Andrew laid out a solid case for why Trea Turner could live up to the lofty expectations Nationals’ fans have set for him. Everyone is certainly pulling for him to be the star he has looked like so far this season. But baseball is hard, especially for rookies. The history of the league is littered with rookies who made big impacts right off the bat, only to come crashing back to earth after the league made a few adjustments. The honeymoon phase is starting to wind down on Turner, and he’s going to have to prove he can adjust to the league’s approach to him.
Lost in the midst of the Nats’ disappointing loss to the Indians was another solid outing from Max Scherzer. He took a no hitter into the seventh inning and ended up allowing only three hits and one run over seven innings, leaving with a loss as the lineup failed to provide any semblance of run support. Scherzer was on the cusp of a transcendent outing and though it may not feel like, that has been the norm this season.
Since Frank kicked off “feel good about the Nationals week,” I figured I would keep the good times rolling. While he talked about how the Nationals are in prime position to lock up the NL East and a playoff spot, I’m just here to make to tell you the Nationals are a good team. Period.
After weeks of speculation, the Nationals finally made a deal for a closer, a deal that fans had been demanding for quite a while. Except the deal wasn’t for either of the Yankees’ hard throwing lefties, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. It wasn’t for Royals closer extraordinaire Wade Davis either. Instead, it was for Mark Melancon in a deal that at worst looks like a fair trade but at best could be considered a borderline steal. Melancon’s name wasn’t making the rounds on the rumor mill for long before the deal got announced. So who exactly is the Nationals’ new closer?
The Nationals lost Tuesday night. Hold your vitriol for a moment, though, there is at least one positive to take out of the game. Before getting to the positive, let’s start with a few caveats. “Optimal” batting orders can mean something like 10-20 extra runs per season, one to two wins at best. The Nationals are on the road against the Indians, meaning the pitcher doesn’t hit and the Nationals get some extra lineup flexibility with a DH in the lineup. Finally, Dusty won’t commit to Tuesday night’s lineup long term.
But man, I loved the Tuesday night lineup. Here is why, on a position-by-position review:
The trade deadline is approaching. #Sources are going to be trending on Twitter soon. Jon Heyman knock-off Twitter handles are primed to break fake news stories. The hot stove hasn’t really gotten going yet, but already the Nationals have been named as potential suitors for a whole host of players. As a team in the playoff hunt, it’s natural for people to speculate about what upgrades Mike Rizzo might make to his roster. But the Nationals are a first-place team, so where exactly could Rizzo try to improve the ball club?
Against a tough Pirates squad looking to fight their way back into the playoff picture, Tanner Roark turned in yet another impressive outing Saturday night. Although he couldn’t quite go the distance, he did turn in eight scoreless innings in the Nationals’ win. The Pirates struggled to even put together anything that could resemble a rally while Roark was on the mound. Pittsburgh can at least take some solace in the fact that they haven’t been the only team to struggle against Roark in 2016. He’s been on a tear since his first outing in 2016 and now holds an ERA under 3.00.
The All Star Game has come and gone and the Nationals kick off the second half of the season with an impressive six-game lead in the NL East. There have been a lot of ups and downs getting to that six game lead. Some players have clearly gone above and beyond expectations while others have frustratingly fallen short. Let’s figure out who those under/over performers are so far this Nationals season.
The Nationals have a thing about calling up stud pitching prospects on Tuesdays in June. The OG of Nats pitching prospects, Stephen Strasburg, set the bar pretty high for MLB debuts. He went seven innings, had 14 sensational strikeouts against the Pittsburgh Pirates and allowed only two runs, both coming on a two-run home run. Despite a one-hour rain delay to start of the game, Lucas Giolito, the next Nats hyped pitching prospect, lived up to Strasburg’s lofty precedent before his night was cut short by yet another rain delay.
In Saturday’s loss against the Brewers, Ryan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, which means he didn’t get a hit in yet another high leverage situation this season. Despite flashes here and there, Zimmerman has struggled offensively this season. Those struggles have been exposed in high leverage situations thanks to the new found strategy of intentionally walking whoever hits in front of Zimmerman. Joe Maddon may have some creative get-away outfit ideas, but as a Nats fan I’ll take a hard pass on his trend setting idea of walking Bryce Harper to get to Zimmerman. That means he has had his fair share of bases loaded chances and has failed to really deliver on those opportunities. How bad has it been? Let’s take a look.