Tag Archives: Anibal Sanchez

Streaking Nationals come to Citizens Bank Park on a roll

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Red-hot Juan Soto leads the streaking Nats into South Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) and Washington Nationals (47-42) return to play following four days off for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game break with a Friday night contest at Citizens Bank Park.

These two NL East Division rivals currently control the two National League Wildcard playoff positions in the league standings. However, for nearly two months they have been travelling in opposite directions.
On May 29, the Phillies were 33-22 and held a 3.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings. That same day, the Nats were 24-32 and 9.5 games behind the Phillies.
But since May 24, Washington has forged a 28-11 mark. That is the best record in all of Major League Baseball since that date.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have slumped to a 14-21 record since their May 20 high-water at 11 games over the .500 mark. That is the same record in that time frame as the last place Miami Marlins have fashioned. Only the 13-22 record of the New York Mets over that period has been worse in the division.
All of that – the Phillies hot start, the Nationals recent hot stretch – is now in the rear view mirror. The ultimate story of the 2019 season for these two division rivals is going to be written over the next two and a half months. If the Phillies want to begin to turn their season back around, it has to begin this weekend.
For more than three weeks, the Phillies have faced nothing but NL East Division rivals on the schedule. The club has gone just 9-13 in those games. That stretch ends with this three-game weekend tilt with the Nationals.
The Phillies are going to come out of the stretch with a losing record. But winning this series would still mark a big step forward. It would also move them past the Nationals in the standings heading into a very tough four-game series to open next week with the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both teams have a middle-of-the-road offensive attack. The Nationals rank 14th in all of baseball with their average of 4.94 runs scored per game. The Phillies are right behind, their 4.91 runs per game ranking 15th among the 30 MLB ball clubs.
There is a big difference on the mound. Washington’s pitching staff ranks 5th in the National League with a .247 batting average against, and their .720 OPS against is 3rd in the league. Their pitchers collectively rank 4th in MLB in strikeouts.
The Phillies struggling staff is 14th in both AVG (.265) and OPS against (.799), and they have surrendered 153 home runs, far and away the highest total in the league and third-most in all of baseball. They are also just 22nd in strikeouts.
For the Phillies to actually win this series their pitching staff is going to have to begin stepping up. If the pitchers who are here and healthy right now cannot demonstrate improvement across the board, then the Nationals will keep up their winning ways and begin to pull away in the standings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: (29) 3B – .304/.386/.611 with 20 home runs, 44 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 65 runs
Trea Turner: (26) SS – .288/.343/.491 with 7 home runs, 26 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 36 runs, 17 steals (missed 39 games)
Victor Robles: (22) CF – .246/.320/443 with 13 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 47 runs, 12 steals
Howie Kendrick: (35) UT – .327/.378/.563 with 12 home runs, 25 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs, 39 runs
Adam Eaton: (30) RF – .281/.368/.383 with 6 home runs, 18 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 50 runs
Kurt Suzuki (35)/Yan Gomes (31): catching tandem combined for 14 homers and 58 RBIs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Juan Soto: The 20-year-old left fielder was the runner-up to Ronald Acuna Jr.for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Soto has caught fireand helped lead the Nationals charge back to contending status.
Since May 17 when he was hitting just .228, Soto has slashed .354/.452/.628 with nine home runs, 23 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and 36 runs scored over 164 at-bats across 46 games.
The Nationals manager (see below) was quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr as this series prepares to open:
I think his overall game has gotten better. Everybody talks about his hitting, but I think his outfield play has gotten better. His baserunning’s gotten better. In that aspect, he’s become that polished player. Still young, still learning. Works incredibly in all aspects of the game. But I think we still haven’t seen what he potentially can do as he gets older.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Stephen Strasburg (30): 10-4, 3.64 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 3.18 FIP, 92 hits over 116.1 IP across 18 starts with a 138/29 K:BB ratio. That Nationals come out of the break by throwing their three best starting pitchers against the Phillies. Strasburg has largely been dominating in what has been one of the big right-hander’s most complete seasons.
SATURDAY – Patrick Corbin (29): 7-5, 3.34 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 3.34 FIP, 93 hits over 113.1 IP across 18 starts with a 129/33 K:BB ratio. Signed as a free agent this past off-season, Corbin has been everything the Nationals could have hoped. He provides the club a lone southpaw rotation presence, and a very good one.
SUNDAY – Anibal Sanchez (35): 5-6, 3.66 ERA, 1.327 WHIP, 4.53 FIP, 78 hits over 83.2 IP across 16 starts with a 75/33 K:BB ratio. This was supposed to be a turn for ace Max Scherzer. But ongoing back stiffness is causing the Nationals to skip him and go with 14-year veteran righty Sanchez. 

THE SKIPPER

54-year-old Dave Martinez had 16 years of playing experience in Major League Baseball with nine different organizations between 1986-2001. Four of those seasons from 1988-91 were with the Montreal Expos, the franchise from whom the Nationals are descended.
After retiring as an active player, Martinez became a spring training instructor for the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he had played during the 1998-2000 seasons. In 2007, Martinez was hired as Joe Maddon‘s bench coach in Tampa, and was in that role as the club won their lone AL pennant and reached the 2008 World Series against the Phillies.
Martinez interviewed for a number of managerial positions over the next few years. When Maddon left following the 2014 campaign, Martinez was passed over for the Rays job and joined Maddon once again as the Chicago Cubs bench coach. In that role he helped the Cubs defeat the Nationals in a 2017 National League Division Series.
On October 30, 2017, Martinez was hired to take over as the Nationals manager. He has a contract running through next year, with a club option for the 2021 season. The Nationals overall record during his first year and a half at the helm is 129-122. His club finished 82-80 last year, good enough for second place in the NL East, but not good enough for a playoff spot.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Unless you are allergic to sunshine and warm temperatures, weather will play little role in this weekend series down in South Philadelphia. Each day is expected to include high temps right around 90 degrees, lows around 70 degrees, and very few clouds in the sky. A modest breeze each day should keep humidity levels at reasonable summertime levels.
The Nationals have won seven of the 11 meetings between the two division rivals. Bryce Harper has two home runs and eight RBIs in those first 11 games against his former ball club.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies series opposition preview: Washington Nationals

Is Bryce Harper on the verge of announcing his long-term home?

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A decision on Harper’s future might be coming very soon

It has been roughly ten days since I last wrote anything regarding the Phillies pursuit of free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. I said that I wasn’t going to write something every time some new rumor popped up, and I’m sticking to that here.

What has me back writing on the topic is not some new rumor that we’re hearing. Instead, it’s what we are not hearing that has me back on the topic.
Regarding the Harper situation, I am finding that the silence is deafening.
When is the last time that you heard or read any rumors regarding Harper from any legitimate, reliable source? It’s been awhile. The usual insiders and talking heads were reporting on claims of some unnamed “source” on a regular basis. Now, those reports appear to have dried up.

Contrast that with the Machado situation, where just this past week it become public knowledge that a new team, the San Diego Padres, had aggressively jumped into the hunt for the young superstar infielder.
It was Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune who first broke the story on Friday that the Padres were the “mystery team” in on Machado, something that had been widely speculated for days prior:

“According to multiple sources aware of talks between the sides but not authorized to speak publicly, the Padres are pursuing the 26-year-old superstar with the intention of playing him at third base.”

A.J. Cassavell at MLB.com followed up on Saturday by logically presenting how the 26-year-old would slot into the San Diego present and future, stating “Machado’s fit with the Padres is probably better than it is almost anywhere else.
Dennis Lin at The Athletic tweeted on Saturday that the Padres were actively seeking a face-to-face meeting with Machado and his representatives.
Sources: The Padres have expressed interest in arranging a meeting with Manny Machado, possibly in Miami. SD would like to get some face time before becoming more involved with the free agent.

What all of this continuing pursuit of Machado tells me is that he has not yet decided. Despite much speculation that his decision was likely down to the Phillies and Chicago White Sox, that appears now to be nothing more than just that – speculation.
If Machado were that close to a decision and in a serious final decision-making process, why suddenly open up what have been months-long visits, considerations, and negotiations?
You would think that he and his reps would simply thank the Padres for their interest, but let the team know that he has been involved in deep considerations with others for weeks, if not months, and was preparing to make a final decision.
To have the process remain open, or to be re-opened, and allow San Diego to become a serious suitor this late says to me that Machado is not as far along in his decision-making process as some sources might lead you to believe.
On the other hand, there is nothing coming out on Harper. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs all appear to be out. The last rumors widely circulating had the process narrowed to the Phillies, White Sox, and his old team, the Washington Nationals.
However, the more you really examine the Nationals and White Sox situations closely, the more neither team appears to be a logical fit.
Washington has already spent a lot this off-season to bring in free agent pitchers Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, and Trevor Rosenthal. They have looming negotiations with third baseman Anthony Rendon, who can become a free agent next off-season. And the Nats can replace Harper internally with two of the top young outfield prospects in the game in 20-year-old Juan Soto and 21-year-old Victor Robles.

The White Sox signed Alonso, who is Machado’s brother-in-law, earlier this off-season. (BubbaFan/WikiCommons)
The White Sox want to make a splash this off-season, perhaps as much as the Phillies. To that end, they have bolstered their bullpen with the additions of closer Alex Colome and setup man Kelvin Herrera via free agency.
But a strong clue as to the South Sider’s true desires can be found in their free agent position player additions. Chicago has signed both Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay this off-season.
Alonso is Machado’s brother-in-law and Jay is his good friend. As players, both are marginal additions. But as moral support for Machado, friendly faces to make a new locker room more comfortable, they could be invaluable.
What all of this continuing activity and interest in Machado tells me is that no decision is coming soon. What the silence surrounding the Harper situation tells me is the exact opposite.
I believe that it is very possible that Harper has indeed made a final decision. In that case, the silence right now would be due to his agent, Scott Boras, and the signing team going through the “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” contract process. With Harper, there are likely to be many details, including bonus incentives, “out” clauses, and both team and player options.

Hey, I could be wrong. But to me, it smells like we may be near an end to the Harper situation. And to me, the Phillies remain the most likely team to be slotting the 26-year-old outfielder into the middle of their lineup this coming season.
On Machado, well, no end appears to be in sight, and I wouldn’t lay money on the Phillies being involved at this point. We shall see.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Bryce Harper closer to a decision than Manny Machado?