This season has been a very tough one for the Nationals, most would agree. However, even the toughest seasons have nice little respites like the one the Nats are currently experiencing. A dominating three-game sweep of the hated Phillies in DC is exactly the spoonful of sugar the Nats needed after the bitter medicine of being swept by Atlanta. Last night’s win was perhaps the most gratifying of them all, mainly thanks to the Stephen Strasburg. Overcoming a groin injury that nearly saw him get pulled in the second inning, he tossed the best start of his career with a 99-pitch, ten-strikeout complete game. At the end of the sweep by the Braves, I declared the Nats’ postseason hopes dead, but hoped they could finish hot to maintain some dignity. They are off to a great start to the season’s end, but the true test of their resolve will be tested in a few days when they head to Atlanta for three more against the Braves. Another sweep would destroy all the joy from this recent stretch, while winning the series would be huge for the team’s morale. It’s no longer about contention, but playing well even with nothing to play for, and the Nationals are certainly capable of doing that.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Jayson Werth‘s RBI single (+9.9%)
The Nationals’ offense had a very interesting day against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick and the Philadelphia bullpen. They notched thirteen hits, a hefty sum, but they were all singles. The second one came from Werth with two outs in the first inning, and scored Denard Span. Span had singled to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a Ryan Zimmerman groundout, but Bryce Harper struck out to nearly strand him before Werth saved the day.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Chase Utley‘s ground into double play (+4.9%)
Like the Nationals, the Phillies also only hit singles. But unlike them, they only had four hits. One of those came in the first inning, with a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins. But one out later, Utley grounded into a double play to end the threat. The Phillies got another runner in the second and the fourth, trailing 1-0, but would not get another until they trailed 6-0, and even then they grounded into another double play.
Champ of the Game: Strasburg (+20.8%) had a criminally low WPA for how great his effort was. He allowed just four hits and a walk in his nine innings, while striking out ten. His was only the 12th complete game in history with under 100 pitches and 10+ strikeouts. Two Phillies tied for their title: reliever Justin De Fratus and 1B Kevin Frandsen tied at +0.7%. De Fratus recorded five outs in relief of Kendrick, giving up just one hit and one walk, while Frandsen was 2-4.
Chump of the Game: Harper (-8.0%) was the only Nats starter not to reach base, going 0-5 with a strikeout. Kendrick (-24.0%) had a bad afternoon, giving up eleven hits and two walks in just 4.1 IP. He was charged with all six Nats runs, but only four were earned.