Review-Preview: South Side Sweep (White Sox) and Southern Unhospitality (Braves)

Sweater Vest Night at Nationals Park.

Sweater Vest Night at Nationals Park.

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.

The Nationals swept the Pride of the South Side taking all three games from the White Sox.  Good pitching and hitting was on display for most of the series by the Nationals, while the Sox could only manage half of that equation at any one time.  In game one, the Nats clobbered four home runs to overcome shaking pitching in the first game, taking it 8-7.  The Nats then put on their big kid shoes and shut down the White Sox 5-2 on Wednesday, and 7-4 on Thursday.

What Happened?  In Game 1, the Nationals clearly had Jake Peavy’s number all night, finally starting to break through in the fourth-getting a score in each inning after. The first day of pitching was the shakiest- Gio Gonzalez threw 99 pitches in just 5 innings.  Getting himself in and out of trouble all night.  Tyler Clippard (uncharacteristically) and Rafael Soriano  did all they could to blow the game, but managed to save it 8-7.

The story of bad pitching really belongs to the White Sox, however.  No starter for the Sox lasted 6 innings, and Dylan Axlelrod lasted just 3.2 innings.  5 relievers the first night and 4 the next two nights made for an overtaxed bullpen that had nothing by the end of the week. 

The Nats had a shaky first day of pitching.  Despite hanging in there to get 7ks and give up 1 run, Gio Gonzalez threw 99 pitches in just 5 innings.  Getting himself in and out of trouble all night.  Tyler Clippard (uncharacteristically) and Rafael Soriano (let’s hope this isn’t a trend) did all they could to blow the game, but managed to save it 8-7.

After that though, it looked much better.  Jordan Zimmermann was on cruise control, dealing for 7 innings on Wednesday night, and Dan Haren showed up with some better stuff on Thursday.  Soriano saved all three games of the series, and Storen/Clippard/Mattheus looked very good in the last two contests against the White Sox.

Lost In The Shuffle:  Jayson Werth broke the 500 RBI plane, and Adam LaRoche broke his 0 for streak to start the season with 2 Home Runs.  I guess the rest helped!

Adam Dunn went 1-9 in his return to Nationals Park.  The lack of his DH at bats in the first game (given the National League rules) might have been the difference in game 1-and it certainly played a part in some of the relievers getting plunked in too early/in the wrong spot a few times.  Having to bat your pitcher 12 times a year out of 162 is probably a bit disorienting, and I think it showed in the lineup shifts. 

The Nationals made it through two whole games with out an error!  Progress!

Dan Haren who is remembered as the 15-0 pitcher against the Reds (when really, he was thiiiiiss close to have the same 6-3 score as Strasburg before he left) got the win on Thursday with better stuff.  He also helped the cause by hitting a double and ultimately scoring a run (and if there was ever a guy who looked more reluctant to go from first to second, I’ve never seen him.  Pitchers don’t like to run on cold nights).

Thursday night was the first game the Nats had won without hitting a home run this year.

Preview: Atlanta Braves

There are no do or die series in April-anything done can be undone over the next months.  Still, with a  division rival expected to be trouble all year, I’d rather see the Nationals set the tone early and start leading the Braves sooner rather than later.

Over the weekend, the Nationals will send Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Gio to the mound.  The Braves will also send some good pitchers up there, likely Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Julio Teheran.  

  • The good news for the Nationals is that Tim Hudson (17 runs, 22 Hits, .289BA in 3 games) and Paul Maholm (4 Runs, 7 Hits in 1 game) didn’t pitch that well against the Nationals last year.  Teheran hasn’t pitched against the Nationals as far as I can tell-he’s a young prospect who struggled last year against MLB hitters.  He was ranked as the #1 prospect before he pitched last year, so he could bring some stuff this year.
  • The Nats are going to need to get on the board against the starters though because the Braves bullpen remains a likely candidate for “best in the league.”  If the name Kris Medlen comes up on the scoreboard, don’t expect the Nats to score more runs.
  • Speaking of run scoring, the Braves can still score a few with Justin and BJ Upton, but the Nats catch a break with Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann on the DL.  Still the Braves are currently (8-1) and they’ve been doing it mostly with out those two guys.  The Nats best bet is to score early and score often.

Don’t be too overly blown away by that 8-1 record:  Sure the Braves won all those games, but they came against the Marlins (1-8), Philadelphia (4-5), and (3-6)- three teams that have as many wins together as the Braves have by themselves.  That is to say, they haven’t exactly played a good team yet-the Nationals will likely be their first real test of the year. For the Nats part they will need to do better in this second test than they did in Cincinnati.

Final Thoughts: The Nats secure a winning homestand win with just win.  Despite the Cincy beat down, the are 4 of their last 6, and a win makes them (at worst) 5 of 9 after the Braves series is over.  Still, you have to hold court at home.  So while a sweep might be a stretch goal, getting 2 of 3 is what the Nationals need to do to set the tone with the Braves-and to get back into first place in the NL East.

This entry was posted in 2013 Regular Season, Review-Preview by nationals101. Bookmark the permalink.

About nationals101

Frank and Susan bring you an introductory level podcast to baseball and the Washington Nationals. DC is new to baseball, and baseball is new to DC. Whether you're a life long resident who just never got into it, or a transplant that came from a football and hockey town, we want to answer the questions baseball novices were a little too afraid to ask, and help everyone appreciate the National Passtime just a little bit more.

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