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September 2, 2012 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review

In August, the Nats faced a grinding schedule, with 29 games in 31 days. For most of the month, the Atlanta Braves were hot on their heels. But the Nats, with most of their lineup finally intact, held up to the pressure and finished the month with a 19–10 record, the best record in the National League for the month and the Nats’ best monthly record of the season.

The month began at home with the Nats splitting the last two games of a series with the Phillies. (They had lost the first game of the series on July 31.) Next, Miami came to DC for a four game series, which the Nats won three games to one. That was followed by a road trip to Houston, Arizona, and San Francisco. The Nats swept four games from the Astros, three of the wins coming by a single run. Next they won two of three against the Diamondbacks, followed by two of three against the Giants, ending the road trip with an 8–2 record.

Returning home, they faced the Mets, whom they beat two games to one. Then came their most critical series of the season so far, a three-game set against the Braves whom they led by five games. They won the first two games, then lost the finale, ending the series and home stand with a six game lead.

The Nats moved on to Philadelphia, but their bats ran out of gas, as they scored only five runs in three games and were swept. Going to Miami, the team was hoping that Stephen Strasburg would stop the losing streak, but he was shelled in a 9–0 loss, resulting in a five-game losing streak.  Finally the Nats’ bats came alive in the second game against the Marlins, an 8–4 win. Returning home, the Nats ended the month with the first two games of a four game set against the Cardinals, winning 8–1 and 10–0 behind an offensive explosion and excellent pitching performances by Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez.

The Nats finished August in first place in the NL East, 6-1/2 games ahead of the Braves. According to coolstandings.com, the Nats’ odds of winning the division were 93.8% and their odds of making the playoffs were 99.9%.

The month of August also featured a national debate about the impending shutdown of Strasburg. To Nationals fans, the debate seemed a bit odd, because it had been announced months before and most fans had made their peace with it. But the national media finally realized and expressed shock that a) the Nationals are probably really going to be playing in the post-season, and b) Mike Rizzo really is serious about shutting down Strasburg.

Record:

19–10 (.655)

Pythagorean Record:

19–10 (4.72 R/G – 3.38 RA/G)

MVP for August:

Jayson Werth (.358/.435/.505, 26 G, 108 PA, 1 HR, 19 R, 12 RBI, 1.0 fWAR, 0.57 WPA, 9.20 RE24). He edged out Ryan Zimmerman on the last day of the month, when Werth went 3 for 3 with 2 walks against the Cardinals.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Gio Gonzalez (4–2, 2.64 R/9, 6 G, 44-1/3 IP, 7.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 6.10 RE24, 0.9 rWAR). Until the final week, Strasburg was leading Gonzalez in the race for this award, but Stephen suffered a big loss and Gio pitched a shutout in their final starts of the month.

Most valuable reliever:

Ryan Mattheus (1–0, 0.59 R/9, 14 G, 15-1/3 IP, 5.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.3 H/9, 6.35 RE24, 0.74 WPA, 2 of 6 inherited runner scored, 4 shutdowns, no meltdowns).

Best start this month:

Gio Gonzalez (August 31, 10–0 win over the Cardinals at home). Gonzalez pitched a complete game shutout, giving up 5 H, 3 BB, getting 8 K and a game score of 82.

Worst start:

Stephen Strasburg (August 28, 9–0 loss to the Marlins in Miami, 5 IP, 9 H, 1 HR, 7 R, 1 BB, 3 K, game score of 27).

Best shutdown:

Drew Storen (August 29, 8–4 win over the Marlins in Miami).  Storen received the call from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth with the Nats leading 6–4, runners on second and third, and no outs. He got Carlos Lee, Giancarlo Stanton, and Justin Ruggiano out without allowing a run (Win probability added .379).

Worst meltdown:

Sean Burnett (August 29, 8–4 win over the Marlins) set up the scenario for Storen to get the shutdown described in the previous paragraph when he allowed a single and a double to start the bottom of the eighth, threatening the Nats’ 6–4 lead (Win probability added –.301). Davey Johnson brought Storen in to get the Nats out of the jam.

Clutch hit:

Danny Espinosa (August 4, 10–7 win over the Marlins at home). In the bottom of the eighth, the game tied 6–6, two outs, and runners on first and third, Danny blasted a three-run homer into the left field seats behind the visitors bullpen (WPA .371).

Choke:

Ian Desmond (August 22, 5–1 loss to the Braves at home) came up in the bottom of the eighth with the Nats trailing 2–1, one out, and runners on first and second and grounded into a double play (WPA –.234).

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