Skip to content

Strasburg, Harper lead the way as Nats sweep Mets

Aug 15, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

AP AP

That the Nationals just swept the Mets in New York isn’t a major surprise. This is a team, in case you didn’t realize, that has now won 11 consecutive games at Citi Field. A loss in Flushing, that would have constituted a surprise.

But the manner in which the Nationals won the last three nights, culminating with their most recent 4-1 victory, was notable. In last night’s case because of the major contributions from the two biggest names on the roster: Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Strasburg was downright dominant on the mound, allowing one unearned run on three hits over seven innings. This was the Strasburg we had been waiting to see, a sight for sore eyes following his disastrous start in Atlanta one week ago.

Perhaps the biggest difference between last night’s performance and that previous one at Turner Field: Strasburg went back to throwing his two-seam fastball. He stuck with only four-seamers in Atlanta, throwing that basic pitch 59 times to only 15 curveballs and 15 changeups, according to BrooksBaseball.net.

Last night, Strasburg threw 43 four-seam fastballs and added 26 two-seamers, to go along with 16 curveballs and 16 changeups. He threw that two-seamer for strikes 73 percent of the time, and surrendered only one hit on the pitch all night.

If Strasburg can keep that up, inducing weak contact on well-located sinkers down in the strike zone, he’ll put himself in far better position to win games, especially on the road where he has struggled so much.

Harper, meanwhile, took arguably his best swing in months when he clobbered a two-run homer way over the right-center field fence in the top of the fourth. It was his third homer in seven games, but the previous two had been hit to the opposite field.

This one was pulled and hit with some serious force, more than we’d seen from Harper since he tore a ligament in his left thumb way back in April. This was a particularly encouraging sign.

For all the concern over him, Harper has slowly but surely been putting together more and more quality at-bats. In 26 games since the All-Star break, he’s hitting .270 with a .359 on-base percentage. True, he only has six extra-base hits and he has struck out a staggering 32 times in 103 plate appearances, but he certainly appears to be trending in the right direction.

You could say the same about the Nationals as a whole. They’ve now won 6 of 8, improved to a season-best 13 games over .500 and have opened up a season-high 6-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.

For the first time in several weeks, the Nationals look like they’re stepping up a notch.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    “We look at Stras as our horse,” Gonzalez said. “He will always be our ace. He has such talent and is willing to learn more.”
    The players see things different then fans do.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      Now and then, they do.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:18 AM

        Then and than got misused again.Sorry!

    • sjm308 - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:42 AM

      I think I mentioned this a couple of posts ago.
      They are pros for a reason and we are not close to understanding what they have done to get to where they are.

  2. laddieblahblah - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    One of Strasburg’s best. A lot of credit is due to Jose Lobaton for calling a terrific game. He had SS throwing FBs both high and low, both tailing away and boring in, both up high over the middle and down low. Plenty of curve balls, change-ups and a few sliders, located all over the place.

    Maybe SS shook him off a few times, but not many, because that was one of the quickest games SS has pitched since becoming a Nats’ starter. Only 3 hits in 7 full, and only one hit ball that I can remember, Duda’s blast to the wall in CF, that any Met managed to square up.

    Lobo may not be much with the bat, but he is worth his weight behind the plate. Would love to see Lobo call the next game that SS pitches against the Braves. My guess is, if he does, you will not see 7 runs on 4 homers from one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, against one of the best pitchers in the game.

    • lowstrikes - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      I thought the Loboton looks large and in charge last night. Another great piece of the puzzle thanks to Mr. Rizzo.

  3. numbskull111 - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Anybody else notice that shot of Harper massaging his right shoulder and wincing a bit towards the end of the game? Hopefully it was nothing.

    • sjm308 - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:47 AM

      Every single player, after months of games has aches and pains. No one is 100%
      Hoping a good massage will have him feeling ok

    • someguyinva - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      Didn’t notice it, but his stumbling into the wall on the Young double in the 7th might’ve had something to do with it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Yes, I saw him in the field before the inning started rubbing his right shoulder with his left hand.

  4. karlkolchak - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Nats winning with Strasburg and Harper leading the way–this is how the blueprint for this team’s success has no doubt been structured by management ever since they first took the field together back in 2012. We haven’t seen nearly enough of it to date, but here’s hoping it is finally settling into place.

  5. Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    I’m still skeptical of the importance of catchers. Didn’t someone claim last year that Stras prefers Ramos? Anyway, he pitched a great game for sure. Let’s hope we’ve seen his last real clunker.

    It was fascinating to see slo-mo’s of ALR’s and Harper’s homers back to back. ALR’s swing, as always was smooth and controlled. His head hardly moves as the bat slices through the zone. Harp’s head and entire body jerks and contorts. The swing is vicious, but you certainly get sense of why he strikes out so much. I guess it’s all about timing.

    That ball was absolutely crushed though. Great to see him get ahold of one and pull it.

  6. stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Going to the game tonight, hoping to get my mojo back. Haven’t seen a Nats win since June 4, with four losses in a row. This cannot stand!

    • ArVAFan - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:41 AM

      From your mouth to the baseball gods’ ears!

      GYFNG!

    • scmargenau - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Ok. But if they loose, it’s clearly your fault. :-/

    • npb99 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      I’m 4-9 at Nats Stadium the last couple of years, so I hear you.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Change your plan… ;)

  7. Doc - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Good game for MT. 2 walks, and a ball hit to Citi Field’s fly ball canyon that would have been a dinger in lots of parks.

    The kid done well!!!!

    • stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      Should get a nice reception tonight, if he plays.

  8. npb99 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    If the Nats have home field advantage in a playoff series, maybe they should host their games at Citi field.

  9. rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    It’s easy to forget how frightfully young Harper is. Michael Taylor is older. All the haters are in for a rough ride. Harper will be something special in due time.

    • Doc - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      Totally agree, ray!

      Harper is younger than most of the Nats’ big time prospects!

      • adcwonk - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:57 AM

        Harper is younger than anyone on Harrisburg AA even!

    • scmargenau - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Hmm… I just don’t see his swing being anything that is sustainable. So jerky and out of control. No rhythm at all. But we can hope!

      • rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        In my other lifr I’m a golf instructor. I said the same thing about Ricky Fowler the first time I saw his swing. Since then he went to Butch Harmon and his swing is really good now. Expect Bryce will undergo a similar change. The youth and raw swing are linked.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Ray, very cool. How have you missed my golf analogies over the years. ;)

        Good points. It’s small refinements that make the good ones even better.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        Just saw a piece that some scout wrote in baseball prospectus that said Rizzo should trade Bryce for an arm. Amazing.

      • therealjohnc - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        I used to think that about Gary Sheffield’s swing – it was so violent, so out of control. Yet Sheffield had a long, excellent major league career, played 22 years, nine time All Star with 509 HRs. If Harper ends up with a career like that I’d take it – violent swing and all.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        “If Harper ends up with a career like [Gary Sheffield's] I’d take it – violent swing and all.”

        Interesting comparison. Sheffield was nowhere near as big as Harper, but he did come up almost right out of high school. He also didn’t get a lot of votes for Miss Congeniality during those 22 years.

        Oh, and Asdrubal Cabrera was among the Cleveland players suspended in that 2008 incident when Shef charged the mound and got mugged for his trouble.

  10. Nats fool - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    I’ve missed the Harper smash. I still think if we want to see more of these he needs to move up in the order. Desmond was getting on base yesterday so pitchers had to go after him. He still needs a high OBP batter in front of him. Do that and I bet the Nats hitting really takes off.

  11. Candide - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Cunegonde only watched for a couple of innings last night; she’s still employed and gets up at 5:00 am, so she has a good excuse.

    But anyway, during one of Desi’s ABs, she said she likes him because “he’s always grinding…”

    “Drink!” I said.

    She looked puzzled. “Huh?”

    “You have to take a drink!” And I told her that whenever someone uses any variant of the word “grind,” in relation to the Nats, they have to take a drink..

    “It’s a drinking game,” I explained.

    She was still puzzled. At which point I had to explain what a drinking game is.

    I love her, but she still has a lot to learn…

    • Eric - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      “At which point I had to explain what a drinking game is.”

      LMAO! Love it. Did she drink?

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        Eric, are you going tonight?

      • Candide - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        She had a glass of ice tea in front of her. Does that count, or does it have to be an adult beverage?

    • scmargenau - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      U know owe 2 drinks for rebroadcasting the g word. :-/

    • realdealnats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      Candide,

      You are so weird. I love it. You and Cunegonde have always been one of my very favorite reads on this site. Voltaire…the Nationals…history is just one big stream of timeless energy moving down the pike. Gotta watch out for Newton’s chin music though…

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        “Newton’s Chin Music” would make a good name for a band, and a pretty good handle in here for some Poster To Be Named Later.

    • janebeard - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      It’s good she has such a through teacher!

  12. dgourds - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    I wonder how accurate are services like Brooksbaseball.net in differentiating two-seam from four-seam fastballs? I don’t necessarily doubt their data. But so often announcers get it wrong and go only by pitch speed to state what pitch was thrown. I like Bob Carpenter, but he’s an example of it. He’ll see an 89 mph Strassburg pitch and call it a slider when I saw the catcher put down the signal for a change-up and I confirm it by watching it again in slo-mo to see his grip. FP gets it right most of the time. Discerning the difference between a 2 and 4 seamer sometimes can be tough. I know they use pitch track which helps a lot. But I wonder how accurate they really are.

    • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Good point. And why would Stras throw no 2-seamers at all in Atlanta when his 4-seamer is getting bombed and then all of a sudden start throwing effective 2-seamers last night? Don’t tell me that it’s because Lobaton was calling the pitches.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        Didn’t FP say before the game that Strasburg had decided to start throwing the two-seamer again, based on his conversations with various folks? Doesn’t really answer your question, of course.

      • adcwonk - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Good point. And why would Stras throw no 2-seamers at all in Atlanta when his 4-seamer is getting bombed and then all of a sudden start throwing effective 2-seamers last night? Don’t tell me that it’s because Lobaton was calling the pitches.

        I find this all extremely fascinating.

        As for why he’s throwing 2-seamers now and not before, I think the obvious guess was that Stras and Loboton (and perhaps McCatty, et al) must have had a pre-game discussion about that included this issue.

      • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        I was listening on the radio so didn’t hear FP. I did hear after the game that they talked to Stras about using his fastball inside, but not about resurrecting the two seamer. If that’s what it is, kudos to them, but what took them so long?!

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        I’m pretty sure FP said that. I was only half listening, but that caught my ear, just because it seemed like a big change.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    It cracks me up reading through some of the Braves blogs as to how many of their fans say that they need to trade BJ Upton and Chris Johnson. They really don’t seem to get it. Nobody else wants those hacks and their outrageous contracts, either. Between those two contracts, and the recently departed Uggla’s money due, Frank Wren isn’t looking much better than Rubin Amaro in Philly. Atlanta may be in trouble for more than just this year, new stadium, and all.

    • jd - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      Joe,

      I fully expect the Mets and Marlins to overtake Atlanta as our main competition next year with both Harvey and Fernandez returning.

      • thenatom - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        Fernandez isn’t returning, and Harvey likely won’t either unless the Mets get in serious contention.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        jd, how’s about right now. The Marlins should be in 2nd place by the end of Sunday night.

        Cosart was another great pickup.

        I’ve been predicting a shakeup in the NL East ever since the emergence of José Fernández. He is that good and a true Ace and they have Henderson Alvarez.

        The Mets have Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Noah S. And Montero. They still have Niese who could be like Gio as a #5 who pitches some nights like an Ace.

        Both the Marlins and Mets have holes in position players. I’m concerned if either team dips into the FA market this off-season.

      • adcwonk - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        Fernandez isn’t returning, and Harvey likely won’t either unless the Mets get in serious contention.

        Huh? What makes you say that? First of all, neither of them are free agents till 2019. Secondly, as many here suggest, the Marlins and Mets might be fighting out for 2d place next year (and perhaps wild card contention? depending upon how badly the Braves and Phillies sink) — the Mets area going to have a very good and deep starting rotation next year.

      • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        I think thenatom missed the “next year” part of jd’s post.

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      I always wondered how Frank Wren became so smart when he went to Atlanta, because he wasn’t very successful in Baltimore. (Of course, ownership there was (and is) an issue.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      +1 enjoyable reading. Awful fanbase.

  14. jd - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Went to the game last night. A lot of fun. Strasburg was great. Not a lot of hits but really good at bats by Cabrerra and Taylor and a nice night for Desi. Rendon hit the ball hard 3 times and of course we had that moon shot from Bryce. Clippard just over matches the opposition, he can close for my team any day.

    • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Very cool you were there. Do you live in NY, or just made a roadtrip? The Mets fans must be really bummed at how we own them in their own park.

      • jd - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        deuces,

        I live in NJ. 30 minutes from Citi field when there’s no traffic which is never. My son and I always catch at least one game in every Nats series at Citi, sometimes more. The last time I saw the Nats lose to the Mets was Taylor Jordan’s debut. It’s normally fun.

        The Met fans are a pretty subdued bunch these days. Not a lot of energy in the park, quite a difference from opening day when they ere all talking trash. Saw a few Nats fans last night especially at the end of the game when many of the Mets fans had already left. That’s always cool.

        We haven’t made it to DC this year but are planning a playoff trip.

  15. zmunchkin - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Strasburg was also throwing inside a lot more than he has been recently. According to an article by Bill Ladson, that was a result of his conversations with a number of coaches and players – most notably Gio and Fister.

  16. natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Wonderful job by SS last night and hope it’s the shape of things to come but Mark, where is the love for LaRoche? Harper went 1-4 last night with a HR. He is batting .234 for the month of August and he got the headline. LaRoche was 1-3 and a walk with a HR last night and is batting .319 in August.

    I really hope they both continue to shine but I am perplexed as to why Adam did not even get a mention for his game winning, 1st inning HR?

    • natsbro - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      I don’t think Mark wanted to take anything away from LaRoche by not mentioning him, but he just wanted to focus on the fact that 2 of our young superstars that take a lot of heat on here did contribute last night and hopefully are heading in the right direction.

  17. realdealnats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    The wave is definitely building. Hopefully it forms and curls and breaks in October.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Kill the wave!

      • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        Haha. I knew that was coming.

  18. janebeard - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I think, natszee, that people expect him to o that. That Harper is coming back is “fresh” news. Or fresher, anyway.

    • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      I get that but the headline:

      Strasburg, Harper lead the way as Nats sweep Mets

      That is what got me .. the guy with the game winning RBI gets no mention. Perhaps a differently worded title if the intent was to discuss a turning point for young struggling players that seem to be breaking out.

  19. lplipty - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Didn’t Stras fastball look like it had more movement to it? Like a 2seam?

    • kirbs3256 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Yes. I don’t know where it came from, but it had a lot of movement.

  20. kirbs3256 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    For a productive weekend….I will be happy with a 7 game lead by Sunday night….but I really like our odds for 2/3 with Tanner and Fister going.

  21. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    “laddieblahblah on August 15, 2014 at 7:03 am
    One of Strasburg’s best. A lot of credit is due to Jose Lobaton for calling a terrific game. He had SS throwing FBs both high and low, both tailing away and boring in, both up high over the middle and down low. Plenty of curve balls, change-ups and a few sliders, located all over the place.”

    This passed by most everyone but Stras for the first time this year threw the 2-seam and caught the Mets by surprise. He threw 23 and with an amazing 83% strikes and only 1 hit. Since the vertical break was enough dip it classified as a sinker.

    Fastball command is Strasburg’s best weapon. He had been a 3 pitch guy this season. 4-seam, curve, change as I wrote after his last start. He needed a 4th pitch.

    He is effective when he’s placing his fastball all over the zone. He did that last night but it’s been an inconsistent. He made great use of going Verlandian with the high heat for swing throughs.

    Not sure what’s bigger news, his control or adding back the 2 seam.

  22. natsbro - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Random, but I stumbled upon this scouting report of Harper in 2010. Kind of fun to read back:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10611#commentMessage

    • adcwonk - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Fascinating.

      Perhaps the most surprising sentence in it, which is completely off topic, but fun to read:

      (The context is that Harper was so big as a 17 year old, that, even though he is “chiseled”, there is always the chance he could grow into either a bigger chiseled Joe Mauer, or someone like Adam Dunn. Big “large” Adam Dunn? Yes — the author points out:)

      Dunn was 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds coming up through the Reds’ system, and had back-to-back 20-steal seasons in his first two full years.

      Wow — I had no idea . . .

      • natsbro - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        I found this the most interesting: ” It’s impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn’t blown away by Harper’s ability on the field, but it’s equally difficult to find one who doesn’t genuinely dislike the kid. One scout called him among the worst amateur players he’s ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents.”

  23. Eric - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    lplipty – Aug 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM
    Didn’t Stras fastball look like it had more movement to it? Like a 2seam?

    From the article:
    “Last night, Strasburg threw 43 four-seam fastballs and added 26 two-seamers, to go along with 16 curveballs and 16 changeups. He threw that two-seamer for strikes 73 percent of the time, and surrendered only one hit on the pitch all night.”

    I was wondering after he got shelled in Atlanta if he could add a 2-seamer to help mitigate success against his FB…looks like the answer was “yes” last night. Hope it’s a winning recipe for a long time to come!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      Thanks, I totally skipped past that. Glad Mark was watching.

  24. lplipty - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Don’t know why he ever stopped throwing his 2seamer. It seems he stopped throwing it all last yr

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      He abandoned the 2 seam because it took off velo and wasn’t sinking much. In his career they hit it for a .344 BA and .486 SLG compared to his 4-seam at .263 BA and .421 SLG

      It worked last night. By the way, he didn’t throw any sliders bit there were some slurvey looking pitches.

      • adcwonk - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        He abandoned the 2 seam because it took off velo and wasn’t sinking much. In his career they hit it for a .344 BA and .486 SLG compared to his 4-seam at .263 BA and .421 SLG

        Yowza — I had no idea.

        So, why was it suddenly working last night?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        I think element of surprise. You prepare for the 4 seam and have no idea what they were seeing as they watched them dart the K zone.

        I literally just wrote about this after his last start. He had become a 3 pitch guy and was so reliant on his location for success.

        Lets see how he does next time out. This is a huge story in my opinion.

  25. dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    2 seamers are the modern day equivalent to the split finger which was the 1980s equivalent of the ole wet ball

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