Observations from and analysis of the Nats losing two of three games at the Giants
Game 1: 4-2 loss on Monday night (April 23)
Game 2: 4-3 loss on Tuesday night (April 24)
Game 3: 15-2 win on Wednesday (April 25)
1. Nothing like a 15-run eruption to make you feel a little better about things. A bad trip out west (2-4 ultimately was the record) got a little better on Wednesday with a laugher of a win. The Nats scored 15 runs on 18 hits and six walks and went 7-for-19 with runners in scoring position. This happened in a game in which the Nats’ starting lineup included the likes of Wilmer Difo, Matt Adams, Andrew Stevenson, Adrian Sanchez and Pedro Severino. Ryan Zimmerman did not play, and Bryce Harper “only” had a single and two walks. Trea Turner, Adams and Stevenson combined for 12 hits and 12 RBI. The Nats’ 15 runs on Wednesday were more than the team’s total number of runs over the previous five games combined.
What happened in Game 3, though, came off continued offensive struggles in Games 1 and 2. Michael A. Taylor’s two-out three-run opposite-field homer off Ty Blach in the top of the fourth in the 4-3 loss at the Giants on Tuesday night was just about the only Nats offensive highlight over the first two games of the series.
The Nats in the 4-2 loss at the Giants on Monday night had just five hits to go with four walks and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The Nats had runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the first, but Adams then had a flyout. The Nats had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the sixth, but Adams then struck out and Matt Wieters then had a flyout. The Nats had Turner on second with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Howie Kendrick then had a flyout.
The Nats in the 4-3 loss at the Giants on Tuesday night had just six hits to go with three walks and went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Especially painful were two double plays, including one by Zimmerman in the top of the eighth with runners on first and second and one out. That double play captured the way that things have gone for Zimmerman for much of this season so far. He sent a sharply hit ground ball off the first pitch he threw, but the ball went to shortstop Brandon Crawford near the middle of the infield to begin the double play. Zimmerman, as we’ve talked about, is hitting balls hard, though his hard-hit stats have fallen off lately. He just hasn’t been hitting balls to where fielders are not. Another example of a hard-hit ball hit to the wrong spot came in the Nats’ 1-2-3 top of the ninth, during which Adams scorched a liner to center fielder Gregor Blanco for the first out.
2. I like a lot of what we’re seeing from Trea Turner as the leadoff man with Adam Eaton on the 10-day disabled list with his left-ankle bone bruise. Turner had a triple, a single and a stolen base in the 4-2 loss at the Giants on Monday night and then had a double, four singles and a stolen base in the 15-2 win at the Giants on Wednesday. Turner now has a .362 on-base percentage this season and is a perfect 10-for-10 on stolen bases. His 15 walks are second on the team to Bryce Harper’s 32. The Burner still isn’t hitting for power as he did in 2016 (just a .366 slugging percentage), but, after Bryce, Turner has been the best Nat at getting on base this season. He has more than double the walks of Ryan Zimmerman (15 vs. seven). Remember, Turner had a 3.4 bWAR in just 73 games in 2016, during which he had a 142 OPS+. Even last season, what was considered a down season, he had a 103 OPS+. This guy can be an offensive force.
3. Max Scherzer in the 15-2 win at the Giants on Wednesday did as an ace is supposed to do yet again this season – acted as a stopper. Now, the Nats scoring 15 runs sure helped. But Max was good himself in aiding the ending of a four-game losing streak, allowing two runs in six innings on 10 strikeouts versus five hits, two walks and a wild pitch. Four of the five hits were extra-base hits, as he allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to Brandon Crawford (on a 1-2 pitch) and former Oriole Nick Hundley (on an 0-2 pitch) in the bottom of the second and then gave up a one-out triple to Brandon Belt followed by a one-out RBI double to Pablo Sandoval (who had been down in the count 1-2 at one point) in the bottom of the sixth. But you can’t call this anything but a good start by Max, who threw an astrounding 74 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Mad Max now has a 1.62 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP and 13.15 K/9 over six starts this season.
4. The Nats did not get particularly good outings from the rotation in Games 1 and 2 of the series.
Tanner Roark in the 4-3 loss at the Giants on Tuesday night struggled for the second time in five starts this season. He allowed four runs in six innings on six hits (including two homers), two walks, a hit-by-pitch and two wild pitches. Particularly disappointing was the bottom of the first, during which he gave up a run on a one-out single to Joe Panik, a two-out single to Buster Posey on an 0-2 pitch, a two-out five-pitch walk to Brandon Belt and then a run-scoring wild pitch. We also had the bottom of the third, during which Roark gave up a leadoff single to Panik and a two-out two-run homer to Belt, who had been down in the count 1-2 and who, as you may remember, smashed a solo homer off Roark in the top of the 18th in the famous Nats 2-1 18-inning loss to the Giants in NLDS Game 2 in Oct. 2014. And we had Roark giving up a two-out first-pitch solo homer to Mac Williamson in the bottom of the sixth.
Gio Gonzalez in the 4-2 loss at the Giants on Monday night failed to last longer than six innings for the fifth time in five starts this season and failed to last longer than 5 1/3 innings for a fourth consecutive start. He allowed three runs in five innings on two doubles, two singles and three walks versus four strikeouts. Gio allowed a run in the bottom of the fourth thanks in part to a leadoff walk of Buster Posey and a one-out double by Brandon Belt, who Gio had had down in the count 1-2. He allowed a run in the bottom of the fifth on a two-out double by Andrew McCutchen followed by a two-out first-pitch RBI single by Posey. And Gio was charged with a run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a leadoff walk of Belt on five pitches. Gio threw 94 pitches over the five innings, continuing a trend of not being very pitch efficient. Gio lasted for at least seven innings in 10 of his 32 starts last season. He complained after this game about not being allowed by Dave Martinez to pitch longer in games, but this to me is on Gio. He has to earn that. And his performances so far this season have not done that.
5. In terms of performance, this was a good series for the Nats’ bullpen, as it allowed just one run in eight innings. But there is yet another injury.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Shawn Kelley in the 4-2 loss at the Giants on Monday night. He came into the game in the bottom of the sixth, gave up a first-pitch two-run homer to the first batter he faced in Mac Williamson and then left the game after spiking a slider about 50 feet toward home plate. Dave Martinez said after the game that Kelley had an irritated ulnar nerve, and he was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. Kelley has a substantial injury history. He has undergone Tommy John surgery twice, left the Nats’ NLDS Game 5 loss to the Dodgers in 2016 after he said that he lost feeling in his arm and was shut down with bone chips in his elbow last year, during which he gave up 12 homers in just 26 innings. He now has given up two homers in just six innings this season. Kelley joined Matt Grace, Koda Glover and Joaquin Benoit as Nats relievers currently on disabled lists, not to mention two relievers who the Nats have designated for assignment in Enny Romero and A.J. Cole.
Speaking of Cole, the Nats on Monday traded him to the Yankees for cash considerations off having designated him for assignment on Friday. And thus ends the A.J. Cole saga. I wondered for a long time how long the Nats would keep going to this guy. His horrendous relief pitching in the series at the Mets from April 16-18 was it. Cole had an ERA of 5.32 and a WHIP of 1.51 over 26 major-league games, including 19 starts, with the Nats.
Sammy Solis, Trevor Gott and Carlos Torres did then each toss a scoreless inning on Monday night.
Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson each tossed a scoreless inning in the 4-3 loss at the Giants on Tuesday night.
Trevor Gott, Austin Adams and Torres each tossed a scoreless inning in the 15-2 win at the Giants on Wednesday.