It was a tale-of-two-Nats this past week. After leading off the fourth week of the season getting brutally swept by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals battled back to take three out of four games from the Cincinnati Reds. Fans were lifted from panic to elation. The rollercoaster ride of last week gives us plenty to talk about as we take a look back at all that has happened in Natstown over the past seven days.
Davey changes the lineup and gets results
The lack of Nationals offense in the series against St. Louis was beyond frustrating. The Nats scored a total of four runs in the series off a total of 17 hits in the three games. The ‘cookie-cutter’ front end of the lineup (Span, Werth, Harper, LaRoche, LaRoche) was simply not getting the job done and spoiling superb performances from Nats starters.
Clearly frustrated yet retaining his usual composure, Manager Davey Johnson changed his lineup going into Thursday’s series opener against the Cincinnati Reds. The results were immediate, as the Nats would roll by the Reds and win 8-1. The new lineup features utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi batting second in the order with Jayson Werth batting cleanup. Eight runs were scored in the game that saw 14 Nats baserunner. The slight difference in the lineup seemed to help the offense gel a little more than it had in its previous losing streak. Denard Span would g 9-for-14 in the first three games with the altered lineup. The Nats would continue to win their next two games and the struggling offense certainly gained more confidence as April comes to an end.
Adam LaRoche is Struggling Mightily
We understand Silver Slugger Adam LaRoche has a tendency to start off slow at the beginning of the season. But this? This is just getting frustrating. LaRoche is batting .143 on the season and was batting sixth in the order on Sunday’s series finale against the Reds.
LaRoche literally did not notch a hit last week. He was 0-24, mired in a complete and total slump. And it is not as if the Gold Glover is hitting the ball hard right at people, he has looked terrible. While not registering a hit in 24 at bats this week, LaRoche whiffed 11 times while stranding 21 runners on base – mostly while batting cleanup. Its no wonder the Nats have been struggling so much offensively. LaRoche has simply not been able to get things going. The cleanup hitter for the team with last season’s best record has not driven in a run in his last nine games. If the Nats are to truly get themselves on track and start tallying runs with any consistency, getting your cleanup hitter and previous offensive leader on board is essential.
LaRoche carried the Nats on his back offensively last season through the good times and the bad. Now, he’s practically just dead weight.
Harper silences critics
How about that kid in left field, huh? After a stellar Rookie of the Year campaign last season, All Star Bryce Harper still had his share of critics doubting Harper could retain dominance in his sophomore season as the league continues to learn his hitting strategies.
Harper has proved them wrong in almost every way. He is hitting .356 on the season – good for third highest in the NL. He has already smacked nine homers on the young season – tied for second place in the Major Leagues only behind Braves slugger Justin Upton. Harper also leagues the NL with a 1.181 OPS.
Batting in the three hole for the reigning NL East division champions, the 20-year-old has been the offensive spark plug for the team. It would not be surprising to see a potential triple crown bid from Harper this season as he continues to chew up opposing pitching.
Catcher Wilson Ramos was activated from the disabled list on Monday the 29th after nursing a left hamstring injury sustained two weeks ago. Ramos was not in the starting lineup in his first game back with the team, however. Expect to see Ramos settle into more playing time throughout this upcoming week. It is safe to think Ramos will be at 100% as he wins back more playing time from co-starting catcher Kurt Suzuki
Ramos was often to a very solid start this season, hitting .300/.391/.991 with two homers in his six games played prior to sustaining the injury.
Zimmerman is still on the disabled list as he continues to battle hamstring problems of his own. But he may be expected back with the big club soon. Zim took full batting practice and sprinted around the bases on Monday. He is reportedly beginning a rehab assignment this week with Class A Potomac. The All Star third baseman will play in rehab games on Tuesday and Wednesday and will be officially activated from the disabled list on Friday barring any setbacks.
Zimmerman reports he feels absolutely no pain in the hamstring.
Around the league:
Atlanta Braves (16-9)
After beginning the season with a torrid start and quickly jumping to the top of the NL East standings, the Braves showed signs of cooling off this past week and only compiled a 2-4 record in that stretch. Braves pitching proved ineffective in a weekend series against the Detroit Tigers where Atlanta allowed 25 runs while being swept in the three game series
Philadelphia Phillies (12-14 , 4.5 GB)
The Phillies were more than happy to travel to the Met’s Citifield and complete the three game sweep. The Phillies are not too far back in the standings compared to the Nats. With the potential talent still on Philadelphia’s roster, it’s not unthinkable that a timely surge in production from the former division goliath could catapult the team into contention once again.
New York Mets (10-13 , 5 GB)
The Mets would probably like a do-over for last week. New York was shockingly solid in the early weeks to start of this season, holding their own against tough division rivals such as the Braves and Nats. But the water has begun to level out in the division. The Mets were 1-5 last week and are beginning to slide towards the bottom of the division as analysts and fans predicted before the season began.
Miami Marlins (6-19 , 10 GB)
It gets to a certain point where we almost feel bad making fun of Miami. But the bad news keeps on coming. Slugger, and lone bright spot on the roster, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton had three home runs in his last 6 at-bats before being removed from this Monday’s game after another apparent hamstring injury. In the 10th inning of the contest, Stanton grabbed the hamstring and fell to the ground in pain. A trip to the disabled list is not at all a stretch. This is literally the worst case scenario for a club whose offense has been absolutely anemic in the early going.