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June 2, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ May in review: “But it’s frustrating”

The Nationals faced a tough schedule in May, playing 14 games against the division-leading Mets, Astros, Brewers, and Dodgers, plus another four games against the strong Giants and Angels. They ended the month going 11–17, which isn’t good but was still a step up from their 7–16 record during April. With mostly poor starting pitching and sloppy defense, the Nats’ games tended to be a bit boring, with nearly two-thirds of the games decided by more than a three-run margin.

The month began with the Nats in San Francisco playing the last game of a three-game series with the Giants. They won the game and took the series two games to one. Their next series, against the Rockies in Denver, began with a 10–2 win. Over four games, they had scored 38 runs—quite a change from the quiet bats that had characterized the Nats’ offense during April. The burst of offense, of course, did not last. The Nats lost the next two games to the Rockies, then lost two of three to the Angels in Anaheim. The final game was a heartbreaker, in which the Nats entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4–2 lead but were walked off by former Nat, Anthony Rendon. The team had a 4–5 record on the road trip.

Returning to Washington, the Nats faced the Mets and played respectably but lost the series two games to one. Their next series was their first against the Astros since the 2019 World Series. Alas, these Nats don’t much resemble their 2019 version. The Nats lost to the Astros two games to one, but managed to score 13–6 in their one victory in the series.

The next week was spent on the road. The Nats lost two of three games against the Marlins, only managing to score 6 runs. They also lost two of three against the Brewers, for a 2–4 road trip.

Home again, the Nats faced the Dodgers and lost the first game 10–1. They also lost the second game, but won the finale 1–0 in a rare game in which the pitching and defense were all pretty flawless. They next faced the Rockies for four games. They won the first game, and the second was postponed due to weather, resulting in a double header the next day. The Nats won the opener of the doubleheader, giving them a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. They lost a close game in the the nightcap, but came back to win another close game the next day. Winning the series three games to one, it was their first series win in four weeks. Ending the home stand with a 4–3 record, it was their first one with a winning record this season.

On the next day, Memorial Day, the Nats were in New York, where they lost the first of a three-game set against the Mets. The month ended with the next game, which the Nats lost 10–0, a suitable reminder of how far the team has fallen.

There was a mix of good and bad news about pitchers trying to return from injuries. Stephen Strasburg made a couple of successful rehab starts and appears to be on track to return to the rotation in a week or two. The rehab attempt by Joe Ross, however, did not go so well, and he had to go for his second Tommy John surgery.

A couple of relief pitchers debuted with the Nats this month. Carl Edwards, Jr. is best known as a reliever for the Cubs from 2015 to 2019, and bounced between the Braves, the Blue Jays, and various minor league teams last season. He signed a minor league contract with the Nats and was promoted on May 10. Jordan Weems, a 29-year old journeyman who pitched for Oakland and Arizona last season, also signed a minor league contract and was promoted on May 31.

Record:

11–17 (.393)

Pythagorean Record:

11–17 (4.36 R/G – 5.50 RA/G)

May MVP:

Keibert Ruiz (.307/.402/.440, 1 HR, 12 R, 8 RBI, 140 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR), with runner-up Cesar Hernandez (.304/.376/.384, 18 R, 8 RBI, 117 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). One of the few bright spots of this season is watching Ruiz develop into an above-average MLB catcher.

Pitcher of the month:

Erick Fedde (2–2, 3.72 RA/9, 6 GS, 29 IP, 7.1 K/9, .346 opp OBP, 0.7 RA9-WAR). He had a really tough outing in his last start of the month, getting knocked out by the Mets after 1⅓ innings, but his month overall was pretty good.

Reliever of the month:

Paolo Espino (0–0, 1.42 RA/9, 10 G, 12⅔ IP, 4.3 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, .224 opp OBP, 4.16 RE24, 0.3 RA9-WAR, 0 shutdowns, 0 meltdowns). Espino isn’t ever going to be a relief ace, but there’s still a lot to be said for someone who almost never walks anyone. The weird thing is that the Nats this year have literally never used him in a high leverage situation. If you prefer your best reliever to be someone who sometimes pitches in meaningful situations, Carl Edwards, Jr. (0–1, 2.25 RA/9, 10 G, 12 IP, 9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .227 opp OBP, 3.78 RE24, 0.3 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 1 meltdown) gets the nod.

Worst month:

This one is shared by two pitchers, a starter and a reliever, who each ended the month designated for assignment:

  • Aaron Sanchez (2–2, 9.41 RA/9, 5 GS, 22 IP, 4.5 K/9, .422 opp OBP, –0.7 RA9-WAR)
  • Austin Voth (0–0, 15.00 RA/9, 9 G, 9 IP, 7.0 K/9, .479 opp OBP, –9.12 RE24, –0.7 RA9-WAR), had pitched for the Nats since 2018 before being designated for assignment.

Best start this month:

A tie between:

  • Josiah Gray (May 1, 11–5 win over the Giants in San Francisco) pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit and 4 walks and striking out 3 for a game score of 69. He left the game with an 8–0 lead, which fortunately was enough for the Nats to win despite a sorry bullpen.
  • Erick Fedde (May 25, 1–0 win over the Dodgers at home) pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk and striking out 6 for a game score of 69. With only one run of offensive support, both Fedde and the bullpen had to be perfect.

Worst start:

Erick Fedde (May 30, 13–5 loss to the Mets in New York) gave up 6 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk in 1⅓ innings with no strikeouts for a game score of 13.

Tough losses:

  • Patrick Corbin (May 4, 5–2 loss to the Rockies in Denver) pitched an 8 inning complete game and gave up 5 runs (only 3 of which were earned) with a game score of 51.
  • Joan Adon (May 6, 3–0 loss to the Angels in Anaheim) gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in 5 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 50.
  • Joan Adon (May 17, 5–1 loss to the Marlins in Miami) gave up 1 run on 5 hits in 4⅔ innings, for a game score of 52.
  • Erick Fedde (May 20, 7–0 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee) gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in 5⅔ innings, for a game score of 54.

Cheap wins:

  • Josiah Gray (May 7, 7–3 win over the Angels in Anaheim) gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 5⅓ innings, while striking out 3, for a game score of 47.
  • Aaron Sanchez (May 11, 8–3 win over the Mets at home) gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in 5⅓ innings, while striking out 1, for a game score of 45.
  • Aaron Sanchez (May 22, 8–2 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee) gave up 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings, while striking out 1, for a game score of 44.
  • Patrick Corbin (May 26, 7–3 win over the Rockies at home) gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 6⅓ innings, while striking out 3, for a game score of 48.

Best shutdown:

Tanner Rainey (May 29, 6–5 win over the Rockies at home). The Nats had led 6–1 after six, but Andres Machado and Kyle Finnegan had given up four runs in the next 1⅓ innings. Rainey got the call with one out in the top of the eighth, runners on first and third, and the Nats leading 6–5. He struck out Elias Diaz and Charlie Blackmon to get out of the eighth without further damage. Rainey returned in the ninth and retired the Rockies’ two, three, and four hitters on a grounder, a strikeout, and a foul pop fly, earning a five-out save. (Win probability added/WPA +.445)

Worst meltdown:

Tanner Rainey (May 8, 5–4 loss to the Angels in Anaheim). The Nats were ahead 4–2 when Rainey got the call to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out the first batter, then gave up a walk and a single, bringing Trout to the plate. Rainey struck him out for the second out, but then Ohtani tied the game with a double to deep left-center field. Rendon followed with a single that scored Ohtani and walked off the Nationals. (WPA –.918)

Clutch hit:

Yadiel Hernandez (May 14, 13–6 win over the Astros at home). The Nats were leading 1–0 when Hernandez came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the third and runners on first and second. Hernandez launched one into the Nats’ bullpen, putting the Nats ahead 4–0. (WPA +.219)

Choke:

Juan Soto (May 5, 9–7 loss to the Rockies in Denver). With no outs in the top of the ninth, Josh Bell had doubled, scoring a run and advancing Soto to third. The Nats were trailing 4–3, and Yadiel Hernandez was at bat. The Rockies catcher, Dom Nunez, fired to third, picking off Soto (WPA –.161). Hernandez, of course, then singled and advanced Bell to third, but Soto’s carelessness on the bases had cost the Nats at least one run. The next batter grounded into a double-play, ending the potential rally.

Cool fielding play:

On May 20, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Josh Bell combined for a triple play against the Brewers. It was the second one turned in Nationals’ history, with the first having been made by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon on July 29, 2016.

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