FanPost

Armchair Analysis: Walking to the Win (4/20/21 vs Cardinals)

Washington Nationals' Josh Bell (19) returns to the dugout after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of the team's baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Washington.

https://tinyurl.com/2w2x8cdt

Game 2 of 3 vs Cardinals
Box Score

St. Louis (8-9) 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -- 2
Washington (6-9) 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 x -- 3

Game 1: St. Louis 12, Washington 5
Game 2: Washington 3, St. Louis 2

The Bad
Tanner Rainey
Another rotten outing by Rainey, who was one of the team's best relievers last season. Rainey is typically a fireballer, and his performance this year shows an alarming trend: his fastball velocity is down significantly. Until he can get that issue fixed, he is going to cough up a lot of meatballs. Davey Martinez should elect to use Rainey for lower leverage situations until he can work this out.

The Good
Patrick Corbin
After two abhorrent outings to begin the season, the Nats' left-hander was on fire in this game, shutting the Cardinals out in 6 strong innings. After a long first inning, he got in a groove, retiring the Cardinals in order from the third through sixth innings (the Cardinals had a single in the sixth but it was erased by a double play). Corbin desperately needed a strong start. Unfortunately, it could have been even more impressive. Manager Davey Martinez made the baffling decision not to send Corbin back out to pitch the 7th inning, despite his only being at 76 pitches. More on that below.

Trea Turner
Batting 3rd, the Nationals' shortstop recorded two hits--one of which being the game tying RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning. I have always believed that he belongs hitting 2nd or 3rd in the lineup rather than leadoff. When Soto returns from his shoulder injury, it will make more sense for Turner to hit 2nd, but for now I like the combination of Andrew Stevenson and Josh Harrison batting 1st and 2nd, with Turner batting 3rd. Martinez should absolutely consider leaving either Harrison or Stevenson at the leadoff spot upon Soto's return. "But how would they use Stevenson? He's only in the lineup as Soto's replacement!" Should Stevenson continue his impressive start to the season, I think he should take over Victor Robles' spot in center when Juan Soto returns. It's becoming more obvious every day that Robles does not have what it takes to be in a Major League starting lineup.

The Question Mark
Juan Soto
Hours before the game, it was announced that the Nationals had placed star right fielder Juan Soto on the 10 Day Injured List with a shoulder strain. This is concerning but also explains a few things. Soto had gotten off to a slow start to the season, at least by his standards, with a batting average barely over .300 and just two home runs. He had also just recently broken a 0-for-14 skid in Monday's game. Perhaps the shoulder injury had something to do with that. Hopefully he will be back in close to the minimum 10 days.

Player of the Game: Patrick Corbin (6 IP, 0 R, 5 K, 4 H)

Other Thoughts
Situational Hitting
When the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the 7th inning, everyone who followed the 2020 Nationals was thinking "Oh, jeez. Game over". That's because the 2020 team was atrocious at hitting in the clutch--until the final week of the season they had not overcome a single late inning deficit (and believe me, they were faced with plenty). I fully expected the offense to lay down once again, but they surprised me, scoring 2 in the 8th inning for a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish. That rally was impressive, and exactly the way hitters need to approach that kind of situation. Rather than swinging for the fences like they had done in prior games, the Nats' hitters made themselves as tough of an out as possible. That level of patience paid off, as three key bases on balls were a major part of the rally. They even managed a 2-out RBI with Yan Gomes taking a 4-pitch, bases loaded walk. The fact that they were able to get it done is huge--not only did it win them this game, the late-game confidence that the 2019 team had so much of might finally be making its way back.

Another Davey Blunder
Shades of 2019. Davey Martinez horribly mismanages the bullpen, and the offense bails him out. This time, it was his decision to yank Patrick Corbin after 76 pitches. This was a head-scratcher for a multitude of reasons. First, he allowed Joe Ross to throw 85 pitches in Monday's game despite Ross clearly not having it. His decision to pull Joe Ross only came after a grand slam that put St. Louis up 10-2. Why leave a struggling pitcher in to throw 85 pitches but pull a dealing one out after 76? Additionally, the bullpen was coming off of back to back long outings. On Sunday, starter Paulo Espino was pulled in the 5th inning, and Joe Ross came out in the 5th inning of Monday's game. The bullpen needed rest, and with Corbin pitching so well and only at 76 pitches, this game seemed like an ideal opportunity to give them that rest. Finally, while I am aware that hindsight is 20/20, look what happened when Corbin came out of the game. The lead was gone almost immediately. I have too much to say about Martinez's managing to put into one recap, so I will be doing a blog post soon with a full analysis of his managing tenure with the Washington Nationals.

What's Next
The Nats and Cardinals face off at 4:05 on Wednesday in a rubber game. Max Scherzer will go to the mound for the Nationals as they hope to clinch the season series against St. Louis.

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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