he had been dealing with the foot issue for nearly two months. We know that was having a terrible season offensively, posting an on-base percentage of just .265 and mired in a 4-for-46 slump. Yes, it is a total hindsight question, but you have to wonder if the Nats waited too long on this one.
Medicine is a tricky business in which many times there are no obvious answers. I am sure that the Nats do their best to handle injuries as carefully and skillfully as possible. But the team has had a shaky reputation when it comes to diagnosing/managing/revealing injuries, and this season has done that reputation no favors.
2. Yunel Escobar getting hurt – Escobar left Game 1 in the fifth inning due to a strained left hamstring. He did not play in Game 2 but would have been available to pinch hit in Game 3 had it not been postponed due to rain.
3. The offense – With all of these absences, the Nats totaled just two runs and seven hits over the two games.
4. The defense – The Nats had more errors (four) than runs (two) over the two games. Fister and Ian Desmond had throwing errors in Game 1. Dan Uggla and Danny Espinosa committed errors in Game 2. To be fair, the Nats’ defense has been much better overall since its rocky start to the season.
5. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 2 – In maybe the best on-paper pitching matchup in a Nats game this year, Scherzer was badly out-dueled by Johnny Cueto, who recorded 11 strikeouts in a two-hit shutout. Scherzer had his worst start of the season, giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings on seven hits and a hit-by-pitch. It was the first time in 17 starts this season that he did not last at least six innings.
6. The ‘Nati is the Nats’ new daddy – There’s no good explanation for this, but the Nats now are 0-5 against the Reds this season.