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Nationals Get Swept At San Francisco

Black-boxing a new low for the reeling Nats.

Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, second from right, kicks the mound after speaking with pitching coach Steve McCatty, right, in the fourth inning at the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, second from right, kicks the mound after speaking with pitching coach Steve McCatty, right, in the fourth inning at the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

 

Game 1: 3-1 loss on Thursday night (Aug. 13)

Game 2: 8-5 loss on Friday night (Aug. 14)

Game 3: 12-6 loss on Saturday night (Aug. 15)

Game 4: 5-0 loss on Sunday (Aug. 16)

 

What I liked:

1. Stephen Strasburg’s start in Game 1 – All of a sudden he is the most reliable member of the rotation.  Strasburg gave up two runs in the first but then tossed five scoreless innings, recording eight strikeouts.  He wasn’t efficient (101 pitches), but he got the job done.  And that’s more than you can say for the Nats’ other three starters in this series.

 

What I didn’t like:

1. The big picture – The Nats now have lost six straight and 20 of 29, are a game under .500 overall, are 1-6 on what’s become a nightmare of a trip out west and are 12 games behind Pittsburgh for the National League’s top wild-card spot and 9 ½ games behind the Cubs for the N.L.’s second wild-card spot.  The only bright spot from the weekend was that the N.L. East-leading Mets got swept by the visiting Pirates.

 

2. The offense – The Nats batted .191 in the series, including going 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position.

The Nats got Bumgarner-ed in Game 4, as he recorded 14 strikeouts in tossing a three-hit shutout and had a solo homer and an RBI double.  The Nats missed on 46 percent of their swings Bumgarner.  His previous career high was 29 percent.

Ryan Zimmerman went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts in the series.

Anthony Rendon went 1-for-14 with six strikeouts in the series.

 

3. The starting pitching in Games 2-4 – Another highly disappointing series for what was supposed to be an elite rotation.

Max Scherzer had his worst start of the season in Game 2, giving up six runs in three innings and allowing two more homers.  He now has a 5.05 ERA over his last eight starts, during which he has given up 11 homers.  Scherzer has been a much different pitcher since that surreal four-start stretch from the middle of June into early July.

Gio Gonzalez, coming off his best outing of the season, then had his worst of the season in Game 3: six runs in 2 2/3 innings on five hits and two walks.  Gio now has not lasted more than five innings in four of his last five starts.

Joe Ross then had his second consecutive bad outing in Game 4.  He actually retired the first nine batters he faced but then fell apart, giving up three runs in the fourth and a run in the fifth.  Ross now has allowed nine runs in 8 2/3 innings over his last two starts.

 

4. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow 10 runs in 16 1/3 innings, giving up 16 hits and six walks.

Tanner Roark, Felipe Rivero and Drew Storen combined to allow six runs in 5 1/3 innings on eight hits in Game 3.  Storen now has allowed 10 runs over his last four appearances.

 

5. More bad decisions from Matt Williams – He is not the Nats’ biggest problem right now.  But I disagreed with several things he did in this series.

Williams had Yunel Escobar sacrifice-bunt Michael Taylor to third with no outs in the top of the first of Game 2.  Taylor did score on a Bryce Harper sac fly, but that’s not the point.  Studies have shown the only time you should sacrifice-bunt is in the later innings of a close game.  Doing so in a first inning and with your second best hitter on the season in Escobar was criminal.  Outs are precious.  You only get 27 in a game.  Don’t just give them away.

Also, Williams had Taylor bat leadoff in Games 2-4.  I know that Taylor has a lot of potential, and he has been very good defensively and can run, but the reality is this: he has been an offensive liability this season.  Taylor exited this series with a mere .284 on-base percentage and an OPS+ of just 80 (100 is average).  He exited this series with the second-worst strikeout percentage in the majors (31.6 percent).  A player with his offensive profile should be nowhere near your leadoff spot.

 

6. Steve McCatty getting ejected in Game 3 – McCatty was tossed in the bottom of the third by home-plate umpire Cory Blaser wile walking back to the dugout.  Who knows what was said, but it is not the job of the pitching coach to get ejected.

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