Max Scherzer pitched another great game yesterday in the Nationals’ 18-inning 2-1 loss to the Pirates. Scherzer has been absolutely dominant since that 20-K game he threw in early May- In the 90+ innings since that game, Max has a 2.16 ERA and more than 12 strikeouts per 9 innings. In other words, there are no longer any questions at all about Max Scherzer being the ace pitcher that we have seen in the past. Come the offseason, April will be regarded as nothing more than a bad and uncharacteristic month nestled into another phenomenal season.
Offensively, we just couldn’t put it together and the team muscled out only 8 hits over the course of what could’ve been 2 full games. Part of the culprit is another not-superstar-like performance from Bryce Harper. In the past 3 months (78 games, since April 18th), Bryce has not looked like the MVP that he was last season. His .237 average in that span is nearly 100 points behind the .330 he hit over all of last year and while the 13 blasts aren’t necessarily disappointing, you’d expect more out of someone who led the league with 42 last year.
Trea Turner, who led off and played 2nd because of Daniel Murphy’s lingering hamstring issue, started off pretty poorly and struck out looking in the 3rd and struck out swinging in the 6th, the 9th, and the 11th but redeemed himself somewhat with a single and a heads-up steal in the 14th and a lead-off hit that could’ve started something in the 17th until he got mowed down trying to stretch it into a double. While the attempt in the 17th didn’t work out (and would rarely work out in the majors), it does show the type of aggressiveness that I like to see from young players and, if it had worked out, we would be talking about how he is a genius right now. The guy that Turner replaced, Daniel Murphy, had another productive day at the plate despite only getting a single at bat. Murphy’s homer in the bottom of the 9th spun the game into a deadlock and ensured that the Nats would not be shutout. When Murphy does return, which is probably Tuesday, he’ll have a 3 game homer streak (he has 4 homers in his past 5 games) and a 5 game RBI streak to try to maintain.
After the game, the Nats called up prospect Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez, a 22 year old who signed out of the Dominican for just $17,000, can throw the ball HARD. He has been a starting pitcher throughout his minor league career and would work in the mid-90s but can touch 100. There have been a few questions about whether Lopez can start long term and ESPN’s Keith Law argues that his delivery is not one that would work out for a Major League starter for the long haul. Lopez assuaged (that’s right, I just used ‘assuage,’ not a big deal actually because I’ve used it a plethora of times but whatever) a lot of concerns when he struck out an almost unfathomable 56 batters in just 25.2 innings over the course of 5 starts (though one start was only 2 IP).
I love the fact that Lopez is up now because once the rotation is fully healthy, he could immediately develop into a valuable asset in the ‘pen (and revisit starting next season). Plus the fact that he is in the majors for a couple weeks before the trade deadline means the Nats should have a pretty clear view as to whether they should consider going hard for a relief acquisition or if Rizzo should put that on the backburner and use his assets in a trade for a 1st baseman. Lopez will be starting Tuesday’s game but I think the Nationals would agree that the youngster’s real value will be in the major league bullpen for 2016.