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State of the Nats: The road gets tougher

Aug 10, 2015, 12:23 PM EDT

USA Today

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West Coast trip up next – Having just gone 3-4 against teams with sub-.500 records on their recent homestand, things aren’t going so well for the Nats right now and up next is a brutal stretch through the NL West.

The Nationals will begin with three games at the Los Angeles Dodgers who, lucky for the Nats, have both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke lined up to start. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer will miss the series altogether. That’s just the way it’s gone for the Nats recently, where even the teams who don’t set up their rotations for specific series like the Mets do seem to have it all fall into place.

Ryan Zimmerman, for one, has noticed that trend.

“It’s been one of those years. Even when I was hurt, I’m watching these guys and we haven’t missed many aces. If you’re gonna get there, we gotta beat the best anyway. No excuses,” he said.

After the Dodgers, the Nationals will face Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in San Francisco. Both Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will start that series. Joe Ross will pitch in both series and the starters opposite of him will be Greinke in L.A. an Bumgarner in San Francisco. Good luck, rookie.

After the Giants, the Nats will travel to Colorado to play the Rockies. Right now the Nationals have Jordan Zimmermann, Strasburg and Scherzer lined up to pitch, a best-case scenario for them. The Nats are 1-2 against L.A. this season, 3-0 against the Giants and 1-2 vs. the Rockies, by the way.

Playing against those teams on the road will not be easy, especially given the Nats’ recent troubles. But baseball is beautifully unpredictable, so it would not be surprising at all to see the Nationals come out of this better than they are today.

Injury updates – The Nationals added two new names to the disabled list this week in Dan Uggla (back spasms) and Aaron Barrett (elbow strain). Barrett, in particular, is one to watch because the Nats will send him for further testing this week.

There was ominous news about Denard Span on Saturday, that he had suffered a setback and his ability to return this season is now in question. But on Sunday, Span was running sprints in the outfield at Nats Park and working with head trainer Lee Kuntz. It seems they are still charging ahead in his rehab, so perhaps there is better news to share some time this week.

Non-waiver deals – With the troubling Span news and the Nationals’ continued struggles in the second half of the season – they are now 9-14 since the All-Star break – the Nats may have to look closer at adding a piece through the waiver wire before the end of the month. GM Mike Rizzo has shown a willingness to do that in recent seasons with the acquisitions of Kurt Suzuki, Matt Thornton and Nate Schierholtz. Will they do something similar this year?

Many of us have honed in on the bullpen as a place they could still upgrade, most likely with an experienced lefty. But Span’s injury is a big concern and maybe they could use another outfielder to compensate. Michael Taylor has been good this season, but do they feel good about the depth behind him? It might be time to give their bench a small boost.

NL East Standings


Offensive game of the week: Ryan Zimmerman 8/9 vs. Rockies – 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB.

Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 8/8 vs. Rockies – 7 IP, ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 12 SO, HR. 91 pitches, 65 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Zimmerman on Strasburg:

I think for some reason, people have always been very hard on him no matter what. If he does well, it’s not good enough. If he does bad, then it’s kind of like the ‘I-told-you-so’ thing. This guy, he’s the worst best pitcher I’ve ever seen in my life. This guy gets no credit for what he’s done since he basically came out. To see him throw the ball like that, that was fun to watch.

Tweet of the week:

Road ahead

MON – 10:10 p.m. at Los Angeles Dodgers (Gonzalez)
TUE – 10:10 p.m. at Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross)
WED – 10:10 p.m. at Los Angeles Dodgers (Zimmermann)
THU – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Strasburg)
FRI – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Scherzer)
SAT – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Gonzalez)
SUN – 4:05 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Ross)

  1. Doc - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    RZim has become the go-to guy for team quotes. Zim has way of leveling out the playing field.

    • NatsLady - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:46 PM

      I was thinking that when Zim spoke after Strasburg’s game. Takes a lot of pressure of the guys.

      • NatsLady - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:48 PM


  2. unterp - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    I could say the season hangs in the balance the next nine games, cliche, but it does and it doesn’t. The Nationals could fall back five or six games in this stretch, and still catch the Mets come the last series of the season and pass them, which would be epic…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:24 PM

      That’s correct but why dig a hole.

      • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:53 PM

        You certainly don’t want to dig a hole, but . . . .

        Just to show that baseball is a crazy game:

        The 2007 Mets: On Sept 12 of that year, they were 21 games over .500 and up 7 games in the division. They only won five games the rest of the season. They started off by losing 5 straight (and in the process dropping 5.5 games in the standings). During that end-of-year stretch they lost 5 of 6 to the 4th place Nats (!!) — they went 5-12, Despite all that, they were tied with the Phillies at the start of the last day of the season. While the Phils won, the Mets lost 8-1 behind an epic meltdown by starter Tom Glavine — he lasted 1/3 of an inning, and was charged with 7 runs.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:59 PM

        It’s possible but who needs all the drama. Nats need to get back to sound baseball which includes smart aggression and I’m looking straight at Henley.

        Scherzer needs to find his dominance again and Storen better find his way.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:54 PM

        It’s not as if they are doing it on purpose.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    Tough roads go in both directions. They aren’t one way streets.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      The voice of reason. Dodgers are coming off of a stinker road trip. The team just needs to do better in key situations like getting the runner over and Pitcher bunts.

      Rough day on the site. When the pitchfork and torch guys get going reason kind of leaves the building.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:50 PM

        rayvil, always enjoy your perspective. The Dodgers can be had. This is where the Nats get going.

  4. dryw4nats - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    If anyone is looking for a reason to be optimistic, both Zimmerman and Strasburg, who were counted on to be big pieces of the Nats’ success this year, are making their long-awaited debuts in the Game of the Week. I know it’s only one game (apiece) in one week, but it could also be taken as a positive trend that not everything will have to depend on Bryce and Max (7 of the first 8 weeks and 11 of the first 16, respectively) moving forward.

    • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      Another reason to be optimistic — Scherzer noted that he lost his change-up for almost a month, and thinks he pretty much has it back now. (Yeah, I know, 3 HR’s, but, I’m just sayin’ what he was sayin’)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:15 PM

        I’m concerned about Scherzer’s pitch location which hasn’t been as pinpoint and his velo is off a mph or 2.

      • rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:16 PM

        Realistically it is tough to believe we can suddenly change what has been going on all year.We are a very inconsistent team.We do not move runners and sit back until we strike out leaving men all over the bases.I asked and never heard if we lead the league in bases empty home runs.We never seem to hit one with anyone on base.

      • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:42 PM

        We do not move runners and sit back until we strike out leaving men all over the bases

        But the facts don’t back that up.

        Note that the Nats are 12th in team BA, but 6th in runs scored, so we must be doing something efficiently.

        Average number of baserunners who have scored for the NL is 14%. For the Nats it’s 14%.

        Percentage of productive outs: 30% for NL, 33% for Nats (and, btw, that’s the 4th highest in the NL).

        The % of runners who score from 3rd when less than two out? 50% for NL, 57% for Nats. (The highest in the NL). And if you find that hard to believe, that’s the point of this post.

        With all due respect, your post is a poster-perfect example of how it stings when we fail and that we tend to remember that the most — but the facts show that the Nats’ failures at the plate are the same, or slightly less (or sometimes the least!), than the average team in the NL.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:27 PM

        You have to be skilled and unselfish to hit behind runners. It was an emphasis during 2014 ST as was pitcher bunting. Both have been poor.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:40 PM

        Sherzer was dragging Ramos across the plate yesterday. When he does that he has his rough days.

      • Doc - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:54 PM

        Ya think Ghost?

        I mean he did throw a few 97’s yesterday. I guess the time will come when his FB does lose some speed.

      • dryw4nats - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:07 PM

        And if he was saying it, I’m inclined to trust him!!

    • therealjohnc - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:06 PM

      Zimmerman has been smoking the ball ever since he got back. There was some concern raised a few days ago from people who only saw his batting average, but he’s been right on the ball the entire time – his LD% and hard contact% have been excellent since he got back, but despite that his BABIP was terrible. It was just a matter of time before the hits started to fall.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:55 PM

        Agreed. Bat speed and exit speed is up and that’s a good sign. He moved closer to to the plate (slightly) as his back foot is direct middle giving him outside plate coverage where he doesn’t need to dive and now is getting pull power. No mention at all in the media of this.

      • natfan33 - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:18 PM

        Ghost – If only Ramos would do the same. He needs a broom at the plate he is so far away.

  5. rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:54 PM

    The lack of a lefty bat behind Zim is killing us.AJay Bruce could play right and Harp to CF.Late in games MAT could play CF and Bruce and Harp in LF and RF.Instead we play one man short.Rizzo had to know Denard may be done for the season.

    • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:44 PM

      Rizzo had to know Denard may be done for the season.

      Why do you think he “had” to know that?

      • dhamm6500 - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:47 PM

        Well, because he was doing he core exercises. And he was on track to start a rehab assignment. And he was on the field doing some warm-up exercises. Isn’t it plainly obvious that he was going to have a setback? How could Rizzo not see it coming?

      • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:49 PM

        Nice summary 😉

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:00 PM

        What Rizzo knew was he’d get Werth back and hoped to fill the outfield void with him. Nice HR yesterday but I’m thinking as I have for a while that Jay Bruce is what the team needs and he can take the bulk of the LF and play some RF giving Bryce a day off and also shifting Bryce to CF to give MAT some time off.

        Cannot keep putting CRob in the field. Werth might be worse.

        Bruce also gives you the lefty bat.

  6. rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    Also the lack of a Left bat behind Zim is killing us.A Jay bruce would fit with Harp to CF.Late in games MAT could move to CF and Jason out.Instead we play 1 short.It is amazing Rizzo the genius could not see Denard out for the seasonThe reds would have given up Bruce cheap.

    • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:49 PM

      Jay Bruce has hit a combined .230 for the past two seasons. He was 9th in K’s last year, and, at 99, would trail only Ian and MAT for K’s this year for the Nats.

  7. rayvil01 - Aug 10, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Braves’ fans are reduced to pulling for the Mets. When your division rivals hate you this much, you’ve arrived:

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:02 PM


      • rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:25 PM

        It is called a contingence plan.Dan Uggla was his 25th man.He dropped him and did not replace him.Who would you rather have Doug Fister or Roark wasted as the extra BP guy or a lefty bat as your replacement for useless Uggla that was so bad we did not even replace him.I have said over and over we need another outfielder.It is so obvious my grandson sees it and he is 9.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:27 PM

        You’re preaching to the choir. Fister needs a DL stint.

      • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:31 PM

        The Span setback news came out within the past week. We didn’t know we needed an extra outfielder since then. Sheesh.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:43 PM

        I think this has more to do with Werth than Span. If you get Span back then BONUS!

      • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:00 PM

        Ghost….I’m shocked that you’re writing off Werth. Shame on you.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:23 PM

        I’m not and you know I love the guy but he’s not near 100% and time is ticking. Give me CarGo, Jay Bruce or Giancarlo 😉

  8. Met fan - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    Does anyone know who goes for the nats as of right now the last series of the season? The mets have it set up so when they add a spot starter like they said they will have harvey,degrom,thor pitching again.

    • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:24 PM

      Harvey and Syndergaard will be shut down by then, unless your management it trying to blow out arms.

      • Met fan - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:27 PM

        They have already said that if it were to come down to that series they will be available and all for the playoffs. It’s like what happened with Strasburg and I’m not just saying that because he was on the nats. Lost in the nlds when the game could have been won and haven’t advanced since then passed it that’s why if the opportunity is there you have to go for it

      • rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:28 PM

        They will never shut them down.They went thru all this to shut them down.They will have there big three ready for us and we never worry about those things we are the Nats.Remember when you thought they were not smart having there big three for the 2 series with us.They won 4f 6 to take command.

      • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:29 PM

        That’s fine. We’ll gladly bat against 2 rubber arms at that point.

      • Met fan - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:32 PM

        I really don’t think they will he rubber arms but if they were tied for the division and had our best vs your best it would just be a lot more fun

      • zmunchkin - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:06 PM

        Making the assumption here that both teams pitch their current five guys every 5th game, here is how things line up.

        Early Sept in DC:
        – Ross vs. Niese
        – JZ vs. Harvey
        – Stras vs. Syndergaard

        Ross will likely not hit his innings limit by then. And I like those matchups.

        Last series in NY:
        – Max vs. Syndergaard
        – Gio vs. Colon
        – Ross vs. Niese

        Ross is probably shut-down by then. But again, I like the match-ups.

    • zmunchkin - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:15 PM

      And this schedule lines up Stras and Max for the first two post-season games.

      If (big IF) the Nats are a WC team, Stras would pitch on normal rest for that game. And then Max would pitch game 1 of the divisional series if the Nats win the WC.

      If the Nats win the division, either Max or Stras could pitch game 1 of the divisional series.

      Lots can change between now and then. But this is a nice prospect to look forward to (especially given how well Stras is looking in his last couple games).

  9. veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    Right now, each of the three starters is projected (using’s numbers) to hit the outer band of their limit. Harvey, with 111 1/3 innings already banked is on pace for 200 1/3 innings. He was expected to hit about 200 this year, possibly including the postseason.

    DeGrom is on pace for 203 1/3 innings this year after throwing a career-high 178 2/3 innings last season. Syndergaard threw 133 innings last season and has already tossed 103 1/3 this season. He’s on pace for 161 1/3 innings this year but pushing the pace too, averaging 7.25 innings per start over his last four outings.

    Syndergaard will be toast at the end of the season. He’s never tossed more than 133. Harvey is coming off TJ, he’ll be spent, too, and will be easily at 200 by that point. de Grom should be fine.

    • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:41 PM

      fyi….that article was written on July 18th.

      • rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:44 PM

        The Mets may have a 4 game lead by then and can pitch you the last 3 games.You certainly do not have a limit of less than 27 innings.

      • veejh - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:51 PM

        ….or the division is tied and we get to bat against rubber arms.

  10. adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:41 PM

    Met fan wrote:
    They have already said that if it were to come down to that series they will be available and all for the playoffs.

    And for all the playoffs?!

    The Mets would be playing with fire regarding their future. Although I am a Nats fan, I am also a baseball fan, and I’d really hate to see the Mets scr@w up those incredibly great, but still young, arms.

    The problem is that the playoffs are a crap shoot — that’s how you end up with the teams with the two of worst records in the playoffs last year (Royals and Giants) getting into the WS, while the four 96+ win teams didn’t.

    Do you want to blow up arms because “this is our chance?” And, if you do blow up the arms, and a few unlucky bounces go the other teams’ way during the playoffs — then you’ve killed some of your bright future, as well as developed a reputation among future players and agents, that the team doesn’t mind chewing up and spitting out players all for short term gain.

    I understand the Mets’ position — I really do. (And, btw, I’m a born and bred Met fan from the 60’s). But short term thinking can really mess up a team in the long run.

    • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      Oh, wait, I wanted to respond to one other comment:

      It’s like what happened with Strasburg and I’m not just saying that because he was on the nats. Lost in the nlds when the game could have been won and haven’t advanced since then passed it that’s why if the opportunity is there you have to go for it

      When Strasburg was shut down for the season, he was, seemingly, running on fumes — a fact that seemingly no one who’s critical of the decision seems to cognize (or admit). (And so, I don’t blame you if you were unaware of this).

      The fact is this: in 2 of Strasburg’s last three starts in 2002, he gave up five runs, or more — for a combined ERA, for those three games, of 6.54

      That last start (5 runs in 3 innings) was Sept 7 — the Nats still had 24 games left. The NLDS didn’t start until Oct 7. Would the then 23-year old Strasburg have lasted an entire extra month? I just don’t see it.

      In the meantime, Strasburg has (we hope — you can never tell with pitchers) pitched for three years for the Nats, and, hopefully, many more years. Last year he was a workhorse, and led all of MLB in starts, and had an ERA of 3.14 and led the NL in K’s

      It’s hard to see that as a wrong decision, even in hindsight.

    • rlndtln - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      What we should be concerned with now is not the Mets but winning a few games.We lost 4of 7 to 2 bad teams at home.

      • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 4:56 PM

        What we should be concerned with now is not the Mets but winning a few games

        Of course. But I wanted to reply to our polite Mets visitor.

      • jfmii - Aug 10, 2015 at 5:02 PM

        Please remember, we posters are not playing. We are just talking

      • jfmii - Aug 10, 2015 at 5:03 PM

        Or put another way, regarding the Nationals, it does not matter a lick what we are concerned about

    • 3on2out - Aug 10, 2015 at 5:07 PM

      As usual adcwonk…you nailed it. Best to your wonkling

      • 3on2out - Aug 10, 2015 at 5:09 PM

        Referring to your 4:53 post in particular

      • adcwonk - Aug 10, 2015 at 5:27 PM

        aw, thanks 😉

      • dryw4nats - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:45 PM

        I second that!

  11. topnat - Aug 10, 2015 at 6:56 PM

    Thanks for the nice posts by the Mets fan. I hope all the pitchers for both teams are available for those games. If you are good enough then you win. No sense hoping to duck the other teams best. It’s worked out so far for the Mets but if I were a Mets fan that wants to enjoy seeing these guys pitch for years you better read the book the Braves wrote on how not to protect young arms. You won’t like the ending.

    • Jeff - Aug 10, 2015 at 9:51 PM

      Pulsipher Wilson …. Lol

  12. Jeff - Aug 10, 2015 at 9:50 PM

    Who is left to non waiver acquire
    To meet team needs. ???





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.

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