The Nationals were hoping to gain a little ground against the Braves in the NL East after their series last weekend in Atlanta, but that was not the case. The Braves took two out of three and now hold a seven game lead in the division. The Nats are now only holding on two second place in the division by a half a game over the Phillies, who collectively almost qualify for Social Security because of their advanced age.
What could right this horrible situation, you ask. Well, having a team come to town that was just swept by the Marlins, who until then had not swept a team all season. Enter, the New York Mets (22-32), who come to town for a three game series with the Nationals (28-29) starting on Tuesday.
The Mats played inspired baseball when they took on the New York Yankees in the Subway Series last week and swept all four games. However, apparently they ran out of inspiration when they ran into the Marlins and got swept themselves. The Mets rotation this season has been below average as a whole, but they one gem, Matt Harvey has been killing it. The good thing is the Nationals will not be seeing Harvey because his spot in the rotation will not overlap with the series (THANK GOD!).
In other good news, barring a disaster, Jayson Werth should be in the starting lineup on Tuesday and for as long as he can stay uninjured. Werth finished his rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals where he practically hit every baseball thrown at him while he was in the batter’s box. He did so well in fact that Manager Davey Johnson characterized his performance as “frisky” during a press conference after the Braves series on Sunday.
Injuries are still a problem for the Nationals. Bryce Harper was placed on the 15 day disabled list and cannot come off it until June 11. There has still been no definitive word on when Ross Detwiler will come back to the rotation and Wilson Ramos is expected to miss at least another couple weeks.
To add insult to injury (pun somewhat intended), the Nats ace, Stephen Strasburg was pulled from Friday’s game after only two innings with stiffness in his back. Tests showed that he has a Grade 1 lateral muscle strain. The organization is optimistic that he might make his next start to close out the Mets series, but other medical professionals have asserted that an injury like this usually takes 3-6 weeks to properly heal. At this point, the Nationals have not placed Stras on the disabled list, so fans will have to wait and see what happens as his start gets closer. Apparently, everything hinges on whether he is able to throw his bullpen session on Wednesday.
Game 58: Tuesday, June 4, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Jordan Zimmermann (8-3, 2.37 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74 ERA)
Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound to start the series off with the Mets. For the first time all season, Zimmermann looked human against the Orioles last week, but he still has the second most wins in the National League, so I think he is allowed a rough outing now and again. He has already pitched 19.2 innings and has three complete games to his name, which is three times as many as he has pitched throughout his entire career prior to this season. Translation, Jordan Zimmermann pitched one complete game from 2009-2012, but has three in 2013, alone. For his career he has averaged a 1.170 WHIP, but this season it is down to 0.941, which currently ranks him eighth in all of Major League Baseball in that category. The velocity on his pitches has not changed at all, but his command has been spot on. Zimmermann attacks the strike zone better than most in the big leagues. He is tied for fifth in the majors with a 68 percent strike percentage, the same percentage he had last season. His groundball percentage has shot way up from 43 percent last season to 51 percent this season. Pitching Coach, Steve McCatty worked diligently with Zimmermann to add the changeup to his repertoire of already nasty pitched and it has paid off.
Since breaking into the majors in 2009, Jordan has started 12 games against the Mets. In that timeframe, he has amassed a 3-3 record over the course of 65.0 innings. He was particularly abusive to the Mets last season where he only allowed five runs in four starts. In his only outing against the Mets this season he lasted 5.0 innings, while allowing two earned runs on two hits and striking out four. The Mets current lineup has fared well against Zimmermann, which most teams cannot say. David wright is batting .321 against him and has two homers in 31 plate appearances. John Buck has a team high 1.049 OPS against Zimmermann and has also homered once off of him. However, both Lucas Duda and Jordany Valdespin have really struggled against Zimmermann.
Current Mets vs. Jordan Zimmermann:
Jeremy Hefner, like every member of the Mets rotation with the exception of Matt Harvey, has had a rough year. He has already allowed more homers this year than he did last season and he is walking batters at a much higher rate than he has in the past. Hefner is known as a pitcher that does not walk many batters, in 2012 he only walked 18 of them all season, but he is already up to 10 before June started. He has five pitches in his arsenal, but mainly relies on his four-seam fastball (90-92 mph), slider (86-90 mph) and changeup (83-86 mph). All of his pitches lack deceptive movement and he is regularly teed off on by advanced batters who recognize what he is throwing early and can make the necessary adjustments to their swing.
Hefner has started four games against the Nationals throughout his career and has a 0-3 record that is accompanied with a 5.57 ERA. In his last outing against the Nats on April 20, he lasted only 4.0 IP and gave up a homer to both Desmond and Harper and the Nats ended up winning the game by a score of 7-6. Surprisingly, Danny Espinosa has had the most success against Hefner in the past. He has an astonishing 1.800 OPS against him and gets on base half of the times he has faced him.
Current Nationals vs. Jeremy Hefner:
Game 59: Wednesday, June 5, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Dan Haren (4-6, 5.09 ERA) vs. Dillon Gee (3-6, 5.68 ERA)
It is true that Dan Haren’s season ERA is 1.40 points higher than his career average of 3.71, but he looks so much better than he did at the beginning of the season. Sadly, he has not won a game since May 9, but he has been keeping the games close and if the Nats offense would pick up his confidence on the mound would probably do the same. However, this giving up multiple home runs a game needs to stop. He already has given up three multi-homer games this season, which is too many.
Haren has started six games against the Mets dating back to 2004 and has come away with a 1-1 record and a 4.89 ERA. He last appeared against the Mets in 2011, where he only lasted four innings and gave up six earned runs. However, the majority of his other starts against the Metropolitans have been pretty solid. The only three Mets players to have more than 10 plate appearances against Haren are Marlon Byrd, David Wright and John Buck. He has handles both Wright and Buck successfully only allowing the two players six hits in 30 plate appearances combined. On the other hand, Marlon Byrd has a 1.306 OPS against Haren and has two doubles and a triple over his career.
Current Mets vs. Dan Haren:
Dillon Gee is coming off a career outing in the Subway Series against the Yankees. He struck out 12 Yankee batters and pretty much single handedly willed the Mets to a 3-1 win and a sweep of their cross town rivals. Other than that, he has had a ho-hum type of season. He was working on a career season last year before it was cut short in July when he was informed by doctors that he had a blood clot that needed surgery. At the time of the diagnosis, he had a 6-7 record and a 4.10 ERA, but he was at 100 percent when he reported to Mets Spring Training this year and reacquired his place in the rotation. However, Gee is a guy that has a perennially high WHIP and this season it has risen to 1.579, which is a big concern for the Mets organization because teams are always threatening to score when Gee is on the bump.
Gee relies on his command an arsenal of pitches that keep batters guessing. He throws a fastball (89-91 mph), changeup (82-84 mph), slider (80-82 mph) and curveball (73-75 mph). His fastball lacks velocity and none of his other pitches are considered a dominant secondary pitch. He has seen some success in the past because he will throw all of his pitches to any batter, at any time, so preparing to face him can be difficult. He also has a penchant for allowing fly balls, instead of grounders, which gets him in to trouble, as well as his high BB/9 ratio.
Gee has started seven games against the Nats and has come away with four victories and only one loss. His 2.93 ERA against the Nats is much lower than his career average and during his last outing against them on April 21 he went 5.2 IP and only allowed three hits and no earned runs. No member of the Nationals lineup has done particularly well against Gee in the past. Desmond has fared the best against him with a 9.04 OPS and 2 homeruns in 19 plate appearances.
Current Nationals vs. Dillon Gee:
Game 60: Thursday, June 6, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Gio Gonzalez (3-5, 2.54 ERA) vs. Shaun Marcum (0-6, 5.71 ERA)
Word from the Nationals’ clubhouse is that there is a possibility that Stephen Strasburg could start in the series finale against the Mets. However, according to almost every medical expert who has weighed in on the situation has explained that there is a very, very, very small chance that this will happen. Against the Braves last Friday, Strasburg lasted only two innings before he was seen grimacing by the trainers and pulled from the game. It was determined that he had a Gade 1 right lateral muscle strain. In the case that Strasburg does not start, Gio could start on short rest or it is expected that Ross Detwiler, who has been cleared to come off the disabled list could take him spot in the rotation.
If Strasburg can go, the Mets should be worried (let’s face it, most every team should be worried when it comes to Strasburg). Strasburg has squared off against the Mets on four separate occasions and has come away with a 2-1 record and 1.88 ERA. In 24.0 IP he has only allowed 15 hits, while striking out 31 batters. In his only outing against the Mets this season, he put the team in a position to win by pitching 6.0 innings and only giving up two earned runs. However fielding errors mixed with a lack of offense and a shaky bullpen produced a final score of 1-7. Ike Davis is one of the few batters in the majors that has seen recurring success against Stras. His 3.64 BA and two homeruns lead the team in both categories against Strasburg. However, Captain America, David Wright, is only batting .111 against him in nine plate appearances.
Edit: Stephen Strasburg was placed on the DL after this ran, Gio will start in his place
Current Mets vs. Gio Gonzalez:
Shaun Marcum throws more pitches than your average player. Most pitchers will have a primary pitch and then maybe one or two other pitches that help them mix it up and keep batters guessing, but not Shaun Marcum. Marcum sports six pitches that he throws on a regular basis: four-seam fastball (86-89 mph), two-seam fastball (84-87), cutter (84-87 mph), changeup (79-81 mph), slider (79-81 mph) and a curveball (71-73 mph). His changeup is by far his best pitch. It has good sink to it and he heavily relies on it when he gets behind in the count. He never throws his two-seam fastball to right-handed hitters, but he likes to use his cutter and breaking pitches against them. Marcum will not throw his slider to lefties. This season, his H/9 has risen to 10.1, compared to his career average of 8.3, which is also nothing to be impressed with.
Marcum has started two games against the Nats in his career and come away with a 1-0 record and a 2.77 ERA. However, in those two starts he has also given up three homeruns. As a tem the Nationals only have 32 plate appearances against Marcum, but both LaRoche and Zimmerman have hit homers off him. Denard Span, who the Nats rely on to get on base has never done so against Marcum. Span has stepped in against him six times and has come up empty in ever appearance.
Current Nationals vs Shaun Marcum:
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