Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

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].”

Nats’ Gonzalez throws too many pitches

WASHINGTON – In Wednesday’s 11-4 loss to the D-Backs, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez threw 95 pitches in five-plus innings. He allowed two runs, walked one and struck out seven. The fourth inning was the only time he had an easy inning.

Gonzalez was at a loss for words after game, but knew he had to go deep in the game to save the bullpen and that didn’t happen.

“Right now, I have to focus on my job and pitch more than five innings,” Gonzalez said. “I felt great. I can’t do anything about [the D-Backs] contact. Every ball they hit, they were putting it in play. That’s just basically it.”

Nats’ Scherzer looking for perfection

By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON – Even though he picked up a win and a no-decision in his last two starts, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer is a perfectionist. 

After Tuesday’s 5-4 victory against the D-Backs, Scherzer was not pleased that he allowed a combined six walks in those starts.Prior to June 30, Scherzer never walked more than two batters in a game. He even went five consecutive games without walking a batter.

Scherzer believes he is not attacking hitters early in the count or throwing putaway pitches.

“That’s something I’ve been good at this whole year,” Scherzer said. “I’m constantly throwing first-pitch strikes, working ahead of the count. I’m always on the offensive. [Lately], it feels like I’m falling behind in the count just enough that it’s leading me into bad counts, which leads to walks. It’s nothing mechanical. I have to dial it in mentally.”

Espinosa could be Nationals’ version of Zobrist

By Bill Ladson

New York – It has been reported the Nationals were looking to strengthen their bench by trying to acquire the versatile Ben Zobrist, but the Nationals already have their version of Zobrist in Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa can play four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Espinosa hasn’t started a game since Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth were activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Espinosa is expected to see some time on the field soon when Anthony Rendon is given a day off.

“[Danny] has the ability to play the outfield. He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience out. If we give him the opportunity to put him out there, we can do that,” manager Matt Williams said. “The first two days [in Miami], he has been doing some extra work out there and getting prepared if need be. He is willing to play and able to play anywhere we want him to.”

Espinosa has been arguably the team’s best bench player this season, hitting .253 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.

Nats’ Lobaton could get more playing time

By Bill Ladson

NEW YORK — Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton started Sunday’s game against the Mets. It marked the fourth time in the last eight games that Lobaton was inserted into the starting lineup.

Manager Matt Williams said recently said that he hasn’t ruled out Lobaton getting more playing time behind the plate. He is already Gio Gonzalez’s personal catcher. Wilson Ramos, the team’s starting catcher, is not having a good year defensively and in a 5-for-55 [.091] slump to drop his batting average to .234.

“It depends on where we are at, Williams said about the catching situation. “It depends on matchups, where we are at. The deeper lineup allows us to have more flexibility in that regard, too.”

Joe Ross’ gem, by the numbers

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — It was a special night for Nationals right-hander Joe Ross on Friday, as he pitched his club to a much-needed 4-1 win over the Pirates. The 22-year-old, making only his third Major League start, held Pittsburgh to one run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings, with one walk and 11 strikeouts.

Here are some things to know about Ross’ impressive effort:

  • The only Nationals pitcher younger than Ross to reach double-digit strikeouts in a game is Stephen Strasburg, who did it twice as a 21-year-old in 2010.
  • Ross is the second-youngest pitcher in the Majors this season to have such a game, behind only the Astros’ Lance McCullers.
  • The Nats have struggled to find consistent starting pitching behind ace Max Scherzer this season, but Ross has stepped up during his brief time with the club. His game score of 72 on Friday is tied for the second-best on the team by anyone other than Scherzer, and with a 67 in his previous outing, the rookie now accounts for two of the top five non-Scherzer starts.
  • Ross’ out-pitch on Friday was his slider, which he leaned on heavily. According to PITCHf/x data from, Ross threw the pitch 47 times (out of 102). Of those 47 pitches, 36 (or 77 percent) went for strikes, and the Pirates missed on 18 of the 32 swings they took at it while recording just one hit on six balls put in play. Ross recorded 10 of his 11 strikeouts on the slider
  • Ross, of course, is the younger brother of Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, a six-year big league veteran. Of all qualified pitchers this season, Tyson uses his slider the most, at 46.3 percent. Clearly, the pitch runs in the family.
  • Joe Ross’ 18 whiffs on sliders are the most by a Major League pitcher this year, besting Tyson’s 15 on May 25, according to
  • The 21 total swings and misses that Ross generated were the second-most for a Nats pitcher this season, behind Scherzer’s 25 during his recent 16-strikeout game at Milwaukee.

The Nationals’ two 2015 seasons

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — On April 27, the Nationals played their 20th game of the season and suffered an 8-4 loss to the Braves in Atlanta, falling to 7-13, eight games behind the Mets in the National League East.

On Tuesday night, the Nationals played their 40th game of the season and rallied for an 8-6 win over the Yankees in Washington. Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run walk-off homer in the 10th inning against Andrew Miller and his 0.00 ERA lifted the Nats to 23-17 and into a first-place tie with the Mets atop the division.

Entering Wednesday’s game against New York, the Nats have played two 20-game stretches that could not be much more different. The change began on April 28 in Atlanta, when Washington fell behind by eight runs after four innings but roared back to claim a 13-12 victory on Dan Uggla’s go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth.

“This definitely is the type of game that can change the spirits of a ballclub,” center fielder Denard Span said afterward. “I’m not saying it will. But we definitely needed something like tonight.”

The idea of momentum in baseball often is wildly overstated, but there’s no doubt something turned around that day, even if it was nothing more than a good team finding its level. Since then, the Nats are 16-4, tied for the best 20-game stretch in team history. So what’s been the difference?

It hasn’t been pitching:

First 20 games: 3.64 ERA, 11 HR, 2.6 BB per game, 7.5 K per game

Last 20 games: 3.94 ERA, 14 HR, 2.4 BB per game, 8.2 K per game

In fact, the club’s starting pitchers posted a 4.33 ERA over that second stretch, compared with 3.78 in the first, with five outings of five earned runs or more.

However, some better defense has dropped the number of unearned runs scored against the Nats from an unwieldy 18 to eight.

Still, the biggest difference between the first and second versions of the Nats has been the way the club has swung the bats.

First 20 games: 3.5 runs per game, .215/.289/.346 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 16 HR

Last 20 games: 6.7 runs per game, .307/.369/.494, 29 HR

The most impressive thing about the improvement is that it’s been a total team effort. Yes, Bryce Harper has embarked on one of the best offensive stretches in baseball history, but every Nats regular has raised his game, at least a bit.


First 20 games: .262/.424/.508

Last 20 games: .403/.522/.944


First 20 games: .207/.250/.207 (7 games)

Last 20 games: .377/.421/.638


First 20 games: .205/.340/.436

Last 20 games: .303/.387/.500


First 20 games: .250/.258/.328

Last 20 games: .379/.413/.500


First 20 games: .284/.351/.418

Last 20 games: .378/.420/.392


First 20 games: .205/.279/.385

Last 20 games: .280/.310/.453


First 20 games: .156/.250/.200 (12 games)

Last 20 games: .250/.328/.357 (placed on DL Tuesday)


First 20 games: .238/.297/.357

Last 20 games: .250/.296/.382

Even a couple of members of the bench have made huge contributions over the last 20 games. Backup catcher Jose Lobaton is 6-for-17 with two homers, five RBIs, four walks and a 1.182 OPS. And Uggla, whose homer against his former team ignited this surge, is 7-for-20 with a double, a triple, a homer, nine RBIs, four walks and a 1.108 OPS.

So which Nats team will show up for the next 20 games? Logic states the offense, and the club in general, will find a middle ground. But we’ll soon find out, starting Wednesday night.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Wilmer Difo’s suddenly rapid rise

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — For much of his professional career, Wilmer Difo has not been a fast-moving prospect. That changed dramatically on Monday, when the Nationals called up the 23-year-old infielder as they placed Jayson Werth on the disabled list.

The move was the result of several circumstances. Difo was one of the organization’s few Minor League position players who already was on the 40-man roster, and manager Matt Williams said the the club already had enough options available for the outfield. Difo, meanwhile, offers extra middle-infield defense and speed on the bases.

While Difo’s stay could be short, Williams said he doesn’t believe the promotion straight from Double-A Harrisburg will affect Difo’s development.

“I know he’s excited to be here,” Williams said. “He’s already been on the field for early grounders and early hitting, and he’s working hard. We don’t know exactly what the game is going to provide for us on any day, but he’s got a lot of tools, can do a lot of things for us.”

Still, it’s worth looking at Difo’s gradual — then suddenly rapid — ascent up the ladder.

— 2010 (age 18): 45 games in Dominican Summer League … .570 OPS

— 2011 (age 19): 64 games in DSL and rookie-level Gulf Coast League … .794 OPS

— 2012 (age 20): 54 games in GCL … .703 OPS

— 2013 (age 21): 61 games in GCL and three Class-A affiliates … .644 OPS

— 2014 (age 22): 136 games at Class A Hagerstown … .831 OPS

— 2015 (age 23): 33 games at high Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg … .887 OPS

Difo attributed his progress over the past couple of years to staying healthy, and this spring he was able to play with the big league club in 13 Grapefruit League games, batting .318 and impressing Williams with his aggressiveness.

Now, after only 14 games above Class A, he’s in Washington. It’s certainly an unusual trajectory. Let’s see how that compares to the games other current Nats position players spent in the high Minors before their Major League debuts.

— Anthony Rendon, 35

— Bryce Harper, 58

— Ryan Zimmerman, 63

— Wilson Ramos, 71 (Twins)

— Michael Taylor, 102

— Danny Espinosa, 123

— Jose Lobaton, 131 (Padres)

— Tyler Moore, 160

— Yunel Escobar, 167 (Braves)

— Dan Uggla, 218 (D-backs)

— Ian Desmond, 227

— Clint Robinson, 323 (Royals)

— Denard Span, 343 (Twins)

— Jayson Werth, 356 (Orioles/Blue Jays)

And how about some high-profile position players from other teams?

— Albert Pujols, 3 (Cardinals)

— Alex Rodriguez, 17 (Mariners)

— Buster Posey, 35 (Giants)

— Miguel Cabrera, 69 (Marlins)

— Joe Mauer, 73 (Twins)

— Mike Trout, 75 (Angels)

— David Wright, 91 (Mets)

— Ryan Braun, 93 (Brewers)

— Paul Goldschmidt, 103 (D-backs)

— Troy Tulowitzki, 104 (Rockies)

— Giancarlo Stanton, 132 (Marlins)

— Andrew McCutchen, 339 (Pirates)

Treinen gets shot at 8th-inning role

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — From 2010-14, Tyler Clippard averaged 74 appearances out of the Nationals bullpen. Other than a stint as closer in 2012, he did most of his work as a set-up man, pitching in the eighth inning nearly 50 times per year over that stretch.

On Wednesday night, the Nationals led the Mets, 2-1, heading into the eighth. This would have been Clippard’s spot, but he was traded to the A’s during the offseason, and Drew Storen took over for Rafael Soriano at closer. That left manager Matt Williams without a clear right-handed option for the eighth inning, to use alongside lefty Matt Thornton.

At least on this day, Williams turned to Blake Treinen, a 26-year-old righty with 15 games of Major League experience, including eight relief appearances. The manager said that was his plan coming into the game, and it worked, as Treinen tossed a scoreless inning, and the Nats won, 2-1.

This was a new experience for Treinen, who mostly started in the Minors. Of his eight times working out of the bullpen last year, all but one came in a Nats loss or blowout win.’s average leverage index, which measures the pressure during a pitcher’s outing, puts Wednesday’s appearance as the highest-leverage of Treinen’s young career.

“Even last year in the bullpen, I didn’t really come in for one-run leads,” Treinen said. “So its still new, but I enjoyed it

“It’s something I’ll get adjusted to. I don’t think it bothers me. I enjoy those moments.”

Treinen tries not to approach things much differently out of the bullpen. But a short stint can allow him to dial up his velocity while focusing on his sinker and slider and pushing aside his third pitch, a changeup.

On Wednesday, Treinen threw two sliders and 11 sinkers, which averaged a blazing 97.7 mph, according to The Mets did hit a couple of balls hard, with David Wright ripping a one-out single to right before Lucas Duda lined into an inning-ending double play.

But for context, of all pitchers who threw at least 200 sinkers last year, PITCHf/x measured only two who topped that average velocity. Treinen’s stuff certainly impressed Williams, who envisions him as a big part of the bullpen.

“He’s running the ball in there at 98 mph with some good sink,” Williams said afterward. “I’m happy with the way he went about it tonight. Certainly be more opportunities for him.”