Nationals Baseball: The first 16.5 innings and the last 1

Monday, October 09, 2017

The first 16.5 innings and the last 1

The truth is there aren't two separate games to look at when we look at the series so far. There are 16.5 innings that were on thing and 1 inning that was something else. 16.5 innings of great pitching and no hitting leading to an explosion and release the Nats and their fanbase desperately needed.


Game 1

I mentioned this a couple days ago but Strasburg was great. You can't have watched that game and thought otherwise. Well, I guess you can because there are people complaining about him not being able to finish the job, but it's hard for me to watch that game and think that he could have reasonably done better.  His stuff was basically unhittable and ridiculously sharp. His "failure" of an inning was an inning where he gave up two singles to two of the best hitters in baseball. An inning that should have yielded no runs (if Rendon fielded the ball cleanly) or one run (if Bryce had kept Bryant on first rather than overthrow the cut-off man). If you only judge greatness on results I can see your point, but I also think that's a terrible first way to judge greatness. Performance first, then circumstance, and the performance to me was undeniable.

On the other side the Nats couldn't piece together anything. Bryce singled in the 1st. Wieters was HBP and then Taylor singled and that was it base hit wise for the game. The Nats would walk a few times but never threaten. Dusty felt their approach was too patient. Were they? It didn't feel like it at the time but the did average almost 4 pitcher per AB which is on the patient side. On the other hand only 7 of the 27 guys Hendricks faced ended the at bat on an 0-2 or 1-2 count. So the Nats weren't forced into their bad hitting by a lot of pitcher counts*

Regardless of the reason though the Nats couldnt' get pressure on Hendricks. They only had two men in scoring position all night and none before there were two outs. They had one leadoff man get on (Murphy with a walk) and that was erased by a double play from the next batter. Hendricks had no very stressful batters and a handful with any stress at all. With only Rendon and MAT getting on base after the 4th Dusty couldn't do much either.

The only other thing to be said about Game 1 is Madson didn't get the job done, giving a leadoff double and then a 2-out double to drive in another run. Ultimately it's water under the bridge for the game but it's something that'll come back the next time we see him in the series.


Game 2

A game is still just a game. Maybe Hendricks was just at his best. That is part of what you accept in baseball playoffs. One hot or cold pitcher can dominate the outcome of a game and potentially change a series. But Hendricks was a very good pitcher all year. Jon Lester was not so continued failure against him would signal that the problem could very well be on the Nats side.

The Nats did seem to be a bit more aggressive, but I'm not sure that was a good idea. Lester is a wilder pitcher than Hendricks. Regardless of whether than mattered the Nats saw their issues continue. It seemed like things might have changed when a Rendon flyball carried over the RF fence but the next 10 Nats got out. Once again the Cubs starter was completely comfortable as the Nats couldn't get a man on base or do anything else to force some pressure on Lester. I add the "anything else" because here I do feel Dusty could have done more. He could have called for some bunts (Lester is a notorious for his throwing issues to the bag) or, when Zim led off the 5th or especially when Wieters got HBP in the 7th, he could have used a pinch runner to try to bother the Cubs starter with steal. He may have even gotten more creative, having batters drag out at bats with time called and the like. Anything to disrupt what had been an too easy half-game but Dusty didn't do it.

Gio on the mound pitched well enough to win, victimized a couple times by the HR favorable weather. There was a moment of worry when he opened up the 4th Double, Homer, Walk but he got out of it and got through the fifth without too much trouble.

Then came the Nats best chance for a big inning of the series so far. Zimm hit a seeing eye single up the middle and after two fly ball outs he started to do something. He stole 2nd. This seemed to unnerve Lester who uncorked a wild pitch sending Zimm to 3rd. Even more off his game he would walk MAT and then Dusty would choose to send up Kendrick rather than Lind, who had hit much better down the stretch than Howie, to face Lester. Dusty would get the righty on lefty match-up or he'd force the Cubs to make a move and then perhaps bring in Lind. The Cubs decided to stick with Lester and he'd walk the bases loaded. Now it was Lester vs Trea and again, with a two-run lead behind him, Maddon kept Lester on the mound and he wiped out Turner.

It felt like the end but as long as the game was 2 runs apart, a bloop and a blast, there was still hope.  The 6th would give the Nats nothing but the 7th would give them a Wieters HBP and really Dusty's only glaring mistake of the game, not pinch running here to do something.

Albers, Solis, Madson, and Perez would keep the Cubs off the board for the next three (Madson would concerningly give up another hit) and the Nats were down to their final 6 outs. When Maddon brought in Carl Edwards he knew he'd get Adam Lind. That was the choice he made and Lind made him pay with a nice piece of hitting singling down the third base line. Trea would K and then Maddon made the curious decision of letting Edwards face Bryce. Bryce is fine against lefites but he KILLS righties to the tune of .322 / .433 / .654.  But Edwards did well against lefties all year so Maddon took that chance.

We know what happened.

Edwards would walk Rendon and then Maddon brought in Montgomery to face Murphy. He singled setting up a lefty on righty match-up. Montgomery, like Edwards did well against batters from the opposite side. But while Zimm hit RHP fine, he hit LHP much better.  .331 / .385 / .654 Still Maddon didn't learn from relying on how his guys did and Zimm skied one that just got over the fence. Tie game became a three run lead and that was that.



Looking back on the two games these are the overall take-away

The Nats pitching has been great. There's a little shakiness in the pen here and there but they got through it and that's pretty much how I'd describe this pen especially the underbelly.

Corollary to that only Bryant and Rizzo have really hit the first two games, and Contreras, who bats after them, has worked himself on. There's a lot of empty at bats coming from the other side.

If you must be concerned about a pitcher - Madson has given up 3 hits in 6 batters, I think.

Bryce does have the pop still in him and he's the only man on the team with 2 hits. He's fine. Werth on the other hand is 0-7 with a walk and looks like he shouldn't be out there. My prediction (Cubs in 5) was based on these guys not being right. Bryce is. Werth isn't. So it'll come down to Scherzer. Of course that's pretty obvious at this point.

Even worse than Werth is Turner who is 0-8 with 4Ks. He looks lost and at the top of the line-up is constantly giving Bryce and Rendon, who look ok, nothing to work with. No batters on base. No pressure on the pitcher. I doubt Dusty will mix it up but a MAT / Trea flip wouldn't be a bad idea.

Could Werth come out? Maybe. If he's 0fer today and is terrible I could see somehow working Lind into the line-up for Arrieta G4 (assumptions made here) but I'm only giving that a slight chance. 10%.  Dusty will live and die by what got him here.It's why players love him. It might also be why he's died so much.

I'd love to see more aggression from the Nats. Not necessarily in when to swing, but what they do. I think Dusty DID want to be aggressive on the paths when guys got on, but guys aren't getting on. This means Dusty has to get more creative. I'm sure he'll let things go for 3-4 inning today to see if the 8th inning has any carryover. But if the Nats get to the 5th with nothing I'll be upset if I don't see something from Dusty.

It's been a pretty clean series. The mistakes haven't been egregious. There haven't been a lot of "should have"s or "could have"s. Just a lot of solid pitching and bad hitting. 
 
*Strasburg had 11 bats out of 27 end with an 0-2 or 1-2 count.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost everything here. Except i think it would be a huge overreaction to switch trea out of leadoff spot.I think the day off and playing on the road will relieve some of the stress. The fact that bryce is getting going will only help Turner in front of him. Not sure about Quintana move to first base but Trea just needs a infield single or a bloop to become dangerous. The Lefty lineup that Maddon will probably go with will also hurt the Cubs defense with La Stella possibly at second with Baez coming out and Schwarber in left. Heyward in Right is solid but offensively not as strong. Big Mo is on our side gotta keep the train rolling.

Anonymous said...

Zobrist is playing 2b with Baez out of lineup

Carl said...

The day after game 1, I heard some sports ranter or other complaining about the Nats taking strike one vs. Hendricks. And in hindsight, sure that looks problematic. Perhaps that idea got through to them some way or another before game 2 and they were more aggressive against Lester, but being more aggressive against a pitcher who doesn't throw strikes as reliably is a bad idea too.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who criticizes Strasburg is ignorant. His stuff was sharp and he was blowing guys away. He shouldn't have thrown an 0-2 fastball in the strike zone to Kris Bryant, but Bryant a) is very good! and b) didn't hit it that well. Rizzo's hit was a laser, but as Harper said, Bryant should have been on 1B anyway.

If there is a G5 and if the pitching matchup is the same, I'd prefer Stras to Hendricks.

Anonymous said...

I just heard in the last 15-20 minutes Santangelo openly admit on the radio (in a polite, roundabout way) that Werth isn't the Nationals' best option to be using in LF........ and he then went on to say that they shouldn't replace him unless it's a true must-win elimination game.

The "logic" behind this thinking is so asinine to me. I can't wait until we don't have to kiss Werth's big hairy monkey ass any longer.

Anonymous said...

From Boswell's chat regarding Werth playing today:

--
"Dusty should play Kendricks in LF today versus Quintana. He's 5-for-10 off him with three walks. When you reach base 8-of-13 times vs somebody, that's no longer a small sample to me.

Werth is making some solid outs. But there's not way I'd ignore the stats today. But Dusty loves "his guys" __the proven vets who've been Oct stars. If Werth DOES play you can be sure he'll known it's a big vote of confidence from his manager who's exposing himself to criticism"
---

So Boswell firmly advocates that the Nats should start Kendrick in LF.





But then, in a later comment in response to the question "Howie Kendrick over Werth?", Boswell writes:
--
"You're right, as I already noted. But it is hard to bench Werth against ANY LHer __hitting them seems to be what he was put on earth for"
--

Boswell is recommending playing Werth against any left handed pitcher, which would obviously include today's left handed opposing pitcher, Quintana.



So Boswell is both for and against starting Werth at left field.

Thanks Boz for the advice.

PotomacFan said...

Werth is starting in LF and batting 6th. No changes to the line-up.

PhthePhillies said...

I'd like to see Trea try to lay down a bunt at least once this series. I agree with you, Harper. Getting Turner on base is paramount.

Ole PBN said...

Blind faith at this point regarding Dusty's reasoning on sticking with Werth. Again, if we had no one better on the team, I'd reluctantly be fine with this. But we have 3! THREE! Players that are better, riding the bench instead of Werth.

I still worry that our offense will be in for a rough day. Doesn't matter that we are tied up 1-1. Doesn't matter that we have momentum on our side. Doesn't matter that it's Quintana's first start. Doesn't matter that we have Scherzer going. If you can't score you, you don't win (see Game 1). We tallied 6 runs on 3 swings the other night. One being a mistake pitch to Harper (an AB in which he looked just as lost as the previous 8), and Zimm's/Rendon's being helped by a bizarre gust of wind straight from the Baseball Gods themselves.

I know, sometimes luck is all you need to turn the tide, and trust me I think we'll all take what we can get. But if our offense is in a rut (which it is), why is our 6 hitter penciled-in with a guy who's been shooting blanks since June? If we admit we'll take all the luck we can get, at some point I'd like to stop relying on luck/blind faith/stupidity/utter random acts brilliance and just go with someone who can actually play the game and get a dang hit. Please!

FYI - my pleas will go unanswered. Just the way it is. What a waste of a post lol.

Harper said...

Ole PBN - I'm guessing another low scoring game - good pitchers, afternoon start.

Froggy said...

You know because everyone is hammering Werth he will probably crush it today.

Channeling Robot for the double reverse jinx...Come in Robot...

Froggy said...

Dusty blew this game by himself.

Robot said...

Serious question: how many runs does Anthony Rizzo need to drive in with two outs and first base open before they stop pitching to him?

Robot said...

Yeah, that Werth guy is a bum. Like, a literal bum. No way he gets a hit in this series unless someone offers him their partially eaten sandwich for doing so. And this Tray Terner kid? Send him back to tee ball! Kid won't hit. He's only on the team because his name sounds vaguely like "Lerner" and Dusty and Rizzo didn't want to take any chances on offending the boss man. Send him home!

Froggy said...

If I'm Scherzer I'm thinking I just gave you 6 1/3 innings of NO HIT ball and I give up a bit to LF that anyone not named Werth gets a glove on, and you take me out? If a run is going to score from that then let ME be the guy to give it up. THEN take me out Skip.

Shades of Matt Williams in 2014 after Jordan Zimmermann pitched 8 2/3 innings and gives up a walk.

Mr. T said...

I can understand wanting to take Max out at that moment. He's getting close to the end, he's been wild, there's no margin for error. But bringing in Solis there is replacing the best pitcher on your roster--who just gave up his first hit in the seventh inning--with the worst.

It was nice to see Dusty was prepared to pinch hit for Weiters there in the 9th. Unfortunately, he still doesn't seem to understand that Jayson Werth is also terrible.

Sure, nobody's hitting. But the Cubs aren't hitting either, and they've won 2 games.

Robot said...

Anthony Rizzo is hitting, not that Dusty has noticed...

PotomacFan said...

Solis is not the worst pitcher. He's second worst. Romero is the worst. Regardless, a terrible decision.

I'll bet that Difo and Kendrick start the next game. I wouldn't be surprise if Lobaton also starts. The Nats have now gone three games in a row with 2 hits against the starting pitcher. Got to shake things up.

Mr. T said...

@Potomac, you're right, Romero is worse. I think we know now why he has all these lefties in the pen though: he wants to play matchup the whole way, as soon as the starter comes out.

I wish you were right. But if Kendrick didn't get the start vs. Quintana, why would he get it vs. Arrieta?

Ole PBN said...

So much for the 24-hour rule on rants. But maybe this will help Harper with some talking points for tomorrow's post? A few things:

1) Kendrick will not get another AB this series. Dusty doesn't think it's a smart idea. Live and die with his plan. With no contract extension signed. "Bold move Cotton, let's see if it pays off..."

2) Regarding Max. Hell of game, man. Hope you and Strasburg are going out for a beer tonight and bringing none of the position players with you. About that bottom of the 7th inning... As a manager, you play every hypothetical situation in your head for the upcoming inning so that when the unexpected happens, you're prepared to make or not make a move. Dusty and Maddux knew the type of situation it would take to pull Max in the bottom of the 7th before we even stood to stretch and hear the Murray bros. sing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." If all it would take is a runner on 2nd, 1 out or less, with the lead intact to pull Max, why let him hit in the top of the 7th? Clearly his leash was shorter than we thought, regardless of the no-no status. I'm sure Jordan Zimmermann can relate...

3) Jayson Werth's defense is a liability. The only guy on the bench who may not run down that ball is Lind. ANYONE ELSE COULD HAVE. I'm so tired of this old man in our lineup. I've been saying this since mid-August! I could care less that he got a hit tonight.

4) Oh hey! It's Werth again! He or Taylor needs to lay out for that bloop single by Rizzo. No excuse with two outs. And first base was open. Walk him. I think I'd rather have Kintzler face Contreras in that situation than Perez facing Rizzo, especially since he is the only offense the Cubs have had this series.

5) The hitting. My God. The only run we scratch across is because Schwarber kicks a ball around in the outfield. Something happens to this team in the playoffs. And I swear if I hear Thom Loverro say that "it's not the hitting" one more time, I'm going to flip. Fun Fact: did you know that the Cubs have only outscored us 8 to 7 so far? Pretty close! So I guess its not our hitting that's a problem, huh Thom?

6) We have such a strong bench and the way these games have gone, here is what they've done: Kendrick (0-1; BB), Lind (1-1). That's it. Our bench is hitting .500 with the little that they've played. Scored one of the 7 runs and contributed one of the twelve hits.

I don't have faith in this group. It must be frustrating for Rizzo. Talent-wise, he's put together incredible teams the past 5 years. Players play. I don't like these guys when the chips are down. I don't know who it is. I don't think blame can be put on one or a couple guys. Its the collective shriveled-up raisins for balls that is our beloved Nats. One man can't win a game by himself. Ask Scherzer. Ask Stras. The Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, all the teams that will beat us in the postseason play to win. We play not to lose. If we score first, it's hyperventilating until the fat lady sings. If the other team scores first, well, I've never seen a group of hitters so inept at answering back these past 5 years. Stick a fork in 'em. Looking forward to your piece tomorrow, Harp.

G. said...

Pitiful offense by the Nats.

G. said...

Yes

Anonymous said...

Dumb Dusty. If he spent less time chewing on whatever he can find in the dugout he might understand how to utilize his bullpen. It was a one-run game. At least Doolittle should be well-rested when Roark goes 4 innings tomorrow!

G. said...

A waste...indeed!

G. said...

No he didn't...had a lot of help from his "guys".

JE34 said...

What in the heck has become of Daniel Murphy? Does Dusty have to sit him for 50 games in the regular season in order to keep him fresh?

In three games, the Nats have one multi-hit inning (not counting walks and errors). The Cubs' pitching is not that good.

All that said, Tanner is going to find his runback fastball tonight, after eating some home cooking. Trea is going to get on base today -- it was against Arrieta that he had those 4 steals. We are coming back to DC for game 5.

(I have to think these thoughts to get through the day.)

Jon Quimby said...

I have no problem with Dusty taking Max out, but this is one of those situations where "traditional" managers fail to realize they need to use their best pitcher in the most important spot. Yes, you want Doolittle to close down the 9th if we're ahead, because he's really the only reliever on the roster who has proven the ability to close. BUT.. you can't put Solis in there.

Anyone have any ideas what's wrong with Murph? He's turned into Espinosa. I understand a small sample, but Murphy is too good to go through this bad a stretch. Something has to be wrong with him.

Please pitch around Rizzo with first base open. Challenging him is just stupid. He wants to hit the ball, so force him to take the walk or chase. Maddox/Wieters/Dusty failed on this one "big time".

Jay said...

It's almost like a we're going to prove everyone wrong and keep doing things the way we do them vibe. Yesterday, Verlander and Sale pitched in relief. Is Stras going to pitch today?? Nope. He's never done that before and we're not starting now. Verlander hadn't pitched in relief since college. Sale finished the playoffs 0-2 with an ERA of 8+. You can't predict what will happen, but you can put your best people out there and take your best shot. Is Solis pitching in game 3 going to be like Barrett pitching in game 4 against the Giants?? I also agree that the offense has been putrid as usual. We really miss Eaton. Werth is immobile in the outfield. The sad part is that if they can find a way to win today they have a good chance with game 5 at home. Unfortunately, I don't think they win today. No need to wonder why other teams roll their eyes at the Nats. They're 6 outs from having gotten swept and scoring a total of 2 runs. They need to take advantage of the opportunity and win today.

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