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September 1, 2013 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review: We’re in a pennant drive, not a salary drive

The Nationals entered the month 4 games below .500, 11 games back of the Braves, and 7-1/2 games behind the Reds in the wild card race.  Another month of playing near .500 ball would have removed any post-season hopes. After a lackluster start, they finally kicked things up toward the end of the month, winning 8 of their last 11 and ended the month with a 16–11 record. They finished the month 15 games behind the Braves, with the divisional race far out of reach, but maintained pace with the Reds for the wild card, 7-1/2 games behind. According to, the Nats’ odds of  making the wild card fell to 2.9%, but facing a generally weak schedule, the team remained hopeful of making a final month surge accompanied by a collapse by their opponent.

As the months began, the Nats were finishing a road trip against the Brewers, and beat them two games to one. They returned home to face the Braves, needing to sweep the series to retain any sliver of hope in the divisional race. Instead, the Braves swept them, winning the first two games by one run apiece, and setting the Nats’ divisional aspirations out of reach for this season.

Series with the Braves and Giants followed, and things started to look up when the Nats swept the Phillies. They were one out away from sweeping the Giants as well, but Rafael Sorano gave up a two-run lead in the final inning of the last Giants game.

The next road trip began against the Braves, and it was a strange series. The Braves won the first game 3–2, and Bryce Harper was twice hit by a pitch, which came on top of another apparently intentional plunking during the previous Braves series in Washington. Stephen Strasburg, protecting his teammate, drilled Justin Upton in the first inning of the next game, and the score appeared to be settled. But in the second inning, his control unraveled and he was ejected after twice pitching behind Adrelton Simmons.  The game went on to extra innings and the Nats finally won, 8–7, in the 15th inning after an Adam LaRoche home run. The extra-inning effort appeared to have sapped their energy, though, as the Nats lost their final game against the Braves and were blown out in the first of a four-game series against the Cubs. They  then regrouped and won the next three games, as well as the first two of three against the Royals, losing the final game.

Returning home, the Nats faced the Marlins and the Mets. They swept the Marlins, but ended the month with two losses against the Mets.

Where did the Nats improve? For the first time this season, the Nats’ batting was above average. Their wRC+ for the month was 116, tops in the National League. Starting pitching was also pretty good, with a 3.67 ERA for the month ranking fifth in the league. But relief pitching was a weakness, with their relievers’ ERA of 3.99 ranking 11th in the league.


16–11 (.593)

Pythagorean Record:

16–11 (4.74 R/G – 4.04 RA/G)

MVP for August:

Jayson Werth (.380/.468/.620, 26 G, 109 PA, 6 HR, 20 R, 21 RBI, 1.4 fWAR, 1.63 WPA, 13.50 RE24).

Most valuable pitcher:

Stephen Strasburg (1–0, 2.60 R/9, 5 G, 27-2/3 IP, 9.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 4.54 RE24, 0.8 rWAR).

Most valuable reliever:

Tanner Roark (4-0, 1.59 R/9, 9 G, 22-2/3 IP, 7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 5.6 H/9, 5.03 RE24, 0.58 WPA, 5 shutdowns, 1 meltdown).

Worst month:

Ryan Mattheus (0–1, 11.05 R/9, –5.09 RE24, 9 G, 7-1/3 IP, 15 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 56.8% LOB%, 1 shutdown, 3 meltdowns). A short trip to Syracuse didn’t help Mattheus, as he seemed just as lost when he returned.

Best start this month:

Stephen Strasburg (August 11, 6–0 win over the Phillies at home). Strasburg pitched a shutout—his first career complete game—and gave up 4 hits , 1 walk, and got 10 K with a game score of 88 for the best start of his career according to game score.

Worst start:

Gio Gonzalez (August 23, 11–10 win over the Royals in Kansas City). Gonzalez lasted 3-1/3 innings and gave up 10 hits, 7 runs, 3 walks, and 2 home runs, while getting only 1 K with a game score of 10.

Tough losses:

Gio Gonzalez (August 18, 2–1 loss to the Braves) gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 9, in 7 innings (game score 64). Gio Gonzalez (August 6, 2–1 loss to the Braves) gave up two runs on 6 hits and 1 walk, striking out 5, in 7 innings (game score 61). Jordan Zimmermann (August 24, 7–2 loss to the Royals) gave up 3 runs on 6 hits (1 HR) and 1 walk, striking out 6 in 7-2/3 innings (game score 60).

Cheap win:


Best shutdown:

Craig Stammen (August 17, 8–7 win over the Braves in Atlanta). He pitched 3 scoreless innings (innings 12 through 14) in a 7–7 tie, giving up no hits and 1 walk. He got the win after Adam LaRoche hit a home run in the top of the 15th and Dan Haren came in for the save. (Win probability added .390).

Worst meltdown:

Rafael Soriano (August 15, 4–3 loss to the Giants at home) entered in the top of the 9th with a 3–1 lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Buster Posey, then with two outs walked Roger Kieschnick. Facing the Giant’s backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, as a pinch hitter, Soriano gave up a 3-run home run and the lead. The Nats were unable to score in the bottom of the ninth and lost a game that they should have won. (Win probability added –.749)

Clutch hit:

Scott Hairston (August 21, 11–6 win over the Cubs in Chicago). With the score tied 6–6, in the top of the seventh, Bryce Harper hit a 2-out double and the Cubs intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to Hairston. Hairston responded with a 3-run blast, putting the Nats ahead 9–6. (WPA .398)


Scott Hairston (August 5, 3–2 loss to the Braves at home) came in as a pinch hitter with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth, trailing the Braves 3–2. With Kimbrel unavailable, Jordan Walden was on the mound. Hairston fouled out to the catcher and was unable to drive in a run (WPA –.247). Chad Tracy followed with a game-ending fly ball out.

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