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October 8, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ September/October in review: ‘Starting pitching has to be better than it is’

The Nationals entered September facing a daunting schedule. With 32 games left to play before the season’s scheduled end on October 5, 25 of them were against teams still in playoff contention. Furthermore, 6 of the 7 games to be played against teams that were not in contention would be against the Marlins, against whom the Nats held a 1–12 record. Furthermore, 25 of their 32 remaining games would be against National League East rivals, against whom the Nats had a 9–42 record. Fangraphs rated their strength-of-schedule for the rest of the season as the second most difficult in the majors.

Their record for September and October, 11–21, was not good—their .344 winning percentage ranked 27th among the 30 teams. But for the Nats it marked a slight improvement from their .338 winning percentage entering the month, and considering their tough schedule, it felt like the team’s fortunes were looking up a bit after a truly sad July and August. Their season did end on a sour note, though, with the Nats enduring blowout losses in four of their last five games. The Nats finished with a 55–107 record, the worst in baseball and the worst in the Nationals’ 18-year history.

The month began with the Nats at home, playing the final game of a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. The Nats won the ten-inning game, giving them their first walk-off win of the season and a series victory of two games to one. The home stand ended with a 3–3 record.

Next came a road trip to face the Mets, Cardinals, and Phillies. In New York, the Nats won the Mets series, two games to one. Moving to St. Louis for a four-game series with the Cardinals, the Nats won the first and last games, splitting the series. They could have won the third game and the series if they hadn’t blown a 4-run lead in the ninth inning. The final game marked the 324th game that Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina had played together as battery mates, tying the all-time record. Keibert Ruiz went on the injured list and was out for the rest of the season. The Nats ended their road trip in Philadelphia, where they were swept in a three-game series against the Phillies, giving them a record of 4–6 on the trip.

Their next home stand began with two games against the Orioles. The O’s won both games. They then faced the Marlins, and won the first two before dropping the finale, giving them a 2–3 record for the home stand. After their second victory against the Marlins, their record over the previous 16 games was 8–8, and they had scored 80 runs and allowed 68 during the span. But the rest of the month wouldn’t go as well.

They headed south on their next road trip to face the Braves and the Marlins. With the Braves trailing the NL East leading Mets by a single game, the Nats were hoping to play spoiler, but the Braves took the series, two games to one. The Nats also fell to the Marlins, two games to one, for a 2–4 road trip.

Back in Washington for their final home stand, the Nats again faced the Braves for three games, followed by four games scheduled in three days against the Phillies. The Nats had avoided blowout losses so far in September, but that ended with the first two games of the Braves series, with the Nats losing 8–0 and 8–2. They managed to come back and win the finale 3 to 2 in 10 innings.

Against the Phillies, the Nats were scheduled to play Friday night, a doubleheader on Saturday, and an afternoon game on Sunday. But the remnants of Hurricane Ian were headed toward Washington, with rain forecast to begin on Friday evening and lasting through the weekend. One game of the Saturday doubleheader was moved up to Friday afternoon. The Nats lost, as the Phillies stole bases easily while the Nats were thrown out on the bases. (An article about the game at Fangraphs by Ben Clemens documented the Nats’ sloppy play.) The Friday evening game was washed out, but the Nats and Phillies managed to play two games on Saturday and another on Sunday through light to medium rain, wind, and generally sloppy conditions. The last three games were all blowouts, with the Nats winning the first, 13 to 4, and losing the others 8–2 and 8–1.

The final series was against the Mets in New York City. The Mets had just been swept by the Braves, leaving them two games out. They still had a small chance of winning the division, but they would need to sweep the Nats without the Braves winning any of their games against the Marlins. The bad weather followed the Nats to New York, and Monday’s game was rescheduled for a Tuesday doubleheader. The Mets swept the three-game series, including 8–0 and 9–2 blowouts in the final two games of the season. But the Mets were unable to win the division title, as the Braves managed to win one of their two games against the Marlins. The Mets and Braves ended the season tied, but the Braves held the tie breaker with their 10–9 record in head to head games. The Nats finished the season 46 games behind and with a 5-game losing streak. They also set the record for the divisional play era for the lowest winning percentage against divisional rivals, with a 17–59 (.224) record.

There were only a few significant roster moves made in September. Jake McGee was designated for assignment and released. Israel Pineda, a 22-year old Venezuelan catcher from the Nats system, was called up after Ruiz’s injury and made his major league debut. Tommy Romero, whom the Nats had picked up on waivers from the Rays, made one start—giving up 8 runs in 3⅔ innings in one of those end-of-season blowout losses against the Phillies. Nelson Cruz didn’t go on the injured list, but his last game was September 13, as he battled with an eye problem. That allowed Luke Voit to become the DH and Joey Meneses to move to first base, which improved the team’s defense.

While the Nat’s defense was still sometimes sloppy, the defensive talent was much better than it had been earlier in the season. The offense, however, was weak. Nats batters avoided strikeouts and hit for a good average (.255 in September/October, which was second in the NL), but their 26 home runs in the month ranked 14th in the NL. Relief pitching was a strength, with the Nats’ relievers posting a 2.74 ERA in the month, 3rd in the NL. But the starting pitching was their Achilles heel. The starters’ 6.22 ERA in the month ranked last in MLB.


11–21 (.344)

Pythagorean Record:

12–20 (3.69 R/G – 4.81 RA/G)

September/October MVP:

Joey Meneses (.318/.366/.543, 7 HR, 17 R, 23 RBI, 148 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). While it remains unclear whether the 30-year old rookie will have an important long-term role on the team, his amazing first two months in the majors have been really delightful to watch. Over the span since his August 2 debut, he ranks second in the National League is batting average, third in slugging, tied for third in home runs, and fourth in weighted runs created (wRC+). If he had delivered this performance on a contending team, I think it would have been a big national story.

Pitcher of the month:

Anibal Sanchez (3–1, 2.74 RA/9, 5 GS, 23 IP, 6.3 K/9, .289 opp OBP, 0.8 RA9-WAR). While he doesn’t go deep into games, he was by far the most reliable of the Nats’ starters this month.

Reliever of the month:

Erasmo Ramirez (0–1, 3.00 RA/9, 12 G, 18 IP, 9.4 K/9, .229 opp OBP, 3.21 RE24, 2 shutdowns, 2 meltdowns, 0.3 RA9-WAR). The relievers were good as a whole, but no one had an especially dominant month, so this award could have gone to any of a half dozen Nats relievers.

Worst month:

Shared by Riley Adams (.155/.197/.310, 2 HR, 6 R, 4 RBI, 19 G, –0.6 fWAR) and Erick Fedde (1–4, 8.10 RA/9, 6 G, 26⅔ IP, 4.7 K/9, .397 opp OBP, –0.6 RA9-WAR).

Best start this month:

Patrick Corbin (September 3, 7–1 win over the Mets in New York) pitched 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk and striking out 5 for a game score of 71.

Worst start:

Erick Fedde (October 5, 9–2 loss to the Mets in New York in the final game of the year), who gave up 9 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 2⅓ innings, with 1 strikeout, for a game score of 2.

Tough loss:

  • Anibal Sanchez (September 18, 3–1 loss to the Marlins in Miami) gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 3, for a game score of 57. He had the bad luck to be facing Sandy Alcantara that afternoon, who pitched a complete game and gave up only 1 run.

Cheap win:

  • Anibal Sanchez (October 1, 13–4 win over the Phillies in the first game of a doubleheader at home) gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 44. It was the last Nationals win of the season.

Biggest shutdown:

Kyle Finnegan (September 28, 3–2 win over the Braves at home) came into the game in the top of the ninth with the score tied 2–2. He gave up a single, but got three outs on a grounder, a fly ball, and a strikeout. He came back for the tenth with the automatic runner on second and retired Acuna, Swanson, and Harris on a fly ball, a ground out, and a pop fly, without allowing a run (win probability added/WPA +.448). In the bottom of the tenth, CJ Abrams hit a walk-off single.

Worst meltdown:

Kyle Finnegan (September 7, 6–5 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis). The Nats were ahead 5–1 when Finnegan got the call to pitch the bottom of the ninth. He gave up a single to Donovan, followed by a walk to Goldschmidt and a double to Arenado—still no outs and it was now 5–2. A groundout by Dickerson scored another runner and advanced Arenado to third—it was now one out and 5–3. A walk to O’Neill and a strikeout by Gorman, and there were two outs with the score still 5–3. Molina hit a line drive single to left, making it 5–4. Finally, Edman drove a fly ball to left field just off Alex Call‘s glove, and the Cardinals won. Finnegan faced 8 batters and got 2 outs, while surrendering 5 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks. (WPA –.985) This was the worst meltdown by a Nats reliever in the twelve years I’ve been doing this blog.

Clutch hit:

Joey Meneses (September 1, 7–5 win over the Athletics at home in 10 innings). After nine innings, the game was tied at 3 runs apiece. The A’s then scored two in the top of the tenth to take a 5–3 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Keibert Ruiz hit a one-out single to drive in the automatic runner. After a strikeout and a walk, Meneses came to bat with two outs, runners on first and second, and the Nats trailing 5–4. He slugged a 2–2 pitch over the out-of-town scoreboard for the Nats’ first walk-off win of the season. (WPA +.828)


Luke Voit (September 20, 3–2 loss to the Braves in Atlanta). Trailing 3–1 in the top of the ninth and facing Braves closer Kenley Jansen, the Nats staged a little rally with two bunt singles and an RBI groundball single around two strikeouts. With the Braves’ lead down to 3–2 and runners on second and third, they issued an intentional pass to Joey Meneses to load the bases, bringing Voit to the plate. He launched a flyball to deep center field, but it fell short of the track and ended the game. (WPA –.233)

Memorable hits:

Memorable fielding plays:

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