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State of the Nats: On a roll

Aug 18, 2014, 12:50 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Top storylines:

Nats on a roll – With two walk-off victories this weekend, the Nationals have now won six straight, their best stretch of the 2014 season. Even with Ryan Zimmerman still out, even with Jayson Werth still technically out, and even with the recent struggles of Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, the Nats are playing their best baseball of the year.

The Nats currently sit six games up on the Braves in the NL East, even after Atlanta just swept the Oakland Athletics. The A’s entered their series with the Braves holding MLB’s best record. The Braves won all three games and they still didn’t gain any ground in the division race. You have to think that demoralizes the Braves a bit, no? Even when Atlanta pulls off their biggest series win in a while, it gets them nothing in the standings.

Mark actually pointed out some very interesting numbers about the Nats this morning on Twitter. Through 112 games, the Nats now have a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 97 percent chance of winning the NL East, according to FanGraphs. The same calculations have the Nats at 18 percent to win the World Series, the best odds in the majors. You may want to go ahead and knock on wood after reading that, but there you go.

Werth set to return – In case the Nationals and their fans needed any reminder, Werth can make a significant difference when he is in the lineup. Sunday night was an excellent example of that, as the veteran outfielder fought through an injury to come off the bench late in the Nats’ sixth consecutive win, an 11-inning victory over the Pirates. Even while playing through pain, Werth can contribute in big ways.

The winning streak perhaps eases an urgency to bring him back, but it is still something to watch. Getting Werth back could help them sustain their winning through this upcoming four-game series with the struggling Diamondbacks. It could also be great timing if he returns in the coming days, as after the D-Backs series the Nats embark on arguably their toughest remaining stretch of 2014.

Once Arizona is gone, the Nats will host the 65-58 San Francisco Giants in what could be a playoff preview. The Giants now own the final NL Wild Card spot after the Pirates were swept by the Nationals.

After the Giants the Nats go at Philly, at 67-56 Seattle (currently holding an AL Wild Card spot) and then at the L.A. Dodgers. The three-game series in Los Angeles is their toughest matchup remaining based on record and will be their biggest test outside of their two September series against Atlanta.

Other injury updates – This week will see the one month mark pass since Zimmerman went down with a right hamstring strain. The Nationals have said they are hopeful Zim can return after six weeks, but have still not released a definitive timeline. One has to think that this week or next will reveal at least a little more information as to when he will be back.

Steven Souza, Jr. and Nate McLouth could begin minor league rehab assignments by the end of the week, or at least find out their own timelines to return. Souza has been out since Aug. 9 with a left shoulder contusion and was placed on the 15-day DL Aug. 10. He is eligible to return next weekend.

McLouth is on the DL retroactive to Aug. 2 and 15 days have past. He was set to have a second opinion on his right shoulder inflammation this weekend, so we should get some more information on him soon. At this point, though, it looks like he is on track to return in September.

NL East Standings


Offensive game of the week: Michael Taylor 8/12 vs. Mets – 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R

Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 8/14 vs. Mets – 7 IP, 3 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 101 pitches, 66 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Jayson Werth on coming off the bench Sunday despite his shoulder injury:

There’s a lot at stake here this season, and I want to be a part of it… I felt it was worth the risk tonight. In a game like that, I wanted to keep the streak going and win a game. So I went for it.

Tweet of the week:

Ian Desmond issued a strong defense of Rafael Soriano after Sunday’s game:

Road ahead

MON – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Zimmermann)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Strasburg)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Roark)
THU – 4:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Fister)
SAT – 4:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Zimmermann)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Strasburg)

  1. coop202 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I’ve always felt there was a fine line crossed when you booed your own team, and something of that nature can make all the players on the team think poorly of the fans if that line gets crossed for the wrong reason. Leave discomfort for performance when athletes give their best to the pundits, blogs, coaches and ultimately attendance. The only good reason to boo an athlete on your team fit into the following categories:

    1) Cheated (PEDs players included, though this is for a different discussion)
    2) Clearly do not care to play (the worst example I ever saw of this was Champ Bailey’s last season as Redskin)
    3) Clearly do not care about the team (see above)
    4) gray area- poor management or player decisions

    Sori is at the moment one of the best closers in the league who had a rough game against a good ballclub. He probably is wearing down a bit, but 100% agree with Ian. I know the discussion will go on but i’m tapped out. Here’s hoping Arizona doesn’t have a significant number of web gems up their sleeve like the last time we played them.

    Also 99% odds… I like that. I wonder what would happen on ESPN if the Angels and Nats met for a WS

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      We all have our own list of rationalizations for anti-social behavior–I certainly do. I feel entitled to boo the idea that buying a ticket to a ballgame entitles one to something more than seeing a ballgame, maybe throw in the expectation that the players are supposed to be giving a good effort.

    • bowdenball - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      I never boo my own team, but I also don’t understand the people acting like it’s some great insult either. It’s not like people are cursing at the player or threatening them or telling them they hate them. It’s just a silly noise of disapproval that fans make all the time. Fans express disapproval of umpires the same way for far lesser lapses in performance- in some cases where there was no lapse at all- and nobody feels the need to take up for the umps or pity them. And they get paid a tiny fraction of what the players get. Who cares?

      • coop202 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Umpiring truly is a thankless job.

      • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        +1 bb. It’s a dumb thing to get upset about. I’ll bet Soriano would be a lot more upset by some of the things said about him on this blog, even this morning — that he’s sullen, arrogant, a showboater, cares more about himself than the team, a bad teammate, lazy, etc., etc., etc. — than the rain of boos yesterday.

        Not that he’d be that upset. Who cares what a bunch of internet commenters say about you anyway?

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Umpires aren’t a struggling team member whose improved performance would help said team win, at least not on an ongoing basis.

        And, I personally don’t see it as insulting so much as heaping on added pressure.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        In case anyone is keeping a list of Things that Are Not OK, today we can add:
        Booing the home team
        Booing people who boo the home team
        Caring (aka, opining on a blog) about booing of the home team or the booing thereof.

      • coop202 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Guess I’m still thinking back to when I played in college, but players including those at the mlb level now definitely remembered when their fans turned on them (and if they were regulars, who). No one is a harder critic, and that stuff lingers. They have tough skin and that’s not going to effect them really or their play, but they remember.

      • bowdenball - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        Eric said …

        “Umpires aren’t a struggling team member whose improved performance would help said team win, at least not on an ongoing basis.”

        If booing interferes with you improving your performance, you probably shouldn’t be closing in the first place. In fact you probably wouldn’t be closing in the first place. In fact you might not make it to the big leagues in the first place. They all hear worse every night on the road and sometimes at home from fans of the visiting team. They’re just upset about negativity from the home fans and are closing ranks. It’s fine, and like I said I personally don’t boo the home team, I just think it’s silly how people act like it’s more than just a weird sound fans make on occasion to express disapproval, like some sacred trust has been violated or something.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        “I just think it’s silly how people act like it’s more than just a weird sound fans make on occasion to express disapproval, like some sacred trust has been violated or something.”

        This echo chamber is getting rather loud. Next you’ll be suggesting people are recommending fan-player counseling services or something. What is it with the Internet and communication-by-hyperbole?

        Anyway, I don’t buy at all that it’s “just a weird sound.” I mean, in the grand sociological sense, sure. Even the word “tree” only means something because we all agree that it means something. Here in shared-reality land, many players absolutely eat up the cheers when they come; I have a hard time believing none of them feel something when they are booed. And, the feelings elicited by these “weird sounds” is what meaning is all about (including any and all linguistic meaning).

      • bowdenball - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        My point in calling it a “weird sound” was simply that it’s one of the milder things fans can do to show disapproval. The hyperbole IMO comes from those who act like it’s more than that.

        I don’t do it, I don’t like it, but it doesn’t strike me as some horrible condemnation of the player, the team and the organization either. That’s all.

    • micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      good post. I know I get emotional in here and we all are guilty of being behind a computer and maybe not thinking things thru, me more than others

      AsI said last night, I did not boo Soriano and in fact, when i attend any game, if I boo its always the umpire, that is from my coaching days as I tended to ride an umpire if I felt he was not in position or lacked hustle.

      Only exception, I will say, if I was at the Redskins Eagles game in 2010 when Haynesworth ;laid down on the filed, i would have booed him.

      Like I said, i felt bad for Soriano last night and was a bit stunned at the boos at Nats Park. But, I think the fans are really getting into this race.

  2. Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    SO Ian doesn’t think Storen or Clippard should close?? #ManufacturedControversy

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:40 PM


    • micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      if I had my choice, I would go with Storen as the closer, if a change is to be made. I think Thornton is too old and Clip is perfect as the set up.

      I had a thought….. why not Det as a closer?

      It is clear that there is no way a closer would be available in Sept so Nats will have to dance with who they brought

      • therealjohnc - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        Why not Det as closer? Well, I would start with “because there are at least five better options already on the team.”

        Eh, I’d probably finish there, too.

    • npb99 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:29 PM


  3. Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    There was a lot of ugly last night, and if LaRoche had kept that absolute laser in his mitt last night, we’d be talking about somebody else entirely today. (But Great Maker, that ball was crushed!)

    • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Yes, that was a play that needed to be made. It was a rocket and far from an easy play, but you expect ALR to come up with those.

    • Smyrcok - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      Definitely Soul P. Imagine if that double play gets turned instead of the web gem play by Cabrera behind Clipp. Different conversation entirely as you say.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      By all means let me clarify: I do NOT mean to suggest LaRoche was at fault in any way. That nearly took his hand, mitt and all, into right field with it. Ball probably hits the wall on the fly if he doesn’t slow it down. Balls don’t get hit much harder than that in real life. Amazing reflexes to get his hand up that fast.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        ESPN reports ball speed of the bat of home runs, but I don’t know whether anyone reports that for other hits.

  4. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    More Boz, this time on Soriano:

    “Soriano has as good command of three pitches as any reliever in the game __most days he can “throw them in a teacup.” Her has a wonderful feel for “reading the bat” and has the guts to go back to a “hole” in a hitter’s swing two or three times in one at b at __and “make the pitch” every time with the game on the line.

    His success isn’t an accident. He knows exactly how he does what he does. And I’ve enjoyed talking to him about it. Most fans, frankly, are not qualified to evaluate him. He lives on the edges and never gives in. Next time, watch the hitters, not his pitches __which aren’t bad pitches, just not as overpower as some relievers. They always take awkward uncomfortable swings, seem off balance. EXCEPT on the days when he’s missing over the plate. Then, “WHAM.”

    Soriano is a relief PITCHER, not thrower, in the mold of later career Trevor Hoffman and Doug Jones.

    He’s pitched well deep into the playoffs, including the Series. He’s got the ice water in his veins, the implacable stare. He never lets them know what he’s thinking __or feeling. Or if he’s even feeling anything. (He is.) They wonder if it’s “just a job” to him so he has a huge edge __the hitter is nervous, under pressure and this damn guy doesn’t seem to care if he wins or loses. He doesn’t even back up bases some times. “His own drummer” can be unnerving.

    This is the case for Soriano over the last several years. Can he still be that guy or are we watching deterioration? That’s the right question, imo. But those who say “I just don’t like this guy” probably misunderstand how he pitches, why he succeeds or why his imperious manner, apparent indifference and annoying “untuck” all play into an effective relief personna. And a LOT of closers have worked on that identity. So has Soriano. Teammates say, “He knows how to do it and he’s been doing it a long time.” There’s a lot hidden underneath those words.

    All that said, he’s got to get it fixed pretty quick or, like any reliever his age who doesn’t throw 97+ anymore, the game will move on to the next closer.”

    • Steady Eddie - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:16 PM

      Thanks for posting — I was going to do the same (only maybe a little more selectively… at what point does quoting an entire answer go beyond “fair use”?).

      The key in response to those who “don’t like his attitude” etc. is that being a closer is a distinct shtick, probably to excess in the mode of the whole cult of the closer that many have properly complained about (as itself being to excess). Does anyone seriously think Kimbrel’s cocked arm pose isn’t central to his shtick? If you “don’t like his attitude,” get over yourself. He’s a closer, it’s what he does. To my mind, the untuck is a lot less in your face to the other team than Rodney’s arrow shtick.

      The question re Sori is what Boz posed — is this just part of Sori’s annual slump at some point, or worse? No way you can find out without trying him more.

      Meanwhile, the key for the Nats and especially MW is to be a little faster on the trigger where the situation allows for it, as here where he had already basically gotten Thornton warm between innings (he then threw 7 or 8 pitches within the 9th and was warm enough to be standing around watching before Polanco even came up). Not to warm someone up each time but when you do have someone warm, know where the breakpoint is.

      • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        It was from his chat, not from a column, so I figured it was safe to post. I’m not all that familiar with copyright laws though, so if it’s an issue, I’d be happy to just post a link to the chat and tell y’all to find it.

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Not a big deal — the chat is still his “published” work product, so probably would be better to use a more selective or abbreviated quote and then the link to the whole, as you said.

  5. breakbad1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    coop–I would add when a player plays dirty. I have never booed a Nationals player. The closest I’ve come to doing so was when Nyjer Morgan hit the opposing catcher in the back, when the catcher was standing in front of home plate, relaxed, because no throw was coming. But it came and went so quickly I never even booed then.

    I think we should do exactly as Ian Desmond suggests. Quit booing and let this thing work out.

    I predicted on this board before the season that Soriano would lose his job as our closer before the All Star break. I am certain it’s going to happen. But booing your own team does not help. Rizzo and Matt Williams see very clearly what’s happening and will take action.

    • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      I predicted on this board before the season that Soriano would lose his job as our closer before the All Star break. I am certain it’s going to happen.

      You’re still certain he’s going to lose his job before the break? That’s impressive confidence in your abilities of prognostication, plus your ability to go back in time and alter the course of history. Let us know how that turns out.

      Oh, you mean you’re certain he’ll lose his job at some point. Well, yeah, probably. After this year seems like a decent bet. Unless we win the series with him closing out two or three games.

      Oh, you mean he’ll lose it this year before the playoffs? I think I’d bet on his track record over yours.

      • breakbad1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        Yes, 222, I literally mean that he will lose his job before the 2014 All Star game.

        I also believe he will win two games in the 1960 World Series.

        Thanks for the great catch and insight.

  6. NatsLady - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Nats Stats for Week 20

  7. lawrence - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    The Nats have actually played 122 games, not 112. And interestingly, they won game 122 in the 2012 season in an extra-inning walk-off. And held a 6 game lead in the NL East when it ended. In other words, the Nats are in exactly the same position now that they were this time in 2012, with exactly the same schedule difficulty for the remaining 40 games, too.

    • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:01 PM

      Wow. That’s fascinating. The Braves aren’t as good though.

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      Wasn’t it also around this time that Davey held a team meeting?

      • lawrence - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        Maybe? Different trajectory, though. The Nats led all year and were coasting. This year they’ve held steady all season and are finally surging. No need for a meeting with a 6 game winning streak going.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        Oh, I know, just thinking back. I caught the bug during the Marlins series at I believe the beginning of August of that year. As I recall, we did poorly in that series and for a couple off weeks after. Then the team meeting happened and we leveled off for a bit. What was our record at this time that year?

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      The Nats have actually played 122 games, not 112.

      So can we boo Chase for being a professional journalist who consistently gets sloppy with facts? Just asking.

      • Candide - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        Absolutely. Hey, go over to Nats Journal at WaPo, and watch how one guy in particular roasts Kilgore for typos (don’t know if he still does – haven’t been there in a long time).

        But yeah, we should boo Chase and everyone else who makes mistakes, because the rest of us never make any mistakes in our professions.

        Or at least our professions don’t require our mistakes to be published for all the world to see.

      • RPrecupjr - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        No, he’s pretty much disappeared, Candide. He was on this site as well, and actually had decent, constructive things to say, but would NEVER say them on NJ. Conversely, on the rare occasion that Mark or Chase would have a typo/grammatical error/factual error…..he wouldn’t say a word.

  8. micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    Oh, and I will be attending again…3 days in a row!!

  9. micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    but, even though I felt bad for Sori, I really dread seeing him in a tied or one read in the NLCS, the closer may be the Nats down fall when the final summery on 2014 is written. Man, i hope not!

  10. micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    but, even though I felt bad for Sori, I really dread seeing him in a tied or one run lead in the NLCS, the closer may be the Nats down fall when the final summery on 2014 is written. Man, i hope not!


    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      I think some interesting decisions will be made for the post season (if we get in) if he hasn’t regained peak form by then.

      • micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        don’t you think MW makes those decisions in Sept?

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, but if Sori’s struggles continue unabated into September, the decisions may come even sooner. It probably also depends on how we sit in the standings. If we still have a 6+ game lead 2 weeks before the season ends, why not give Sori every opportunity to regain the kind of dominance we’ve seen from him?

      • jd - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        They aren’t changing what worked all year now unless Soriano proves he absolutely can’t do the job any more and I don’t think there is any evidence of that being the case.I think Soriano needs a few days off and not to pitch 4 out of 5 days.

        Next year there will be a new closer and a new person to whine about.That’s the nature of the beast.

  11. micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:32 PM


    i simply meant that whatever MW does, BP or other doesn’t make sense to do it prior to post season

    thats all

  12. micksback1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    i meant doesn’t it make sense

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      I think it just depends on our situation at the time.

      If we’re fighting tooth and nail to regain or hold on to first place–let alone a WC slot–then I would hope MW would manage very aggressively to optimize our chances at every turn. In that scenario, any struggling player, including Sori, should be given a very short leash and/or should have their role changed if it gives us a better shot. That’s a BIG “if” though. Making a change is by no means a guarantee of success.

      If we’re coasting, and especially if we’ve clinched, I think the focus should be a) resting our best players as much as possible while still keeping them game ready and b) letting any struggling players play through it so they might start getting hot for the post season.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    How is the DC sports media covering the Nats these days? It has to be tough amidst all the Johnny Manziel/RGIII buzz that’s been percolating for weeks now for a pre-season game. I will be watching both games but the sound off on the Redskins game.

    In 2012, the bandwagon was in full speed ahead in August of that year. By the size of the crowds, maybe it’s at that point now.

    • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      The main spread of the Post’s sports page was about a preseason game. The Nats got a little piece on the side about their win

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    Werth is back in the lineup. I was hoping they would give him another day or 2.





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