Game 1: 2-1 11-inning win on Thursday night (May 10)
Game 2: 3-1 win on Friday night (May 11)
Game 3: 2-1 win on Saturday (May 12)
Game 4: 6-4 win on Sunday night (May 13)
1. Whatta job by the Nats. The Diamondbacks entered this series a) as the best team in the National League this season and b/ having not lost a series the entire season. The Nats came in and pulled off a four-game sweep, making them 13-2 since their 11-16 start. Not bad.
2. There is no bigger reason for the Nats’ surge over the last 15 games than starting pitching, and the rotation continued to thrive in this series. Nats starting pitchers lead the National League in ERA (2.91), WHIP (1.04), opponents’ OPS (.627) and strikeouts (289).
Jeremy Hellickson in the 6-4 win at the Diamondbacks on Sunday night continued his stunning 2018, allowing one run in five innings on five strikeouts versus three hits and a walk. There was some criticism of Dave Martinez again for pulling Hellickson early (five innings and 61 pitches) but, as I’ve pointed out numerous times, this is how you manage a guy like Hellickson. And while Brandon Kintzler did blow a 4-1 lead by giving up three runs in the bottom of the seventh, criticizing Davey for yanking Hellickson is ridiculous. How can anyone reasonably argue with Davey’s handling of Hellickson when the guy now has a 2.20 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over six starts this season?
Stephen Strasburg in the 2-1 win on Saturday was good for a third straight start, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings on nine strikeouts versus a double, four singles, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch. Strasburg did deal with some mechanical issues and diminished velocity early in the game, but he ended up working through that stuff just fine.
Max Scherzer in the 3-1 win at the Diamondbacks on Friday night was sensational again and not just on the mound. He had two of the Nats’ seven hits: a two-out first-pitch RBI double in the top of the fourth and a leadoff single in the top of the seventh. But, yes, it is pitching that Max does best. He allowed one run in seven innings on 11 strikeouts versus just four hits and no walks. And two of the hits came on the first two batters he faced, as Max gave up back-to-back singles to David Peralta and Jarrod Dyson to begin the bottom of the first and committed a throwing error on Dyson’s bunt single, putting runners on second and third with no outs. But Max then pulled off a Houdini act, as he struck out Paul Goldschmidt, got Daniel Descalso to pop out on one pitch and then struck out Chris Owings on three pitches. Max’s updated numbers over nine starts this season: 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 13.96 K/9, .538 opponents’ OPS. And, yes, Max became the first pitcher in the majors to seven wins this season (7-1) if ya like that stat.
Tanner Roark in the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night was good for a sixth time in eight starts, allowing one run in seven innings on just four singles, no walks and a hit-by-pitch. He tossed four scoreless innings before giving up the run in the bottom of the fifth on a two-out single by the opposing starting pitcher, Zack Greinke. But Roark otherwise was great, lowering his ERA to 3.33 and WHIP to 1.01.
3. The Nats produced this four-game sweep despite totaling just 13 runs over the four games, one of which went 11 innings. Some of this is bad luck, as Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed and right fielder and ex-Nat Steven Souza Jr. made some great defensive plays in the 2-1 Nats win on Saturday. But, yes, the offense has cooled off since initially catching fire with Dave Martinez’s new-look lineup. That said, there were two notable bright spots from this series worth highlighting: Trea Turner and Howie Kendrick.
Turner went 5-for-15 with four walks in the series, batting in the no. 1 spot over the final three games. He led off the 3-1 win at the Diamondbacks on Friday night with a home run, had a single and two walks in the 2-1 win on Saturday and had a homer to lead off the top of the fifth, two walks and a stolen base in the 6-4 win on Sunday night.
Kendrick continues to quietly have a very good season. He started Games 1, 3 and 4 in the series and went 5-for-13. Kendrick had a double in the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night, two singles in the 2-1 win on Saturday and two more singles, including a one-out RBI single in the top of the first, in the 6-4 win on Sunday night. He has a .798 OPS this season.
4. Bryce Harper remains in a stop-start kinda mode this season epitomized by his .236 bating average and yet .943 OPS. Bryce had a single in batting in the leadoff spot in the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night but slid down to the no. 2 spot on Friday night, during which he had a double in the 3-1 win. Bryce remained in the no. 2 spot over the final two games of the series, providing an RBI double an 0-2 pitch, a single and a walk in the 2-1 win on Saturday and smashing a one-out solo homer in the top of the third in the 6-4 win on Sunday night. That homer was his first in eight games.
The Nats had three bad injury items come up during this series. The worst blow had to do with Adam Eaton. He hasn’t played since April 8 due to a left-ankle bone bruise. We had been hearing next to nothing about his status. And then on Thursday he underwent surgery to remove a flap of cartilage that didn’t show up in any of the three imaging tests that the Nats gave Eaton over the previous month. Mike Rizzo offered no timetable on when Eaton would be back, but, at this point, I don’t think that you can count on him being back this season. If he does come back, great. But boy does this now seem like a second straight lost season for this guy. The Nats transferred Eaton to the 60-day disabled list on Friday.
5. Bad Nats injury item no. 2 from this series: the Nats placed Ryan Zimmerman on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday with a right oblique strain that had caused him to miss multiple games recently. The corresponding roster move was selecting the contract of Mark Reynolds from Triple-A Syracuse. And boy did Reynolds come through in his Nats debut in the 6-4 win at the Diamondbacks on Sunday night: leadoff homer in the top of the sixth and a tie-breaking one-out full-count two-run homer in the top of the eighth.
I loved the Nats signing of Reynolds to a minor-league contract in April. This is his age-34 season, but he’s coming off hitting 30 homers for the Rockies last season, during which he had a 104 OPS+ over 593 plate appearances.
Orioles fans remember his work over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, during which he combined for 60 homers and a 112 OPS+ for the O’s. I’ll never forget the tear that Reynolds went on late in that Orioles playoff push in 2012: from Aug. 31 through Sept. 8 of that season, he hit nine homers in nine games, including seven homers against the Yankees.
6. Bad Nats injury item no. 3 from this series: Matt Wieters left the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night due to a left leg injury that apparently was suffered in taking a wide turn around first base on a one-out single in the top of the second. He limped back to the dugout and was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday with what was labeled as a left hamstring strain.
Catcher is just about the last position at which the Nats could afford an injury. Wieters is a declining player, though to his credit he does have a .342 on-base percentage this season. But Jhonatan Solano is on the 60-day disabled list due to bone chips in his right elbow. Prospect Raudy Read is serving an 80-game suspension without pay for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
And so the future is now for Pedro Severino. He was the Nats’ catcher of the future two years ago, and Wieters’ absence presents a great opportunity for Severino to make the starting-catcher job his. He had a double and threw out Jarrod Dyson on an attempted steal of second base in the bottom of the 10th in the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night; had a single in the 3-1 win on Friday night; had a single and a walk in the 2-1 win on Saturday and a double in the 6-4 win at the Diamondbacks on Sunday night.
The Nats on Friday selected the contract of 2012 fifth-round pick Spencer Kieboom from Triple-A Syracuse.
7. The Nats’ bullpen overall was great in the series, allowing just three runs in 12 1/3 innings.
All three runs were allowed by Brandon Kintzler in the bottom of the seventh in the 6-4 win at the Diamondbacks on Sunday night on two doubles and two singles. But Sammy Solis, Trevor Gott, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in that game.
Solis, Madson, Kintzler and Doolittle combined for four scoreless innings in the 2-1 11-inning win at the Diamondbacks on Thursday night. Madson had three strikeouts in tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Kintzler and Doolittle each tossed a scoreless inning in the 3-1 win at the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Solis, Shawn Kelley and Madson combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the 2-1 win on Saturday. It was very nice seeing two non-Law Firm guys in Solis and Kelley come through in preserving a 2-1 lead in the seventh and eighth innings. Kelley got behind ex-Nat Steven Souza Jr. 3-1 and yet struck him out (which led to him being ejected) with a runner on first to end the bottom of the eighth.