Before I get started, I have to say what a proud day yesterday was for this franchise. Jordan Zimmermann threw the Nationals first no-hitter since the franchise moved to Washington, D.C. Patrick spun a lot of words about it, so I'm not going to spend too much time talking about it here. It was the third no-hitter ever thrown by a pitcher for a Washington, D.C. franchise. If you follow the Expos history, this was the franchise's fifth no-hitter, and first since El Presidente threw a perfect game on July 28, 1991. The no-hitter gave me great pride in being a Nationals fan. Even if Steven Souza Jr. hand't made that catch, though, this was a day to be proud of as a Nationals fan.
As an out of market fan, I didn't have the chance to be at today's game. I want to give props to the D.C. faithful for the tremendous fan support that this team has gotten all season long. As I watched the game on television, I was blown away by the intensity that the crowd was bringing to today's game. Considering the result had no bearing on the standings, the atmosphere was as electric as a playoff game.
The crowd singing Ryan Zimmerman Happy Birthday in the first inning was tremendous. The standing ovations when Denard Span, Adam LaRoche, and Bryce Harper were removed for pinch runners gave me chills. The roars of the crowd when Tyler Moore, Kevin Frandsen, and Danny Espinosa snagged liners in the fifth inning were outstanding. The cheers for Jordan Zimmermann when he came to the plate (and hit his second single!) were amazing. Finally, this happened:
At about the 5 second mark of that video, we hear 35,000+ people go from standing and feverishly cheering with every fiber of their being to collectively gasping. I wasn't at the game, but when that ball was hit, I let out an expletive. Just as many of you were, I let out a scream as the ball hit Souza's glove at about the 9 second mark. Then I looked back and did a double take to make sure, because I hoped my eyes hadn't just played a trick on me. There was just no way that he actually made that catch, was there? He did! It led to the loudest roar I've heard since the Werthquake in Game 4 of the NLDS two years ago.
Thank you Nats! Thank you D.C. Faithful! You guys are awesome!
Let's get down to business....
|Matt Thornton||RP (L)||21|
|Jerry Blevins||RP (L)||22|
Schierholtz hasn't had a very good season, but he has actually been solid lately. As I've said the past few days, he has a built in advantage because the Nats have no other left-handed options off the bench. After going 1 for 2 in Sunday's finale, Schierholtz closed September out with a .276/.323/.379 line in 31 September plate appearances. Is this a small sample? Absolutely. Still, the bar isn't set particularly high by his competition for a spot and he has the fact that he's left-handed on his side. He's on the roster.
Still two men short
I've chosen to stick with only 23 players that are locked onto the roster because there's still some flexibility. The Nationals don't have to decide who they're carrying on the postseason roster until Friday morning, so we'll know who their opponent is before they have to make the final decisions. There's a possibility that who they're playing could dictate the final bullpen spot(s). We now know that the wildcard game will be between the Pirates and Giants. Their offenses are not built the same.
I'll go into a little more depth with this later this week when I break down the possible opponents. For today, let's just say that the Pirates would appear to have more left-handed batters that could pose a threat than the Giants have.
- Pittsburgh employs a pure platoon at first base. They'll usually start Ike Davis against right-handed pitchers. However, the moment that their opponent goes to a lefty (which is usually specifically for Davis), Clint Hurdle will replace him with Gaby Sanchez. Most of their projected bench bats are left-handed. They'll likely start either Gregory Polanco or Travis Snider in right field. Both are left-handed. Snider has had a reverse split this season. Polanco has struggled all year against LHP. Whichever one doesn't start will be on the bench. Andrew Lambo and/or Pedro Alvarez (returning from injury, but they've said they haven't ruled him out if they reach the NLDS) are both left-handed. It's also noteworthy that, while he's a switch-hitter, Neil Walker slugs more than 100 points higher against RHP than LHP.
- San Francisco doesn't really have quite as much left-handed thunder. Pablo Sandoval (a switch-hitter) has shown massive platoon splits (.200/.245/.321 vs. LHP this year) that could be exploited by bringing in a lefty. Brandon Belt has only been back for about a week and a half after missing about a month with a concussion. He did start to heat up a bit this weekend. Outside of Belt and (turning around) Sandoval, there just aren't very many intimidating left-handed bats here. Brandon Crawford, Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy can be tough outs, but they're not the kind of players that you build your roster around dealing with.
I've included all three Pittsburgh catchers because Martin is currently day-to-day with a hamstring injury. He started Saturday and had to be pulled from the game. He did not play Sunday. If he's ready to go, he's clearly the most dangerous catcher to run on of the bunch. With Belt still recovering from the concussion, there's a decent chance that Susac starts a game behind the plate with Posey moving to first base... this would be most likely to happen in Gio Gonzalez's start.
Of course, the idea behind carrying an extra bench spot for a pinch runner isn't limited to stolen bases. Wilson Ramos and Adam LaRoche are among the slowest players in the league. Ryan Zimmerman also hasn't shown that he's ready to run at full strength since returning from his hamstring injury. If one of these players ended up in scoring position in a game that's close and late, having a pinch runner who would likely score from second on a single (or that the Nats would feel more confident in sending from third on a grounder or medium depth sac fly) would come in handy.
To fill the final two spots, I've pretty much decided to trim the list down to four players. The bullpen guys are there based on both their season long and recent performance. The hitter is there because he fills an area that no other option for the roster does. Here goes:
Why did I eliminate Hairston and Souza?
Someone had to go. Let's cover Hairston first. Hairston hit a single in his only plate appearance on Sunday. It was his first hit since August 26. Here are his splits this season.