Nats Swept with Three Losses to Cardinals (April 22-April 24)
As the new week started, the Washington Nationals, coming off a 2-0 loss to lose the series against the New York Mets, welcomed the team who defeated them in the National League Divisional Series last season, the St. Louis Cardinals. The three game series offered the Nationals an opportunity to show some growth. But instead Washington seemed to press at every at-bat and wasted some solid pitching efforts by the starters because the batters just weren’t able to get going. In game one, Nats’ starting pitcher Dan Haren pitched six innings giving up three runs, which wasn’t great but usually enough to win. Yet the Cardinals still managed to win, 3-2.
In game two, Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainright was outstanding, showing everybody why he’s one of the truly great pitchers in the sport, out-dueling Nats’ starter Ross Detweiler (who was outstanding himself, only giving up two runs in the fourth). Wainright pitched 8.1 innings of shut-out baseball, striking out nine Nationals’ batters in a 2-0 victory for the Cards. This was also the Nats’ sixth consecutive home loss. Nationals fans on the “Twitterverse” were losing their minds because this just didn’t look like the team the fans all expected. In the series finale, ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg toed the rubber looking to stop a couple of streaks: his personal three-game losing streak, the team’s three-game losing streak, and the team’s six-game home streak. He was unable to deliver. The bats decided not to show up again in a 4-2 loss.
Nats Take Three Wins over Cincinnati (April 25-April 27)
With no day off to wallow in self-pity, ace pitcher Gio Gonzalez went out and pitched a masterpiece in Game One of the series against the Reds. In possibly the best-pitched game in his career, Gonzales pitched eight innings, giving up only an opposite field home run to former MVP Joey Votto as the Nats started off the series in fine fashion, defeating the Reds 8-1. The bats also woke up as Denard Span and Danny Espinoza both had three RBIs and Bryce Harper hit his eighth home run of the season. With that homer, Harper set a new club record with eight in the month of April. He continues to show that he may not just be the best player on the Nationals roster, but right now, playing better baseball than virtually anyone in the sport.
In game two, in a pitching duel for the ages, Jordan Zimmermann equaled Gio’s previous start with the number of hits given up (one) yet didn’t give up a run and finished off his second complete game of the season, besting the Reds’ Homer Bailey, 1-0. Jayson Werth drove in the only run of the game in the fourth inning, bringing in Harper, who had smoked his first triple of the season in the previous at bat. Zimmermann’s ERA lowered to a solid 2.00 for the season as he improved to a 4-1 pitching record on the season. In game three, Dan Haren finally pitched a performance worthy of a victory and Denard Span made two of the best defensive plays of the season to save at least three runs in the process. Bryce Harper extended his record month with his ninth HR and his 18th RBI in the process (another team record) as the Nats won their third straight game, 6-3. Span also had two hits on the day and Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth inning for his seventh save in eight opportunities this season.
Player of the Week: Jordan Zimmermann
In two starts (1-1), he pitched a total of 14 innings giving up only two runs on three hits and only one walk. Zimmermann has been one of the most consistent pitchers this season.
The Nats will take a trip to Atlanta on April 29 with hopes of avenging the three-game sweep of a week ago; they’ll also take their first trip to PNC Park to face budding star Andrew McClutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates, May 3-5.