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July 1, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ June in review: Not the way we planned it for sure

June began with the Nats sitting six games over .500, in first place, a half game ahead of the Mets. Although May had been a very successful month, it had ended on on a sour note with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds. The Nats battled injuries all month in June, at times fielding what seemed like a spring training roster, as they continued to slide during the first half of the month. In the month’s last half, the Nats turned things around behind resurgent starting pitching and finished 15–12 for the full month,with an overall 43–34 record, 3.5 games ahead in the NL East race. Their odds of winning the division, according to FanGraphs, stood at 92.3% at the end of the month, up from 88.2% at the end of May.

The Nats month began at home facing the Blue Jays. They lost the series 2 games to 1, scoring only 5 runs. The next visitors were the Cubs, and Anthony Rendon rejoined the team, coming off the disabled list for the first time this season. The Cubs took the series 3 games to 1, as the pitchers continued to struggle, and the Nats slipped into second place.

Their next road trip began with a 2-game series in New York against the Yankees, which the Nats were able to split with an 11-inning, come-from-behind win in the second game.  Ryan Zimmerman, who had been slumping as he battled with plantar fasciitis, was sent to the DL, as was relief pitcher Aaron Barrett. A 4-game series against the Brewers followed, which the Nats were able to split. In the final game of the series, Max Scherzer took a perfect game into the 7th inning and finished with a 1-hit, 16-strikeout shutout of the Brewers. To top it off, the Nats also regained first place from the Mets.

The road trip ended with a two-game set against the Rays. After losing the first, they clobbered the Rays 16 to 4 in the second game, which ended with two Rays position players pitching an inning each, with each of them giving up a home run to Wilson Ramos.

The Rays then came to Washington to kick off the next home stand and swept the two game set, with Doug Fister returning to the rotation from the DL. Next, the Nats hosted the Pirates. In the opener, rookie Joe Ross, who had been called up to start while Stephen Strasburg was on the disabled list, pitched excellently, striking out 11 and giving up only 1 run in 7-1/3 innings, as the Nats won 4 to 1. That run would be the last given up by a Nats starter for their next 48 innings, as the rotation dominated opposing batters.

In the second game against the Pirates, Scherzer pitched his second consecutive gem—this time a no hitter that was one strike away from a perfect game. With two outs in the ninth inning, Pirate pinch hitter Jose Tabata leaned into an inside pitch and was awarded first base on a hit-by-pitch. The series concluded with a sweep, as the Nats scored nine runs in the first inning off Charlie Morton.

The home stand concluded against the Braves, with Strasburg rejoining the rotation from the DL. The Nats swept the three-game series, with the Braves picking up only two runs, both given up by Nats relievers. The series concluded, however, with Rendon going back on the DL with a quad strain; Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar also each suffered minor injuries that kept them out of the lineup for a day or two.

The month ended with another road trip. The Nats took two of three against the Phillies. In the series opener, Scherzer faced expectations for another dominant performance, including the hope that he might tie Vander Meer’s record of two consecutive no hitters. Although he was able to retire the first 16 batters he faced, he ultimately gave up two runs, ending the staff’s scoreless streak, and had to settle for a 5 to 2 win. The month ended with the Nats in Atlanta, where the won the opening game of a series against the Braves behind a dominant pitching performance by Jordan Zimmermann.

For June, the Nats batters were just average. Their .271/.325/.403 batting line resulted in a weighted runs created (wRC+) index of 100, or MLB average, though it ranked 4th in the National League. Their defense, as rated by FanGraphs, ranked 11th in the NL.

The starters ranked 4th in the NL in ERA (3.63), though their fielding-independent pitching (FIP) ranked 2nd at 2.84, barely behind the Cardinals. Their relievers, however, were only average, with an RE24 of 1.34, which ranked 7th in the NL. The relief staff’s FIP (3.27) ranked 6th. Although the relief staff managed to avoid many high-leverage innings in the last half of the month, their weaknesses were apparent in the first half of the month as they experienced a number of meltdowns.


15–12 (.556)

Pythagorean Record:

16–11 (4.22 R/G – 3.56 RA/G)

June MVP:

Bryce Harper (.370/.452/.691, 22 G, 6 HR, 11 R, 15 RBI, 1.5 fWAR). He’s won this award all three months so far this season.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Max Scherzer (3–2, 2.33 RA/9, 5 G, 38-2/3 IP, 10.5 K/9, .175 opp OBP, 1.4 RA9-WAR). Again, a three-time consecutive award winner. His consecutive gems—the one-hitter against the Brewers and the no-hitter against the Pirates—were regarded as among the most dominant consecutive games pitched in baseball history.

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Casey Janssen (0–0, 0.00 RA/9, 10 G, 9-1/3 IP, 3.9 K/9, .229 opp OBP, 4.35 RE24, 0.4 RA9-WAR). I have to admit I haven’t been a fan of Janssen and was a bit surprised by these numbers, but I really can’t poke any holes in his his performance this month.

Worst month:

Ian Desmond (.161/.194/.269, 25 G, –0.6 fWAR).

Best start this month:

Max Scherzer – he had two of the best starts in Nationals history, so I’m going to list both of them:

  • June 14, 4–0 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee, gave up 1 hit and 1 walk in a 9-inning complete game shutout, striking out 16, for a game score of 100.
  • June 20, 6–0 win over the Pirates at home, a no hitter with one hit batter and 10 strikeouts, for a game score of 97.

Worst start:

Tanner Roark (June 28, 8–5 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia) gave up 8 runs on 12 hits and 1 walk in 3-1/3 innings, while not getting any strikeouts. His game score was 3.

Tough losses:

  • Gio Gonzalez (June 4, 2–1 loss to the Cubs at home) gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings with 6 strikeouts (game score 57).
  • Jordan Zimmermann (June 17, 5–0 loss to the Rays at home) gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings with 8 strikeouts (game score 56).

Cheap win: 

  • Tanner Roark (June 5, 7–5 win over the Cubs at home) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits (though no walks) in 5-2/3 innings with 6 strikeouts (game score 47).

Best shutdown: 

Blake Treinen (June 10, 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). He pitched the scoreless 9th and 10th innings of a game that was tied 4–4, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 3 (win probability added .248). The Nats scored in the top of the 11th, and Drew Storen pitched one more scoreless inning for the save.

Worst meltdown:

Aaron Barrett (June 10—the same game— 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). Barrett entered in the 7th with the game tied 2–2, with two outs and a runner on second. He game up an RBI double, a hit-by-pitch, and an RBI single before getting the final out, and left the game with the Nats trailing 4–2. (WPA –.319)

Clutch hit:

Denard Span (June 10—yes, the same game!— 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). In the top of the 11th, with the game tied 4–4, two outs, and Tyler Moore on third base, Span singled and drove in the go-ahead run. (WPA .347)


Clint Robinson (June 4, 2–1 loss to the Cubs at home). In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the Nats trailing 2 to 1, Anthony Rendon at bat, and Robinson at first base and Michael A. Taylor at second, Robinson was picked off first base by Cubs catcher David Ross, ending the game. (WPA –.159) The last time a game had ended with a catcher-to-first base pick off was in 2009 to the Nats’ Nyjer Morgan.

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