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Despite injuries, Nats feel good heading into second half

Jul 17, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today

In first place in the NL East with a two-game lead on the New York Mets, the Nationals are where many predicted they would be at the midway point of the 2015 season. That is despite an inordinate amount of injuries up and down their roster that began in spring training and persist as the team gets set to begin the second half of their regular season schedule.

Denard Span has been on and off the disabled list. Anthony Rendon has appeared in just 18 of the team’s 87 games. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth have both been out for much of the season. Craig Stammen and Reed Johnson were lost for the year. Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg have each spent time on the DL. And their bullpen has been hampered by everything from right shoulder tendinitis to a gastrointestinal bleed.

It hasn’t been easy for them to stay afloat through all of it and they certainly hope for better health moving forward. But still, they are in first place.

I think given the way our season has gone with all the injuries, we can’t argue with where we’re at right now,” Dan Uggla said. “It’s kind of where we expected to be. We’d like a few more games up on the Mets, but we’re here right now. We’ve put ourselves in a good position for the second half.”

It’s certainly been challenging, given the circumstances,” Mike Rizzo said. “I like the way the team has played. I think we play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. We have had guys step up to perform. We’re just trying to take each game individually and win as many games as we can. The plan is to try and get our regulars back in as soon as possible, but the bench players have played admirably. They’re the reason we are where we’re at right now.”

Rizzo will have a busy next few weeks with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline on the horizon. The Nationals are doing their best to evaluate the roster with so many key components sidelined on the disabled list.

We’re going to approach the deadline like we do every deadline. If we find a need and an opportunity to improve ourselves, we’ve certainly showed that we’ve been aggressive in the past,” Rizzo explained.

“We think we’re a good team. We’re certainly not a perfect team. We have evaluated ourselves. We’re meeting with our professional scouts in the upcoming days, and we’ll put a battle plan together and see what we’re looking to do and what strengthens us and what makes us a better team moving forward.”

Rizzo downplays the significance of the Nats’ injuries, even when reminded of how injury-prone his roster has been for several years in a row.

“Injuries happen. It’s part of the game. That’s why you have a 40-man roster, that’s why you build depth in the organization. The best organizations have the best depth,” he said.

“I think we know what we have when all the players are healthy and playing. We can’t dwell on them not being here. We’re not thinking and talking about the guys that we don’t have. We’re thinking and talking about the guys that are here and playing for us.”

The Nationals have a two-game lead on the New York Mets, but New York has won four straight and seven of their last nine. They have the pitching to compete with anyone and are expected by many to be among the most aggressive teams ahead of the trade deadline, most likely to add pop to their lineup.

The Nats will certainly not take the Mets lightly in the second half.

Any time you’re in first place, it’s always a good feeling. But we respect every other team in our division,” Max Scherzer said. “They’re going to compete with us in the second half. The Mets won’t go away, they’ve got great young pitching. They’re going to be nipping at our tails the whole rest of the season. Just because we’re in first place doesn’t mean we get to coast from here on out. [Two] games can be erased in less than a week, it can be erased in a series, actually.”

Scherzer joined the Nationals after four straight years winning the AL Central division with the Detroit Tigers. He has pitched in the ALCS three different years and has World Series experience. He knows what it takes and believes the Nationals are on the right track.

“We just gotta go out and keep playing as well as we can. I know how talented we are. I know we have some guys getting close getting into form and coming back from the DL, that should help. We just gotta worry about ourselves. We can’t worry about anyone else. We gotta focus on our selves and if we do that, I’m confident that we can accomplish our goals,” he said.

  1. natsjackinfl - Jul 17, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    I’m hoping for a great start after the break. So much so that I’m going to all 3 games. Hope to see some NI buddies. I’ll be in my usual right field 233/235 section tonight but in the club seats (220) Saturday and Sunday. GYFNG!

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:00 AM

      I’m going Saturday. I go to at least 1 game a week, if I can.

      I will be in Sec 129 (?) with my dad…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:03 AM

        Nice seats Mrs B. The thought of you and NatsJack together and the whole space/time continuum thing would be good for the Nats future 😉

        Talking of great starts to the 2nd half, it’s like playoff baseball with the Dodgers, Mets, and Pirates all lining up their best rotations.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:07 AM

        Yeah I said I was going to meet up with the group next time everyone goes to a game. I keep forgetting to log it on the spreadsheet. And then I get last minute tix to games all the time and just go after work…

        Yeah we have a sexy stretch of games coming. Its like October is here already… I just wish we had the full arsenal but patience is needed… Glad to read that Jason started playing with the Pnats yesterday. Hoping to hear good news on Rendon next.

        Are you coming back to the East Coast before the season ends?

    • rayvil01 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      I’m going tonight. Section 314.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:23 AM

      I’ll be in 311 on Saturday, would be fun to cross paths!

  2. NatsLady - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    Only able to go on Sunday, but will be following whenever there is wifi on airplanes… Go NATS!!!

  3. exposremains - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    Anybody think that it was the Dodgers strategy to state their rotation..wait for Nats to do it and then change it for matchups..

    • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      Yes.

    • bowdenball - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      That seems a little tin foil hat-y to me. They’re throwing the same three guys at the Nats. However much they improved their odds of a win on Saturday, they reduced their odds of a win on Friday by exactly the same amount.

      • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:04 AM

        -1 +1

        😉

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:20 AM

        I agree with Bball here. I think it probably has more to do with giving Kershaw an extra day coming out of the all star game, nothing more.

  4. chaz11963 - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    Don’t forget to add Barrett and Janssen to the injury list. Not that it would likely matter that much, but McLouth as well.

    • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      It mattered in that we had to get a replacement for him (den Dekker).

    • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:04 AM

      and Stammen

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      Nice of you to think of McLouth as part of the team.

      I just think of him as a financial black hole.

      • natsjackinfl - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:19 AM

        That’s why the team carries their own injury insurance. Only costing them a portion of his salary.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        Good point.

        I’d be fascinated to read about the economics of that–not in terms of McL or any other specific player, but in general what the market and prices for those policies are like.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:08 AM

        Insurance companies are in the business of making money and they are expensive and not all teams do it on short term players. I wouldnt expect that the Nats had insurance on Mclouth as 100% certain.

  5. Doc - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    Maybe in a tougher division, the Nats would not look so good.

    But I like how these guys have struggled through it all. MW probably deserves some credit for his mixing and matching.

    Time for Ramos and Desmond to step up to the plate. I’m not that optimistic about RZim and JDub making some returning contributions.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      Nats are lucky BOTH to be in a weak division AND to have their main competition also hit hard by injuries. If either of those weren’t true, hard to see them leading the division.

      As for Werth and Zim – with the trade deadline approaching, Rizzo needs to have some idea what to expect from them, and whether he needs to look for help at those positions.

      Werth began his rehab assignment last night – 1-2 for PNats – and so Rizzo should have some kind of read on him (and I am more optimistic than you). With Zim – honestly, who knows??

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        HH.

        I am with you. I think Werth will be ok and also I don’t mind Taylor filling in for Werth, say what you want about him, he’s certainly not intimidated by situations.

        I also share your concern about RZim, hence I have pushing for Adam Lind.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:46 AM

        jd – I hope we’re right!

        I think people forget, or just don’t appreciate, how incredibly good Werth has been over the past couple of years. Among qualifying NL OFers over 2013-14, he was 3d in BA, 2d in OBP, and 5th in SLG. For those who like the fancier metrics, he was 3d in wRC+–1 pt ahead of Giancarlo.

        Is he going to come back 100%? Probably not, due to age and injury and (at least at first), just plain rust.

        But if healthy, even a somewhat diminished Werth would be a great shot in the arm. And MAT is always handy as a defensive replacement late in the game.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        HH – The weak division thing is becoming bull at this point in the season. The NL Central is stacked but the NL East appears to be just as competitive as the NL West and more than the AL East.

        The Mets are not going away any time soon and if they upgrade at the trade deadline look out.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        People also forget how good Werth has been in the postseason and unfortunately was playing the 2014 postseason with 1 arm.

        Who do I want batting with a game on the line in the postseason out of Taylor, CRob and Werth?

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        128

        When you say the “weak division thing” is bull, I think what you really mean is that it’s no excuse for complacency.

        I agree, of course, and never suggested otherwise.

        The Nats should be happy with what they’ve been able to accomplish but need to put it in context. Much of their success has come against the non-contenders of the NL, against whom the Nats are a combined 19-12. Against the rest of baseball, they barely over .500, at 29-27. Put another way, the Nats have had the 2d easiest schedule in all of baseball to this point.

      • Bruxtun - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:25 AM

        Re: strength of schedule

        A strong team’s schedule will always be easier than a weaker team’s schedule because the strong team does not have to play itself.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:26 AM

        Hiram, the record that you just mentioned was essentially the blueprint for the Yankees during their dynasty years from 1936-1964: split with the contenders, pummel the scrubs. Having a record a 29-27 record against the teams other than the non-contenders, despite missing four of their top five hitters for much of the season, is to me an indicator of strength – not weakness.

    • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:45 AM

      Did you know Ramos is 2nd on the team in RBIs only behind Bryce Harper?

      Ramos has 10 more RBIs than Danny Espinosa and has done that in 9 fewer games. Ramos is on a 90 RBI pace adjusted to 162 games

      Ramos in 2 out RISP spots .317/.333/.415/.748 and overall in RISP is .300+, and leads the Majors in man on 2nd only situations .478/.500/.652/1.152

      The problem is hes batting .219 with nobody on base and seems to be in a quick swing and get back to the dugout quickly. It drives me crazy and thats where he has to improve.

      Desmond is a problem and you just neutralize it by batting him further back in the order.

  6. jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    Yesterday, Joe Ross threw 5 shutout innings and only 54 pitches but came out, I wonder why. I would love to see him back in the rotation until Stras returns. The more I think about the more I become convinced that Ross will be in the 2016 rotation.

    • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      I would love to think they are now pacing his innings for more meaningful baseball.

    • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:54 AM

      The more I think about the more I become convinced that Ross will be in the 2016 rotation.

      Yep — first impression is: Ross and Roark replacing JZ and Fister.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        Is it any question at this point?

        Im most worried about Tanner Roark who seems like a shadow of his former self. Roark was a pitcher who was effective with pinpoint location on his fastballs and movement on his breaking pitch and he unfortunately leads the Nats staff (min 20 innings) with HR/9 at 1.5 per complete game.

      • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:52 AM

        I think when Roark gets back into a regular routing (pitching every 5th turn) he’ll also get back to his regular self.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        I hope your right. A routine shouldnt effect your pitch location and movement on breaking pitches. Roark flipflopped in 2013 between the bullpen and starting rotation so this is nothing new.

    • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:48 AM

      Maybe they were just getting some guys a couple of innings apiece after the break?

      from the gamer.

      Four Chiefs pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout on Thursday night. Ross allowed only two hits over five innings while striking out three. Matt Grace came in next, giving up two hits and striking out one in two innings of work. Rafael Martin replaced Grace to pitch a perfect eighth inning, striking out two in the process. Finally, Jose Valverde secured the save, throwing a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout.

  7. rayvil01 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    Just got a text from MLB Insider: “Dodgers in for Hamels or Cuedo.”

    Ever since George Steinbrenner died, the Dodgers are more like the Yankees than the Yankees are.

    • micksback1 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      agreed about Dodgers. That si why i wonder if nats and Phillies could do business for Hamels

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        Hard to imagine the Phillies trading a player of that caliber within the division. Also, from everything I’ve read, the Phillies continue to seek an overpay for Mr. Hamels. In retrospect, Mike Rizzo has overpaid for a couple of players, but he generally won’t do it up front.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      The Dodgers are convinced that they need a 3rd ace. Good luck because both Hamels and Cueto have their own set of issues.

      It’s also time for Greinke to fallback to earth.

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        Ghost,

        The Dodgers do need more pitching. I think Hamels if motivated can be a very dangerous weapon for them. I’d take Cueto also in a heartbeat issues and all. Greinke won’t ens the season with the ridiculous ERA he has but he is still an excellent pitcher.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:11 AM

        Yes and yes and yes.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        For the Dodgers, picking up Hamels is also likely a way of avoiding to have to sign Greinke to a long term extension. Greinke can opt out of his deal this year, and probably gets a 5-6 year deal in free agency. While the Dodgers could afford it, they actually cut their risk considerably because they would only be committed to Hamels for three years after this season.

        So they end up with three top flight pitchers for this season, while having control of two of them for the near future. Not a bad move, when you think about it.

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:28 PM

        realjohn,

        Kind of what the Nats did with Scherzer.

  8. micksback1 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    If i knew stras would come back 100%, there would be no resaon to obtain another starter. 1-2 BP arms would make me feel better

    • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 10:53 AM

      Are you talking about this year or next year

      • micksback1 - Jul 17, 2015 at 2:40 PM

        I mean this season about Stras

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 3:48 PM

        Nats have depth behind him altho I think Stras will be back to form and 100% healthy

    • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Mick,

      Starting pitching is the last thing the Nats need, with or without Stras. I contend that the pen is also not a priority, a bat or 2 on the other hand would be most welcome, especially if RZim can’t be counted upon. With all the love Robinson and even Moore are getting I for one don’t want that to be our permanent solution going down the stretch.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        If Rendon and Span both come back healthy which they should you dont need any position players.

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:47 AM

        nats128,

        I couldn’t disagree with you more. I don’t think Robinson and Moore are long term answers.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I could still see the Nats being in a 3 team trade to move Fister in order to get the 8th inning man they covet and possibly coming away with an extra prospect if Rizzo wheels and deals it right.

    Riz does not want to trade any top 5 prospect and the area of strength is moving Fister out to the Rangers or Royals and taking Roark out of the pen to free a spot for the new setup an and put him in the #5.

    The risk is being dependent on Strasburg as the #4 and Gio the #3 and Roark the #5 with Joe Cool and TJord as your depth.

    14 days to see how this comes together.

    • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      The Yankees are also looking for a #3 pitcher. You know Rizzo is not going to stand pat. We would all hate to see him give up prospects for short term rentals. What I like about Chapman is that hes under team control for 2016 and you get to give him a qualified offer that returns a draft pick in 2017 or if the Nats arent good in 2016 you can trade him.

      To have Chapman and Storen in the back of the bullpen shortens the game as you can go matchup in the 6th and 7th if you needed to. What a luxury to have.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 17, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      Interesting thought. Will need Fister to look good tomorrow and his next start, I expect, for this to happen.

    • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      A rental of Fister doesn’t get you Chapman. I know we ripped off Prellar and got 2 top prospects for Souza but Chapman is the Reds main chip and even if you go 3 ways (for example we give the Yankees Fister, they give the Reds a prospect and we get Chapman) it means someone is giving up a top prospect for Fister. I don’t see it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:29 PM

        They have Cueto who should yield good returns even if he is a 3 month rental.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:34 PM

        To be fair, a lot of GMs ripped off Preller.

      • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:41 PM

        “To be fair, a lot of GMs ripped off Preller.”

        Yep. But I think jd’s point was that just because we ripped of Preller doesn’t mean we can expect us to rip off the Reds GM

    • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:39 PM

      Riz does not want to trade any top 5 prospect and the area of strength is moving Fister out to the Ranger

      But by moving Fister you are losing a compensation pick, no?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:40 PM

        Yes you are adcwonk.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:43 PM

        Yes, or risk a declining Fister taking the Qualifying Offer for next year. Maybe he’s worth it and maybe he’s not. If he gets hurt again, and they don’t make a QO on that account, they lose the pick, too. So there are no sure things here, but a good trade is a good bet. Except the team taking him gets no pick this winter, so his value is less to them, for that.

      • jd - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:50 PM

        Sofa,

        Fister won’t accept the QO. He strikes me as a pretty confident guy and I think he views this off season as his last chance to get a multi year deal for some nice money. I think he’s probably right.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 17, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        Hence “if he gets hurt again.” Athletes tend to over-rate their own ability to recover, out of necessity. GMs can’t afford to.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2015 at 3:51 PM

        JZ and Span wont accept a QO. Desi could be the 1st player to accept one and thats risky. Fister probaly wont accept a QO,

        If every thing works well the Nats can get 4 comp Draft Picks in the 2016 Draft.

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