Max Scherzer is on the mound today and nobody (including Max) knows if he will be able to throw more than 5-10 pitches. And THAT explains the fortunes of the Washington Nationals in this post-season, in 25 words or less:)))
I am a “baseball lifer” and am still playing the game we love. Therefore I too have encountered “hamstring problems.” Solving them can take as long as several months; Max is trying to pitch today only 10 days or so after “tweaking” his hamstring! If Max can’t pitch his usual 7 strong innings, the Nats have almost no chance of getting past the Chicago Cubbies to the National League Championship series of the 2017 playoffs.
The game begins at 4pm; enjoy it:))
As the Nats face the Mets for the first time this season, here are my comments.
A lot is on Max Scherzer’s shoulders tonight. And the hitting as well as the bull-pen have to show up if the team is to prevail in the hot NL East. The production from the lead-off spot has been awful. The team hitting with runners in scoring position is terrible. Harper has cooled off, partly since teams are walking him A LOT! And the bull-pen has been “average” at best.
For the season my predictions are slightly worse than they were previously, mostly due to the fact that BOTH the Phillies and Marlins (without Dee Gordon!) are playing very good baseball. Bottom line is I still think the Nats will finish in third place in the NL EAST, pretty much what I said before the season began.
The scuttlebutt and rumors are now building on Matt Williams’ departure. He will be gone very soon. Papelbon should go with the same speed, but his contractual details may take the lawyers a bit more time.
The acquisition of Pap clearly really upset team chemistry, which had always been pretty good. But the worst effect was clearly on Drew Storen, who was having a great season with 29 saves up to that point. He may now be “un-salvageable.” So the Nats may be faced with having to find another closer for 2016, and THAT is always very difficult.
Thursday’s Washington Post (9/30) had two great articles. One was about how the trade for Pap, and Williams’ bad running of the bullpen, along with his poor communications with the players all combined to send the Nats into their season-ending tailspin. Barry Svrluga wrote this article, based on a whole season of talking with the players. His best quote was when Jason Werth said to Matt Williams “When do you think you lost this team.” I tried to import a link to the article but apparently the Post has made that impossible to do.
The second article (same date by Kevin Blackistone) is about how Bryce Harper was quoted, commenting on Papelbon’s beaning of Manny Machado), essentially saying it is time for pitchers to stop intentionally hitting batters who had show-boated a little after hitting a homer. This has long been one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.” What made Papelbon’s act so reprehensible was that he threw AT MACHADO’S HEAD! I applaud Harper for having the maturity at the tender age of 22 to stand up against a “rule” that needs to go away.
The Nats will have a lot of work to do during the off-season if they want to be a contender in 2016.
Readers already know I thought the Papelbon trade would turn out badly (see several previous posts). His ridiculous beaning of Machado in the recent Orioles game and now attacking Bryce Harper in the dugout today will hopefully bring Mike Rizzo to his senses. It is time to end the “Pap-smear.” He has shown repeatedly over the years that he is an “it’s all about ME” player who doesn’t belong in the Nats clubhouse.
Acquiring “Pap” was a bad mistake from the get-go. They needed a set-up pitcher, not another closer.
The Lerners need to step up to the plate and get rid of Rizzo, Matt Williams, and Papelbon the day after the end of the season.
It would be tempting (after kicking the Braves’ butts last night) to imagine the 2015 Nats are rounding the final turn into the home-stretch of this season about the grab the division title away from the NY Mets. But after handing the Cardinals 2 out of the last 3 games (when they could have easily won both) most of the Nats fans would probably still bet on the Mets:)
The Nats bats are most likely still smoldering and smoking this morning after exploding last night. Ryan Zimmerman now has 71 RBIs in the approximately 95 games he has played this year (which projects out to about 121 for a full season). He is one of the hottest batters in baseball right now.
Bryce Harper, batting just before RZimm, wisely didn’t swing at any bad pitches and managed to walk every time he came to bat! He scored all 4 times. Bryce is only the 4th player SINCE 1914 (!) to score 4 runs with NO OFFICIAL AT-BATS in a game. Put that in your pipe and smoke it:) He saw 20 pitches and did not swing at a single one!
The rest of the team brought their A-game also. Rookie Trea Turner even got his first major-league hit! Pretty good after flying home from St. Louis in the middle of the night and getting to bed around 6am before the game.
Every reliever has a bad night once in a while, and it has been a very long time since something like last night happened to Drew Storen. When the “slammer” was hit in the 8th inning, the Nats had 2 innings left for their offense to just score a run or two. The Mets came back from deficits three times last night, but the Nats hitters could not muster even one comeback. A rookie struck out Bryce Harper to end the game.
The Nats chances of making the playoffs have taken a BIG hit in the past 8 games!
So, the Mets and Nats are tied for first place after 103 games. The just-concluded 3-game series was at times hard to watch, as good-pitching with mediocre hitting can be. The Mets out-scored the Nats 10-5, and the weak-offense Nats struck out 34 times in the 3 games. Bryce (and most of his teammates) at times looked over-matched against the three aces New York threw at them. In 11 at-bats Mikey Taylor fanned 8 times, looking like the pre-2015 Danny Espinosa. Too bad “mad-man-Max” coundn’t pitch all three games!
The recently bolstered back-end of Washington’s bull-pen could not help in this series.
New York almost sold out all three games and the atmosphere was electric for the whole weekend. The Mets have not generated this kind of raucousness since 2007!
Fasten your seatbelts:)
I’m still savoring the just-completed series with the Cubbies! I would not be surprised if both teams meet in October; the Cubs have improved A LOT and they are a fun team to watch, with so many young studs:) Kris Bryant grew up playing with Bryce Harper as a kid in Las Vegas and it was fun watching the 2 of them hugging in the outfield before one game and bantering back and forth during the games. Each game was a nail-biter and I think only 11 runs (total for BOTH teams) were scored in the entire series!
We got to see what a gem Mike Rizzo found in Casey Jansen. He pitches like a combination of Scherzer and Fister (in-your-face aggression, only high 80s speed and good control). And the spectacular way he fielded Dexter Fowler’s surprise bunt and threw him out at 1B was jaw-dropping. He may make us do the unthinkable and forget Tyler Clippard!
The Nats bullpen (I’ve said this before) is jelling and Mgr Matt Williams (and “Cat” too) deserves a lot of the credit for learning how to use every one of the guys from Treinen to Storen.
A footnote regarding my last article: Boz has a great article on Stephen Strassburg in today’s Wash. Post.
Harper has more HRs in the month of May than two TEAMS: the Phillies and Braves!
Max Scherzer’s own batting average (.200) is higher than that of all the hitters he has faced thus far in 2015 (.199). I don’t think many pitchers can say that; maybe only Bumgarner.
Yesterday a friend pitching for the opposing team struck me out on a nasty curve! Not the first time for that, but over the years I’ve got my base-hits off curves; in fact my best hit yesterday was a sharp RBI line-drive up the middle off a curve!
OK, on the the real story: Bryce Harper. His OPS (on-base average plus slugging) is on a par with that of Barry Bonds in 2004, possibly the best ever. 1.206 is a crazy OPS for a whole season; it will be fun watching Bryce try to maintain this.
I looked at about 15 offensive stats and Harper is among the top 4 in most of them, for all of MLB. Many are talking a lot about Giancarlo Stanton this year, but as good as he is, Bryce is better thus far.
It is noteworthy that Harper has publically credited his manager Matt Williams with helping him get to this level. He says Williams helped quiet down his swing, keep his head still and stop chasing pitches out of the strike-zone.