Dunn enjoying baseball again

813400.png

Dunn enjoying baseball again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For all his accomplishments in the big leagues -- all the towering home runs and all the walks -- Adam Dunn's resume over the last decade had two disturbing entries: zero All-Star Games, zero postseason appearances.

And after suffering through the worst season of his life in 2011, there was legitimate reason to wonder whether the former Nationals slugger would ever get back to the Midsummer Classic, or whether he'd ever get to experience the postseason with a White Sox franchise that seemed to be falling apart.

Well, Dunn managed to cross that first item off his list, earning a spot on the AL's All-Star roster 10 years after he made his one and only appearance in the game with the Reds. And with the White Sox currently holding a three-game lead in the AL Central, he might just get to cross off that second item as well in a couple of months.

"Obviously I feel a little better this year than I did last year," he said. "The good news is, last year is still over, and this year we've still got a whole half to go."

As consistent an offensive player as there was in baseball -- he averaged 40 homers, 101 RBI and 107 walks from 2004-10 -- Dunn wound up in Chicago last season after the Nationals decided not to match the White Sox's four-year, 56 million contract offer. The move was criticized in Washington at the time, though that criticism dwindled after the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to an eight-year, 126 million deal and especially after Dunn slogged his way through a disastrous debut season in the AL.

In 122 games last year, the DHfirst baseman hit a paltry .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBI and 177 strikeouts. The crowds at U.S. Cellular Field routinely showered him with boos when he stepped to the plate.

"I don't blame them," he said. "I would've booed me, too. Seriously."

Few knew what to expect out of Dunn (or the White Sox, who went 79-83) this season, but each has enjoyed a renaissance. Dunn already has 25 homers and 64 RBI in 84 games, though his .208 batting average barely sits above the Mendoza Line. And, of course, he leads the league both in walks (68) and strikeouts (134).

Those power numbers were enough to earn Dunn a ticket to Kansas City for tonight's All-Star Game, where he'll look across the field and find three guys wearing the uniform of the first-place Nationals.

Will that be a bittersweet moment for Dunn, who lost 196 in two seasons in Washington but always insisted he wanted to be part of the franchise's eventual turnaround?

"No," he said. "I really enjoyed my time there. I really enjoyed the people. There's no hard feelings. Some of my good buddies still play on the team. I love Mike Rizzo. I love the Lerners. Everybody's great over there, and I wish them nothing but the best. And you saw it coming. You just didn't know how early it was going to be. I'm happy for them."

Scherzer gives up grand slam as Nationals fall to Cardinals

brycecuttingglovesrefframe_1.jpg

Scherzer gives up grand slam as Nationals fall to Cardinals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Max Scherzer's play this season continues to be an outlier both for the Nationals' 2016 rotation and within the context of his career. The former Cy Young winner put in yet another uncharacteristic outing on Friday night, not only losing command of the strike zone, but issuing runs in a fashion you just don't see often from the Nationals' ace.

Scherzer gave up five runs in total to the Cardinals on Friday and four of them came on a grand slam by Stephen Piscotty. It was just the second grand slam Scherzer has ever allowed and the first since 2010. Scherzer also walked in a runner with the bases loaded for just the fourth time in his nine MLB seasons.

Those two plays happened in back-to-back at-bats. You just don't see that very often.

The Nationals' unbeaten record against St. Louis was broken with the 6-2 loss, the fourth defeat for the Nats in their last seven contests. The Nationals are now an even .500 at 13-13 in the month of May.

What it means: The loss doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but Scherzer's season remains a concern. Things could be worse, of course, but he has clearly been the weakest link in their rotation so far. It's unexpected and the Nats are fortunate the rest of their starting group has otherwise been so good. Even with Scherzer's 4.05 ERA, the Nats rank second in baseball as a rotation in the category. This is the latest Scherzer has held an ERA above 4.00 since 2012 and after his 11th start, it's no longer early.

Homer, walks do Scherzer in: Six of the seven innings Scherzer threw were scoreless and he allowed only three hits, but a disastrous third inning was all it took to ruin his Frday night. Scherzer first ran into trouble by giving up a one-out single to pitcher Jaime Garcia. He then walked Greg Garcia, allowed a single to Aledmys Diaz and then a walk to Matt Holliday to bring in a run. It was the first time since April 24, 2013 that Scherzer has walked in a run. The next at-bat was Piscotty's grand slam, a towering shot to left field off a slider. Scherzer has allowed a league-high 15 homers this season. No pitcher has given up more than the 42 bombs he's surrendered since the start of 2015. It was also the second time Scherzer has allowed four walks this season. He didn't walk four batters in a game all of 2015. Over his last six starts, Scherzer has alternated between zero walk outings and ones where he issues three or more. It's a strange trend that even he probably can't explain.

Espinosa homers again: Danny Espinosa homered for the second straight night and now has five on the season. He has four homers in May. He also had four homers last May, more than any other month in 2015. His career-high is eight set back in May of 2011. Espinosa likes hitting homers in May, apparently. 

Murphy ties hits record: Daniel Murphy got another hit in this one, a single to left field in the sixth inning. That gave him 40 in May, which tied a Nationals record for hits in a single month. Denard Span also had 40 hits in August of 2014. Murphy has four more games left in May to break it. The odds are pretty good he'll end up closer to 50 than he will 40 with the way he's been playing. The record for hits in one month, by the way, is held by Ty Cobb. He had 68 in July of 1912. Murphy's been good, but he isn't getting anywhere close to that.

Up next: The Nationals and Cardinals continue their series with a 7:15 p.m. first pitch on Saturday night. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.87) will square off with Adam Wainwright (4-3, 5.77) in a rematch of Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

Nationals pitcher Jordan undergoes second Tommy John surgery

platinum_moment_videorefframe_1.jpg

Nationals pitcher Jordan undergoes second Tommy John surgery

Nationals minor league pitcher Taylor Jordan, a veteran of three MLB seasons, underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. It was the second time Jordan has had the procedure.

The 27-year-old went under the knife after making three starts for Triple-A Syracuse this season. He held a 1.72 ERA across 15 2/3 total innings.

Jordan also had the surgery back in 2011 and made a full recovery to debut with the Nationals in 2013. In 18 total MLB games he has a 4.48 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings. Last season Jordan gave up 10 earned runs in four appearances in the big leagues.

The Nationals took Jordan in the ninth round of the 2009 draft out of high school. Dr. James Andrews performed his Tommy John surgery. The rehab process is generally 12 to 18 months.

What Dusty Baker likes and doesn't like about the 2016 Nats so far

brycecuttingglovesrefframe_1.jpg

What Dusty Baker likes and doesn't like about the 2016 Nats so far

Ten games over .500 and in first place in the NL East, there's not a lot for the Nationals to complain about at the moment. They are charging foward with one of the league's best records and their pitching staff has been particularly impressive.

Manager Dusty Baker likes where the Nats currently stand and this week highlighted two areas he feels extra good about as the Nationals continue their homestand against the Cardinals.

"Probably our defense," Baker said to start. "The fact that we don't usually give away outs and beat ourselves. You don't have to make the spectacular, but you have to concentrate enough to make the everyday regular play and then hope you do make a couple spectaculars along the way. Most teams that lose are teams that play poor defense." 

"And secondly, how this team is very resilient and unaffected by tough losses or even consecutive losses," he continued. "Because after the game, you could hear a church mouse run across the floor in the clubhouse. Then the next day you wouldn't know anything every happened. That's a sign of some pros."

As far as their defense goes, the Nationals rank favorably in Major League Baseball in several categories. They have made just 19 errors, the second-fewest of any team. Their .989 fielding percentage as a team is third. They are also third in the NL in defensive efficiency at .719. 

"It's a special group. We've got a lot of guys with Gold Glove-caliber abilities," first baseman Clint Robinson said. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy leads the team in errors with five, but he's only on pace to make about 17 of them this season. That number wouldn't rank anywhere near the top of the league in most years.

The Nationals have the second-best team ERA at 2.82 and the second-best rotation ERA at 2.96. They would like to be higher than 13th in runs scored, but that still puts them in the top half of the league. 

The Nationals are at the very least above average pretty much across the board, but Baker and his players still see room for improvement. 

"We're in first place but we're kind of treading water. We haven't caught our stride yet," Baker said. "To have that 'put your foot on their throat' attitude when we get the lead, I'm hoping that we get more of that here. I have a pretty nice team. I'd like to see them be a little meaner."

"There's still a lot of guys that are still finding their stroke right now," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "Our pitching staff has done a good job and defensively we've done good. We have guys on base. We're getting guys on base, we're just not hitting quite the way we can be hitting. We know that."

"There's always room for improvement. It's a tough league," Robinson said. "The division has turned out to be a lot tougher than I think a lot of people expected. Once we get our lineup firing, I think that's when you'll see a lot of special things."

Baker has referred all year to the idea of a killer instinct and how the Nationals could use more 'dog' in them. 

"I'm gonna give them some gunpowder," he joked on Friday.