Skip to content

West Coast can’t slow down red-hot Nationals

Jun 7, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images USA Today Sports Images

There’s nothing like a long, coast-to-coast flight followed by a late-night game on the other side of the country to throw a ballclub out of rhythm. So it wouldn’t have been all that surprising had the Nationals taken the field last night in San Diego and looked a bit sluggish in the opener of their 10-game road trip.

Two batters into the game at Petco Park, those fears were quashed. Denard Span’s leadoff walk followed by Anthony Rendon’s bomb of a 2-run homer set the tone right away. And behind yet another dominant pitching performance by Tanner Roark, the Nats cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Padres, picking up right where they left off Thursday afternoon in D.C.

That’s six wins in seven days now by the red-hot Nationals, who aren’t just squeaking by. They’re blowing everybody out, winning those six games by a combined score of 44-12.

The rotation has been nothing short of brilliant; over the last seven games, starters have posted a combined 1.29 ERA with 50 strikeouts and five walks.

The lineup has been productive and efficient; five different players have homered in the last week, with 12 different players recorded at least two RBI.

Don’t look now, but the Nationals are establishing themselves as one of baseball’s best teams. Don’t buy it? Well, they’ve now outscored opponents by 33 runs this season. The only teams in either league with better run differentials: the Athletics (+121), Giants (+62) and Blue Jays (+53).

Some specific observations from last night’s win in San Diego…

— How good was Roark? How about as good as any pitcher who has ever worn a Nationals uniform? No, seriously. He tossed eight scoreless innings, giving up three hits, striking out 11 and walking none. No pitcher in Nats history had ever done all that. The only other guys with 11-plus strikeouts, zero walks and zero runs allowed in a start were John Patterson in 2005 and Jordan Zimmermann in 2012. The only other major-league pitchers to do that this season were Jose Fernandez and Johnny Cueto. Pretty good company.

Roark has been impressive since the day he arrived from Syracuse last summer, but never before had he dominated like this by making hitters swing and miss. His 11 strikeouts shattered his previous career-high of eight (set against these same Padres on April 26). He was able to pitch up in the zone and still make San Diego’s batters miss. He was, quite simply, brilliant.

— It should be no surprise that Span and Rendon got things going offensively in the top of the first. They’ve been the keys to the Nationals’ offensive resurgence over the last week. During this seven-game stretch, the Nats’ No. 1 and No. 2 hitters have combined to reach base 14 times, producing eight extra-base hits and scoring 18 runs.

— The Nationals did get a scare when Rendon took a chopper off his right thumb in the bottom of the fourth, leading to the first of his two errors, then had to be pulled from the game two innings later. X-rays on the thumb and index finger, though, were negative, manager Matt Williams told reporters afterward, so Rendon appears to be fine. He may miss a game or two if the swelling doesn’t go down, but the Nats have to feel fortunate to finally get good news about one of their players injuring his thumb.

— Ryan Zimmerman was tested a couple of times in left field and passed those tests with relative ease. He tracked down a pair of flyballs hit into the corner, one of them requiring a running catch just before he slammed into the wall in foul territory. The situation may be a bit different, but Zim has always been as good as anybody getting to balls few others can, and there’s no reason to believe that with more experience he’ll boast top-level range in the outfield.

  1. knoxvillenat - Jun 7, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    Great news to start my day. This old guy just can’t handle these late night games. More and more impressed with Fanner Roark.

  2. minatsfan - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    I watched a couple innings before I went to bed. Roark was looking so good. The thing I noticed in those first two innings was that he went 0-2 on almost every batter. I think that really set up the stuff up in the zone. And talk about another great fielding performance by a Nats pitcher. Watching the recap he has at least three really great hustle plays.

    • knoxvillenat - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:47 AM

      I did catch the first inning of the game but nothing after that. Sure hope Rendon’s thumb injury isn’t similar to Zimm’s or Harper’s. Just when the team is getting hot we can’t afford to lose another regular from the lineup.

  3. NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    Someone asked me this yesterday. If you go to baseballreference.com, at the top of each player’s page, near his salary information, click on “transactions.” That will show you his drafts, trades, etc. For example, Anthony Rendon,

    June 5, 2008: Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 27th round of the 2008 amateur draft, but did not sign.
    June 6, 2011: Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 2011 amateur draft. Player signed August 15, 2011.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      Haha! I did. Thanks NL. I will check out the new kids.

      • NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM

        Scary to think Rendon could have been a Barve…

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:45 AM

        I know! Glad we dodged that one!

    • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      Thanks NL. And thus, was the course of history changed. :)

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    121? That’s ridiculous.

    NL, can you please show the draft thing? Which players wre drafted before?

  5. sjm308 - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    Those strikeout to walk numbers are crazy good but it gets even better. In the last four games just ONE walk.
    Keep drafting those arms Mike!

    Usually hate late games but there is nothing better than driving home from the Birchmere, listening to Charlie and Dave help make the time fly

    Go Nats!

    • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:26 AM

      You have a good life sjm. :-)

    • dcwx61 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      you are the most interesting man in the world

      stay thirsty, my friends ;)

  6. natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    Always nice to awake to a happy game results email. Did set the DVR and will watch later.

  7. scnatsfan - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Like I’ve said all Roark needs to do to win is be perfect

  8. Doc - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Lots of us thought that Taylor Jordan had more potential than TRoark.

    Lots of us didn’t know the incredible pitching stats that Roark was piling up last year.

    Then again lots of front office guys didn’t know what kind of pitcher Roark could be—they left him Rule 5 unprotected 2 years running!

    Like FP says, he’s the Nats’ version of Greg Maddux.

    Goooooooooooooooo Tannnnnnnnnnnnnnner!!!!

    • karlkolchak - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Nobody knew what Roark could be (including the Rangers’ GM) because prior to last year he had been an extremely mediocre pitcher. Give credit to Rizzo and co. for giving a real chance to a guy who they had no doubt written off as organizational fodder a long time ago.

      Roark was originally a 25th round draft pick, BTW. Kinda shows yet again what a crap shoot the draft really is.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        Pitcher development in the Nats system can’t be a coincidence and the scouting to find players who can be further developed is a tribute to Rizzo’s system. It first has to start with players that are willing to learn and change mechanics and add pitches to their repertoire.

        The list of pitchers I put up like Lannan, Milone, Peacock, Karns, Taylor Jordan, Roark, Ray, Treinen and I’m sure I’m missing some others so add them on. This isn’t a coincidence. They are taking low level prospects and turning them into good MLB pitchers.

      • nats128 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        That is a amazing list and these weren’t high draft picks. Im hoping you can add Taylor Hill to this list soon.

      • NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:47 AM

        Well, look at Adam LaRoche. 29th round. You do get most value from the top picks, which is why when you make a mistake it’s so costly (opportunity cost). We were lucky that Stras and Harper were no-brainers, and despite injuries, both look likely to fulfill their promise. I would say the LOWER rounds of the draft are a crapshoot, but if a team can’t draft wisely in the first 2-3 rounds that’s a problem.

      • natinalsgo - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        Ghost, quite the list! That’s a list of later round Draft picks that have all gone through the Nats system and prospered. These youngsters have to want to come here! Roark was a struggling AA pitcher who was in Independent ball prior to that. This is turning into quite the story. The sample size is growing and has to be considered legit.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        That list also puts their patience, ultimately unrewarded, with PFB and CMW into some context. Rizzo & Co. are very confident in their abilities to turn suspects into successes. If you never over-reach, you’re playing it too safe.

    • sjm308 - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Doc – there has been crazy fan speculation about which National pitcher will throw that first no-hitter!
      I think the way Roark has looked on a couple of occasions would put him pretty high on that list. Not important to me since the way pitching is constructed now is trying to get a good solid 7 innings but he sure is something.

      Go Nats

      and dcwx – very very difficult for me to stay thirsty!! but thanks

    • natinalsgo - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Taylor Jordan had a fair tryout against Tanner Roark and it was bumpy for each but in the end Tanner Roark pulled away and I think it was based on maturity. The Nats weren’t fielding well and Taylor let it get to him. Roark just kept pitching and has earned a spot.

      With all that said, dominating the Padres twice is something that isn’t a rare occurrence. They are batting .104 during the month of June so far as a team.

  9. NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Gio didn’t have a great rehab game, to put it mildly. He was solid for two innings, but then walked four and gave up 8 runs, including a Grand Slam (P-Nats still won, though 11-10). Gio said it was “general body fatigue,” not his shoulder.

    I expect he doesn’t quite know how to handle being on the DL (since he’s never been there before) and didn’t keep his lower body and core in shape the way he should have. Just my guess.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 7, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      He looked great the first two innings.

      If it is fatigue play one more game to get his stamina back.

  10. NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Here is the company Tanner Roark is keeping– pitchers with two games scored 85 or over in 2014:

    Adam Wainwright, Masahiro Tanaka,Tanner Roark,
    Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto

    • NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      As Mark said, good company!

      • natinalsgo - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        When you consider he had 3 innings he had to get 4 outs because the defense had errors and a botched doubleplay (not an error). He got through it without an issue.

  11. Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    I was trying to curb my enthusiasm given that the Phillies are so terrible. Last week, the Mets took four out five from them, only to turn around and lose three straight to the Cubs. (By the way, what a bizarre scheduling anomaly that was — 5 straight games between the two teams, all in the same place.) So it’s nice to see the Nats keep clicking in their next series. It would be great to take this series, because the next two are going to be very tough.

    Cool moment in last night’s game. After Rendon’s error (the one where he got hurt), he went right to the mound to talk to Roark. Couldn’t tell what was said, obviously, but I imagined:

    AR: “Sorry about that man, my bad.”
    TR: “No problem bud. I got ya. Nice homer by the way. Damn!”
    AR: “Thanks, just keep the ball down. You’ve got great stuff tonight. Better yet, how about a K? My hand hurts like a SOB.”

    • NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 8:40 AM

      I think one of the Phillies/Mets games was a re-scheduled rainout.

      • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:03 AM

        Yeah, looks like it. Still, 5 games in 5 days against the same team. It’s like a the playoffs. In their dreams!

    • dcwx61 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      Sunday’s matchup looks favorable for the Nats but that is on paper
      Stults vs Zimmnn

    • Doc - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      I’m pretty sure that was exactly how the conversation went, Section 222.

      By the way did anyone notice how ARen hollered “E5″ after he made the throwing error, having jammed his thumb on the grounder.

      ARen is good in a bunch of ways!

  12. micksback1 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    to steal the old slogan from the 1977 Portland Trailblazers…Red, Hot and ROLLING!!!

  13. micksback1 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    man, i am one old dude ha ha ha

  14. natinalsgo - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    I just hope Rendon is okay and Espinosa also.

    • Eric - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      +1

      • nats128 - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        +2 I stayed up to hear the postgame. Good that nothing was broken. Matty said he was swollen.

  15. Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    It will definitely be interesting to see today’s lineup. Zim may be forced back to the infield sooner than we thought.

  16. natsguy - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    They said RZIM’s thumb was negative the 1st day. Let the swelling go down first and they’ll no better.

    • nats128 - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      Are you sure about that. XRays I think would show a break even with swelling. I think its the MRI you wait on for swelling to go down but Im no doctor.

      • Eric - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        I believe hairline fractures can be missed until the bone has been healing for a week or two (because the cells that form the new bone show up on the XRay).

        I believe MRI is more for detecting soft tissue damage (among other things in different contexts), and I believe it’s correct that swelling makes them harder to read

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        Eric – Exactly right (at least based on experiences over the past year with my daughter’s figure-skating injuries to write and knee, i.e., bone and soft tissue).

    • natinalsgo - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      I think you are talking about Harper not Ryan Z

    • Eric - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      I think that was Harper, and I doubt Rendon damaged connective tissue via line drive to the hand.

      Still, I’ll breathe easier if a couple days go by and we havent heard anything more about it.

  17. natsguy - Jun 7, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Couln’t care less about he who shall not be named.

    Rendon needs a day off anyway.

  18. Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Harper didn’t have a fracture. Zim’s was picked up right away. But Espi’s wrist fracture was missed last year. Of course, if it were up to Feel Wood, Rendon wouldn’t get another x-ray because of the dangers of radiation. :-)

    Saw a strange play on Quick Pitch this morning involving the Cards and Blue Jays at the Rogers Center in Toronto. On a foul pop down the right field line, a young fan interfered with Bautista trying to make the catch and the ball dropped. The ball was still in foul territory, not in the stands. There was a replay and the batter was called out. So if a fan interferes with a player on the home team, it’s ruled an out? Wow. I’ve never heard of that rule.

    Cool triple play in that game too.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Why should it matter which team it was?

      • nats128 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        It doesnt matter home/away.

      • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        I guess it shouldn’t. But who knows whether Bautista would have made the catch or dropped the ball. Seems like the home fans should not get to “help” the home team by interfering.

        Once the ball crosses the barrier into the stands, it’s fair game right? So if the ball is in the stands, lean back and try to let your guy make the catch, but if you can lean over into the field and grab it and the player had a good shot at it, it’s an out?

    • 6ID20 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      Unless the fan is a geek named Bartman or a kid named Maier, it’s an out. Seriously, though, until the ball crosses the line into the seats, it’s in play and fan interference can be called. If replay was around then, both the Bartman and Maier calls might well have been overturned.

  19. philipd763 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    The Nats have to show me they can hit first rate pitching before I will call this a good team. Most of their recent wins have been at the expense of marginal teams with marginal pitching. Let’s see how they do against the Giants before we get carried away.

    • Eric - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Wasn’t Ross’ ERA like 2.85 before last night? He’s not Darvish, but that’s not bad.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        Didn’t someone say he had bit given up more than an earned run at home since his first start in April?

      • Eric - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        Indeed

    • sjm308 - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Giants are truly the class of the NL at this point but if you look, most of the rest of the league is “marginal” right now. We are just 3 games above .500 and right in the mix for a wild card.

      I could care less who we beat, I just want us to keep winning. I will worry about the “good” teams once we make the playoffs and if we make the playoffs I think we are in that category. I know I know, way too early to start projecting playoffs but let an old man dream (please).

      Go Nats!!

      OK, one last playoff thought. Who will want to face our pitching in a 7 game series??

    • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      Cue the “but we beat Cashner, Fernandez, Greinke, Wacha, etc.” comments.

      • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        Oh, and Cueto too.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        Dorothy: “Cueto, too?”

        Glinda: “Cueto too!”

      • natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Remember, all of you runners who are in scoring position, tap your heels together three times and think to yourself: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

    • unkyd59 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      These guys beat a bunch of Aces, early on….so I’m won’t be grumbling about who the schedule sets them up to hit against, as long as they keep winning….

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      No, they really don’t.

      At the end of the season, the team with the most wins will be in first place. It doesn’t matter who they beat along the way, in what month, or by how much. There’s no such thing as teams being “for real” IRL; that’s for fantasy baseball (and gambling). It doesn’t matter what I think, or Keith Law thinks, or anybody else thinks. The team that wins the most games is in first. It’s a rule. Prediction is irrelevant.

  20. NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    I’m not “carried away.” I am encouraged. For whatever reason, the team seems to have adopted RZimm as their magic charm, and you know how superstitious ballplayers are.

    At this point, wins are wins, and you don’t care if they are against bad teams and bad pitchers. Pile them up. Even if you lose to a good pitcher, use the AB’s to plan how you will attack him in the playoffs, where the bad teams and bad pitchers generally have fallen by the wayside. So I don’t see meeting the Giants as a “test,” I just want to win games, and that includes games in San Francisco.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      +1

  21. NatsLady - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    I wonder if Cueto is what he was. He had a good game after we got to him, but then the Phils got to him last night (four earned), raising his ERA to 1.97 ;).

    Point is, you can get to a good pitcher on a bad day, but a good pitcher like Darvish on nine days’ rest–that’s hard. Our goal is to take advantage of bad pitchers, and good pitchers’ bad days, and not make every guy who steps on the bump into Cy Young.

    • Section 222 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      How do we know when a guy on nine days rest is going to be good, like Darvish, or bad like JZnn (or CMWang)?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        He gets on a mound and throws a baseball.

  22. stoatva - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    These West Coast trips are hard on an old guy. Made it all the way last night, though.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      I recommend an afternoon nap before games that start at 10 p.m. Of course, naps on other days are good, too.

  23. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Speaking of naps, is anybody else giving blood at the park today?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 5:38 PM

      Guess not.

  24. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

    Yogi

  25. Candide - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    The Nats and Marlins are in a virtual tie for the NL wild card (the Nats have a slightly higher winning percentage due to having played fewer games); both teams are 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers.

    So it’s still a little too early for the LoD folks to come out and proclaim the season is lost.

    On the other hand, it seems like it’s NEVER too early for the LoD folks to come out and proclaim the season is lost… ;-)

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      It gets late pretty early around here.

      • Candide - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        That’s for sure. Sixth inning last night. Nats up 2-0, Ramos doubles in a run to make it 3-0, and then it was 6-0 and I had no earthly idea how that had happened.

        But I decided I could safely turn off the TV, as early as it was. Tanner seemed to have things under control.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 7, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        Yogi

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 7, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        This old fart stayed up through the 7th. Felt confident enough to turn off the TV with a 6 run lead.

        My dog, Harper, stayed up with me and apparently can’t take late nights as he went right back to bed after eating his breakfast this morning.

        Going to try it again tonight.

        GYFNG!

  26. David Proctor - Jun 7, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Great win to have with Cashner vs. Treinan tonight. I don’t like our chances. If we win this one, I’ll start feeling REALLY positive.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      I am sure the Padres are favorites. If we pull this one off, I feel confident we are ready to start a bid streak.

  27. annapmagistra - Jun 7, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Going for my nap now. Hope to stay up late.

  28. edshelton2013 - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    Do they check your alcohol level before allowing you to give blood?

Archives

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.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter