There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie. The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.
REVIEW Cincinnati Reds Series
It might have slipped the notice of Nationals fans in the fervor of this offseason, but the Cincinnati Reds were also an excellent team in 2012. They also got better this year. In fact, the Reds might have a more mature lineup, not quite the starting pitching, and maybe (probably) a better bullpen than the Nationals. They too added a killer lead-off CF in Shin Choo-Shoo and have a pretty awesome second year player in Todd Frazier. The Nats took 6 of 8 games against the Reds last year, so perhaps we all glossed over the fact that they finished with 97 wins last year-just behind the Nationals.
Well the Reds made sure the Nationals sat up and noticed this week. In what was the drubbing of their short life time, the Nationals got destroyed by the Reds 15-0 on Friday night. They did come back to win a nail-biter on Saturday 7-6, but dropped the battle of Aces on Sunday 6-3.
I wish we hadn’t had such car trouble on Friday because I really, truly, honestly was going to say that winning 1 game out of three would be acceptable for this weekend. The Reds are also a team that can win the World Series and I think stepping out of the sauna that was the Marlins series and jumping right into the ice water that was the Reds series probably gave everyone a little shock. The day off, frankly, couldn’t have come at a better time.
So What Happened? It can’t be understated that the Nationals ran into a very good Reds team. I’m taking anything away from the Reds. That said, the strike zone all weekend was very hight for the pitchers-and that didn’t help Dan Haren’s cause at all. Leaving the ball up in the strike zone is going to cost you-and in a park where you can get a home run at pop fly distance such as Great American, it is really going to hurt you.
It would be far too easy to pin this all on pitching though. The Nationals committed 6 errors over the weekend (three by Desmond alone) and had a number of miscuses that didn’t count as errors in the field, but still cost them.
And again, the Reds are great. Homer Bailey got a bit lucky and was a bit good on Friday night, and the line-up hit the Nationals all weekend (There were only two 1-2-3 innings for the Nationals: Tyler Clippard on Saturday and HRod on Sunday).
Lost in the Shuffle: Denard Span has been everything the Nats were hoping for. Despite an 0-6 Saturday, he still drew four walks and got 2 hits in the other two games. Overall he has 5 hits and 7 walks, 4 of which (if Charlie and Dave are right) started as 0-2 counts.
Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos are making the 8 spot a dangerous spot for opposing pitchers. They have 7 hits and 3 home runs in 6 games between them. Danny Espinosa finally hit a few balls this weekend too, and has struck out only 3 times-which (with an admittedly small sample size) puts him on pace to dramatically cut down his Ks.
Ross Detwiler looked strong, giving up just one unearned run in 6 innings. He’ll continue to be the Nationals secret weapon every 5th day, totally overmatching whoever he is up against.
The extensive use of the Bullpen in the Friday and Saturday games probably cost the Nationals a better chance to win on Sunday. In the top of the 6th inning, Stephen Strasburg came up with two on and two out-a pretty good spot, actually, to bring in a pinch hitter. Unfortunately, Davey Johnson felt he needed to squeeze at least on more inning out of Strasburg-largely because few relievers were left unused over the last two days. The Nats failed to score runs, and Strasburg was up in the 110s in pitches before being pulled after 6 runs.
PREVIEW CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The Nationals should go back to having the advantage over a weaker opponent this series, though not nearly to the extent that they did against the Marlins. The White Sox are a good team and nearly won the AL Central last year-but they don’t have the firepower across the board the Nationals do. A championship caliber team like the Nationals should win this series.
Who To Look For: It will be interesting to see just how the White Sox (4-2) adapt their AL roster to accomodate the NL’s no DH rule. Ex-Nat Adam Dunn is the bigger bat than Paul Konerko but he isn’t as good a fielder (or pure hitter). Alex Rios is a great hitter in the outfield.
Jake Peavy is a good pitcher and could give the Nationals trouble. Gavin Floyd less so. In both cases, I think the Nationals have the edge throwing Gio and Jordan out there. The wild card in the pitching matchup will be Dan Haren v. Dylan Axelrod. Haren is coming off a truly awful start against the Reds, and Axelrod is a bit of an unknown quantity as he’s only pitched about 5 games in the MLB so far. He gave up 3 hits and no runs earlier this year-so the Nats might run into a tough pitcher in game 3, and one they don’t know a lot about.
Still-the Nationals are going to want to have another series under their belt before the Braves get to town Friday. Like the Reds, the Braves are no joke-and having a few more curly Ws will likely be helpful for morale.