By splitting Thursday's doubleheader with the New York Mets, the Nationals lowered their magic number to clinch the best record in the National League to one. With seven (combined) games remaining between the Nationals and the Dodgers, the Nats need just one of those games to fall their way. While it was important to trim the magic number to one, the opportunity to evaluate some of the candidates on the fringes of making the playoff roster may have been more important.
Let's not foolishly say that one game is going to make this determination. All of the players have put themselves in this position based on their play all season long. When there's a close competition for those spots, these games leading up to the end of the regular season could play a large part in swinging decisions one way or the other. We're going to take a look at some of the players fighting for those spots and how they may have separated themselves (good or bad) from their competition.
First, let's take a look at who seems to be locked in on the rosters:
|Ryan Zimmerman||??? Bench||11|
Though dc Roach made a compelling argument the other day that maybe Doug Fister should be the starter who gets pushed to the bullpen, I don't really see that as a possibility that the organization is looking at. I've decided to list both Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark as "Pitchers" (rather than SP or RP) for the time being, though I have put my thoughts up elsewhere. I've left a few extra spots in the "up for grabs" department. I believe that it's a pretty safe bet that these two guys will be on the roster as well, (though they're not the locks that I've included on the list above):
As I've brought up in recent articles on both the Nats possible bullpen options and the Nats possible bench options, there's some flexibility with that final spot. Given that a starter is moving to the bullpen, the Nationals could either carry a seven man bullpen (including the starter, for 11 total pitchers) with a six man bench or an eight man bullpen (12 total pitchers). When we include Frandsen and Barrett, we have the following breakdown of players that are expected to be on the roster:
- 12 hitters (backup catcher, backup middle infielder, backup corner infielder, and a backup 1b/corner outfielder)
- 10 pitchers (5 starters [4 of whom will start], 5 relievers
|Steven Souza, Jr.||OF|
Only Rafael Soriano, who warmed up during the seventh inning of Game 1, Ross Detwiler, and Jeff Kobernus didn't get into at least one of the two games. Let's take a look at what the guys who did play may have done to help or hurt their cases.
- Situation: 4-4 tie in the sixth inning
- Mets had Juan Centeno (L), their pitcher's spot (ended up being Josh Satin [R]), and Matt den Dekker (L) due up, so this was a perfect spot. Blevins pitched a second inning, facing Wilmer Flores (R), Daniel Murphy (L), Lucas Duda (L), Curtis Granderson (L), and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L)
- Result: Blevins threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts. He returned for the seventh and walked Flores to lead off the inning. He struck out Murphy and Duda before allowing a single to Granderson. He completed his outing by striking out Nieuwenhuis and throwing two shutdown innings in a tie ballgame.
He's able to pinpoint away from the righties and his curveball has been really good against left-handers. A couple of times in recent history he's gone in and struck out the side. But it's set up good for him. He threw a lot of pitches today, but it set up good for him with four consecutive lefties in there that he could go multiple innings for us. So, he pitched really well.
- Situation: Game 1 starting pitcher
- Results: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 K, 64 pitches, 42 strikes
Early on the ball wasn't sinking as much so they got one in the first, but he pitched well enough to keep us in it. We ended up tying it later, but he pitched fine. We could have pushed him further, but with what we've got it's not important that we do that right now. But I think he gave us a chance.
- Situation: Entered trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning with runners on second and third base with one out
- Due Up: Lucas Duda (L), Curtis Granderson (L), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L), Ruben Tejada (R)
- Results: Fell behind Duda 3-0 before getting a huge popout to SS to keep the runners from advancing. Fell behind Granderson 2-0 before allowing a sharp single that scored both inherited runners. Allowed a single to Nieuwenhuis. Induced a groundout from Tejada.
- Situation(s): Pinch hit in the fifth inning in Game 1 and came through with a sharp RBI single to the right side.
- Started Game 2 in CF (moved to LF in 8th). Went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.
- He bats left handed
- He provides good corner outfield defense and should be capable of filling in at CF in a pinch
- Started Game 2 in LF. Went 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout. Was removed for defense in the 8th inning. Made a terrific leaping grab at the wall to end the top of the fourth inning. If you believe in momentum (I don't, but I'll bring it up anyway), the Nats rally which led to all three runs in the 3-0 Game 2 victory occurred in the bottom of the fourth, right after Hairston's terrific grab.
- Started Game 1 in CF. Went 1 for 5 with a 2 run single, 2 strikeouts, and a CS. Replaced Scott Hairston in the 8th inning of Game 2. Struck out bunting foul (I've written too much tonight to include a rant, but I may get to doing that at some point on Friday!) in his only AB in Game 2.
- Made a nice sliding catch on a shallow broken bat flyout in Game 1, though he broke back on the ball and didn't get the greatest read.
- Entered Game 1 as a PH and remained in the game in RF. He struck out in the 7th and walked in the 9th to bring the tying run to the plate. Did not play Game 2.
- Started Game 2 at 1b. Went 0 for 3 with a HBP, an RBI groundout, a run, and a strikeout
|The Good||The Meh||(All but) Eliminated|
|Jerry Blevins||Michael Taylor||Blake Treinen|
|Nate Schierholtz||Scott Hairston||Xavier Cedeno|
|Rafael Soriano||Steven Souza, Jr.|
|Ross Detwiler||Tyler Moore|