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State of the Nats: Positive signs?

May 27, 2014, 12:18 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Top storylines:

Espinosa continues to struggle – Much of the reason the Nationals have been so bad offensively in May has been due to injuries. Missing Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper is enough to make any team start struggling at the plate. But adding to their troubles have been players slumping who were initially off to great starts to 2014. Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have all gone cold at an inopportune time for the Nationals.

Espinosa, in particular, is really struggling. In the month of May, he is .123/.179/.260 and has seen his overall batting average dip to .209, just a few ticks above the Mendoza Line. Matt Williams talked about Espinosa being too aggressive before Monday’s game and then saw his second baseman go 0-for-2 and only reach base on a hit-by-pitch.

Williams even replaced him with a pinch-hitting Kevin Frandsen with two outs in the ninth. I asked Williams the reasoning behind it and he correctly noted Espinosa was 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts against Marlins closer Steve Cishek. Frandsen, however, had never faced the submarine right-hander before (despite playing for the Phillies, which is weird). Neither would seem good options for the situation, but it shows Williams’ level of confidence in Espinosa at the moment.

Fister and LaRoche making an impact – I wrote this morning how the Nationals getting guys back from the disabled list hasn’t paid immediate dividends quite yet, at least on offense. There is evidence, however, that both Doug Fister and Adam LaRoche are already helping their team since returning from the disabled list.

Fister has arguably been the Nats’ best starting pitcher in the month of May. Though Strasburg’s ERA (2.62) is lower than the veteran’s (3.42), the Nationals are 3-1 in games Fister’s started. They have won each of his last three outings, which is quite impressive given their offense has been arguably the worst in baseball over the last month. One thing to watch, though, is how many home runs Fister is allowing. He’s already surrendered five, placing him second on the Nationals. Five home runs in four starts is a lot.

LaRoche has only been back two games and he has already hit a home run. He has hits in each of his outings since returning, as well. All of this is an excellent sign for the first baseman who has long been established as a streaky hitter. It appears, at least so far, that his DL stint did not cool his bat.

Injury updates – The Nationals are getting healthier, but there still remain three big names on their disabled list. Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper will all continue their rehabs this week, and we could find out more about Zimmerman and Gonzalez’ timelines to return. I know, we’ve been saying that for a while, but it could actually happen this week.

Zimmerman will start taking swings in the batting cage to test his fractured right thumb. The Nationals are wary of how the finger will react to the impact and vibrations of a baseball bat. If all goes well with that step over the next week, it sounds like they will have a much better idea as to his return date.

Gonzalez will throw from 120 feet before Tuesday’s game against the Marlins to test his inflamed left shoulder. From there the Nationals may be able to set up a bullpen session for him. Once he feels good enough to throw a bullpen, and if he completes it with no discomfort, a big step forward will be taken. Gonzalez can then set himself up to return to the mound, whether it’s in Washington or in a minor league rehab situation.

NL East Standings


Offensive game of the week: Denard Span 5/20 vs. Reds – 5 for 5, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB

Pitching game of the week: Doug Fister 5/25 vs. Pirates – 5.1 IP, ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 4 SO, HR, 83 pitches, 57 strikes

Quote of the week:

Denard Span on the Nationals’ injuries this season:

There’s no question we want to have those guys back. But once 7 o’clock starts, I’m not thinking about that. We’ve got to find a way to win. That’s why there’s a 40-man roster. Guys have got to pull up some slack.

Tweet of the week:

This must have been pretty cool for Bryce:

Road ahead

MON – 1:35 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (lost, 3-2)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Treinen)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Zimmermann)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Strasburg)
SAT – 12:05 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Fister)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Roark)

  1. sunshinebobby - May 27, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    We’re closer to last place (2.5 games) than first (3.5). In this horrible division.

    They played Memorial Day like they had a parking meter running, and couldn’t wait to leave. I watch Zimm soft tossing in the OF before the game. He could barely throw 100 feet, lobbing it with that usual girly motion (no offense, ladies). He’s out until after the A-S break, then where do you play him? Espi should have a ticket to SYR in his pocket, but we have to play him. Span hasn’t hit his stride. There’s only so much Werth, ALR and Rendon can do. I am counting the days until the Buffalo’s next injury.

    Yes, I am officially a member of the LoD. Move over, Peric, one more is coming…

  2. natsguy - May 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    6 games under .500 since game 9.

  3. alexva6 - May 27, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    how much longer can they wait to give Souza Jr a shot? .358/.456/.566 in 106 ABs in AAA. not that Dobbs can back up LaRoche is TyMo really a better option?

    • alexva6 - May 27, 2014 at 12:58 PM

      now that Dobbs

      • NatsLady - May 27, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        They already gave Souza a shot, he didn’t do much with it. Maybe he will if given another chance.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 27, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        Souza only got 9 plate appearances. Not much of a shot.

    • Section 222 - May 27, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Walters raked in AAA too. TyMo hit tons of HRs. What makes you think that just looking at his numbers gives you a better idea of how he’d fair in the majors than Rizzo and the coaching staff have? Do you think that those guys don’t want to put the best team on the field that they can?

      • alexva6 - May 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        desperate times bring desperate measures, recalling Harper being brought up in spit of less than stellar numbers. and none of your mentions approached what Souza is doing now.

        sorry 222, I didn’t realize I had to establish credibility with you in order to post.

      • Section 222 - May 27, 2014 at 4:47 PM

        I do remember Harper coming up. Rendon too, Which shows that Rizzo is fully capable of evaluating young talent and deciding who is ready to contribute at the MLB level and who needs more work in the minors.

        And no, you didn’t need to establish credibility or anything else in order to post. Post away. You’re entitled to your opinion and it’s worth just as much as anyone else’s here. And I’m entitled to disagree with it and explain why, right? All I was commenting on was the assumption that Souza’s numbers establish something certain about whether it makes sense to bring him up.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    The season is still less than one-third over and I’m not quite ready to write it off as lost or doomed or hopeless.

    • texnat1 - May 27, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      No it is certainly not lost. But I think that this week has been bad enough that it has shifted from a season that was going reasonably well to one in which they are going to have to dig out of a hole.

      Which is not to say they can’t do it.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:13 PM


      • therealjohnc - May 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        3.5 games is not much of a hole to dig out of. The real saving grace for the Nats is that while they’ve been scuffling with injuries the Braves haven’t run away with the division the way that they did last year.

        Not to say that there isn’t a lot of stuff to be worried about. But every team in the NL East has stuff to be worried about. You should read the sturm und drang on the Braves’ fan sites. They are bumping along and haven’t really been affected by injuries to date (they lost Medlen, but he’s been replaced by Santana; it’s not clear what they could have expected from Beachy at all, given his proven inability to stay healthy). Nats fans content themselves with the idea that the cavalry is coming if the team can just hang close. Braves fans spend more time hoping that the other teams in the division don’t get there, because the Braves regulars have been remarkably healthy and they still haven’t been able to pad their lead.

    • scnatsfan - May 27, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      I’m not either but at this point last year I was saying the same thing.

      October comes early boys, get it together and start playing like you can.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:14 PM


  5. natszee - May 27, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    So last May before Danny was sent to Syracuse, he played 22 games, 71 AB/11 H/27 K, .155 BA/.176 OBP. This May he has played 24 games, 73 AB/9 H/34 K, .123 AB/.179 OBP.

    What should be different this year? Is the bench the new “Chiefs”? We need some bats to light up the scoreboard.

    • Eric - May 27, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      Two things different that I can see:
      1 – Danny had a fantastic April this year, whereas iirc, he was horrendous last April. April wasn’t that long ago, so I’m thinking they might not be ready to give up on him yet.
      2 – Danny is a back up this year, not a regular (at least, if there was any hope for him to be a regular starting the season, I have to think it’s gone now, barring injuries).
      3 – Injuries are kind of tying our hands at the moment. No sense replacing a sure-handed defender with a shaky defender who is raking in AAA but might flail in the MLB.

      • scnatsfan - May 27, 2014 at 1:53 PM

        But when it comes down to it is Espi helping us win games soley with his defense? I don’t know if right now a bigger bat is more important then a bigger glove. I really don’t know. I know with this team getting 3-5 hits a night we can’t keep trotting up guys who have a horrible appraoch at the plate.

      • RPrecupjr - May 27, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        Has anyone talked to Dr. Andrews about inventing “Zimmernosa” surgery, i.e. replacing the noodle-like, useless arm of a power-hitting third baseman with the bazooka-like arm of a slick fielding, can’t hit my cats’ weight (all three combined) second baseman?

        This would solve a lot of issues. Let’s get on it :)

        Oh, and while I’m here…..I’ve only been saying this for two years now, and said it directly to my TV yesterday follwing the HPB to Dietrich:

        WALK HIM, for the love of everythingand anything, WALK HIM. I don’t care if that put two guys on in a 1-0 game, there were TWO outs. Next guy up hit a routine ground ball, inning over, irreversible damage done.

        In his career against us – 61 games, here’s his line:

        .318 AVG, 70 for 220, 38 runs, 51 RBIs, 21 HRs. In 61 games. Mutiply by 2.67 to get a full season (against only us, obviously): 56 HRs, 136 RBIs, 101 runs

        WALK HIM. Let anyone else on the Fish beat us, but not him.

        And for those that speak Millar-ese: WALK HEEEEEM!!!

      • natszee - May 27, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        scnatsfan – yesterday, Danny made a great defensive play and it might have save a run or two. So, instead of loosing 3-2, we loose 4-2 or 5-2. We need to hit and score runs. Can’t hit? Bunt, fly out deep, hit it hard on the ground and try to run it out, anything to advance a runner. Make the outs productive. Play small ball, run. Get the other team off balance.

        I don’t know about you but we have a few players that when they come up to the plate with two outs and my son asks me “Dad, who’s up next?” my response is “The other team!” and WAY TOO MANY times, I’m right. Think about how dominate the Nats have been in 2012 and the latter part of 2013. Today, we are looking up at the fish’s tail. What’s next, Mr. Met’s bottom? This is not fun.

      • Eric - May 27, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        scnatsfan, I don’t know which we need worse, either. My point was, someone raking in AAA might very well scuffle as badly as Espi in the bigs AND very likely won’t have the defensive upside either. That would be a bad scene all around.

  6. chaz11963 - May 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    There’s is no question this is a very good team, projected to be one of the top 5 in the NL. The core team hasn’t played together since Opening Day. The question is whether you think the current weakened lineup can tread water until Bryce and Zim get back (hopefully fully healthy and able to immediately contribute). Desmond is hitting a lot better, and LaRoche is back and contributing. Ramos will start producing more and Rendon will get back to his April form. Werth remains consistent. Do you sit on your hands and wait it out or do you do a trade now to help the offense stay afloat?

    • bowdenball - May 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      It doesn’t matter if we want to trade or not- nobody will trade away a productive hitter at this juncture of the season unless a team gives up way too much in terms of prospects. Every team in the league is within 8 games of the wild card. There’s really only two teams that you’d already feel 100% comfortable eliminating- the Astros and the Cubs- and they don’t really have any productive veterans on their team anyway. Their best hitters are young guys who are part of their rebuild.

      • chaz11963 - May 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        I think you might also be able to include the D-Backs and possibly the Padres. I really don’t know who might be available from those teams, I’m sure Rizzo and his staff would though.

        This is a team that’s built to win today. If you don’t make a move, you are basically saying what we have will work out. That’s all fine and dandy, until they don’t… and if things turn out like last year…

      • chaz11963 - May 27, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        One other thing… Rizzo was not hired to build a strong minor league system and a major league team that should win on paper. The current Nats are built to win today.

  7. unterp - May 27, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    I’ve tried to warn folks that not losing 80 games is an accomplishment in MLB. Be that as i may, two years of a rash of injuries have succumbed this team more than any other factor. and that’s the way it is…

  8. tcostant - May 27, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Does anyone know why Saturday’s game is at noon? Seems odd.

    • unterp - May 27, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      yes, I have to go barbecue…

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      So that west coast fans can have the pleasure of watching a game while eating breakfast?

      • unterp - May 27, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        are you going to be in Seattle in August?

      • RPrecupjr - May 27, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        Eufene, that was one of things I really enjoyed when I lived in SoCal…..NFL Sundays – early game for breakfast, late game for lunch, night game for dinner, in bed at a decent hour to get up for work on Monday

      • RPrecupjr - May 27, 2014 at 2:29 PM

        Ack…..Eugene, sorry about that

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        UNTERP – That’s the current plan, but still a few variables in it.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        UNTERP – you, too?

      • unterp - May 27, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        yep, I’ll be there. Probably my last west coast trip. Got all the west coast venues in…

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        UNTERP – At least until the A’s finally get that new ballpark in San Jose, right?

      • unterp - May 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        well, yeah, I will return if/when they get a new ball park, also will return to Atlanta i guess in 2017, then the farthest west I will travel will be to Minnesota and Texas when they play them. Otherwise, I will go no farther west than St Louis in coming years. Those west coast trips are tough …

      • natsguy - May 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        I will be there too. Driving up from Corvallis. Maybe take the train.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        NatsGuy — So you’re in Corvalis? Going to the OSU-hosted regional?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      Maybe the postgame concert is one of those “boy bands” and they have an early bedtime?

    • 6ID20 - May 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Probably because the Dream Foundation Gala is Saturday night. Unfortunately, that event usually puts the kibosh on the Sunday day game.

      • natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Dang, and me with the Sunday game. Moderation, boys, moderation. Early to bed, early to rise and all that. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Um, wait. Scratch that last one.

        “Probably because the Dream Foundation Gala is Saturday night. Unfortunately, that event usually puts the kibosh on the Sunday day game.”

    • ArVAFan - May 27, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      So I can get to the game, get home in time, and get dressed up for the “once a year I actually put on pantyhose” event.

      That assumes the game goes 8-1/2 innings. Or maybe 10. But not 15.

      • secretwasianman - May 27, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        Pantyhose? You are a female I hope.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 7:37 PM

        That was uncalled-fer, an’ like, yanno, sexist. Uncreative and clichéd, I figure, is just a stylistic quirk.

    • secretwasianman - May 27, 2014 at 4:58 PM

      Cause playing later sure ain’t been working.

  9. Faraz Shaikh - May 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    dang, we are sucking these days.

    • natsjackinfl - May 27, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Thanks for the contribution, Faraz :)

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Clear and succinct.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    “@ZuckermanCSN: Ryan Zimmerman taking flyballs in left field, and for the first time, it looks like he’s getting actual coaching instruction out there.”

  11. natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    A demoralizing point of the season, indeed. That said, after 51 games in 2013, we were 4.5 back rather than 3.5 (though in 2nd place rather than 3rd).

    In 2011, we were 10.5 back, and in 5th place. (Don’t make me go back further than that. No, really. I don’t want to.)

    In the magical season of 2012 we were in first place, and up by 1. (Man, was that fun.)

    “dang, we are sucking these days.”

    • veejh - May 27, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      It’s all about expectations. We have been sucking.

      • natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Indeed. imho, delving into the Natmosphere was more fun when there weren’t such lofty expectations, but that’s just me.

        “It’s all about expectations.”

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        Maybe if we worked harder, like, on grammar and spelling and the correct use of apostrophes, we wouldn’t suck so bad.

      • secretwasianman - May 27, 2014 at 4:55 PM

        Sec 3 that comment is stupid and uncalled for. Who cares if someone’s grammar is a little off. Your baseball knowledge is WAY off.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        Well, he did say “we.”

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 6:37 PM

        “Your baseball knowledge is WAY off.”

        Well, how would you know? YOU been in the majors?

      • natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 6:42 PM

        Well, I don’t know. Maybe I called for it with my, like, former California girl speak and my editorial inclinations (like, I totally do care about grammar and stuff, dudes). But it’s like, all cool, so whatever… :-)

        Um, go NATS!

        ” Sec 3 that comment is stupid and uncalled for. Who cares if someone’s grammar is a little off. Your baseball knowledge is WAY off.”

      • natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 6:53 PM

        On another note, sec3 like, totally knows his baseball.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 7:04 PM

        You never do your own proofreading in The Show. They use white paper for notepads. The ballpoint pens are like stilettos. And the women all have long resumes, and brains.

    • natsfan1a - May 27, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      E-x-x-cellent, sec3. E-x-xcellent.

      “You never do your own proofreading in The Show. They use white paper for notepads. The ballpoint pens are like stilettos. And the women all have long resumes, and brains.”

  12. secretwasianman - May 27, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Not enough talent on this team to overcome a manager like MW.

  13. natsguy - May 27, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    The talent is there, just all on the disabled list. Who knows how they will do when they get back.

    • secretwasianman - May 27, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      I agree. My point is MW has brought nothing to this dugout. Why the hire? Could have just hired bench coach…

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Danny is batting .600 against Henderson Alvarez with a 2.000 OPS. Sure, small sample size but Frandsen doesn’t thrive in RH-RH matchups.

    I rarely stand up for Espi but I figured he’d start due to the matchup.

    • veejh - May 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM


  15. bgbg32b - May 27, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    State of the nats is that the bench players are not that much better than last year. Frandsen is about the only one better. McLouth is McLousy at bat, tho he has a good glove. Nats could have signed Nelson Cruz or Morse for about the same as they signed McLousy for.
    Cruz and Morse are having all-star seasons.





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