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Armchair Analysis: Hit Parade Matinee (4/17/21 vs D-backs)

Gomes HR, gets Locastro, Nats top D'backs for 1st win streak – Action News  Jax

Photo: https://tinyurl.com/3b35uuxb

Game 3 of 4 vs D-backs
Box Score

Arizona (5-10) 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 -- 2
Washington (5-7) 0 1 0 3 0 0 1 1 x -- 6

Game 1: Arizona 11, Washington 6
Game 2: Washington 1, Arizona 0
Game 3: Washington 6, Arizona 2

Achievements
6+ Runs (5th this year)

The Bad
Josh Bell
The Nats' power-hitting first baseman has struggled mightily out of the gate, with an 0-for-5 the latest entry into his disappointing start to the season. With platoon-mate Ryan Zimmerman enjoying a hot start to the year, Bell's .105 season batting average may begin to cost him some starts.

Juan Soto
On a day in which the Nats recorded 15 hits, none of them were credited to the Nats' young star. This was Soto's second consecutive hitless performance--not something you see too often.

The Good
Yan Gomes
Gomes enjoyed a 3-for-4 performance, belting his first home run of the season to open up the scoring in the 2nd inning. The Nats' catcher is off to a .368 start to the season (.390 wOBA/141 wRC+, both well above average). Gomes looks to build off of a productive 2020 campaign in which he put up above-average all around numbers at the plate. His success helps to soften the blow of the mystifying decision to designate Jonathan Lucroy for assignment while keeping the automatic out known as Alex Avila at the major league level.

Erick Fedde
Filling in for Jon Lester, the failed top prospect did his job today. Fedde pitched 5 innings, allowing one run on 5 hits with 9 strikeouts. With those numbers, the performance could have been a gem had he not pushed his pitch count to 95 through just 5 innings. Allowing just one run is well above expectation for a pitcher making a spot start. Fedde's problem has always been consistency. He will put up a solid game such as this one, and then fall apart in his subsequent start (in his first start of the season, he allowed 6 runs in just an inning and two thirds against the Braves). Perhaps with the right pitching coach, the former top prospect could still turn into a viable #3 or #4 starter.

The Bullpen
The 2021 Nationals have exhibited something very few Nationals teams have: a solid bullpen. Besides 2014 and 2016, the Nationals' relief corps has consistently been among the worst in baseball. This year, that script has flipped and they have often performed better than the starters. One thing that has noticeably changed has been the team's approach to relievers. In past seasons, they focused solely on acquiring one or two big-name veteran relievers while ign. While some found success (such as Shawn Kelley), many more fell apart completely (e.g. Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Blanton, Tony Sipp, Kyle Barraclough, etc.). While they did make one such move this year by signing closer Brad Hand, the organization has also increased their focus on younger relievers with low risk and high potential reward, such as Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan, etc. While these pitchers have experienced some mixed results, they all have shown great potential and could end up anchoring a solid bullpen for years to come--which would serve as a great alternative to having to scramble for options every year.

The Question Mark
Wander Suero
Speaking of Suero, quite a concerning scene unfolded in the 9th inning of the Nationals' 6-2 win. After throwing 13 pitches, Suero exited the game with Nationals' trainer Paul Lessard, appearing to clutch his side. Hopefully this is nothing serious, as Suero has been lights-out thus far in this young season.

Player of the Game: Yan Gomes (3-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI)

Other Thoughts
With this win, the Nats broke out of a 6-game long Oscillation Period (what I call when a team alternates wins and losses). Breaking such a stretch with consecutive wins is huge for club morale. After starting the season 1-5, the team has since won 4 out of 6.

What's Next
The Nationals will go for a series win on Sunday at 1:05 PM. Although 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg was originally slated to start the game, he was placed on the 10 Day Injured List with shoulder inflammation. For the team's $245 million man to hit the IL for the second consecutive season is concerning and aggravating to say the least--World Series MVP or not. Career minor leaguer Paulo Espino will start in his place. The Nats may need to score runs early and often if they want to win.

About This Series: My name is Cole Bromfield. Anyone close to me will tell you how opinionated I am when it comes to the world of sports. I've even been called an "armchair manager", "armchair GM", etc by some. So I've decided to embrace that label and share my thoughts on my favorite sports teams. After every Nationals game, I will discuss one negative from the game, one positive, one question mark, any other thoughts I have on the game, and what's next. These entries also available on armchairanalysisnats.weebly.com

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