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September 30, 2013 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ September in review: We gave it a good fight; we just came up short

The Nationals entered September with a 68-67 record, 7-1/2 behind the Reds for the wild card, and with the division title far out of reach. Davey Johnson, perhaps prescient, insisted throughout the month that the Nats would need to win 90 to have a shot at the post-season. That would require the Nats to go 22-5 in September, with the Reds going no better than 14-12. No wonder that according to coolstandings.com, the Nats’ odds of  making the wild card were only 2.9%, but the team remained hopeful.

The month began at home with the last game of a series against the Mets. The Nats came from behind to win it 6-5, and the Reds lost, narrowing the gap to 6-1/2.

Next came a road trip that began against the Phillies. The Nats lost the first game when Tyler Clippard gave up the lead in the 8th. The Nats managed to win the next two, though. Meanwhile, the Reds also won two of three, maintaining their lead. On to Miami, where the Nats again took two of three. The Reds, however, won four straight, extending their lead to 8 games. On to New York, where the Nats’ offense exploded against the Mets, scoring 25 runs led by three home runs by Ryan Zimmerman on top of three he had just hit against the Marlins, sweeping the four game set against the Mets. The Reds went 1-2, and the gap narrowed to 5-1/2 games.

Returning home, the Nats faced the Phillies and took two of three.  The Reds took one of three, and the lead narrowed to 4-1/2. The problem, however, was that the Nationals’ schedule was about to get tougher and the Reds’ schedule was about to get easier. The first game of a 3-game set against the Braves was rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader after the Navy Yard shooting, and it was a topsy-turvy match that the Nats finally won in walk-off fashion against Kimbrel. The Nats also took the nightcap to sweep the doubleheader, but lost the series finale the next day. The Reds won all three of their games, extending their lead to 5-1/2. The Nats home stand ended against the Marlins, and they had to sweep to keep their remote playoff chances alive. They lost game 3, however, and the team was now only one game away from elimination.

The end came the next night in St. Louis, where the Cardinals behind Adam Wainwright beat the Nats 4 to 3. The Cards went on to sweep the Nats before the Nats went on to take the first two against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, thereby ensuring that Johnson would retire with a managerial record 300 games over .500. The Nats lost the season finale, fielding a spring-training style team of bench players and call-ups.

Despite the disappointment, September was by far the Nats’ best month. They went 18-9, scoring 4.7 runs per game and allowing only 2.9. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, and Denard Span, who completed a 29 game hiring streak, longest in the majors this season, all excelled with the bat. The Nats’ wRC+ was 104, third highest in the NL in September, and they were second in the league in runs scored. Their starters’ ERA was 2.77, also second in the league, and the relievers’ ERA of 2.63 ranked fourth. With the Nats’ projected starters for the season all healthy except for Ross Detwiler, fans could see that the pre-season hype wasn’t entirely misplaced. Now we look forward to an interesting hot stove season.

Record:

18-9 (.667)

Pythagorean Record:

19-8 (4.70 R/G – 2.93 RA/G)

MVP for September:

Jayson Werth (.302/.398/.542, 26 G, 113 PA, 4 HR, 17 R, 18 RBI, 1.0 fWAR, 13.26 RE24).

Most valuable pitcher:

Tanner Roark (3-1, 2.03 R/9, 5 G, 31 IP, 6.1 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 7.75 RE24).

Most valuable reliever:

Rafael Soriano (1-0, 0.00 R/9, 10 G, 10 IP, 7.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 5.4 H/9, 4.63 RE24, 0.92 WPA, 6 shutdowns, 0 meltdown).

Worst month:

Ian Krol (1–0, 11.57 R/9, –3.55 RE24, 5 G, 2-1/3 IP, 6 H, 1 HR, 1 BB, 71.4% LOB%, 0 shutdown, 2 meltdowns).

Best start this month:

Two starts share the honor: Gio Gonzalez (September 9, 9–0 win over the Mets in New York) pitched a one-hit shutout with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks with a game score of 91. Jordan Zimmermann (September 20, 8–0 win over the Marlins at home) pitched a two-hit shutout with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk, also for a game score of 91.

Worst start:

Dan Haren (September 6, 7–0 loss to the Marlins in Miami) lasted 3 innings and gave up 6 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, and 1 home run, while getting 5 K with a game score of 30.

Tough losses:

Gio Gonzalez (September 24, 2–0 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis) pitched 7 innings and gave up 2 runs on 6 hits with no walks and 6 strikeouts (game score 63); unfortunately, the opposing picher Michael Wacha, went one out away from a no-hitter before Ryan Zimmerman finally beat out an infield single. Ross Ohlendorf (September 18, 5–2 loss to the Braves at home) gave up 3 runs on 4 hits (2 HR) with no walks and 6 strikeouts in 6 innings (game score 58). Jordan Zimmermann (September 25, 4–1 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits (1 HR) with no walks and 2 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 51).

Cheap win:

Jordan Zimmermann (September 10, 6–3 win over the Mets in New York) pitched 5 innings and gave up 3 runs on 8 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts (game score 42).

Best shutdown:

Rafael Soriano (September 4, 3–2 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia) saved a one-run game, setting down three Phillies batters in order. (Win probability added .188).

Worst meltdown:

Tyler Clippard (September 2, 3–2 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia) entered in the bottom of the 8th with a 2–1 lead. He got the first two batters out, then gave up a walk, a game-tying double, an intentional walk, and another single to give up the lead, before getting the final out. (Win probability added –.581)

Clutch hit:

Denard Span (September 17, 6–5 win over the Braves at home). In a wild game that had been rescheduled due to the Navy Yard shootings, Span came to bat in the bottom of the ninth against the Braves’ dominant closer, Craig Kimbrel, with one out, runners on second and third, and the Nats trailing 5–4. He hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, driving in Jeff Kobernus. Simmons booted the ball, allowing Anthony Rendon to score from second, giving the Nats the walk-off victory and Kimbrel his first, ever two-run blown save.  (WPA .472) If you object to giving the clutch hit award to a reached-on-error, the runner-up was Jayson Werth for his two-out RBI double in the bottom of the 8th, giving the Nats the lead in their 6–5 win over the Mets at home on September 1 (WPA .321).

Choke:

Wilson Ramos (September 2, 3–2 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia) struck out in the top of the ninth with the Nats trailing 3–2, one out, and runners on first and third (WPA –.212). Anthony Rendon followed with a game-ending strikeout.

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