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State of the Nats: Giants up next

Jun 9, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Top storylines:

Four games in San Francisco - Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Nationals are starting to look like contenders once again. They are healthy and scoring runs, and their starting rotation is getting stronger by the game.

Monday night they will have quite the test in the San Francisco Giants, owners of the best record in baseball. The Giants are 42-21 with a 9 1/2 game lead in the NL West. They have won 10 of 12 and five straight games.

Monday will mark the first time Matt Williams returns to his first major league home as a manager, which I wrote about this morning. It will also be the first time the Nationals face old friend Michael Morse, who is enjoying a comeback year with the Giants. Morse is their best offensive player this season, leading the Giants in homers (13), RBI (42), doubles (16) and OPS (.879).

Getting some wins in San Francisco could symbolize a small step for the Nats, as last year their trip out there was an unmitigated disaster. They lost two of three in San Francisco last May, the first loss an 8-0 blowout that Zach Duke started, the second an extra innings heartbreaker. The 10-inning game featured Yunesky Maya taking the loss in his only appearance of the season and Rafael Soriano blaming his blown save on Bryce Harper.

The pitching matchups should be fun to watch this week. Monday it is Stephen Strasburg vs. Ryan Vogelsong. Tuesday is Doug Fister vs. Madison Bumgarner. Wednesday is Tanner Roark vs. Matt Cain. Thursday should be Blake Treinen vs. Tim Hudson.

Hudson is also enjoying a renaissance in San Francisco and leads their staff with a 1.97 ERA in 12 starts. He has long tormented the Nationals with a 16-5 record and 2.45 ERA in 29 career starts against the franchise.

Gio to make another rehab start - After getting shelled in Potomac on Friday with eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, Gio Gonzalez will make another rehab start with the P-Nats this Thursday. Sure, they could use him in San Francisco, but as long as Gio gets through this one he could return during the Nats’ next homestand. He’ll likely come back when the Nats are playing the Astros and miss their four-game series against the Braves. That could set him up, however, to begin their series in Milwaukee against the Brewers after Atlanta leaves town.

Nats pitching staff looking good - After seeing their starting rotation hit with injuries and mediocrity over the season’s first two months, the Nationals’ staff has enjoyed quite the rebound in June. Through seven games this month, Nationals starters are 5-1 with a 1.21 ERA and 48 strikeouts to just three walks. Their total ERA as a team is 1.39 in May, nearly a full run better than the second best mark in the majors.

Overall this season the Nationals now have the second-best team ERA in MLB at 3.00. Their rotation is climbing the ranks and now sits seventh in the league at 3.43. Nationals starters are also seventh in strikeouts and have allowed the second least amount of walks. With Gio still out, the worst ERA currently in their rotation is Doug Fister’s 3.19.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Anthony Rendon 6/4 vs. Phillies – 3-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI, SO

Pitching game of the week: Jordan Zimmermann 6/9 vs. Padres – 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 SO, 0 BB, 114 pitches, 83 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Bryce Harper on when he will return from the disabled list:

I’m not going to rush back. I’m not going to do anything stupid.

Tweet of the week:
Rehabbing an injury never sounded so fun:

Road ahead

MON – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Strasburg)
TUE – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Fister)
WED – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Roark)
THU – 3:45 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Treinen)
FRI – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Zimmermann)
SAT – 7:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Strasburg)
SUN – 2:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Fister)

  1. nats106 - Jun 9, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    “Rafael Soriano blaming his blown save on Bryce Harper.” Good thing Harper is on the D/L. He would have been blamed for that homer that was hit way Yonder by Alonso.

    Five game winning streak? Tells me the Giants are ripe for a couple of losses. Mets played them tough so I think they are due to go down this week.

    • tcostant - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Get over it, that was a long time ago. Blaming Byrce would be like blaming horses who follow the rules and then your horse losses the triple crown and call them a coward. And that would never happen, right?

      • hitmeimopen - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        Soriano blaming others fits what I expect from him. Dude has a ‘tude. His ‘dark cloud’ personality is exceeded only by his astronomical opinion of himself. At least from afar, that’s my view.

  2. NatsLady - Jun 9, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Injury Daze and Giants Series Preview

    Looking forward to the late night games!!! Will be able to get home and watch them all.

  3. karlkolchak - Jun 9, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    This is the measure of their season right here. How do they stack up against the big boys with Strasburg and Fister going twice. Anything less than 3-4 would not be acceptable.

    • bowdenball - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Enough with the over-the-top hysterics. If they go 2-5 they’ll be at .500, with a home stand and a bunch of games against both the Braves and the league’s bottom-dwellers immediately ahead of them. They would still be in perfectly fine shape.

      They all count the same. At some point this season they’re going to 2-5 over a seven game stretch, I guarantee it. It might even happen a couple times. If it happens on the road against elite competition it would suck, but i wouldn’t call it “unacceptable.” I mean, what are you going to do to show your lack of acceptance? Sell your tickets to remaining home games? Picket outside the stadium?

      • Eric - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        I agree ‘acceptable” is an odd word to use for a sport outcome, especially one that isn’t particularly decisive as far as the season’s outcome; however, I don’t really understand what’s so bothersome that it’s used. In a similar vein, now that there’s been “enough…over-the-top hysterics,” what happens if more come? The blog implodes? bowdenball becomes a Braves fan? ;)

      • bowdenball - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        Maybe bowdenball just stops reading the comments section and contributing to his own frustration :)

      • Eric - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Ha!

      • karlkolchak - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        I think it is you who are being hysterical. The Nats have to show they can beat the good teams SOMETIME>

    • natsguy - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      I would be totally happy with a split. A miracle would be a sweep. The really interesting series will be with St. Louis. If they could take that series then were talking.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      “Would not be acceptable”?

      Is there a “delivery refused/return to sender” option?

      • adcwonk - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        +1

    • natsfan1a - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      When my old friend in SFO sent me her traditional pre-series email, I told her that I’d be content with a split of this series. Go, NATS! (Sorry, old friend.)

    • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      This is the measure of their season right here.

      Heh. Yes, these seven games (on the road, without arguably their best player) will determine the season. They should really cancel the 94 games after this as superfluous.

      Anything less than 3-4 would not be acceptable

      You keep using that word (“acceptable”). I do not think it means what you think it does. I would recommend using the word “disappointing.”

      • cvillegoodtimes - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        Inconceivable!

      • karlkolchak - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Disappointing and very much indicative. Y’all need to stop being so sensitive. Personally, I think they can go 4-3 or even 5-2 here.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        I’m not taking it personally. My hope was for a winning road drip despite the tough row to hoe, and they got off to a good start in SD. I would be disappointed if they didn’t split with the Giants, I just don’t think that “unacceptable” is the right word there. Unacceptable is Manny Machado throwing a bat at an opposing player.

  4. davecydell - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    My expected ERRs:

    Stras…… ..525
    Fister……. .515
    Roark……. 580
    Treinen…. 475

    Team…… .523.75

    Will gladly take a split.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      OK help me. What is ERR? Also what is Zim’s. What are we striving for a high or low ERR. Sunce they are barely above .500 I an assuming you are aiming for a 1.

  5. karlkolchak - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    I should add that Rizzo now has what he wanted, a rotation full of studs and a stacked bullpen. Hopefully, the offense can keep scoring runs.

  6. chaz11963 - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    No one will really buy into the 2014 Nats until they regularly beat good teams. Now’s the time to prove they can. This year vs teams above .500: 1-5 vs ATL, 5-3 vs MIA, 2-1 vs LAD, 2-2 vs STL, 0-3 vs OAK, 1-2 vs Angels.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Of course, the only people whose buy-in matters are on the team. They need to have more wins than anyone else in the division at the end of the season. Everything else us just chatter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      • chaz11963 - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        I suspect the team wants others buy-in as well. They want others to believe in them and will want the support of fans and the media and whatever momentum that might bring… along with $$$ of course.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        I’m sure they do want it — well, Werth probably doesn’t give a damn, but mainly they are human, and everybody likes affirmations. But none of that has any influence on the outcomes of games, and if they win, fans will come out; that’s been clear for some time. And I do truly believe they do not give a crap what the writers think, by and large, about their chances.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        Werth, gazing into mirror: “I’m good enough; I’m smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!”

        Yeah, I’m not seeing that either. :-)

        ===

        “I’m sure they do want it — well, Werth probably doesn’t give a damn, but mainly they are human, and everybody likes affirmations.”

    • bowdenball - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      That’s 2-3-2 against good teams. What exactly is the problem with that? Good teams are good teams for a reason; they’re harder to beat. If it was easy to have a winning record against them they would no longer be good teams.

      For the life of me I can’t understand why people constantly feel the need to poke holes in success. There’s always going to be a subset of games in which a team looks bad. Vs winning teams, vs. losing teams, vs great pitchers, vs mediocre pitchers, at home, on the road, on close games, in blowouts, whatever. I remember when some people thought the 2012 Nats were pretenders on their way to 98 wins because they had supposedly “withered in the spotlight” in a midseason home sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

      If you look hard enough you can always find a “troubling” trend. Why do people try to hard to see the glass as half-empty?

      • chaz11963 - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        That’s 11-16 vs good teams. Granted that was during a period of injuries and they haven’t been healthy. Now is a good time since they are mostly healthy to prove they can consistently beat good teams. Is it the end of the season if they don’t? No, but it would certainly give them a confidence boost and establish them as the team everyone thought they were, and I would think everyone here would be pleased and impressed as well.

      • bowdenball - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        Nobody can consistently beat good teams, just like nobody can consistently beat elite pitchers. If good teams were consistently beaten they wouldn’t be good teams any more.

        The days of the 110 win baseball team are over. Only one team over the last four seasons even cracked the 100 mark. This is what good teams do in the era of revenue sharing and early extensions: tread water against their peers and dominate lesser teams on their way to hopefully 90 or more wins.

  7. tcostant - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    OMG – I’d almost rather loss than eat this:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/06/09/banana-and-mayonnaise-sandwiches-are-the-key-to-the-nationals-season/

    • natsfan1a - Jun 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      That was written up in one of the Nats publications at some point. Go, Matt, go!

    • Sonny G 10 - Jun 9, 2014 at 9:11 PM

      Man, I love banana-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. Had my first one when I was about 7 years old. Went to a church picnic and someone bought them as their contribution. They had included lettuce also, but it didn’t take me long to ditch the lettuce. Had a friend once tell me he liked banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Never tried that.

  8. unterp - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    W-W-W-L…against Giants.

  9. cvillegoodtimes - Jun 9, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    Fangraphs playoff Odds today have Nats as 4th most likely to WIN the World Series. 11% chance behind Tigers (15.3 and As 14.1) and ahead of Jays 10.2 and Giants 8.4.

    Fangraphs has Nats chances of winning NLEast at 65.5%, making Playoffs at 84%.

    Wow, need to beat some good teams to back up Fangraphs’ faith.

    • TimDz - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      No…they only need to get enough wins to make it to the playoffs….beat the teams they are supposed to beat and maintain around 500 ball against the upper enchelon teams….

      Once getting into the playoffs…it becomes anyones game

      • chaz11963 - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        They haven’t been maintaining around .500 against good teams.

      • cvillegoodtimes - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        When I said I want to see them beat some good teams to back up Fangraphs’ faith, I meant being faith that Nats are 4th most likely to win the WS. Have to beat the good teams to do that.

    • hitmeimopen - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      I will expect big things from the Nats when they develop a less fragile team mentality. Stras wiggling his shoulder when things go off-plan…Gio’s deer-in-the-headlights look…Espy’s swing-for-the-fences approach (tho he’s looking better). These guys don’t have a toughness yet, and you don’t just go out and buy that. Bryce can sneer all he wants at pitchers, but that doesn’t make him tough. Team toughness is what teams like the Cards have had for years. Every AB is a battle…they’re never out of a game. I still see the Nats get complacent with leads and hang their heads at times. I’m patient but it’s kind of frustrating.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        Stras wiggling his shoulder when things go off-plan…Gio’s deer-in-the-headlights look…

        Silly me – I thought Ws and Ls were what determined the standings and who makes the playoffs.

        Apparently, it is now being judged like ice skating or a beauty pageant, with points for style and poise.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        Strasburg has been remarkably mentally tough this year, frequently shaking off misfortune and pitching well. But the “Strasburg is mentally fragile” crowd never notices. Whether it’s something that Strasburg is developing on his own or has learned from pitchers like Fister and Roark I really don’t care; I’m just happy to see it.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        That’s the thing about attitude and “mental toughness.” IMO, I think it is a real thing, and not just another name somebody gives to luck. But there are winning teams and losing teams that have it. Mentally tough teams lose, too. They may take it better, or bust up more water coolers, or whatever your metric for toughness is, but I would bet, if we could ever agree on a definition, which I doubt we could, but if … that it would not, in fact, correlate much with winning. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins. Tough, lucky, talented, hard-nosed, over-paid, whatever. The team with the most runs wins.

  10. mwsmith13 - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Really hoping the play stays consistent and the Nats put together a few sustained weeks of .580-.600 ball. With the way the Braves are playing it doesn’t seem unreasonable to be 4 games up by the all-star break.

    If the Brewers decided they’d give Weeks up for someone willing to pay him off next year (or get them to cover half), i’d like to see the Nats think about it. It’d be awfully nice to let Danny have most of those RHP games off, as well as allowing for Desmond to get a game off when he needs one.

    • tcostant - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      I LIKE THAT. To bad the Phils would never trade Utley to us…

    • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      Why on Earth would the Brewers trade Rickie Weeks when they are going for the pennant? They are five games up on the Cardinals but there’s a lot of baseball still to be played. First place teams aren’t the ones that are dumping salary.

      • mwsmith13 - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        IDK, getting someone to take ~$5m salary of your backup 2B off your hands so you can use it to upgrade your team towards your pennant run, is not my definition of a salary dump.

        As you mentioned the Brewers might well decide not to move him this year. However its not like it might not make financial sense for them to move him.

        As tconstant mentioned, the Phillies probably aren’t calling the Nats first if they decide that Utley is movable. And the Rays are probably not going to get fleeced on a Zobrist rental. To me thinking about someone like Weeks represents what could be the most helpful move the Nats could make down the stretch, a 2B who can hit above .200 against righties.

  11. cayucosbaseballconservancy - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Nats starters as expected are pretty good:

    Strasburg defense/park adjusted ERA 2.55 value: 15.4
    Fister 2.54 value: 6.8
    Roark 3.72 value: 3.4
    Trienen 6.41 value: -3.8

    Its a shame this guy doesn’t still play third, second, and first base in addition to the outfield:
    Adjusted wOBA .481
    .367/.475/1.060 29 walks against 29 strike outs
    9 doubles and 7 home runs.

    Steven Souza Jr. looks better than Polanco.

  12. adcwonk - Jun 9, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    From last thread:

    nats1924 – Jun 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    good thoughts…

    hm, interesting about Rizzo scouting JZ personally. I know he is exactly the type of guy Rizzo scouts look for. And I agree and do hope we extend JZim over Stras. I like Stras, but absolutely love JZim. JZim has the David Cone type of big game stuff.

    Whoa. Yeah, that’s right! JZ = David Cone. They could be brothers. Almost twin brothers (born a decade or two apart ;-) ). Look at the pix — they are the spittin’ image of each other!

  13. cayucosbaseballconservancy - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    ERA’s adjusted for defense/park tell a different story than the post above. Which is why the ERA in and of itself can be misleading.

    Fister 2.54 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 6.8
    Strasburg 2.55 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 15.4
    Roark 3.72 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 3.4
    Gonzalez 3.82 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 1.7
    Zimmermann 4.16 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: -0.3
    Trienen 6.41 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: -3.8

    Last season?
    Strasburg 3.19 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 19.0
    Zimmermann 3.42 Adjusted ERA, value in runs above average: 17.0

    You keep Stras if he is willing.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 9, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      Love it, DP!
      A glove is a spiritual partner to many ballplayers, especially outfielders.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 9, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Hilarious? No. Sentimental? Yes. I babied an old Rawlings ‘Cesar Cedeno’ autograph glove for more than 30 years (obviously used in a lot fewer than 162 games/year). it saw action — mostly in softball — from Mississippi to Virginia to Santo Domingo, Brussels, Prague, and Bratislava. By the end, I was keeping it together with plastic zip ties and had to wear a golf glove inside it for extra padding because the leather was so worn down

      • unkyd59 - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:13 PM

        I was a slow pitch softballer, in my late 20’s… A 60 game season, made up of 2 double-headers a week, pretty serious stuff, in Beallsville, MD. I had a Rawlings Fastback, Robin Yount model. Not expensive, but it was perfect! My best friend had the the matching glove, left-handed. We manned them Glamdring and Orcrist, after Gandalf and Thorin’s matching Elven swords, from The Lord of the Rings (corny, huh?…lol). I deft it on the dugout, and never saw it again. Couldn’t find another, on short notice, so I got a Wilson glove, but it wouldn’t break in at the corner, like the other (honestly, that Rawlings just wrapped itself around the ball, with no effort, at all!). A few years later I started just playing catch with another friend, a couple times a week, just to get out and get the blood running (the knees didn’t allow for actually playing, any more). I decide to get another Rawlings, and went to Galyans. Again, no Rawlings Fastbacks!!! WTH?!?! But they had another similar mitt, much higher quality, made by Nokona. Wel I thought it was a $60 glove, so I went to checkout, but it rung up at $160?!?! Can you believe I took it anyway?! To play catch, for all love!! Well we switched to frisbee, and I only used it a couple times, and it got dusty, until I thought of my nephews boy, Tucker, my godson. He’s about 13, and a pretty sharp athlete, so last summer I sent it to him, hoping he’d be patient enough to break it in, and that his hand would be big enough to use it. It’s a pro-grade mitt, so it was quite stiff… Well, a year later, he LOVES it!!! The boy will get many years out of it… Maybe he’ll play college ball…

        It’s funny, how things work out, no? No way I could afford to buy that for him, now, but there it was….. :-)

      • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        Of course, Glamdring and Orcrist (aka “biter” and “beater”) were from The Hobbit, not from The Lord of the Rings. Orcrist is … well, that’s a spoiler for the next movie whenever that comes out.

        I have two gloves, one first baseman’s mitt and the other my infielder’s mitt that I also wear when pitching. I’ve had them both for years, keep them wrapped in the offseason with a baseball in the pocket.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 9, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        And very cool story about Tucker, btw – way to “pay it forward!”

  14. natsfan1a - Jun 9, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    Shoulda called the story, “Werth’s Complaint.” Oh, no, I didn’t.

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