The Nationals had a tough schedule this week, but came out with a winning record: Three wins and two losses. The Nationals started the week closing out a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, and then headed home for the first time since the All-Star break for a series against the Milwaukee Brewers followed by a series against the Colorado Rockies, all of whom are in playoff contention.
Sunday, July 23 — Win over the Diamondbacks, 6-2
The Nationals first game of the week was against the Diamondbacks, the rubber match of the series. The Nationals would win the game 6-2, giving the team the series victory. A balanced offensive performance got the job done in this one, while the bullpen did an overall really solid job keeping the lead intact.
The big story from this game however was Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg left the game after two innings. The team said they removed him as a precaution, and later put him on the disabled list. However, the team is not largely concerned as the injury appears to be minor, keeping Strasburg out for likely just one start.
Tuesday, July 25 — Loss to the Brewers, 8-0
The Nationals then got a day off on Monday to fly back to D.C. for the upcoming series with the Brewers. The Brewers sent Zach Davies to the hill in the first game of the series, and he would dominate the Nationals, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing just three hits. Oliver Drake finished off the game for Milwaukee, and kept the shutout alive. Edwin Jackson pitched poorly in his second start for the Nationals as seven runs scored, and he allowed three home runs all in five innings. The Nationals lost the series opener 8-0 behind the overall poor performance.
Wednesday, July 26 — Win over the Brewers, 8-2
The pitching rebounded in the second game, but the offense still looked dead in the water. Gio Gonzalez pitched a great game for the Nationals, allowing just two runs over seven innings while striking out eight, but he got no run support from his offense. Finally, after 17 1/3 straight scoreless innings, a Daniel Murphy home run in the seventh got the Nationals on the board, but his team still trailed 2-1.
The offense came alive in the eighth inning. Wilmer Difo came to the plate with runners on first and third, and proceeded to single to right to tie the game. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman doubled to right, and the Nationals tacked on two more, giving the team a 4-2 lead. The Nationals would score four more runs in the inning, and led 8-2. Sean Doolittle would give up three runs in the ninth, but preserved the lead for the Nationals victory.
Thursday, July 27 — Win over the Brewers, 15-2
The bats stayed hot in the final game of the series, clubbing a team record eight home runs in the game. In the third inning, the Nationals hit five home runs in six batters, including four in a row. Zimmerman and Harper each had two home runs in the game. Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Difo, and Jose Lobaton each hit one home run. The Nationals long ball display was more than enough run support for Max Scherzer, who struck out nine over six innings of work, and the Nationals won 15-2.
Saturday, June 29 — Loss against the Rockies, 4-2
Rain postponed the Nationals Friday series opener against the Rockies, but the two likely playoff bound squads were able to start the series on Saturday. The Nationals offense struggled in this one, a two run Difo single to right provided the only runs for the Nationals in the game. Tanner Roark wasn’t great, allowing four runs over five innings, but his offensive that had scored 23 runs in the past two games did not help him out either. The Nationals dropped the series opener 4-2.
The Nationals will play a doubleheader on Sunday to make up the postponed game and finish off the series with the Rockies. The team will then head down to Miami four a three game series against the Marlins before heading up to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs. Prized pitching prospect Erick Fedde will make his major league debut in the first game on Sunday. Stephen Strasburg could return to face the Cubs on Friday August 4th. His health leading up to that game will be worth watching closely.
The Nationals overall record after this week is 61-40, a .604 winning percentage. It’s a record good for third best in the MLB, behind the 73-31 Los Angeles Dodgers and 68-35 Houston Astros.
The Nationals powerhouse offense showed off both its highs and its lows this week. The Nationals were shut out on Tuesday, and proceeded to score 23 combined runs on Wednesday and Thursday. The eight home run display on Thursday was a feat to behold. It isn’t a performance that should be expected from this offense, but it does show what this offense can produce when everyone is clicking.
Bryce Harper’s 19-game hitting streak came to a close on Saturday as he went hitless against the Rockies. Harper looks to be the NL MVP front runner as he is top three in the National League in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, on base percentage, slugging (first in MLB), and on base plus slugging (first in MLB).
On the pitching side, the most notable takeaway from this week was the bullpen. The bullpen kept the Nationals in every game. At no point this week did anyone around the team have to discuss the bullpen blowing a lead, or not keeping the game close when the Nationals trailed. Sean Doolittle has become the ninth inning man for Dusty Baker, and while it hasn’t always been pretty, he has gotten the job done every time. Ryan Madson has been lights out as the set up man.
Finally, the trade deadline is at 4:00 p.m. EST on Monday, and the Nationals are still looking for bullpen help. Zach Britton, Justin Wilson and Brad Hand are the players the Nationals appear to be linked to. Expect to see the Nationals in the midst of what should be a flurry of action over the next 24 hours.