August 11: Nationals at Dodgers

by Jacob Emert

The Nationals scored eight runs on 13 hits yesterday and earned a series-opening win behind a strong pitching performance from Gio Gonzalez. 

Below are the lineups for tonight’s game, accompanied by each player’s career home run total. 

Washington Nationals (58-53)

Yunel Escobar – 3B (76)

Anthony Rendon – 2B (29)

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B (193)

Clint Robinson – RF (5)

Jayson Werth – LF (189)

Ian Desmond – SS (105)

Wilson Ramos – C (55)

Michael Taylor – CF (11)

Joe Ross – RHP (3-3, 2.80 ERA)

Los Angeles Dodgers (62-50)

Jimmy Rollins – SS (227)

Alberto Callaspo – 3B (52)

Adrian Gonzalez – 1B (284)

Andre Ethier – LF (157)

Yasmani Grandal – C (39)

Yasiel Puig – RF (43)

Joc Pederson – CF (21)

Enrique Hernandez – 2B (8)

Zack Greinke – P (11-2, 1.71 ERA)

Nats sign Campana to Minor League deal

By Bill Ladson

LOS ANGELES — The Nationals signed outfielder Tony Campana to a Minor League deal, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com.

Campana, 29, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will report to Viera Fla., the team’s Spring Training facility.

When healthy, Campana can provide speed off the bench. He had a career high 30 stolen bases for the Cubs in 2012. Besides the Cubs, Campana spent time with the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox.

Lobaton injured, stays in game

By Bill Ladson

LOS ANGELES — In the first inning of Monday’s 8-3 victory over the Dodgers, Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton injured his hand because of a back swing from Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Nationals manager Matt Williams and Athletic trainers Lee Kuntz came to Lobaton’s aid, but Lobaton stayed in the game. Lobaton ended up going 0-for-3.

“[Rollins] clipped Lobby’s finger nail and pulled some of it off,” Williams said. “It was unintentional, a freak random thing. … That’s a painful thing.”

Desmond showing more consistency at plate

By Bill Ladson
LOS ANGELES — After Monday’s 8-3 victory over the Dodgers, one would have never known that Ian Desmond had a game to remember. All he kept talking about were the eight shutout innings Gio Gonzalez threw and the important win the Nationals needed to stay close with the Mets in the National League East.

But Desmond was the hitting hero, going 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBIs. In fact, since July 20, Desmond is 23-for-73 (.315) with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. According to manager Matt Williams, Desmond is seeing the breaking pitch much better. For example, Desmond was able to hit a curveball in the second inning for a home run off Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson.

“He is not drifting toward the pitcher,” Williams said about Desmond. “He is seeing [the ball] fine. His hands are lightning quick. If he could sit down a little bit [in the batter’s box], he sees the pitches longer. It allows him to get in the strike zone lately. He is swinging well.”

Although Desmond is having the worst year of his career, he never lost the respect of his teammates.

“I played with Ian for a long time,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “He is going to continue to grind it out, play hard. That’s why he has earned the respect he has around here. I don’t think anyone is pulling for him more than the guys in this clubhouse.”

August 10, lineups at Dodgers

by Jacob Emert 

With a disappointing 3-4 homestand against Arizona and Colorado behind them, the Nationals start a 10-game West Coast swing tonight in L.A.

Below are the lineups for tonight’s series opener, accompanied by each starter’s wOBA, or weighted on base average (explanation provided in link), according to FanGraphs (league leaders). 

Washington Nationals (57-53)

Yunel Escobar – 3B (.341)

Anthony Rendon – 2B (.320)

Bryce Harper – RF (.467; best in MLB)

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B (.301)

Jayson Werth – LF (.249)

Ian Desmond – SS (.278)

Jose Lobaton – C (.270)

Michael Taylor – CF (.280)

Gio Gonzalez – LHP (8-4, 3.75 ERA)

Los Angeles Dodgers (62-49)

Jimmy Rollins – SS (.283)

Jose Peraza – 2B (MLB debut)

Scott Van Slyke – 1B (.343)

Yasiel Puig – RF (.321)

Enrique Hernandez – CF (.367)

Alberto Callaspo – 3B (.272)

Alex Guerrero – LF (.315)

A.J. Ellis – C (.290)

Brett Anderson – LHP (6-6, 3.06)

August 9, lineups vs. the Rockies

by Jacob Emert 

So, Stephen Strasburg certainly seems to back. He tossed 7 strong innings last night, striking out 12 in a decisive 6-1 victory over Colorado.

<<LAST NIGHT’S GAME STORY>>

Below are the lineups for today’s 1:35 series finale, accompanied by each starter’s pull percentage, or the percentage of batted balls they hit to the pull side.

Washington Nationals (57-52)

Yunel Escobar – 3B (38.0)

Anthony Rendon – 2B (36.7)

Bryce Harper – RF (47.7)

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B (31.2)

Jayson Werth – LF (35.1)

Ian Desmond – SS (34.9)

Wilson Ramos – C (35.6)

Michael Taylor – CF (50.7)

Max Scherzer – RHP (11-8, 2.31 ERA)

Colorado Rockies (46-62)

Charlie Blackmon – CF (47.7)

Jose Reyes – SS (45.2)

Carlos Gonzalez – RF (42.3)

Nolan Arenado – 3B (47.6)

Ben Paulsen – 1B (38.0)

Michael McKenry – C (26.7)

Daniel Descalso – 2B (33.3)

Kyle Parker – LF (31.3)

Yohan Flande – LHP (2-1, 3.54 ERA)

August 8, lineups vs. the Rockies

by Jacob Emert

In the seventh inning of last night’s game, it looked like the Nationals were going to gain one game on the Mets, who at the time were trailing the Rays. Fast-forward about 30 minutes and the script was completely flipped, with the Nationals blowing a three-run lead in the eighth and the Mets coming from behind to win.

<< LAST NIGHT’S GAME STORY >>

Below are the lineups for tonight’s game, accompanied by each player’s walk and strikeout percentages (K% / BB%).

Washington Nationals (56-52)

Anthony Rendon – 3B (14.6/11.5)

Danny Espinosa – 2B (23.1/7.9)

Bryce Harper – RF (20.1/18.8)

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B (18.8/8.0)

Clint Robinson – LF (14.0/10.0)

Ian Desmond – SS (29.3/5.6)

Wilson Ramos – C (19.3/3.9)

Michael Taylor – CF (32.0/5.9)

Stephen Strasburg – RHP (5-5, 5.16 ERA)

Colorado Rockies (46-61)

Charlie Blackmon – CF (18.6/7.0)

Jose Reyes – SS (13.2/9.2)

Carlos Gonzalez – RF (24.4/10.3)

Nolan Arenado – 3B (19.0/7.1)

Ben Paulsen – 1B (25.0/4.2)

D.J. LaMahieu – 2B (20.0/11.8)

Nick Hundley – C (19.7/4.9)

Brandon Barnes – LF (20.5/12.8)

Eddie Butler – RHP (3-8, 5.45 ERA)

An unlikely loss for Nats, Storen

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — There’s no getting around the fact that the Nationals’ latest loss, to the Rockies on Friday night, stung more than most. Needing a win to remain within 1 1/2 games of the Mets in the NL East, the Nats held a 4-1 lead through seven innings, only to see the dependable Drew Storen surrender a go-ahead grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez in a 5-4 defeat.

Just how unlikely was the loss under the circumstances?

Before Friday, the Nats were 46-3 when leading after seven innings, while the Rockies were 5-47 when trailing through seven. And since 2012, Washington was 283-21 (.931) when carrying a lead into the eighth.

According to FanGraphs, the Nationals’ win expectancy when the eighth inning began was 94.1 percent. When Storen got Charlie Blackmon to fly out for the second out with a runner on first, it ticked up to 96.2 percent. And even after Nolan Arenado’s weakly hit infield single loaded the bases for Gonzalez, it remained at a strong 89.8 percent.

Of course, it’s important to note that win expectancy is based on what has happened in certain situations throughout baseball history and doesn’t consider the quality of players and teams involved. With Storen taking the mound with a 1.52 ERA and 14-game scoreless streak, the Nats’ odds probably were even better.

“When he comes in, it’s typically 1-2-3,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said of Storen, who had allowed one home run all season. “It’s awesome. He’s been unbelievable for us this year.”

Storen entered Friday with a win probability added (WPA) of 2.74 this season, third-best among MLB relievers, according to FanGraphs. WPA tracks changes in win expectancy from play to play and credits players with increasing their team’s chances, or charges them with hurting it.

When Storen threw Gonzalez an inside fastball that caught too much of the plate before rocketing over the right field wall, it dropped the Nats’ win expectancy from 89.8 to 26.8 percent in the span of a few seconds. That massive swing left Storen with a WPA of -0.663 for his one inning of work.

That’s the second-lowest mark by a Nats pitcher this season, behind Casey Janssen’s -0.686 in a loss to the Reds on May 30. It’s also the second lowest of Storen’s regular-season career, following a -0.959 he put up against the Phillies as a rookie on Sept. 19, 2010, when current teammate Jayson Werth reached him for a walk-off homer as part of a four-run outburst.

“Just had a couple guys get on base for various reasons and I make one bad pitch, have a fastball come over the plate to a really good hitter,” Storen said of Friday’s loss. “It’s the nature of the business.”

Nats’ Fister willing to be team player, work in bullpen

By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Nationals right-hander Doug Fister acknowledged that he wasn’t pleased to learn that he was taken out of the rotation in favor of right-hander Joe Ross.

Washington needed to make a move because Stephen Strasburg is returning to the rotation Saturday against the Rockies and Ross has been one of the team’s best starters.

“It’s honesty. It’s honestly with him and letting him know what we’re thinking and what we want to do for the remainder of the season,” Manager Matt Williams said. “It’s not easy, but he [handled] it with professionalism and told us that he’s ready to go whenever we need him. He is about winning baseball games and providing what he can to our team.”

Fister, who led the led the Nationals with 16 victories last year, has had it rough in 2015, going 4-7 with 4.60 ERA in 15 starts. He last pitched Monday against the D-Backs, throwing six innings and allowing five runs and three home runs. A finesse pitcher, Fister had problems keeping the ball down this year. He dealt with forearm tightness that put him on the disabled list in May, but he said he is healthy now.

“Early on in the year I had some trouble staying healthy,” Fister said. “I had some hiccups coming back from it. It’s what it is. We got to put that behind us and go out to play ball.”

Fister will now be on a bullpen schedule and it will be interesting to see how well he can work on his pitching mechanics.

“There is no schedule when it comes to the bullpen,” Fister said. “That does make it a little more interesting when it comes to that. I just have to stay on top of it and be able to talk to Cat [pitching coach Steve McCatty].”

August 7, lineups vs. the Rockies

by Jacob Emert 

Last night, Joe Ross led the Nationals to a statement win, one they hope will end the recent tumble. Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond both had big hits, and they will both be key for the Nationals down the stretch.

The big news of the night came after the game, when Matt Williams announced Joe Ross will stay in the rotation, and Doug Fister will move to the bullpen. 

Below are tonight’s lineups for the series opener against the Rockies, accompanied by each starter’s second-half slash line (average/on-base/slugging).

Washington Nationals (56-51)

Yunel Escobar – 3B (.282/.383/.493)

Danny Espinosa – 2B (.195/.214/.220)

Bryce Harper – RF (.313/.452/.507)

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B (.242/.316/.515)

Jayson Werth – LF (.147/.167/.206)

Ian Desmond – SS (.250/.311/.515)

Wilson Ramos – C (.167/.180/.229)

Michael Taylor – CF (.234/.268/.403)

Jordan Zimmermann – RHP (8-7, 3.54 ERA)

Colorado Rockies (45-61)

Charlie Blackmon – CF (.306/.363/.500)

Jose Reyes – SS (.254/.324/.302)

Nolan Arenado – 3B (.181/.250/.347)

Carlos Gonzalez – RF (.375/.446/.859)

D.J. LaMahieu – 2B (.371/.457/.486)

Ben Paulsen – 1B (.333/.363/.500)

Nick Hundley – C (.278/.316/.500)

Kyle Parker – LF (.222/.316/.500)

Jorge De La Rosa – LHP (7-4, 4.87 ERA)

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