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May 3, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ April in review: ‘We’ve got to hit, though’

After a lock-out delayed spring training, MLB started the season on April 7, a week later than initially planned. Making up for lost time, the Nats played 23 games in 24 days. Expectations were low, and it’s fair to say that the Nats didn’t meet them. They ended the month with a 7–16 record. Only the Reds had a worse record.

The season started at home with a four-game set against the Mets. The Nats lost three of four. Next came a three-game set against the Braves in Atlanta, and the Nats managed to take two of three against the 2021 World Series Champions. Moving to Pittsburgh, the Bucs won three of four, giving the Nats a 3–4 record on the road trip.

Returning to Washington, the Nats had four games scheduled against the Diamondbacks. The opening Monday night game was rained out, so they played a doubleheader the next day, which the Nats swept. At that point, the Nats were 6–7 and tied for second place in the NL East. But things quickly went south. They lost the next two games, splitting the series with the Diamondbacks. Next they faced the Giants and were swept in the three-game series. The home stand ended with three games against the Marlins, and the Nats again were swept. They were 2–8 in the home stand, ending with eight consecutive losses during which they scored only 16 runs (and never more than 3 in any one game). The bats had gone silent.

Then the month ended in San Francisco with the first two games of a three-game series, and suddenly the silent bats found their voices. The Nats won the opener 14 to 4 with 22 hits. They lost the second game, and were scheduled to end the road trip in May, with one more game coming in San Francisco, followed by series in Colorado and Anaheim.

Lucius Fox, a 24-year old infielder, made his major league debut on April 10. Starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez (with the Giants last season) and relief pitchers Erasmo Ramirez (with the Tigers last year) and waiver pickups Hunter Harvey (from the Orioles) and Francisco Perez (from the Indians) also joined the Nats during the month.

Record:

7–16 (.304)

Pythagorean Record:

7–16 (3.65 R/G – 5.35 RA/G)

April MVP:

Josh Bell (.365/.460/.527, 2 HR, 12 R, 15 RBI, 187 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR), with runner-up Juan Soto (.241/.406/.443, 4 HR, 15 R, 5 RBI, 149 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR).

Most valuable pitcher:

Victor Arano (0–0, 1.64 RA/9, 11 G, 11 IP, 11.5 K/9, .268 opp OBP, 1.81 RE24, 0.5 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 2 meltdowns). I rarely give this monthly award to a relief pitcher, but Arano, along with Sean Doolittle (before going on the injured list) and Tanner Rainey, really were pleasant surprises this month, and none of the starters were more than passable.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Josiah Gray (2–2, 4.05 RA/9, 4 GS, 20 IP, 12.6 K/9, .353 opp OBP, 0.3 RA9-WAR).

Worst month:

Patrick Corbin (0–4, 9.15 RA/9, 5 GS, 19⅔ IP, 10.5 K/9, .430 opp OBP, –0.7 RA9-WAR), with dishonorable mentions also going to Lucius Fox (.000/.048/.000, 23 PA, –0.7 fWAR) and Nelson Cruz (.155/.253/.226, 2 HR, 96 PA, –0.6 fWAR).

Best start this month:

Joan Adon (April 19, second game of doubleheader,1–0 win over the Diamondbacks at home) pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks and striking out 5 for a game score of 70.

Worst start:

Patrick Corbin (April 22, 7–1 loss to the Giants at home) gave up 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 1⅔ innings with 4 strikeouts for a game score of 14.

Tough losses:

  • Erick Fedde (April 27, 2–1 loss to the Marlins at home) gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 4⅔ innings, while striking out 5, for a game score of 52.
  • Patrick Corbin (April 28, 3–2 loss to the Marlins at home) gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 8, for a game score of 60.

Cheap win:

  • Aaron Sanchez (April 29, 14–4 win over the Giants in San Francisco) gave up 3 runs on 6 hits and no walks in 5 innings, while striking out 4, for a game score of 47.

Best shutdown:

Tanner Rainey (April 19, second game of doubleheader, 1–0 win over the Diamondbacks at home). Rainey got the call to pitch the bottom of the ninth in a 1–0 game, facing the heart of the D-backs’ order. He promptly gave up a single, a walk, and another single to load the bases with no outs. But he got out of the jam with a strikeout, a foul pop-up, and a fly to left field for the final out. (Win probability added/WPA +.157)

Worst meltdown:

Steve Cishek (April 17, 5–3 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh). The Nats were ahead 3–2 when Cishek got the call to pitch the bottom of the seventh. The first two batters hit singles, and a sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third. An intentional walk to Vogelbach loaded the bases, setting up a possible double play. Cishek then let loose a wild pitch, tying the game and advancing the other two runners. Another single put the Bucs ahead and finished Cishek’s night. (WPA –.516)

Clutch hit:

Nelson Cruz (April 10, 4–2 win over the Mets at home). The score was tied 2–2 and the bases were loaded with 2 outs when Cruz came to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Cruz’s hit a ground ball up the middle that made its way past the diving Lindor, driving in two runs and putting the Nats ahead. (WPA +.311)

Choke:

Juan Soto (April 21, 4–3 loss to the Diamondbacks at home). In the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded and the Nats trailing by one, Soto had his chance to tie or win the game. Facing Mark Melancon, Soto popped out to end the game. (WPA –.267)

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