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Al Galdi’s #ChinMusic Blog: reeling Nats lose three of four at Philadelphia

1. The Nationals now are an abysmal 5-13 over their last five weekend series, with three of those series having been against Philadelphia or Atlanta.  The Nats are a mere 8-12 against the Braves and Phillies this season.  That’s not gonna cut it.

2. What is the deal with this Nats offense?  It continued what is now a month-plus-long slump in losing three of four at Philadelphia over the weekend, producing a pathetic eight runs in 31 innings over the three losses.  And we got yet another tease from the offense, as it erupted in spectacular fashion in Friday night’s 17-7 win at Phillies to the tune of 18 hits, including seven homers, and seven walks.  Yes, the Nats, who entered Friday night having totaled a major-league-worst 12 homers in June, blasted seven homers in Friday night.  The Nats obliterated Nick Pivetta, the man who they traded to the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, to the tune of seven runs in 1 2/3 innings.  The Nats’ 17 runs on Friday night were more than the team’s run total over the previous six games (16 runs).  But as we have seen multiple times during this month-plus-long slump, this game was a mere tease as opposed the start of a bust-out.  The Nats actually hit a National League-best 73 homers over April and May.  The extent to which the homers have dried up is remarkable.  The Nats hit one home run in 31 innings over the three losses at the Phillies in this series.

3. Saturday’s two-run output in the 3-2 loss at Philadelphia came despite the Phillies’ starting pitcher, Vince Velsaquez, lasting for just two innings due to suffering a bruised right forearm on a line drive by Adam Eaton, who was thrown out at first for the final out in the top of the second thanks to the ambidextrous Velasquez dropping his glove and throwing the ball to first base with his left arm.

4. Bryce Harper still isn’t hitting as we know he can, but he sure has gotten back to doing as I’ve wanted him to do: taking his walks.  Bryce went just 2-for-13 over the four games at Philadelphia, but he drew seven walks over the final three games.  Bryce was back in the leadoff spot as the starting right fielder in the 4-3 loss at the Phillies on Thursday night, providing a single but also striking out three times.  He then was the starting center fielder for each of the final three games in the series.  Bryce in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night had a one-out three-run opposite-field homer to left field in the top of the fourth and three walks in the no. 3 spot.  Bryce was back in the no. 3 spot in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday and drew two walks.  And Bryce was moved down to the no. 5 spot for Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts but also drawing two walks.  Bryce is second in the majors with 67 walks this season.

5. 19-year-old Juan Soto went 0-for-10 over the final two games of the series loss at Philadelphia and went 0-2 in the 4-3 loss at the Phillies on Thursday night.  But he did draw two walks in that game.  And he did have a monster game batting in the no. 5 spot as the starting left fielder in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night: first-pitch one-out two-run opposite-field homer to left field in the top of the first, two-out three-run homer to center field in the top of the ninth and two singles.  Soto became just the fourth teenager in MLB history with two multi-home-run games in a season.  The others are Bryce Harper in 2012, Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989 and Mel Ott in 1928.  Soto was the Nats’ starting left fielder for all four games in the series, batting in the no. 3 spot in Games 1 and 4 and the no. 5 spot in Games 2 and 3.

6. Anthony Rendon remains the most reliable Nat right now, going 7-for-17 with two homers, three doubles and two walks over the four games at Philadelphia.  He in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night had a two-out three-run opposite-field homer to right-center field in the top of the second and two doubles.  Rendon in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday had a one-out solo homer off Tommy Hunter on a bomb to left field in the top of the sixth and a single.  And Rendon in the 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies on Sunday afternoon had a double, two walks and an RBI sac fly.

7. Trea Turner had an interesting series in the series loss at Philadelphia.  On the one hand, he went 9-for-18 with a walk, including a two-run homer to left field in the top of the first in the 17-7 win over the Phillies on Friday night.  But on the other hand, his other eight hits in the series were singles.  Turner is slugging just .412 this season.  He slugged .451 last season and .567 in 2016.  Also, Turner went just 1-for-3 on stolen bases in the series, getting gunned down by Jorge Alfaro in each of the final two games: final out of the top of the fifth with Bryce Harper batting in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday and the final out in the top of the 12th with Juan Soto batting in the 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.

8. Daniel Murphy is not well off that microfracture surgery on his right knee last October.  He in the 4-3 loss at the Phillies on Thursday night went 0-for-4 and left five men on base as the starting first baseman.  Murphy then did not play in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night and did not start the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday, though he did have a pinch two-out first-pitch double in the top of the ninth in that game.  But what was interesting was that Dave Martinez said after Saturday’s loss that Murphy had been “an emergency guy” and might not play on Sunday.  And so what happened on Sunday?  He was the starting second baseman, going 0-for-5 with a walk in the 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies.  The walk came on five pitches to begin the top of the fifth and led to some Jekyll-and-Hyde base running.  On the one hand, Murphy advanced from first to third on a Mark Reynolds single that deflected off Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez.  But on the other hand, Murphy didn’t score from third on a wild pitch by Jake Arrieta that ended up going up the first-base line.

9. Mark Reynolds was the starting first baseman in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night and had a two-out solo homer to left field in the top of the ninth to snap an 0-for-25 skid.  He also had a walk and an RBI sac fly in the game.  Reynolds remained the starting first baseman for the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday and had a single and a walk.

10. Adam Eaton did not start the 4-3 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday night but was the leadoff batter and starting right fielder for each of the final three games in the series.  He had two singles and two walks in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night, had single in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday and had a two-out two-run single in the top of the fifth and another single in the 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies.

11. Pedro Severino continues to kill the Nats offensively.  He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in the 4-3 13-inning loss at Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, dropping his OPS for the season to a miniscule .482.  And most aggravating of all was Severino failing to get down a bunt in striking out with Mark Reynolds on first and no outs in the top of the ninth.  When you’re a bad hitter as Severino is, you’ve got be able to execute a fundamental like the sacrifice bunt.  This was a major fail.  Severino actually  had a one-out RBI double in the top of the second in the 4-3 loss to the Phillies on Thursday night but did not start Games 2 and 3, as Spencer Kieboom had a single in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night and a one-out RBI double to deep left-center off Vince Velasquez on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the second in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday.  Bottom line, Nats catchers are dead last in the majors with a .546 OPS this season.

12. Gio Gonzalez in the 4-3 13-inning loss at Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon struggled for at least a fourth time in five starts, allowing three runs in five innings.  He got off to a terrific start, tossing four scoreless innings.  But then Gio, as he is wont to do, completely fell apart in a Phillies three-run fifth.  Gio in that inning issued a full-count leadoff walk to Jesmuel Valentin and then in succession gave up a one-out full-count single to Nick Williams, a pinch five-pitch walk to Carlos Santana and a full-count bases-loaded walk to Cesar Hernandez despite him having been down in the count 0-2.  Then came a first-pitch Rhys Hoskins RBI sac fly and a two-out game-tying RBI single by Odubel Herrera on a 1-2 pitch.  And this wasn’t all.  It was during this inning that Gio became visibly agitated with his catcher, Pedro Severino, motioning him to pick up the pace and get back to giving signals (Gio’s pace was brought up as a problem by Dave Martinez in his postgame session with reporters that followed Gio giving up six runs in one inning in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on June 25, as Davey said that Gio got “really quick).  Another interesting item regarding Gio was what MASN’s F.P. Santangelo said prior to this game on Sunday afternoon – that “there was some feeling that he kind of gave in against Tampa and didn’t fight as hard as he could’ve fought.”  Whatever the case, Gio now has a 9.31 ERA (20 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings) over his last five starts, during which he has issued 15 walks.

13. Jeremy Hellickson in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday struggled in his return from the 10-day disabled list.  Not having pitched in a major-league game since June 3 due to a right-hamstring strain, he allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings on a homer, a triple, three doubles, two singles and two walks.  The Hellickson who entered this game with a 2.28 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over nine starts this season, obviously, was not on display.  The big blows were a two-out solo homer by Odubel Herrera to right field in the bottom of the third and three consecutive two-out doubles in the Phillies’ two-run fourth, though the last of those doubles, a first-pitch pinch double by Aaron Altherr, could have been caught by Juan Soto, but the ball went off his glove off him taking a bad route to the ball.

14. Very disappointing to see Erick Fedde do as he did in the 17-7 win at Philadelphia on Friday night.  The Nats led 7-0 after 1 1/2 innings and 11-0 after 3 1/2 innings, and yet Fedde lasted for just five innings, giving up five runs on two homers, two doubles, four singles and three walks.  This was a game ripe for the Nats’ starting pitcher to work quickly, throw strikes and chew-up innings.  Instead, Fedde got worked after tossing three scoreless innings, including giving up a full-count two-run homer to Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the fifth off him having been down 1-2 in the count and then giving up a two-out solo homer to Scott Kingery later in that inning.  Fedde, the no. 18 overall pick in the 2014 draft, now has a 7.23 ERA over eight major-league starts.

15. Tanner Roark in the 4-3 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday night was good for just the second time over his last seven appearances.  Displaying some mechanical adjustments off having gotten shellacked in his previous two starts (including allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings in the 12-2 loss to the Phillies the previous Friday night), Tanner allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings, limiting the damage inflicted by the Phillies despite giving up three doubles, four singles, three walks (one of which was intentional) and a hit-by-pitch.

16. Nats relievers continue to give up some key homers, but the ultimate results for the bullpen in the series loss at Philadelphia was five runs in 16 2/3 innings (2.70 ERA).

Dave Martinez used eight relievers in Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 13-inning loss at the Phillies.  Brandon Kintzler, Matt Grace, Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Sean Doolittle and Shawn Kelley combined for six scoreless innings, and Justin Miller tossed a scoreless 12th inning before giving up a one-out full-count walk-off homer to Andrew Knapp.

Justin Miller, Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the 3-2 loss at the Phillies on Saturday.

Tim Collins gave up a two-out two-run homer to Carlos Santana in the bottom of the seventh in the 17-7 win at the Phillies on Friday night.  But also in that game were Matt Grace, Sammy Solis and Justin Miller each tossing a scoreless inning.

Ryan Madson gave up a two-run homer to Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the seventh in the 4-3 loss at the Phillies on Thursday night.

Brandon Kintzler returned from a right-forearm flexor strain in the 4-3 loss at the Phillies on Thursday night, tossing a perfect eighth inning in his first appearance since June 9.

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