Ivan Rodriguez's RBI single helped the Nationals win game three of their first series with the Mets on April 11.
The red-hot New York Mets make their first visit to D.C. to take on the Nationals. The Mets still sit in the basement of the NL East at 9-13, but they have won their last four games and are threatening to climb past Washington and Atlanta in the standings.
This Season vs. New York
The Nationals won two of three games against the Mets at Citi Field a couple weeks ago for their first season win of the season. A good pitching outing by Jordan Zimmermann helped Washington to a 6-2 win in game one of the series. After a rough night by the bullpen in game two led to a 8-4 Mets win, things took a 360 on Sunday as the Mets pen spoiled a great start by Chris Young, leading to a 7-3 extra inning win by Washington. Laynce Nix hit a three-run homer to break the tie in the rubber match.
A Quick Look at the 2011 New York Mets
The Mets may have won five of their last seven and swept Arizona at home over the weekend, but they were downright brutal before their latest surge. The loss three Sundays ago against Washington was the start of a seven game losing streak that included being swept in back-to-back doubleheaders by the Rockies and Braves. Offensively, the team hasnâ€™t been scoring nearly enough runs. Ike Davis and Jose Reyes are both hitting above .300 to start the year, but the lineup is also returning sub-.200 hitter Angel Pagan and Josh Thole, who has been anything but threatening in 2011 with a slugging percentage of just .259. On the mound, Chris Young is the only starter who has been solid to start the year. The Mets â€śaceâ€ť, Mike Pelfrey has a dismal 7.23 ERA and 1.94 WHIP, while Jon Niese and Chris Capuano also have ERAs above 5.00.
Scouting the Opposing Pitching
Tuesday: Chris Young â€“ The only pitcher that has truly dominated in the first month for the Mets, that Nationals were absolutely bamboozled by this righty when they faced him earlier this month. That start against Washington was the last Young made this season, as he was placed on the disabled list afterward with right bicep tendinitis. He will be returning on Tuesday, whether he will be 100 percent remains to be seen. His injury history is significant, but when Young is healthy, he can truly be dominant with a fastball that dances and breaks upward on hitters.
Wednesday: R.A. Dickey â€“ The Nationals were able to hit Dickey in a 6-2 win back onÂ April 9, they hope to do the same to the knuckleballer again this start. Dickey can really throw the knuckleball with effectiveness, which he needs to do because otherwise he canâ€™t pitch in the majors. This season, Dickey has put up typical knuckleball numbers with a 4.10 ERA and an opponentsâ€™ average of .280. One issue he has had this year is with command, heâ€™s walked 14 hitters already in 26 innings. When heâ€™s on, he can change speeds from 60-75 MPH with his knuckler and throw an 84 MPH fastball to boot.
Thursday: Chris Capuano â€“ Capuano was the only Metsâ€™ pitcher to beat the Nationals the first time around. However, his record of 2-1 is misleading. His ERA is at 5.95 through four starts and the opposition is hitting at a .206 average against him. He has struck out 17 batters in 19.2 innings, including eight Nationals back on April 10. However, his off-speed stuff has been flat at times and he doesnâ€™t have the greatest fastball in the world as it peaks around 87-88 MPH. The Nationals first outing against Capuano was more a product of them not hitting than Capuanoâ€™s pitching. He hasnâ€™t been so hot so far this season.
Three Things to Watch For This Series
Will the weak left side of the Nationalsâ€™ cost them games? â€“ Ian Desmond has been placed on paternity leave by the Nationalsâ€™ leaving Jerry Hairston Jr. and Alex Cora to man the left side of the infield at least tonight, if not the rest of the series. Could the potential incompetence of these two cost Washington a game or two this series?
Can Zimmermann get some run support? â€“ Jordan Zimmermann may be the best National starter so far this season, but a lack of run support has him sitting with a record of 1-3 this season. Zimmermannâ€™s lone win has come against New York this year, so maybe he can repeat that feat again.
Will Werth and LaRoche hit? â€“ With Ryan Zimmerman out, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche need to pick up the slack in the middle of the order. So far, they have been inconsistent at best. Washington would be well off if their two big guys in the lineup can start swinging the lumber this homestand.
Jason Marquis won his start on Sunday, but rain and poor hitting hampered the Nationals the remainder of their series with the Pirates
Saturday â€“ Pittsburgh 7, Washington 2
Sunday â€“ Washington 6, Pittsburgh 3
Monday â€“ Pittsburgh 4, Washington 2
It rained. And rained. And rained. I’m sure the Nationals never want to see a drop of water fall from the sky again after rain really wrecked havoc in both of their losses this weekend. Saturday’s rain delay saw Livan Hernandez go into the first inning unprepared to pitch. The end result was a five run first inning for the Pirates and with the Nationals not able to hit, the game was over before it really got going. Thank goodness the Nationals got one dry day on Sunday and got a win out of it, with the help of a three-run homer by the slumping Mike Morse in the third inning. Then, Monday night saw more rain and more problems. John Lannan lost his rhythm during a rain delay in the fourth inning and that helped the Pirates score four runs in the fourth inning. Simply put, the rain played a huge roll this weekend.
Mike Morse â€“ Where has this guy been all month? Morse was solid on Saturday, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, and then went off with his three-run homer on Sunday afternoon capping a 3-for-4 game. He was lousy again on Monday, but at least he’s above the Mendoza line.
Jason Marquis â€“ He wasn’t spectacular on the mound Sunday, he still can’t strike guys out and allowed eight hits in six innings. However, he did enough to earn his second win and got two hits at the plate to raise his average to .400. They should let him play at third base on days off until Ryan Zimmerman comes back.
Nationals’ Bullpen â€“ There hasn’t been a lot of noise coming out of the Nationals’ bullpen lately, which is a very good thing. The pen didn’t allow a single run in the Pirates series, allowing just four hits and one walk in 7.1 innings.
The third base mess â€“ The good news for Nationals’ fans is that Zimmerman will re-start baseball activities on Tuesday and be playing rehab games soon after. The bad news is until then, it appears they will have no one viable to fill in at third base. Jerry Hairston Jr. isn’t the answer, nor is Alex Cora, and neither is Brian Bixler.
Ian Desmond â€“ I feel like I pick on Desmond a lot, but he really had a lousy series. He sat out Sunday and hit a measly 1-for-7 when he actually did play. The scary part is that he hit second in the order on Monday night. That should tell you how bad things have gotten offensively for the Nats.
Pirates not telling Hernandez proper start time â€“ Livan Hernandez claimed after bombing in the first inning on Saturday that he wasn’t warmed up for the game because the Pirates didn’t tell him of when the start time would be until 30 minutes before the game was to start. A little competitive disadvantage from Pittsburgh there.
Three Things to Watch For Re-Visited
Just how poorly are the Nationals hitting right now? â€“ Pretty poorly. Even leading hitter Danny Espinosa had a subpar weekend in Pittsburgh, bookending a 3-for-4 Sunday with two 0-for-4 showings. When your middle of the order guys like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche can’t top .240, you know you have problems.
How is John Lannan command on Monday? – It’s hard to make a judgment on Lannan. He was off after the rain delay and the Pirates teed off on him. Four straight baserunners allowed, topped off by Brandon Wood’s two-run double ruined what was an otherwise good outing by Lannan.
Will Washington continue to give Maholm fits? â€“ They didn’t and that was true testament to the struggled of the Nationals’ offense. Paul Maholm allowed just four this and two runs in seven innings, striking out eight hitters. That’s way too good for Maholm to do on his own, Washington is officially in a jumbo-sized slump.
On Deck This Weekend
Washington is getting out of rain soaked Pittsburgh to head home for the next week. They will kick off a seven game homestand on Tuesday with a three-game series with the Mets. Then, Washington will host the defending world champion San Francisco Giants for a four-game series starting on Friday.
Jayson Werth celebrates with his teammates after the Nationals' win over the Phillies on Tuesday night.
Tuesday â€“ Washington 7, Philadelphia 4
Wednesday â€“ Philadelphia 3, Washington 2
Thursday â€“ Philadelphia 4, Washington 0
The results of this series were as predictable as they get. The Nationals did run into a struggling Joe Blanton on Tuesday night and took advantage, giving themselves a second consecutive victory. Watching Jayson Werth light up his former team for at least one night must have pleased Nationals’ fans. Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be much of a encore from Werth or any of the Nats’ offense the next two games. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were outstanding, holding Washington to nine hits and two runs in the next two games. Washington did make a nice comeback in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Phillies, and Philly manager Charlie Manuel may have taken some heat if Washington was to complete the comeback and Manuel had kept Halladay on the mound. Nevertheless, the Phillies continued their winning ways and Washington continued to not hit.
Jayson Werth â€“ There weren’t many highlights this weekend from the Nationals, but one definitely has to be Werth showing up the Phillies with a double and a home run in his first game against them this season. All together, he hit 3-for-11 in the series, not doing anything special against Halladay and Lee.
Jordan Zimmermann â€“ Poor Zimmermann got killed by the lack of run support and a pair of fielding errors tonight. Outside of a Carlos Ruiz solo home run in the sixth and some bad fielding behind him, Zimmermann looked good, allowing just five hits and now walks in seven innings while striking out four.
Wilson Ramos â€“ This guy just continues to keep nailing the ball for Washington. In two games this series, he hit a combined 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Ivan Rodriguez? He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Jerry Hairston Jr. – The replacement for Ryan Zimmerman has Nationals fans wishing their all-star was back already. Hairston was brutal in the field, badly booting a ball on Thursday night that helped the Phillies extend their lead, and brutal at the plate. In the series, he hit 1-for-9 and on Wednesday alone, struck out all three times he went to the plate.
Ian Desmond â€“ It wasn’t too long ago that I said Desmond was back after recovering from a slump on the first weekend of the season. I take that back. Desmond was 0-for-12 in this series, dropping his average below the Mendoza line. All the same time, he committed his third error of the season.
The entire lineup in general â€“ When you face Halladay and Lee, you know you’re in for a tough run. But to be honest, the Nationals just looked silly the last two nights at the plate, being held scoreless in 17 of 18 innings. If this series taught fans anything, its that the Nationals aren’t ready for the spotlight yet.
Three Things to Watch For Re-Visited
How will the Nationals fill in the void left by Zimmerman? – The Nationals didn’t even come close to filling the void. Hairston was brutal in three games and Washington may be inclined to give Alex Cora a shot in the upcoming series against Milwaukee. He can’t do much worse than what Hairston did the past three nights.
How will Jayson Werth perform in his first series against his former team? – He had a nice first night with the home run and double, but he was rather quiet the the next two nights. Give Werth credit though, he had to fight through a barrage of boos from visiting Phillies fans in his home park.
Can the Nationalsâ€™ hit the Phillies rotation of doom? â€“ No. Not at all. Not even a little back. Throw out the ninth inning from Wednesday night and Washington was shutout in two straight games.
On Deck This Weekend
Washington will battle their first non-divisional opponent of the season this weekend, as they welcome the Milwaukee Brewers into two for a three-game series. Milwaukee is off to a decent start at 7-5 and strutted their stuff when they took three of four games from Atlanta last week. A series preview will be on the way tomorrow.
The Phillies' rotation could give the Nationals fits this week as they visit Washington for a three game series.
Washington enters the weekâ€™s home series against the defending division champion Philadelphia Phillies without their star third baseman. Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15 day disabled list with his abdominal injury. In his place, the National called up Jesus Flores to take this place.
Last Season vs. Philadelphia
The Phillies had Washingtonâ€™s number last season as they doubled them up 12-6 in the season series. The Nationalsâ€™ lone series win over the Phillies came at the end of July, when the Nats lit up Roy Oswalt in one start for an 8-1 win and then came from behind on a blown save by Brad Lidge for a 7-5 victory. That was as good as it got against Philadelphia, as the Phillies otherwise dominated the meetings between the two teams.
A Quick Look at the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have lived up to their preseason hype through nine games so far. They made a statement in taking two out of three games from rival Atlanta over the weekend. A bad start by Cliff Lee on Friday was all that kept them from sweeping the Braves. The weekend culminated in Cole Hamels shutting out Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. As scary as the rotation is, the Phillies have gotten good hitting to start the season. Incredibly, Raul Ibanez is the only starter hitting below .300. This team is playing the best baseball in the National League out of the gate.
Scouting the Opposing Pitching
Tuesday: Joe Blanton â€“ Blanton is a pitcher that will go in, throw six innings while allowing three or four runs, and thatâ€™s it. Heâ€™s just average, which is great for a teamâ€™s fifth starter like the Phillies. His fastball sometimes tops 90 and he has a sharp breaking slider as well as a solid change-up. Thereâ€™s nothing real special about this guy, except that he lets up a lot of fly balls, which ups his home run total as well. At home, it becomes a problem for him, but at Nationals Park, he may be able to get away with it.
Wednesday: Roy Halladay â€“ The defending Cy Young Award winner is heads above any other pitcher in the National League right now. He has been lights out through two starts in 2011. His pitches are all excellent, his fastball has good movement and peaks at 94, he throws a 92 MPH cutter that really fools hitters, ad his curve-ball has excellent break while dropping his speed into the high-70â€™s. Thereâ€™s really no team or player that has been able to hit this guy on a regular basis. When you face Halladay, you can only hope your pitcher will have a good night, because thatâ€™s likely your best chance at winning.
Thursday: Cliff Lee â€“ When you have a guy like Lee has your #2 pitcher that is pretty scary. Leeâ€™s ability to locate his pitches is what sets him apart from other pitches. His fastball hits about 92 MPH, he throws a cutter that hits 88 and a change-up in 85 MPH. While he isnâ€™t a power pitcher, he rarely misses his spots. He does a good job at jamming hitters on the corners with his off-speed stuff and staying ahead in the count. When he needs strikeouts, he will throw a crazy looping curveball that appears to dive a good 3-4 feet. If hitters guess pitches correctly and are able to turn on them, thatâ€™s when Lee gets lit up. However, it doesnâ€™t happen too often.
Three Things to Watch For This Series
How will the Nationals fill in the void left by Zimmerman? â€“ Washington had Alex Cora in the lineup on Sunday with Zimmerman out. It really doesnâ€™t matter whether its Cora, Jerry Hairston Jr. or someone else at third base, itâ€™s going to be a rough downgrade for Washington.
How will Jayson Werth perform in his first series against his former team? â€“ Werth has been off to a slow start in his first nine games, hitting just .200. This series would be the perfect one for Werth to show up his former team and get the Nationals fans on board.
Can the Nationalsâ€™ hit the Phillies rotation of doom? â€“ OK, Tuesday starter Joe Blanton isnâ€™t all that scary, but the same canâ€™t be said for Halladay or Lee. It would be a huge step for the Nationals to pull out a win against either of these two starters.
Don't expect another brawl between the Nationals and Marlins this weekend with Nyjer Morgan gone.
After a subpar performance in their home opening series against the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals hit the road for the first time in 2011 as they head to South Florida to take on the Marlins.
Last Season vs. Florida
The Marlins dominated the Nationals last season, winning 13 of 18 games in the season series, including seven of nine meetings at Nationals Park. The season series was highlighted by Nyjer Morgan starting brawl after charging Chris Volstad in a game on September 2. When it comes to actual game results, one embarrassing series in particular occurred in mid-August, when the Marlins outscored the Nationals a combined 22-7 in a three game sweep in Washington. The series helped Florida go above .500 at 57-56 and put them back into the thick of the NL Wild Card race.
A Quick Look at the 2011 Florida Marlins
Like Washington, the Marlins enter the series with a record of 1-2 after losing two of three to the Mets over the weekend. Floridaâ€™s pitching staff is anchored by ace Josh Johnson, who no-hit the Mets for six innings in their 6-2 victory on Friday night. The Marlinsâ€™ offense took a hit in the offseason after trading away Dan Uggla. Still, there is plenty of young talent on South Beach, with hitters like Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez complementing superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Competing in a division with the likes of Philadelphia and Atlanta, the Marlins arenâ€™t expected to make noise in the playoff chase, but it is certainly no walk in the park to play them either.
Scouting the Opposing Pitching
Tuesday: Anibal Sanchez â€“ Sanchez has never fully realized his potential due to a combination of bad luck with injuries and inconsistency with his command at times. Sanchez relies a lot on his fastball, which can touch as high as 96 MPH. It is a solid pitch when he is able to locate it where he wants. The problems exist when his loses command of the pitch. At that point, Sanchez tends to walk a lot of batters or leave his pitch out over the plate, leaving it vulnerable to multi-base hits. A lot of Tuesdayâ€™s game will ride on which Sanchez shows up.
Wednesday: Chris Volstad â€“ Volstad is a monster when he stands on the mound. At six feet eight inches tall, he is an intimidating presence for hitters to face. However, despite his size, heâ€™s not an overly scary pitcher to face. His fastball only tops out at 93-94 MPH. His curveball and slider have good sinking action that forces a lot of ground balls. However, as a result, he doesnâ€™t strike out a ton of batters. This puts a lot of pressure on his infield, which was an issue when Uggla was on the team and booting ground balls. The Nationals struggled during the weekend against ground ball pitchers Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson. However, Volstad is no Lowe or Hudson. He lacks the stud and consistency that Atlantaâ€™s stalwarts possess.
Thursday: Josh Johnson (1-0) â€“ Johnson is arguably the best pitcher in the National League today. The Mets couldnâ€™t touch him on Friday night when he shut them down across seven innings. Ever since having Tommy John Surgery, Johnson has consistently touched 96-97 MPH, with a slider and change-up that both reach the high 80â€™s as well. Johnson is an overhand, downhill pitcher, and his six foot seven inch height adds to the sudden change of location for the ball as it heads to the plate. Both his slider and fastball have excellent sinking action, allowing him to keep his fly ball and home run count down in comparison to other pitchers. The variety in his pitches, his power and excellent command has hitters guessing every at-bat. Johnsonâ€™s problems begin when he loses power off his pitches, but otherwise, heâ€™s hard to hit.
Three Things to Watch For This Series
How will Ian Desmond respond after last weekend? â€“ Alex Cora will be getting the start at shortstop in the first game of the series, but Desmond will likely be back in the lineup the following night. The question is whether Desmond can show Jim Riggleman heâ€™s the teamâ€™s leadoff hitter long-term. He certainly didnâ€™t prove anything against Atlanta.
Can the Nats take advantage of the Hernandez-Volstad matchup? â€“ Washington will have their ace, Livan Hernandez going against Volstad in game two of the series tomorrow night. Hernandez pitched well on Opening Day, but didnâ€™t get run support in a 2-0 loss to Atlanta. If Washington gets another solid outing from Hernandez, can they put up enough runs on Volstad to pull out a victory this time? On paper, Washington is favored in this pitching matchup. But will they come through on the field?
How does Drew Storen perform in the series? â€“ Some concern is prevalent among National fans after Storen had back-to-back rough relief outings on Saturday and Sunday. Storenâ€™s ability to bounce back and resiliency will come into question this week against Florida. Further struggles could spell problems in the Washington bullpen.