After the Nats took Friday night to give Stephen Strasburg a win in his first start in over a month, the team came back during the weekend to win a few more games against the Baltimore Orioles. They succeeded, taking Saturday’s matinee 12-9 thanks to an offensive explosion in the middle innings, and the Sunday game 6-5 off of a 4-run first inning. This means that the Nationals have pulled off their first series sweep of the season, and even though it did happen to be against the now 17-30 Orioles, a sweep is still a sweep nonetheless.
Here’s the stat lines for the weekend’s pitchers:
Jon Lester, 5/22:
4.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR, 5.33 ERA, No Decision
Patrick Corbin, 5/23:
W (3-3), 5.2 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 0 HR, 6.13 ERA
The Bad News:
It’s pretty shocking that the Nationals were able to win both of these games with those performances on the mound.
Jon Lester looked bad on Saturday afternoon, and there’s no way to spin it otherwise. Coughing up 5 runs in the first inning, 4 courtesy of a grand slam by rookie Ryan Mountcastle, it became apparent that Lester’s struggles last week in Chicago were not the product of emotion. He’s looking somewhat lost on the mound lately, and even though he was able to recover after his awful start on Saturday, he still only lasted 4 innings. The first inning went: double, RBI single, walk, walk, K, K, grand slam. Not really much else to say except Lester seems to be falling into the habit of getting somewhat passive with his pitches. Backing off in intensity after back to back strikeouts leads to a bases loaded grand slam. Maybe he’s losing focus, or still reeling from the emotional start last week. In any case, the Nats are lucky they were able to win in spite of his struggles, and cannot let this continue.
Patrick Corbin did not fare much better on Sunday, despite being credited with the win. His whacky and erratic season continued, coughing up 11 total hits to the Orioles amidst a 3 run first inning that was only neutralized by the hot Nationals offense, who managed to rack up 4 runs on Matt Harvey, who was somehow having an even worse day than Corbin. In any case, 11 hits means that Corbin was back to being shaky, and leaving sliders and curveballs hanging across the plate. This type of inconsistency is going to be a serious problem for the Nationals as the season continues, because the only thing worse than consistently bad is inconsistency. Corbin has been alternating back and forth between fantastic starts and getting rattled this entire year so far, and at some point, he’s going to have to get it together. He was pretty lucky to get bailed out this weekend.
The Good News:
The Washington offense was red hot and was able to overcome both poor performances to record wins and get the sweep. I’d say that’s pretty nice to know.
For Jon Lester, I’m not really sure what his problem is specifically. Hopefully he can find his way back into the encouraging form his first couple of starts this season were showing.
For Patrick Corbin, giving up 4 earned runs on a whopping 11 hits shows fantastic ability to control damage. He kept his composure and was able to do enough to not give up any more runs than he already did. If a pitcher is going to start bad, the best they can do is limit further offense. And Corbin did that spectacularly, getting a win in the process. It’s not all bad for the pitching staff.
After yesterday’s off day, the Nats kick off a weekday series with the Cincinnati Reds tonight. Max Scherzer will take Tuesday, Joe Ross on Wednesday, and Stephen Strasburg on Thursday. With the Nationals facing 4 above .500 opponents in their next 5 series after this one (Milwaukee, Atlanta, Philadelphia, who’s below .500 right now, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco), it’s especially imperative that they take at least 2 out of 3 from the Reds, who have been struggling mightily as of late. Combine that with the fact the Nats are only 2 games off of the lead for the NL East, there’s only one thing to do. Win some games. Let’s go.