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Tough week ahead for Nats

May 2, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

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A hodgepodge of Friday morning thoughts before I hop on I-95 and head up to Philadelphia for the weekend…

— The Nationals about to face a major, week-long test going up against six quality, veteran pitchers against the Phillies and Dodgers. It begins tonight with Cliff Lee, whose 40-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio so far this season is off-the-charts good. It continues Saturday night with A.J. Burnett, who sports a 2.15 ERA in his first six starts as a Phillie. And it concludes Sunday afternoon with Cole Hamels, who admittedly was rocked by the Mets his last time out but remains a major thorn in the Nats’ side, having gone 15-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 28 career starts against them.

But, wait, it doesn’t end there. After their weekend series at Citizens Bank Park, the Nationals return to D.C. for a brief, three-game homestand against the Dodgers, who will be sending a fellow by the name of Clayton Kershaw to the mound for Monday’s series opener. The reining NL Cy Young Award winner is making his return from a strained back muscle, having not pitched since L.A.’s season opener in Australia. Then it’s Zack Greinke on Tuesday night, followed by old pal Dan Haren on Wednesday afternoon. Haren, if you weren’t aware, is now 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA. And he’s scheduled to return to Nationals Park to face none other than the man who took his spot in the Nats’ rotation: Doug Fister, slated to make his season debut.

— Speaking of Fister, he makes one final tune-up tonight for Class AA Harrisburg. The right-hander is scheduled to go five innings or 80 pitches, give or take, in his final test before coming off the DL.

— I made mention of this the other night, but it bears repeating, and some more context: Rafael Soriano has been remarkably effective, not only this season but dating back to late last season as well. The veteran closer has now tossed 22 consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to August 23, 2013.

Yes, you indeed just read that. Soriano has not given up a run over his last 22 innings. That, incidentally, is a new Nationals club record, breaking the previous mark of 20 set by Sean Burnett in 2010, Drew Storen in 2011 and Tyler Clippard in 2012.

Now, has Soriano been dominant during this scoreless stretch? Not really. He retired the side in only eight of those 22 appearances, so he has put plenty of men on base and been forced to pitch out of more jams than you’d prefer. But the man does deserve some credit. His job, ultimately, is to not give up runs. And he has done a remarkable job for quite some time now.

— Finally, here’s a clip from my segment last night on CSN’s SportsNet Central, in which I discuss the overall state of the Nationals after one month, tonight’s Strasburg-Lee showdown, Fister’s rehab and Matt Williams‘ ever-changing lineup…

  1. 3on2out - May 2, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Wow. That is quite a line-up of opposing hurlers. I am thinking we should be happy to emerge 3-3.

    • NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 7:00 AM

      We have our own line-up of imposing hurlers. 😉

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 8:56 AM

        Exactly. Ace vs Ace and play it for a 1 run win. See a lot of pitches and get into their bullpen.

        Matt Williams can either silence many of his critics in this stretch or add to the chorus of those who think he’s over his head.

    • davecydell - May 2, 2014 at 7:38 AM

      Will take a split.

      total exp=3.55

      • unkyd59 - May 2, 2014 at 7:53 AM


  2. scnatsfan - May 2, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I agree. The Phils and Dodgers should be the ones worried about our rotation.

    • bowdenball - May 2, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      The Phils and Dodgers are not missing the #3, #4 and #6 hitters from their opening day lineup.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        True but this will show what this team has. Role players stepping up.

      • scnatsfan - May 2, 2014 at 9:04 AM

        I agree but none of them was pitching. We can still win 1-0.

      • bowdenball - May 2, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        These 6 games won’t show “what the team has” any more or mess than the other 156 games. They all count the same.

  3. chaz11963 - May 2, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    If Haren had pitched those numbers at the beginning of last year, we would have made the playoffs.

    • bowdenball - May 2, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      We went 2-3 in Dan Haren’s five April 2013 starts. In the three losses we scored zero runs, two runs and two runs. Oh, and we ended up four games out of the second wild card spot.

      Dan Haren’s start is not the reason we missed the playoffs.

      • chaz11963 - May 2, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        I don’t mean to say Haren is the sole reason we didn’t make the playoffs last year. I only mean to point out Haren’s horrible first half of 2013 undoubtedly contributed to the 2013 disappointments of the Nats.

        Haren in April 2013 had an ERA of 6.29 and gave up 6 HRs and 21 runs in 5 games.

      • Hiram Hover - May 2, 2014 at 9:25 AM

        Now, now. Don’t you know facts and logic will always spoil a good scapegoating?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Lets not rewrite history. Through the beginning of July, Haren owned an ERA over 6.00. He was awful at times. He threw 2 shutouts in September and as they say it was a little, too late.

        Haren finished with a 4.67 ERA Nats were 11-19 in his starts and when you consider he gave up 3 or more Earned in 16 of his 31 starts I would say he was a major reason for the Nats not making the postseason but to blame him alone isn’t fair. Plenty of blame to go around.

      • bowdenball - May 2, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        “I don’t mean to say Haren is the sole reason we didn’t make the playoffs last year.”

        That’s fine if you didn’t mean to say that, but that’s pretty much exactly what you said. You said if he’d started 2013 the way he has started 2014 we would have made the playoffs. That is demonstrably false.

  4. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    “His job, ultimately, is to not give up runs. And he has done a remarkable job for quite some time now.”

    Thank you. Can we stop worrying about his OFLA yet? The man gets it done.

    That’s a tough week, when Kershaw arguably looks like a soft spot in the lineup, and then only because he’s coming off an injury and is just as likely to be well rested and stronger.

  5. philipd763 - May 2, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    Nats lineup, as presently constructed, has major problems hitting first rate pitching so the next 6 games should be very telling.

    • flnatsfan - May 2, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      I agree that it’s a test to our injured lineup, but I think it’s safe to say that most teams have problems with first rate pitching. Also, we’ve already beaten Fernandez and Wacha…

    • bowdenball - May 2, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      All lineups, as presently constructed, have major problems hitting first rate pitching. That’s what makes it first rate pitching.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM


  6. nats2005 - May 2, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    One thing about Tanner, he has a zero ERA at home in 2 starts (batting avg against in those 2 starts, .182), but a 5.29 ERA in 3 starts on the road (batting avg against in those 3 starts, .297).

    You expect to see some discrepancy on the home/away splits, but that is ri-donk-u-lous. I hope he is able to turn that around in Philly.

    And I agree Philipd – our hitting feasts off of mediocre pitching (i.e. Mets / Marlins / Astros bullpen), but we have not fared well with other teams 1 and 2’s for the most part this year.

    A split with our depleted lineup and starter by committee on Tuesday would be great in my opinion.

    • scbilly - May 2, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Doesn’t everybody do starter by committee? They all have at least five of them.

      And we can check back sometime after the ASB, but Roark’s home/away split kind of screams small sample size, doesn’t it?

      • Hiram Hover - May 2, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        Yeah, and if you figure his true talent level is, at best, an ERA in the mid-3s and thus closer to his away than his home #s, then what we’re really seeing is not insanely poor performance away but insanely good luck at home.

        I am, btw, in favor of this sort of insanely good luck continuing.

  7. NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I find it difficult to blame Rizzo or McCatty (or Davey) for Haren’s poor first half, but I do consider it a lesson-that-should-be-learned.

    Haren wasn’t injured and is still, obviously, a quality starter. BUT. A pitcher’s “comfort zone” has a lot to do with his performance–perhaps more than it should with a veteran like Haren, but there you are. Who knew that Haren wouldn’t thrive away from his family, on the East Coast for long stretches, and in a different league? Not me, not Rizzo, not Haren himself. He was a stand-up guy, always “taking responsibility” for his poor performance even as he didn’t understand why it occurred–and helping out the team for his one career save.

    • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 10:23 AM


      Somehow I’ve managed to remain a fan of Haren, and I’m glad to see him succeeding in LA so far.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 2, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        I like Haren and thought he was a standup guy during his time in DC, but if he’s wearing Dodger blue I’m rooting against him and hope he gets bombed, as long as the Dodgers are in contention. I’m also far from convinced that he is still a quality pitcher. I expect his stats to deteriorate over the course of the season.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Who has said that the “homesick” theory is for real. First I’ve heard of this.

      • Hiram Hover - May 2, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Yeah, I’m skeptical of that one too.

      • NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        Let me put it this way. Haren was the only guy I’ve seen call his kids by name, tell his wife to put them to bed, and etc., in a post game interview (after his save). Usually guys are all “what a great win, credit to my teammates, my catcher,” and so on.

        He wasn’t physically injured, he didn’t even know which shoulder he was going on the DL for (one of the funnier moments of the season). Whatever it was, it was “mental.” I suspect (again from body language) that he never really bonded with the introverted Strasburg, the stoic Zimmermann, and the diva Gio. It could also be the case that McCatty, tough and direct, didn’t diagnose Haren’s issues. Davey was in another world, and Rizzo, not unreasonably, expected the veteran to perform if he wasn’t hurt.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        I always thought his issues were over-throwing where his pitches were flattening out. It’s daunting to be in a rotation where everyone is darting mid-90’s heaters.

        If you look at his poor games his splitter and fastball assortment wasn’t getting desired movement. You see this a lot in sinker pitchers. I think McCatty calls it free and easy. Detwiler was a classic over-thrower late in games where he would tire and overthrow.

        Haren has a long track record of success. He’s a good pitcher and this season is a small sample size for a pitcher. 1/6th complete.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        I seem to recall Haren openly admitted that he hated being away from his family…wasn’t one of his children very young at the start of the season, possibly an infant?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Eric, I’m sure he did miss his family but that’s why they have planes, trains and automobiles. He got paid $12 million big ones to pitch in DC. He didn’t have to take the job in DC. He had other opportunities.

        It’s water under the bridge.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        I’m not saying it excuses anything, just might be part of an explanation. Doesn’t make it any less disappointing even though I can totally empathize.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        We can all empathize with him as he was a stand-up guy through it all.

        If you want to empathize with a player, there’s plenty who have gone through hell and back. Wilson Ramos is #1 in the Majors. No family in the US when he was traded to the Nats, few friends, making league minimum while supporting his family, then he gets kidnapped, injured, injured again and injured again and still has put up great numbers despite what he’s endured. He lived hand to mouth and was living in a shared apartment. He said the only thing he bought himself was a nice car with a car payment because they made fun of him with the rent-a-wreck he once drove. Bernadina’s story wasn’t much different except he never got kidnapped.

        Sorry, I can be empathetic to Haren but he had the means at least to relocate his family like most veteran players do.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        I can understand opting against a temporary, cross-country transplant of a family with young children (especially an infant, if I’m remembering correctly that they had one), particularly if such a move would mean leaving behind a solid support network so you can have your husband around for maybe 40% of the season. Not sure if that was their particular situation, but it’s easy to imagine why that was their family’s decision.

        Also, empathizing with Haren has no bearing on my ability to empathize with Ramos for far more difficult trials and tribulations. Of course, I can empathize about 10,000 times more directly with life/work balance issues involving young children than I can with kidnappings, torn ligaments, bone removal surgery, and the like.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        I took the conversation to an extreme that all players and most people in all types of jobs have extraneous issues and I don’t buy the Haren “homesick” theory.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        Yeah, it could’ve been a lie when he cited it as a distraction, who knows? Who cares? I’m just saying, if that was a factor, I can relate. 2 years ago I called my wife from a tent 9,000′ up and a days’ hike into the Cascades because I was so homesick I couldn’t sleep and just happened to have a single bar of service coming and going.

        And, at least for me, sleeping is a lot easier than pitching ever was 😉.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        I should mention that I absolutely LOVE camping and backpacking, and have never had a problem doing either without my wife…but throw our then-1.5 year old into the mix and it’s a different situation entirely.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Sweet story.

    • tcostant - May 2, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      I blame them not for signing him, but not removing him from the rotation sooner (or at least trying a DL stint sooner). When he pitched early last year, the game was basicly over by the 3rd inning, it was brudal.

  8. mrabey - May 2, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    At least Miami did us a solid by sweeping the Braves. :-) And Atlanta’s hosting the Giants and the Cardinals for the next two series, with an off-day on Monday. I’m definitely curious to see how the Nats play these next six games, but I feel hopeful that a split isn’t an unrealistic expectation.

  9. tcostant - May 2, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    I posted this on the podcast thread, but in case anyone missed it:

    If anyone wants to go to Philly on Friday, use this link and enter “PHRIDAY” under promo code. Take over the park!

    Remember to enter “PHRIDAY” under promo code.

    50% off with that promo code!

  10. Theophilus T.S. - May 2, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    The Nats’ biggest worry in Philthadelphia is that bandbox ballpark. While it plays the same for both teams, the overall tendency is to corrupt good pitching. The Philthies’ rotation has regressed to “eminently hittable;” the last thing we need is for the Nats’ rotation to descend to that level. On the other hand, Rendon might hit 6 HRs.

  11. letswin3 - May 2, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    I can’t figure out Boswell (Wash. Post). He seems to have a bed with optional sides to arise each morning … this morning it was the “right” side, and he sounded like a complete optimist. But several of his recent articles have sounded like the “right” side of his bed is firmly attached to a wall. Don’t get me wrong, he’s generally objective, but it’s his changing slants on the facts that make me wonder. Me? I’m more of a glass is half full kinda guy most days.

    • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      The thing about using facts to predict the future is they can point to myriad feasible outcomes.

    • tcostant - May 2, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      What Boswell didn’t note was in 2012 when all the backups and minor leagues stepped that one of them was Harper who came up when Zimm went on the DL in April that year.

    • NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Thanks for the link. I had a good smile.

    • micksback1 - May 2, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      good post, I never get tired of saing, “I am so glad General Sherman kicked their asses” LOL

    • letswin3 - May 2, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      Yeah, the Braves pitching staff starts coming back down to earth, and the Braves reckon that it must have something to do with opponents stealing signs. As Gordon Ramsay would say ‘COME ON!!”.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        There’s a reason catchers don’t just yell out to the pitcher what to throw next. If you are going to encrypt a message, encrypt it GOOD. Change your passwords. You don’t purposely hang curves; don’t “hang” your signs.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        As Ghost pointed out last night, Freddie Freeman has a nice new collection of collars from all six games against the Marlins.

        Clearly, they must be stealing his signs at the plate.

    • Hiram Hover - May 2, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Thanks. My favorite line, from Harang explaining the Marlins success: “It seemed like they were all hitting like Ted Williams.”

      Sure – or, that you’re pitching like Aaron Harang.

      • letswin3 - May 2, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Good one!!!

  12. NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Joel Hanrahan signed with the Tigers.

    • tcostant - May 2, 2014 at 11:42 AM

      I was betting the Mets would, glad he is in the AL.

  13. micksback1 - May 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    looks like Nats are hanging in at 16-12, no reason they should not win series verse Philly and they are due to beat the Dodgers. It just figures Haren is pitching great.

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 2, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Haren will give up runs; his career ERA approaches four. The key is just to keep LA from scoring. They haven’t seen Fister before. If the AL found him confounding the NL will be doubly ill at ease his first time around. All he has to do Wednesday is go five and let the bats get a bit of a lead.

  14. unkyd59 - May 2, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    If we get 3 of these six, with so many of our back ups facing so many aces, I think it should be pats on the back, all around, and then the wounded start to trickle back online… If we can curtail the defensive gaffes and keep getting quality ABs from the usual suspects, we might could do even better….

    Is anyone else still shaking their heads over that Frandsen catch? I’m still in wow, over that…

  15. #4 - May 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    I am excited to see the Nats forced to play a series of close low scoring games. For them to ultimately be successful in the way we all hope, they must play better defense and execute with small-ball offense – bunt, move runners over, take the extra base. Good pitching match-ups often produce games that put these skills to the test. I am hoping in this stretch we will see a “break-out” on that.

  16. #4 - May 2, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    BTW Mick. I’m not sure you saw my post last week about Buddy passing away. I hope you saw the article in the Post about him in Wednesday’s sports section.

    • micksback1 - May 2, 2014 at 3:28 PM


      I sure did and the Post article was excellent. I was out of town and could not attend the tribute at lbans, I talked to a few who were able to go and they said it was an excellent tribute to Coach Buddy. The bestthing I heard was that there were players from the eraly 60’s as well as their won boys who had the honor of playing for Buddy. I will miss him

      • micksback1 - May 2, 2014 at 3:37 PM

        I sure did and the Post article was excellent. I was out of town and could not attend the tribute at Albans, I talked to a few who were able to go and they said it was an excellent tribute to Coach Buddy. The best thing I heard was that there were players from the early 60′s as well as their own boys who had the honor of playing for Buddy. I will miss him

  17. Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Speaking of Wilson Ramos he will begin his rehab assignment in the next few days. Right on schedule to return on May 16th.

    • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      I keep hearing mixed thing about Ramos’ timetable…I’ve mostly heard he could return as early as Monday (Read it again today in a Kilgore piece), and I also read that he would catch Fister’s last rehab game (today, I guess?).

      But, I’ve also read a few times that he’s only just about to begin his rehab assignment…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        That’s interesting what Kilgore wrote. Monday? I’m hearing they won’t push him and he will return on the 16th. The optimistic plan was to have him on the road trip on the 9th. I guess that’s possible. I don’t see a reason to push it and we will see how he progresses.

      • NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        Thanks, I read that. Too optimistic? I’m getting my injury article together, but hoping to hear from Williams.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        I have to agree re: not pushing it. If Lobi were still scuffling it’d be one thing (and even then, pushing Ramos wouldn’t really be worth it in the long run).

        The fact that Lobi has come around and put up solid numbers makes me think if we do see Ramos on Monday, it will be because he’s truly ready.

        Agreed, NL: would be nice to hear something from the team on this…everything I’ve read suggesting this Monday has been kind of an off-hand comment in an article, a la Kilgore today.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        More from 4/27 (last Sunday):
        The most promising development pertains to Ramos. The Nationals expected him to miss four to eight weeks when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand on opening. It now appears Ramos will miss much closer to four — he may return as soon as the Nationals’ next homestand, which begins May 5 against the Dodgers.

        Saturday afternoon, Ramos caught pitches and made throws to second base for the first time. Ramos said he plans to take at-bats in extended spring training games Monday [4/28] and Tuesday [4/29], and then fly back to Washington on Wednesday. He hopes to play four rehab games at Class AA Harrisburg, and then return once the Nationals return from Philadelphia..”

        Still trying to find the one saying he’d catch Fister’s final rehab start.

      • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        OK, more from Wagner today. If he was supposed to catch Fister today, it’s not the plan anymore, but he *is* slated to catch in Harrisburg tomorrow and Sunday with a possible return on Monday.
        Two other injured Nationals are nearing returns. Outfielder Scott Hairston began his minor league rehab assignment on Thursday with Class AAA Syracuse. Catcher Wilson Ramos, who is in extended spring training in Florida, is expected to begin his minor league rehab assignment this weekend, barring any setbacks. Ramos will not be with Harrisburg on Friday but could join them on Saturday and Sunday before returning to the Nationals on Monday.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        The optimistic side would be jumping on team charter on Wednesday and flying West to be activated on May 9th. If he’s activated before that I would be shocked.

        Sure, I could see him taking BP on Monday at Nats Park.

      • 6ID20 - May 2, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        His bobblehead will return on the 16th. We know that much.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 2, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        “@ZuckermanCSN: Williams says it’s “possible” Ramos returns for part of Dodgers series next week. Next weekend in Oakland sounds very realistic.”

  18. stoatva - May 2, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Will philliesphans abuse phrandsen as they do werth? you know they’re upset harper isn’t playing.

    • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      Been wondering that about Frandsen, too…I have to think they will. I don’t think they can help themselves, although it did seem that most of the ire re: losing Frandsen was directed at Phillies management, not Frandsen himself.

  19. letswin3 - May 2, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    I too would like to see Ramos back in there driving in runs, but I’ll lean on the side of being conservative and making sure he’s fully recovered. Lobo and Leon (quite a job by Leon calling his last two starts) look to have his back until then. I do have a question about that Hamate bone ….. they have said “surgery”, but they frequently omit the word removed. Was it removed or repaired? And would there be a difference in the recovery of strength (power numbers) issue?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Removed, not repaired, and most players don’t regain all their power right away.

  20. NatsLady - May 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    I have no problem with Ramos coming back soon, just hope he is in shape so he doesn’t pull a hammy or something.

    Leon is a nice kid but his offense isn’t cutting it. I would say maybe let Ramos and Lobaton split the games until Ramos’ can regain his power.

    • Eric - May 2, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      Good point re: his hammy. Hopefully he’s kept up some kind of lower-body training through all of this. I read that Zim was using some special device that let him run in place in the water to prevent aggravating his broken thumb via the shock of his feet hitting the ground…

  21. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 2, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    It’s 3:00 and the timestamps just went out to lunch …





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