Washington Nationals Week in Review: Sept. 16–22

The Nationals entered this week with a 1.5 game lead for the top Wild Card and 2.5 games of cushion for a postseason bid. Their slim chances of winning the NL East evaporated, but they snuck in a win in their three-game series in St. Louis against the surging Cardinals and followed it up with a series win in Miami one that arguably needed to be a sweep.

Here’s a unit-by-unit breakdown of how their week went.

Starting Pitching

The rotation had mixed results this week. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin arguably  had the best performances, although Max Scherzer was visibly stronger than the statistics show (his walks vs. strikeouts paint a better picture).

Stephen Strasburg: 5 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs (1 home run), 4 walk, 6 strikeouts, 99 pitches (67 strikes)

Patrick Corbin: 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs (no earned runs), 4 walks, 11 strikeouts, 110 pitches (57 strikes)

Max Scherzer: 6.2 innings, 7 hits, 5 runs (2 home runs), no walks, 11 strikeouts, 109 pitches (77 strikes)

Anibal Sanchez: 5 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned runs, 1 home run), 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 84 pitches (50 strikes)

Stephen Strasburg: 7 innings, 3 hits, no runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 109 pitches (68 strikes)

Austin Voth: 5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walk, 3 strikeouts, 81 pitches (53 strikes)

Joe Ross remained out of action with right forearm soreness. He was supposed to throw  a bullpen session late last week, but there are no reports that it ever took place.

Bullpen

Rather than break down each reliever individually, let’s look at them as a collective unit this week.

Monday: 3 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

  • Tanner Rainey: 1 inning, 1 hit, no runs, 2 strikeouts
  • Sean Doolittle: 0.2 innings, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, losing pitcher
  • Hunter Strickland: 0.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, no strikeouts
    • Also allowed an inherited runner (from Doolittle) to score
  • Wander Suero: 1 inning, no base runners, 1 strikeout

Tuesday: 3 innings, 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 3 strikeouts

  • Fernando Rodney: retired all three batters in the seventh inning, 1 strikeout, recorded a hold
  • Daniel Hudson: 2 innings, 1 hit, no walks, 2 strikeouts, fourth save

Wednesday: 1.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout (all from Tanner Rainey)

Friday: 4 innings, 4 hits, no runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts (everyone recorded either a hold or save)

  • Wander Suero: 0.2 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
  • Tanner Rainey: struck out lone batter faced
  • Fernando Rodney: 1 inning, no baserunners, 2 strikeouts
  • Daniel Hudson: 2 innings, 3 hits, no walks, no strikeouts, fifth save

Saturday: 3 innings, 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

  • Fernando Rodney: every base runner the bullpen allowed (recorded one out)
  • Hunter Strickland: 0.2 innings, no base runners, 1 strikeout
  • Wander Suero: 1 inning, win
  • Tanner Rainey: 1 inning, 2 strikeouts

Sunday: 3 innings, 3 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

  • Hunter Strickland: 1 inning, 1 hit (home run), 1 hit by pitch, 2 runs, recorded a hold
  • Wander Suero: 0.1 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, losing pitcher, blown save
    • Allowed an inherited runner to score
  • Tanner Rainey: 0.2 innings, 1 hit, no runs, 2 strikeouts
    • Allowed an inherited runner to score
  • Javy Guerra: retired all three batters faced

I’ve also created a pitch tracker that logs when each pitcher has been used and how many pitches they have thrown this entire season.

Lineup

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.

Once again, most of the starting lineup was consistently constructed this week. The top four of Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto started every game, and Victor Robles and Yan Gomes also started all six, batting seventh and eighth.

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.

What became more apparent this week is that Howie Kendrick is the go-to first baseman, with Asdrubal Cabrera at second base. Kendrick started four of the six games, with Ryan Zimmerman only starting two games on the back end of back-to-backs (Kendrick’s inability to do so at this stage in his career is well documented). Cabrera started five games, with the lone exception coming on Sunday, when Brian Dozier got the nod. And if it wasn’t for a stiff right ankle as a result of a slide at home plate, Cabrera likely would’ve started all six games.

When in the lineup, Kendrick has batted fifth. Otherwise, that honor has gone to Cabrera.

The rest of the roster continued to be sparsely used. Gerardo Parra had three unsuccessful pinch hitting opportunities, Andrew Stevenson drew a walk in his lone plate appearance, and Michael A. Taylor pinch ran (and scored) for the knicked up Cabrera on Saturday. Most noteworthy, Kurt Suzuki (right elbow inflammation) notched a pinch-hit three-run double in the 10th inning on Saturday.

No action for Adrian Sanchez, Wilmer Difo, Raudy Read, and Tres Barrera this week.

Suzuki’s ability to catch is murky and truthfully very much in doubt to return this season. Matt Adams (sprained AC joint in his left shoulder) is still inactive, although he reached the on-deck circle on Sunday.

Future Outlook

The Nationals’ Wild Card lead stands at four games over the Cubs (the second bid), but they are now tied with the Brewers for the top spot and home-field advantage.

Tomorrow, the Nationals come home for a five-game series against the Phillies, then close with a three-game set versus the Indians.

The starting rotation is projected to look like this:

Monday: Patrick Corbin

Tuesday (doubleheader): spot starter (likely Erick Fedde) and Max Scherzer

Wednesday: Anibal Sanchez

Thursday: Stephen Strasburg

Friday: Austin Voth

Saturday: Max Scherzer if it affects playoff positioning, Stephen Strasburg if it doesn’t

  • The other would be in line to start the Wild Card game on October 1.

The Nationals would also like to see the top portion of the lineup heat back up. Here is how each hitter has produced over the last week:

  • Trea Turner: 7–28 (.250), 2 home runs, 2 doubles
  • Adam Eaton: 6–26 (.231), no extra-base hits
  • Anthony Rendon: 4–24 (.167), 1 home run
  • Juan Soto: 1–18 (.056), 1 double

On the other hand, the bottom of the lineup has been carrying the offense.

  • Howie Kendrick: 9–19 (.474), 1 home run, 1 triple
  • Asdrubal Cabrera: 5–18 (.278), 1 home run, 5 RBIs
  • Victor Robles: 6–22 (.273), 5 RBIs
    • 13–35 (.371) since September 12
  • Yan Gomes: 8–22 (.364), 3 doubles

The Nationals will be playing eight games in seven days against two solid teams this week. If they belong in the postseason, they’ll show it. If not, they’ll struggle.

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