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Where Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals are crushing the rest of the majors

Where Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals are crushing the rest of the majors

If you somehow haven’t heard, the Washington Nationals’ bats are on fire, and their stellar offensive performances have pushed them to the top with the best record in the majors after the first month of baseball at 17-8. And Ryan Zimmerman is playing like the best batter in the game.

Since Opening Day on April 3, the team has won all six of their games with double digit runs — most recently Sunday’s 23-5 shredding of the New York Mets when they set a franchise scoring record — and they are 2-1 when their opponents are in two digits.

Even in the last week — despite going 4-3 in series against the Colorado Rockies on the road and the Mets at home — the Nats outscored their opponents by 31 runs. Sure, giving up 46 runs isn’t exactly a small number, but scoring 77 in seven games is pretty amazing.

So after a great opening month of the season, here’s a look at how individual players are comparing with the rest of the National League and the majors overall. It’s basically the Ryan Zimmerman Show.

1. RBI

Multiple Nats have a shockingly high number of runs batted in this season, and that’s setting aside Anthony Rendon’s 10 in Sunday’s blowout against the Mets.

Zimmerman leads both leagues with 29 going into Monday night's games, while Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper are tied for second with 26. That’s tied for second in the majors because Twins’ Miguel Sano leads the American League with 25 RBI. That’s pretty great for the heart of the lineup.

2. Batting average

Not surprising given his RBI numbers, but Zimmerman, again, leads both leagues with his .420 batting average, and actually, as a whole the NL is doing quite a bit better than the AL.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner is batting .404, while Harper is at .391. Yet again, the NL’s top three leaders in this category are hitting better than those at the top of the AL — this time, the White Sox’s Avisail Gargia — who’s hitting .368 — and the Angels’ Mike Trout at .364. Not too shabby for the Nats.

3. Home runs

Yet again, Zimmerman leads the majors in this stat too, only here he’s tied with the Brewers’ Eric Thames with 11 on the season. Harper and the Braces’ Freddie Freeman are also tied for third with 9.

Although the point of all this is to showcase how exceptionally well many of the Nats are playing, it’s worth noting that Zimmerman also leads the majors in hits (37), slugging (.886) and with an outrageously high OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging: 1.345).

So it’s not that Zimmerman and the Nats are frequently hitting grand slams to pad their stats — although those are happening every once in a while too — but they’re coming together early in the season to dominate fairly consistently. 

Their next game is Tuesday with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch, kicking off a three-game, home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

MORE NATS: Why Adam Eaton is out for the rest of the season

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What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

This is the Nationals’ first time in Miami this season, and the team finished with a 3-2 loss against the Marlins on Friday night. Here are a few things to look for as they enter the second game of the three-game series against the Floridians: 

  1. Friday night’s situational hitting was poor, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas reported. The Nats left 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.However, the Nationals’ offense has changed this season. This was exemplified in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, in which both Adam Eaton and Victor Robles bunted to get hits.
  2. Eaton singled on a bunt in the first inning, eventually scoring on a Juan Soto RBI single, while Robles also reached base safely in the third following Eaton’s strategy and then stole a base. These creative plays helped get men on base, but again, more often than not they stayed there. Brian Dozier hit his second home run of the season in the seventh inning, a solo shot which gave the Nats their second and final run of the night. Dozier had a rough start to the season, and after Friday’s game, he has just two RBIs – both via solo homers. He has a batting average of .182, and he’s lost playing time to Howie Kendrick as the season has moved forward. Kendrick has a batting average of .477, the highest on the roster.
  3. Anthony Rendon continued his hit streak, extending it to 17 games with a double Friday. This is the longest hitting streak in the MLB this season, as well as the third baseman’s personal record. Within the organization, Rendon is chasing Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush’s record, which stretched to 33 consecutive hits in 1933. Can he get another on Saturday?

 

Download the MyTeams app for coverage from NBC Sports Washington of the Nationals/Marlins game on Saturday. The game broadcast will be at 6:10 PM ET on 106.7 the Fan and MASN2. 

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

The Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins, 3-2, Friday night to drop back to 9-9. Here are five observations from the game...

1. For all the offseason efforts at improvement, winning the National League East could come down to its one member which is trying to lose.

The four spenders each play Miami 19 times. By the end, going 11-8 against the in-the-tank Marlins may become a lamentable part of some team’s 2019 legacy. They either brought in a marquee pitcher, a generational outfielder or a former MVP third baseman. But they didn’t do enough against the Marlins, costing themselves the single, taut playoff spot that emerges from the division. It’s a viable storyline to project.

The Nationals took their first negative step toward that fate Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

The situational hitting was poor -- Washington left 10 runners on base. The starting pitching was so-so -- Anibal Sanchez took the loss. The bullpen made one dire mistake -- Matt Grace’s first pitch hit left-hander Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the decisive run. The luck wasn’t great -- Caleb Smith, a quality left-hander marooned in Miami as the staff’s best pitcher, was on turn. Anticipate him representing Miami at the All-Star Game this season.

Brian Dozier homered. Mark that in the positive column. Joe Ross pitched two innings of quality relief. Put him next to Dozier.

Otherwise, the loss was sigh-worthy for a team trying to lurch forward, ending its up-and-down run of the first three weeks.

2. Another day, another hit for Anthony Rendon.

His sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in Major League Baseball this season. It’s also an extension of a personal best for Rendon.

Rendon’s 15 extra-base hits in 17 games is a Nationals/Expos record.

Who is he chasing for the organization’s hit streak record? Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush, who hit safely in 33 consecutive games back in 1933.

Manush played for the Senators from 1930-1935. He hit .336 when he set the Washington record for consecutive game with a hit. He led the league in triples (17) and hits (221) that season.

Manush won a batting title in 1925 when he hit .378 for Detroit. Rendon is currently hitting .377 in the opening weeks of the season.

3. Sanchez was ok. Not great, not terrible. Just ok.

He lasted 5 ⅓ innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six. His ERA is 4.91.

Regression for Sanchez this season was expected. His 2.83 ERA in Atlanta last season came strongly against the current of his previous pitching. Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA over the three prior seasons.

However, this has been a leap back, a full two runs in arrears of last season’s ERA. More troubling than the ERA is Sanchez’s path through lineups. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down.

As the season moves along, a comparison point for Sanchez will be the results of left-hander Wade Miley in Houston. The Nationals made a multi-year offer to Miley which was better than the offer he eventually settled on with the Astros, according to a source. Miley ended up signing for just one year in Houston because the free agent market went south, and Washington quickly pivoted to Sanchez. Keeping track of the two via ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) during the season will be a fun exercise. Coming into Friday, Miley was by far the better pitcher in that department, 129 to 95. Another bloated outing from Sanchez only increased that gap.

4. The Nationals hoped to play a different brand of offense this season. They wanted to deploy more athleticism, using speed and contact to produce runs.

They took the idea to the extreme Friday. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles both bunted for hits. Eaton scored Washington’s first run after reaching base via his drag bunt up the first base line.

Robles stole second and ended up on third following his bunt in the same direction in the third inning.

Creative work at the plate for both.

5. Another bullpen twist hit Friday. Austen Williams was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right AC joint. Austin Adams was called up to replace him.

Williams had a disastrous outing Wednesday in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Giants. He allowed four earned runs -- on two home runs -- after the Nationals entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead. Williams’ inability to get an out in the ninth eventually forced closer Sean Doolittle into a game he never should have entered.

Doolittle’s entrance also complicated the current series in Miami. He pitched back-to-back games to close the series against San Francisco. His Friday availability was in question because of that, though the Nationals didn’t end up needing him.

The right-handed Adams, 27, joins the team from Triple-A Fresno. He struck out 12, allowed a hit and didn’t give up an earned run in his six innings with the Grizzlies.

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