September 2013

What to Watch for: 9.22.13 – Game Two

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Miami Marlins (57-98) vs. Washington Nationals (83-72)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 2.96) vs. LHP Brian Flynn (0-2, 9.64) 

The Nationals close the home slate of the 2013 season with the second game of this twin-bill against the Marlins. Washington owns an 8-1 mark against Miami at home this season as they take aim at their 84th win of the year and their 47th in Washington D.C.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore 1B

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

ZIMMERMAN AT WORK

Ryan Zimmerman launched his team-leading 26th home run in the opener of the doubleheader to account for both Washington runs. The blast pulls him into a three-way tie for fifth in the National League. He has hit 11 of those roundtrippers since September 2, when he entered play tied for 38th in the league with just 15 on the season.

500 CLUB

500KWith 494 in the bag, Stephen Strasburg enters his assignment tonight just six strikeouts shy of the reaching the 500-strikeout threshold. With Strasburg at 421.1 career innings entering play tonight, here’s a closer look at where Strasburg might rank for the fewest innings required to reach 500 strikeouts (since 1900, special thanks Elias Sports Bureau).

NATIONAL LEADERS

The Nationals sport the best record in the National League in September, with a 15-5 mark. It should be no surprise, then, that they have compiled both the lowest ERA (2.63) and the most home runs (27) in the NL.

What to Watch for: 9.22.13 – Game One

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Miami Marlins (56-98) vs. Washington Nationals (83-71)

RHP Tom Koehler (3-10, 4.51) vs. RHP Dan Haren (9-13, 4.88)

With Saturday’s postponement, the Nationals will wrap the home portion of the regular season with a split doubleheader today against the Marlins. Washington comes into the day having won five-of-six, 12-of-14 and 23 of its last 30 to pull within 4.5 games of the Reds and 5.5 games of the Pirates in the chase for the postseason. The Nationals will send Dan Haren – who is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA (1 ER/12.0 IP), allowing just seven baserunners while striking out 12 over his last two outings – to the mound in the opener.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

8. Jhonatan Solano C

9. Dan Haren RHP

SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…

Updated ScenariosWith just over a week to play in the regular season, the Nationals enter Sunday’s twin-bill with a 1.2 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus. In order for Washington to force a one-game playoff for the final Wild Card spot, the Nationals need to pair their record with one of the scenarios in the box to the right from either the Reds or Pirates.

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth currently ranks among the National League’s top five in OPS (third, .934), slugging percentage (fourth, .532), batting average (fifth, .321) and on-base percentage (fifth, .402). Werth is the only player in the league to rank among the NL’s top five in each of those four categories. Werth has hit better than .300 in July (.367), August (.380) and September (.314).

THIS, THAT, THE OTHER

The Nationals have out-homered their opponents, 22-4, over the past 14 games, dating to September 7. In 40 games dating to August 9, the Nationals have scored four or more runs 27 times, going 25-2 in those contests. After starting 60-for-86 (69.8%) on the basepaths, Washington has been successful on 21 of its last 22 stolen base attempts (95.4%).

What to Watch for: 9.21.13

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Miami Marlins (56-98) vs. Washington Nationals (83-71)

RHP Tom Koehler (3-10, 4.51) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 2.96)

Jordan Zimmermann dominated Miami from start to finish Friday night, firing a two-hit, complete-game shutout in an 8-0 blanking of the Marlins. He carried a no-hitter through 5.2 innings before allowing a single to Donovan Solano, brother of Nationals backstop Jhonatan, and struck out nine batters along the way.

In his dominant effort, Zimmermann became the first member of the Nationals franchise (2005-present) to record two shutouts in a single season, after posting a 1-0, one-hit shutout of the Reds on April 26. His two performances give the Nationals four complete-game shutouts this season – also a team record – including Stephen Strasburg (Aug. 11) and Gio Gonzalez (Sept. 9).

The win was Zimmermann’s 19th of the season, most in the National League, with one more opportunity to earn win No. 20 scheduled to come next week in St. Louis. Should he reach that figure, he would join Gonzalez as the only 20-game winners in team history and give D.C. its first back-to-back league wins leaders since Alvin “General” Crowder won 26 games in 1932 and 24 in 1933, leading the American League both times.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
3. Jayson Werth RF
4. Bryce Harper LF
5. Ian Desmond SS
6. Adam LaRoche 1B
7. Wilson Ramos C
8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B
9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

THE CHASE TO 500 K
With 494 in the bag, Stephen Strasburg enters his assignment tonight just six strikeouts shy of reaching the 500-career strikeout threshold. Here’s a closer look at how Strasburg compares to the five fastest starting pitchers to reach 500 career strikeouts (since 1900, special thanks to the Elias Sports Bureau):

Pitcher, IP to 500 K
Kerry Wood, 404.2
Mark Prior, 421.2
Tim Lincecum, 438.0
Oliver Perez, 444.0
Hideo Nomo, 444.2

Stephen Strasburg: 494 strikeouts in 421.1 innings

STATUS CHECK
The Nationals reside in second place in the NL East, 8.0 games behind Atlanta with just eight games remaining in the regular season. For the Nationals to claim a share of the division title, they would have to go 8-0 and hope the Braves go 0-8 the rest of the way. In the Wild Card race, Washington trails Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by 5.0 games apiece, meaning either the Pirates or Reds would have to lose at least five of their remaining eight contests to open the door for a Nationals postseason berth.

40 DAYS, 40 NIGHTS
The Nationals are 29-11 in their past 40 games, the best record in the Major Leagues during that span. Including last night’s eight-run effort, they have scored four or more runs 27 times during that stretch, compiling a 25-2 record.

Highlights: 9.20.13

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9.20.13 – Nationals 8, Marlins 0

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann pitched a complete-game, two-hit shutout, giving him an NL-best 19 wins.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Anthony Rendon went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while making several strong defensive plays at second base.

It Was Over When: The Nationals sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, plating seven runs.

What to Watch for: 9.20.13

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Miami Marlins (56-97) vs. Washington Nationals (82-71)

RHP Jacob Turner (3-7, 3.51) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (18-8, 3.33)

The Nationals won their seventh game in as many tries at home against the Marlins Thursday night with a 3-2 victory behind Gio Gonzalez. Washington has won four-of-five, 11-of-13 and 22 of its last 29 games in its frantic, late-season push for the postseason. The Nationals will have their eyes on the Reds and Pirates – both of whom they are chasing in the Wild Card hunt – who begin the first of six matchups over the season’s final nine games.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

ALL GREAT THINGS MUST COME TO AN END

Denard Span’s 29-game hit streak came to an end last night, one game shy of the Nationals (2005-present) franchise mark, set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009. A look at the longest hit streaks in D.C. baseball history:

1. Heinie Manush* (AL Nationals)              1933        33

2. Sam Rice* (AL Nationals)                      1924         31

T3. Ryan Zimmerman (NL Nationals)   2009        30

T3. Sam Rice* (AL Nationals)                     1929-30   30

T5. Denard Span (NL Nationals)           2013        29

T5. Sam Rice (AL Nationals)                       1920        29

* – Hall-of-Famer

FOUR SCORE AND 20 BLASTS AGO

With Bryce Harper’s 20th homer, the 2013 Nationals became the first club in franchise history, including Montreal, to have five 20-homer players. Ryan Zimmerman (25), Jayson Werth (23), Ian Desmond (20), Adam LaRoche (20) and Harper helped Washington become the third Major League team with five 20-homer players this season.

20-20 VISION

Ian Desmond—via his 20-homer, 19-stolen bag effort so far—is on the cusp of becoming the first National with multiple 20-20 campaigns (25 HR, 21 SB in ‘12). Six Major Leaguers have attained 20-20 status so far in ‘13: Carlos Gonzalez (26 HR-21 SB), Hunter Pence (25-21), Mike Trout (26-33), Will Venable (22-20), Carlos Gomez (21-36) and Andrew McCutchen (20-27).

29 Games Later

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With an 0-for-4 last night, Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak came to an end just shy of matching the Nationals franchise record set by Ryan Zimmerman four seasons ago. And while we here at Curly W Live observed the baseball tradition of not discussing such a streak while it is in progress, we would be remiss not to revisit it in depth, now that it is over.

Only 30 players have compiled streaks as long as Span's since 1941.

Only 30 players have compiled streaks as long as Span’s since 1941.

Span batted .371/.406/.492 and collected seven stolen bases over the 29 games, raising his season slash line to .282/.331/.383 at the end of play Wednesday. His averages are all now within points of his career norms, and he sits just two steals shy of reaching 20 for the third time in his six-year Major League career. With his solid defense in center field, he has contributed a 3.3 fWAR, fourth-highest on the club, between Bryce Harper (3.9) and Zimmerman (2.9).

Not surprisingly, as their streaking leadoff hitter’s fortunes improved, so did the Nationals record. But the fact that Washington went 22-7 in those 29 games (they lost a 3-2 decision in Philadelphia when he entered the game late, but did not bat on September 2) really shines a light on the difference a productive Span makes at the top of the lineup.

But let’s go back to the streak itself to appreciate where it rests in the history of baseball. When Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games in 1941, he set an immeasurably high bar, perhaps the most untouchable of all records in professional sports. In the 72 years since, the reverence attached to the feat has only grown. So impressive is DiMaggio’s mark that, by comparison, only one man has even surpassed the 40-game plateau in the intervening years. That would be Pete Rose, who strung together 44 games with at least one hit in 1978.

Span's streak has put his 2013 numbers in line with his career marks.

Span’s streak has put his 2013 numbers in line with his career marks.

In fact, hitting streaks of any considerable length are exceedingly rare. Most tend to fizzle out in the teens, while anything above 20 becomes noteworthy. Consider that, since 1941, only 30 players in the big leagues have recorded a streak as long as Span’s 29-gamer.

Span’s streak was the longest in the Major Leagues since both Dan Uggla (33) and Andre Ethier (30) both broke the 30-game barrier back in 2011. And, like most quirky baseball items, the streak was not without one notable anomaly: while Span had only a pair of two-hit performances over the streak, he collected three hits six different times and four hits once.

Aside from Rose, Paul Molitor came the closest to the 40-game marker, stretching his 1987 streak to 39 before his next hitless game. Between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Jimmy Rollins recorded a hit in 38 consecutive contests and Tommy Holmes logged a 37-game hitting streak in 1945. In 1949, DiMaggio’s brother, Dom, put together a 34-game run.

Here’s a look at all hitting streaks of at least 29 games since 1941:

40+ games: Pete Rose (’78, CIN) 44.

35-39 games: Paul Molitor (’87, MIL) 39, Jimmy Rollins (’05-’06, PHI) 38, Tommy Holmes (’45, BOS-NL) 37, Luis Castillo (’02, FLA) 35, Chase Utley (’06, PHI) 35.

31-34 games: Dom DiMaggio (’49, BOS) 34, Benito Santiago (’87, SD) 34, Dan Uggla (’11, ATL) 33, Willie Davis (’69, LAD) 31, Rico Carty (’70, ATL) 31, Ken Landreaux (’80, MIN) 31, Vladimir Guerrero (’99, MON) 31.

29-30 games: Stan Musial (’50, STL) 30, Ron LeFlore (’76, DET) 30, Nomar Garciaparra (’97, BOS) 30, Sandy Alomar Jr. (’97, CLE) 30, Eric Davis (’98, BAL) 30, Luis Gonzalez (’99, ARI) 30, Albert Pujols (’03, STL) 30, Willy Tavares (’06, HOU) 20, Moises Alou (’07, NYM) 30, Ryan Zimmerman (’09, WAS) 30, Andre Ethier (’11, LAD) 30, Joe Gordon (’42, NYY) 29, Harry Walker (’43, STL) 29, Ken Boyer (’59, STL) 29, Rowland Office (’76, ATL) 29, Johnny Damon (’05, BOS) 29, Denard Span (’13, WAS) 29.

Signature Moments of 2013

With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We seeded the top 10 in our book, and after more than 6,500 votes, you determined the ultimate Signature Moment of the season. Relive each and every one in video form below.

SigMomentsBracketFINAL

A STORYBOOK BEGINNING | 4.1
On April 1, Bryce Harper’s first swing of the 2013 campaign connected with a hanging curveball out of Ricky Nolasco’s hand, soared 406 feet and landed in the right field seats. In his second at-bat, the defending National League Rookie of the Year punished another Nolasco breaking ball, again to right. He couldn’t have scripted a better start to his sophomore season.

ONE HIT WONDERS | 4.25 & 4.26
On April 25 against the Cincinnati Reds, Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano combined to throw just the second one-hitter in the history of the young Nationals franchise, handing the Reds an 8-1 loss. The very next night, Jordan Zimmermann did all the work himself, needing just 91 pitches to finish a one-hitter of his own, his first-career shutout, 1-0. It was the first time since August 10-11, 1917 that a Washington-based baseball club had one-hit an opponent on consecutive days, when Walter Johnson and a trio of Senators did so to the Chicago White Sox.

LOMBO LIFTS NATS | 6.4
With the Nationals trailing 2-1 late against the New York Mets, the bats came alive with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan Zimmerman led off the frame with a double and scored on a single by Adam LaRoche, who went to third on a double by Ian Desmond. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Steve Lombardozzi worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lifting a sacrifice fly down the left-field line, just deep enough to score LaRoche for the Nats first walk-off win of the 2013 season.

THE WALKING DEAD | 6.19
Trailing most of the game on June 19 in Philadelphia, the Nationals bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip. Jayson Werth, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped a game-tying, two-out, RBI-single in the top of the ninth inning. In the 11th, the Nationals loaded the bases for Ian Desmond, who annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes for his first career grand slam, giving the Nats a 6-2 win.

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1
Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

RAMOS RETURNS | 7.4
After Wilson Ramos spent 44 games on the disabled list, his return to the Nationals lineup on July 4 couldn’t have come soon enough. Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three), capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh inning that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

WALK-OFF WONDERS | 7.25 & 7.26
On July 25, in a 7-7 tie with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper ripped a line drive to deep left-center field, just clearing the #NATITUDE sign and dropping into the second row of the Red Porch for the first game-winning home run of his career. The very next night, in the second game of a doubleheader with the New York Mets, Ryan Zimmerman punished a high fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was his ninth-career walk-off home run, four shy of the Major League record.

ONE GRAND SWING | 8.10
Jayson Werth reached the 1,000-hit milestone in memorable fashion on August 10, in an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. After a pair of singles in his second and third at-bats got him to 999, Werth was set up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game with a runner at first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The normally methodical Werth took no time to make his presence felt, jumping on the first pitch and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run.

THE STRAS ‘SHO’ | 8.11
On August 11 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Stephen Strasburg completed his first Major League shutout in a 6-0 Nationals victory. Impressively, he combined the dominant power pitching with which he burst onto the scene in his first big league start, with the pitch-to-contact approach he has executed this season. Despite striking out 10 Philadelphia batters, the 25-year-old needed just 99 pitches and faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum.

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17
Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Highlights: 9.19.13

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9.19.13 – Nationals 3, Marlins 2

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper launched his 20th home run of the season to provide all three runs of offense.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Three relievers – Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano – combined for 3.0 innings of scoreless relief.

It Was Over When: Soriano fanned Christian Yelich with two runners on to lock up his 42nd save of the year.

What to Watch for: 9.19.13

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Miami Marlins (56-96) vs. Washington Nationals (81-71)

RHP Henderson Alvarez (4-4, 3.97) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.40) 

Washington opens the final homestand of the regular season against the same foe it began the season with back on April 1, the Miami Marlins. Southpaw and Miami native Gio Gonzalez will toe the rubber for the Nationals on his 28th birthday, looking for his 11th win of the 2013 campaign.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

DISTRICT FISH FRY

The Nationals have won all six home contests against the Marlins this season and are 12-3 at home against Miami over the past two years. Washington has also clinched just its second season series win over the Marlins, courtesy of an 11-4 overall record heading into the final four contests between the teams this year. Tonight’s Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts (13.0 IP) against Miami this year, while the three announced Marlins starters so far are a combined 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA (14 ER/17.1 IP) in four starts versus Washington.

QUITE A SPAN

Denard Span singled in the seventh inning on Wednesday night to extend his hitting streak to 29 games. He has batted .371/.406/.492 over that stretch, which has included six three-hit games and a four-hit performance. The streak is the longest in Major League Baseball this season and one shy of matching the franchise mark of 30, set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009.

CATCH SOME Z’S

At the completion of play on September 1, Ryan Zimmerman had hit just 15 home runs through his first 122 games of the season. In his last 16 contests, he’s blasted 10 more, and is currently tied for seventh in the National League with a team-best 25 homers. Zimmerman’s 10 home runs this month are the most in MLB (Hunter Pence, with nine, is the only other player with more than six) and have established a Nationals record for the month of September.

What to Watch for: 9.18.13

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Atlanta Braves (89-62) vs. Washington Nationals (81-70)

LHP Alex Wood (3-3, 3.45) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (4-0, 3.15)

The Nationals completed an exciting doubleheader sweep over the Braves on Tuesday to cap an emotional day Tuesday in The District. Washington rallied for three runs off Craig Kimbrel for a 6-5, walk-off win in the matinee, while Tanner Roark tossed seven shutout innings in the 4-0 nightcap victory to become the first Nationals player (2005-present) to win his first seven decisions. Ross Ohlendorf steps to the hill tonight as Washington aims for its 11th win in 12 contests and a three-game sweep of its division rivals.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (27-10, .730). In that span, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (201) and run differential (+65). The Nationals have won eight of nine series since taking three of four games at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

HOMER HAPPY

At the completion of play on September 1, when the Nationals departed for their most recent road trip, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the National League with 15 home runs. In the 15 games since, Zimmerman has hit 10 long balls — including one to spur a three-run eighth inning in Tuesday’s nightcap — and is currently tied for sixth in the NL with a team-best 25 homers. Zimmerman’s 10 home runs this month are the most in MLB (ahead of Hunter Pence’s nine) and have established a Nationals record for the month of September.

SOME REST FOR THE WEARY

Wilson Ramos’ Nationals record and MLB season-high string of 24 consecutive starts behind the plate came to an end in Tuesday’s nightcap against the Braves. During the 24-game run, which began August 22 at Chicago, Ramos went 24-for-91 (.264) with a double, seven home runs and 24 RBI. Washington played .750 (18-6) ball during that stretch.

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