PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 15-1, on Wednesday night to move to 6-5. Here are five observations from the game...
1. Wednesday night ended up the perfect blueprint for the Nationals.
Starter Jeremy Hellickson made it through six innings. An early lead forced Philadelphia deep into its bullpen throughout the evening. Cruising to the end allowed Washington to pull multiple regulars on the way to a series win in Philadelphia.
And, this feels like the beginning of an emergence. Washington has won three of five against Philadelphia. A bullpen meltdown prevented a three-game sweep the prior series in New York. In all, the baseball is better, the lineup looks balanced and the bullpen is moving toward reasonable.
Adam Eaton had three hits Wednesday. Brian Dozier also had three, falling just short of doubling his season total of four coming into the game. Matt Adams started in order to give Ryan Zimmerman two consecutive days off (Washington doesn’t play Thursday). The Nationals were able to check every box in their easiest win of the season.
The evening also ended a run of 11 games to start the season against division rivals New York and Philadelphia.
“Those two teams we played are really good and they're going to be good all year,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We're going to go head-to-head with them. To come out of the first couple weeks after a bit of rough stretch and be 6-5 right now, of course we'd like to be 8-3 but we've got a long way to go. We're playing really good and we're going to go home and continue to play. We got a couple teams coming in that are pretty good, so we're going to take the day off, relax, rest and come back Friday ready to go.”
2. Anthony Rendon is focused. His beloved Houston Rockets start the NBA playoffs this weekend. Meanwhile, he is busy raking on the baseball field.
Rendon’s six innings Wednesday (he was removed in the midst of the blowout) were enough for two more hits, two more runs and three more RBIs. He has a .429 average, .490 OBP and .881 slugging percentage 11 games into the season. Rendon is covering fastballs up, away, and in. He’s also handling off-speed.
“It just works out that way sometimes,” Rendon said. “You try to ride this wave as long as you can, not try to get too high when you’re high because you know the lows are going to end up coming.”
The weight of a final season under contract can influence players differently. It appears to have no effect on Rendon, who is rolling along in typical fashion: low-key personality, big results.
3. Poll: Bigger news for Helllickson? A) Throwing six scoreless innings in his debut. B) Scoring from first base on a Victor Robles triple.
Hellickson threw 100 pitches -- above his projected 85-90 in his first start of the season -- allowed just three hits, struck out six and walked four. Hellickson pitched six innings or more only twice last season.
The run? It was the eighth of his career. Hellickson walked to reach base. Robles hit a liner into the right-center gap, quickly tracked down Hellickson on the bases, and convinced third base coach Bob Henley to wave Hellickson toward the plate. He slid in just ahead of the throw. Robles applauded at third.
“[Henley] give me a little one, too,” Hellickson said of the signal. “Really wasn’t sure what that meant. I knew Robles was right behind me, probably. It was fun, but, probably not do that again…”
Tuesday’s 10-inning game severely thinned the Nationals’ bullpen, though a day off is coming Thursday. Hellickson moved through six without any significant danger. Putting together the final three innings with a double-digit lead became much easier because of it.
Though, there was one bullpen hiccup: Tony Sipp relieved Hellickson. After a fly ball out to left, Martinez and head trainer Paul Lessard came to the mound. A long conversation followed. Sipp, who warmed up multiple times Tuesday and Wednesday, came out of the game because of what Martinez called shoulder stiffness. Sipp said he was sore, but expects to be fine.
4. Trevor Rosenthal was back on a game mound Wednesday for the first time since Sunday. Martinez wanted another soft landing for Rosenthal, who had not recorded an out this season, and couldn’t find a better one than a 15-0 lead in the ninth inning.
Rosenthal walked Rhys Hoskins on five pitches. He started the next hitter, Andrew Knapp, 0-2, before eventually striking him out. The first out of the season -- on the 11th batter faced and 48th pitch thrown -- moved Rosenthal’s ERA from infinity to 189.00.
Rosenthal made dubious history with the out: he became the first pitcher in baseball history to record his first out in his fifth appearance.
He walked the next batter, Odubel Herrera. He walked the next batter, Cesar Hernandez with his 24th pitch. Maikel Franco’s subsequent grounder to first dropped Rosenthal’s ERA to 108.00. Aaron Altherr’s fly out to right ended the night. Rosenthal now has a 72.00 ERA.
Regardless, it was movement forward, even if the path remained bumpy.
“He got three outs,” Martinez said. “That's the key. He got three outs so let's continue to build on that and move on.”
5. Max Scherzer’s right ankle was taped Wednesday before he went to throw on flat ground.
He’s testing the ankle -- and everything else -- following a comebacker off the area Sunday in the third inning in New York. Scherzer remained on the mound until the seventh inning. He later said his leg began to stiffen once he came out of the game.
“He might want to come out [Thursday] and throw a bullpen,” Martinez said. “Kind of nice he had that extra day, so we'll see how he feels [Thursday].”
Scherzer pitched on regular rest in all three starts this season. The plan, independent of the grounder off his lower leg, was to give him an extra day off this time around. He is scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Patrick Corbin pitches Friday on an extra day of rest.
If Scherzer is not able to start Saturday, Anibal Sanchez would take his place. Though, that scenario appears unlikely.
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