Nats hit small bump in road, injuries taking toll

Bryce is furious…

With the Nationals winning 16 of 21 games in May and 8 consecutive series wins to take over first place in the National League Eastern division, the team was due to hit a lull so to speak.  Catching a desperate team on the end of a road trip , and along with injuries and bullpen issues, the team has to regroup a bit.

May 26 – 28th vs Chicago

The Nats only trip to Chicago treated fans to a matchup of two of the most high profile young prospects to reach the majors in years, the Nats Bryce Harper and Chicago’s rookie sensation Kris Bryant.  The young stars, who grew up together in Las Vegas, have been the talk of the sport this young season and they wouldn’t disappoint in their first meeting as professional athletes.   In Game one of the three game set, Tanner Roark made a successful return to the starting rotation pitching 5 solid innings, Wilson Ramos connected on the tiebreaking homer as the Nationals defeated the Cubs 2-1.  Bryant’s solo homer was the only blemish on the rubber as Toark and 4 relievers contributed to the win, including Drew Storen’s 15th save of the season.

Game 2 reminded everyone that even though the Nats have been playing great as of late, this team still isnt where it needs to be mentally at times as 2 Cubs rookies stole the show.  Kris Bryant’s mammoth homer tied it in the 8th and Addison Russell laced a game-ending RBI double in the ninth to defeat the Nationals 3-2.  Jordan Zimmermann pitched well enough to win this ballgame allowing just six hits, but homers by Bryce Harper (league leading 17th) and Denard Span’s go ahead in the 8th just wasnt enough spur the team to a victory.

The rubber match of this series pitted the 2 biggest free agency pitching prizes of last offseason, Max Scherzer and the Cubs Jon Lester and neither really dissapointed.  Bryce Harper continued his torrid MVP level play with his league leading 18th homer and Scherzer struck out a season-high 13 batters to outduel Lester in a 3-0 shutout victory.  Scherzer (6-3) was brilliant scattering five hits through seven scoreless to win his fifth consecutive start.

May 29-31 at Cincinnati

It was probably an omen that this series woudnt go the Nationals way learning before Game 1 that the team would be without outfielder Jayson Werth for at least 2 months, then starter Stephen Strasburg was lost for the game and an inevitable placement on the DL himself leaving after only 16 pitches with a stiff neck.  The Reds were able to rally against the bullpen for a 5-2 victory.  Strasburg had a rough May, failing to last four innings in four of his five starts. He left one start with tightness behind his shoulder, so hopefully after this DL stint he can return to form.

Game 2 was more of the same as Zach Cozart had a bases clearing double in the 8th inning off Casey Janssen (0-1) as the Reds exploited a shaky bullpen for a 8-5 victory and a win in the series.  It was the first series in the last 9 that the Nationals did not win.  Bullpen issues arose again for the 3rd consecutive game giving up 6 runs in the 7th inning as the Nats lost three straight ballgames for the first time since the six game losing streak from April 22 through April 27th.

Nats continue to ascend on west coast road trip

In the month of May, the Nationals have gotten healthy and with health begets typical production.  Typical production for this roster should equate to  domination and that is exactly what the team has been for the last 4 weeks.  With Bryce Harper becoming a legit MVP candidate and getting key contributions from Danny Espinosa and Yunel Escobar, the offense has revved up and the wins have piled up.

May 11-13 @ Arizona

The 1st game of the 7 game west coast swing was the first of 3 in Chase Field vs Manger Matt Williams’ former ballclub, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  On the field, Denard Span lead off the game with a home run into the right-field seats and the onslaught continued for a 11-1 drubbing.  Ryan Zimmerman also homered in the first inning as the Nats scored 10 runs in the frist two innings of work to give Max Scherzer a sizable cushion to work with, as he allowed only 1 run thru seven innings of work.  Scherzer (3-3) shut out the Diamondbacks before giving up a home run  in the sixth.

Game 2 saw Stephen Strasburg continue his puzzling season as he had possibly his worst start of his young career as the Nats were trounced 14-6 to snap a five-game winning streak. Mark Trumbo’s  mammoth three-run homer into the second deck in left field ended Strasburg’s night with one out in the fourth inning. The eight runs allowed were a career worst for Strasburg (2-4), and the seven earned runs he gave up matched a career high.  Bryce Harper hit his 7th home run in six games in the losing effort.

In the rubber match, pinch hitter Michael Taylor was able to turn a negative into a positive by crushing a game winning Grand Slam in the 9th inning in a 9-6 comeback win.  After Bryce Harper was ejected in the 7th inning for arguing with the Home Plate umpire and losing the lead in the 8th, Taylor’s clutch homer and Drew Storen pitching a perfect ninth for his 10th save finished off the latest comeback securing the Nationals’ fifth straight series win.

May 14-17 @ San Diego

In the 1st game of the 4 game set in San Diego, in a game that was delayed by rain for only the fourth time in Petco Park history, the Padres were able to hit a combined 3 homers off Doug Fister (2-2) and former Nat Derek Norris contributed with 5 RBIs in a 8-3 victory.  The two hour rain delay seemed to have an effect on Fister who had his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs and eight hits in just two innings.

Jordan Zimmermann continued his mastery of the Padres in Petco Park as he struck out six and allowed only six singles and the offense contributed a season high 16 hits which included Bryce Harper’s 13th of the season in a 10-0 drubbing.   Zimmermann (3-2) improved to 3-1 with a 0.50 ERA in five starts at Petco Park, with 40 strikeouts against two walks.

Max Scherzer’s start in game 3 was nothing short of brilliant dominance as he struck out 11 Padres in seven innings in a 4-1 victory which was the teams 14th victory in 18 games.  Scherzer (4-3) set a season-high in strikeouts and allowed only four hits and two walks.  Wilson Ramos also had an RBI single in the three-run first to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games, the longest in the majors this year.

The Bryce Harper Show continued to flourish as he 3-4 with 4 RBI including his 14th HR of the season as Stephen Strasburg gutted through 5 innings with seven strikeouts to notch the win in a 10-5 win.  Harper is now batting .338 on the young season along with 37 RBIs.  Danny Espinosa hit a 2 out, 3-R homer to take the lead which the team would not relinquish.

This week the Yankees come to town for 2 games in a must see interleague matchup then a three game set against the Philadelphia Phillies.

I hate sports.

“I hate sports.” – via text from my friend Jake @_JakeRussell

This text came about 20 minutes after two of the most heartbreaking losses a fan could take, within a 20 minute period. The Wizards lose a heartbreaker to Atlanta in game 5 82-81 on a tip-in by Al Horford with 1.9 seconds remaining THEN as that unfolded, OT in Game 7 between the Caps and Rangers began.  And as has many a Capitals 3-1 series lead withered away, like clockwork….DAGGER…a humiliating defeat.

YET…I do not feel the same pain as my friend Jake.

Nights like this is one of the reasons I LOVE sports!

Sounds funny saying that, but its true.  I sat with 4 of my homies and we watched OUR teams play together in classic postseason matchups in May…1st time ever….I’m glad for that….

The sting sucks…and will suck for a long time…but the Wiz have a game Friday…I’ll be ready…cuz I love this shit!

DCSports4Ever.

Nats continue to flourish as team concludes positive homestand

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson tosses out the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday, May 9th 2015

There are always moments where good teams look within themselves when challenged, take said challege head on, and rise above and prosper.  It seems that the challenge for the 2015 Nationals was the hellacious comeback at Atlanta on April 29th from a 8 run deficit to end a 6 game losing streak.  Since that moment, the Nats have won nine of their next 11 games while Bryce Harper had the week of a lifetime to place himself as one of the games premier players.

May 4-6 vs Miami

In Game 1, The Nats trailed in both the 7th and 8th innings, each time they did what was necessary as Yunel Escobar had his first 5-hit game including the game winning 2-run single in the 8th as the Nats defeated the Marlins 6-4.  Jordan Zimmermann kept the game close for 7 innings giving up only 1 earned run and six hits.  Matt Grace earned his 1st victory of the season and former starter Tanner Roark pitched the 9th to earn his first save of the young season.

Stephen Strasburg left game 2 vs Miami after 3 innings for precautionary measures as he grimaced after throwing a second inning pitch.  A pitchers duel ensued between Mat Latos of the Marlins and four Nats relievers which ended in a 2-1 loss.  Strasburg (2-3) left for a pinch hitter in the third inning after allowing two runs in the 2nd inning and throwing 64 pitches.

Bryce Harper’s historic afternoon and a solid 7 2/3 innings by Max Scherzer gave the Nats a series win for the 3rd consecutive series in a 7-5 win.  Harper became the fourth player in Nationals history (Soriano 2006, Dunn 2010, Ryan Zimmerman 2013) to have a three homer game.  Harper hit a 393-foot solo shot in the second inning, a 442-foot, two-run drive in the third and a 445-foot bases-empty homer in the fifth, the last two reaching the second deck.  In his final plate apperance of the day with a chance to make history, he stayed patient and delivered a run scoring groundout. Scherzer (2-3) struck out 10 and allowed five runs and 10 hits over seven-plus innings. He entered with a 1.26 ERA but Washington scored a total of two runs in his three defeats.  Drew Storen pitched the ninth inning for his eight save of the season.

May 8-10 vs Atlanta

In game one vs the hated Braves, Bryce Harper continued his scorching power bat by delivering two more homers along with five RBIs, giving him five in the last 2 games as Gio Gonzalez won his 3rd start of the season in a 9-2 drubbing. The Nationals backed Gonzalez (3-2) wo pitched seven solid innings after going 0-7 in his previous eight starts against Atlanta.  After giving up runs in the first and third innings, Gonzalez settled in and retired 11 straight batters at one stretch. He allowed five hits overall while striking out eight and walking one. Along with Harper’s two bombs, matching that output was Danny Espinoza with two of his own.  Harper became the first National in team history to have five homers in 2 games, along with 10 RBIs.

With a chance to send his team over the .500 mark for the first time this season, to keep his torrid hitting alive, Bryce Harper, who has always had a flair for the dramatics, delivered again with a 2-run walkoff to right center for a 8-6 victory.  After blowing a 5 run lead, Bryce’s heroics extended the Nationals current winning streak to three games and 9 victories out of 11.  Starting pitcher Doug Fister took a three hitter until the 7th before the Braves made their run to tie the game. The exciting ending seemed only fitting theater as the club continued their season long 10th season celebration in Washington by having Hall of Fame slugger Frank Robinson throw out the ceremonial first pitch and retiring his name into the Ring of Honor at Nats Park. Robinson was the Nationals’ manager in their first two years after moving from Montreal.

In Sunday’s finale, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos knocked in the tying and winning run respectively to complete a huge three game sweep of the Braves by a 5-4 count.  Bryce Harper did not hit a home run for the 4th consecutive game but he did continue his stellar week with a RBI double in the 1st inning.  Jordan Zimmermann labored through 6 innings giving up 3 runs scattering 8 hits.  Ramos ended the game with 2 hits and 2 RBIs to raise his average to a team leading .327.  Rookie Sammy Solis (1-0) pitched the 8th and Drew Storen delivered a perfect 9th for his 9th save.  Four games in a row and 5 of 6 on this latest homestand has the team feeling pretty good about where they are standings wise going into their first west coast trip of the season.

After an epic, legendary comeback, the Nationals show life

Gio Gonzalez dealing….

Before the season, if you asked anyone if winning 4 games out of 7 in a week was a cause of slight celebration, they may have laughed in your face.  But for this Nats team, as awful as the 1st 3 weeks have been, being able to win one series and do no worse than a split in the other, may have been the kick-start the team needed for ultimate prosperity.

April 27 – 29 @ Atlanta

Going into this 3 game set vs the Braves, the Nats were accompanied with a 5 game losing streak.  The streak was lengthened to 6 games as the Nationals committed four errors, including two by starter Doug Fister (1-1) on errant pickoff attempts. Desmond added his ninth error in 20 games.  The losing streak is Washington’s longest since six straight from July 19-24, 2013. The Nationals (7-13) fell to last place in the NL East.  The game got a little testy as following a hard slide into third base by Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons in the fifth. Simmons was safe when he knocked the ball out of Washington third baseman Yunel Escobar’s glove and Escobar left the game with a cut on his left hand. After the customary warning to both benches, Washington’s Raphael Martin hit Simmons with a pitch to open the bottom of the seventh.  Surely this will not be the last time this season a game between these two rivals will spark fireworks.

Game 2 of the series had to be one of the most improbable outcomes in recent memory, especially how the past week’s games have resulted.  After having to scratch Matt Scherzer from his scheduled start with a sprained right thumb, the team recalled prospect AJ Cole from Triple-A Syracuse for a spot start in his place.  Cole was shelled, giving up nine hits, one walk and nine runs — four earned — in only 2 innings as the Braves led 9-2.  As the team slowly chipped away, former Brave Dan Uggla became the catalyst of what would become the greatest comeback in team history.  Uggla drove in five runs, three on a homer in the ninth inning, to help Washington rally from the franchise’s biggest deficit to beat the Atlanta Braves 13-12 on Tuesday night and snap a six-game losing streak.  Washington’s previous biggest comeback was on June 17, 2006, when it trailed the New York Yankees by seven runs.

The rubber match continued the outstanding offense as Jordan Zimmermann won for the first time in four starts while also helping his own cause with a bases-clearing single to notch 3 RBIs in the 13-4 shellacking of Atlanta. On the mound, Zimmermann (2-2) gave up eight hits, one walk and four runs — three earned — with seven strikeouts in seven innings. Denard Span ignited the offense with 5 hits the previous game, added a 3 run HR in the 9th inning to contribute to the 15 hit onslaught.

April 30th – May 3 @ NY Mets

In Game 1 of the four game set against the red-hot, first place Mets, Stephen Strasburg overcame a rocky start to win his 2nd game of the season as the Nats became the 1st team in baseball to defeat the Mets at home with a 8-2 decision. Bryce Harper hit two doubles, including a three-run drive in the ninth inning and Strasburg gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven.

Game 2 of the set pitted Nats destroyer Matt Harvey again befuddling our offense as he barely outpitched Matt Scherzer (1-2), who fanned 10 batters of his own, in a 4-0 shutout.  The Nats had won 15 of the last 16 games played at CitiField and were denied a season high four game winning streak. Despite a 1.26 ERA, Scherzer has only one win in five starts with his new team. He lost to the Mets on opening day, and now this time to Harvey

Gio Gonzalez (2-2)toted the rubber looking to continue his mastery of the Mets at CitiField and he was able to accomplish that goal with another sterling performance.  Over 7 shutout innings, he gave up only six hits, walking only two batters as the relievers did their job to squeak out a 1-0 pitchers duel to earn atleast a split in the series.   Michael Taylor drove in the one and only run of the ballgame with an infield single in the second as Gio improved to 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts at Citi Field.

In Sunday’s finale, another pitchers duel between Doug Fister and Dillion Gee produced the same result as the game before, a 1-0 victory for the Nationals to win the series and their fifth win in six ballgames.  This time, the winning RBI was driven in by Ryan Zimmerman with a bloop single early in the first driving home Jayson Werth.  Fister (2-1) allowed only five hits and walked none while improving to 5-0 with a 0.82 ERA in five starts against the Mets, who have dropped five of six. Drew Storen pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save, his second in as many games.

This week’s schedule

Monday – Wednesday at home vs Miami

Friday – Sunday at home vs Atlanta