Was it a sweep? Or will the Washington Nationals have to wait until September 24th for the chance to complete a sweep? Debate among yourselves in the comment section.
Regardless of whether it’s technically a sweep or not, the Nationals looked relatively convincing in the three games they took against the Philadelphia Phillies this week despite the rain’s best efforts.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly takeaways from the three games...
Mad Max gets madder
You can’t make this up anymore with Max Scherzer. Just over 24 hours after taking a ball to the face after a bunt went wrong, the right-hander took the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies, sporting an impressive black eye and a broken nose.
Scherzer responded by going seven shutout innings, striking out 10, while walking two and allowing just four hits. Per Baseball Reference, his performance led to his second-highest Game Score of the season, behind only his 15-strikeout effort against the Cincinnati Reds.
“Max is Max,” Dave Martinez said after the game. “He went out there and did what he’s supposed to do.”
“He was prepared. Him and [Kurt Suzuki], they got a game plan and they go out there and they attack the game plan and he was phenomenal.”
After all the talk of a supposed “slow start” by Scherzer while he wasn’t racking up wins, correction has finally come, as has some additional run support. The ace now ranks fourth in the NL in ERA among qualifiers, leading the league in FIP, strikeouts, and fWAR.
Not that there was ever a doubt he would get back to his old self, but he seems to be at his very best once again. Just don’t try breaking your nose at home in the hopes of improving your performance at your job. Only Scherzer can do that.
Corbin corrects command
Apparently, other pitchers pitched in this series. One of those was Patrick Corbin, who was coming off of a rough three-start stretch where he had posted an 11.37 ERA.
But he was able to reverse that trend in a big way in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Corbin went seven strong innings against the Phillies, allowing just the one run on four hits and three walks, striking out eight in the game.
“He used his fastball quite a bit today,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “He had a good fastball, location was, to me, the key. Threw the ball down, threw the ball up when he wanted to, but his location was really good.”
According to Baseball Savant, Corbin threw 39 of his 56 (70%) fastballs for strikes and 18 of 25 (72%) first pitches for strikes against the Phillies.
Compare that to his 85 of 142 (60%) fastballs for strikes and 40 of 67 (60%) first-pitch strikes in his previous three outings and it’s a marked improvement for the left-hander.
Next for Corbin will likely be a start against the Miami Marlins on either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how they align him and Scherzer. Thankfully, Nats fans can breathe a sigh of relief that their $140 million man appears to be back on track.
Robles still owns the Phillies
While a lot of the crowd continues to boo a certain former National, one of the players tasked with replacing him in the outfield continues to torment the Phillies.
Victor Robles seems to have made Philadelphia one of his personal punching bags this season. In the series, the outfielder went 3-for-6 with a pair of home runs and four RBI.
“I think he’s in his legs a little more and he’s getting ready on time, those are two big things that I see,” Martinez said of what he noticed from Robles in the series.
He’s now raised his slash line against the Phillies to a dominant .314/.351/.743 with four home runs and eight RBI. The four long balls are tied for the most against a single opponent for him this season, and his 1.094 is his highest against any team in 2019.
Robles had actually been fairly cold coming into this series, so it came just at the right time. Before the Phillies came to town, he was slashing just .200/.224/.311 in the month of June as concerns about his average exit velocity continued to grow.
Unfortunately, Robles can’t only play Phillies, as much fun as that would be to watch. But perhaps this strong series could set him back on the track we saw him on at the start of the season when he looked like the Rookie of the Year contender we expected him to be.
Gomes ice cold
While one Nats catcher is scorching hot in Kurt Suzuki, the other has looked lost lately. Yan Gomes continues to scuffle at the dish and may well be losing his grip on the starter’s role.
On the season, Gomes has a pretty underwhelming slash line of .224/.302/.309 with only two long balls. Even though that makes grim reading, of late, he’s been even more sluggish.
In the month of June, he’s only managed to slash .161/.235/.194 with just one extra-base hit, while walking just twice and striking out eight times.
Meanwhile, since the start of May, Suzuki has been slashing .286/.330/.560 with six home runs and 23 RBI, including a two-run home run in the series finale on Thursday.
While Gomes still has the defensive advantage over Suzuki, the Nats may be better off giving the latter the slight majority of starts at catcher. That would leave Gomes starts with Patrick Corbin and one other pitcher each time through the rotation.
It’s a tough situation for Martinez, as one of the reasons Suzuki is thriving is because his playing time is being managed well in order to not work him too hard. But at some point, Gomes may need to take a seat more often until he heats up.
Taste the rainbow
Though the rain had flirted with Nationals Park at times this season, this was the series when it finally decided to cause havoc. The first two games of the series were postponed by rain, then just for good measure, the start of the finale was delayed by rain too.
And the rain can mean only one thing... The Skittles Tarp returns! And that leads to beat reporters holding back the urge to bash their heads against the press box desks.
Even though the press box morale was low, the clubhouse couldn’t be further from it.
“Throughout the weather, throughout all the hoops that we went through, the boys came to play, and they’re playing well,” Martinez told reporters following the series.
With a bit of luck, the Nationals won’t need to face the rain for a while. After last season’s rain antics, blowtorches and all, is it too much to ask for to have a prolonged spell without rain disturbances? Probably, but we can hope.
Next up: Mercifully, the weather looks much better over the weekend, with no rain forecast. *knocks wood* The Nationals will send Stephen Strasburg, Aníbal Sánchez, and a spot-starter to the mound against the division-leading Atlanta Braves this weekend.