“Washington’s pitching staff,” the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes before the start of the four-game series with the New York Mets this weekend, “has pitched to a 0.90 ERA ...with 51 strikeouts, 11 walks and a .189 opponents’ batting average over the last seven games,” and 60 IP.
That stretch, in which they allowed just six earned runs, the Nationals noted, citing Elias Sports Bureau’s information, “... is the best in Nationals’ history (2005-pres.).”
They did say, “Washington’s pitching staff” too, because it’s not just the starters who have been rolling in recent outings.
“In 12 games dating to June 4,” the Nationals wrote, “Washington’s starting rotation leads Major League Baseball with a 1.19 ERA (8 ER/60.1 IP),” and the bullpen, which has been, “... called upon to toss 34 [1⁄3] innings,” over the last nine games, has, “combined to pitch to a 2.10 ERA (8 ER/34 [1⁄3] IP), inheriting, “... 17 runners across these nine games [with] only two [coming] around to score.”
“They’re attacking the strike zone, they’re making guys put the ball in play, they’re getting big strikeouts,” manager Davey Martinez said after Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates.
“The big thing, I tell them all the time, I said, ‘Hey, our defense is good, you don’t have to strike everybody out. Get early outs, let them put the ball in play,’ and they’ve done that.”
And, most importantly, they’re not walking batters.
“It’s an ongoing thing for us with [Bullpen Coach] Henry [Blanco] and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey preaching, and myself, about, ‘Walks, walks, walks.’” Martinez continued. ‘When you come out of that bullpen, no free passes.’ We talk about it all the time.
“Now all of a sudden they’re talking about it and their job is to not walk anybody, and go out there and attack the strike zone and try to put the ball in play early with soft contact, and they’ve done a great job so far, and hopefully we continue to do that.”
Before the series opener with the New York Mets last night, the manager talked again about the pitching the club has been getting as they’ve gone on a bit of a run in the last weeks.
“They’re feeding off each other, and it’s been great, but have to continue to do what we’re doing, and that’s pounding the strike zone,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call on Friday afternoon.
“I talked about it earlier, about the walks, we’re not giving any free bases, we’re attacking the strike zone, all our pitchers are doing that, even the bullpen guys that come in, they’re limiting their walks a lot.
“We got to continue to do that and if the guys put the ball in play, our defense has been really good.
“So as long as we’re playing good defense and we’re throwing strikes, we’ve got a good chance to win ballgames.”
Last night in the nation’s capital, Erick Fedde tossed seven scoreless (though he did walk four), then Kyle Finnegan and Brad Hand tossed clean innings before Yan Gomes hit the walk-off winner in the bottom of the ninth.
“In 13 games dating to June 4, Washington’s starting rotation leads Major League Baseball with a 1.07 ERA,” the Nationals wrote in their post game notes, giving up eight earned runs over their last 67 1⁄3 IP.
“The Nationals’ staff has now recorded eight straight games allowing two earned runs or fewer, the longest streak in the Majors this season,” the club added.
The fact that they’re doing what they’re doing with Stephen Strasburg on the IL since early this month, and Max Scherzer out for the last week, is even more impressive.
“These are conversations that we have in Spring Training, Day 1,” Martinez said after the 1-0 win over the Mets last night, “when you’re sitting in the circle of trust, and I’m talking to 65-70 guys in camp. I always tell them it’s going to take a whole lot of you guys for us to win a championship. So, prepare, be ready, you never know what’s going to happen in this game, and those guys that you see right now, they’re getting an opportunity and they’re doing well and that’s what we want to see. That’s awesome that these guys are picking us up the way they are and they’re doing really well.
“They’re making my job tough, because when these other guys get healthy — you never know what’s going to happen, but like I said before, we’re going to go 1-0 every day and we’re going to focus on the first game tomorrow and then we’ll see where it goes after that.”
“A lot of my career has been being called up for somebody being down,” Fedde said, “and I think this is the first time I can really say I feel like I fulfilled that role, so for me that’s — part of self-accomplishment, something I’m happy with.”
“When guys like [Scherzer and Strasburg] get injured,” Ryan Zimmerman said, “other guys have to step up, you know, I think the chances of all your pitchers kind of making it through the season healthy — it seems like it doesn’t really happen anymore, so you have to have depth, you have to have guys that continually step up, and take those innings from two really good pitchers like Stras and Scherzer. I couldn’t be happier for those guys. We talk about other guys like Paolo Espino, Austin Voth was doing really well before obviously the whole bunting thing, so we’ve had a bunch of guys step up, and it’s good to see and I’m happy for those guys to basically get a chance and take advantage of it.”
“You’ve seen what they’ve gone through,” Zimmerman said of the pitchers who are stepping up for the team now. “You’ve seen how much work they’ve put in, and for them to take advantage of opportunities, for me it makes me want to play harder and want to do things for them and you start getting that on the whole team and it kind of snowballs, and hopefully we can just keep it going.”
“I think we’re all starting to see the game plan that we put together,” catcher Yan Gomes said, after guiding Fedde through his seven innings of work, “and whether we follow it or you just come out and pitch the way you’re supposed to pitch, we had a conversation about a couple weeks ago where — like I just said, throwing quality strikes, or quality pitches early on, gets hitters to start not feeling comfortable at the plate, and then it gets you to build innings or whatever it is. And it’s been really awesome seeing guys when they get the chance to pitch in a big situation, to step up and know that their role — they’re not trying to like all be closers or anything like that, they all are just taking ownership of their role and doing what Dave asks them to do.”