I came prepared. I was prepared to hear Twitter and the blog brigade blasting out 140-character epitaphs on how the Washington Nationals cannot win against good teams and are especially bad against good pitching. Typical Washington sports team that can only win when it doesn’t matter. But when the competition gets fierce they fold like a cheap tent. And don’t even get me started on the Nats against good pitching. When is the last time the Nats did anything against good teams?
This week, the Nats off-field endeavors attempted to quell the stress that is once again beginning to associate itself with the late innings. Tanner Roark, Bob Carpenter and Shawn Kelley read to kids at a local library, Ben Revere was on a mission to catch a circulating virus, and all the Harpers in America came together to create the cutest, Nats-jersey based video of all time.
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:
Despite Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth both hitting home runs and Tanner Roark going on the mound, the Nationals fell to the San Diego Padres on Friday night. Roark had not given up a home run in 32 consecutive innings but chose Friday to make up some ground on his total for the season. Matt Kemp hammered two home runs off of the Nats’ starter, who lasted only five innings. In contrast, his counterpart Luis Perdomo lasted a career-high seven innings.
Twitter was briefly set afire today by ex-Nat Mark DeRosa’s suggestion on Twitter that the Nationals give up a king’s ransom in young talent for a pair of controllable and talented White Sox in their prime.
The first games after the All Star break are the equivalent of jumping into a pool after spending all day in the scorching sun. The feeling is amplified by a series win, and even more so when it’s accompanied by a flurry off-field fun:
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?
Much speculation has swirled around the Nationals potentially acquiring a reliever to beef up the back end of their bullpen. They are frequently named as a suitor for the Yankees’ pair of fireballing lefties: Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The list doesn’t end there, with Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad, Jeremy Jeffress, and Alex Colome as members of a very deep group. Suffice it to say, there are quite a few ways the trade deadline could go.
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.