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.

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