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State of the Nats: Big week at home

Jun 16, 2014, 10:24 AM EDT

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Nats return home after long trip - The Nationals just completed their longest West Coast trip of the season, a 10-day gauntlet that ran them through San Diego, San Francisco and St. Louis. It started off well, as the Nats swept the Padres and took three of four against San Francisco. But then came the Cardinals who dominated the Nats just as they have ever since their playoff series in October of 2012.

The Nats are off Monday before a pretty important stretch of their season begins. They play two against the upstart Astros – a team they crushed in Houston back in April – before hosting the Braves for four games. The Nats and Atlanta are currently neck and neck in the standings, making this upcoming series a big one in the NL East. Much like the Cardinals, the Braves have had the Nats’ number over the past two seasons. Since the beginning of last year, the Nats are just 7-18 against them.

After the Braves series, the Nats play three at Milwaukee, current owners of the third-best record in baseball. They also host the Rockies later this month. The road ahead is not easy, so they might want to pull it together soon.

Gio set to return - After making two minor league rehab appearances, Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to start against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. The lefty has not pitched for the Nats since May 17 when he went out with left shoulder inflammation, and before that he was ineffective. Through nine starts this year, Gonzalez has a 4.62 ERA. That number went above four thanks to some rocky outings before he hit the disabled list, so it’s possible his injury was the reason.

Gonzalez is now healthy, but wasn’t exactly great in his two minor league outings. In his first start he allowed eight earned runs, including a grand slam. And though he was better his second time out, he still walked four batters in four innings. The Nats will need Gonzalez to be the guy who went 32-16 with a 3.12 ERA from 2012 through 2013 when he comes back. Their rotation has been among the best in baseball over the past few weeks and Gonzalez, in theory, should make them even better.

Offense needs to come around - Ever since Wilson Ramos went down with a right hamstring injury on June 10, the Nationals’ offense has gone completely cold. They are 1-4 since he hit the DL and have scored a total of four runs over their last four games. Right before he went out they were scoring with the best in baseball, but are now looking more like the team that struggled through the month of May.

Until Ramos gets back, the Nats will have to make do with what they have. They will also have to face some good pitching along the way. The Astros are only here for two games this week, but on Tuesday lefty Dallas Keuchel will start. The 26-year-old is 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA this season.

After Houston leaves, the Braves will come to town with the third-best rotation ERA in baseball (3.24). If the Nats are to get going soon on offense, they’ll have to do it against some quality arms.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Jayson Werth 6/11 vs. Giants – 2-for-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB

Pitching game of the week: Doug Fister 6/10 vs. Giants – 7 IP, 8 H, 0 R, BB, 3 SO, 97 pitches, 66 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Hitting coach Rick Schu on Ian Desmond via MLB.com:

He’s special. Every time he steps to the plate, he can get you back into the ballgame with one swing. It’s something you can’t teach. He’s got the gift from God and thunder in those hands and he’s exciting to watch.

Tweet of the week:

I hope everybody had a Happy Father’s Day…

Road ahead

MON – OFF
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Houston Astros (Roark)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Houston Astros (Gonzalez)
THU – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Zimmermann)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Strasburg)
SAT – 7:15 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Fister)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Roark)

  1. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    It started off well, as the Nats swept the Padres…

    I’m all for retroactive continuity and revisionist history, but if we’re going there, why not just say we swept the Giants? Sounds better.

    • unkyd59 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Agree. And, dammit, if we swept the Giants, I say we swept the Birds, too!!! What a roll were on!!!
      (Seriously, Chase…. There’s gotta be some kind of edit function, there…. Right?)

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        I get the distinct impression Chase doesn’t read the comments. Or maybe he just skips mine–he wouldn’t be the only one.

      • veejh - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        I feel like he doesn’t even watch the games based on a comment like that.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        Sometimes these young guys get called up before they’re ready, just because of the organization’s needs.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:25 PM

        Lol, sofa… :)

  2. jd - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    The Nats haven’t been close to ‘whole’ all year. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. When you have 3 major injuries where the players in question are out for months rather than weeks and the players involved are corner stone players you will take a hit on your record. It’s not just because of the 3 major injuries because when you have players out for a couple of months at a time there are also minor injuries which happen to all teams where a player is out for 2 or 3 weeks making your team short by 4 – 6 players for most of the 1st 3 months.

    Still and all we are but 1 game out of 1st place and the return of arguably our best player is not that far off. I fully anticipate that there will be short stints to the DL by any number of players but as long as we don’t have any more major injuries we will be fine

    • 6ID20 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      I would argue that Harper is hardly their best player at this point. If he was a tomato, he’d be barely starting to pick up some red color.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        If Bryce were a tomato, would Rendon be the cucumber?

      • jd - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Then I guess will have to disagree.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        With all due respect to Rendon, to heck with cucumbers.

        Where is the lettuce and bacon?

  3. alexva6 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    the Nats are still pitching well and playing very good defense. if they continue to do well in those areas they will be fine.

  4. natinalsgo - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Strasburg’s college coach and friend Tony Gwynn has passed away.

    • jd - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      Wow,

      I remember a day when Tony Gwynn was absolutely the best hitter in baseball. A hitting machine.

      RIP Tony,

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        Sad indeed and he was only 54 years old. For any of us at that exact age like me or near that age or older, it gets you thinking about your own life. Carpe diem.

        I’ve met Tony many times because he was always someone who I admired and wanted to learn from. He would talk about approach and a plan. I have referenced him as a clutch hitter many times. He got better the more the pressure was on.

        When you talk about a career, a career of a .338 batter and HOF player, he still stepped in up with RISP, but I what I loved is what he did when he looked down the 3rd base line and if there was a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, Gwynn was going to get you at historic proportions with that .428 BA and that 1.047 OPS. If Sac Flies weren’t deducted from OBP like Sac bunts, his OBP in those situation would have been well over .500.

        Yah, don’t tell me there isn’t clutch, I knew Tony Gwynn!

      • veejh - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        Nats need a Tony Gwynn. Man, could that dude hit…..consistently. RIP.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Phillies.com just posted a story yesterday, for Fathers Day, about Sr. and Jr. Very sad for him…that’s hard duty.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Very sad news. Somehow I had forgotten or just missed that he was sick.

      RIP.

    • adcwonk - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      My understanding is that there is a suspicion of chewing tobacco as a possible cause. I hope other players (yes, Ian, looking at you) get that message . . .

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        More than a suspicion. From what I’ve read, he attributed it to that, himself.

        It’s not like getting hit by a bus, where you can say for certain exactly which bus it was that hit you.

  5. ArVAFan - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    6/13 2 hits
    6/14 4 hits
    6/15 8 hits

    Does that mean they’ll have 16 hits in the next game? Yeah, right, I can hope. Maybe an off day, and being back home will help: they’re going to need something, since the Astros are no longer pushovers.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Astros still have a bad BP.

      Need to lay off the first pitch hack attack, be patient, and drive up Keuchel’s pitch count, if nothing else.

      • Nats fool - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Lay off pitches? I’m just waiting for Desmond and Espinosa to screw themselves into the ground like some “Bugs Bunny” cartoon. Do we have a team chiropractor?

    • adcwonk - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      …the Astros are no longer pushovers

      I used to poke fun at the Astros batting (how many games did they start 7 players batting under .200?!)

      However: in May and June their team BA has been .256 (Nats is .238 (but don’t have the benefit of DH)).

      OTOH, pitching in May/June:
      Nats ERA 2.95, Astros 3.60

  6. dcsportsfan2277 - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    We can only hope that Gio will return to form. Adding old Gio to this rotation arguably gives us the best rotation in baseball. Barring any more significant injuries and Ramos and Harper returns it is shaping up to be a good summer for the Nats if the Baseball God’s even things up.

    Next up Houston and winning those two, not as easy as it may seem, will set the stage for the Braves who are seriously in need of a good old fashion butt whooping!

    Leather, lumber and pitching is what is called for now. Go Nats!

  7. veejh - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    A couple of must win games with the Braves series on the horizon. Seriously, no excuses for this Astros series….at home, no jet lag, no final stretch of a road trip against one of the worst teams in the MLB. These are must win games, imo. We fail here, the Braves are gonna kill us.

    • micksback1 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      ZERO excuses, if the Nats are about anything and have any heart at all, they win both series period. This has to stop now. I posted friday that if the Nats won only one game out of three verse Cards, that would be adequate and they looked like deer in the head lights at the plate and frankly they looked scared, this has to end now!

  8. micksback1 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    RIP Tony G, he was one hell of a baseball player with a lot of heart, something many of our young players lack

  9. natsfan1a - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    RIP.

  10. unterp - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    With Wilson “Roy Hobbs” Ramos out it will be difficult to win one game in the next six…

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      I think it’s quite possible they don’t win another game all season long.

      • unterp - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        I think they’ll win another game when Roy returns Thursday next week, until he goes on DL again three weeks later…

      • Nats fool - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        FP loves the “Buffalo.” If he could actually stay on the field someday, maybe he could be good. Right now he’s just a prospect.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    RIP! Great loss as a baseball fan!

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      I may not have wrote that correctly. I don’t want to imply that it is only a loss of a baseball fan. It is a great loss for fans and non-fans who knew him. I never got a chance to see him play but have heard only great things about his play and his influence off the field.

  12. secretwasianman - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Agree Mick. But it won’t stop now. We have been waiting like 210 games now for the light switch of 2012 to come back on. I’m afraid that circuit it dead.

  13. secretwasianman - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    I also don’t care that the team is only 1 game out of first. They are barely .500 and for this team that is just unacceptable. Remember when we finished 34 games over 500?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      I think Chase not only isn’t accepting it, he’s DOING something about it! They swept SD!

    • micksback1 - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      agree, but remember, all the kool aide drinkers in here always point to “fan graphs” sure, that should make us feel better, LOL fan graphs are for losers period and the are meaningless.

      this team has some very good players and some over rated players too, Rizzo needs to start making some decisions this season. I already feel MW ain’t the guy to win a cahampionship

  14. NatsLady - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    You two should get a room.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      Plate discipline = don’t feed ‘em.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        Sec 3 My Sofa on June 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        Plate discipline = don’t feed ‘em.

        OK, OK: Don’t OVER-feed ‘em.
        How’s that?

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      HA!

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        I’m here all week!
        Try the veal.

  15. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    The Marlins just took another hit. With Salty on the DL, add Christian Yelich.

    Marlins just called up Heaney, DeSclafani, Marisnick and Bour to replace Slowey and Wolf who were DFA’d and for Yellich to DL and Donovan Solano was sent down to AAA.

    This sounds like the type of movement you get in mid-March in personnel.

    • nats128 - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      Thats a big change. 20% of there clubhouse just changed. I only know Marisinick.

      Still wondering with less than a month to the All Star break what the Marlins will be in terms of buyers or sellers or neutral.

    • Nats Amore - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:01 PM

      Heaney is a pitching prospect they are very high on, not a low-ceiling marginal player, and Slowey was plain awful. So I think the Marlins were simply waiting for the right time to bring up Heaney, and this move could actually improve the team. They were also waiting for Furcal to come off the DL to fill the void created by Dietrich’s demotion, and Solano was temporary filler, so again a plus move. On the other hand the loss of Yelich is a big blow to them.

  16. NatsLady - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    I keep trying to post the article on fangraphs about Adam LaRoche but it doesn’t seem to be taking. Anyway, there is an article on Fangraphs about ALR, and his hitting approach.

  17. natsguy - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    I don’t think things are all that bad right now. However, they need to win the Braves series for their own psyche. That probably is the only crucial thing for them. The Braves and Cardinals seem to have the Nats number right now. Not necessarily in talent, but they have gotten in their heads.

    • Nats Amore - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      That’s just it. It’s more about stuff like fundamentals, good plate approach, playing team ball, which I tend to believe more than the Nats having some sort of psychological aversion to these teams. So while the Cards have some holes in their lineup and are probably less talented overall, they ran like a well-oiled machine that series.

  18. Nats fool - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    This team is chokalicious. Watch the mental fireworks during the Barves series. If they aren’t four back by the end of that series, they’ll have made a mini-breakthrough. I’ve given up waiting for them to stand up to their bullies.

  19. micksback1 - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    If the Nats win the Braves series, then things could get positive, if they do not, there is no evdence that they will ever really accomplish anything with this group.

  20. micksback1 - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    MW is the Nats version of Danny Ozark, who was a loser of a manager with a very good Phillies teams of the late 70’s. Nats need a Dallas Green type to take them to the next level

    • adcwonk - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:42 AM

      OK, I’ll take the easy two shots at this:

      1. MW has managed 60-some games in his life. Don’t you think it’s early to compare him to Ozark, who managed over 1100 games with the Phillies?

      2. Ozark managed the Phillies for 7 seasons, and finished in 1st place three times. That’s a “loser of a manager” ?

      • unkyd59 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        +1
        Thanks. wonk…

  21. therealjohnc - Jun 16, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    I can tell that the Nats have hit a bump in the road; the gloom & doom vultures are back to circulating comments in the blog.

    Not to say that the Nats don’t have to play better. I daresay that if the Nats only score one run per game for the next 94 games they won’t make the playoffs. If they score six runs a game, like they did for the week and a half before those last four games, then they will have the best record in the NL. There; that narrows it down.

    Anyone thinking that the Nats have to sweep (the only way to “win” a two game series) against the Astros: (a) doesn’t know baseball very well; and (b) hasn’t been paying attention to the Astros. The Astros are 15-7 since May 23; they’re no pushovers. The Nats did take two from the Astros in Houston, but they were fortunate to miss Dallas Keuchel. Which would likely have been easier in Houston than DC, because as good as Dallas Keuchel’s numbers are, they’re crazy good on the road. As in six starts, 6-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.835 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and a K/BB of 6.83 away from Minute Maid Park – and all of those against AL teams, meaning against lineups with a DH instead of a pitcher. Yikes.

    While I’d obviously prefer a two game sweep against the Astros, a split setting up a midseason sparring with the Braves is fine.

  22. NatsLady - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    • unkyd59 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM

      Wha…wha?!

      • NatsLady - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:58 PM

        Obviously, Rizzo has too many pitchers if he’s sending a perfectly good one to Korea.

      • NatsLady - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:58 PM

        Obviously, Rizzo has too many pitchers if he’s sending a perfectly good one to Korea.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        You can say that again!

  23. scmargenau - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    a chronically hurt, whinny prospect. I like our chances better without him unless he’s cf and span goes

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      unless he’s cf
      Who, Tatusko? I don’t think he hits as well as Ankiel to make that same transition. And I liked his blog. He’s funny.

      I hope this gives him a chance to keep playing.

  24. Joe Seamhead - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Papepbon blows the save in the 9th against the Braves. I truly dislike Papelbon. A lot!

  25. Jeff - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Selling Ryan Tatusko to japan
    Smells like an AJ Cole promotion?
    Senators saddled with minor league
    FA rotation until some guys get healthy
    Or Austin Voth promoted again? Lol!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 80 15.5
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Monday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (3) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 68 3.0
y-ST. LOUIS 88 69 4.0
-------------------------
PITTSBURGH 85 71 --
SAN FRANCISCO 85 71 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 5.0
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
(End of regular season)
MON: OFF
Full season schedule

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

ON THE RADIO

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

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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