Observations from and analysis of the Nats’ series loss to the Diamondbacks
Game 1: 5-4 loss on Friday night (April 27)
Game 2: 4-3 10-inning loss on Saturday (April 28)
Game 3: 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon (April 29)
1. There’s no shame in losing to the Diamondbacks these days, as Arizona with this series became the first team since the 1907 Cubs to win nine consecutive series to begin a season. That said, this was another very frustrating series for the Nats. They fell to a major-league-worst 1-8 in one-run games with the losses in Games 1 and 2. And whereas the Diamondbacks seemed to make every key play and get every key hit over those first two games, the Nats continued to do just enough to lose.
2. Dave Martinez made a bad rookie-manager mistake in the top of the 10th in the 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday. Thinking that Arziona was pinch-hitting righty Chris Owings for lefty Jarrod Dyson with runners on first and second and one out, Martinez brought in righty Austin Adams for lefty Sammy Solis. But the problem was that the Diamondbacks were able to get out of pinch-hitting Owings for Dyson, as the move was never officially made by Arizona nor confirmed by home-play umpire Nic Lentz. Arizona was able to save Owings as a pinch hitter, avoided the lefty-lefty Solis-Dyson matchup and saw Dyson draw a five-pitch walk off Adams, who then walked A.J. Pollock with the bases loaded on six pitches for what proved the game-winning run.
Martinez, to his credit, took the blame after the game – “So, hey, I completely take ownership to that. It will never happen again because I will make sure, I will look right at him and say, ‘is he in the game?’ But, we had our chances to win.”
This is by my count major mistake no. 3 made by Martinez in his first month of managing regular-season games. He inexplicably allowed A.J. Cole to bat with two outs, the bases loaded and the Nats trailing 8-5 in the top of the third of the 13-6 loss at Atlanta on April 3, a game in which Cole allowed 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings. And Martinez twice pitched Ryan Madson, who is in his age-37 season, four times in five days.
I held Dusty Baker accountable for mistakes like these, so it’s only fair that I do the same for Martinez. As you may recall, the man I wanted the Nats to hire to place Dusty was Joe Girardi. Why? Because he, to me, was the right blend of experience and analytics. But #JoeG2DC didn’t happen, presumably because he cost too much. The important thing here is that Martinez learns from these mistakes. I think he will.
3. This was another underwhelming offense series for the Nats, as they totaled just 10 runs over three games, one of which was a 10-inning loss. And the Nats’ lone win in the series came thanks in part to Robbie Ray lasting for just 1 1/3 innings due to a strained right oblique. Two big bright spots, though, continued to be Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner.
Kendrick went 5-for-13 with two homers, two doubles and a walk in the series. He had a two-run homer and a double in the 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night; a two-out solo homer off Patrick Corbin in the bottom of the sixth (and in a plate appearance in which Kendrick was down 1-2 at one point) and a walk in the 4-3 10-inning loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday; and a double in the 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. Kendrick is second among qualified Nats with an .856 OPS.
Turner had two singles in the 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night; a walk and a stolen base in the 4-3 10-inning loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday; and a single, two walks and a steal in the 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. Turner is second among qualified Nats with a .369 on-base percentage and now is 12-for-12 on stolen bases this season, matching Adam Kennedy (4/15/2010 – 7/30/2010) for the most stolen bases without being caught to start a season in Nats history per the Elias Sports Bureau.
4. Ryan Zimmerman was moved to the no. 2 spot in the lineup over the final two games of the series. He was terrific in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks, providing a two-out two-run homer in the bottom of the third off Patrick Corbin and a double. But Zimmerman went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.
Zimmerman went 1-for-5 in the 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night, failing in a number of key spots. He had a first-pitch flyout with runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the first, struck out swinging with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the third, grounded out with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the fourth and grounded out for the second out in the Nats’ 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth against Brad Boxberger.
5. Props to Gio Gonzalez for what he did in the 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. Gio, off having failed to last longer than six innings in each of his first five starts this season, allowed one run in seven innings on eight strikeouts versus a double, five singles and two walks. Gio complained about not being allowed to last longer after his previous outing, in which he allowed three runs in five innings in a 4-2 loss at San Francisco on April 23. I said after that game that Gio had to earn the right to last longer in games. Well, he did in this game and thus was given a longer leash by Dave Martinez, who allowed Gio to throw 114 pitches over seven innings. Gio lasted for at least seven innings in 10 of his 32 starts last season, so he can do this.
6. Jeremy Hellickson had his best start yet for the Nats in the 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings. The two big boo-boos were solo homers by David Peralta to begin the fourth and sixth innings. But Hellickson otherwise allowed just three singles and a walk and threw 43 of his 57 pitches for strikes. Ya can’t say that Hellickson has been very good for the Nats over three stars (seven runs in 15 1/3 innings), but he has been much better than he was certainly for the Orioles last season (6.97 ERA over 10 starts).
7. Stephen Strasburg in the 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night struggled for a third time in five starts, allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up a homer, a triple, a double, three singles and two walks and threw just 66 of his 103 pitches for strikes. Strasburg gave up two runs in the top of the second on a leadoff homer to A.J. Pollock on an 0-2 pitch immediately followed by a walk of Daniel Descalso on five pitches and then a one-out RBI single by Nick Ahmed. Strasburg gave up another run in the top of the fourth on a one-out single by Pollock immediately follwed by an RBI double by Descalso. And Strasburg gave up two more runs in the top of the sixth on a leadoff single by Paul Goldschmidt immediately followed by an RBI triple by Pollock and then an RBI sac fly by Descalso. Pollock had eight total bases off Strasburg in this game. Strasburg was great in two starts in April, combining to allow just two runs in 15 innings in the 4-1 win over Atlanta on April 10 and the 4-0 loss at the Dodgers on April 21. But he was bad in his other three starts in the month: 13 runs in 18 1/3 innings.
8. Nats relievers in the series allowed just two runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle combined for 2 2/3 perfect innings in the 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
How about how many relievers Dave Martinez used in the 4-3 10-inning loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday? Do you think that the Nats were desperate win this game? Martinez used seven relievers, as Trevor Gott, Brandon Kintzler, Madson, Doolittle, Solis, Austin Adams and Carlos Torres combined to allow two runs in 4 2/3 innings. The culprits were Madson, who gave up a run in the top of the eighth on three singles, and Solis and Adams, who combined to allow a run on a double and three walks in the top of the 10th.
Kintzler and Doolittle each tossed a scoreless inning in the in the 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.