/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
Yikes. It seems like almost a
century ago Nats fans were rejoicing over last week’s 3-game sweep of the
Chicago White Sox. I guess that’s what happens when the division rival Atlanta
Braves come in to your house and knock the wind out of you. In the grand scheme
of a 162 game season, this past week will likely fade into the big-picture of a
strong and dominant season. But this week did create some cause for concern
within Natstown and gives us plenty to talk about. Here is a good look at all
that happened in Washington over the past week:
What happened to the pitching?
We all know it’s early. The Citizens
of Natstown staff is definitely not rallying our torches and pitchforks. But
the pitching performances practically across the board this week were
undoubtedly underwhelming. As a whole, the Nats bullpen has a 5.90 ERA,
allowing 26 earned runs in just under 40 IP – good for second worst in the
The implosion came from all
different corners of the Nats pitching staff. Tuesday against the White Sox,
Tyler Clippard gave up three runs over one inning of work. Drew Storen blew a
ninth inning lead in Friday’s series opener against the Braves. Stammen would
eventually be saddled with the loss in extra innings after giving up a go-ahead
two-run homer in the tenth inning. And the pitching would be a mess again in
the series finale against Atlanta last Sunday, where Nats pitchers combined to
give up nine runs. Seven of the runs came off a struggling Gio Gonzalez, who
gave up two home runs and an uncharacteristic seven hits over five innings.
This is not the type of pitching you
like to see early on from a team who many in the baseball world have proclaimed
as a practical shoe-in for a playoff spot. Pitchers will have to regain their
2012 dominance as the season gears up. Bats tend to heat up along with the
weather, so it’s not going to get any easier from here.
The Nats lead the league in errors. Yeah.
Let’s say that again. The Nats lead Major League Baseball in errors. One aspect
that makes the Nationals so fun to watch is their usual fundamentally sound
baseball. With an infield comprised of two Gold Glove corner infielders and an
outfield of three players that could all arguably man centerfield, the Nats
should have a dynamo defense on paper.
So who has been causing the issues?
All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond leads the team with four errors, followed by
Ryan Zimmerman – who has racked up three miscues.
But Zim’s errors have proved to be
costly this week. In last Friday’s game, an errant throw to second base by
Zimmerman allowed the two tying runs to score. One game later, another
Zimmerman throwing error allowed a scorching hot Justin Upton to reach base. Atlanta
catcher Evan Gattis promptly made the Nats pay for the mistake, launching a
two-run homer out of Nats Park. That would be enough for Washington to lose the
General Manager Mike Rizzo has
prided himself on the defensive integrity of this team. Defense was one of the
larger reasons why upper management decided to re-sign the Gold Glover Adam
LaRoche and shop the defensively-inferior Michael Morse to Seattle.
The Nats defense needs to find their
groove defensively. Good, fundamental, error-less baseball helps pitchers have
more confidence in pitching to contact and allows position players to focus
exclusively on their offensive game, rather than dwelling on costly mistakes
from the inning before.
Backstop Wilson Ramos will be out
for a few weeks after straining his right hamstring in Saturday’s game against
the Braves. Wilson worked so hard over the past year to rehab a torn ACL
sustained going after a wild pitch last season on May 12 in Cincinnati. But he
will find himself nursing a leg injury again as he tries to regain strength. Ramos
tweaked the hamstring trying to beat out an infield grounder in the eighth
inning of an eventual Nationals loss.
The Nats do have a luxury in that they
have another starting-caliber catcher in Kurt Suzuki. Manager Davey Johnson was
literally alternating the days he played Ramos and Suzuki. With Ramos tending
to the hamstring issue, expect Suzuki to get the vast majority of playing time
behind the plate with recent call up Jhonatan Solano backing him up.
Before the injury, Ramos was having
a solid start to the season, hitting for a .991 OPS with 3 home runs in 6
There were plenty of discouraging
storylines to take away from Sunday’s 9-0 loss against the Braves. But the
Espinosa injury could be one of the most concerning. In the second inning,
Espinosa’s right wrist caught the full force of an 88-MPH fastball. Danny was
clearly in pain as he gingerly flexed his hand and sauntered to first base.
X-rays came back negative and
Espinosa doesn’t think he will miss any time. Davey Johnson did indicate that,
realistically, his second baseman will probably miss a game or two. Backup
utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi relieved Espinosa in the game and will most
likely get a few starts as Espinosa ensures his wrist is 100% healthy.
A chance to clear his head may be
good for Danny. He has gotten off to a slow start this season, hitting .175
with only one homer and three RBI.
Around the league:
By now, we don’t have to tell
Natstown how the Braves are doing. Atlanta sits atop the division with an 11-1
record. The most ridiculous aspect about the Braves so far this season? Besides
newly acquired slugging left fielder Justin Upton, their offense hasn’t even
begun to warm up yet. Dan Uggla is hitting .171 (.637 OPS); Jason Heyward is
hitting .103 (.491 OPS); B.J. Upton is hitting .163 (.529 OPS); and Andrelton
Simmons is hitting .211 (.578 OPS).
The 11 games won by this team have mostly
been because of pitching. The Braves are averaging 1.92 runs allowed per game
with an MLB leading ERA of 1.82.
The Mets have been an early surprise
in the NL east – sitting in second place with a 7-4 record on the year.
The Mets were teased by a potential
no-hit bid from starting pitcher Matt Harvey in his outing on Saturday. The
no-hitter was broken up by a solo homer in the seventh inning, but the start
was still a great sign that the Mets new wave of power arms is getting major
The offense has not been too shabby
either. Mets hitters scored 16 runs on Friday to defeat the Minnesota Twins. Contributions
from Daniel Murphy and David Wright who each drove in four runs during the
game, proved to be key. The two infielders are hitting .368 and .297 respectively
and have been major players in the Mets steady offensive production.
The Met’s were an average 3-2 this
past week. But the record doesn’t necessarily tell the story. The Mets have not
simply rolled over like many initially thought. They have been holding their
own in a challenging and dynamic division and playing some solid baseball.
Washington will be taking a visit to
Citi Field this weekend to take on New York.
The Phillies are sitting at a .500 record
on the season. Phillies fans should get used to this for the next few seasons
as the hair of their players continues to grey.
The Phils won both their series this
past week, taking 2-of-3 from both the Mets and the Marlins. Philadelphia’s
schedule will ramp up as April continues. They will have to face dominant
Cincinnati and St. Louis lineups this week. The matchups should be a great test
to see really how great this Philadelphia team is going to be.
While the Mets have been putting together
solid showings, the same cannot be said for the uber-underdog Miami Marlins. Miami
is sporting a dismal 2-10 record on the early season. They are nine games back
in the division. Oh yeah, and its April 14th. The Marlins went 1-5
last week. Their only win came Saturday when they beat out the Phillies 2 to 1.
The Nats begin a much needed three
game-series against the Marlins on Monday night in Miami. The trip should be a
good chance for the Nats to erase from their minds their own abysmal series
against the Braves.