Star of the Series 5/29-5/31 (Michael Taylor)

Series Scores

Friday, May 29, 2015 Nationals 2 Reds 5

Saturday, May 30, 2015 Nationals 5 Reds 8

Sunday, May 31, 2015 Nationals 2 Reds 8

Michael Taylor was the star of the series and he demonstrated why he should start with his strong performance in Cincinatti. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Michael Taylor was the star of the series and he demonstrated why he should start with his strong performance in Cincinatti. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Washington Nationals came to Cincinnati on Friday with the hopes of extending their streak of nine consecutive series wins.  Instead, they were swept for the first time since the April 24-26 series in Miami against the Marlins.

Stephen Strasburg’s exit after just 16 pitches on Friday night could have been a harbinger of things to come.  Strasburg, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with neck tightness, was replaced by Taylor Jordan.  Jordan pitched well and was actually in a position to win until the sixth inning when he surrendered a walk, two hits and two runs.  Aaron Barrett “relieved” Jordan and gave up a line drive single to Zack Cozart which gave the Reds a 4-2 lead.  Blame for the 5-2 loss cannot entirely be placed on the bullpen.  The Nationals left 13 runners on base and went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Bryce Harper was scratched from the lineup on Saturday after getting drilled in the back with a 93 mph fastball from Tony Cingrani on Friday night.  Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals an early first inning lead with a single to right center field which scored Yunel Escobar.  Joey Votto responded in the bottom of the inning with his ninth home run of the season and second of the series.  The Nationals got some help from Harper’s replacement, Michael Taylor, in the sixth inning when he clubbed his fourth home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.  The Nationals bullpen struggled again and Casey Jansen coughed up a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning.  In his fourth appearance of the season, Jansen gave up four hits and two walks.  He was tagged for four earned runs to give the Reds won 8-5.

The Nationals managed just two hits, including a double from Tanner Roark, on Sunday.  The 2-2 game unraveled in the seventh inning when Marlon Byrd singled off of Barrett.  Billy Hamilton was next and he bunted a ball directly to Barrett who misplayed a double play ball.  Barrett was only able to get the force out at second base.  Hamilton stole his 21st base of the season and scored on a ground ball just out of Ian Desmond’s reach.  Barrett’s ERA rose to 5.19 and his replacement, Matt Grace, could not stop the bleeding as the Reds completed the sweep.

Pitching was certainly not deserving of commendation this series.  Here are the nominees for star of the series.

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Michael Taylor
  3. Ryan Zimmerman

Yunel Escobar continues to be a key bat in the Nationals lineup.  Escobar has the second highest batting average (.318) among National League third basemen.  Escobar went 4-for-12 with a double on Saturday in the first inning.  He scored on a Ryan Zimmerman single after getting a running start.  Nationals fans love Escobar’s passion on the field, but the team cannot afford to lose his bat as they did on Saturday when he was ejected by Andy Fletcher for arguing balls and strikes.

Michael Taylor saw playing time in all three games as he looks to show that he deserves a permanent spot in the lineup now that Jayson Werth will not be back until August.  Taylor went 2-for-8 with 5 RBIs, a run scored and three walks.  Taylor was clutch when he hit his fourth home run of the season on Saturday to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.  Taylor also made a strong defensive play on Friday night when he nearly nailed Byrd at the plate who scored on a sacrifice fly.

Ryan Zimmerman’s numbers may not jump of the page.  He went 3-for-13, but got on base each game.  He also scored two runs and drove in his 33rd RBI of the season on Saturday.

Star of the Series: Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor is going to see significant playing time if he plays more games the way he did in Cincinnati.

Star of the Series 5/19-5/20 (Ryan Zimmerman)

Series Scores
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Yankees 6 Nationals 8
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 Yankees 2 Nationals 3

Ryan Zimmerman gets topped off with chocolate syrup after his walk-off home run by Max Scherzer.
Ryan Zimmerman gets topped off with chocolate syrup after his walk-off home run by Max Scherzer. (Getty Images)

Washington Nationals fans have a lot to be happy about after Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the New York Yankees.  Here are three reasons why:

1. The Nationals completed a two game home series sweep against the American League East leading New York Yankees.
2. They, temporarily, seized sole control of first place in the National League East.
3. Alex Rodriguez struck out in his only two plate appearances.

Rodriguez’s strikeout to end the game on Wednesday helped improve the Nationals record to an MLB-best 17-4 since April 28 and it was probably the “cherry on top” of the series.  The actual chocolate syrup was supplied by Ryan Zimmerman (technically Max Scherzer).

Mr. Walk-Off lined a 3-1 pitch from Andrew Miller, who had not allowed a run all season, off the right field foul pole for his fifth home run of the season and his 10th career walk-off homer to complete an 8-6 come-from-behind victory.  Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper both hit home runs in the first inning and Gio Gonzalez (3-2) retired the first nine batters to face him on ground balls.  Gonzalez got into trouble in the fourth inning when he allowed four runs.  He also surrendered a two-run home run to Mark Teixeira in the fifth inning.  Wilson Ramos extended his hitting streak on Tuesday to an MLB-best 19 games with his game tying second home run of the season off of David Carpenter.

A strange turn of events in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s game gave the Nationals a decisive 3-2 lead.  The inning began with a Chase Headley fielding error that saw him completely wipe out in the infield as he tried to field a ground ball from Wilson Ramos.

Chase Headley's fielding error allowed Ramos to score the winning run. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Chase Headley’s fielding error allowed Ramos to score the winning run. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Tyler Moore and Dan Uggla both walked to load the bases in the 2-2 game.  The Yankees brought their infield in and they called on Justin Wilson to face Denard Span.  Span hit a bouncing ball that was just out of the reach of the drawn in Didi Gregorius to give the Nationals the lead.  Drew Storen and Matt Grace combined for two shutout innings and they sent Nationals fans home happy.

Three players stood out during the short 5/19-5/20 series against the Yankees.  Bryce Harper, who is not a nominee this series, went 1-for-4 with a home run and a walk.  He and Matt Williams were ejected on Wednesday in the third inning after a disagreement with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson.
Harper

Wilmer Difo gets an honorable mention this series because he hit a single in his first major league at bat on Tuesday night.  Here are the nominees for star of the series.

  1. Ian Desmond
  2. Ryan Zimmerman
  3. Jordan Zimmermann

Ian Desmond went 3-for-9 against Yankees pitchers and he drove in three runs when he bombed the Bronx Bombers.  Bang Bang greeted the fans who were still filing into their seats on Tuesday night when Desmond hit his third home run of the season off a 98 mph pitch from Nathan Eovaldi (3-1) in the first inning.  Desmond didn’t waste time on Wednesday either.  This time, he drove a pitch from Adam Warren (2-3) to straight away center to cut the lead to 2-1.  Desmond is in the midst of a hot streak.  He has 3 home runs, four doubles and is hitting .290 (20-for-69) since May 2.  Desmond also continues to look more confident fielding his position.  He made a particularly difficult backhanded pick on a short hop in the sixth inning to nail Teixera at first base.

Ryan Zimmerman went 1-for-7 with two walks, but his walk-off home run on Tuesday night was enough to earn him this nomination.  Zimmerman is now tied for second place with Danny Espinosa with five home runs.  Zimmerman continues to look like a natural at first base.  He made an athletic leaping grab in the fifth inning on Wednesday to rob Warren of a base hit.  He also raked a bouncing ball out of the dirt in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game.  Didi Gregorius was initially called safe, but the play was reviewed and overturned.

Jordan Zimmerman’s quality start earned him his fourth win of the season.  Zimmermann struck out six over seven innings and allowed just two runs on five hits with one walk.  Zimmermann settled in after allowing two runs in the first inning.  The Yankees did not manage another extra-base hit the rest of the game.

Star of the Series: Ryan Zimmerman

There aren’t many moments in baseball that are more significant than a walk-off homer.  Zimmerman’s walk-off was, perhaps, the most important hit of the series.

Star of the Series 5/11-5/13 (Max Scherzer)

Series Scores

Monday, May 11, 2015 Nationals 11 D-Backs 1

Tuesday May 12, 2015 Nationals 6 D-Backs 14

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Nationals 9 D-Backs 6

Max Scherzer was drafted 11th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. ( Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Max Scherzer was drafted 11th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. ( Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Washington Nationals won the rubber game of their first series against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday afternoon in front of 19,026 fans gathered at Chase Field.  The Nationals also pulled to within one game of the National League East leading New York Mets who lost to the Chicago Cubs 6-5 on Thursday afternoon.

The Nationals began their West coast road trip, which will also take them to San Diego, with an offensive outburst.  D-Back’s starting pitcher Josh Collmenter (3-4) was driven from the game after just one and a third innings.  Denard Span greeted him with a line drive home run to right field on the second pitch of the game.  Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run home run in the first inning gave the Nationals a 4-0 lead, which they never gave up, and provided sufficient run support for Max Scherzer (3-3) to earn his third win of the season.

The Nationals played competitive baseball on Tuesday night for three innings before things spiraled out of control.  Stephen Strasburg (2-4) said he “felt good” after receiving treatment, for shoulder discomfort he sustained in his last appearance in Miami, but he was driven from the game after just three and a third innings after allowing seven earned runs.  Manager Matt Williams turned to outfielder Clint Robinson in the ninth inning of a 14-4 blowout to help save the bullpen for the rest of the six game road trip.  Robinson struck out a batter and allowed just one hit as the first position player in Nationals history to pitch in a game.

Bryce Harper was ejected from Wednesday’s game by home plate umpire Rob Drake in the seventh inning of a 5-5 game for arguing over a checked swing.  Michael Taylor took Harper’s place in the lineup and saved him from a potential storm of postgame questions about his maturity when he hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to put the Nationals ahead 9-6.  Drew Storen slammed the door for his 10th save of the season. The series was rife with spectacular offensive performance.  It was not easy, but we were able to recognize three deserving players.  Here are the nominees for the 5/11-5/13 star of the series:

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Denard Span
  3. Michael Taylor

Max Scherzer had not pitched at Chase Field, the home field of the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2006, since September 25, 2009.  Scherzer made an impressive homecoming.  He pitched seven innings allowing just allowed five hits and one earned run.  Scherzer also had 6 strikeouts on his way to his third win of the season.  He maneuvered out of his only jam in the third inning with runners on second and third base when he struck out A.J. Pollack to end the inning. Scherzer gave up only his third home run of the year to Jordan Pacheco.  Scherzer is part of a Nationals pitching staff has been stingy at allowing home runs.  In fact, the Nationals lead Major League Baseball with the fewest home runs (18).

Denard Span has reached base safely in 17 of 19 games since returning from the disabled list on Aril 19.  Span went 6-for-12 with two walks this series and he scored four runs.  Span is one of the hottest hitters on the Nationals.  He has a .316 AVG and he set the tone for an offensive series that saw the Nationals score 26 runs.  Span, who has been hesitant to steal bases since returning from the DL, swiped his second base of the season.

Michael Taylor went 1-for-3 this series, but his third home run of the series—a ninth inning grand slam—carried the Nationals to a comeback victory on Wednesday.  Taylor, who is not a conventional bench player, continues to demonstrate that he can adjust to the fourth outfielder role.

Star of the Series: Max Scherzer

Scherzer continues to provide strong leadership in one of the most talented rotations in the majors.  He had the most dominant stuff this series throwing 68 of his 94 pitches for strikes.

Star of the Series 5/8-5/10 (Bryce Harper)

Series Scores
Friday, May 8, 2015 Braves 2 Nationals 9
Saturday, May 10, 2015 Braves 6 Nationals 8
Sunday, May 11, 2015 Braves 4 Nationals 5

The Washington Nationals trailed the Atlanta Braves 9-1 in the second inning on April 28 when the teams last met at Turner Field and they were able to avoid their seventh consecutive loss in a memorable 13-12 in comeback.  The Nationals’ success against their division rival continued on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 31,938 who gathered at Nationals Park to watch the Nationals complete their first series sweep of the season with a 5-4 win.  The Nationals have won 10 of their last 12 games since the historic comeback.

The Nationals overcame an early 2-0 deficit on Friday night and slugged their way to a 9-2 win.  Jayson Werth got the Nationals on the board in the fourth inning with a solo home run.  The  remaining seven runs were driven in on home runs by Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa who both hit two home runs.  Gio Gonzalez (3-2) had another strong performance working seven innings and striking out eight batters while allowing only two runs on five hits.

The Nationals almost took a 7-6 lead in the eighth inning on Saturday afternoon on a Dan Uggla single to left field.  Michael Taylor, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Jose Lobaton, tried to score from second base, but was nailed at the plate by Kelly Johnson.  Bryce Harper played the role of hero on Saturday with his third career walk-off homer in the ninth inning.

Many players deserved star of the series nominations.  Espinosa and Lobaton both receive honorable mentions this series.  Espinosa has hit four home runs this season from the left side of the plate after a spring training experiment where gave up switch-hitting and only hit from the right side of the plate.  Lobaton also gets an honorable mention this series.  He has hit two home runs in his last three starts and continues to demonstrate he is a capable backup catcher.  Here are the nominees for the 5/8-5/11 star of the series against the Braves.

  1. Bryce Harper
  2. Wilson Ramos
  3. Ryan Zimmerman

Bryce Harper was named the National League Player of the week on Monday afternoon.  Harper became just the fourth Nationals player to hit three home runs in a game when he did so on Wednesday afternoon against the Marlins.  Harper got off to a shaky start on Friday night in the fourth inning when he singled on a line drive to center fielder Cameron Maybin.  Harper took a big turn towards second base was tagged out by Freddie Freeman who received a strong throw from Andrelton Simmons.

Harper made up for his baserunning mistake in the sixth inning when he drove a 1-2 pitch over the wall in center field.  The two-run home run scored Yunel Escobar and gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead.  Harper’s second home run of the game was a three-run homer in the eighth inning that scored Escobar and Werth.  Harper hit his National League leading 11th home run of the season to win the game for the Nationals on Saturday.

Harper also showed off his defensive skills in the seventh inning on Saturday.  Harper recorded all three outs of the inning.  He athletically tracked down a sharp line drive hit by Nick Markakis to record the third out of the inning.  Harper’s leaping grab kept at least one run off the scoreboard.

Wilson Ramos extended his hit streak on Sunday to 13 games.  His 13-game hit streak is the second longest of his career and it propelled the Nationals to victory on Sunday afternoon.  Ramos gave the Nationals a 3-0 lead in the first inning on a single to right field which scored Ryan Zimmerman who executed a hook slide to avoid Christian Bethancourt’s tag.  Ramos’ most important hit came in the eighth inning when he hit his fifth double of the season on a fly ball that sailed over the head of Markakis in right field.  Zimmerman scored and gave the Nationals a 5-4 which was preserved by Drew Storen who recorded his ninth save of the season.  Ramos ended the series with a .327 AVG–the highest AVG on the team.

Ryan Zimmerman hit his third home run of the season on Saturday in the fifth inning off Julio Teheran (3-1).  Zimmerman’s three-run home run flew over the left field wall and bounced back onto the field.  The play was reviewed and Zimmerman came into score as the Nationals fans celebrated his home run for a second time.  Zimmerman also drove in his fourth and fifth RBIs of the series on Sunday afternoon.  Zimmerman scored Harper from second base in the first inning with a double.  Zimmerman’s 22nd RBI of the season tied the game on Sunday afternoon at 4-4.  Zimmerman scored the winning run on the very next at bat off Ramos’s double.

Star of the Series: Bryce Harper

Harper had three home runs this series against the Braves.  His seven hits and eight RBIs made him the star of the series.

Star of the Series 5/4-5/6 (Bryce Harper)

Series Scores
Monday, May 4, 2015 Marlins 4 Nationals 6
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 Marlins 2 Nationals 1
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 Marlins 5 Nationals 7

Bryce Harper had 3 home runs and 5 RBIs on Wedneday. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Bryce Harper had 3 home runs and 5 RBIs on Wednesday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The Washington Nationals were swept by the Miami Marlins when the teams last met in April and the Nationals limped out of Miami mired at bottom of the National League East standings with a 7-12 record.  The Nationals got revenge on Monday night at Nationals Park when they overcame a two-run deficit in the eighth inning.  Ian Desmond, who had not hit a home run since April 15 in Boston, hit a two-run home run to tie the game and Yunel Escobar had a clutch base hit that drove in two more runs to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead.  Tanner Roark preserved the 4-2 lead and earned his first career save.

The Nationals dropped the second game of the series 2-1, but the biggest news of the night was focused on Stephen Strasburg.  Strasburg left the game after the third inning because of “shoulder discomfort.”  He was able to play catch on Wednesday, but the Nationals have not made any announcements about whether he will make his next regularly scheduled start on Monday in Arizona.

The series went out with a bang on Wednesday afternoon in front of 31,417 fans at Nationals Park.  Bryce Harper hit three home runs and Max Scherzer had 10 strikeouts in a game the Nationals won 7-5.  The win was the team’s seventh in nine games and it delivered a third consecutive series win.  Here are the nominees for the 5/4-5/6 star of the series against the Marlins.

  1. Ian Desmond
  2. Yunel Escobar
  3. Bryce Harper

Ian Desmond had four hits in the final two games of the series against the New York Mets and he looked to continue to heat up on Monday night against the Marlins.  Desmond was 0-for-3, with two strikeouts, going into his at bat in the eighth inning with Ryan Zimmerman on first base and one out.  Desmond tied the game with a two-run home run into the batters’ eye in center field.  Desmond also had two more hits and scored two more runs in Wednesday’s game.  His defense has also recently improved as he completed his second consecutive series without making an error.

Yunel Escobar had five singles on Monday night.  His five hit night was complete with a game winning single in the eighth inning which scored Tyler Moore and Denard Span.  Escobar’s six hits this series puts him in a tie with Wilson Ramos for a team leading 29 hits.

Bryce Harper was 0-for-7 with four walks in his last five games before Wednesday afternoon’s clinic.  He made Tom Koehler look like his 2013 Home Run Derby pitcher with three tape-measure home runs.  Harper led off the second inning with a home run to left center field.  Harper’s sixth home run of the season bounced off the back wall of the visitor’s bullpen and it cut the Marlins lead in half in a 2-1 game.  Harper drove a fastball Koehler left over the outside part of the plate in the third inning into the upper deck in right field to score Ian Desmond.  Harper’s second home run of the game was outdone by his third home run of the game to the same location.  Statcast showed Harper’s third home run had an exit velocity of 108.6-mph and traveled 444.9 feet.  Harper had more to contribute on Wednesday afternoon.  He added another RBI on a ground out in the seventh inning for his fifth RBI of the game.  Harper leads the Nationals with 20 RBIs and 8 HRs.  Harper is tied for fourth in the National League in home runs and fifth in the National League in RBIs.  He leads the major leagues with 26 walks.

Star of the Series: Bryce Harper

Harper fell short of becoming the 17th player to hit four home runs in a game, but he still stole the show on Wednesday afternoon.  He showcased his power and became only the fourth player on the Nationals to hit three home runs in a game.

Star of the Series 4/30-5/3 (Gio Gonzalez)

Series Scores
Thursday, April 30, 2015 Nationals 8 Mets 2
Friday, May 1, 2015 Nationals 0 Mets 4
Saturday, May 2, 2015 Nationals 1 Mets 0
Sunday, May 3, 2015 Nationals 1 Mets 0Gio Gonzalez's 1-0 win came on an exciting Saturday in sports. (Washington Post Sunday Cover)

The Washington Nationals traveled to Queens to face the first place New York Mets on Thursday night and they looked to build on a two-game winning streak they started in Atlanta. The Mets entered Thursday’s game at Citi Field with a 10-0 record at home. The Nationals sent Stephen Strasburg (2-2) to the mound to face Jacob deGromm (2-3) and they provided their starter with quality run support when they took advantage of a fourth inning fielding error by Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores. Flores booted a tailor-made double play ball which set the table for a three run inning in the Nationals 8-2 win.

The Nationals lone loss of the series came on Friday night in a much anticipated pitching matchup between two aces–Max Scherzer (1-3) and Matt Harvey (5-0). The Nationals were shutout 4-0. Scherzer allowed a solo home run to left fielder Michael Cuddyer in the bottom of the fourth inning and the Mets scored three more runs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Jayson Werth misplayed a line drive hit to left field.

This loss was followed by two impressive starts by Gio Gonzalez (2-2) and Doug Fister (2-1). Nationals fans finally got to see the talent of their starting rotation that they had so highly anticipated during the offseason. Both starters earned wins in their respective 1-0 games. Two of this week’s nominees for star of the series are pitchers who had shutdown performances. Here are the nominees for the 4/30-5/3 series win against the Mets.

  1. Gio Gonzalez
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Ryan Zimmerman

Gio Gonzalez needed one inning to settle into a groove on Saturday night. Gonzalez was tested early when first baseman Lucas Duda came to bat with the speedy 2014 Gold Glove winning center fielder, Juan Lagares, on first base. Duda smacked a line drive into the left field corner for a double and Lagares tried to score from first base. Werth fielded the ball cleanly and threw a strike to Ian Desmond who relayed a one hop throw to Wilson Ramos. The ball easily beat Lagares who was nailed at the plate. Gonzalez walked Cuddyer on four pitches and then threw a wild pitch to move the two baserunners into scoring position. Gonzalez settled in after he got Daniel Murphy to harmlessly ground out to Ryan Zimmerman for the third out. He surrendered just one more walk and three more hits the rest of his seven inning outing. Gonzalez’s terrific, nine strikeout, start was featured on the front page of the Washington Post sports section Sunday morning alongside images from Saturday’s other major sporting events including the Kentucky Derby and the “Fight of the Century.”

Max Scherzer pitched in a highly anticipated matchup with Mets ace Matt Harvey. Scherzer did not give up a hit until the fourth inning when Cuddyer hit his solo home run to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Scherzer got some assistance from Bryce Harper in the bottom of the fifth inning when Harper charged a Lagares single in shallow right field and threw a one hop laser to Wilson Ramos to nail Curtis Granderson at the plate to end the inning. Scherzer was dominant in his final two innings of work recording four of his 10 strikeouts.

Ryan Zimmerman had another strong offensive series at the plate. He hit safely in all four games and had key RBIs on Thursday night and in Sunday afternoon’s 1-0 win to clinch the series. Zimmerman had a two RBI night on Thursday and drove in his second RBI on a well placed infield single. He drove in the only run of the game Sunday afternoon on a broken bat blooper in the first inning. It is also worth noting that Zimmerman, who has not hit a home run since April 8, was robbed of his third home run of the season Sunday afternoon by Michael Cuddyer in the top of the fourth inning.

Star of the Series: Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez settled down after a turbulent first inning and had the best start of the series.  His sacrifice bunt in the top of the second inning was also a key to his success because it helped manufacture the Nationals only run of the game.

Star of the Series 4/27-4/29 (Dan Uggla)

Series Scores
Monday, April 27, 2015: Nationals 4 Braves 8
Tuesday, April 28, 2015: Nationals 13 Braves 12
Wednesday, April 29, 2015: Nationals 13 Braves 4

Dan Uggla was the star of the series against the Braves. (John Bazemore/AP)
Dan Uggla was the star of the series against the Braves. (John Bazemore/AP)

The most prolific series of the season for the Washington Nationals ended with a 13-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Wednesday night.  The Nationals took two out of three games from the Braves to secure their second series win of the season.  This series will likely be long remembered for Tuesday’s nights 13-12 victory which was also the largest comeback in team history.  The Nationals scored the same number of runs on Wednesday night, albeit in less dramatic fashion, to move out of last place and to move within six games of the first place New York Mets.  Here are the star of the series nominees for the 4/27-4/29 series against the Braves.

1. Denard Span

2. Dan Uggla

3. Jordan Zimmermann

Denard Span was a National League Gold Glove finalist last season and fans are used to seeing superb defense commonly referred to as “spanning.”  Span made important defensive plays against the Braves including an assist on a double play where A.J. Pierzynski could not get back to first base in time after he forgot the number of outs in the inning.  Span made his most significant contributions at the plate.  He now has a .317 AVG after hitting two home runs, two doubles while driving in five runs on seven hits.  Span finished Tuesday’s game a triple short of the cycle.  He also ended Julio Teheran’s night when he hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning.

Dan Uggla entered the series with a .114 AVG and 10 strikeouts in 35 at bats.  Uggla was the most exciting player to watch this series.  Braves fans booed him every at bat, perhaps because he is getting paid almost $13 million this year by the Braves to play for another team, and also because he dominated.  Uggla had five hits this series including his three run home run off of Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth inning to complete the Nationals comeback.

Jordan Zimmermann is now 2-2 after he earned the win on Wednesday night in seven innings of work.  Zimmermann was touched for four runs (three earned runs) and he limited the Braves to just one extra-base hit.  Zimmermann’s curve ball was his most dominant pitch and he used it effectively to record eight strikeouts.  Zimmermann also became the third Nationals pitcher to get a hit this year and the first Nationals pitcher to drive in a run.  Zimmermann took three straight balls in his second at bat of the game in the fourth inning against left-handed pitcher Alex Wood.  Wood easily battled back to a full count when Zimmermann made it clear that he was not going to offer at the next two pitches.  With the bases loaded, Zimmermann hit a single on a line-drive to center field scoring Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Uggla.  Uggla’s run was the winning run.

Star of the Series: Dan Uggla
Uggla helped carry the team with eight RBIs this series and he had the biggest hit of the series.  His go-ahead ninth inning three-run homer ended a six game losing streak.

Star of the Series 4/24-4/26 (Bryce Harper)

Series Scores

Friday, April 24, 2015: Nationals 2 Marlins 3

Saturday, April 25, 2015: Nationals 0 Marlins 8

Sunday, April 26, 2015: Nationals 2 Marlins 6

Bryce Harper was the Star of the Series, but the Nationals have fallen into last place. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Bryce Harper was the Star of the Series, but the Nationals have fallen into last place. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The Washington Nationals faced the Miami Marlins for the first time this weekend and the Marlins easily completed a three game sweep of the Nationals on Sunday afternoon defeating them 6-2.  The Nationals managed just four runs during the series and they were shutout 8-0 Saturday evening.  The Nationals got only one strong performance from a starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmerman, and even that was squandered by a struggling bullpen and an offense that continues to struggle with consistency issues.  Sunday afternoon’s loss leaves the Nationals with a 7-12 record and puts them in last place in the National League East—7 ½ games behind the first place New York Mets.  Marlins Park is not a hitters park, but the Nationals offense proved especially inept only managing one home run and two other extra-base hits.  The team was not carried by any individual this series, but the three nominees for Star of the Series kept the games from completely getting out of hand.  Here are the nominees for the 4/24-4/26 series against the Marlins.

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Wilson Ramos

Yunel Escobar continued to demonstrate his offensive consistency this series.  Escobar had at least one hit in all three games and now has a 16-game on-base streak this season.  Escobar’s longest on-base streak was in 2011 when he had a 25-game on-base streak with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Escobar has a .361 OBP—the second highest on the team behind Bryce Harper.  Escobar reached base safely three times in Sunday afternoon’s 6-2 defeat.  He drew walks in the fourth and fifth inning before hitting a single to right field in his final at bat of the game.

Bryce Harper was the biggest reason why the Nationals were not completely embarrassed this weekend.  Harper had three hits and drew two more walks to add to his league leading 17 total walks.  Harper also drove in three of the four runs the Nationals scored this series.  He connected just enough on Sunday afternoon with a splitter from Dan Haren to hit his team leading fifth home run of the season.  Harper put together a terrific performance during Friday night’s 3-2 defeat.  Harper drove in Ian Desmond on a sacrifice fly to center field.  He added a second RBI when he hit a single in the sixth inning to score Denard Span and tie the game 2-2.  Harper also demonstrated excellent defensive skills in right field.  Dee Gordon unsuccessfully tried to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the fifth inning on Friday night and he was thrown out by a strong throw from Harper for the third out of the inning.

Wilson Ramos did not drive in any runs this series, but he and Escobar led the Nationals with four hits this series.  Ramos scored a run on a Span single to left field on Sunday afternoon.  Ramos was only tested on the basepaths three times this series by Dee Gordon.  Gordon, who stole a major league leading 64 bases in 2014, was thrown out twice on three attempts this series by Ramos.  Ramos made a costly blunder on Sunday when he held onto the ball for too long during a rundown where Giancarlo Stanton was presumably hung out to dry when he overran third base in the bottom of the fourth inning.  The mistake prolonged the inning which saw the winning run to score.

Star of the Series: Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper was not the reason why the Nationals won any games this series, but he continues to showcase his value as a consistent power hitter in an inconsistent lineup.

Star of the Series 4/21-4/23 (Yunel Escobar)

Series Scores

Tuesday, April 21, 2015: Cardinals 1 Nationals 2

Wednesday, April 22, 2015: Cardinals 7 Nationals 5

Thursday, April 23, 2015: Cardinals 4 Nationals 1

Yunel Escobar was the Star of the Series. His walk off home run on Tuesday carried the Nationals to a 2-1 victory (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Yunel Escobar was the Star of the Series. His walk off home run on Tuesday carried the Nationals to a 2-1 victory. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Washington Nationals took one of three from their 2012 NLDS opponents—the St. Louis Cardinals.  The first game of the series ended in dramatic fashion after Drew Storen entered a 1-0 game in the top of the ninth inning and allowed the Cardinals to tie the game.  The Nationals salvaged Gio Gonzalez’s terrific outing thanks to a 10th inning walk-off home run by Yunel Escobar.  The late inning heroics did not follow the Nationals into the final two games of the series.  Offensive production waned in the final 15 innings of the series with the Nationals managing just eight hits.  Despite anemic offensive performance at crucial moments—the Nationals were 4-for-32 with runners in scoring position—we can confidently name a Star of the Series.  Here are the nominees for the 4/21-4/23 series against the Cardinals.

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Gio Gonzalez
  3. Ryan Zimmerman

Yunel Escobar hit safely in all three games of the series and he will carry an impressive 13 game streak of reaching base safely into Friday’s series with the Miami Marlins.  Escobar’s had three hits, four RBI and scored 1 run.  This simple summary does not fully do justice to the impact Escobar had on the series.  Escobar swung at the first pitch he saw from Carlos Villanueva in the bottom of the 10th inning and he hammered it into the left field bullpen.  Escobar walked-off in style sliding head first into home plate in front of his teammates who were waiting to celebrate the 2-1 victory.  Escobar had another clutch hit in the Nationals 7-5 defeat on Wednesday night.  Escobar cleared the bases in the bottom of the third inning when he doubled off of John Lackey scoring Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.  His double capped off a five run third inning that left the game knotted 5-5 after three innings.

Gio Gonzalez could have earned his second win of the season if only the bullpen was able to slam the door for him on Tuesday night.  Gonzalez had his best outing of the season.  He allowed no runs in six innings of work.  He allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out four batters.  Gonzalez’s most impressive moment of the game came in the fifth inning.  Gonzalez retired the first two batters before allowing singles to Matt Holiday and Jhonny Peralta.  He then walked Mark Reynolds to load the bases.  This warranted a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty.  Whatever McCatty said worked.  Gonzalez escaped the jam by getting John Jay to ground out to Ryan Zimmerman to keep his shutout intact.

Ryan Zimmerman added to his team leading 11 RBI total on Wednesday night.  Zimmerman showcased his hustle in the bottom of the third inning when he hit a sharp ground ball to first baseman Matt Adams who was playing far away from the base.  Zimmerman hustled down the line and was able to beat Adams to the bag for a two out RBI single.  Zimmerman’s infield single kept the rally going and kept the “table set” for Escobar who tied the game with a double.  We also circled Zimmerman’s second infield single of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Star of the Series: Yunel Escobar

Escobar continues to produce for the Nationals.  He continues to get on base and his hits are coming at the right moments.

Star of the Series 4/16-4/19 (Bryce Harper)

Series Scores

Thursday, April 16, 2015: Nationals 5 Phillies 2

Friday, April 17, 2015: Nationals 7 Phillies 2

Saturday, April 18, 2015: Nationals 3 Phillies 5

Sunday, April 19, 2015: Nationals 4 Phillies 1

Ian Desmond removes Bryce Harper's helmet after his home run on Friday night (MLB.tv)
Ian Desmond removes Bryce Harper’s helmet after his home run on Friday night (MLB.tv)

The Washington Nationals closed out their second of six series matchups with the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday afternoon–one week after dropping two out of three games at Citizens Bank Park.  The Nationals looked like a different team this week when their bats came alive giving them their first series win of the season.  The Nationals scored 19 runs this series after managing just seven runs against the same opponent a week earlier.  The team’s starting pitching had a stellar series.  Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg all earned wins.  The strong team performance made choosing a Star of the Series especially difficult.  Here are the nominees for the 4/16-4/19 series against the Phillies:

  1. Bryce Harper
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Ryan Zimmerman

Bryce Harper leads the Nationals with four home runs this season including two impressive home runs this series.  His first home run of the series came in the first inning of Friday’s 7-2 victory.  Harper’s game winning home run came off of a curveball from Sean O’Sullivan that he drove over the center field wall.  Harper outdid himself in the fifth inning of Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 defeat when he hit a solo home run off of Aaron Harrang in the fifth inning which traveled 452 feet.  Harper also drew seven walks this series including three intentional passes.

Max Scherzer could easily have entered Friday night’s game with a 2-0 record.  Scherzer only surrendered one earned run in 13.2 innings this season, but he was let down by defensive miscues and meager offensive support.  The right-handed pitcher was lights-out across eight innings of work.  Scherzer demonstrated good control throwing 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes.  He had nine strikeouts and only allowed one run when Odubel Herrera scored on a ground out in the top of the third inning.  Herrera was the only player to advance into scoring position during Scherzer’s eight innings of work doing so in the first and third innings.

Ryn Zimmerman made his presence known this series in the field and at the plate.  Zimmerman, who is in the midst of his first season as a full time first baseman, continues to look like a natural.  His defensive plays could have easily been sent to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight producers for the nightly “web gems” segment.  Zimmerman was holding Darin Ruf on at first base in the top of the fifth inning of Friday night’s game when Sean O’Sullivan popped a bunt into foul territory.  Zimmerman reacted perfectly.  He charged from first base and dove head first to make a catch just a few feet from the Nationals on deck circle.  We also circled two of Zimmerman’s defensive plays in our scorecard from Saturday afternoon’s game.  Zimmerman made a terrific catch on a line drive to first base in the top of the sixth inning with Jeff Francoeur on first and stepped on first to complete a double play.  With two outs and runners on first and second in the seventh inning, Zimmerman fully extended on a sharply hit ball to first base and flipped the ball to Matt Thornton who end the threat.  Zimmerman leads the Nationals with 11 RBI after an impressive series where he drove in seven runs in four games.  Zimmerman’s .211 AVG still needs improvement, but his performance with runners on base has been superb.  He has driven in nine runs over the last seven games.

Star of the Series: Bryce Harper

The Phillies are lucky they limited Harper to just 2 home runs.  They were able to control his offensive production by walking him seven times, but Harper still made his mark this series scoring 5 runs and driving in 4 runs.