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State of the Nats: Division leaders square off

Jun 23, 2014, 11:56 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

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First place Milwaukee Brewers up next - It still feels strange, even as I write this, but on June 23 the Milwaukee Brewers hold the best record in the National League at 47-30. That’s only a half-game behind the Oakland Athletics, who at 47-29 are best in the game. This week the Nationals will get a good look at the surprising Brew Crew, current holders of the largest lead in any MLB division at 5 1/2 games.

The Brewers have also won four straight, the longest current streak in baseball. On Sunday they earned their 47th victory of the season, a feat that took them until Aug. 4 to accomplish last season. They have the fourth best offense in the majors in terms of runs scored (351 through 77 games) and the 10th best rotation (3.69 ERA).

Leading the way for Milwaukee’s offense have been Ryan Braun (10 HR, 39 RBI), catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.331 BA, 8 HR, 39 RBI) and a cast of all-around solid hitters. Six everyday players for the Brewers hold an OPS over .800.

For the pitching staff it has been Kyle Lohse (9-2, 3.20), Wily Peralta (8-5, 3.02) and Yovani Gallardo (5-4, 3.34). Peralta, however, is the only one of the trio who will face the Nats this week. Instead they will see Matt Garza (4-4, 4.02) and Marco Estrada (6-4, 5.22). That could work out in the Nats’ favor.

There is one key component to look out for, however, as the Brewers have arguably the game’s best closer right now. Francisco Rodriguez has enjoyed a resurgence at the age of 32 and leads the majors in saves with 25. He also boasts a 2.35 ERA. But, dating back to his days with the Mets, K-Rod has been a disaster against the Nationals with a 5.33 ERA in 30 appearances.

Ramos, Harper on rehab assignments - Wilson Ramos has already played two minor league rehab games as he returns from a right hamstring strain, while Bryce Harper begins his assignment Monday night with the Single-A Potomac Nationals. Both could be back soon, within the next week or so, and both figure to make a big difference in the Nationals lineup.

Once the Nats get both players back, they will have their full roster for the first time this season. It’s quite remarkable to think about, and something Matt Williams isn’t quite ready to acknowledge. Here is what he said on Sunday evening when asked what it will be like to have “everybody” back:

“I’m going to knock [on wood], and I’m going to respectfully decline to answer that question if it’s OK. I’ve been in baseball a long time and I understand that. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Harper looked very impressive this week during batting practice sessions at Nationals Park. He blasted home runs to every part of the stadium and even reached the third upper deck in right field. If that carries over to his games at Potomac, perhaps he loosens up on the ‘I need seven or eight rehab games’ talk. We’ll see.

So, they’re in first. Now what? - Earning a split against the Braves this weekend was huge for the Nationals, they maintain their 1 1/2 game lead and take with them a boost of confidence having beaten their rivals. They won’t see the Braves again until August, so the next month will be quite important in terms of the division race. Can the Nats build on their lead and create some distance? Unfortunately for the Nationals, the upcoming schedule may favor Atlanta.

Before the end of July, the Nats will play the Brewers twice, the Rockies and their lineup twice, the Orioles for four games, the Reds at Cincinnati and the Marlins at Miami. Meanwhile, during the same stretch, the Braves will only play one team with a winning record: the Dodgers in their final series of July. Since the end of April, though, the Braves are 21-28. Overall they have been struggling, so perhaps it won’t matter.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Anthony Rendon 6/17 vs. Braves – 2-for-4, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB, SO

Pitching game of the week: Doug Fister 6/21 vs. Braves – 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, BB, 3 SO, 117 pitches, 78 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Williams on Harper’s BP session Thursday:

We almost ran out of baseballs. Honestly – we almost ran out of baseballs… whoever gets in there park first today and goes to the outfield will have lots of souvenirs.

Tweet (or Instagram) of the week:

Road ahead

MON – 8:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Gonzalez)
TUE - 8:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Zimmermann)
WED – 2:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Strasburg)
THU – 8:05 at Chicago Cubs (Fister)
FRI – 4:05 at Chicago Cubs (Roark)
SAT – 1:05 at Chicago Cubs (Gonzalez)
7:15 at Chicago Cubs (Zimmermann)
SUN – OFF

  1. unkyd59 - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    6/17….vs. the Braves…. I missed that game…..

  2. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    The A’s are 47-29, I think, not 47-39.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Ignored!

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Or 47-30.

  3. masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Actually, the Nats won’t see Peralta, but Gallardo. Don’t know that there’s a big difference between the two, however.

  4. scnatsfan - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    I just want to know if we are getting ice cream. I read we were getting ice cream. Maybe shrimp.

    • RPrecupjr - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:15 PM

      I would ask, though, if we could please keep them separate…..not diggin the idea of shrimp ice cream….though i think I remember seeing it during my days in Okinawa….it certainly wouldn’t surprise me

      • ArVAFan - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Had lobster ice cream in Bar Harbor, Maine. The blueberry ice cream is better.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        Gifford’s, ArVa…?

  5. Brookstoor - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    The Brewers have put together some nice offensive stats so far this year. Our pitching has been lights out for the most part lately. Let’s not freak out if Gio takes another game to shake the rust off. He was still trying to find his control last game but he was getting there.

    • veejh - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      He just needs to stop nibbling and just go after guys. Trust your stuff. Enough of walking guys and getting behind so much. 1st pitch strike is key.

      • scnatsfan - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        +1

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        +2

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:00 PM

        Well said Veejh

    • masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      If you look at Gio’s stats versus the current Brewers, they are very odd. .128 batting average and .154 slugging. Sounds great, right? Except that the on-base percentage is .333. He’s walked 13 batters in 54 plate appearances.

      SSS, I know.

      • Brookstoor - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        Those are odd stats indeed, M.Fishkeeper. With out looking up the runs scored against, I’d say that super weak slugging percentage negates those walks pretty well, if they are just making weak contact for outs/singles. Like Veejh says, I hope Gio doesn’t try to nibble too much.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Interesting. How many GIDPs does that include?

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        5 runs, no GIDP. Only one extra base hit, a double by Gomez. Two sacrifice flies. Again, I wouldn’t put much weight in the predictive value of these stats, but they are interesting.

        Also of interest: very few of the Brewers have ever faced Strasburg.

      • jd - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        How does any one know that he’s nibbling and not simply missing?

  6. Section 222 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    The Nats may hit K-Rod, but I remember a game against the Mets where he picked off The Shark from second base to end the game. Beware.

  7. masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    It will be interesting to see if the Nats throw first pitch strikes to Carlos Gomez:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/carlos-gomezs-symbolic-pursuit/

  8. Steady Eddie - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Granted that this is not exactly the same team, but we’ve done okay against the Brew Crew the past couple of seasons – 5-3 against them in 2012, 4-3 in 2013. And in both seasons we won the series in Milwaukee, 3-1 in 2012, 2-1 last year, while splitting both four game series in Nats Park. We outscored them in each of the four series, too, mostly by 3 or 4 total runs, but by 26-16 in the Sept 2012 series here that we split.

    Given how our pitching did against the hot hitting Giants, I think we’ll do okay in this series — though I’ll be holding my breath for Gio’s control tonight.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    MON – 8:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Gonzalez)
    TUE – 8:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Zimmermann)
    WED – 2:10 p.m. at Milwaukee Brewers (Strasburg)
    THU – 8:05 at Chicago Cubs (Fister)
    FRI – 4:05 at Chicago Cubs (Roark)
    SAT – 1:05 at Chicago Cubs (Gonzalez)
    7:15 at Chicago Cubs (Zimmermann)

    Chase, do you really expect JZim to go on short rest?

    • jd - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:06 PM

      Ghost,

      I picked up on that too. I,m thinking Treinen and perhaps the end of the line for Detwiler and after that game maybe Cedeno replaces Treinen.

      No sense keeping a pitcher on the roster whom you can’t trust in any situation other than a complete wipe out.

      I,m sure Rizzo is seeing what he can get for Det. I,m not expecting much.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        I’m with you. Det is creating a tough decision on his future.

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 23, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        With the doubleheader on Saturday aren’t the Nats and Cubs each allowed to add one player on the roster for that day only? I’m thinking that Treinen will be added as a second game starter much like Lannen was in 2012 against the Braves.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 23, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        Good point Kville

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 46 1.0
NEW YORK 48 53 8.0
MIAMI 47 52 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 43 57 12.5
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
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.

*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.

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