Jon Niese hit in side by comebacker; X-rays come back negative

Jon Niese hit in side by comebacker; X-rays come back negative

Mets left-hander Jon Niese was forced to leave his start against the Rangers in the first inning last night after he was hit in the left side by a comebacker off the bat of Alex Rios. Fortunately, he managed to avoid a serious injury.

Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

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Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

BY RICH GOLDBERG (@GoldyStats)

After dismantling the Cardinals 10-2 in the series finale on Sunday, the Nationals hit the road for a nine-game road trip that will see them take on their N.L. East rival Philadelphia Phillies, the N.L. Central cellar-dwelling Cincinnati Reds and the suddenly ice-cold Chicago White Sox.

CSN researcher Rich Goldberg details the five stats you need to know before the Nats start June off on the road.

RELATED: CONSISTENCY KEY TO STRASBURG'S HISTORIC START

1. Bryce Harper has a 6-game home run streak at Philadelphia.

The only other visiting player to do that in Philadelphia? Hall of Famer Ernie Banks back in 1955.

 

2. Wilson Ramos is hitting .336 and leads all MLB catchers.

The previous 5 seasons, Ramos batted .270, .246, .250, .265 and .252 through the end of May.

 

3. Daniel Murphy has a career .406 batting average (26 for 64) at Great American Ballpark.

That is Murphy’s highest BA at any ballpark with a minimum of 4 games played.

 

4. Tanner Roark is 1-4 with a 8.27 career ERA in 5 road games (4 starts) at Philadelphia.

Roark has the fifth worst ERA by a visiting player at Citizens Bank Park, with a minimum of 4 starts. Roark pitches Monday against the Phillies.

 

5. Stephen Strasburg is the first pitcher in Nationals/Expos history to begin a season 9-0 and he’s 9 strikeouts away from his 1000th career K.

Strasburg is scheduled to start Saturday against the Reds.

Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

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Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

Exactly when Stephen Strasburg reached a turning point over the last nine or so months depends on whom you ask and where you look. 

Based solely on the numbers, Strasburg has been a different pitcher ever since he returned from the disabled list last August. In his 21 outings since Aug. 8, 2015, Strasburg is 15-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 182 strikeouts and 28 walks in 140 innings pitched.

For Jayson Werth, there was a noticeable change in Strasburg this spring training.

"He came in and he just had a good feel to him. He looked a little bigger, like he was in real good shape. He was talking a lot, which is always a good sign from him. He doesn’t always say too much," Werth said. 

"It just kind of felt like he was going to have a big year. So far, so good. He’s looked great. Obviously, I think the contract has helped… free agency can mess with some guys’ heads sometimes. He’s not going to have to deal with that."

For batterymate Wilson Ramos, the change in Strasburg is in the details. It's in his health and the way he works around trouble during his starts.

"He’s got a different mindset," Ramos said through an interpreter. "I know in the past his injuries have affected his performance out there. He’s always been a great starter for us. But before this year, it seemed like when he gets behind a run or two his morale would drop. This year, he stays optimistic out there and keeps attacking hitters no matter if he gives up a run or two. He’s very aggressive and it’s shown. He’s doing a great job for us out there."

Whatever the reason or the timing, Strasburg has found a new level of consistency this year, as the Nationals have won all 11 of his starts and at a perfect 9-0, he has the best record to begin a season in franchise history. That bests the 8-0 start for Pedro Martinez back in 1997 when he was with the Expos.

All of Strasburg's last 15 outings have resulted in a Nationals victory. This season he's gone at least six innings in all of his starts and only three times has he allowed more than two runs.

In Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals, Strasburg did what he's become increasingly prone to do. He allowed just one run across six innings and scattered six hits and two walks. The lone run came on a Brandon Moss homer in the fourth inning and that was the only extra-base hit he allowed on the day.

Almost every time the Cardinals threatened, he quickly stopped the bleeding and got the Nationals' defense off the field. 

"He's certainly earning his money," manager Dusty Baker said. "This is big for him, for him and us. He's been trying to figure out probably for a couple years why he's not a big winner because he has the stuff to be a big winner."

Becoming a 'big winner' requires some help, of course, and Strasburg is getting plenty of it. In his 11 starts this season the Nationals are averaging seven runs per game. 

That will take the pressure off.

"The guys swung the bats good today. I was just happy to give them a chance," Strasburg said.

Kevin Durant taking heat from Thunder fans after Game 6 loss to Warriors

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Kevin Durant taking heat from Thunder fans after Game 6 loss to Warriors

Kevin Durant is not only one of NBA's best players, but also one of it's best liked players. He's beloved by the Thunder faithful and coveted by just about everyone else (especially Wizards fans). But his poor performance in Saturday's Game 6 loss to the Warriors has drawn unusual recrimination. 

KD seldom finds himself a target of pointed critism, either of his play or demeanor. And when he has gotten flak more recently, it's usually from the media not the public. 

Maybe that's because he comes off as humble and unassuming without being afraid to stand up for himself. Or because his partner in superstardom, Russell Westbrook, is such a lightening rod. Generally speaking, there's just nothing all that offensive or controversial about Durant. 

But the aftermath of Game 6 has been another story entirely. Fans from all over -- including Oklahoma, Texas and Washington D.C. -- have absolutely flogged the 2014 MVP. The blame campaign started as people filed out of Chesapeake Arena. 

Obviously the reaction is extreme and vitriolic. But it reflects intense disappointment in Durant's play and the belief that he doesn't get his fair share criticism for the Thunder's underachievement. 

The seven-time All-Star performed abysmally by his standards, scoring 29 points on 31 attempts (!). Things really devolved in the fourth quarter, where he shot 1 of 7 from the field, turned the ball over twice and looked helpless on defense.

KD was hard to watch (as was Westbrook), but that alone isn't enough to inspire such outrage. The circumstances of the loss added kerosene and struck the match. 

Oklahoma City held a 94-87 advantage with 5:48 left in regulation, at which point Inpredictable.com calculated their win probability at 88 percent. The series could have and should have been a wrap.

Instead, Durant and Westbrook flailed around for four points, six turnovers and two fouls the rest of the way. It was among the more stunning collapses in recent playoff memory. 

And this wasn't a case of constant lead changes. The Thunder had been ahead for nearly the whole night, but imploded in front of a sellout crowd at home (where they had already obliterated the Golden State twice).

Their second of back-to-back losses blew a 3-1 series lead and set up Game 7 in Oakland, where Stephen Curry and the defending champs won 39 of 41 regular season contests. 

The consensus before tipoff had been that Game 6 was a must-win for OKC. The Warriors would become heavy favorites if they were allowed to carry two games of momentum into a death match at Oracle Arena. 

But the Thunder didn't win, and if they lose the series, expect a different narrative than in the past.

"Durant doesn't have the right pieces around him" could turn into "Durant struggles under pressure" very quickly.