How and why the Nats lost a series against the lowly Rockies at Nationals Park.
Game 1: 5-4 loss on Friday night (Aug. 7)
Game 2: 6-1 win on Saturday night (Aug. 8)
Game 3: 6-4 loss on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 9)
What I liked:
1. Stephen Strasburg’ start in Game 2 – He was great in his return from a month-plus-long stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a left oblique strain: one run in seven innings on 12 strikeouts versus three hits and no walks. Strasburg this season has been on the D.L. twice, has exited three starts due to injury and has struggled. Whether he can he get back to what he was in each of the previous three seasons over the final eight weeks of this regular season is one of the biggest questions facing the Nats.
2. Jordan Zimmermann’s start in Game 1 – Coming off two subpar starts, he allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings on six strikeouts versus four hits and no walks.
3. The offense – As was the case in the four-game split with Arizona, the Nats’ bats were better than people realize in this series. The Nats totaled 14 runs, batted .265 (27-for-102) and worked 15 walks. Those are good numbers over three games. Yes, the Nats went just 7-for-36 with runners in scoring position, and that’s not good. But the offense was good enough to win more than one out of three games.
Ryan Zimmerman blasted two solo homers in Game 3 and went 6-for-11 with two walks overall.
What I didn’t like:
1. Highly-disappointing homestand – The Nats went just 3-4 against two sub-.500 teams in the National League West. This should have been a get-yourself-right homestand on which the Nats went 6-1 or 5-2. The Nats now have lost 14 of their last 22 games and are lucky that the Mets lost two of three at Tampa Bay over the weekend.
2. Drew Storen – So much for him having been especially good since moving to the eighth inning. Storen gave up a walk, a single, a cheap infield single and then grand slam in the top of the eighth in Game 1. He then gave up a single, a hit-by-pitch and a two-run single in the top of the eighth in Game 3.
3. Another bad decision by Matt Williams – Storen shouldn’t have been in the game when he gave up the grand slam in the top of the eighth in Game 1. The perpetrator of the slam, the left-handed-hitting Carlos Gonzalez, crushes right-handed pitching versus struggling mightily versus left-handed pitching. The numbers are staggering. And yet Storen, because the eighth inning is his “role,” was kept in the game. The result was disastrous. Lefty Matt Thornton had pitched in each of the previous two games. But lefty Felipe Rivero was available, as he pitched in the following inning. Not having Rivero face CarGo was a major error by the manager.
4. Anthony Rendon getting thrown at home in Game 3 – He got thrown out at home by the strong-armed CarGo on a Zimmerman single with the score tied at four and one out in the bottom of the seventh. The play wasn’t even close, rendering the fact that catcher Michael McKenry blocked the plate moot (that’s a key aspect of the confusing home-plate-collision rule; even though catchers are required by the letter of Rule 7.13 to allow a part of the plate to slide to, a runner who is clearly beaten by the throw should not be called safe on a technicality). You want a team to be aggressive on the bases, but this was a bad send by third-base coach Bobby Henley.
5. Max Scherzer’ start in Game 3 – He allowed four runs in six innings on eight hits, including three homers. Scherzer did have 10 strikeouts, but the reality is that he has come back down to earth since that surreal four-start stretch from the middle of June to early July. He now has a 4.15 ERA over his last seven starts, during which he has given up nine homers.
6. Bad news regarding Denard Span and two more players to the 15-day D.L. –Williams during this series described Span as having suffered a setback. He hasn’t played since July 6 due to back spasms and in fact on Saturday expressed doubt about playing again this season.
The Nats placed Dan Uggla on the D.L. with back spasms and actually voided Aaron Barrett’s recent option to Triple-A Syracuse and placed him on the D.L. with a right elbow sprain, retroactive to August 6.