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Game 1: 9-2 win on Monday night (April 14)
Game 2: 11-2 loss on Tuesday night (April 15)
Game 3: 6-3 win on Wednesday night (April 16)
1. Things could be much worse
The Nats now are 9-6 despite…
1. …third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Doug Fister and outfielder Scott Hairston being on the 15-day disabled list and center fielder Denard Span being on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
2. …their starting pitchers ranking 27th out of 30 MLB teams in ERA (5.00).
3. …being tied with the Marlins for last in MLB with 16 errors.
The Nats may be 1-5 against Atlanta, but they’re now 8-1 against the Marlins and Mets.
2. The offense continues to deliver
The Nats lead MLB with a .459 slugging percentage and are second in MLB with a .794 OPS.
The Nats overcame a 3-0 sixth-inning deficit in Game 3 and now have outscored opponents 48-16 starting with the sixth innings of games so far this season.
The Nats went 16-for-42 and totaled 11 extra-base hits in Game 1, tying a franchise record since the club moved to D.C. Six Nats each had at least two hits in the game.
The Nats went a combined 12-for-66 in Games 2 and 3 but did see rookie shortstop Zach Walters blast a solo homer in Game 2 and a pinch go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning of Game 3. He was acquired from Arizona for starter Jason Marquis on July 30, 2011.
Outfielder Bryce Harper went 4-for-8 in Games 1 and 2 but did not play in Game 3 due to left quad tightness. Harper now is 14-for-29 since his 3-for-21 start.
3. Another mixed series for the starting pitching
Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from the worst start of his career with a terrific outing in Game 1, allowing two runs in seven innings and recording seven strikeouts. This marked the first time in 13 games this season that a Nats starter lasted at least seven innings. He also had two singles, a sacrifice bunt and a run.
Stephen Strasburg got rocked in Game 2, giving up six runs in four innings. He allowed eight hits (including a monster three-run homer to right fielder Giancarlo Stanton), three walks and a wild pitch. Strasburg gave up three runs in the first inning and three runs in the second inning. He now has a 6.00 ERA over four starts this season, having pitched poorly to at least some extent in three of the four starts.
Nats pitchers have allowed 66 runs so far this season. 33 of the runs have come over the first two innings of games.
Tanner Roark allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 3, giving up seven hits and two walks and committing a throwing error. All three runs came in the fourth inning.
4. The bullpen was excellent with the exception of one outing
Rookie reliever Blake Treinen recorded three strikeouts in two scoreless innings in Game 1. His contract was selected from Triple-A Syracuse on April 12.
Relievers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined for 2 2/3 perfect innings in Game 3.
Craig Stammen allowed five runs in the fifth inning of Game 2. But Jerry Blevins, Clippard and Soriano then combined for three scoreless innings, totaling five strikeouts.
Nats relievers are fourth in MLB with a 2.39 ERA despite having thrown the fourth-most innings (52 2/3).
5. Next up is a model organization in MLB
The Nats begin an 11-game homestand with a four-game series against St. Louis (April 17-20).
The Cardinals have made the playoffs in 10 of the last 14 seasons, winning two World Series (2006 and 2011) and four National League pennants (2004, 2006, 2011 and 2013).
The Cardinals have finished first or second in the N.L. Central each of the last five seasons.
The Cardinals have registered one losing season since the start of the 2000 season.
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Game 1: 7-1 win on Monday night (April 14)
Game 2: 3-0 win on Wednesday afternoon (April 16)
***The game scheduled for Tuesday night (April 15th) was rained out***
1. Trending in the right direction
The O’s improved to 5-2 since their 2-5 start and are back at .500 at 7-7.
Eighteen of the Orioles’ first 21 games, including the next seven games, are within the American League East. The O’s are 6-5 against the division so far.
2. The starting pitching perhaps – perhaps – is starting to settle in
The starting pitching, which was very bad over the first nine games, now has been good in four of the last five games.
Wei-Yin Chen allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings in Game 1.
Miguel Gonzalez tossed five scoreless innings in Game 2, recording six strikeouts.
3. The O’s should consider themselves lucky
As much as Orioles starters have struggled overall, at least they are healthy. Three Rays starters are out with injury. We learned as the series was beginning that Matt Moore is done for the season, requiring Tommy John surgery. Alex Cobb was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday (April 13) due to a left oblique strain. And Jeremy Hellickson underwent offseason elbow surgery and is not expected to return until June.
4. The bullpen was outstanding
Evan Meek and Darren O’Day combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 1.
Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter combined for four scoreless innings in Game 2.
Britton tossed three scoreless innings in Game 2 and now has recorded 11 1/3 scoreless innings this season.
5. Mixed results for the offense
The O’s went 13-for-37 with five doubles in Game 1 but just 6-for-29 in Game 2.
The Orioles’ bottom three batters – shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Steve Lombardozzi and third baseman Ryan Flaherty – went a combined 7-for-12 with four RBI and three runs in Game 1.
Outfielder David Lough went 0-for-8 in the series and now is just 4-for-32 this season.
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Game 1: 7-6 10-inning loss on Friday night (April 11)
Game 2: 6-3 loss on Saturday night (April 12)
Game 3: 10-2 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 13)
1. There was injury in addition to the insult
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman fractured his right thumb diving back into second base while getting picked off in Game 2 and was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks. This is a blow that figures to hurt, as Zimmerman has been a major offensive force for most of his career (121 career OPS+) and was off to a nice start this season (12-for-33).
Zimmerman’s throwing problems get a lot of attention, but another issue for him has been durability. He hasn’t played in more than 147 games in any season since 2009.
Zimmerman made several nice defensive plays in Game 1, though you still hold your breath on his throws, one of which was one-hopped to first baseman Adam LaRoche.
The Nats’ 15-day disabled list now includes Zimmerman, catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Doug Fister and outfielder Scott Hairston.
Center fielder Denard Span collided with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla in Game 1 and was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday. Span missed significant time with a concussion in 2011 while playing for Minnesota.
2. The Braves remain the Nats’ “daddies”
The Nats now are 7-22 against the Braves starting with a loss on August 22, 2012.
The Nats are 1-5 against the Braves but 6-0 against the Mets and Miami this season.
Braves left fielder Justin Upton went 8-for-10 with two homers and two doubles in the series.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 6-for-12 with two homers and two doubles in the series.
3. The starting pitching fell on its face
A dirty little secret right now is how poor the Nats’ starting pitching has been so far. Nats starters are 24th out of 30 MLB teams with a 4.81 ERA.
Do I expect Nats starters to continue to be this bad? No. But are the struggles through 12 games worth noting? Absolutely.
The Braves scored 14 of their 23 runs in the first two innings of each game in the series.
Tanner Roark allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1, giving up five hits, a walk and three hit-by-pitches.
Taylor Jordan allowed five runs in five innings in Game 2, giving up 10 hits and two walks versus five strikeouts.
Gio Gonzalez allowed six runs in six innings in Game 3, giving up nine hits (including two two-run homers), four walks and a hit-by-pitch versus six strikeouts.
4. Sloppiness, a theme in the Nats losing two of the three to the Braves April 4-6, was a theme again
Game 1 included:
- LaRoche getting thrown out at home while attempting to score from second base on a wild pitch.
- Bryce Harper, playing right field as opposed to left field thanks to Jayson Werth tweaking his groin, bobbling the ball on Upton’s walk-off single. Harper was playing no-doubles defense, and so the ball landed in shallow right field. Pinch runner Jordan Schafer scored from first base on the play, taking off after three rather nonchalant pickoff throws by reliever Jerry Blevins.
Game 2 included:
- Zimmerman and Harper each getting picked off
- Two throwing errors by shortstop Ian Desmond and an error by right fielder Nate McLouth
Game 3 included errors by Gonzalez, Harper and Desmond, whose error came in a four-run Braves eighth.
5. Two relievers are struggling while Harper’s heating up
Reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a game-tying solo homer to Upton in the eighth inning in Game 1. Clippard has recorded 12 strikeouts, but he and Blevins now have combined to allow seven earned runs in 12 innings.
Harper went 6-for-10 with three walks in the series and now is 10-for-21 since his 3-for-21 start.
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Game 1: 2-0 loss on Friday night (April 11)
Game 2: 2-1 12-inning win on Saturday night (April 12)
Game 3: 11-3 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 13)
1. Keep in mind where we are
Nineteen of the Orioles’ first 22 games, including the next 10 games, are within the normally ultra-competitive American League East. The O’s are 4-5 against the division so far.
Yes, it’s April. Yes, a lot can change between now and September. But it’s hard not to view these first 3 ½ weeks of the season as very important given the competition.
2. The offense struggled
The O’s went just 22-for-108 (.204 batting average) in the series, totaling just four runs and five walks.
First baseman Chris Davis in Game 3 hit his first homer of the season, going back-to-back with catcher Matt Wieters in the eighth inning.
3. The starting pitching was terrific in Games 1 and 2 before another bad outing in Game 3
Chris Tillman allowed two runs – both unearned – in eight innings in Game 1, recording six strikeouts.
Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2.
Ubaldo Jimenez allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings in Game 3, giving up 10 hits (including two solo homers), two walks and a wild pitch. He now has a 7.31 ERA over three starts with the O’s.
Orioles starters are 27th out of 30 MLB teams with a 4.93 ERA.
4. The bullpen had mixed results
Zach Britton totaled 2 1/3 scoreless innings over Games 1 and 2 and now has tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings this season.
Evan Meek tossed a scoreless inning in Game 2 and now has recorded 5 1/3 scoreless innings this season.
Closer Tommy Hunter allowed a game-tying solo homer to center fielder Colby Rasmus in the ninth inning of Game 2. The homer came a pitch after a check swing by Rasmus appeared as if it should have been strike three. Hunter fell to 3-for-4 on saves this season.
All 11 of the homers Hunter gave up last season were to lefties. Rasmus is a lefty. Lefty specialist Brian Matusz was unavailable in Games 1 and 2 due to illness. I would wonder if Matusz would have faced Rasmus, but Hunter retired another lefty, DH Adam Lind, for the first out of that inning.
Josh Stinson allowed six runs in two innings in Game 3, giving up seven hits (including a three-run homer to right fielder/center fielder Jose Bautista).
5. Shortstop J.J. Hardy was back
Hardy, off missing six of seven games due to back spasms, started Games 2 and 3. But he went 0-for-9 and remains without an extra-base hit this season.
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Game 1: 5-0 win on Tuesday night (April 8)
Game 2: 10-7 win on Wednesday night (April 9)
Game 3: 7-1 win on Thursday (April 10)
1. The Nats are doing what they should: fattening up on the non-Atlanta portion of the National League East
The Nats are 1-2 against the Braves but now 6-0 against the Mets and Miami.
The Nats went just 6-13 against the Braves last season but 37-20 against the Mets, Marlins and Philadelphia.
2. The offense is rolling despite manager Matt Williams’ lineups continuing to defy research
As I’ve written before, Baseball Prospectus has found that a spot in the lineup is worth 18 plate appearances more than the next spot over the course of a season. If you’re going to insist on consistently batting center fielder Denard Span in the leadoff spot (which is where he was in Games 1 and 2; center fielder Nate McLouth batted first in Game 3), you better be sure his production is worthy of the extra amount of plate appearances he’ll be receiving versus other batters, like left fielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Ian Desmond, both of whom have consistently batted fifth or lower.
But it’s hard to argue with the results of Williams’ lineups in this series. The Nats went 29-for-100 (.290 batting average) and totaled 22 runs, four homers (including two grand slams) and six doubles.
Right fielder Jayson Werth batted third in all three games and had a great series: 4-for-11 with seven RBI and five runs. He blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2 and a two-run homer in the third inning of Game 3. Werth also had an outfield assist in Game 2, throwing out right fielder Giancarlo Stanton at home in the eighth inning.
The most intriguing Nats batter right now may be second baseman/third baseman Anthony Rendon. He went 5-for-11 with two walks, three RBI and four runs in the series, which he exited with a .412 batting average.
Harper batted second in Game 1, seventh in Game 2 and sixth in Game 3. He blasted a mammoth 416-foot homer per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker in the fourth inning of Game 2 and drew a bases-loaded walk in Game 3.
Desmond batted fifth in Game 1, sixth in Game 2 and seventh in Game 3. He blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 3.
3. Quite the comeback in Game 2
The Nats overcame a 5-0 fourth-inning deficit in Game 2.
The Nats did not come from three runs or more behind to win a game last season until June 9. The Game 2 win marked the second time in eight games this season that the Nats overcame at least a three-run deficit to win.
4. Two quality starts sandwiched a career-worst outing for Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann’s Game 2 start was the worst of his career, as he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings on seven hits and two walks. He gave up a two-run homer, a triple and five singles.
Gio Gonzalez tossed six scoreless innings in Game 1, recording five strikeouts.
Stephen Strasburg rebounded from two subpar starts with a terrific outing in Game 3, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings and recording 12 strikeouts.
Nats pitchers totaled 17 strikeouts in Game 3, tying the most for the franchise in a nine-inning game since the club moved to D.C. prior to the 2005 season. The Nats have an MLB-best 105 strikeouts over nine games.
5. The bullpen was mostly terrific
Craig Stammen provided the outing of the series in Game 2, recording four strikeouts in 3 1/3 scoreless innings off Zimmermann’s terrible start.
Rookie Aaron Barrett continued to impress, tossing a scoreless ninth in Game 1 and striking out the only batter he faced (Stanton) to end the top of the eighth in Game 3. Barrett has recorded six strikeouts in four scoreless and hitless innings so far this season.
Closer Rafael Soriano allowed a double and a single but also recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth in Game 2 and then recorded two strikeouts in a perfect ninth in Game 3. He has recorded eight strikeouts but also given up five hits over four scoreless innings so far this season.
Tyler Clippard recorded two strikeouts in a perfect eighth in Game 1 but then allowed a run on two walks and a double in the eighth inning of Game 2. He has allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings so far this season, though he has recorded 11 strikeouts.
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Game 1: 4-2 loss on Monday afternoon (April 7)
Game 2: 14-5 win on Tuesday afternoon (April 8)
Game 3: 5-4 win on Wednesday night (April 9)
1. Things could be worse (how’s that for being positive?)
The O’s now have won three of four since the 1-4 start. There are reasons to worry (see item no. 3), but 4-5 isn’t bad considering the brutal start to the season: three home games with defending World Series champion Boston, three games at three-time defending American League Central champion Detroit and three games at the Yankees, who spent a reported $471 million in free agency during the offseason.
2. The bats busted out
After a largely underwhelming first seven games of the season, the O’s exploded offensively in Games 2 and 3: 32-for-80 with four homers and six doubles.
Rookie Jonathan Schoop started at third base in all three games and went 5-for-12 with four RBI and three runs.
Catcher Matt Wieters went 4-for-11 with two walks, four RBI and two runs in the series.
Delmon Young served as the DH in Games 2 and 3 and went 6-for-11 with three RBI and two runs.
3. The starting pitching continued to struggle
Ubaldo Jimenez allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings on eight hits and five walks versus four strikeouts on 109 pitches in Game 1. He now has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings over two starts with the O’s.
Wei-Yin Chen allowed four runs in five innings on nine hits in Game 2.
Miguel Gonzalez technically provided a quality start in Game 3, but allowed three runs in six innings and gave up seven hits, including two solo homers.
Orioles starters now have a 6.06 ERA over nine games.
4. Shortstop J.J. Hardy remained out
Hardy did not play at all due to back spasms and now has missed five of the last six games.
5. A staggering number for reliever Brian Matusz
The bullpen had mixed results in the series, including Matusz giving up a solo homer to second baseman Kelly Johnson in the eighth inning of Game 2.
But Matusz tossed two-thirds of a scoreless inning in Game 3, stranding center fielder Bret Gardner at third base. Matusz now has stranded 51 of 56 inherited runners since the start of 212.
Matusz was the fourth overall pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, and the fact that he hasn’t succeeded as a starter is a major disappointment. But give him credit for finding a niche as a lefty specialist.
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