I had an opportunity to write an article that Yahoo Contributor Network chose to publish where I discuss why I think it was more significant for the Nationals to get Wilson Ramos back in the lineup than it was to get Bryce Harper back. Give it a look:
WP – J. Lannan (2-3) LP – D. Haren (4-10)
S – J. Papelbon (19)
John Lannan, like most other left-handers this season, baffled the Washington Nationals for eight innings. He struck out four while scattering four hits and two walks to keep the Nationals scoreless.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the ninth and ran into the only challenge Nationals hitters posed on the night. He allowed Bryce Harper to single up the middle and a double to Ryan Zimmerman before Jayson Werth came up just a couple feet short of tying the game with a blast to centerfield. Both runners tagged, scoring Harper. Zimmerman scored on a sacrifice fly by Adam Laroche to center and with two outs pinch hitter Chad Tracy hit a little fly ball to center to end the game.
The Philadelphia Phillies scored early on Dan Haren, getting two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Haren again struggled with control, allowing one of the runs to score on a bases loaded walk. He allowed two or more base runners in three of the five innings he pitched.
The Phillies would add one more run in the bottom of the sixth against Fernando Abad on a single by Jimmy Rollins to center field. Ben Revere pestered Nationals pitching all night, going 3-for-5, with a stolen base and two runs scored.
The Nationals this season have had consistent problems with left-handed pitchers that throw a variety of off speed stuff. The biggest problem is that the Nationals hitters seem to fail to adjust in the batter’s box to be able to consistently hit the off speed pitch on the outside half of the plate with any power. Lannan induced fifteen ground balls from the Nationals tonight keeping them off balance on what pitch was coming all night.
Additional: The Nationals completed a trade with the Chicago Cubs today for Scott Hairston and a player to be named later for a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later.
The Nationals fall to 46-43 on the year, and 5-32 in games that they score less than three runs.
Robert Peterson lives in the Washington DC Metro area and has been covering the Nationals since the team moved to the area in 2005
WP – S. Strasburg (4-6) LP – R. Erlin (1-2)
On a sizzling afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a bases clearing grand slam to deep right center, scoring Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg to lead the Washington Nationals to a sweep of the San Diego Padres. Bryce Harper had three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases on the day. He had an opportunity to really do some damage in the bottom of the seventh, at bat with the bases loaded and two outs but hit a line drive to the centerfield to end the inning.
Stephen Strasburg picked up the win on a day when he struggled with control in the heat. He pitched six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out nine. Strasburg also hit three batters on the day on a day that he would need 110 pitches to get through six innings. Alexi Amarista hit a two run homerun for the most significant hit off of Strasburg. Strasburg limited most of the Padres other scoring came on little dinks and dunks, moving runners around.
The scoring started early for the Nationals with Bryce Harper singling home Denard Span in the bottom of the first inning. The big inning though was the bottom of the third, where the Nationals scored six runs on Zimmerman’s grand slam and Anthony Rendon hitting a two run homerun, scoring Jayson Werth. The Nationals would tack on four more in the bottom of the fifth on RBI singles from Rendon and Strasburg, along with a wild pitch that scored Harper and a groundout that brought Werth in to score.
The Padres would make a push to make the game close by scoring three more runs in the seventh and eighth off Craig Stammen. This is the third outing in a row that Stammen has had difficulty getting outs. He allowed two runs in the seventh on twelve pitches, all strikes. He failed to record an out in the eighth before being lifted for Drew Storen, who quickly put the Padres down in order. Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth to close out the win.
This is the Nationals first sweep of a series since a two game series against the Detroit Tigers back in the second week of May. The Nationals now take on the Philadelphia Phillies for a four game series.
The Nationals improve to 46-42, moving four games back of the Atlanta Braves, who lost to the Phillies. The Nationals are now 41-10 in games where they score at least three runs. Additional, it was announced that Ross Detwiler would be placed on the 15-Day DL.
Robert Peterson lives in the Washington DC Metro area and has been covering the Nationals since the team moved to the area in 2005.
WP – R. Ohlendorf (2-0) LP – N. Vincent (2-1)
S – R. Soriano (24)
Adam Laroche got the scoring started with a solo homerun in the bottom of the third inning for the Washington Nationals. Laroche went 2-for-4 for the day but arguably made a much more important contribution with his glove, robbing All-Star Everth Cabrera of a game-tying hit to get the last out with a great diving stop in the top of the ninth. Bryce Harper, announced as a starter for the All Star game today, also came up big at the plate going 1-for-2, with an RBI in three different at-bats on a walk with the bases loaded in the fourth, a single in the bottom of the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh. Harper also had a great diving catch in the outfield that saved a run from scoring.
Denard Span continues to improve his OBP as he went 2-for-3 with a walk. He also stole a base and scored two runs beginning to show what the Nationals expected when they obtained him from the Minnesota Twins before the season.
Jordan Zimmermann was attempting to be the first 13 game winner in the National League and went five and a third innings before being lifted for Ross Ohlendorf. Zimmermann (12-3) gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts on the day. The rumor is that Zimmermann is dealing with tightness in his neck, first noticed in his last start, both of which have been his shortest of the year thus far. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and Zimmermann can make his next scheduled start before the All Star game.
Ohlendorf had what is probably his worst outing as a National to date, allowing a three run homerun to Jesus Guzman in his first batter. He clamped down after that and closed out the inning with no more damage and would also pitch the seventh allowing no one else to score. The Nationals would score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to give Ohlendorf the win. This is the second time in three games where a reliever gave up a three run homerun to cost a starter a win, only to end up the winning pitcher.
The Padres starter was Jason Marquis, a former National, who pitched six innings giving up three runs on eight hits, three walks and three strikeouts. He escaped several jams early on, especially in the bottom of the third when the Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs but only managed one run.
Drew Storen had a great outing, retiring the Padres in order on five pitches which had to feel good after two consecutive challenging outings. Rafael Soriano had to overcome some interesting drama to get his 24th save. Soriano allowed two base runners to advance to second and third with two outs before getting Cabrera to ground out to Laroche.
The Nationals improve to three games over .500 at 45-42, and are now 40-10 in games that they score more than three runs.
Robert Peterson lives in the Washington DC Metro area and has been covering the Nationals since the team moved to the area in 2005.
WP – G. Gonzalez (6-3) LP – A. Cashner
S – R. Soriano (23)
The Washington Nationals had a great team effort tonight to beat the San Diego Padres 8 to 5. Gio Gonzalez pitched six and two thirds, giving up three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts. He seemed to have trouble early on controlling his pitches but he settled down and gave the Nationals another solid performance. The Nationals’ hitters were able to get to the Padres starter early and often, led by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. Werth went 3-for-4 with one RBI, while Ramos went 2-for-4 with three RBI’s. Denard Span continued to improve on his numbers, going 2-for-5 and two RBI’s as well.
The Padres were led by Carlos Quentin, who hit a three run homerun off of Craig Stammen in the top of the seventh, who gave up two runs and allowed an inherited runner to score on the homerun. The Padres also got runs in the first and third. In the first inning, Chase Headley hit a ground rule double off Gonzalez, scoring Chris Denorfia. In the third, Headley homered to deep left field.
Bryce Harper continued to struggle, going 0-for-4, with a sacrifice fly RBI in the second inning. Davey Johnson after the game discussed how he will likely give Harper the next couple games off to clear his head, as he is 1-for-18, with a homerun and two RBI’s since returning from the disabled list on July 1st.
The Nationals were well below their season average on strikeouts with only three on the night, so this helped to move runners around. The Nationals have improved their team batting average from .232 to .238 over the last six games with their recent hitting improvement.
The Nationals improve to 44-42, and 39-10 in games where they score at least three runs.
WP – D. Storen (3-2) LP – T. Gorzellany (1-1)
S – R. Soriano (22)
Wilson Ramos has been missing from the Washington Nationals lineup since May 16th. He returned with a bang, hitting a game winning three run homerun in the bottom of the seventh inning along with a two run single in the sixth, giving him 5 RBIs for the day. Taylor Jordan had a great effort in his pursuit of his first win, pitching five and two thirds innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He was in line for the win as he left the game, unfortunately the bullpen couldn’t keep the lead. This is the second solid performance from Jordan since getting called up from AA with Dan Haren on the disabled list.
Tom Gorzellany, a former National, took the loss this Independence Day for the Brewers, as he pitched the sixth and seventh innings, giving up the homerun to Ramos. He also allowed two runners inherited from Burke Badenhop to score. The Brewers starter, Donovan Hand gave up five runs on five innings pitched before yielding to Badenhop.
Besides Ramos, who went 3-4 at the plate, Ian Desmond, Adam Laroche and Jayson Werth all had multi-hit games. The Nationals need to find a way to consistently deliver this kind of performance at the plate to be able to catch the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Ian Desmond also stole two bases in this game giving him a team leading 10 stolen bases for the year.
This is the first time in over a month that the Nationals have had what they would consider their whole lineup back for a game, so hopefully with the return of Ramos this team can win more of the games they are supposed to. It was apparent with today’s performance how much of a difference Ramos is at the plate over Kurt Suzuki.
The Brewers have consistently fought their way back into games this series, this time coming back from a 5-2 deficit with homeruns from Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez off Drew Storen in the seventh inning. That brought the total runs given up by Storen to seven over the last two innings pitched, compounding the inconsistency from the Nationals bullpen that has plagued them all season. Ramos came to Storen’s rescue in the bottom of the inning with his homerun to put the Nationals in the lead for good.
Bryce Harper continues to struggle since his return. His first at bat back from injury was a homerun but Harper has gone 0-for-15 since then. Opposing pitchers seem to be pitching Harper strictly away, using breaking balls and off speed pitches to keep Harper from pulling the ball.
The win today gave the Nationals a split of this four game series, and brought their season record to 43-42. The Nationals improve to 38-10 when they score more than three runs.
WP – K. Lohse (4-6) LP – R. Detwiler (2-7)
S – F. Rodriguez (7)
The Washington Nationals hitting malaise continues to haunt them this season, as they managed only five hits against the Milwaukee Brewers’ Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez in a disheartening effort all around. This team prides itself on its ability to remain even keeled whether winning or losing, but that even keeled is beginning to come across as lack of passion, as several Nationals had effortless at bats. This team doesn’t seem to have an answer to why it cant consistently hit the ball or advance runners, especially early in the game.
Kyle Lohse pitched eight great innings, striking out seven as he helped the Brewers take a second game in this series. There were a couple of outstanding fielding plays behind him especially Carlos Gomez robbing Bryce Harper of an extra base hit on his second at bat.
Ross Detwiler provided six solid innings of work, giving up four runs but only two earned over that time. The damage was done in the fifth inning, when Sean Halton and Logan Schafer both scored on a Norichika Aoki single that got by the drawn in infield. In the sixth, the Brewers got two additional runs that scored after Bryce Harper made an error in left field on a line drive that he seemed to lose in the lights. Logan Schafer tripled to drive in Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy after the Harper error.
The four runs would be all Kyle Lohse needed as he baffled Nationals hitters all night other than a solo homerun given up to Anthony Rendon, who continues to hit with power consistently since his call up last month from the minors. Rendon also had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning but came up just short on a drive to center field off Rodriguez. He finished the game 1-for-4 and his season average now sits at .312 with 2 HR and 9 RBI.
The biggest problem for the Nationals is that the top five batters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-19 in this game. That’s a whopping .052 average for the night. The Washington Nationals are going to have to do something to correct these hitting woes that consistently plague this team. It might take Davey Johnson losing his calm cool demeanor with this team or making a drastic change to the lineup. It might even require changing the hitting coach at this point.
I won’t claim to have the answer but if this trend continues much longer Johnson’s prophetic “World Series or Bust” will most likely be a bust. This team now sits seven games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and six back in the wild-card standings, behind the St Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds.
The Nationals are now 42-42, and fall to 5-32 in games where they score fewer than three runs.
WP – J. Henderson (3-2) LP – D. Storen (2-2)
Stephen Strasburg threw seven strong innings, scattering three hits, and striking out eight. His record remains at 4-6 but he improves his season ERA to 2.24. He escaped one jam in the sixth inning, allowing the Milwaukee Brewers to get the bases loaded with only one out, partially due to another atypical error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Strasburg was able to strike out the next two batters though to end the inning.
Drew Storen proceeded to implode in the top of the eighth, allowing four runs. He gave up back to back singles to Logan Schafer and Rickie Weeks before allowing both runners to score on a double by Juan Francisco. Francisco came in to score on a play ruled a double by Martin Maldonado. The ball was well hit but Bryce Harper in his second game back from injury should have caught the ball as it tipped off the top of his glove. Jeff Bianchi singled to left to score Maldonado which ended up being the last run of the night.
The Nationals looked as if they were going to get things started early, as they had two runners in scoring position in the first and another in the second but were unable to capitalize once again. The see saw nature of the Nationals offense this year was on full display, going from 23 runs in the last two games to a complete shutout.
Wily Peralta pitched an outstanding ballgame for the Brewers, going five and a third innings of shutout pitching before having to leave with an apparent injury sustained throwing a pitch to Ryan Zimmerman. He attempted a second pitch after the initial pain throwing off the mound. He seemed to have something wrong with his hip but I am sure the team will release details at a later time. The Brewers bullpen pitched a solid three and two thirds inning to complete the shutout.
The Nationals looked like they might have one last hope of getting back into the game as Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon singled back to back to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, but the rally ended there with Kurt Suzuki watching strike three, pinch hitter Roger Bernadina struck out swinging and Denard Span hit a weak line drive to the shortstop.
Span, Rendon and Zimmerman each had two hits apiece in this losing effort but the team couldn’t put the hits together to get anything more done
The Nationals continued their inability to avoid the strikeout themselves, giving eight outs back without putting the ball in play. Surprisingly the Nationals are only middle of the pack in this category at almost eight per game, not even coming close to the league leading Detroit Tigers who strikeout almost 9.2 times per game.
The Nationals fall to 42-41 overall, and 5-31 in games that they score less than three runs.
Nationals 10, Brewers 5
WP J. Zimmermann (12-3) LP: Y. Gallardo (6-8)
Tonight marked the return of Bryce Harper, who wasted no time in announcing his return, smacking the second pitch for his 13th home run of the year. Harper had been out for the last 31 games due to a lingering knee injury. He showed no holdups running the bases, so now we will see how the knee reacts to his first game back.
This was just the beginning for the sluggish Washington offense as they continued some momentum from the game Sunday night where they pounded the New York Mets 13-2, pounding out five runs in the third inning that started with a double from starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who went 3-3 from the plate, while also pitching six innings, giving up four runs. You have to wonder if all the base running took a little out of the Nat’s starter, who is now leading the National League in wins as we approach the all-star game, as he typically goes a bit farther into games.
This two game explosion of 23 runs on 26 hits is a breath of fresh air for a team that has been batting .232 as a team. Jayson Werth really seemed to enjoy the move back to the two spot in the order, delivering five RBI’s on a 2-for-5 night. Ryan Zimmerman also contributed a couple RBI’s bringing his season total to 43, second on the team to Ian Desmond, who also knocked in one, giving him 49 for the season so far. This was plenty of offense to allow the bullpen to close things out. It was a combination of Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Fernando Abad to finish off the last three innings.
It was good to see the Nationals take one step closer to being a full roster again. Speculation is that catcher Wilson Ramos, the last remaining starter on the Disabled List, may return as early as Thursday for the 11 am game against the Brewers on the 4th of July. It will be interesting to see the lineup that Davey Johnson chooses to employ once Ramos returns.
At least for this night it all seemed to click for the Nationals who are now 26-19 when Harper plays, and 37-10 when they score more than three runs. Let’s hope that the Nationals can deliver a string of wins over these next thirteen games against the next four teams, all of which currently have losing records. It could go a long way to brining them back into contention with the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.