May 23, 2015
Two high-profile San Diegans (h/t Ron Burgundy) took the mound on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Washington D.C. Stephen Strasburg had mighty impressive numbers in his last nine starts against the Phillies (5-0, 1.02 ERA, 76 K, 9 BB), but that run came to a screeching halt today.
Instead, Cole Hamels and the Phillies offense were today’s story in a 8-1 victory. Here’s what I saw:
1. Cole Hamels’ great record when the Phillies can muster three runs in support of him is well documented, and he received far more than that today. As to be expected, he didn’t need nearly the eight runs he got. The Phillies’ ace especially had his changeup working against the Nats’ lineup.
2. Ian Desmond broke up the shutout in the eight inning with a double on one of the only hard hit balls that Hamels allowed all day. Despite the late hiccup, this was an excellent performance by Hamels to hold that National League’s highest-scoring offense to one run in eight innings. Next time, I will call on some of my basketball work and have a dumb Photoshop ready that signifies if his trade value went up or down in the start. The people want instant analysis on every start!
3. (His trade value went UP today, in case you were wondering.)
1. After cruising the first time through the lineup, Strasburg found some trouble as the Phillies hung a four-spot on him in the third inning. They manufactured the first run, starting with a Ben Revere walk and a well-placed double down the left-field line by birthday boy Cesar Hernandez (he’s 25). With only one out and the Nats conceding the run, Chase Utley grounded out to third, plating Revere.
2. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: Utley is still well below the Mendoza Line, but he’s now 10-for-11 in getting the runner in from third base with less than two outs. The MLB average in those situations is 55 percent.
3. Then the big boys piled on with two outs. First, the still-surging Ryan Howard (average: .268) doubled into the right-field corner, scoring Utley. Next, Maikel Franco showcased some of the power that has people projecting him as a middle-of-the-order mainstay. He smoked a Strasburg fastball the other way to right-center field for a loonnggg oppo boppo.
4. Interesting decision to throw the fastball by Strasburg with an 0-2 count. The previous at-bat, he got the youthfully eager Franco to chase on a filthy breaking ball outside of the zone. He definitely didn’t miss that pitch right over the heart of the plate in his next at-bat.
5. Strasburg wasn’t long for this game. In the fourth inning, the bottom of the order (including Hamels) chased him with the help of some terrible Nats defense. He gave up six runs (five earned) in 3.1 innings and his ERA now sits at 6.50. Washington committed four errors and the only thing that kept the number that low was a generous home scorer.
6. Howard deserves all of the fire emojis. The Big Piece added to the damage with a blast to center off reliever A.J. Cole to make the score 7-0. Remember all of the stories early in the year when he was struggling and getting booed? That seems like years ago with the way Howard is swinging the bat right now. He finished a triple short of the cycle:
Ryan Howard hitting .308 last 30 games with 10 HR, 21 RBIs. Has 18 extra-base hits. Slugging .673.— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) May 23, 2015
7. Hernandez has been a pleasant surprise, but he made a pretty bad mistake on the basepaths: Hernandez completely missed first base after hitting a gapper, stopped and looked back at first base while making it the most obvious mistake ever, and then kept on chugging toward second. The Nats appealed and he was predictably ruled out. Once you stop like that, you have to retreat to the bag. The good news is that on a day like today, everyone can laugh about a play like that.
1. Justin De Fratus worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
1. Yunel Escobar’s double in the sixth inning was wrongly (bafflingly, actually) scored a hit in his home stadium, but Maikel Franco really booted another routine grounder at third base. On balance, his glovework hasn’t been great since getting called up.
In a similar fashion to the 2011 Phillies, you don’t face many no-names in this Nationals rotation. First Scherzer, then Strasburg, and finally the Phillies will have to deal with Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.94 ERA). The Phillies traded Gonzalez when he was in the minors along with Gavin Floyd in exchange for Freddy Garcia #shouldhavekept.
Like Strasburg, Gonzalez hasn’t pitched up to usual standards so far this season. He’ll face Aaron Harang (4-3, 1.82 ERA), who is coming off a loss in Colorado. Speaking of Harang, I recommend this Jonah Keri feature on how the right-hander credits not throwing too many pitches as a kid as a reason for his longevity. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 tomorrow.