On paper, the Nationals didn’t have an easy slate of games this week, which certainly wasn’t ideal considering they just dropped five out of seven games last week. To their credit, they earned a six-game split against the Twins (in Minnesota) and the Braves, but some troublesome spots still showed up. Overall, it was a so-so week, as their record suggests.
The rotation had a better week, especially at preventing the long ball. Whereas starters gave up at least one home run in all seven starts last week, the unit only surrendered three over this period.
Oddly enough, the top performances came from the fourth and fifth starters — not that the big three had particularly poor outings.
Anibal Sanchez: 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 home run), 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, 94 pitches (61 strikes)
Stephen Strasburg: 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 home run), 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 104 pitches (66 strikes)
Patrick Corbin: 6 innings, 9 hits, 3 runs (1 home run), no walks, 3 strikeouts, 100 pitches (65 strikes)
Max Scherzer: 5 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs (no home runs), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 99 pitches (63 strikes)
Austin Voth: 5.2 innings, 4 hits, 1 runs (no home runs), no walks, 3 strikeouts, 100 pitches (65 strikes)
Anibal Sanchez: 7 innings, 3 hits, no runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 109 pitches (67 strikes)
Joe Ross remained out of action with right forearm soreness, although he threw long toss on Friday and could have a bullpen session this week.
The relievers were very hit or miss. Perhaps unfortunately, Javy Guerra (who might not make the potential postseason roster) was their top performer. Across three innings, he only allowed two base runners, both of which came against the Braves on Friday, which still wasn’t a bad outing. In that game, he recorded five outs (including Nick Markakis and a strikeout of Ronald Acuña Jr.), and the only men to reach base were Ozzie Albies (intentional walk) and Josh Donaldson (single).
Closer Daniel Hudson didn’t get much work. His only outing was a one-inning, four-run mini-save appearance on Wednesday against a decent but unspectacular portion of the Twins’ lineup. He gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Castro and Luis Arraez, but stranded Nelson Cruz (the potential tying run) in the on-deck circle.
Sean Doolittle was also lightly used. He forced Arraez into a lineout to left field in a six-pitch at bat to end the seventh inning on Wednesday, then threw a one-two-three ninth inning on Sunday against Adeiny Hechavarria, Donaldson, and Markakis.
Tanner Rainey had a forgettable outing on Tuesday against the Twins (five batters reached base and three scored, as he only recorded one out). He rebounded somewhat against the Braves on Friday (one run and three base runners over two innings), but the Nationals still need more from their young flamethrower.
Hunter Strickland was almost equally bad on Friday against the Braves, but pitched two combined shutout innings on Thursday and Sunday in which he struck out three batters and only surrendered a walk.
Fernando Rodney had two shutout outings against the Twins, and Wander Suero had a shutout two-out appearance against the Twins in the seventh inning on Wednesday, but both scuffled against the Braves on Saturday.
If you click and scroll down the above Twitter thread, you’ll also see that Erick Fedde struggled in the final two innings. Whether serving as a long reliever is a suitable role for him remains up in the air, but Atlanta’s lineup also isn’t the most logical trial run. Nonetheless, he looked overmatched.
Aaron Barrett had an eyesore outing that probably shouldn’t be dwelled on (it was only his second major league appearance since 2015). Jeremy Hellickson still hasn’t been used since being activated from the injured list, and Roenis Elias is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Based on this week, it doesn’t look like roles should change. Dave Martinez will just have to hope for better performance, although he could also be smarter about whether to use relievers on back-to-back days or multiple innings.
The Nationals scored 26 runs over six games, which isn’t bad, but they were also distributed very unevenly. Washington scored one run on seven hits over 19 innings against the only starting pitchers they faced that I would define as postseason starters (Jose Berrios, Mike Soroka, and Mike Foltyniewicz). Not to be a pessimist, but that doesn’t project favorably entering the playoffs.
In terms of personnel use, the lineup stayed essentially true to form. The top four of Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto started every game. Victor Robles also started all six, and Yan Gomes started all but one — Saturday against the Braves, with Austin Voth (who Raudy Read has somewhat of rapport with from the minor leagues) on the mound.
As expected, the give and take was between first base and second base. It’s a little more tricky to break down this week, since the Nationals also had the designated hitter spot to work with for three games, but here’s an attempt.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, and Ryan Zimmerman each started four of the six games (as I proposed should happening my previous “Week in Review“). Three of Kendrick’s starts came as a DH, with the other at first base. The two games Cabrera didn’t start at second went to Brian Dozier, and Matt Adams got the nod at first once. Those appearances will likely decrease down the stretch, and particularly in the playoffs, when there are off days between games.
The only other player who had much of a role was Michael A. Taylor, who entered as a defensive substitution for Eaton twice, although Andrew Stevenson also went one-for-two with a triple as a pinch hitter.
Gerardo Parra, Adrian Sanchez, Wilmer Difo, and recently-promoted Tres Barrera have played virtually no role since September call-ups, and that may never change.
Kurt Suzuki (right elbow inflammation) and Adams (sprained AC joint in his left shoulder) are both on the mend, in hopes of returning in time for the postseason.
Carter Kieboom remains in Florida, with only a last-minute injury serving as a path to the roster.
Losing five of their seven games against the Braves in September has put the Nationals in an essentially insurmountable 9.5-game hole in the NL East, and their Wild Card lead is also dwindling — they are 2.5 games ahead of the Brewers for a bid and 1.5 games up on the Cubs for the top spot and home-field advantage.
Tomorrow, the Nationals travel to St. Louis. They’ll be off on Thursday, fly to Miami for three games, and then come home for a monster five-game, four-day series against the Phillies.