The Nationals’ series against the San Diego Padres cost them a lot. The bullpen struggled in the Friday game, and the Nats lost a one-run game in 12 innings. Bryce Harper jammed his thumb and left the game in the 11-1 win, but then the Nats only scored 6 runs in the next two games, winning only one of them. He will be on the DL until July now! San Diego isn’t a very good team at all! This was a good chance to put a few Curly W’s in the win column.
Luckily, the Nats have a light week, as they go to Houston and Philadelphia. They had Monday off and they rest on Thursday too between the series. This series, the Nationals will also welcome back Ryan Mattheus to their bullpen. I’m a fan of his.
The Houston Astros’ last series against the Nationals was in August 2012, when the Nats visited Minute Maid Park when the Astros were a National League team. In that series, Gio Gonzalez hit his first MLB homer and Roger Bernadina made his unforgettable game-saving catch in left that sparked Michael Morse to dub Bernadina “The Shark.” Nowadays, the team is a part of the American League West division and its Trans-Texas rivals, the Rangers, who play in Dallas, are in the same league and division than Houston. Former Nats 3rd base coach Bo Porter is on Houston as their manager. As the Nats get ready to play Houston at 8:00 PM tomorrow and Wednesday, let’s see what Houston has in store for us.
Scouting the Astros The Astros are at the bottom of the AL West Division, and the whole American League. They have won more games than only the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks. Take a look at Houston’s roster and only the true fan will recognize more than 3 names on the list. But the players you may have heard of, like Jose Altuve and former Nats call-up Brad Peacock, are pretty good. They have managed to win 9 games of the 26 they have already played. They face off this week against the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday and Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday. Luckily for them, Gio will not be batting, as the DH rule is in effect.
As for the Official Matt’s Bats Twitter hastag for this series, I was thinking #BlastTheAstros or #SmashTheStros. Tweet me at @MattsBats using the one you like best.
April 29- 8:05 PM- Gio Gonzalez vs. Jarred Cosart
April 30- 8:05 PM- Jordan Zimmermann vs. Brett Oberholtzer
Coming into the series against the Angels, I felt satisfied that the Nats would do well against them. The Angels didn’t have the best record. On Tuesday, when Albert Pujols hit a duo of homers, one being his 500th big fly, my feelinsg changed. I felt that the Angels, who look great on paper but stink in real life, would win this series.
Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche did help the Nats take game 3 on a 9th inning rally. The last game of every series this homestand have all ended on walk-offs. In fact, 3 of the 4 home series this season have been decided by one run, the Nats beating the Braves 2-1, beating STL 3-2, and of course, the 5-4 win over Los Angeles last night.
Now that the tough series loss to the Angels is over with, we have found ourselves playing a team the Nats should be able to beat, the San Diego Padres. I have already made a reservation to go to San Diego this summer, and we are planning to go to a game at Petco Park against the Cardinals. But that is still very far away. So let’s talk about this series in DC.
The Bottom Line for Nats Fans: Nothing seems to be going well for the Padres. San Diego has been very bad this season. This is a chance for the Nats to sweep a four game series. The Nats are currently 2.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East. This is a chance to pull ahead, especially since the Braves are not playing tonight. The Nats then play 2 games against the Houston Astros, another bad team. Then they play Philadelphia. So, this could be the start of a nice winning streak!
As many of you know, I spent my Spring Break in the world of sunshine and sunburns (sunscreen failure) called South Florida. I got to spend alot of time chillaxing during my break at the beach, seeing family, and doing other fun things.
The highlight of my trip was going to the Marlins-Nationals baseball game on Wednesday April 16th at Marlins Park. Let me just say this:
It was one of the best baseball experiences I have had in my whole life!
It was great seeing the Nats on the road for the first time (other than up the road in Baltimore) and going to a game with my cousins. Dan Saucier in the Marlins ticket office helped us get some of the best seats in Marlins Park. You can see our view from our seats in the picture at the top. We sat in Section 11 in the lower level behind home plate, just a little bit down the first base line. The first base side is the visitors side at Marlins Park, and we saw A LOT of Nationals fans at the game.
Since we had batting practice passes, we needed to get to Marlins Park REALLY early. We soon realized that we got to the park around the same time as the players! Just as we approached the stadium, a custom white GT with the license plate “JDF16,” appeared out of the blue skyline of Little Havana. It was Jose Fernandez, 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and the Marlins starting pitcher that day! Who else would have a Marlins license plate JDF16? I was so surprised to see him that I was reluctant to wave to him, but when Dad finally did, I did too, and he waved back at us. How cool is that? He pulled into the players parking lot, which is very close to the 3rd base parking garage where we parked.
We pulled into the 3rd Base Garage on 12th Street, and passing by the letters from the old Orange Bowl.
We went to the media gate so we could get our field credentials. Soon after we were on the field, we saw some familiar people from back home in DC, like Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo, Dan Kolko, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler walk out of the dugout area. Dave Jageler came over to say hi and we talked for a while about Jose Fernandez (who was pitching that night and had never lost a game a Marlins Park) and Zach Walters (who once broke up a Fernandez no-hitter and who just got his first career home run the night before). F.P. came over and talked for a while too before he had to get ready for the game.
When we entered the field, I saw thousands of empty seats and Adeiny Hechavarria taking BP. It was awesome to see him. It got even better later that group, when Giancarlo Stanton started taking his swings. He can really hit a long ball! When Stanton was done taking his swings, he talked to Marlins owner Jeffery Loria and then he signed some autographs. I got an autograph on the sweet spot of a ball!
I also took a few pics of the fishies in the tank behind home plate. There were a lot of fish and a lot of coral in the tanks. It was really cool to see up close.
The Marlins soon left the field and most of the fans crowded around the Miami dugout for autographs of the Marlins players. I stayed near home plate, though, to yell and say hi to the Nats guys. I watched Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon take BP and hit the fish statue and hit into section 34, which is exactly 502 feet from home plate. Jayson Werth hit one to deep center as well. I called out to Desi while he was in the dugout, and he said “How are you doing, Matt?” and I replied “Good!” It was nice saying hi to Ian, and the other fans were stunned that he replied back. A couple of the Nats players interacted the with me and the other fans, like Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth.
When Kevin Frandsen was in the cage, he hit a ball that somehow came screaming towards us. It nailed my younger brother in the leg. Everyone thought he would be injured, but he was totally fine. Kevin finished his turn up to the plate, and he came over apologized to my brother with a fist bump. How nice is that? I also spotted Frandsen check on his leg after his next turn at the plate just to be sure. Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu came over with a couple of balls for us as a gift. (We got a bunch of balls on the field that night, and we even game away some to people who didn’t get any). I got one autographed by Adam LaRoche, because he is one of the few Nationals players I have never gotten a signature from. (From the usual starters, I think Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span are the only other ones).
One of the highlights of the night was doing a short interview with Zach Walters.
I asked him how it felt to hit his first home run at Marlins Park the night before. “It was a great experience. I wish it didn’t come with a loss, but it is definitely something I will remember forever,” he said. I asked him why he thought he always gets big hits in Marlins Park, and he said, “there’s so much green. I think it makes it easier to see the ball here.” He said that facing Fernandez again after he broke up his no-hitter last time, he just “wanted to put the ball in play again.” And he did! He put it in play and over the left field wall for a home run later in the game!
I then talked to Gio Gonzalez a little bit and told him I would help him raise attendance for his comedy night.
I also got a quick picture with Anthony Rendon and his very special hat.
Pretty soon, though, the game was starting and we found our seats. We were all able to change into Nats jerseys for the game, since you aren’t allowed to wear opposing team gear on the field.
We got free hot dogs as the promo “Kids Eat Free Wednesday Nights!” My dad got a Cuban sandwich.
The game started and Jose Fernandez and Tanner Roark were in a DUEL. Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich broke up that duel with a ginormous homer into right field that set off the fish statue into motion. My opinion is that the statue is even uglier in person moving then it is on ESPN or MLB Network. Even though they were up by 3, the Marlins would not keep the lead for long.
In the 6th inning, Jayson Werth took Jose Fernandez deep! Mike Redmond actually challenged the home run because it appeared to hit the railing in right. Redmond probably had a bad angle. It was ruled a home run, and it put the Nats on the board for 3.
Zach Walters led off the 8th, and new pitcher Mike Dunn “let it go” (get it….?) as he threw a pitch that Zach Walters hit onto the left field concourse. Two home runs in two nights for Mr. Walters, who sees the ball really well at Marlins Park!
Ian Desmond hit a 2 run single, which was the insurance the Nats needed. Rafael Soriano closed it up in the ninth to take the rubber game. The Nats won 6-3.
I had so much fun at the game. Marlins Park is really a great place to watch a game! There are lots of things to see there before or after the game. The Bobblehead Museum is cool and you can type in the names of players you are looking for to find their bobblehead, if there is one.
I really want to thank everyone from the Marlins for arranging such a great experience for me. If you ever have a chance to go to Miami, you should try to go watch a game at Marlins Park. It is a different experience than watching a game anywhere else I have been, especially when the roof is closed. There so many colors around the stadium. It is not a traditional ballpark, but that is kind of why you should see a different atmosphere.On Twitter, follow @Marlins (who followed me back), @MarlinsPark, @DSauceSports, and @ABuznego for great Marlins information.
I also want to thank Dave Jageler and F.P. Santangelo for always encouraging me. I also want to thank some of the players who interact with their fans, like Giancarlo Stanton, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, Adam LaRoche, Kevin Frandsen and Gio Gonzalez. It makes seeing them very special.
I will be traveling with my family this summer and seeing baseball on the road at a few more ballparks this summer. I can’t imagine that anything will come close to this experience. But keep reading Matt’s Bats for more!
The Nationals played well vs. the St. Louis Cardinals in this weekend’s 4-game series. As I predicted, they split series, winning 2 games apiece. The Cardinals won games 1 and 3, game 1 being a rout of Washington. The other games were closer. The Nats took games 2 and 4, game 4 being won on a walkoff (ha ha! The Nats always win Game 4 walk-offs against the Cardinals!) by Denard Span, who hit a liner out to LF Jon Jay and Espinosa scored on the sac fly. The Cardinals played ony 2 outfielders on the play and had 7 men in the infield.
That series, however, is a thing of the past, and we don’t have to worry about the Cardinals again until the 2nd weekend of June.
This week, the Nats start inter-league play, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who play not far from Disneyland, come into town for the first matchup in Major League play between slumping but still sweet-hitting outfielder Bryce Harper, and 5-tool face of the Angels, Mike Trout. Let’s see what the Halos have this year:
What Is Nice Like Sugar And Spice?: The Angels’ hitting has been sufficient for the first part of the 2o14 season, and if it can carry on for the rest of the season, the Angels can be a good offensive team. Mike Trout has already hit 5 homers, Albert Pujols has hit 6 dingers, and altogether, the Angels have hit exactly 30 homers, by almost all of their starters. But manager Mike Scioscia says that their secret weapon, DH Raul Ibanez, won’t be playing that much in this series.
What Isn’t Going Well 2 Blocks from Disneyland?: If you look at Los Angeles’s pitching rotation, the only famous names you will recognize are Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Weaver is not looking so much like an ace, but Wilson is doing better. He is 2-2. The Angels’ pitching record is 8-10. Washington is a good team. The Angels’ so-so pitching might mean a three game sweep.
What Washington Needs To Do To Sweep: The Nats need to be careful and maybe pitch around Mike Trout. Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, and Gio Gonzalez might be able to beat Los Angeles in pitching. My prediction is that this 3-game inter-league series will be kind of easy for the Nationals, but I don’t want to jinx anything.
But before I go, I’d like to ask you a question:
By the way, I have been working on my post about the Miami Marlins game I attended last week. There are so many pictures and stories that it is taking longer to write than I thought. It is coming soon and you will love it!
The Nats are headed back to DC to take on the Cardinals tonight after a not-so-good road trip. The Nats beat the Marlins in Miami, taking 2 games out of 3, but the series in Atlanta was no good at all.
As many of you know, I was lucky enough to go on the field to watch BP and talk to some players (including an interview with Zach Walters) and watch yesterday’s game, but you’ll read about that later in a special post. I want to give everyone at the Marlins a BIG THANK YOU for giving me this great experience.
Let’s look into the near future- the Nationals are in Washington playing the team from the Show Me State, and the land of the Gateway Arch and toasted ravioli, the St. Louis Cardinals. Luckily for Nats fans, the Cardinals optioned Pete Kozma to Triple-A Memphis. The key to the Nationals victory to get on the board early. Here is my scouting report for the 4-game Nationals-Cardinals series.
What’s Going Well for the Redbirds- Pitching this year for the Cardinals, just like last year, has been phenomenal. With Adam Wainwright leading the staff, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller making great 2-3 guys. Lance Lynn can be a bit unpredictable in the rotation, but with flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal and specialist Kevin Siegrist leading the ‘pen, the Cardinal pitching is absolutely fantastic.
What Isn’t Good About Them- This is really hard to say, but there are no flaws in Saint Louis’s lineup, pitching staff, or bench. You have to say, even the rookies and minor leaguers, Oscar “Minor League Guy” Taveras and Kolten Wong, are as strong as other teams such as the Nats, Cubs and Astros. Both Taveras and Wong will make great players one day, and when their prospects make it to the majors, watch out!
What Is The Key To The City- The key to the Nats winning is to jump out early and try to beat tough St. Louis pitching. Their hitting is also great, and Taylor Jordan and the other Nationals starters needs to get a good impression.
Here are my predictions for how the games will go:
I expect St. Louis to win 2 and Washington to win 2.
April 17, 7:05 PM EST, Adam Wainwright vs. Taylor Jordan (WAS wins)
April 18, 7:05 PM EST, Michael Wacha vs. Gio Gonzalez (STL wins)
April 19, 1:05 PM EST, Lance Lynn vs. Jordan Zimmermann (STL wins)
April 20, 1:35 PM EST, Shelby Miller vs. Stephen Strasburg (WAS wins)
I NEED HELP COMING UP WITH A HASHTAG AND IMAGE FOR THE GAME, SO HELP EVERYONE!
TWEET YOUR SUGGESTIONS TO ME @MATTSBATS.
I attended the Bethesda Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic for the 2nd year in a row on Saturday, April 12. It was a showdown between the athletes from pro sports teams such as the Washington Redskins, the Arizona Cardinals, the Maryland Terrapins, and the Washington Spirit, and the journalists who cover them from the Washington Post, 106.7 the Fan, Fox5 DC, and Redskins.com, for example. All of the money raised from the event goes to charity such as Lorenzo Alexander’s ACES fund, and a charity that builds and improve baseball fields for kids in the DC area. “What a turn out! The weather was great and we are raising money for a great cause, with proceeds benefitting the Big Train’s foundation that maintains and rebuilds baseball fields in the Washington, DC area ” said Big Train Asst. General Manager Bart Lambergman. It was so fun that I want to share some of my experiences from this game.
When we entered Shirley Povich Field at Cabin John Regional Park on Saturday night, I felt the spring breeze fly over me. It was a perfect night for baseball.
Before the game, I walked around the concourse where they had free food for fans from Buffalo Wild Wings and a bunch of activities. I saw an auction for autographed memorabilia by some of the Redskins players. They also had some inflatable games, like a pitching game where you can try to strike out Mike Trout. Because I was credentialed media for the game, the first thing I did was go on the field to interview players. I interviewed coach of the media team, Lorenzo Alexander, on the field. He has played in the Big Train Celebrity Classic in the past two years and said that he was going to try to play like his favorite Nationals player Bryce Harper. Here is a picture of me talking to Ryan Kerrigan.
I also said hi to Lindsay Murphy, the FOX5 sports anchor, and 106.7 radio host Grant Paulsen as they warmed up.
The game was full of excitement. It was especially exciting for me because I went upstairs to the press box to watch the game, which was REALLY fun. I sat next to the PA announcer and the man who makes the sound effects.
As soon as the game started, Lorenzo Alexander and Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg each smacked big flies over of the fence in the same inning. It was a slugfest from then on. The guys were hitting homers every inning. Sundberg actually did a feat that no one will probably ever do again. The long snapper hit the long ball 5 times in 6 at bats. Somebody call the Guinness World Records! He said after the game, “It was a great night. I was super happy to come out here for the charities involved and to be able to hit some home runs against the media.” He said he always bat clean up when he played baseball as a kid, and that’s why he was so effective in this game.
Unlike past year, the media kept the game close. The athletes would pull one run ahead and the media would tie it up the next inning. It went that way for he rest of the game, but in the 7th inning the athletes pulled ahead 13-7.
The media team came back, and Kevin Shafer of 106.7 The Fan radio actually hit a grand slam and came close to winning a Corvette. One of the game’s sponsors, MemberCar, put a bunch of fancy cars on the warning track and promised that if anyone hit a ball in the car they could keep it. Well, Shafer hit a long ball over the softball field boundaries all the way to the baseball field walls and HIT the yellow Corvette, making a big dent. I asked him about his grand slam after the game and if he won the car. Shafer said, “Here’s what he told me: he said that if I hit a ball in the Corvette, I get to keep the car. But it hit on top of it, so he’s not giving it to me. That’s depressing. I thought it went in the car.” So it looks like Shafer isn’t getting the Corvette to keep.
In the end, the athletes came away with another victory, winning 18-13.
The Celebrity game was so fun! If you haven’t been to a game, the Bethesda Big Train plays in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League in the summer. The team is made up of some of the best college baseball players in the country, including a bunch who have gone to the major leagues. Make sure to check out a game this summer! Go to www.BigTrain.org to learn more about them.
The series in Atlanta this weekend wasn’t very good. The Nationals got swept and Gio got clobbered on Sunday. That isn’t what you want to see in a series against your big rivals, or even against your smallest rivals.
I also don’t like to see Ryan Zimmernan go down for 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb, especially after he was VERY close to going on the DL last week for his shoulder but had a solid week this one. The Face of the Franchise shouldn’t be going down this early in the season.
After being beaten by the Braves, the Nationals are lucky to not to have to face them again until June 19.
So let’s talk about the games this week. The Nationals are playing in a popular state that is split into 2 time zones, about 4 big cities, sunny beaches, and spots for kids and adults alike to either high-five Mickey Mouse or put a parrot on your shoulder. The Miami Heat of the NBA are really good, but the rest of the Miami teams are not. Look at last season: Miami Dolphins (7-9), Florida Panthers (15-27), and most importantly,the Miami Marlins (62-100).
Miami baseball fans are crazy about Jose Fernandez, last year’s Rookie of the Year. Marlins Park fills up the days he pitches. The Nationals will play a three game series in Miami this week, facing Brad Hand today, Tom Koehler on Tuesday, and the series ends in a game I will be going to, which is Tanner Roark vs. Jose Fernandez. The Marlins’ pitching will possibly be a danger this week. But when the starters run out of gas, their weakness comes into play. The bullpen of Miami has only Steve Cishek at the rear of the ‘pen to show for, and the rest aren’t that good. For example, Mike Dunn gave up Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper monster bombs on 8/4/12 and gave up a solo, go-ahead shot to Chase Utley yesterday. Arquimedes Caminero gave up a grand salami to Ian Desmond on Wednesday last week, and Carlos Marmol gave up a grand slam to Jayson Werth the day before. Dan Jennings earned the loss this Saturday vs. Philadelphia.
It is sad that Ryan Zimmerman is out of the lineup, but Nationals fans should be happy to see call-up Zach Walters get some at-bats. As I wrote on Twitter yesterday:
Great @Zwalters02 called up in time for Miami road trip. Last time in Miami he broke up Fernandez’s no hitter. I’ll be there for the rematch
— Matt’s Bats (@MattsBats) April 13, 2014
I think the Nats will take 2 out of 3, with Jose Fernandez beating Roark on Wednesday, which sadly is the game I will be at. I still have hope, though! Look for me on the MASN HD broadcast.
Nice homestand for the Nationals! They swept the Marlins. On Wednesday, it was a come-from-behind win off a Jayson Werth grand slam. On Thursday, they won it on another Werth home run, a Desmond grand slam, and Strasburg’s 12 Ks. Starting the season 7-2 and winning 4 out of 6 on the homestand is really good!
The only problem is, though, that the team we lost 2 out of 3 against, the Atlanta Braves, host Washington in a 3 game weekend series in the Peach State. The Nats post Tanner Roark to square off with Julio Teheran on Friday; Taylor Jordan to face off with Alex Wood on Saturday, a rematch of last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Atlanta; and Gio Gonzalez to face Aaron Harang on the Sunday game. The Sunday game caps off the series in Atlanta and the Nats go to the sunny beaches in Miami.
The Nationals faced Teheran and Wood in the series last weekend, but in these games the Braves have Teheran and Wood back-to-back. This is an advantage for the Nationals Nats because the Nats have already seen Teheran and Wood a week before. On the other hand, the Braves did not face either Gonzalez or Roark on the last go-around, so they will be seeing their stuff for the first time this year.
Of course, Atlanta hitting is pretty good. But the Nats got through ATL last time without giving up many runs. The Nats pitching needs to be on its game to face the tough Braves hitting, and the bullpen has had a lot of work in the past days. We need our starters to go deep in the games and the offense to put up a lot of runs before having to face Craig Kimbrel.
Last time the Nats lost 2-1. The goal is to win the series, not even sweep. Coming off the sweep of Mets and Marlins, the Nats could be fine winning even 1 of 3.
But if the Nats pitching is solid and the offense produces great hits, the Nats could take 2 out of 3.
The Nationals just came off a tough weekend series loss to the Atlanta Braves at home. The Braves took the home opener 2-1 on a sac fly by Jason Heyward, after a controversial call on whether a ball hit by Ian Desmond down the left field line wall was an inside-the-park home run or a ground rule double. The Nats lost game two 6-2, despite Adam LaRoche’s giant home run into the third deck. The Nats, however, turned in a much-needed win against the Braves to cap off the series on Sunday, a 2-1 win behind Ian Desmond’s home run to break the tie.
But behind all of the Nats-Braves rivalry, the first place team in the NL East is neither of them. It is, instead, the Miami Marlins. The Marlins put together multiple wins vs. the Colorado Rockies, taking 3 out of 4 and the San Diego Padres, who lost 2 out of 3 to Miami. As the Nats get ready to play the Fish, here are a few things the Nats need to do to end up winning the series and possibly stealing the 1st place position.
After the Marlins series at home this week, the Nats go to Atlanta on Friday for a re-match against the Braves, and then head to Miami on Monday for 3 games. I will be attending the game at Marlins Park on Wed., April 16.
What is Going Well for the Marlins: Most people might think pitching is a weakness, but this year it has been pretty good. The Marlins have NL Rookie of the Year and ace pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez helped them get by the Padres and the Rockies, who at some times, can be a challenging team. In addition to Fernandez, the Marlins have a solid closer in Steve Cishek, as well as Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-no on the last game of the year last year. The three of them provide quality pitching on the Marlins’ OK pitching staff. Other positives are outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, who has some major bat power, and Marcell Ozuna, who has a cannon for an arm.
What Isn’t Going Well for the Marlins: The infield. Miami has 7 infielders on their roster, but the only names people may recognize are Adeiny Hechavarria and Garret Jones. The others may not be well known but they are veterans that have played for many MLB teams. 2B Donovan Solano is the brother of Nats catcher Jhonatan Solano, but the elder Solano plays in Syracuse as of now. Casey McGehee is a veteran 1B who was a Yankee in 2009 when they won the World Series, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a very long last name (the longest in MLB history) and a World Series ring from Boston last year. Still, this is not a powerhouse infield either offensively or defensively.
What The Nats Need To Do To Win: The Nats need to play like a team. The only real dangers on the Marlins are Fernandez (who is not pitching in this series) and Giancarlo Stanton (who is tough to face, but remember when Rafael Soriano struck him out looking on a pitch right down the middle on Opening Day 2013). So with the exceptions of Fernandez and Stanton, the Nats like they should be able to take the Marlins, maybe even sweep.
For Marlins fans, this is an important series to see how the team really is. They went 5-2 last week for the best record in the NL East, but they played the Rockies and Padres and the Marlins got home field advantage. Let’s see how they do facing a tough team on the road.
The Nats started the 2014 Opening Series with a sweep against the Mets. They come home to Washington for the home opener, with games against the Atlanta Braves on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in games 4 through 6 (which also happen to be on April 4-6).
Even though they are an NL East team, the Mets are not a big threat to the Nationals. The Atlanta Braves that are the Nats’ biggest rivals. The Braves gave the Nationals a lot of trouble last year and won the Division. Here is my scouting report of the Braves’ strengths, weaknesses in, and what the Nationals need to do to win.
What’s Going Well for the Braves? The Braves took 2 out of 3 in the Opening Series from the Brewers. One of their strengths this year, as opposed to the Nats, is catching. Nats starting catcher, Wilson Ramos, was injured Opening Day and will be out for at least a month. This is where the Braves have an advantage. Although former starter Brian McCann was traded to the Yankees, Evan Gattis provides a big bat in their lineup and plays some solid defense. (I have Evan Gattis as a bench player on my fantasy baseball team). The Braves also picked up former Twins backstop Ryan Doumit, who can also play 1B and OF, which is also what Gattis does. If the Braves have an injury in their outfield, Gattis could do the catching while Doumit plays LF, or the other way around.
What Are Some Shaky Things? The Braves’ lost most of of their key guys in their rotation, as Tim Hudson was shipped to San Francisco, and Brandon Beachy, Gavin Floyd, Cody Gearrin, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Jonny Venters landed on the Disabled List. Julio Teheran, who intentionally hit Bryce Harper last year, got the Opening Day nod and a loss. They picked up Ervin Santana at the last minute. But on Friday, David Hale is scheduled to take the mound.
The Nats’ pitching is much better. Even though the Braves are expected to face the back of the Nationals’ rotation, they skipped Jordan Zimmermann’s start on April 3, so he may make an appearance this weekend. Who gets the call for the Home Opener? Right now the Nationals’ website says “TBD.” Maybe Ross Detwiler (even though he pitched on Thursday) or another surprise.
What do the Nats need to do to sweep Atlanta? 🙂 As usual, the Nats need to be aware of Evan Gattis (“El Oso Blanco”), Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Craig Kimbrel. The Nationals have the back of the rotation on for this series, and the Braves middle of the lineup can be a horror. B.J. Upton is off to a slow start this year, and Andrelton Simmons (who I also have as a bench player in fantasy baseball) hasn’t made too much noise yet. The Braves are a good team and a big rival, so don’t expect a sweep. But taking 2 out of 3 would be great, and, really, just being competitive would be much better than last year.
One of my friends, William Melvin, is originally from Atlanta and is a Braves fan. I asked him what he thinks of his team this year. “I think the Braves will end up in 2nd place in the NL East. I think the Nationals are out to win, and the Braves are not as confident.” If a Braves fan is picking the Nats to win, that sounds good!