Nats’ June in review: A very good chance to win a ball game
In June, the Nats’ pitchers excelled and the injured position players came off the disabled list. By the end of the month, with Bryce Harper’s return, the regular lineup was finally intact for the first time since opening day. The Nats went 17–11 and picked up two games from the Braves, finishing the month with a 44–38 record, 1/2 game behind the Braves and 5 games ahead of the faltering Marlins.
The Nats’ month began with the final game of a series at home, facing the Rangers. Tanner Roark pitched well, but he was no match for Yu Darvish, but the Nats still won the the series over the Texans 2 games to 1. The Phillies came to town next, and Ryan Zimmerman returned from the DL and began playing left field for the first time in his career, where he replaced the still-injured Harper. The Nats swept a 3-game set with the Phils. In the MLB first-year player draft, the Nats had the 18th pick and selected right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde, who had undergone Tommy John surgery the week before the draft.
Next came a west coast road trip. They took 2 games of 3 against the Padres, with the victories featuring shutouts on pitching gems by Roark and Jordan Zimmermann. They finished the San Diego series in a 3-way tie for first place in the NL East. Next, they had a 4-game set in San Francisco facing the Giants, who at the time sported a 42–21 record, the best in baseball. With continued excellent pitching, the Nats took the first three games of the series and moved into first place, before losing the finale. Over a span lasting 51-2/3 innings from June 3 through June 10, Nats’ starters struck out 51 batters and didn’t issue a single walk—something that hasn’t happened in at least the last century.
The Nats then headed to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. They were missing Wilson Ramos, however, who had suffered another hamstring injury and went on the 15-day DL. Facing Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Jaime Garcia, the Nats bats were silenced as they managed only 3 runs over the 3-game set and were swept by the Cards and fell back behind the Braves.
Back home, the Nats took a two game set against the Astros and regained the division lead. Next, the Braves arrived at Nationals Park for a 4-game set. At that point, the Braves led the Nats 5 games to 1 in this season’s match ups, and were 18–7 over the Nats since the start of 2013. The Braves shut out the Nats in the opener. In game 2, an Anthony Rendon home run against Kimbrel sent the game to extra innings, but the Braves ultimately won in the 13th inning. But the Nats came back to shut down the Braves, 3–0 and 4–1 in the last two games, splitting the series and ending with the same 1-1/2 game lead that they had going in.
Going on the road, the Nats faced the Brewers, who held first place in the NL Central and had overtaken the Giants for the best record in the National League. The Nats won the first two games, with the second victory coming in a 16-inning marathon, before losing the third game. With Ramos coming off the DL, they next had a 4-game set against the Cubs. The Nats lost the first two games, but swept a doubleheader to split the series. The Braves slipped back into first place by a half game. The month ended with the Nats back in Washington facing the Rockies on Bryce Harper bobblehead night, with Harper returning to the lineup after more than two months away. Zimmerman returned to third base and the Nats beat the Rockies.
Despite the returning starters, the team’s offense continued to be weak in June. The Nats were 8th in the National League in runs scored in June with 109 and 11th in weighted runs created relative to league (wRC+) with 83 (that is, they created 17% fewer runs than the average team, taking account of park effects and quality of the league).
On the other hand, the pitching was excellent. The starters’ ERA– (earned run average adjusted for park and league quality) was 72 in June (that is, 28% better than average), the best of any major league team. The relievers’ ERA– was 89 in June, which was 8th in the NL, but their fielding independent pitching (FIP–) of 74 ranked best in the NL and second in MLB.
18-10 (3.89 R/G – 2.93 RA/G)
Playoff odds at the end of the month:
Baseball Prospectus: 61.5% for Division championship, 73.2% for playoffs
FanGraphs (projection mode): 71.5% for Division, 88.3% for playoffs
FanGraphs (season-to-date mode): 57.8% for Division, 69.1% for playoffs
Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 1.43 RA/9, 6 G, 44 IP, 6.1 H/9, 8.4 K/9, 1.7 rWAR).
Most valuable position player
Anthony Rendon (.310/.369/.560, 25 G, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 1.4 fWAR).
Most valuable relief pitcher:
Rafael Soriano (0-0, 1.50 RA/9, 12 G, 12 IP, 3.8 H/9, 9.8 K/9, 3.40 RE24, 0.5 rWAR).
This month it was the bench players. Although Scott Hairston went 1 for 13, Greg Dobbs will get the award for for getting designated for assignment after going 1 for 11 this month.
Denard Span led MLB in doubles in June with 12. Ian Desmond led MLB in strikeouts with 40, and Danny Espinosa led the NL in strikeout rate with 38.7%. Jordan Zimmermann tied with Hamels and Kershaw for the NL lead in innings pitched with 44.
Best start this month:
Jordan Zimmermann (June 8, 6–0 win over the Padres in San Diego) pitched what may have been the best start in Nationals history. It was a 2-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and no walks, for a game score of 95, the highest ever recorded by a Washington National. Honorable mention goes to Tanner Roark for another 6–0 win over the Padres pitched two days earlier, in which Roark gave up 3 hits and struck out 11 in 8 innings (game score of 87).
Stephen Strasburg (June 25, 9–2 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee) gave up 8 hits, 7 runs, 3 walks, and 2 home runs in 4-2/3 innings, while getting 2 K and a game score of 19.
A tough loss is in which the pitcher is charged with a loss despite pitching well (a game score of 50 or higher):
- Jordan Zimmermann (June 13, 1–0 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis) gave up 1 run on 3 hits (a solo home run did the damage) with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in 8 innings (game score 76).
- Stephen Strasburg (June 14, 4–1 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis) gave up 3 runs on 7 hits with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings (game score 52).
- Jordan Zimmermann (June 19, 3–0 loss to the Braves in Washington) gave up 2 runs on 7 hits with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 60).
Ross Detwiler (June 24, 4–2 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee in 16 innings) pitched 4 innings (the 10th through the 13th) without giving up a run, with the score 2–2. He didn’t allow a base runner in the 10th or the 11th. In the 12th, he gave up a hit, then got a double play. In the 13th, after letting the leadoff hitter on, he got Braun and Gomez out to get out of the inning. (Win probability added .534). In the 16th, Zimmerman homered to give the Nats the two-run lead, and Soriano got the save.
Rafael Soriano (June 7, 4–3 loss to the Padres in San Diego). Soriano entered the 9th with a 3–2 lead and got the first two batters out. With one out to go, Yonder Alonso hit a game-tying home run and sent the game to extra innings. (Win probability added –.334) Craig Stammen went on to give up the deciding run in the bottom of the 11th.
Anthony Rendon (June 20, 6–4 loss to the Braves in Washington). With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, the Nats trailing 4–2, Craig Kimbrel on the mound for the save, and Nate McLouth on first, Rendon blasted a home run into the visitors bullpen to tie the game (WPA .492). However, Jerry Blevins gave up 2 runs in the top of the 13th, so the Nats weren’t able to capitalize on Rendon’s memorable home run.
Denard Span (June 12, 7–1 loss to the Giants in San Francisco) came to bat in the 5th with runners on first and third and one out, trailing the Giants 2–1. Tim Hudson got him to ground into a double play ending the rally (WPA –.172).