Jayson Werth was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Nats this week. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
At some point you have to wonder if Matt Williams will ever have his full lineup available to him. Know how many times it’s happened so far this season? Six innings and change. That’s it. Wilson Ramos left in the bottom of the seventh Opening Day and the lineup card looks like we’re still in the Grapefruit League.
This week Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, and Scott Hairston returned only to see Adam LaRoche placed on the 15-day DL with a quad strain. Outside of the Tampa Bay Rays decimated pitching staff and the Texas Rangers Arlington infirmary, has a team in MLB been so riddled with injuries like the Nats have? At the moment, the heart of the Nats batting order is recovering on the DL: Bryce Harper, LaRoche, and Ryan Zimmerman. That is 2.1 bWARP not in the lineup, replaced by Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore, and Nate McLouth. Moore and Frandsen have been solid in bench roles and are fine in limited roles, but McClouth has pretty much been a disaster offensively this season.
The Nats can hide one of those players starting. With Ian Desmond desperately needing a do-over on this season and Denard Span swinging at just about anything thrown to him, the offense needs healthy players. Ryan Zimmerman is healing, but there’s no word as to when he’ll return. Here’s hoping it’s sometime soon.
Let’s move on from that dark cloud and discuss Tanner Roark. In case you missed it, and seeing that Saturday’s game started at 9 ET you probably did, his latest start against the Oakland A’s was another gem from the oft forgotten starter. Fister’s return on Friday was enthusiastically celebrated by Nats fans, but it’s been Roark who’s had the coming out party this year. Roark leads the starters in WHIP, is second in hits per nine, and has allowed one or fewer earned runs in three of his last four starts. Saturday night he threw his changeup about as well as a human being possibly can. Is that hyperbole? The term “pulling the string” was invented with Roark in mind.
The Nats briefly flirted with first place in the East earlier this week, and after taking two of three from the Dodgers, defeating both Zach Greinke and former Nat Dan Haren in the process. In his first game back from the DL against LA, Wilson Ramos doubled and drove in the game winning run. There were good vibes heading into Oakland. Alas, Doug Fister’s return was spoiled by the A’s and former Nat, Tommy Milone while on Sunday, former Nat farmhand Derek Norris hit two home runs off of Gio Gonzalez, helping to complete the A’s sweep. In the three games against the A’s, the Nats were outscored 21-4.
Unfortunately, the one game the Nats should have won in that Oakland series saw two Rafael Soriano streaks come to an end. He had converted 19 straight saves and 25 consecutive scoreless innings.
Allowing first inning runs has been a problem all year for the Nats, and this week proved no different. Nats starters allowed five first inning runs this week, and on the season now sport an ERA of 7. For the week, the starters carried a collective ERA of 4.13, but if you subtract Roark’s outing that number jumps to 5.04. Meanwhile, the bullpen’s ERA was 4.50 while they allowed 22 hits in 20 innings pitched.
The bats went ice cold this week. For the week, the Nats collectively hit .215 with a slugging percentage of .315. Jayson Werth batted .380 for the week, and Adam LaRoche batted .333 with two RBIs. Danny Espinosa hit two home runs this week, showing signs of extricating himself from this mini-funk he’s been in.
In the week ahead, the Nats finish off their West Coast road trip with a three game series in Arizona before returning home to play the New York Mets.