May 19, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Nate McLouth (15) singles during the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park. Cincinnati Reds defeated Washington Nationals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals Bats Show Signs of Life This Week


I’ve written at length about the Nationals’ pitching woes, so I’d like to start out this column discussing what happens when things go right. Every starter not named Jordan Zimmermann pitched well this week, reminding you why exactly the Nats were a trendy preseason pick to represent the NL in the World Series. For the week, the starters tossed 31 innings with an accumulated WHIP of 1.16 and an ERA of 2.61, but if you toss out Zimmermann’s mediocre start (third in his last four), WHIP drops to 1.03 and ERA to 2.07. On the season, the starters are now ninth in the NL in ERA (3.80), fourth in FIP (3.40), sixth in strikeouts (285), and first in fewest walks (83) and K/9 (8.19). Basically, I’m saying that there were signs of real improvement.

Tanner Roark (3-4) pitched especially well, going seven innings in both of his starts while allowing four earned runs and twelve hits. Unfortunately, Roark lost both of his starts, showing why the win statistic for pitchers is essentially meaningless. On Sunday, Roark had the misfortune of being matched up against Yu Darvish who did his Yu Darvish thing and struck out twelve Nats in eight innings. Roark allowed one run in that game, a home run in the seventh, and lost.  Roark has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his 11 starts this year, has pitched well enough to be 6-2, and I take each no decision/loss personally.

Also, let me take a moment to recognize Doug Fister. Since his first start of the season, Fister has allowed 21 hits and 21 strike outs in 25 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs to a tune of a 2.13 ERA. In that span, batters are hitting .223 against the righty, and against Texas this week he tossed six innings with four hits with two earned runs while striking out six.

Moving on, before I start typing in all caps, how about the return of the real Nate McLouth? Did anyone see that 4-for-4 game against Miami coming from McLouth? He came into that game batting .143/.287/.214 and left at .182/.321/.261. Of course, the Nats squandered that performance and a three hit night by Wilson Ramos, losing 8-5 in a game they should have won in the 8th, but once again, we’ll drop that subject before bad things happen. For the week, McLouth hit a cool .333 with a couple of stolen bases.

Welcome to Washington Mr. McLouth!

This was sort of a good week overall with the bats. Wilson Ramos hit .411 with a home run; Adam LaRoche hit .350 with two home runs and six RBIs; Denard Span hit .347 with three multi-hit games; Jayson Werth hit .363 with a pair of RBIs; and Anthony Rendon hit .304 with a 4-for-5 night against Texas where he scored three runs. For the first time since April 8-9, Rendon had back-to-back games with multiple hits, and hopefully this is finally the end of that miserable stretch of days I like to call May that saw him hit .212/.292/.323 with five extra base hits and 18 strike outs. Rendon also pulled off the most ridiculous catch against the Rangers, backhanding a grounder while falling backwards no less, and still tossing Adrian Beltre out at first. Watch this. Then do it again repeatedly. For the week, the Nats had five players record 3+ hits in a game, and as a team, they had a three game stretch where they had 15, 15, and 12 hits. In one of those games, the second against Miami, they left 15 runners on base, three of those with in the 8th starting with zero outs.

Sigh. I’ll skip that…again.

The Nats as a team batted .280 this week with seven home runs (four of those in the second against Texas) and outscored their opponents 26-16. So how did they only go 2-3? No one loves Roark enough to score runs for him, Darvish, poor hitting with runners on against Miami, and Giancarlo Stanton destroying baseballs and throwing runners out. At the end of this season, when Darvish wins the AL Cy Young and Stanton wins the NL MVP, I’ll look back to this week and remember that they helped build their respective resumes against the Nats. When Roark does not win the NL Cy Young I will also recall this week and shake my fists in rage.

Going over my notes for this week, I thought I’d added wrong by looking at Ian Desmond’s line. One hit? That can’t be right. Oh, but it is. Remember last week when Desmond was destroying baseballs, hitting .320 with two home runs and seven RBIs? Well, his one hit this week did happen to be a home run. He also struck out nine times, in 17 at-bats, and made me look like a fool for once again believing in him. Danny Espinosa also didn’t hit the ball this week, recording only one hit in 12 at-bats, but he did move to a more open batting stance reminiscent of Carl Everett, which makes me somewhat happy for all the dinosaur jokes in the future.

I’ve been singing the bullpen’s praises lately, so I should at least point out that they sort of returned to being human again this week. The bullpen got the loss in that Miami debacle, and for the week they allowed 14 hits in 15 innings with an ERA of 3 and a WHIP of 1.26. I had two moments this week when I thought, hey so and so player’s slider is pretty awesome (Aaron Barrett and Drew Storen) and they promptly gave up runs. So, from here on out, I will keep my thoughts to myself when it comes to pitchers with filthy stuff.

The Nats fell under .500 this week not once but twice, now sitting at 27-28, for the first time since last August 22nd, and are currently 3 ½ games behind the Braves in the East.

In the week ahead, the Nats host Philadelphia for three before starting a 10 game road trip that begins with three against the Padres. Roark pitches the opener against San Diego, and I fully expect him to recreate the magic from his last Padres outing.

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