Washington Nationals: Several positives emerge from Cubs series

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 06: Sean Doolittle
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 06: Sean Doolittle /
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A solid series from Matt Wieters

After getting off to a blistering start in April, Matt Wieters has been largely unspectacular. He has hit .227 since April and has looked lost at the plate at times.

On top of not producing at the plate, he hasn’t done much defensively. Lots of Gio Gonzalez‘s success has been attributed to Wieters’ leadership, but he has struggled in the quantitative areas (pitch framing, blocking, throwing out runners).

Wieters’ season may have turned around on Saturday against the Cubs. John Lackey was the Cubs’ starting pitcher, a pitcher Wieters has seen 39 times throughout his career. Lackey appeared to be just what the doctor ordered to get Wieters straight and he hit him well, recording a hit in each of his first two at-bats before getting ejected.

Wieters’ bat remained hot upon his return to the lineup on Sunday. He finished the day 1-for-3, but his one hit was a big one. He came up in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and the score tied and delivered in a big way, crushing a grand slam to dead center field.

Although Wieters only recorded one hit on Sunday, he came extremely close to a second. With Anthony Rendon on third and one out in the seventh inning, Wieters hit a ball hard to deep right center field, but Jon Jay ran it down at the warning track to rob Wieters of extra bases. Despite the fact that he didn’t get a hit, he drove in his first of five runs for the game.

In addition to displaying some long-awaited offensive prowess, Wieters was solid defensively. He called a good game, helping Erick Fedde navigate his way through his second career start, but finally produced in a quantitative area as well.

Jon Lester came up to the plate with Javier Baez at first and Jason Heyward at second with one out, so he was attempting to get down a sacrifice bunt. Lester whiffed on the first pitch, but Heyward wandered a bit too far off of second base, assuming Lester would get the bunt down. Wieters noticed this and made a nice heads-up play to throw behind Heyward, who was eventually run down and tagged out.

The Nationals’ pitching staff has been notoriously bad at holding runners, so Wieters must take it upon himself to control the running game. He has struggled with this tall task thus far, but showed improvement on Sunday.

The Nats had high hopes for their new catcher, especially after an outstanding April, but he has been a bit of a disappointment for most of the season. Wieters showed signs of improvement on both sides of the ball this weekend against the Cubs, which is potentially a huge development. Wieters will likely return to the team next year, so any improvement will be welcomed with open arms.