Nationals

Quick Links

Marlins 6, Nats 2: Another misplay opens the floodgates

usatsi_8539498.jpg

Marlins 6, Nats 2: Another misplay opens the floodgates

AME IN A NUTSHELL: Losers of four straight and in danger of a sweep in Miami, the Nationals desperately needed a good, all-around performance this afternoon. They're still searching for one after another poorly played ballgame, in every facet.

On the mound, Gio Gonzalez was roughed up for six runs over five erratic innings. In the field, the Nats botched a routine rundown play that set the stage for Adeiny Hechavarria's game-changing, 3-run triple in the fourth. And at the plate, this struggling lineup was held in check by old friend Dan Haren and his high-80s fastball.

The end result was a fifth straight loss and more reason to be concerned about this team's overall status. At 7-12, the Nationals have one of the worst records in baseball, a fact that seemed virtually implausible not long ago. And at the moment, they're not doing anything particularly well.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals know Haren all too well, so they had to know what they were going to get against their old teammate today: Lots of soft stuff. Yet that familiarity didn't do a whole lot for their cause: Haren allowed only two runs on three hits over five innings. The biggest outs: Strikeouts of both Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth with two out and two on. Each was caught looking at a fastball — the pitch to Desmond appeared to be outside, but the pitch to Werth (87 mph) was right down the pipe. On a day when the Nats needed some big hits, they couldn't deliver.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: For 3-plus innings, Gonzalez was quite effective, if not necessarily efficient. He notched six strikeouts, the vast majority of them on perfectly placed changeups down and away to right-handed hitters. But as soon as his defense betrayed him, Gonzalez's day turned ugly. He served up the 3-run triple to Hechavarria, then served up two more three-baggers before his afternoon was over

FIELDING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals have committed more than their share of head-scratching defensive gaffes over the last three weeks, but this one ranks right up there with the worst of them. With runners on first and second in the bottom of the fourth, Ichiro Suzuki hit a slow roller to second. Danny Espinosa made the play, but his throw to first was late. Ryan Zimmerman, though, astutely noticed Giancarlo Stanton racing around third and threw the ball to the plate. So the Nats had Stanton dead to rights in a rundown. Except Wilson Ramos, chasing Stanton back toward third base, didn't throw the ball to Yunel Escobar, who was standing several steps in front of the bag and then moved out of the way. Ramos couldn't catch Stanton, and thus everybody was safe and in position to score moments later on Hechavarria's triple.

KEY STAT: Extrapolated over a 162-game season, Giancarlo Stanton's career stats against the Nationals would include 55 homers, 133 RBI and a 1.133 OPS.

UP NEXT: The road trip continues in Atlanta, where Doug Fister (1-0, 2.37) faces Braves lefty Eric Stults (0-1, 4.50) at 7:10 p.m. Monday.

Quick Links

Nationals Roundup: Nats' spirited comeback falls short in rubber match against Cubs

hellickson-nats.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Nationals Roundup: Nats' spirited comeback falls short in rubber match against Cubs

The Washington Nationals lost to the Chicago Cubs, 6-5, Sunday to drop their record to 19-27.

Consider these news and notes as Washington hits the road for New York: 

Players Notes:

NATIONALS: 

Anthony Rendon gave Washington's offense a much-needed lift in the 6th launching a 3-run homer off Kyle Hendricks. After an initial rusty patch when returning from the injured list, he is back to his normal self and one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.

Things continue to unravel for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The veteran lasted just three innings Sunday night, allowing four hits, three runs and three walks. Just 30 of his 64 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Howie Kendrick isn't showing any signs of slowing down. The 35-year-old blasted a laser home run to left to pull the Nats to within one run in the 7th. So far this season, Kendrick is hitting a long-ball every 15 at-bats. 

CUBS: 

Kyle Hendricks had it going up until the sixth inning when one Anthony Rendon swing made it a two-run ballgame. Hendricks pitched 5.2 innings allowing four runs on six hits. 52 of his 83 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Anthony Rizzo blasted a 385-foot home run in the third, good for his 11th of 2019. 

Chicago's relief pitching took care of business after Hendricks' night was done. The combination of Brandon Kintzler, Xavier Cedeno, and Steve Cishek held the Nats to just three hits down the stretch. 

Injuries: 

RP Justin Miller: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 31

SP Anibal Sanchez: hamstring, expected to be out until at least May 27

OF Andrew Stevenson: back, expected to be out until at least May 24

RP Tony Sipp: oblique, expected to be out until at least May 20

1B Matt Adams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 22

1B Ryan Zimmerman: foot, expected to be out until at least May 23

RP Koda Glover: elbow, expected to be out until at least May 25

RP Trevor Rosenthal: viral infection, Expected to be out until at least May 21

RP Austen Williams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least Jun 13

Coming Up:

Monday, 5/20: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

Tuesday, 5/21: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

Wednesday, 5/22: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Nationals rally, but find themselves treading water again

nats-cubs-rubber.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Nationals rally, but find themselves treading water again

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the Chicago Cubs, 6-5, Sunday to drop their record to 19-27. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A word about Anthony Rendon first.

His three-run homer dragged the Nationals to within 6-4 on Sunday night. He also walked and a soft liner off his bat was caught by a leaping Addison Russell at shortstop. He was stellar in the field. After an initial rusty patch when returning from the injured list, he is back to his normal self and one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League. He could finally be going to his first All-Star Game.

Second, a word about Howie Kendrick.

He homered -- again -- his seventh already this season. Things around the Nationals’ poor start are not great. They would be severely amplified if Kendrick wasn’t walking around with a .317 batting average and an almost 1.000 OPS.

Their work was not enough Sunday. The Cubs took a 4-0 lead early, then hung on late, spoiling the Nationals chance for a rare second consecutive series win.

2. “Little things” kicked in again Sunday.

A fourth-inning passed ball by Kurt Suzuki moved a runner to third with one out. Kyle Schwarber’s sacrifice fly drove him in.

Juan Soto’s late break from second with two outs in the sixth inning led to third base coach Bob Henley giving a rare stop sign at third base. Albert Almora Jr.’s throw for center field went soaring over bot the catcher and pitcher at home plate. If Soto broke early or Henley took his usual chance, another run would have scored.

The Nationals’ overall defense was cleaner Sunday. Rendon made multiple quality defensive plays, Brian Dozier also two slick stops. But, two smaller incidents flipped two runs in what became a 6-4 game.

3. Jeremy Hellickson is going in reverse.

He lasted just three innings Sunday, and was lucky to make it there. Hellickson opened the game by loading the bases via walks. Despite him laying the groundwork for a devastating first inning, he allowed just a run.

Runners made it to second and third to start the second inning, but just one scored. A leadoff homer for Anthony Rizzo bumped the Cubs’ lead to 3-0 in the third. Hellickson wiggled away from a double in the inning to finish his evening in arrears, 3-0.

He threw 64 pitches, just 30 strikes.

The outing was the second time this season Hellickson lasted just three innings in a start. He gave up five earned runs the last time. Four of his previous five outings delivered a Game Score of 34 or lower (50 is the starting point with potential to go up -- or down). A non-analytical measure of those outings is to simply call them uncompetitive.

The trouble for Washington is it has no clear option to replace Hellickson and his 6.23 ERA in the rotation, if it decided that was the best course of action going forward. Joe Ross could swap spots wit Hellickson, flipping Ross into the rotation and Hellickson into the bullpen. Kyle McGowin, called up from Triple-A Fresno on Friday, relieved Hellickson on Sunday. He’s not big-league ready.

Austin Voth is the only minor-league starter on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man roster. Voth has a 3.89 ERA in Fresno this season.

4. Trevor Rosenthal continues to creep toward a return.

He threw a bullpen session in Nationals Park on Sunday after a day off Saturday. Rosenthal pitched in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

Rosenthal is going to Harrisburg to throw another inning Monday, then be re-evaluated. He had another rough outing Friday for the Senators: ⅓ of an inning, 21 pitches, 11 strikes, a walk and hit allowed.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez said the misses were up and down in the zone. Rosenthal was previously pulling pitches to his left.

“I watched video,” Martinez said. “His mechanics are pretty good right now.”

Is he close to returning?

“I think he’s really close,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how this next outing goes for him.”

5. More progress for the injured.

Matt Adams (left shoulder strain) took 40 swings Sunday, felt good afterward, and is nearing a pre-game stint on the field, possibly Monday with the team in New York.

Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) continues to swing and play defense. He was expected to run Sunday, the final step in his rehabilitation. He could be ready “very soon” according to Martinez.

Tony Sipp (oblique) took Sunday off after pitching an inning Saturday for Single-A Potomac.

Outfielder Andrew Stevenson (back spasms) was sent back to Triple-A Fresno on Sunday. He will begin playing games with the Grizzlies on Monday.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: