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State of the Nats: Cardinals up next

Aug 31, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT

USA Today

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Cardinals up next – The Nationals must feel pretty good about themselves coming out of the weekend. They beat the Marlins to secure their fourth consecutive series win. They have now won six of their last eight and nine of their last 12. They even gained a rare game on New York on Saturday, while the Mets have struggled to beat some of the worst teams in baseball in recent days.

But up next is a challenge that could prove as tough as any they have faced this season. Awaiting them in St. Louis is the Cardinals, who at 84-46 are on pace to win 105 games this year. They have at times this season looked like a juggernaut team the likes of which baseball has not seen in quite some time.

The Nationals are on a roll right now, but they have been beating up on teams with losing records. The Cardinals, especially at home, will be a significant test with the calendar about to turn to September.

Here is what a few Nats players said about the upcoming series when asked about it on Sunday…

Clint Robinson: “The Cardinals are a good organization. They always seem to just find a way to win. It’s going to be a tough series, they got a good team, but we’re going to continue to do what we do and just go out and try to play as good baseball as we can and hope to get some wins out of it.”

Jayson Werth: “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a tough three-game road trip in St. Louis. We need to keep winning series and keep winning ballgames to give ourselves a chance. I don’t think anybody in here has given up. I think everyone believes in each other and believes in this team. We’ve got a long way to go.”

The Cardinals have been led this season by the best starting rotation in baseball. Their starting staff as a group holds a 2.79 ERA, which is better than Max Scherzer’s season mark of 2.88.

In fact, all three starters the Cardinals will roll out this week against the Nats have sub-3.00 ERAs. Here are the pitching matchups:

Game 1 – LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.11) vs. RHP John Lackey (11-8, 2.92)
Game 2 – RHP Joe Ross (5-5, 3.24) vs. RHP Carlos Martinez (13-6, 2.91)
Game 3 – RHP Max Scherzer (11-11, 2.88) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (12-4, 2.69)

Scherzer vs. Wacha in the series finale? Yeah, that’ll do.

Werth continues to thrive batting leadoff – The Nationals lost Denard Span for the season last week, which was a significant blow as the head into the final month of the schedule. But they may have a pretty decent backup plan for the leadoff spot in Werth.

Werth has continued to find success at the top of the Nationals’ order. He is now 13-for-40 with five doubles, two homers, seven RBI and six walks in 10 games hitting there this season. That’s 13-for-40, or in other words a .325 average. Compare that to his .209 clip for the season and it appears the Nats may be on to something.

Werth is also hitting for more power in general as of late. In his past four games he has two homers, two doubles and four RBI. Werth talked about hitting for power after Sunday’s win:

“I felt good. I felt like I’ve had power. In ’12 when I broke my wrist and had the surgery, I definitely didn’t feel that way. I’ve felt good really this whole time, just the results weren’t there. But I felt close, my timing has been good and all that. Hopefully we’ll get on track here and keep rolling and help this team get to where it needs to be.”

NL East Standings

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NL Wild Card Standings:

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Offensive game of the week: Jayson Werth 8/30 vs. Marlins – 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2B, 2 R, BB.

Pitching game of the week: Joe Ross 8/27 vs. Padres- 6 IP, R, 0 ER, H, 2 BB, 7 SO. 77 pitches, 48 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Denard Span on possibility he’s played his last game with the Nats:

I didn’t think about it until just reading some people’s comments on Twitter. That Wednesday night I didn’t think that it was going to be my last game. I didn’t have time to process that because I had so much other stuff going on. But the last couple of days it has been entering my mind, just seeing everybody’s well wishes and seeing people on Twitter appreciating me for what I brought to this organization on and off the field. It has made me sad because I’ve enjoyed my three years here. I feel like coming here really resurrected my career. Coming from Minnesota, this trade was probably the best thing for me at the time. I’ve learned a lot here from the coaching staff and my teammates. It’s just been a good time here.

Tweet of the week:

Ian Desmond on Sunday after drawing three walks for just the second time in his career:

Road ahead

MON – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Gonzalez)
TUE – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Ross)
WED – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Scherzer)
THU – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Zimmermann)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Strasburg)
SAT – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Gonzalez)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Ross)

  1. jfmii - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    Let’s play the games and see what happens. Can’t be swept; gotta win at least one.

    • virginiascopist - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:25 PM

      And cross your fingers that the Phillies have some pride left and don’t roll over and play dead like they did in their last series against the Mets.

  2. Steady Eddie - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:25 PM

    This is an important test at a reasonable time if we really have post-season aspirations. Over the past dozen games, the team has come together fairly well against weak competition. If we are going to get hot enough, especially against the Mets, and the Mets deflate enough for us to take the East over the next five weeks, we will need the confidence and little bit of swagger that taking two of three from the NL’s best would give. Win less than two, especially if we’re not intensely competitive in the losses, and the hill is a lot steeper.

    Obviously a very tough test given that we are 1-8 in St.Louis over the past three seasons, and the one win was a barely-hung-on after the pantomime Michael Morse granny.

  3. Doc - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:07 PM

    Nothing on paper that suggests that the Cards should be 105 season winners, nothing. But that’s just paper!

    • jd - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:18 PM

      Really?

      They have outscored their opposition by 137 runs. That says plenty for me on paper.

      • Guapo - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:34 PM

        What’s even more amazing with that run differential is that StL is 10th of 15 NL teams in scoring. They are a below average scoring team.

        Pitching and defense wins in baseball. Just ask the five teams currently in the playoff picture, all of whom are also in the top five of team ERA.

        Offense, in baseball, is wildly over rated.

      • bowdenball - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:00 PM

        Guapo-

        I think I pointed this out last time, but that’s just a quirk of the 2015 NL. To prove it look no further than the 2015 AL: if the playoffs started today the five playoff teams would be the five highest-scoring teams. Two of them are also tops at run prevention, but the next four teams in terms of run prevention are all under .500.

        There’s no magic formula for winning baseball games. Scoring and preventing runs are equally important.

    • Serious Jammage - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      Doc — agree. This is from a few weeks ago, but it paints the picture of how lucky the Cards have been this year.

      http://grantland.com/the-triangle/2015-mlb-st-louis-cardinals-cluster-luck/

      • Doc - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:14 PM

        Thanks Serious!

        With your link, which stated my instincts in real time stats, I think we have perceived the real House of Cards!

  4. Guapo - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    StL had delivered the pitching performance as a staff that the Nats were supposed to deliver this year. That’s the story of these two teams.

    Cards team ERA is almost half a run better than the next closest staff, PIttsburg. That’s crazy. They are more than a full earned run better than the Nats staff.

  5. Serious Jammage - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    If we go 22-10 the rest of the way, we’ll be at 88 wins. If the Mets go 15-17 they’ll be at 87 wins. Piece of cake, right?

    • Doc - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:40 PM

      Right, piece of cake.

    • stoatva - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:52 PM

      No piece of cake but with six head to head games, maybe not all that outlandish.

      • Serious Jammage - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:53 PM

        Yeah I just want the last three games of the year to matter. If we can get to that series still mathematically alive that will be an awesome atmosphere.

    • bowdenball - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:08 PM

      Sounds about right. If we manage to win 5 of 6 from the Mets that would mean going 17-9 in the other games, difficult but certainly not impossible, while the Mets would then go 14-12, again difficult considering their schedule but far from possible.

      If we win 4 of 6 the math gets a little tougher- we’d have to go 18-8 while they go 13-13. That’s possible but HIGHLY unlikely, especially given the fact that we’ll almost certainly take one or two losses in St Louis.

      Of course this is the math for an outright division win- we’d obviously have an extra game of leeway to merely force a one game playoff for the division, likely at Nats Park- the Mets currently lead the season series 7-6 but if we’re going to catch them we’d likely have to go at least 4-2 in the remaining 6 games.

      • sec112 - Aug 31, 2015 at 3:08 PM

        You guys realize you’re talking about a great run the Nats would have to go on – to end up with as many wins as the Cardinals have right now. Yikes.

  6. NatsLady - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    Speaking of atmosphere, it was great at the game yesterday. The fans didn’t give up when it was 3-0, nor when Stras didn’t come back for the fifth inning. When the Nats took the lead it was LOUD. Really fun game.

    • Doc - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:35 PM

      WE ARE NATS!!!!!!

    • alexva6 - Aug 31, 2015 at 3:02 PM

      maybe, but when I see the pitchers in the dugout trying to get the fans to clap with a 2 strike/2out count I realize that other stadiums are much more vocal than us.

      I guess it will take time but when the Mets were sweeping us in NY the crowd was much, much louder than ours

      • bowdenball - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:09 PM

        I don’t think we’ve ever had a home series quite like the one the Mets had early this month, where you sweep your division rival in three straight dramatic games the heat of a playoff race. Nothing close to that, really. Our two division wins have come from slowly and steadily pulling away from the Braves over the course of a month or two. So it’s not really fair to compare the two. I suspect if/when we do have a series like that, Nats Park will be totally insane.

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

        I’ve sort of accepted that DC crowds tend to be like a jury.

      • stoatva - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:13 PM

        When we were up 6-0 in game 5 of 2012 the place was exploding. I’ll leave it at that.

    • stoatva - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:08 PM

      Agreed. One of the more satisfying games I’ve attended this season.

      My W-L this year is 15-9, by the way.

      • NatsLady - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:52 PM

        Keep up the good work. No, do BETTER work! Need sweeps.

  7. Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    Cardinals may be as good as the 2011 Phillies, who actually did have 102 wins. And then lost in 5 to the 90-win Cardinals. So there’s that.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:59 PM

      Yep. Once you’re in the playoffs, pretty much everyone is equal. Being the #1 seed means bupkis. Over the past 15 years of the 30 #1 seeds (AL/NL), 15 were eliminated in the Divisional Round (See, e.g., Nats 2012 & 2014; Phillies 2011). 8 more were eliminated in the League Championship Round (including the 116 win 2001 Mariners). Of the 7 that made it to the WS four did manage to win it, so there’s that.

      Just get to the dance, baby. Ask the 88 win SF Giants about that. Of the seven teams that won more games than the Giants, it was the 89 win KC Royals that they ended up beating in the WS

  8. kmar61 - Aug 31, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    good series but the Cardinals are unstoppable at home. can’t look thru series to the weekend showdown with the ugly Bucs . 1 series at a time a lot left to play

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