If ever there was an image that represented the Nationals this past week it would have to be the drama masks, right? They took the first three of a four game series in San Francisco, outscoring the Giants 17-5. There were smiles all around. They then dropped the final game in the series and were swept by the Cardinals, being outscored 17-4 in the process. The four straight losses tied their season high, and the good times that were the beginning of the week were long gone by the time sunset arrived on Father’s Day.
Last week I wrote that Denard Span was eventually going to cool off, and this week he essentially took the equivalent of an ice bath. For the week he hit .130/.192/.304, but the worst of it came in the first two games of the St. Louis series. He went 0-for-8 and saw 14 pitches. Total. Remember that playoff game in 2012 when Josh Hamilton went 0-for-4, saw 8 pitches, and was vilified by the Rangers’ fans? Well, Span actually did worse than that in two straight games. It got so bad that in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game, after Strasburg worked a walk to load the bases, I tweeted this:
What’s the over/under on pitches Span sees? If it’s two, I take the under. #nats
— Scott Bline (@thebluecow1) June 15, 2014
And I was right. Span swung at the first pitch Randy Choate threw him and grounded out. Sigh. Span’s OBP has now fallen back to .305, and I think that this is going to be one of those topics I bring up fairly often. He’ll get hot, make you forget he rarely takes a walk, then fall off the cliff and hope for Harper to man center soon. He seems like a super nice guy. Upon Harper’s return, it’s my hope Span takes his demotion well.
Span isn’t the only regular to struggle this week. Ryan Zimmerman hit .111 and Danny Espinosa had to go 2-for-3 on Sunday to raise his weekly tally to .150. As a team, the Nats batted .213, and if you look at the big picture, the absolute tear the Nats were on had to hit a speed bump eventually. The team is middle of the pack offensively in the NL (8th in runs scored and OPS, 9th in batting, and 6th in OBP), and while the team has hit only 60 home runs on the season (9th NL), no team outside of Colorado is really hitting home runs this season anyway. One positive sign is that Jayson Werth hit his first home run since May 14th, and he drove in eight runs this week, two more than the entire month of May. So, dark cloud meet silver lining and let’s move along.
After being named the NL Player of the Week for last week’s dominance, Jordan Zimmermann followed that up with another brilliant start against the Cardinals. Zimmermann lost 1-0, but he pitched eight innings of 3-hit ball, completing his second straight game. The starting pitching as a whole did extremely well. Tanner Roark, Doug Fister, and Stephen Strasburg all frustrated the Giants hitters early in the week, allowing three runs between them to a team that many had penciled in as the NL’s best. For the week, the starting staff had an ERA of 2.45 with a WHIP of 1.05. Not the same as last week, sure, but for the past two weeks this staff has gone 9-3 with a combined ERA of 1.82, striking out 73 in 64 innings while allowing 64 hits and 9 walks.
Sooner or later, the Nats are going to be on the other end of those 1-0 and 2-1 games (they did win one game 2-1 against the Giants this week). On the season, the Nats are 2-23 when scoring 2 or fewer runs.
It had to happen eventually, and on Sunday Fister finally turned normal again. Since his first start against Oakland, Fister had gone six straight starts allowing two or fewer runs, but on Sunday that streak ended when he allowed four to the Cardinals in six innings. Somehow, in that Cardinals series, the Nats allowed three home runs to the one player, Matt Adams, in the St. Louis lineup that actually can hit home runs. Adams abused Nats starters, hitting the go-ahead home run in each game in the series.
This week brought both good and bad news on the injury-front. Wilson Ramos returned to the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain, but Gio Gonzalez is set to return this coming Wednesday after being placed on the DL May 18th with shoulder inflammation. Prior to going on the DL, Gonzalez had allowed 12 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings across two starts.
All in all, the Nats finished their 10-game road trip going 5-5. Atlanta and Miami were 4-6 and 5-5 respectively during that span, so it’s not as though the Nats lost ground. Still. The Nats never quite take advantage when the other teams in the East struggle.
The week ahead brings two against Houston, the first with a must see matchup between Roark and Dallas Keuchel. If you haven’t been paying attention, Keuchel is one of the NL’s best this season, and I recommend recording this game. I have a feeling it’ll be one we look back on and remember for a while. Then the Nats play four against the Braves. You hate to think this is a must win series, this early in the season, but it would be nice to put some distance between the Nats and Braves. In that series, the Nats send Zimmermann, Strasburg, Fister, and Roark to the hill, and let’s just say I like their chances.