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Al Galdi’s #ChinMusic Blog: good ending to bad weekend for Nats, Rendon on fire, Harper and Murphy rising and more

1. A bad weekend for the Nationals ended with a great win and not nearly as much damage caused as could have been the case. The Nats overcame a 6-2 sixth-inning deficit in an 8-6 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night to a) avoid a three-game sweep at Nationals Park b) trim their lost ground to the Phillies in this series to just one game and c) insure tha not ground would be lost to National League East-leading Atlanta over the weekend with the Braves having lost two of three to the MLB-worst Orioles. The Nats still are just 5-10 over their last 15 games. But the team avoided what would have been a terrible weekend and now actually has some key bats coming to life.

2. Anthony Rendon is in another universe right now. He went 5-for-13 with two homers and a double in the series loss to Philadelphia. Rendon in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday had a one-out full-count solo homer off Adam Morgan to culminate an 11-pitch plate appearance in the bottom of the eighth despite having been down in the count 0-2 and a two-out single on an 0-2 pitch that started the Nats’ two-out rally in their two-run first. Rendon in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night had a leadoff homer in the Nats’ two-run fourth, a two-out RBI double to cap the Nats’ three-run sixth off having been down in the count 1-2 and a great sliding and backhanded grab of a Cesar Hernandez grounder for the first out in the top of the ninth. Rendon now over his last 10 games: 17-for-38 with three homers, six doubles and four walks. His OPS for the season has gone from .765 to .865 during this span.

3. Did Bryce Harper have a slump-busting series in the Nats’ series loss to Philadelphia? He went 4-for-11 with all four of the hits being doubles and also drew two walks. Bryce had a one-out opposite-field double through a wide-open left side of the infield thanks to the shift in the bottom of the fifth and a walk as the leadoff batter for a second straight game and the starting right fielder in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night. He was then back in the no. 2 spot for the final two games of the series. Bryce in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday went 0-for-3 but did draw a two-out full-count walk off Aaron Nola in the bottom of the fifth as the starting center fielder. Among Bryce’s other plate appearances on Saturday was a one-out first-pitch groundout on a bunt off Nola in the bottom of the first. Then came Sunday night’s 8-6 win over the Phillies. Bryce, who was back as the starting right fielder, had a career-high three doubles: a one-out first-pitch double in the bottom of the fifth, a two-out RBI double in the Nats’ three-run sixth and a one-out full-count double in the Nats’ three-run eighth. And Bryce was all kinds of fired up after that third double.

4. 19-year-old Juan Soto was the starting left fielder and batted in the no. 4 spot for each of the three games against Philadelphia, making it four consecutive games now that he has been the Nats’ cleanup batter. He in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night had an opposite-field leadoff double in the Nats’ two-run second. He in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday had a two-out first-pitch opposite-field ground-rule double off Aaron Nola in the Nats’ two-run first and a one-out full-count walk in the bottom of the sixth. And Soto in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night had a full-count single in the Nats’ two-run fourth and two walks, including being intentionally walked with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth in order for the Phillies to face Daniel Murphy with the bases loaded. Think about that for a moment – the Phillies preferred facing Murphy with the bases loaded and two outs than Soto with runners on second and third and two outs. And Murphy made the Phillies pay with a go-ahead two-run single on a 1-2 pitch.

5. Michael A. Taylor was the Nats’ starting center fielder in Games 1 and 3 against Philadelphia and was productive in both starts. He in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night had a one-out full-count RBI double off having been down in the count 0-2 and a stolen base in the bottom of the second. Taylor in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night had a first-pitch RBI single in the Nats’ two-run fourth, a two-out full-count RBI single to cap the Nats’ three-run eighth, another single and a stolen base. Taylor did not start the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday, during which he struck out as a pinch hitter to end the game. But his OPS for the season has gone from .546 after the 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on May 20 to now .710 – a 164-point jump.

6. Adam Eaton was the odd man out in the Nats’ outfield logjam in the series loss to Philadelphia, starting just one of the three games. The start came in the in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday, during which he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the leadoff batter and starting right fielder. Eaton in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night did have a pinch single that began a run of four consecutive two-out hits by the Nats in their three-run sixth.

7. Daniel Murphy was the Nats’ starting first baseman in all three games against Philadelphia and perhaps has finally gotten going this season. He entered the series just 3-for-29 with one walk over nine games this season but went 5-for-12 with a walk in the series. He in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday had a two-out full-count two-run single up the middle off Aaron Nola in the bottom of the first despite having been down in the count 1-2. And Murphy in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night had a two-out go-ahead two-run single in the Nats’ three-run eighth on a 1-2 pitch off the Phillies having intentionally walked Juan Soto, two other singles and a walk.

8. Wilmer Difo was the Nats’ starting second baseman in all three games against Philadelphia and had a nice series, going 4-for-12 at the plate and 1-for-2 on stolen bases. He in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night had a two-out first-pitch double in the bottom of the fourth and a one-out RBI sac fly on an 0-2 pitch in the Nats’ two-run second. He had a single and a stolen base in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday. And he in the 8-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night had two singles and made a terrific backhanded stab and throw from the center-field grass on a full-count Rhys Hoskins groundout in the top of the ninth.

9. Jefry Rodriguez struggled for a second time in an many major-league starts in the 8-6 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night, allowing four runs in four innings on a homer, a double, three singles, three walks and a hit-by-pitch. He gave up a one-out two-run homer to Rhys Hoskins in the top of the third and was charged with two runs in the Phillies’ four-run fifth, which he began by walking Cesar Hernandez on five pitches and then hitting Hoskins with a pitch with the count full on pitch no. 10 of the plate appearance.

10. As was the case in his first major-league start this season, Erick Fedde deserved a better final line than the one he got in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday. Fedde officially allowed three runs in six innings on eight hits and two walks (one of which was intentional). He allowed two runs in the top of the second on four straight two-out singles (classic example of a pitcher getting BABIPed), including back-to-back RBI singles by Jorge Alfaro and the opposing starting pitcher, Aaron Nola. But the first of those four consecutive singles was due in part to Trea Turner having trouble getting the ball out of his glove and then not getting enough on his throw, resulting in a single for Scott Kingery on a 1-2 pitch. And the last of the four straight two-out singles, Nola’s RBI single, would have resulted in Maikel Franco being out at home had Adam Eaton made a better throw from shallow right field. These were the only runs allowed by Fedde until the top of the seventh, which he began by allowing a leadoff double to Franco. Ryan Madson then came in and gave up a one-out pinch RBI sac fly to Jesmuel Valentin on a play that should have resulted in Eaton throwing out Franco at home; catcher Spencer Kieboom, by his own admission, came up too far off home plate to receive Eaton’s throw, and Franco was safe despite Dave Martinez challenging the play.

11. Tanner Roark in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night got shellacked for a second straight start and struggled in some form for a fifth time in six appearances. He allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings on a homer, a double, five singles, four walks and a wild pitch. Interestingly, he did have seven strikeouts in the 4 1/3 innings. But Tanner was bad. He began the game by issuing a walk of Cesar Hernandez, who had been down in the count 1-2. Then came a one-out single by Odubel Herrera, followed by a wild pitch and then a two-run single by Carlos Santana. Tanner gave up a one-out first-pitch two-run homer to Herrera in the top of the third. And Tanner was charged with two runs in the top of the fifth thanks in large part to giving up a leadoff double to Rhys Hoskins (who had been down in the count 0-2), a one-out walk to Santana and then consecutive singles to Nick Williams and Scott Kingery. Tanner said after the game blamed a mechanical issue for his recent struggles, but the bottom line is that his ERA for the season has gone from 3.17 to 4.27 over his last six games.

12. The Nats’ bullpen in the series loss to Philadelphia struggled for a second straight weekend, allowing 10 runs in 12 2/3 innings.

Tim Collins, Matt Grace, Sammy Solis and Justin Miller combined to allow six runs in 4 2/3 innings on eight hits, four walks and a wild pitch in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night. And even that’s a bit misleading, as Collins gave up a one-out RBI single to Andrew Knapp for a run that was charged to Tanner Roark. Grace gave up a two-out first-pitch two-run homer to Carlos Santana in the top of the sixth. Miller gave up a full-count leadoff homer to Knapp in the top of the ninth. Miller, who had tossed 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts versus no walks to begin his Nats career this season, now has allowed four runs in five innings with four strikeouts versus four walks over his last four appearances.

Kelvin Herrera allowed two runs in the top of the eighth in the 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday, giving up a one-out opposite-field solo homer to Carlos Santana and a two-out RBI single to Maikel Franco on an 0-2 pitch off a two-out full-count walk off Scott Kingery. That walk was just the third walk issued by Herrera this season.

Solis struggled in the Phillies’ four-run fifth in the Nats’ 8-6 win on Sunday night, giving up a two-run triple on a 1-2 pitch to the first batter he faced, Odubel Herrera, and then giving up a one-out two-run homer to Nick Williams to dead center field despite him having been down in the count 0-2. Shawn Kelley, Matt Grace, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle did then each toss a scoreless inning.

13. The Orioles did the Nats a huge favor by winning two of three at National League East-leading Atlanta over the weekend, including a wild 10-7 15-inning victory on Friday night that included the two teams being tied at one going into the bottom of the eighth and then a combined 12 runs from the bottom of the eighth through the bottom of the ninth. Manny Machado smashed a tie-breaking one-out two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch in the top of the 15th. He also had a single, two walks and a stolen base. Machado has cooled off a bit since his torrid start but, of course, remains the principle trade chip for the O’s as they (hopefully) prepare to unload many of their players in this horrendous season. But yet another problem that’s emerged for them this season is the extent to which their bullpen trade chips have struggled and thus lost value. Zach Britton was atrocious in that game on Friday night, allowing four runs and recording just one out in the bottom of the ninth as the O’s blew a 7-3 ninth-inning lead. Here were the results of the six batters who Britton faced: single by Johan Camargo, double by Danny Santana, hit-by-pitch of Ender Inciarte, bases-loaded RBI single by Ozzie Albies on an 0-2 pitch, first-pitch two-run single by Freddie Freeman and an RBI double by former Oriole Nick Markakis that did lead to Freeman being thrown out at home. Britton in the 7-5 win at the Braves on Saturday did toss a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season, but he just has not been the same since that all-world 2016 season. Guys like Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day have struggled this season; Brach gave up a pinch two-out two-run homer to Dansby Swanson in the bottom of the eighth despite him having been down in the count 0-2 in the 7-3 loss at the Braves on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles’ best reliever this season, Richard Bleier, is done for the season due to a Grade 3 tear in his left lat. Starters who were potential trade chips like Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner have been bad this season, though Cobb was good in the 15-inning win at the Braves on Friday night. A trade chip who is doing really well right now is Mark Trumbo, who is in Year 2 of a very reasonable three-year, $37.5 million contract. He in the 7-5 win at the Braves on Saturday had a grand slam off Julio Teheran to center field on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the first and a walk. Trumbo in the 7-3 loss at the Braves on Sunday afternoon had a pinch two-out two-run homer in the top of the fifth, giving him five homers in seven games.

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