Eventually, the Washington Nationals need to turn these series splits into series victories. The Arizona Diamondbacks are far from pushovers, but they are a team that’s hovering around .500, the exact type of team the Nats need to start beating more.
Behind their two hottest pitchers in Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez, the Nats were able to pick up two games. However, both Erick Fedde and Stephen Strasburg were hit hard early in the two losses that the offense couldn’t battle back in.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from the four games against the Diamondbacks...
Kendrick’s All-Star case
With All-Star voting well underway, a lot of the usual suspects are leading the way in the fan vote. Unfortunately, not among those names is Howie Kendrick, who will likely have to get to Cleveland via the Player Ballot or the Commissioner's Office selections.
His stats are certainly All-Star worthy, including a 4-for-8 showing in this series with a home run and three RBI. That brings his season slash line up to .333/.383/.602 with 12 homers and 43 RBI, despite being limited to a part-time role because of his age and injury history.
“Not only is he a good player, but he’s an unbelievable leader in that clubhouse,” Dave Martinez said following the series. “Right now he’s one of my saviors, so I said this whole week, to me he’s an All-Star, he deserves to be on the All-Star team.”
The crazy thing is, it’s not like he’s slowing down, not even a little.
Over his last 14 games, he’s still slashing an impressive .396/.464/.729 with four long balls, 15 RBI, and more walks than strikeouts in that span.
As a candidate who needs write-in votes, he’s unlikely to make the top three in the fan vote. But the long-time veteran is sure to garner some support from those in the game and could be a dark horse to be selected given the miraculous season he’s having. He deserves it.
Rosenthal turning a corner?
Following a solid, but not entirely convincing, outing against the Chicago White Sox, reliever Trevor Rosenthal looked exactly like his old self on Thursday against the Diamondbacks.
The right-hander had his first 1-2-3 inning of the season, throwing 12 of his 14 pitches for strikes. He had a slightly less convincing outing on Saturday, allowing two walks, a single and a sac fly, but none of his misses were by much, which is progress from April.
“Even in his warm-ups, he looked very relaxed,” Martinez said on Thursday. “Ball was coming out really, really nice, and he was pumping strikes today, and that was great to see.”
The former St. Louis Cardinal also sounded upbeat describing Thursday’s outing.
“It was a good night,” Rosenthal told reporters afterward. “Obviously I felt good with my command, and I had an efficient inning, so yeah, definitely happy with how it went tonight.”
One thing that Rosenthal mentioned during his struggles was that it was tough for him to get back to normal with such infrequent usage, so it was good to see him get two appearances, even if the second didn’t go perfectly.
Thankfully, at the very least, the righty finally took huge steps in the right direction. With the current seven-man bullpen, his next appearance could come sooner rather than later.
After an impressive return to the rotation, Erick Fedde has hit something of a speed bump lately. Arizona was able to hit him hard early, leading to his worst start of the year.
Fedde loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning, eventually surrendering two runs. Then in the second and fifth innings, he allowed home runs by Alex Avila and Jarrod Dyson respectively, putting his team in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
He finished the day with six innings of five-run ball, allowing six hits and three passes with just one strikeout. It was an old demon that seemed to come back to bite him in this one.
“He just fell behind early, got in a pickle the first inning, and then after that he threw the ball okay,” Martinez told reporters after the rough outing. “He had the chance to bury guys with two strikes, and just made a couple bad pitches with two strikes.”
One of Fedde’s main issues last season was not being able to put guys away when he got to two strikes. Now in 2019, his .367 wOBA against in PAs that reach an 0-2 count is the eighth highest in the majors, among those with at least 24 batters faced in that scenario.
Next up for Fedde is the Philadelphia Phillies, the fourth worst team in the NL in counts that reach 0-2, perhaps giving the right-hander a favorable matchup on that front. Facing Zach Eflin, he’ll need to be on his game to keep it close and give his team a shot to win.
Barraclough woes force him to the IL
As one of not many bright spots early on in the Nationals bullpen, Kyle Barraclough has seen his season completely go off the rails. After another poor outing in this series, the right-hander was placed in the Injured List with radial nerve irritation.
Barraclough had a 1.26 ERA on May 9th, but since then, he’s been pounded for 16 earned runs in just 11 innings of work, including three earned in a third of an inning on Saturday.
“His velo is a little down and his secondary pitches are just not good right now,” Martinez told reporters after Saturday’s game.
“Slider, he can’t even throw it over for strikes, but his velo is down 92-93, but for a while there he was throwing a pretty good changeup, couldn’t throw that today either.”
Sunday morning, when Barraclough was placed on the IL, Martinez revealed that the reliever was being checked out by the trainer during his post-game press conference, so the manager wasn’t aware of the injury at that point in time.
During his best years with the Miami Marlins, Barraclough’s fastball sat in the 95-96mph range. However, this year, Barraclough’s fastball has averaged 93.9mph, a fairly significant difference, which could be caused by this nerve injury.
Only time will tell whether the IL stint will help solve Barraclough’s velocity and command issues. He has been a dominant setup man in the past, meaning there is at least a glimmer of hope for him, so hopefully, the time off will do him some good.
Next up: The upcoming week is easily the biggest of the Nationals’ season so far, starting off with four games against the Philadelphia Phillies. Patrick Corbin, Erick Fedde, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg start for the Nats in a series they can’t afford to lose.