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Homer from den Dekker wins suspended game

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Homer from den Dekker wins suspended game


GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Well, if you had to condense it down to one word, it would be: Weird. The opener of this series between NL powers began Friday evening under normal circumstances, with the Dodgers taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on Adrian Gonzalez's homer off Jordan Zimmermann. And that's when this became anything but a normal ballgame.

Three separate power outages at Nationals Park forced the suspension of the game in the top of the sixth, with the Nats leading 3-2 at that point thanks to Yunel Escobar's 2-run homer. It resumed Saturday afternoon, with Tanner Roark taking the mound for what technically was his second inning of relief, and quickly turned into a tie game when Gonzalez homered to left field.

So now this turned into a battle of bullpens. The Nationals loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but couldn't push the winning run across. Then they put a man on in the bottom of the eighth, and this time they got the job done. Matt den Dekker, sent up to pinch-hit, pounced on Pedro Baez's first pitch and sent it flying into the second deck in right field, giving the Nats the lead

The Nationals then rode scoreless innings of relief from Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and Drew Storen to take the very odd opener of this weekend's series.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: He isn't particularly known for his power stroke, but den Dekker certainly does make the most of the homers he hits. Last month, he clubbed a 2-run shot deep to right in Philadelphia to help lead the Nationals to a win. And on Saturday, he came up to pinch-hit in the bottom of the eighth and immediately launched Pedro Baez's first pitch into the second deck down the right-field line, giving the Nats the lead. It has been contributions from players like den Dekker that have allowed the Natiobals to withstand the prolonged losses of four key lineup regulars to injury. 

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Casey Janssen spoke passionately last weekend about his desire to prove to the Nationals he deserves to be their primary eighth-inning guy. If the veteran reliever keeps pitching like this, he'll earn that job soon enough. He tossed another 1-2-3 inning in a tight game Saturday, retiring the heart of the Dodgers order in the top of the eighth. Combined with his last appearance in Baltimore, Janssen has now retired six consecutive batters, four via strikeout. Janssen knows he doesn't have the stuff to overpower hitters, but he feels like if he locates well and mixes things up he can still make hitters swing and miss. His last two times out, he has proven that.

KEY STAT: Tanner Roark has now surrendered 11 home runs (most on the Nationals' pitching staff) even though he ranks fifth with 64 innings pitched.

QUOTABLE, PART 1: den Dekker on his homer: “First-pitch fastball, I think that’s what it was. I was just ready to be aggressive early, coming off the bench you gotta be in there and be ready to go. That’s what I did, just got a pitch over the plate and got the barrel on it… It’s just exciting to be a part of the win and a part of the team.”

QUOTABLE, PART 2: Matt Williams on the game being played across two days: “It’s good if you win it. It’s a humdinger of a game if you win it. If you don’t, then it doesn’t feel as good.”

UP NEXT: Don't go anywhere, because today's regularly scheduled game is coming up next. It's Doug Fister (3-4, 4.08) vs. Clayton Kershaw (6-6, 2.85).

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Nationals call up Adrian Sanchez, place Kyle Barraclough on 10-day injured list

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Nationals call up Adrian Sanchez, place Kyle Barraclough on 10-day injured list

WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Martinez wasn’t sure postgame Saturday what’s wrong with reliever Kyle Barraclough.

The right-hander’s velocity is down, his slider flat and too true, his results poor. Barraclough left the mound Saturday at dusk with a 6.39 ERA. He’s allowed seven home runs in 25 ⅓ innings this season. Little he has tried has worked. And his time on the team may be short.

Utility infielder Adrian Sanchez will join the team Sunday. Sanchez’s departure from Double-A Harrisburg was reported Saturday night by Mick Reinhard, who covers the Senators, and noted Sanchez’s early removal from the game.

Barraclough will be the one leaving to make room for Sanchez on the roster, the Nationals placing him on the 10-day injured list with radial nerve irritation Sunday. Barraclough could be sent on an extended rehabilitation in the minor leagues, as the Nationals did with Trevor Rosenthal. At a minimum, Washington goes from an eight-man bullpen to a five-man bench, finally delivering Martinez more versatility at the plate and in the field.

Barraclough and left-hander Tony Sipp were rarely used in the last three weeks. A week passed between appearances for Barraclough from the end of May to the start of June. Sipp pitched Sunday for just the fifth time since May 24.

Removing Barraclough from the roster is another layer of indictment for the Nationals' offseason bullpen plan. They acquired Barraclough via trade with Miami for international slot money. He was supposed to pitch the seventh inning on a regular basis, Rosenthal the eighth and Sean Doolittle the ninth. That lineup has been disastrous outside of Doolittle, compromising the entire season.

Rosenthal’s travails are well-documented. He pitched again Saturday, walked the first batter on four pitches, walked the second batter, then allowing a single to load the bases with no outs. He eventually allowed just a run. His ERA is 19.50 following the outing. It’s the first time this season Rosenthal’s ERA is under 20.00.

While trying to fix Rosenthal, and trying to hang on with Barraclough, the Nationals have turned to Wander Suero and Tanner Rainey to handle the seventh and eighth innings ahead of Doolittle. Few would have predicted that combination before the season began. Despite the relative concern, no one would have predicted the Nationals’ bullpen to be among the worst in the league for much of the season, but has turned out to be just that.

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Max Scherzer may be the last pitcher to tally 3,000 strikeouts

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Max Scherzer may be the last pitcher to tally 3,000 strikeouts

 

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer may be baseball’s final entrant into the 3,000-strikeout club.

 

Sounds weird to say. The mark is a vaunted one and previously a measuring stick for Hall-of-Fame candidacy. That was before a shift to fewer innings by starters from the time they are young. 

 Friday night, Scherzer climbed into 27th on the all-time list. He passed legacy names Warren Spahn and Bob Feller thanks to another 10-strikeout outing.

“Sweet,” Scherzer said when informed of the movement. “Let’s keep going.”Scherzer is 35 years old, in his 12th season and has 2,585 strikeouts. He’s on pace for 297 total this season -- if he makes his typical 33 starts. Hitting that mark would put him at 2,756 at the end of the year. He would be 24th all-time at that stage and a standard season away from cracking 3,000. Justin Verlander will beat Scherzer to the mark, making Scherzer the 19th pitcher all-time to strikeout 3,000 or more should he get there. CC Sabathia surpassed 3,000 in late May. Sabathia, Verlander and Scherzer could cap the group for the rest of history.

The club’s exclusivity is often overlooked. Twenty-seven players have hit 500 or more home runs. Twenty-three players have 300 or more wins (speaking of marks which are unlikely to be reached again; Scherzer has 164, and, yes, wins are wins).

Among active players with 2,000 or more strikeouts, Clayton Kershaw is the youngest. He’s 31 years old and has struck out 2,342. Recent injuries have derailed what was a clear express path to 3,000. He becomes a free agent in 2022. And Kershaw is a good example of how usage is changing the chances to strike out 3,000.

He has not pitched more than seven innings this season. Part of that is to protect him following his back problems. Another portion is seven innings is the norm. Less is also common. Entering the eighth or ninth is almost unheard of. Only two pitchers have thrown two complete games this season. Twenty pitchers have one or more complete games this season. Last year, no pitcher finished with more than two complete games. Only 13 pitchers threw 200 or more innings. 

Yet, strikeout rates are at an all-time high while innings pitched by starters dips. So, let’s look at extrapolation for a younger pitcher, like Trevor Bauer, who is operating in this new era and will do so going forward.

Bauer is 28 years old. He’s struck out 1,035 batters. A decade more of 200 strikeouts per season gets him there -- narrowly. But, the problem for Bauer, like others alluded to above, is he rarely pitches into the eighth inning. Two of his 15 starts this season have gone a full eight innings. Only three have lasted more than seven. Three others have lasted less than six. Most often he pitches six to seven innings. He’s never thrown more than 190 innings in a season.

Let’s call it a 6 ⅔ innings for his average outing going forward. He strikes out 1.1 batters per inning this year. He’s never made more than 31 starts in the season. So, give him 28 starts per year for the next 10 years. That gives Bauer 205 strikeouts per season, on average, and discounts any future regression (which is likely). Together, Bauer could crack 3,000 strikeouts in his age-38 season. Any steps back -- a season of 21 starts because of injury, a reduction in innings on average, his strikeout totals reducing in the typical fashion of a pitcher in his mid-30s -- would cost him his slim chance.

In between Kershaw and Bauer are a variety of 30-something pitchers on the downside of their careers. Jon Lester is 35. He has 2,259 strikeouts. Cole Hamels is also 35. He’s at 2,498. Felix Hernandez has struck out 2,501. He’s 35 years old and left a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Tacoma early on Friday because of fatigue. Zack Greinke is 35. His 2,520 strikeouts give him an outside shot, as does his ability to pitch well despite an ongoing reduction in velocity. 

Pitchers of that ilk often found career-extending deals in the past. Now, teams are more likely to pay a younger starter much less instead of being on the hook for $10 million or more for a veteran winding down. Or, if they are signed, it’s only a one- or two-year deal. One guy who has a chance: 30-year-old Stephen Strasburg. His strikeout rate has held during his career -- and into this season. The question, as always, is health. It took Strasburg nine-plus seasons just to hit the midway point (1,554 coming into Saturday’s start).

Scherzer’s path is not in doubt. He will need around 240 strikeouts next season to hit it. Which means be prepared sometime in late August when Scherzer will be checking off another milestone, one which will be a challenge to hit again.

 

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