Friday, August 30, 2013

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Monday, August 26, 2013

State of the Nats - 8/26

Photo by USA Today
Team Record: 65-65 (24-26)

N.L. East Standings

Wild Card Standings

Offensive Game of the Week: Jayson Werth 8/21 vs. Cubs - 1 for 3, HR (18), 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB  

Pitching Line of the Week: Jordan Zimmermann 8/24 vs. Royals - 7.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, BB, 7 SO, 114 pitches, 78 strikeouts

Top Storylines

Can they keep it up? - Winners of 11 of their last 16 games, the Nats enter Monday coming off their best stretch of the 2013 season. They haven't gained much ground on the Reds who hold the final NL Wild Card spot, but they are close to overtaking the Diamondbacks to be the first team out. As Mark explained this morning, it is still very unlikely they can make up enough ground to qualify for the playoffs. It makes you wonder where this type of run was a month ago, or even earlier. But regardless of whether it's enough to put them into the postseason, it's encouraging to see the Nats haven't packed it in and given up on this year.

Dog days of the NL East - The Nationals play their next 26 games against division rivals, a stretch that will take them all the way until their final two series of the season. Over the next month they'll play the Marlins three times, the Mets and Phillies each twice, and the Braves for one final matchup of the 2013 season. Most of those teams, of course, are behind the Nats in the standings and it should present an opportunity for Washington to continue their recent surge. It may not be enough to make the playoffs, but a winning season, or perhaps as many as 85 wins by the end of the year, aren't out of the question.

Much better, but still not enough

Associated Press
The good news for the Nationals on this late-August Monday morning: They're playing unquestionably their best baseball of the season right now.

The bad news for the Nationals (and their fans): It's still not going to be enough to make up for the first four-plus months of this underachieving season.

They simply dug themselves too big a hole. Plus, the five NL clubs who have been in position to make the postseason for quite some time now have shown no signs of collapse, the other requirement for a last-ditch pennant race in D.C.

So it's not entirely the Nationals' fault. Even with yesterday's frustrating 6-4 loss in Kansas City, they've gone 11-5 since that embarrassing home sweep at the hands of the Braves earlier this

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Game 130: Nats at Royals

Photo by USA Today
After a 7-2 victory over the Royals last night, the Nationals have now won five straight games, all on the road, and 11 of their last 15 overall. They stand above .500 for the first time since July 14 and are 12 games back in the division after the Braves' third straight loss on Saturday. That's the closest they've been in three weeks. Just when they were written off, Washington has pulled off its best stretch of the 2013 season.

Even if the Nats keep it up the division is still a major longshot, but fortunately for them, the Reds haven't been playing their best baseball either. The Nats now sit 8.5 games back from the Reds for the final NL Wild Card spot, and Washington has the advantage with their schedule. After they play the Royals today, the Nats face teams with losing records in each of their next 19 games. Conversely, the Reds play expected playoff teams in ten of their next 13, including seven games against the Cardinals.

Today the Nats look for their sixth consecutive win which would be their longest winning streak of the season. Dan Haren (8-11, 4.64) takes the mound against a club he's been very successful against in the past. Through ten career starts vs. the Royals he is 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA.

Pitching for Kansas City will be right-hander Ervin Santana who has been one of their more reliable starters this year. He holds a 3.13 ERA through 167 innings in what has been the best season of his nine-year MLB career.

Enjoy the game...

Where: Kauffman Stadium
Gametime: 2:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 869
Weather: Mostly sunny, 92 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from LF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Bryce Harper
DH Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
LF Tyler Moore
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Dan Haren

Who will get the call in September?

Photo by USA Today
The Nationals are about to enter September under much different circumstances than they did last season, with different priorities as they get set to expand their roster. Instead of looking for specialists to use sparingly during a pennant race, the Nats can see what a few players have at the big league level and maybe even showcase guys for future trades.

In 2011 when the Nats were also around the .500 mark, they brought up six players, including Steve Lombardozzi, who became a key bench player on the NL East-winning 2012 club, and Brad Peacock, who helped them land Gio Gonzalez the following winter.

Who will get a look this season? Here are a few names to watch as the Nats get ready to expand their roster:

Good bets

LHP Ian Krol – This one’s easy. Davey Johnson already said the Nats plan to call Krol back up in September, after the lefty was optioned to Syracuse on Aug. 21 to make room for Ross Ohlendorf. Krol gave up five earned runs in his last seven innings before being sent down and will look to find the success he had when he was first called up in early June. He should see as much game action as any of the call-ups and could lock up a bullpen role for next season.

RHP Ryan Mattheus – Mattheus was also sent down recently, on Aug. 15, and the roster expansion should help him return to Washington. Mattheus struggled after coming back from the DL on July 26, leaving for Syracuse with a 6.26 ERA through 23 innings this season with the Nats. He’s been okay in three outings in Triple-A since the demotion (1 ER in 3 IP) so we’ll see if he can finish the season strong.