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State of the Nats: Moving on after the sweep

Apr 14, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

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Goodbye, Braves – Though the Nationals would have loved to avoid the sweep this weekend, they have to be happy to leave Atlanta. The Braves have continued their dominance over the Nationals, pushing their record against Washington to 18-7 over the last two seasons. This year the Nats are 1-5 against their rivals and have been outscored 32 runs to 16. That’s two-to-one, not a good sign moving forward.

The Nationals continue to have trouble stopping the Braves’ lineup, most notably Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Upton is batting .366 (34-93) against the Nats with seven home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games. Freeman has been just as deadly, hitting .357 (30-84) with four homers and 18 RBI. Freeman is 11-for-22 (.500) vs. Washington this season.

Collectively, the Nationals’ pitching staff has struggled against the Braves. In six games Nats’ pitchers have a 4.27 team ERA with eight homers allowed vs. Atlanta. After the sweep the Nats’ starting rotation alone now holds a 4.81 ERA on the season.

Injury watch - Last week in ‘State of the Nats’ I pointed out how the injuries were beginning to mount. The Nationals had just added Scott Hairston to a crowded disabled list that already included Wilson Ramos and Doug Fister. At the time Ryan Zimmerman was dealing with shoulder inflammation, and questions about Bryce Harper’s health were starting to arise.

Fast forward a week and matters have become much, much worse. The Nationals will now miss Zimmerman for up to six weeks with a fractured right thumb, and now Denard Span is out dealing with a concussion. Throw in Jeff Kobernus’ broken left hand and even the team’s minor league depth is being compromised.

The good news for the Nationals is that Fister is working his way back and is slated to throw 50 pitches in a bullpen session early this week. From there he could be ready for a rehab assignment very soon with a return in sight. Having Fister back should help the Nationals who have all of a sudden seen alarming results from their rotation.

Schedule opening up - Fortunately for the Nationals, they won’t see the Braves until they come to Washington on June 19. By then things could be much different, especially considering the Nats are 6-0 against teams not from Atlanta, and the Braves are 3-3 vs. teams besides the Nationals.

The Nats now head to Miami for a three-game series against the Marlins who have fallen to last place thanks to a seven-game losing streak. The Nationals swept them just a few days ago and outscored them 22-8 in three games. It should provide a good opportunity for the Nationals to bounce back, especially given Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg are set for Games 1 and 2.

Only four of the Nationals’ next 19 games will be against teams who made the playoffs in 2013. Those four games are against the Cardinals, while they’ll also see the Angels, Padres, Astros and Phillies in addition to the Marlins. Last year these favorable stretches didn’t produce the expected results, we’ll see if they can take care of business against less-talented teams this time around.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Jayson Werth 4/9 vs. Marlins – 1 for 5, HR (grand slam), 5 RBI, R

Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 4/10 vs. Marlins – 6.2 IP, ER, 3 H, BB, 12 SO, 98 pitches, 71 strikes

Quote of the week:

Nats GM Mike Rizzo on getting swept by Atlanta:

They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them. We think we’re the better team and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.

Tweet of the week:

Looks like Ian Desmond has some help to quit his tobacco habit:

Road ahead

MON – 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Zimmermann)
TUE – 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Strasburg)
WED – 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Roark)
THU – 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Jordan)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Gonzalez)
SAT – 1:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Zimmermann)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Strasburg)

  1. Sonny G 10 - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Let’s get on a winning streak and we will forget about this past weekend…well, we won’t think about it as much.

    • NatsLady - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Sorry, forgot the

    • NatsLady - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Ha! You can’t see what I forgot. Well, anyway….

  2. chaz11963 - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    As Mark notes, they can quickly turn this around again with taking the next 5 series against weaker teams and breaking even against the Cards.

  3. naterialguy - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    • unkyd59 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      :)

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Just win… and everything else will take care of itself…

  5. nats2005 - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Problem is that the Cards own us more than the Braves.

    I think we were like 1 – 5 last year? That after the 2012 debacle.

    Result – Another “Head Case”, i.e. Braves, Cards.

    Diz

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      That’s good, then. We’ll have a sooner chance to show some fortitude.

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        Agreed Sonny.

  6. Sonny G 10 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    One bright spot is that Espinosa is continuing to swing better at the plate than he did last year. We really need him to step up right now.

    • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Agreed again. If he can keep hitting .318 (!!!), I think we’ll get through Zim’s absence just fine*. We’d still miss Zim’s pop, but we have enough pop elsewhere that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I can’t think of a better way for Espi to prove he’s “figured it out” than to produce consistently through mid – late May

      *All the more true If the rest of the bench can keep it up, too!

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        Er, keep hitting .318 or anywhere remotely in that range (say, .280+).

      • Section 222 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        I’ll take .250 if he doesn’t strike out much. Regardless, it’s a big issue, but I agree that how much we miss him will depend alot on how his replacement does.

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        True re: .250 if he keeps his K rate down, especially if he starts making productive outs.

  7. flnatsfan - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    I know this is a little late, but I was at the game on Friday night and wanted to share a little bit.

    1) I met Taylor Jordan’s parents in the elevator at the hotel. They had made the trip from Troy to watch the games and seemed like incredibly nice people. They were extremely proud of Jordan (As they should be).
    2) That double play that Zim turned with the flying bat was just as incredible in person as it was on the replays. There were wood chips all over the ground near where the 3rd base coach stands. The fans were NOT happy when the umps ruled that it was a double play…
    3) I’ve never seen an umpire get nailed by a ball before. That was insane. I wish they would’ve explained what the ruling was on that. Is it considered a dead ball?
    4) The whole time Clippard pitched, there was a fan in my section who screamed “Goggles” every five seconds. It was pretty bad, but I was amused by the fact that no one else in the section appeared to even knew what he was talking about.
    5) Speaking of fans, there was a fist fight in the section to my right during the 8th inning. Crazy…
    6) I won’t comment on the whole Span/Uggla collision…
    7) I thought it was a good game and wish it would have turned out differently in the end. I was glad they were able to come back and threaten after being down so many runs.

    • Section 222 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Very cool to have an on the ground report. Thanks! That was one heckuva game for sure. I bet your glad you went Friday instead of Saturday or Sunday.

    • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      3) I’ve never seen an umpire get nailed by a ball before. That was insane. I wish they would’ve explained what the ruling was on that. Is it considered a dead ball?

      Per Carp and FP, the ball is live after deflecting off an ump, just as it would be if it deflected off of a player.

      • JW - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        If a batted ball hits a base runner, including the batter-runner, the runner is out and it’s a dead ball. Any other runners cannot advance. If a batted ball caroms off a fielder, an umpire, a base or the mound, it’s a live ball.

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Isn’t the base runner rule different depending on whether the base runner is in the base path or not?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        No, but it does matter, if it hits an ump, whether it is or isn’t past the infielders. If it’s already past them, they had no play, and it’s handled differently.

  8. flnatsfan - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Oh, and after the Pena homerun, the fans around me repeatedly said that he should replace Simmons permanently. You know, replace their gold glove short stop with someone who had 5 whole ABs this season…

    • stoatva - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      I’ll bet they’ve got fans who b!tch about Kimbrel when he gives up a run, too. We’re all alike, us baseball fans.

  9. micksback1 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    So 1-5 in six games verse Braves. Seeing the glass half full, the Nats were one pitch away or one inning away in 2 games, one in DC and this past Friday of being 3-3 in the overall series. I expect the Nats to win tonight verse Marlins. I know some may think that the Marlins are due to beat us, however, using that same logic, the Nats were certaintly over due to beat the Braves this weekend and of course it did not happen.

    Other teams have injuries, especially the Braves with 2 pitchers out, so the injury bug is no excuse. This is where a team can develop depth. I am pleased with Danny’sa comeback and both Frandsen and McClouth i believe makes our team very good.

    The next major milestone will be when J Zim pitches, was the last outing just a bad outing or will it continue. if he has another bad outing on Tues, then one should be concerned.

    • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      We’ll find out tonight re: JZimm.

      A loss tonight would be a heavy blow…

      As for when a team is “due” for a win, I see that as an odds thing for a team in a given stretch. I don’t have the numbers, but I suspect a team on a 10 game streak is statistically more likely to break that streak than a team on a 3 game streak (i.e., a 4 game streak is more common than an 11 game streak).

      In that respect, probability suggests the Marlins are “due” to win at least one game this series. But, that doesn’t mean a 10-game losing streak by way of us sweeping them in back-to-back series is an impossibility…

      • micksback1 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        your right, in reality, nats just need to win series and should be able to do so. The real big test will be the 4 upcoimg home games verse Cards where we went 0-6 last season verse them. Nats need to clear this psychologial hurdle now.

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        I agree re: the Cards. I’m nervous about that series, but glad it’s so early in the season AND so close on the heels of the most recent Braves debacle. I have to think splitting with the Cards or better would be a huge boost. It would answer some general questions raised by our continued inability to beat the Braves in the early going this season, and would also be pretty symbolic in that it would be the first time we’ve beaten them since Werth’s Game 4 walk off and the debacle the next day.

  10. David Proctor - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    The Marlins are on a 7 game losing streak. Let’s hope we can make it 10 (though Roark vs Fernandez on Wednesday is a pitching mismatch). At least 9…

    • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I think if we get 2 or 3 quality starts we’ll be in good shape to at least win the series, if not sweep. The one thing that has been a consistent bright spot so far this season is our hitting. We notched 31 hits in Atlanta, and the Marlins’ D doesn’t seem nearly as well equipped to deal with that kind of production as the Braves’. Just need JZimm and Roark to return to form and a repeat performance from Stras.

    • TimDz - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      I think both Roark and Jordan had TOO much rest…I remember hearing on several occasions that pitchers that rely on sinkers need to have some fatigue in their arm…if not, everyhting is up and neither has hit and miss stuff when their pitches are up in the zone…we saw what happened. I expect both to have bounce back games next outing. Fernandez has looked mortal at times this season, so you never know…

      I was not able to see the Sunday game (thankfully, as it seems), so I have no idea what Gio looked like…

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        +1

      • tcostant - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        I agree with this to, said the same on the prior post.

  11. veejh - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Nothing like a game vs the fish to lift spirits and help forget about the Braves series. I hope.

  12. NatsLady - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    (1) I think JZ was still sick last time out.
    (2) Who knows what happened with Gio, he has those starts sometimes.
    (3) You are going to have games with Roark and Jordan that won’t go well, especially against the better teams. They (especially Jordan) are inexperienced. Jordan also got flustered, we never did find out why, did we? Teams read them, make adjustments, and they may not adjust back fast enough. Major-league hitters (well, except Frcnchy) are smart. It seems like it would be better to have Lobaton with those guys, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

    • TimDz - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      I think Jordan got hacked off at the home plate umpire when he didn’t get a close call on the outside corner. He was visably emotional and that really appeared to get into his kitchen…

  13. NatsLady - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Interesting article on hamstring injuries. specifically looking at baseball.

  14. philipd763 - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Good grief! Rizzo thinks the Braves beating up (humiliating) the Nationals is some sort of fluke. Why not just admit the truth….that the Braves are a better team by a wide margin.

    • David Proctor - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      You’re right, Rizzo should throw his entire team under the bus. That will surely net the results that we all desire. Why not just concede every game against the Braves from here on out?

      1. I don’t believe for a second head-to-head matchups tell you who the better team is. Sometimes worse teams just have a better team’s number.
      2. A 6 game sample is not adequate and I really don’t care about 2013 at this point.
      3. This is utterly ridiculous. I get we’re all upset about being swept by the Braves, but come on. Rizzo said nothing wrong.

      • tcostant - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        David, I see your point. But Rizzo should just say nothing.

      • texnat1 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Agree that Rizzo did nothing wrong at all.

        But I don’t agree with point 2. It’s significant that the Nats came out and wet the bed against the Braves in both series. It’s a huge boost to them and big blow to the Nats. It’s also 4 games in the standings.

        It’s no fluke and the sample size is plenty big considering last year is not exactly ancient history. Hell, the Nats could play better against them for the rest of the season and Atlanta has already pretty much assured themselves of getting a split or near to it unless Washington totally flips the script.

        The choke job last weekend should not be downplayed.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:47 PM

        It could be argued that saying “We’re better, even with this wedgie” is throwing the team under the bus. Just saying.

  15. David Proctor - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Washington Nationals ‏@Nationals 8s
    #Nats lineup @ #Marlins: Rendon 3B, Frandsen LF, Werth RF, Harper CF, Desmond SS, Moore 1B, Espinosa 2B, Leon C, Zimmermann P

    Is Lobaton hurt? Leon is getting back to back starts…

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      Thought I had heard that a ball hit his wrist or something? Or something with his wrist…

      • David Proctor - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        Oh jeez.

      • Eric - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        I seem to recall a foul ball was hit down directly into his quad at point blank range, maybe Thursday or Friday? Looked EXTREMELY painful.

  16. philipd763 - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    David, Any GM who says the Nationals are better than the Braves when the Nationals have been mostly beaten up by the Braves since 2005 needs a reality check. You can’t ignore last season because it is part of the equation. This isn’t just a six game fluke, as you allege.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      I swer outside of last year… the Nats/Braves head to head wasn’t as lopsided as the head to head since 2013…

      • natsfan1a - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        I have the same impression, although I’m not sure where one would find the cumulative team w-l stats for match-ups between the two

      • nats106 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        Against the Braves:

        2005 9-10
        2006 8-10
        2007 7-11
        2008 12-6
        2009 8-10
        2010 10-8
        2011 9-9
        2012 10-8

        Ironically, the worse years we have the better we’ve played against them, although the glorious 2011 season (eliminating them from post season) and of course 2012 are exceptions to the norm. Track record doesn’t really support the last 2 series and last year, but it also shouldn’t be an indicator of future performance either.

        At some point games like Friday will come up heads instead of tails.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        +1 106… +1

    • David Proctor - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      It doesn’t matter. You don’t throw your players under the bus. How would you like it if your boss said “yeah that other guy is way better.” It’s the GM’s job to express confidence in his team. Nothing good would come out of him saying what you want him to say. Nothing.

      • nats106 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        I think you were referencing the other comment and not mine? I was just looking at it statistically. When you add it up, it is virtually a 50-50 split. I’d like to believe at some point when we do win those close games that are decided on a walk, wild pitch or fluke hit, the rest will take care of itself.

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        +1

  17. nats106 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Source: baseball almanac with a little editing.

    http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teamstats/schedule.php?y=2012&t=WS0

    • natsfan1a - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      Thanks, good work. Meantime, I found something, too, but mine was formatted as Atlanta against Washington, so I about went cross-eyed comparing it with your stats (they do match up) . :-)

      http://mcubed.net/mlb/atl/wsh.shtml

      • natsfan1a - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        At any rate, not exactly all-time ownage. ;-)

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Exactly… I remember seeing a stat (prior to the 2013 season) of how close the the series actually was.

        Its just in the last 2 years that it has been an anomaly. Nats have time to get it right… but we have to move on from this last series, chalk it up to sometime happening, and get them next time…

        So with that said… I think Im going to get some friend trout and flounder tonight and hope that the Nats take care of business… :)

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        friend is supposed to be FRIED

        ugh – please, gimme the edit button back!!

  18. nats106 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    My competitive nature tells me that the Braves are successfully motivating themselves to go above and beyond when they play us. First they were smarting from getting eliminated, then when they expected to re-ascend to the top of the NL East (as the Phillies aged) we showed up.

    My alter ego (the sports psychologist in me) says that it is time the Nationals start thinking of the Braves in the same way. If they don’t, they could end being like the Caps-always in contention but rarely contenders. Pretty simplistic view, I know, but hey. We have the Marlins tonight and it’s time to lick our wounds and break out the old bay.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
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