Chicago Cubs (13-21) vs. Washington Nationals (19-15)
RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50)
As the 2013 season is now just over 20 percent complete, certain trends have begun to emerge, defining each team’s identity on the field. For instance, when the Nationals score three or more runs, they are a stunning 16-2 on the season. When scoring five or more, they are a perfect 13-0. The only problem lies with the fact that they have played 34 games heading into this weekend’s three-game tilt with the Cubs, meaning that in 16 of those contests they have failed to cross the plate as many as three times, going just 3-13 in those affairs.
Of course, if this tells us anything about the club, it simply reaffirms a fact we already knew: the Nationals are built on pitching. As such, it should be no surprise that they own the league’s best winning percentage in one-run games, claiming a victory in six of their first eight battles separated by a single run. They have also made their offense hold up, owning the league’s best mark when scoring first (15-1) and second-best record when scoring last (9-2). With a strong back of the bullpen, it should be no surprise that they are 18-1 when leading after eight innings, but they impressively carry the same mark when leading after just five frames, a testament to that bullpen’s depth.
We remain early in the season, and these numbers won’t be a truly accurate reflection until sometime closer to the All-Star break. But the most important trend for the Nationals is quite clear. They’ve won four straight and six of seven heading into Friday night’s matchup, and are four games over .500 for the first time in nearly a month.
1. Span CF
2. Bernadina RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Espinosa 2B
7. Moore LF
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler LHP
APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS
With the sweep of Detroit complete, the Nationals 6-1 mark in May is tied for the second-best record in baseball this month (St. Louis is also 6-1). Only the 7-1 Indians have been better in May. Meanwhile, Washington’s four-game winning streak is tied for the longest in MLB with Arizona, San Diego and Cleveland.
LONG STREAK OF LONG BALLS
The Nationals have hit at least one home run in 67 consecutive series. That is currently the second-longest such streak in MLB (the Rangers have homered in 76 straight series) and the longest streak in D.C. baseball history (1901-71, 2005-present). Washington blasted 15 long balls in its four-game home series with Chicago last season.
BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN
Jim Lett’s bullpen has excelled of late, going 2-1 with six holds, seven saves and a 1.84 ERA (11 ER/53.2 IP) in 22 games dating to April 15. Nationals relievers have posted a .191 batting average against and been touched for just three home runs during the 22-game revival.
5.9.13 – Nationals 5, Tigers 4
Stat of the Game: Washington scored five times in the first two innings, improving to a perfect 13-0 when scoring five or more runs this season.
Under-the-Radar Performance: The bullpen turned in three scoreless innings to preserve a one-run lead in the victory.
It Was Over When: Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder’s long fly ball came up short of the wall in center field as Denard Span squeezed the final out for the two-game series sweep.
Detroit Tigers (19-12) vs. Washington Nationals (18-15)
RHP Doug Fister (4-0, 2.38) vs. RHP Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01)
The Nationals look for a two-game series sweep of the Tigers, following Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory behind Jordan Zimmermann. Dan Haren rides a two-game personal winning streak into this afternoon’s affair against Detroit righty Doug Fister.
1. Span CF
2. Bernadina LF
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Haren RHP
On Wednesday night, Jordan Zimmermann became the first Washington Nationals (2005-present) pitcher to garner a win in three straight starts despite Nationals bats posting three or less runs of offensive support (3-1 on Wednesday vs. Detroit, 2-0 on May 1 at Atlanta, 1-0 on April 26 vs. Cincinnati). Zimmermann has pocketed the win in seven consecutive starts at Nationals Park.
THE AMERICAN WAY
The Nationals are a perfect 4-0 this season against the American League (1-0 vs. Detrit, 3-0 vs. Chicago). Washington is also 22-15 in interleague play since the beginning of 2011. The corresponding .595 winning percentage paces NL clubs (fourth in MLB) in that 2+ year span, during which Washington is 12-7 (.632) at Nationals Park against the AL.
BRYCE HITS 10TH HOMER
Bryce Harper slugged his 10th homer of the season in his 111th at-bat of the season on Wednesday. In doing so, Harper reached the double-digit home run plateau quicker than any National (2005-present) with the exception of Adam Dunn, who blasted his 10th homer of the 2009 campaign n his 103rd at-bat, May 10 at Arizona.
Looking purely at the history of the matchup, not much favored the Nationals heading into Wednesday’s tilt with the Detroit Tigers. The franchise had never beaten Detroit since moving to D.C., going 0-6 over a pair on Interleague matchups since 2005. The Nationals also had never handed opposing starter Anibal Sanchez a loss in his 19 career starts against them.
But the Nationals had Jordan Zimmermann. And, as we’ve begun to learn this season, sometimes that’s enough to throw history out the window.
Behind seven strong innings from their emerging ace, the Nationals played great defense and found just enough timely hitting to pull out a 3-1 win. The victory also marked something of a first for Zimmermann, who took over the top spot in the National League with his sixth of the season. The righty lowered his ERA to just 1.59, trailing only Matt Harvey of the Mets.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper became the first National to reach double digits in home runs, doing so before any of his teammates even hit their fifth of the season. His 10th blast, a no-doubter to right-center off Sanchez in the fifth inning, tied him with John Buck for second in the National League and provided the game’s final margin.
Wednesday night’s contest even included the proverbial “thing you’ve never seen before at the ballpark,” an idiom often used in baseball. The less-than-fleet-footed Adam LaRoche made an aggressive play to tag from second base on a fly ball to right field with one out in the fourth inning. Torii Hunter’s throw came in just as LaRoche went into his slide, but glanced off the runner’s hand, past third baseman Miguel Cabrera and into the photographer’s well next to the Tigers dugout, where it hit a camera and ricocheted back out onto the field. As the ball would have gone out of play, third base umpire Greg Gibson awarded LaRoche home plate for what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
And so, even though some previous trends suggested a victory was unlikely, the Nationals upheld another trend that D.C. baseball fans might find pleasantly surprising. With the win, Washington improved to 22-15 in Interleague play since the beginning of the 2011 season, the best mark in the National League over that span. The Nationals also are now 4-0 against the American League this season, including a three-game sweep of the White Sox back in April. And at three games over .500 for the first time since entering play at 10-7 on April 21, they are just two games behind what is hopefully the next “first” on the list.
5.8.13 – Nationals 3, Tigers 1
Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper became the first National to reach 10 home runs, and is now tied for second in the National League with 10 long balls.
Under-the-Radar Performance: With another stellar performance, Jordan Zimmermann earned his league-leading sixth victory, dropping his already paltry ERA to just 1.59.
It Was Over When: Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined to record the final six outs and lock up the victory, Washington’s third in a row.
Flex your creative muscles and come up with a caption for the series of photos below from Nationals Magazine, Issue 1 featuring Tyler Moore and Jordan Zimmermann. Leave your response in the comments and we’ll feature our favorites in print in Issue 2, available at Nationals Park beginning in June!
Detroit Tigers (19-11) vs. Washington Nationals (17-15)
RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 1.82) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (5-1, 1.64)
Following a two-day break – after playing 17 games in 17 days – the Nationals return home to take on the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers in a short, two-game set. Familiar foe and former Marlin Anibal Sanchez matches up with Jordan Zimmermann, who shares the National League lead with five wins.
1. Span CF
2. Desmond SS
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore LF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Zimmermann RHP
In 13 games dating to April 23, Steve McCatty’s starting staff has fashioned a 2.96 ERA (28 ER/85.0 IP) thanks in part to a 3.4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .218 batting average against.
The Nationals, since their arrival in the Nation’s Capital, have never beaten the Tigers, going 0-6. The Nationals have posted wins against each of Major League Baseball’s other 28 clubs. This is the Tigers first visit to Nationals Park, although Detroit did sweep a three-game set in D.C., June 15-17, 2007 at RFK.
THE AMERICAN WAY
The Nationals are 21-15 in interleague play since the beginning of 2011. The corresponding .583 winning percentage paces National League clubs (tied for fifth in MLB) in that 2+ year span, during which Washington is 11-7 (.611) at Nationals Park when facing AL competition.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the cover article Change of Focus, from Issue 4 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
The Washington Nationals wish to announce that all fans who purchased tickets for Tuesday night’s postponed game with the Detroit Tigers will be guaranteed their same seats for Thursday’s scheduled 4:05 p.m. makeup game, or will retain the option to exchange their tickets – as they have in the past – for any remaining regular or value home game during the 2013 season, subject to availability. Due to increased attendance at Nationals Park, “rain check” ticket holders are encouraged to contact the Nationals ticket office by phone or online to better ensure seating for those games. The Nationals apologize for any inconvenience.
Tickets for Tuesday’s game may be exchanged at the Nationals Park Box Office for any Regular or Value game during the 2013 regular season. Exchanged tickets will be issued from available inventory in the closest pricing category of equal or lesser value to the original seats.* For more information on exchanging tickets purchased through nationals.com or the Nationals telephone charge line, please call 888.632.NATS(6287).
On game days, the Nationals Park Box Office is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. until 30 minutes after the end of the game, and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 30 minutes after the end of the game. Box office hours on non-game days are Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
*Subject to availability. Available game dates subject to change.
We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 3 of Inside Pitch.
1. How do you prepare yourself to win every day, especially over the grind of 162 games?
It was the way that I was taught to play ball. It didn’t matter if I was on a bad team, a team that was supposed to lose or a team that was supposed to win. Nothing’s ever been handed to me. When there’s a task at hand, I want to finish it the correct way.
2. Describe the team’s mindset now that it’s the hunted, instead of the hunter.
When you get onto the field, other teams should feel your presence. Mentally, you should already be up 1-0.
3. How does swagger factor into your game?
Swagger is just confidence, it’s how you carry yourself. It’s not being cocky, it’s just being confident. I think you go out there and play hard, and when you do something like hit a home run or make a big play, you act like you’ve done it before. You don’t showboat it.
4. What kind of relationship do you have with Davey Johnson?
I just see Davey as one of the guys, but I think that’s how he wants to be in the clubhouse. I was brought up to call everyone Mr. or Mrs., but he told me immediately to call him Davey.
5. What does toughness mean to you?
I don’t think I’ve ever asked for a day off. I played 160 of 162 last year. I’ll never ask for a day off if I haven’t hit a pitcher well or don’t feel 100 percent. You’ve got to learn to play with certain injuries or soreness.
6. Would you rather win a Gold Glove Award or a Silver Slugger Award?
Silver Slugger. I love defense, but I’d rather win a Silver Slugger.
7. Describe the boost you get playing in front of a sold out crowd at Nationals Park.
When you have a home crowd that’s behind you and likes you as a player and as a person, and they’re pulling for you, you want to come through. You always want to come through, but you feel like it’s just right for you to come through.
8. What is it like when you deliver in a key moment of the game?
It’s the best feeling in the world to come through in the clutch. To help the team out — put a bunt down, hit a sac fly, get a big base hit, make a nice play on defense — it feels great. You know your teammates appreciate it; they know how hard you play or how hard you don’t play. The fans appreciate it when guys play hard, run ground balls out and play the game the right way.
9. Talk about your defensive chemistry with shortstop Ian Desmond.
We’re both young and we both enjoy playing hard, and I think we’re both pretty athletic ballplayers. We like to get after it hard, get things done and take every hit away — we don’t want anything to get through the infield.