Nats’ May in review
The Nats continued to win in May, going 15–13 and finishing the month a half game ahead of the red-hot Marlins. The month also represented an exercise in dealing with adversity, as injuries to Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos forced changes in the lineup. In Bryce Harper’s first full month as a major leaguer, he emerged as a sensation, and Steve Lombardozzi transitioned to an everyday player and leadoff hitter. The pitching staff also underwent transition as Chien-Ming Wang replaced Ross Detwiler in the rotation, and Henry Rodriguez lost the closer role in the bullpen.
May began with a home stand against the Diamondbacks and the Phillies, and the Nats won both series 2–1. The home stand ended badly, however, when Werth broke his wrist trying to make a sliding catch. In the subsequent road trip, the Nats went 1–2 against the Pirates and 2–1 against the Reds. The Cincinnati series proved especially costly, however, when Ramos suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
Returning home, the Nats split two-game series against both the Padres and the Pirates, then lost to the Orioles 1–2. A road trip against divisional rivals began well, when the Nats beat the Phillies 2–1, then swept the Braves in three games. The month ended on a low note, though, when the Nats went to Miami and were swept by the Marlins.
15–13 (4.21 R/G – 3.86 RA/G)
MVP for May:
Gio Gonzalez (5–0, 2.25 R/9, 5 G, 32 IP, 12.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 6.06 RE24). With two consecutive months of outstanding performance, if the Cy Young awards were given out at the end of May, Gio would be a strong candidate for the NL award.
Most valuable position player:
Ian Desmond (.274/.297/.508, 28 G, 128 PA, 6 HR, 16 R, 16 RBI, 0.9 fWAR, 0.84 WPA, 3.70 RE24). Bryce Harper has slightly better batting statistics and about 100 times as much media coverage, but Desmond’s defensive contributions at shortstop (in contrast with Harper’s misadventures in the outfield) makes him a relatively easy pick for this award.
Most valuable reliever:
Tyler Clippard (0-0, 1.54 R/9, 12 G, 11-2/3 IP, 11.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 3.65 RE24, 0 of 2 inherited runners scored, 6 shutdowns, 1 meltdown). I also considered Craig Stammen, but Clippard pitched in much higher leverage innings.
Best start this month:
It was a losing effort, but I’m going to give this award to Edwin Jackson (May 18, 2–1 loss to the Orioles at home). Jackson went 8 innings with 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K, game score of 75. There was lots of competition for this award—Gonzalez had game scores of 74, 72, and 71, and Jordan Zimmermann had a game score of 71.
Ross Detwiler (May 19, 6–5 loss to the Orioles at home, 5 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 3 K, game score of 27).
Sean Burnett (May 21, 2–1 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia) entered behind Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth with a 2–0 lead, runners on second and third, and one out. He gave up a sacrifice fly, then a walk, then got Placido Polanco out to end the game and get the save. (Win probability added .265)
Henry Rodríguez (May 8, 5–4 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh) came into the bottom of the ninth with a 4–3 lead, gave up a single, two wild pitches, and then a game-winning homer to Rod Barajas. (Win probability added –.819). A close runner up came on May 13 against the Reds, when Henry gave up a walk-off grand slam to Joey Votto (–.793).
Ian Desmond (May 2, 5–4 win over the Diamondbacks at home) came up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats down 4–3, and Harper on second, and hit a walk-off home run. (WPA .868)
Ian Desmond (May 18, 2–1 loss to Orioles). After Jackson’s great start led to a 1–1 tie going into extra innings, Desmond came up in the bottom of the 11th with the Nats down 2–1, Lombardozzi on first, and no outs. He grounded into a double play (WPA –.269). Three batters later, Adam LaRoche made the final out.