Washington Nationals: Takeaways From the Pirates Series
The Washington Nationals wrapped up their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday with a 4-3 loss. Here are some takeaways from the three-game series.
The Washington Nationals were unable to record back-to-back series wins Sunday as they lost a close one to the Pittsburg Pirates 4-3. Washington loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon were unable to drive in the tying run securing Pittsburgh the victory.
Before the Nationals begin their three-game set with the SanFrancisco Giants on Tuesday night, here are some takeaways from the Pirates series.
1. Nationals starting pitching lives up to expectations.
This offseason the Nationals devoted tons of money into their starting pitching. Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez have been solid to start the year, but this weekend we saw why the Nats decided to make such a deep investment in their starters.
Corbin started off the series Friday night and was absolutely fantastic. The lefty struck out 11 batters and looked every bit worth the biggest free agent contract to a pitcher that Washington gave him. Sanchez followed him on Saturday with a very solid performance as well, and Max Scherzer after being pushed back a day with a knee injury, was fantastic on Sunday afternoon.
All three starters went at least seven innings in the series, and with a bullpen that is struggling so much like Washington, it will be imperative for the Nats starters to continue to pitch deep into games. If these three games are a sign of what is to come for the Nationals starters, they will be in very good shape as the season enters the Summer months.
2. The bullpen is still a huge issue.
Well, this may sound like a broken record at this point, but the Nationals still have a huge bullpen problem. Friday night a combination of relievers including Justin Miller, who was placed on the 10 day IL after the game, were unable to hold a lead and give Corbin the win he deserved.
The story was the same on Sunday, as Wander Suero who was getting a look in higher leverage situations, gave up an RBI double in the ninth, giving Pittsburgh the 4-3 lead. Sean Doolittle was unavailable in this game, and it caused a big problem for Washington.
Doolittle has been the only guy who has pitched even close to well, and it just seems like we are reading the same story over and over again. It is clear the bullpen issues are not going to go away, and Washington needs to look outside the organization for help before it is too late.
3. Trea Turner’s absence is affecting the Nationals lineup greatly.
When Trea Turner was placed on the IL almost two weeks ago, the Nationals showed faith in backup Wilmer Difo by not calling up top prospect Carter Kieboom and giving Difo the starting job. So far that faith has not paid off as Difo has provided virtually nothing at the plate, and it really showed in this series.
The Nationals shortstop went 1-9 with five strikeouts against Pittsburgh in the series and was unable to provide any threat towards the bottom of the order. Without a true SS on the bench, the Nationals really do not have any other option but to continue to run Difo out there every day.
If his struggles continue and Kendrick continues to be hot at the plate, could there be a scenario where Washington tries to play Brian Dozier at short and Kendrick at second? Dozier is a good defender and is an athletic guy so it could be a possibility, but seems unlikely at this time.
Simply put if the Nationals want to succeed in Turner’s absence, they have to get better production out of the shortstop position. Difo is hitting just .184 at this point in the season and has been a huge rally killer in the seven spot of the order.