The first series of the 2019 season is officially in the books for the Washington Nationals and the next one - that nobody seems to be talking about - has the potential to be quite the humdinger. But first, let’s look back on the series loss to the New York Mets.
In a slightly different format to your usual series recaps, we’re going to take a look back at some takeaways from each series. We’ll categorize them into three sections: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Even though the team lost the series, there were still a few positives to take note of. So let’s dive right into our takeaways...
Turner showcases his all-round ability
While the series as a whole didn’t go quite as the Nationals had hoped, Trea Turner stuffed the stat sheet during the three-game set. In the series, he went 5-for-13 with two home runs, four RBI and four stolen bases, showing off all facets of his game.
While the power is great and is an element of his game and would be huge for him to develop moving forward, perhaps the most encouraging part of his series was the frequency with which he attempted to swipe a base.
Last season, despite being one of the best base-stealers in the game, Turner attempted just 52 steals. If he can get up to the 75-80 attempts that Nats manager Dave Martinez wants from him, he’s got the chance to be one of the best power-speed players in the league.
Scherzer and Corbin start strong
Mike Rizzo routinely puts all his eggs in the starting pitching basket. And while Stephen Strasburg struggled a little, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin both looked firmly in control in their respective starts.
Both starters gave up just two earned runs, with Scherzer going 7.2 innings and Corbin going six frames. Unfortunately, neither could get a win in their personal column for varying reasons. But regardless, their performances will be key going forward.
The four years the Nats have been postseason-bound, they finished top four in starting pitcher’s ERA in the majors. Whereas when they’ve missed the playoffs since 2012, they’ve failed to crack the top six in that same category.
The rotation might be this team’s biggest asset and there was more positive than negative on that front in this series.
Robles’s bat appears tantalizing
One of the primary storylines throughout Spring Training was Victor Robles and whether he could live up to his sky-high ceiling. It’s only three games, but the outfielder is doing the same as he has in his previous big league stints by flashing his special skills at the plate.
In the series, Robles went 5-for-11 with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored. Yes, he’s not going to have a 1.455 OPS all season, but he’s setting himself up to be a huge asset in the ninth spot, acting as a second leadoff hitter.
With Michael A. Taylor still on the shelf with left knee and hip sprains, Robles seems to be taking full advantage of the everyday center field role. Though Taylor still will have a role when he returns, it will be tough to bench Robles if he continues his early production.
Little things a work in progress for Robles
Yet, while Robles was extremely strong at the plate, it’s clear that he’s still rough around the edges right now. He had more than his fair share of hiccups in the field and on the basepaths in this series against the Mets.
We saw a pair of baserunning gaffes from the outfielder. The first came on Opening Day when he was indecisive on a sharp ground ball, before Noah Syndergaard - a notoriously easier pitcher to steal off of - picked him off on Saturday.
But Robles also committed a pair of mental errors in the field on Saturday. He threw to third base, which was uncovered, allowing a runners to advance and subsequently score before misreading a somewhat catchable fly ball, turning it into a triple for Jeff McNeil.
Robles’ bat will be worth the rookie growing pains, but for a team that is emphasizing the little things and the fundamentals, he needs to put the work in to improve in these areas.
Managerial decisions come into question
That emphasis on little things has come directly from manager Dave Martinez this spring. And while that philosophy is yet to fully show itself, the manager’s decisions were perhaps more of an issue in this opening series.
Opening Day gave everyone a sense of déjà vu with the same puzzling managerial decisions. Perhaps the most perplexing example was when Martinez left Scherzer to hit for himself in the seventh inning of a one-run game, rather than letting Matt Adams pinch-hit.
Martinez said after the game that it was to try and get his ace a win in his column, making it slightly less likely of a win in the team’s column. He has a tough task in winning over some portions of Nats fans, and he definitely didn’t help himself in this series.
Rosenthal’s command nowhere to be seen
After a rocky spring, the Nationals were hoping that their shiny new setup man, Trevor Rosenthal, could help form a strong bridge to closer Sean Doolittle. Unfortunately, his first series at a Nat couldn’t have gone much worse.
On Saturday, he allowed four earned runs on three hits and a walk, saddling him with the loss as the Mets put the game out of reach. Then on Sunday, he threw just one pitch to Amed Rosario who singled up the middle as the visitors mounted their comeback.
He wasn’t the only bullpen member to struggle during the series, but his poor performance was definitely the most troubling.
The velocity isn’t the issue, as his fastball has averaged north of 98mph, while also touching triple digits. But in the two games, Rosenthal has only thrown 9 of the 19 pitches for strikes and been behind in the count to three of the five hitters he’s faced.
His command was also a big issue down in West Palm Beach when he walked more batters than he struck out. Right now, it will be tough to rely on Rosenthal in high-leverage spots until he proves that he can consistently pound the strike zone.
Next up: Next for the Nationals is a two-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, and some guy named Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez are set to go for the hosts against Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola for the visitors.