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State of the Nats: Heating up

Jun 22, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

Jun 21, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Top storylines:

Strasburg likely to return this week  The Nationals won’t say it, but all signs point to Stephen Strasburg making his return from the disabled list this week against the Atlanta Braves, likely on Tuesday. Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper both mentioned Strasburg’s return after Sunday’s game, but the Nats said they do not plan to confirm anything until today or on Tuesday morning.

Strasburg has worked up to 80 pitches in a bullpen session after throwing 71 in a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg last Wednesday. Before Strasburg’s most recent bullpen, Matt Williams said this about his next step, if he came out healthy:

“There’s no reason he couldn’t go to 95 and get in a big league game and do that.”

Strasburg has not appeared in a big league game since May 29 when he left in the second inning with a strained left trapezius muscle. He has been out over three weeks, but is almost certain to be back on Tuesday, and if not Tuesday then some day this week.

Are the Nats about to go on another tear? – The Nationals have been a streaky team this year, that much has certainly been established. They began the season 7-13 before going 21-6 in their next 27 games. Then they went 3-10 in their next 13 and the sky was falling down.

Well, look at their last nine games. The Nationals have won six of their last nine with just about every aspect of their roster rounding into form. The Nats this year have either been great or terrible. When they lose, they can’t hit or pitch and their defense makes mistakes you normally do not see in the majors. But when they start rolling, few teams can match their firepower both at the plate and on the mound.

The Nationals’ pitching staff dominated the Pirates over the weekend and their offense have averaged 6.3 runs per game over their last 10. Has the tide turned? Are they about to reel off another magical run like they had in May?

Braves coming to town – The Nationals have not seen the Atlanta Braves since May 10 – a span of six weeks – but on Tuesday they come to Washington for a three-game series. The Braves have been hovering at or around the .500 mark as one of the more pedestrian teams in baseball this season, but they are coming off a three-game sweep of the New York Mets. It was a sweep that helped out the Nationals, who are now in first place with a three-game winning streak of their own.

The Braves are 10-10 in the month of June, as they’ve continue to stay on a .500 course. But their offense has been noticeably improved this month. They rank second in the NL this month with 92 runs through 20 games. Freddie Freeman – who already kills the Nats – has been on fire in June with .328 average, five homers and 15 RBI in 16 games. He has, though, missed four straight games with a sore wrist and may or may not play in the upcoming series. Jace Peterson (.319 BA, 10 RBI) and Cameron Maybin (.347 BA, 13 RBI) have also been playing very well for Atlanta.

After taking care of Pittsburgh, the Nationals’ pitching staff could get another worthy test this week in the Braves. The Nats allowed on three runs in three games to the Pirates, while the Braves have scored five or more runs in 14 of their 20 games in June.

NL East Standings


Offensive game of the week: Wilson Ramos 6/16 vs. Rays – 2-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, SF

Pitching game of the week: Max Scherzer 6/20 vs. Pirates – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, HBP, 10 SO. 106 pitches, 82 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Scherzer on throwing a no-hitter the day before Father’s Day with his dad in town to watch:

“That’s what my dad wanted. He doesn’t want a tie. I gave him a no-hitter, so he was pretty happy.”

Tweet of the week:

Road ahead

TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (TBA)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Zimmermann)
THU – 4:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Fister)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Scherzer)
SAT – 3:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Gonzalez)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (TBA)

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    From my vantage point all I could see was a fog that seemed to engulf the dugout area around Scherzer. What was that in the air?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      IDK, did you mist up a little? It was pretty special.

    • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:49 AM

      I wondered about that too. A chemical reaction of Gatorade and chocolate sauce?

  2. paulfortier - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    The Nationals should put SS in the bullpen and keep Ross in the rotation.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:20 PM

      This is “flavor of the day” thinking that just doesn’t hold up in a cold, calculating baseball world. Three good starts (well, two good starts and one OK one) do not a career make. How many times have we seen rookies get off to a hot start – and then the league gets a book on them? Three good starts do not wipe out 3+ good seasons of work by the five guys in the starting rotation. Or 2+ good seasons in the case of the #6 guy Roark. If you’re trying to figure out who’s going to be good in the next start, statistical projections work better than relying solely on recent data.

      Also, “Stras to the ‘pen” ignores the human factor and, probably more importantly, asks for Strasburg to do something he’s never done as a professional (it’s unclear how fast his warmup routine would be, for example) and ignores the fact that over his career his numbers improve as the game goes along, pretty much up through the 7th inning. If a pitcher’s first couple of innings are his worst, putting him in the bullpen seems counterintuitive.

      Because Ross has done so well and because the Nats have had issues with starter health, the team would be best served keeping him stretched out and ready to step back into the rotation at need. So I’d send him down to keep him starting – just in case.

    • naterialguy - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:14 PM

      Because he handles high stress situations and unpredictability so well?

  3. jd - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Again I am going to take a contrarian stance here. I think this is absolutely the perfect time to return Ross to the minors if the plan was for him to go back at all. Why wait until he has a less then great outing when you can send him back feeling good about himself? You can tell him: ‘Joe you did a great job and we now know that we can count on you in the near future and sooner rather than later you will come back to stay’. There are spots opening up due to impending free agency and it’s great that we have someone like Ross in the wings.

    • alexva6 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:22 AM


      if SS is healthy enough to pitch then he is one of your starters.

    • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      I agree jd, and that’s probably what’s going to happen. All the fans’s wishing in the world is not going to lead to Stras or Gio or Fister or JZ going to the bullpen. Ross has been great. But he’s not going to displace one of our 1-5 starters if they are all healthy.

      • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:54 AM

        That is what is probaly going to happen altho Rizzo could suprize.

  4. jd - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:33 AM


    From the previous post. You are talking about Rizzo planning for the future and then in the same thought you are encouraging to deplete the one are which is likely to get further depleted by free agency. How is that helping the team?

    In his comment ghost at least suggested that we sign JZimm to an extension as part of his recommendation to trade Gio. That at least makes a little sense although I am quite certain that JZimm is very committed to testing free agency at this stage, if we couldn’t sign him in the off season I seriously doubt we can sign him now, in fact trading JZimm makes more sense than trading Gio.

    In addition to all of that I don’t really see why we need Chapman.If you want areas to worry about you can worry about the organizations lack of prospects at 1st base and at the corner outfield.

    • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      You act like Rizzo will do nothing about replacing JZ and Fister. Gio is a #5 and could easily be replaced unless you believe he will bounce back to Ace form.

      By the way, I disagree with your reasoning why Clippard was traded. I think becuz Rizzo could get 3 years of a cost-controlled Escobar for 1 year of Clippard and nothing to do with payroll:

      “4) The Nats traded Clippard because he was too expensive as a set up man, why go for an equally expensive Aroldis Chapman?”

      • adcwonk - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:11 PM

        You act like Rizzo will do nothing about replacing JZ and Fister

        Roark and Ross?

      • jd - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:15 PM

        So let’s see. Rizzo is tasked with replacing 2 starting pitchers (which as you say he will) and your proposal is to create a 3rd hole while he’s at it. Makes sense I guess.

      • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:34 PM

        Its a #5 starter. Easy to get. Gio is statistically by ERA and WHIP before yesterday one of the worst starters in baseball. Today he is 99th in ERA and has jumper over dozens of starters including Fister. His 1.49 WHIP does tie him for 133rd in the Majors just ahead of Strasburg and some DFA’d starters and Rookies who were optioned back to the Minors.

        If you think thats good, I have some swamp land to sell you.

      • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:26 PM


        Yes, Roark, Tanner and Ross, Joe for starters as I pointed out in my previous post that jd was refering to. If Rizzo decides to trade Gio or Strasburg, there are many other starters who will be available for Free Agency or Trade in the off-season.

        Also I dont think you trade JZ as you get a guaranteed Draft Pick when he leaves and you then get his full services to keep him and yes like many expect him to be as nasty as he was down the stretch last year. I dont think they extend JZ but time will tell if they can do it after the season ends. Dont ever underestimate Rizzo and Ted Lerner.

        My feeling is you dont change your mind on Gio just becuz he made 1 very good start. Hes a #5 pitcher here and very tradeable for a sizeable package to fill the obvious holes. His value probaly went up after yesterday.

        With Werth and RZ playing near Mendoza and having den Dekker who is not a replacement alternative as your 25th man and a chance to bolster the bullpen and possibly get a LF and not count on Werth I could see some reason to dangle Gio or Strasburg.

        I have trust in Rizzo that in the end it doesnt matter what any of us say but I am always encouraged by a few posters here who put it on the line from there ideas and tend to make sense.

      • jd - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:25 PM


        So let’s look at Gio more closely:

        1) WAR = 1.5 (3rd on the team).
        2) XFip = 3.50 in line with career numbers
        3) BABIP = .354 – very unlucky because career BABIP is .292
        4) Left handed and earning ab average of 8 mil a year.

        You also said that one good start shouldn’t fool us but in the same thought you mentioned that his stock will have risen due to yesterday’s good performance. How stupid do you think other baseball executives are?

      • nats128 - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:26 AM

        WAR at 1.5? Not a chance that has any reality in it but I hope other GMs buy that cow’s milk!

        He has been one of the culprits in killing in the bullpen simultaneously with Strasburg at a time they needed Gio to step up.

        Some pitchers BABIPs are high becuz they miss pitches badly. I dont see many cheapie hits off of Gio. Sorry.

  5. paulfortier - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    We don’t need Chapman if we have Strasburg in the bullpen. Try Stras in the bp for two weeks.

    • rlndtln - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      Stras is a head case to begin with.The bullpen would be the final straw.Chapman is exactly what we do need.

      • paulfortier - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:31 PM

        Yeah. I agree. Stras is a head case. That is one of the reason why he should be in the bullpen for, at least, the next couple of weeks. The more he think about what he is doing, the more he makes it more complicated. That why I see him in the bullpen. In the bullpen, he doesn’t have five days between each appearance. There is a surprise factor in the bullpen that could help him not to think much. In the bullpen, he’ll be free to throw 100 mph fastball and blow the hitter out, regain confidence, etc.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      As Thermal John pointed out when I spitballed that idea a few weeks ago, Strasburg has never pitched out of the bullpen, he has a subpar first inning often enough to be a problem if he’s only pitching one inning, and he was one of the best starters in the National League last season, and over the past several. All good points. Plus, if he is indeed a tempermental personality (“head case” if you’re being mean-spirited) (and FTR I don’t think he’s that bad), then a demotion to the bullpen would probably not help matters.

      Plus, they’ve already got Roark out there because they have too many starters for five spots, so now you’re bypassing BOTH guys, both of whom had excellent seasons last year, for some flash-in-the-pan rookie nobody heard of before last month? Wave buh-bye to the clubhouse on your way out.

  6. Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    To: Nats Pitchers
    From: Nats Fans
    Re: Advice for Upcoming Series vs. Atlanta

    You saw what happened to the Pirates when they pitched to Bryce. Do not give Freddie Freeman anything to hit. If you have to walk him, walk him.

    Thank you.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      To: Nats Fans
      From: Nats Pitchers
      Reply to Re: Advice for the Upcoming Series vs. Atlanta

      You see what we did to McCutchen?

      • therealjohnc - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:22 PM

        +1! Well played!

        (although if Freeman plays – and the sight of a Curly W will probably make him feel better – caution would not be amiss)

      • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:01 PM

        I saw on the MLB Network crawl that Freddie Freeman injured himself.

      • nats128 - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:03 PM

        This sounds iffy to me whether he rests or goes on the DL

    • bowdenball - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:03 PM

      There’s a pretty good chance they’d have to miss the plate very badly to give Freddie Freeman something to hit. He didn’t play at all this weekend and he’s scheduled to undergo an MRI tomorrow and listed as doubtful for the game.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:12 PM

        That’s certainly good news. The rest of the Atlanta lineup isn’t too imposing. Although I think Freeman could hit at least .300 against the Nats, batting one-handed.

      • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:20 PM

        Not to dance on a grave or anything, but that’s outstanding. what’s wrong with him?

      • bowdenball - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        Sore right wrist. He hurt it last weekend but kept playing (he had MLB’s longest consecutive games played streak) and aggravated it mid-week. It sounded like a day to day thing over the weekend, he wasn’t ruled out until the lineups came out each day, but apparently it’s not improving and they’ve scheduled an MRI for tomorrow.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:04 PM


  7. bowdenball - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    “When they lose, they can’t hit …”

    I made this point in the comments on the last post, but this simply is not true. Or at least it’s no more true of the Nationals than it is of every team, because if you hit a lot you’re probably not going to lose.

    The Nats have gone through one two week scoring mini-slump, a 4 game slump and a 3 game slump. That’s pretty normal, and in fact only the middle slump really cost them as they went 0-4. They were 6-8 in the 14 game mini-slump and 2-1 in the three game slump. For the season they’ve been shut out only 4 times (by comparison the Mets have been shut out 7 times and the Braves 5 times).

    Bottom line, they lead the National League in runs scored, outpacing even the Rockies. You can’t go through prolonged offensive outages and still lead the league. It doesn’t happen.

    • adcwonk - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:33 PM

      bowdenball, bringing some perspective again . . . 😉

      How are the Nats scoring so many runs while compiling a BA that’s 7th in the NL? Well, SLG is 3rd highest in the NL. Another reason — believe it or not — timely hitting. Nats are batting .258, but batting .266 with RISP.

      • bowdenball - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:59 PM

        Power, timely hitting, and I believe they are also at or near the NL lead in “productive outs”. I bet that would also come as a bit of a surprise to most Nats fans.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:34 PM

      Now tell us the one about how they can’t beat ace pitchers, again.

      I love that one.

    • MurrayTheRed - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      Is that avatar Elijah Dukes? I liked him, but then I liked Tony Plush too. Elijah’s batting practice shots were something to see. Too bad his knees failed him.

  8. dryw4nats - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:35 PM

    FWIW, so far the offensive game of the week has gone to Bryce six times and the pitching game of the week to Max 7. Espi and Fister are in second in their respective categories with two appearances each.

  9. 3on2out - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    Wilson’s 2 homers came off of position players. Not sure how to evaluate that. He was 0 for 3 against real pitchers that day. I might be tempted to nominate Danny’s 5 for 5.

    • Bruxtun - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      Danny’s 5 for 5 takes it for me, but what about Bryce’s game during the no-hitter? He delivered the only run we needed and when he did it felt like it could have held up the rest of the way. Ramos only hit against position players, can’t call that an offensive game of the anything for me. But it may have had the benefit of jump starting his bat since he’s looked good since then.

    • adcwonk - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      Espi got some of his 5-5 against position players also.

      Escobar, otoh, also went 5-5 last week (with a 2b, RBI, and R) in the 5-3 loss last Thrs night — but against all pitchers, some of them very tough (e.g., Chris Archer)

    • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      Esco had a 5 for 5 too, right?

  10. adcwonk - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    MLB Network analyst, former player Darryl Hamilton among 2 dead in domestic shooting near Houston

    • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 6:19 PM

      Oh that’s a shame. He seemed like a really good guy.

  11. adcwonk - Jun 22, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    Chris Sale (White Sox) had pitched 5 straight games of 12+ K’s. (!!) And only once did he finish the 8th inning.

    Over the five starts: 37.1 IP 17H, 3 ER, 65 K’s, 6 BB’s. ERA 0.72





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

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