Quick Links

Nats can't survive high-wire every night

746826.png

Nats can't survive high-wire every night

They've been walking a tightrope for three weeks now, occasionally teetering from side-to-side for a moment or two but always finding their center of gravity just in the nick of time.

Even the best acrobats, though, lose their balance every once in a while. So we shouldn't have been too surprised last night to see the Nationals slip and take a tumble, blowing a late lead to the Padres en route to a 2-1 loss.

Try as they might to defy the odds, you just can't win every single one-run ballgame, especially when you seem to find yourself in those nailbiters five or six times a week.

Thus, the Nationals wasted another superb outing by a member of baseball's best rotation. Edwin Jackson tossed 6 23 innings of scoreless ball, refusing to be the weak link of the bunch, and in the process helping his teammates establish a new, mind-boggling record.

For those who have lost track, that's now eight times a Nationals starting pitcher has allowed zero earned runs in 19 games this season. They're the first rotation in modern history to accomplish that.

Jackson, though, had nothing to show for his effort, because setup man Tyler Clippard (asked by manager Davey Johnson to record four outs) served up the two-run double to Mark Kotsay that determined the outcome of this game.

It's easy to point the finger at Clippard, who did not look sharp last night and hasn't looked particularly sharp at all early this season. But it's hard to place blame for a loss on a pitching staff that gives up only two runs.

How about a Nationals lineup that managed all of four hits off San Diego right-handers Edinson Volquez, Andrew Cashner and Huston Street? This was already the seventh time the Nats have been held to five or fewer hits this season, a disturbing trend.

What's missing from Johnson's lineup? Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. It's tough to score runs when your No. 3 and No. 4 hitters are out with injuries, especially when the replacements for those stalwarts leave so much to be desired.

As nice a job as general manager Mike Rizzo did in adding depth to this roster over the winter and spring, the Nationals' simply don't have adequate replacements for Zimmerman or Morse.

The guy who started at third base (and hit third) last night was Chad Tracy, the veteran infielder who has provided three very clutch hits off the bench already this season but overall is batting .136.

More disturbing is the lack of production from Morse's usual spot. After an 0-for-4 showing last night, Nationals left fielders are now hitting a collective .097 with a .207 on-base percentage and a .125 slugging percentage. That's beyond pathetic.

Look, nobody expects a team to be able to lose a .303-31-95 cleanup hitter for two months and not suffer a bit. But this team simply must get better production out of its left fielders than it's gotten so far.

As bad as that all sounds, the Nationals still woke up this morning alone in first place in the NL East, still boasting the NL's best record heading into a big-time weekend series against the 13-6 Dodgers. That's directly attributable to their pitching staff, specifically a rotation that is doing things right now that have never been done before.

But even the best pitching staff in baseball needs a little run support. The Nationals lineup has managed to cobble together enough far more times this season than it hasn't. But that's not going to get the job done every single night.

Sometimes, you really do need to score more than two runs to win a ballgame. Even though the Nationals have tried on a regular basis this season to disprove that theory.

Quick Links

Nationals prospect report: Minor league season wrapping up

Nationals prospect report: Minor league season wrapping up

Triple-A Syracuse

Lucas Giolito - RHP

Giolito pitched one inning in his last start (8/23) and struck out two batters. He'll be in DC this weekend - whether it's as a starter or reliever remains to be seen. 

Austin Voth - RHP

Voth was better this week, although walks continue to be an issue. He went six innings while allowing two runs on six hits in his last start (8/20) while also walking three and striking out seven. After a quick rise through the system, he stalled out at Triple-A a bit. Can't imagine he'd be a September call-up candidate at this point. 

Mat Latos - RHP

Here's a name that hasn't been around in a while. Latos has a 0.82 ERA over 11 innings pitched, which is purely anecdotal at this point. Still, that's what Mat Latos has been up to. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Jose Marmolejos  - 1B

Marmolejos keeps hitting. He's hitting .342 over his last 10 games to raise his season average to .295. He hasn't quite shown the power he did in Potomac, but he's only played 21 games in Harrisburg. 

Eric Fedde - RHP

In his last start against Richmond, Fedde got knocked around, giving up three earned runs on nine hits while walking and striking out three. In 16.1 innings pitched at Double-A, Fedde has an ERA over 6. Adjustment time! 

Single-A Potomac

Victor Robles - OF

Potomac has not been kind to Robles. He's hitting .179 over the last 10 games and .214 as a whole in Single-A. He'll start the season there next year. 

 

 

 

Quick Links

Nationals acquire LHP from Oakland

Nationals acquire LHP from Oakland

Updated: 12:06 p.m.

In desperate need of bullpen help, particularly a left-hander, the Nationals pulled off a trade Thursday morning to acquire southpaw Marc Rzepczynski from the Oakland Athletics. In order to get him, they paid a big price by parting with minor league infielder Max Schrock, who was a rising talent in their system.

Rzepczynski, 30, joins the Nats with a 3.00 ERA in 56 appearances this season. He has 37 strikeouts in 36 innings, but also 24 walks and a 1.722 WHIP. Due to his long and unusual name, his nickname is 'Scrabble.'

An eight-year MLB veteran, Rzepczynski will be a free agent after this season. This is the fifth time he's been traded in the last six years, having also spent time with the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Indians and Padres. He holds a 3.87 ERA in 405 career MLB appearances. Rzepczynski also has 18 postseason appearances under his belt.

Rzepczynski throws a fastball in the low- to mid-90s and relies heavily on a slider/changeup combination. Among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched this season, he has the second-best groundball percentage to only Orioles closer Zach Britton. Nats right-hander Blake Treinen is sixth.

Rzepczynski will help the Nats in the short-term as they currently have a bullpen beaten up by injuries, rain delays and short outings by their starters. He is also now their best lefty reliever with Sammy Solis on the disabled list and Oliver Perez suffering through a long stretch of ineffectiveness.

But in the long-term, losing Schrock could be a tough pill to swallow. The Nats took him in the 13th round of the 2015 draft and signed him despite concerns he would return to school at the University of South Carolina. The 21-year-old has emerged as a star in the minors with a .333/.378/.456 slash-line and nine homers, 68 RBI and 22 steals at Single-A this season. Schrock is a year or two away from the majors, but when he gets there he could be a valuable offensive player.

Rzepczynski, though, is just what the Nats need at the moment and they have to do all they can to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them this season to potentially win a World Series.

RELATED: WHAT CAN'T TREA TURNER DO?

Quick Links

Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Trea Turner has known he’s been white-hot at the plate the in recent days. Notching eight straight hits will do that.

“I mean, if you don't, you're lying,” Turner said. “Everyone thinks about it.”

But the 23-year-old speedster didn’t realize he was franchise-record hot until it was too late in Wednesday's 10-8 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

After tying Dmitri Young and Andre Dawson’s Nationals/Expos mark with eight hits in consecutive plate appearances earlier in the night, Turner struck out in the ninth inning to end his shot at history. It was only then, upon seeing his whiff on a computer replay, that he saw a note on the screen saying he was one hit shy of standing alone.

“If I would have known that, I wouldn't have struck out, probably,” he joked. “I'm just kidding. I didn't know that until then."

If your only struggle of late is having to settle for tying a franchise record, chances are things are going well.

Turner’s time in the majors this season has lasted all of 37 games, and yet rookie has made a huge impression on his team by making the game look easy on a nightly basis. Whether that’s being the needed sparkplug at the plate or a terror on the base paths, the much-ballyhooed prospect might be even better than some in the organization initially believed.

“Trea’s been playing great,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He had a great night at the plate. He’s also a very determined young man. That determination and youthful exuberance I think has rubbed off on the team.”

Perhaps even more impressive than Turner’s ability is his aptitude. In addition to having to adjust to big-league pitching, he’s had to learn center field, a position he hadn’t played in college or in the minors prior to this season.

And on Wednesday night’s first play, Turner showed why the Nats believe he’ll be just fine at his new home. He sprinted and dove at full speed rob Orioles’ leadoff man Adam Jones’ of extra bases.

“We’re both about the same speed,” veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman deadpanned. “For him to do that [is impressive]. He’s been playing center field for a month, maybe.”

Of course, he still has his hiccups, as he had later in the game when he leaped and couldn’t haul in ball near the wall in deep center field. But given everything else he brings to the team, the Nats will surely endure whatever growing pains he goes through.

“I feel good [in center field],” he said. “I feel like I'm kinda picking it up as I go and continue to do that in [batting practice] and also the games."

Since the day he became an everyday player, Turner has looked like he belongs. With a slash line of .335/.359/.544 to go along with nine doubles, six triples and four home runs, he may already be establishing himself as one of the most dynamic leadoff men in the game.

"I think it's an empty mind,” Turner said of his approach. “You're not really thinking too much. You just react. I think the more you can do that, the better you'll be, the more success you'll have.”

And if this is only the beginning, the Nats have to be awfully excited about what's in store for the Lake Worth, Florida native.  

“He’s still so young,” Zimmerman said. “He’s still learning how to play and learning himself. His baseball IQ is through the roof. I think he makes adjustments really quick. He’s really observant of what goes on around him. He’s going to be a really good one.”