Wrapping up an eventful weekend for the Nats

Wrapping up an eventful weekend for the Nats

If you were out of town over the holiday weekend, you sure missed some eventful stuff at the ballpark. The Nationals took three of four from the Cardinals, informed Stephen Strasburg he'll make only two more starts this season, called up John Lannan, Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Zach Duke and Christian Garcia from Class AAA Syracuse and lost Sean Burnett, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse for a brief period of time due to injuries.

Oh yeah, and they won their 82nd game of the season, most for any D.C. ballclub since 1969.

Since there's a decent chance you missed some or all of that, let's recap the biggest stories of the weekend, with some links back to the original articles...

-- Yesterday's 2-1 victory over the Cubs was the Nationals' 82nd of the year, ensuring the club's first-ever winning season. While the consensus opinion around most of the clubhouse involved shrugs and talk of accomplishing even greater things, there were a few folks (particularly those who have been in the organization a while) who noted the significance of this win. "I think that's huge for the city and everything," Ross Detwiler said. "Obviously we're not done yet, but somebody like Ryan Zimmerman, who's been here the whole time and he's been on losing teams year in and year out ... I'm just happy for him to be on a winning team."

-- After Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings during Sunday's win over the Cardinals, manager Davey Johnson revealed the right-hander will make two more starts before he is shut down: Friday night against the Marlins at Nationals Park, then Sept. 12 at the Mets. Then on Monday, Strasburg sat down for a long conversation with Johnson, Mike Rizzo and Steve McCatty, during which he made it clear he wants to pitch through the remainder of the season. That, of course, wasn't going to happen no matter what Strasburg said, but let the record show he is opposed to the shutdown.

-- Yesterday's win also featured Tyler Clippard escaping a self-created jam in the top of the ninth to record his 30th save. That's no small accomplishment, considering the only other Nationals relievers to save that many games are Chad Cordero (2005, 2007) and Drew Storen (2011). It's also no small feat considering Clippard didn't get his first save opportunity this season until May 22. That means he's saved 30 games in less than 3 12 months. "It's a nice feather on the cap," he said. "I think more importantly, it's been fun to contribute to a lot of the wins we've had this year. That's the most fun part for me."

-- The Nationals may need Clippard, Drew Storen and others to continue to make big contributions late in games, because Sean Burnett is dealing with elbow discomfort again. The lefty had this earlier in the season and pitched through it with only minimal issues, but his numbers of late (16 hits allowed in his last six innings) suggest the elbow has become a real factor in his performance. Johnson said he'll probably hold Burnett out for a couple of days; we'll see if it turns into anything more significant than that.

-- Perhaps in part because of Burnett's situation, the Nationals added two more pitchers from Class AAA Syracuse yesterday: Zach Duke and Christian Garcia. Each will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the month, and each made it to D.C. through perseverance. If you haven't read the full story on both guys from yesterday, I encourage you to click on the link and appreciate just how much this means for each of them.

-- Meanwhile, Michael Morse was mysteriously pulled from yesterday's game during the fourth inning. Is he having a problem with his thumb? His hand? Or was something else going on? I'll let you all try to interpret what both Morse and Johnson said after the game.

-- The minor-league season ended yesterday for most of the Nationals' affiliates, and the club announced its organizational player and pitcher of the year: Matt Skole and Nathan Karns. Skole, 23, led all players in the organization with 27 homers and finished second with 102 RBI, splitting his season between low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. The third baseman, a fifth-round pick in last summer's draft out of Georgia Tech, hit .292 overall with a .427 on-base percentage. Karns, 24, went 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) between Hagerstown and Potomac. A 12th-round pick in 2009 out of Texas Tech, the right-hander was shut down after pitching 116 innings, during which he allowed only 70 hits. Both Skole and Karns will be honored at Nationals Park before Friday night's game against the Marlins.

-- Finally, while yesterday's win marked a milestone for the Nationals and D.C. baseball, it also marked the end of a long streak for yours truly. You see, I hadn't covered a team (in any sport) with a winning record since 1996, when as a student at Northwestern I covered the 9-3 football team. Since then, it had been nothing but .500 or worse seasons for me: the 1997 Cubs and 1998 Diamondbacks as interns, the 1999-2000 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi basketball teams, the 2001-02 Orioles, the 2003-04 Redskins and then 2005-11 Nationals. As a reporter, I've obviously got no rooting interest in any team I cover, but I think it's fair to say it's a tad more enjoyable covering a winning team than a losing team. Which has made this season particularly enjoyable to chronicle.

Despite hot streak, Anthony Rendon gets the night off versus Cardinals

nats_fall_to_cards_6-2refframe_1.jpg

Despite hot streak, Anthony Rendon gets the night off versus Cardinals

Though Dusty Baker had already made the call earlier in the week to sit Anthony Rendon for Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, his third baseman's recent torrid stretch at the plate nearly gave the Nats' skipper second thoughts. 

"I hate to give a guy a day off when they're getting hits and starting to look good," Baker said before Saturday's game. 

Still, he stayed true to his word, giving Rendon the day off and tapping Stephen Drew to take over at the hot corner. 

"I told him [earlier] he'd be out Saturday. I said 'Give me all you got until your day off on Saturday,'" the manager said. "And he did." 

Rendon's hot streak has been a much-needed sigh of relief for the offense, as his previous struggles were reaching the point where Nats fans might have wondered if he'd ever reclaim his 2014 form. That guy —the then 24-year-old who finished fifth in National League MVP voting and was once nicknamed "Tony Two-bags" — had been missing for the last season-plus as he battled either injury or inconsistency. 

But since Rendon was dropped to sixth in the batting order, the almost 26-year-old has slowly started to resemble what he was two seasons ago. In the last 10 games, he's raised his average from .237 to .262 thanks to six multi-hit efforts that included four doubles, a home run and a triple. Baker noted that Rendon had been making great contact all along, and part of his breakout is simply getting those hits to drop. 

"He's kinda been our hard-luck guy," Baker said. 

Rendon had played all 49 of Washington's games prior to Saturday, prompting Baker to describe the day off as "much needed." And when he returns, the Nats have to hope he can continue to be a presence in a lineup that desperately needs someone other than Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy to produce consistently. 

"He's looking good," Baker said. "He's looking real good."

Nats tap Gonzalez as they hope to rebound vs. Cardinals

nats_fall_to_cards_6-2refframe_1.jpg

Nats tap Gonzalez as they hope to rebound vs. Cardinals

Nats (29-20) vs. Cardinals (25-24) at Nationals Park

The Nationals are looking to bounce back a day after dropping Friday night's game to the Cardinals —their first loss to the Red Birds all season. After Max Scherzer's uneven outing, Washington will send lefty Gio Gonzalez to the mound to face a St. Louis offense that has had trouble with southpaws. The Cards have a slashline of .240/.322/.390 against left-handed pitchers on the season, so it will be up to Gonzalez to keep that trend going against an otherwise hot-hitting lineup. It could help that he has his personal catcher in Jose Lobaton back in the lineup after Wilson Ramos held those duties in Monday's 7-1 loss to the New York Mets. 

Another wrinkle in Saturday's lineup is that Anthony Rendon will have the night off, a decision he made earlier in the week despite the third baseman's recent hot streak. In Rendon's absence, Stephen Drew will take over at the hot corner.

Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter will return to St.Louis' lineup after going on paternity leave for the first two games of this series. 

First pitch: 7:15 p.m.
TV: FOX
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Cardinals - Adam Wainwright

NATS

CF Ben Revere 

LF Jayson Werth 

RF Bryce Harper 

2B Daniel Murphy 

1B Ryan Zimmerman 

3B Stephen Drew 

SS Danny Espinosa 

C Jose Lobaton 

LHP Gio Gonzalez 

CARDINALS

1B Matt Carpenter 

SS Aledmys Diaz 

LF Matt Holiday 

RF Stephen Piscotty 

CF Randal Grichuk 

C Yadier Molina 

2B Jedd Gyroko 

3B Greg Garcia 

RHP Adam Wainwright

 

Follow along with GameView here

NL East: Mets trade for first baseman to help with Duda's absence

brycecuttingglovesrefframe_1.jpg

NL East: Mets trade for first baseman to help with Duda's absence

The New York Mets have acquired some help at first base by bringing in 10-year MLB veteran James Loney in a trade with the San Diego Padres. The return has not been reported yet.

Loney himself hinted at the news on Twitter before ESPN confirmed the story. What a time to be alive.

Loney, 32, played the previous three seasons for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has yet to appear in the big leagues this season after signing a free agent deal with San Diego in April.

The former first round pick is a solid hitter with a .285 lifetime average and has always been known for his defense. Last season he hit .280 with four homers and 32 RBI in 104 games for the Rays.

Duda is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. He could be out for a long time, so Loney at least gives the Mets some insurance behind Eric Campbell, who is filling in at first but is hitting just .182 this season.