As the Nationals prepare to open another tough interleague series against another tough AL East opponent (the Tampa Bay Rays come to town tonight), it's time for another look at both the encouraging and the discouraging developments surrounding this team...
ENCOURAGING: The pitching staff continues to excel. Sure, there have been a couple of bumps along the way, but the staff's 2.96 ERA so far in June is significantly improved from May's 3.56 ERA. In 14 games this month, Nationals starters have yet to surrender more than three earned runs.
DISCOURAGING: The lone hiccup in that rotation has been Chien-Ming Wang. The Nats have gotten a quality start in 12 of their last 16 games. One of those non-quality starts was pitched by Gio Gonzalez, who lasted only 4 23 innings against the Braves on June 3. The other three all were pitched by Wang, who has yet to complete six innings in an outing this season.
ENCOURAGING: After bottoming out for a 20-game stretch that saw him hit a paltry .123 with a .520 OPS, Adam LaRoche appears to be getting back on track. He's 6 for his last 18 with four extra-base hits, producing a 1.178 OPS in that brief span. He may not ascend back to the All-Star level he played at through the season's first six weeks, but LaRoche is proving he can still provide pop at the plate and hits in the clutch.
DISCOURAGING: Ryan Zimmerman has seemingly lost all of his power. He has just one home run over his last 97 at-bats. (His career homer rate entering this season: one per every 25 at-bats.) He has only two extra-base hits this month.
ENCOURAGING: Tyler Clippard took over as closer on May 22 in Philadelphia. In 11 appearances since, he's allowed zero runs and one hit. Opponents are hitting .033 against him during that span.
DISCOURAGING: Before getting designated for assignment on Sunday, Brad Lidge made 11 appearances for the Nationals this season. He pitched a clean, 1-2-3 inning in only two of them. Overall, Lidge faced 51 batters with the Nats, with 23 of them safely reaching base.
CLEVELAND — A 75-year-old woman was taken to a hospital Tuesday night after being hit in the face with a foul ball by Washington's Daniel Murphy.
Muir West was sitting down the right-field line — and may have been blinded by the sun — when she was struck by the hard shot from Murphy in the first inning of the Indians' game at Progressive Field. Fans sitting in her section immediately called for security and medical personnel, who rushed to aid her.
A family member said West's glasses were broken in the mishap and she received a cut on her face.
Her wound was heavily bandaged before she was placed on a stretcher and taken to MetroHealth Hospital. As she was carried up the steps, fans gave her a warm ovation.
Major League Baseball added more netting this season near home plate to protect fans from foul balls and bats flying into the stands.
It didn't take long for Trea Turner to get a good test at his new position in center field.
In the first inning against the Indians on Tuesday, Turner had two balls hit his way. One resulted in a ground rule double, the other found Turner's glove on a difficult grab at the wall.
Turner caught the third out at the warning track on a flyball by Jose Ramirez. The Nats' rookie reached out on a full sprint and reeled it in right just a few steps before the wall in right-center.
Check it out:
The catch was an impressive one to watch for a guy who is just learning a new position. But the details revealed by StatCast show exactly how good of a play it was.
Turner registered a 97.8% efficiency score and covered over 112 feet. That's exceptional.
Turner may have his growing pains in center field, but he's certainly off to a good start.
[RELATED: Former Nats 1st rd. pick set to make MLB debut with Mets]
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Nationals (58-41) vs. Indians (56-41) at Progressive Field
The Nationals are beginning their road trip in Cleveland on Tuesday night with several notable changes to their lineup, just in time for a big interleague series against the first-place Indians.
In center field for the first time will be Trea Turner, who remains in the lineup despite Ryan Zimmerman coming off the disabled list. Turner has six games of experience playing outfield in the minor leagues, but has never done so in the majors. Turner spoke on Sunday about how he feels ready for the challenge of playing center field.
Bryce Harper is back in the starting lineup, but is now hitting second. And Ben Revere is in at left field with Jayson Werth serving as the designated hitter.
The pitching matchup is a good one with Gio Gonzalez (6-8, 4.53) set to square off against Danny Salazar (11-3, 2.75). Gonzalez is hoping to build off his strong outing of six innings and one run allowed in his last start.
First pitch: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzaez vs. Indians - Danny Salazar
CF Trea Turner
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
DH Jayson Werth
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
LF Ben Revere
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)
RHP Danny Salazar