Nationals Fall to Brewers 8-0 to Open Series

After a grueling West Coast road trip and time off during the All-Star break, this was not the homecoming the Nationals had hoped for upon returning to the District in yesterday’s home opener against the Brewers.

With Edwin Jackson starting his 2nd game in replacement of the injured Stephen Strasburg, the Nats hoped E-Jax could build on the success he had last week in Anaheim and continue the momentum of a 7-2 road trip. But Jackson labored through 5 innings and wasn’t nearly as sharp yesterday as he was in Anaheim last week. E-Jax gave up seven hits, three walks, three home runs, and seven runs total (3 ER), throwing 112 pitches in what ended up an 8-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

DSC01193

Meanwhile, the bats the Nationals had relied on so heavily for their recent success went silent at home as Zach Davies held the Nationals in check over 7 23 scoreless, efficient innings of work in, giving up three hits and three walks in his longest start of the season. Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman both went 1 for 4 with a single each, as Zimmerman continues to struggle to get his early season groove back. On a bright note, Bryce Harper singled in the 8th inning to keep his hitting streak going at 17 games.

After the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed unfazed by Jackson’s rough start and showed confidence in the veteran. “His pitch count got up high,” Dusty Baker said, “and he didn’t have the command that he had last time. He was wild high and away.” It a perfect summary statement, Baker added, “It was a rough night for Edwin tonight.”

In spit of his struggles in the loss, Jackson will get another opportunity to start next time his turn in the rotation comes around. “He’s not on a pitch-by-pitch, performance-type thing,” Baker said. “That can happen to anybody. So, sure, I don’t see why not.”

Luckily, before the game, Baker had reassured the assembled press who had gathered for his pregame presser that Stephen Strasburg’s issues seemed to be minor and not long term, and that he would be making his next start. That piece of news ended up being the best news of the night for a Nats team who hopes to rebound tonight with Gio Gonzalez on the mound. All eyes will be on him tonight literally, as the entire baseball universe will be tuned in to see the 2018 All-Star logo which will be on display over his right shoulder throughout the game as well.

*Note: Congratulations are in order to Dusty Baker for being inducted into the USMC Sports Hall of Fame. The officially ceremony took place last night prior to the first pitch at Nationals Park. Thank you Dusty, from all of us!

Jayson Werth Eyes Return… “Soon”

On a beautiful night at Nationals Park honoring our brave men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps, a nice surprise greeted all the servicemen and women who had gathered behind home plate. To the naked eye, Jayson Werth crushing baseballs 400 feet during batting practice before a mid-summer game isn’t anything to write home about or stop the presses. But Werth has been on the DL since June 3rd with a toe injury and foot fracture and was moved to the 60 day DL on July 23rd to clear a spot on the 40 man roster. So it was quite a surprise to those around the ballpark when Werth came out for BP and crushed ball after ball after ball into the left field bleachers.

Steve and Jayson
Jayson and Steve discuss his recovery and Game of Thrones. (7/25/2017 @JoeAzer)

We caught up exclusively with Jayson after his BP session and he was in high spirits and very positive about his progress and rehab. When asked about a possible return in the near future, Werth responded, “Should be any day now.”

Werth’s position in the Nationals batting lineup has proven hard to replace. The coveted, and precious #2 spot has seen a revolving door of participants hoping to match Werth’s production, including Wilmer Difo, Stephen Drew, Michael A. Taylor, and Ryan Rayburn. While the bench players have produced admirably, none have matched Werth’s production before he went down. In 47 games, he was batting .262 with 8 hrs and 18 RBIs and had been just starting to find his rhythm after a slow start.

DSC_6623
Dusty and Jayson share a thought during batting practice. (7/25/2017 @JoeAzer)

Only time will tell you how Jayson will respond to the long layoff and come back and find his niche in a Nationals lineup that is best in the MLB this season. While Werth is participating in baseball activities, but he still hasn’t been cleared to sprint and will go on a rehab assignment before rejoining the National League East-leading Nationals.

While Jayson was gracious enough to talk to us exclusively about his injury, one topic he was more than willing to discuss was our Game of Thrones recaps and his analysis of the season so far. He was quite intrigued with Arya’s reunion with Nymeria and predicts that Nymeria will meet up with her again and wreak havoc on the Army of the Dead. So I don’t know what will happen, but we’re going with the guy who’s got a beard that would put Tormund to shame.

A Bittersweet End to a Successful Road Trip

It isn’t often that the conclusion of a 9 game road trip where you finished 7-2 and you averaged 6.8 runs/game comes with such angst and anxiety? But that’s exactly where the Nationals find themselves on their off day today as they head back to DC in the wake of a 6-2 win and series clinching win over the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Sunday.

Screenshot 2017-07-24 at 21.34.17The bittersweet taste in our mouths comes on the heels of some casualties in the game to two of their best pitchers. Stephen Strasburg was removed after the 2nd inning with what appeared to be a forearm issue, and Enny Romero was removed in the 7th inning with an issue that appeared to be his back. Now we wait, in what feels all too familiar of a position with Strasburg over his career here in DC. Losing Strasburg for some time in the regular season is not the end of the world but lingering shoulder and arm problems could very well signify something more structurally damaging which could be catastrophic. Last year, Strasburg signed a 7 year, $175 million extension with the Nationals. No one denies he has Cy Young stuff but can he be trusted as a top tier starter given his injury history.

On the bright side, the Nationals took the season series from the Diamondbacks 4 games to 2, and moved back to 21 games above .500 while lengthening their lead in the NL East to 12.0 games ahead of the Braves. The Nationals went 7-2 on this road trip, and have a Monday day-off which they will certainly need after a late night plane trip back to Washington, D.C.. before starting a 3 game series with the once first place NL Central leaders, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers now find themselves in a dead heat with the surging Chicago Cubs, who many expected to make this postseason run in the 2nd half of the season.

Another noteworthy moment for the Nats came yesterday when Andrew Stevenson made his MLB debut, pitch hitting in the 6th inning and playing left field. Stevenson got 2 at-bats and hit a grounder and was out on a force-out, and in his 2nd at-bat he worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off several pitches to get it to a 10 pitch at-bat before striking out. He looked very comfortable in the box as you would expect from a player who was playing baseball on national TV at 11-years-old in the Little League World Series.

All things considered, the Nats have to be very pleased with how their 2nd half of the season kicked off after the All-Star break and will look to build on that momentum as they come home to back to back series against the Brewers and Rockies. We’ll keep an eye out on any updates from this ever-growing injury list and hope to see some discernible improvements in the status of Jayson Werth, Kodai Glover, Trea Turner, and Michael A. Taylor in the coming days and weeks.

Kyrie Irving Bombshell Adds to Eastern Conference Dysfunction

As Wizards fans have come to expect, the NBA offseason is a time of chaos and dysfunction. Usually however, that involves Ernie Grunfeld paying Ian Mahinmi $64 million or Andrew Nicholson $26 million and then giving the Brooklyn Nets a first-round pick just to get rid of Nicholson’s contract. Instead, this summer has been about playoff teams imploding in the East.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 2.55.10 PMFirst, Jimmy Butler was traded for pennies on the dollar even with 2 years remaining on his contract. The best player the Bulls received is one coming of a torn ACL just last February.  Atlanta paid Charlotte to take on Dwight Howard, literally moving down in the draft to rid themselves of his contract (and of Dwight Howard). Then, as if Sam Hinkie were running the team, they let Paul Millsap walk while letting the Knicks badly overpay for Tim Hardaway Jr. If that weren’t enough, the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis….again that’s Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The only addition thus far to the conference has been a dude who’s best known as the best white basketball player in the NBA, aka Gordon Heyward. Even then, the Celtics traded a significant piece of their team in Avery Bradley to accommodate Heyward’s max deal.

All of this occurred before the biggest bombshell dropped last week in the form of Kyrie Irving requesting a trade out of Cleveland. Suddenly, LeBron’s reign atop the East appears to be in danger of ending and not because LeBron is moving west next year. While a trade request does not mean that Cleveland will, or even should, trade Irving, it is a signal that all is not right in the ‘Land. After failed pursuits of both George and Butler and after losing a credible general manager in David Griffin, Cleveland’s hold on the east appears to be tenuous at best. While most assumed that Cleveland would take a step back after next season with the likely departure of LeBron, no one could’ve predicted this much turmoil for a team coming off 3 straight finals appearances.

So where does all of this leave the Eastern Conference and more important the Wizards? For starters, it is important to note that Irving has not been yet traded nor is there any indication that he will be; by default Cleveland is the favorite to make their fourth consecutive finals appearance. It remains to be seen just how massive a haul Cleveland could potentially receive back in any Irving or Kevin Love trade discussion, but it is safe to assume that any trade would not bring back the same caliber of a superstar as Irving….yes Irving is definitely one of the superstars of the league. With the possible departure of LeBron next summer, Cleveland is in trouble.

As for the Wizards, their future has gotten plenty more expensive, but also much more stable than the current state of buffoonery in the East. With only Boston getting better (one could argue Philly as well) over the summer, another playoff trip is all but guaranteed. After re-signing Porter and extending John Wall (who will finally start to earn more than Reggie Jackson) the core pieces are in place for sustained success. That core, however, is not a championship caliber core and that is where things begin to get murky.

With the team capped out for at least the next couple of seasons, it will be hard for the Wizards to add any pieces barring any salary dumps. Marcin Gortat, Mahinmi, and Markieff Morris are set to earn a combined $37 million each year for the next two years. Gortat shot 50% on dunks as a center last year, Mahinmi missed the majority of the season battling knee injuries, and Morris spends more time mean-mugging than contributing to the ebbs and flows of a basketball game. The only building piece besides the big-3 is Kelly Oubre and he was last seen glued to the bench in games 6 and 7 against Boston, unable to earn the trust of Scott Brooks after being suspended earlier in the series.

Add it all up and it sounds like the future is glum, but that is far from the truth. Any big-3 that starts with Wall and Bradley Beal has a real chance in any playoff series. If somehow the Wizards were able to clear salary cap space, they would be a real player in the DeMarcus Cousins bidding next summer given Wall’s rapport with Cousins going back to their Kentucky days. Even without adding Cousins, the Wizards’ summer of stability has them eyeing the top perch in the East. Their still improving core of Wall, Beal, and Porter will allow them to jostle with Boston for control of the Eastern Conference for years to come.

Pro Football Talk – Click bait professionals.

For years now I’ve had to read articles published by PFT regarding the Washington Redskins, or the Washington Football team since they, like ESPN, tend to recycle outdated political fluff pieces. Personally, when I visit a sports website, I like to read about my team, the moves made and the issues they will face the upcoming game, week or season. Everyone is entitled to their own views and beliefs, but once those views play a role in true reporting, you’ve lost me as a visitor.

Untitled

If you’re not aware, PFT’s preseason power rankings have the Washington Redskins at number 25. Hate much? Biased because of the name? According to PFT the Redskins have the 7th worst roster in the NFL. Yes, we lost two 1,000 yard receivers. Both of whom were short and did not help in the red zone. Since then we’ve replaced them with the “Washington Monuments” aka, a bunch of 6-foot-somethings to help Kirk move the ball and scores TDs. Next you factor in a revamped defense, stud free agent additions, a solid draft that addressed many needs on defense and a RB that can bench a school bus.

It’s incredible that a team who was a game away from missing the playoffs with essentially everyone returning except Jackson and Garçon can be ranked so low. I haven’t even mentioned the Hogs 2.0. Somehow the Redskins went from having crossing guards as offensive lineman to maybe the second best o-line in the league. Top 5 easy.

I am not going to say we are a great team. There is plenty to prove, the Kirk contract issue is still on everyone’s mind and the NFC east got a lot more difficult this past offseason. However, the truth remains, regardless of the contract situation, we will have a top tier QB behind center. Just because our front office can’t sign our QB to a long term deal and the media thinks we are dysfunctional, does not mean the roster isn’t talented. You can’t possibly think that the Redskins are worse than the Buffalo Bills, who just lost a pro bowl MLB…to THE REDSKINS.

25 is low. Very low. A potent offense, a coach with a fire under him, (not to be mistaken with a hot-seat) and additions to a defense that already had some nice pieces in place do not make a 25th ranked team. Knowing how PFT operates, I’m sure the Cowboys will be a top-10 team. A team that has a 2nd year QB, whom we at DTC predict will take a HUGE step backwards, a RB that will probably miss the first 4 games, and a defense that has Jeff Heath starting at safety.

When all is said and done the question here is not if the team has talent. The offseason moves show this team has improved from top to bottom. Jackson/Garçon are 30 years old. One was injury prone, the other lost a step. TP/Doctson could easily be bright spots this upcoming year. The only “concern” would be the motivation. Watching a team play hardball with a possible franchise QB who has done nothing but prove himself is not something to motivate. Maybe a slap in the face ranking by a garbage website that has its own political agenda will motivate the guys a little bit.