The Good with the Bad: NYY Series Takeaways

The Good With the Bad is a segment in which contributor Luigi (Ouij) de Guzman (@ouij) and Alyssa Wolice break down the negatives and positives for each series, respectively. You, the reader, can then decide to see the glass half empty - or full - with each series wrap.

OUIJ'S TAKE

The Return of DE6mond. Ian Desmond's incomprehensible FC-E6 in game 1 of this series, which opened the floodgates to a total Nats collapse, was an unwelcome return to (poor) form for Desmond. Instead of taking his time and throwing out the hobbled A-Rod at first, Desmond opted to make a rushed throw to Rendon at third to get Ramon Flores. The throw hit Flores in the back, which would have been an out before 1854. In 2015, it bounced into foul ground and allowed Flores to score the go-ahead run, opening the floodgates to a four-run Yankees 7th inning. This is the sort of mental error that is worrisome. Maybe with the Danny Espinosa Renaissance (shoutout to his biggest proponent, Nationals101!) in full flower, Matty can give Desmond a few mental days off.

Matt Williams FOR THE WIN. Of course, Desmond made the error in the 7th inning, skipper Matt Williams's unluckiest inning. The game was tied in the seventh, but Scherzer was about to face the Yankees batting order for the fourth time. The more times a pitcher faces the batting order, the worse he gets, statistically. This red-herring observation is the Times Through The Order Penalty. But removing a starting pitcher in a tied game will not grant the pitcher the "win." So Matty stayed with a somewhat fatigued Scherzer in the 7th, hoping to get out of the inning and get Scherzer the pitcher win. Scherzer induced a Stephen Drew groundout to second before giving up consecutive base hits to Ramon Flores and Brett Gardner—which set up the fateful DE6mond play on the A.Rod fielders' choice. It bears repeating: Scherzer started the inning at around 100 pitches and was about to face the Yankee lineup for the fourth time. Matty did not even entertain the notion of a relief pitcher until the win was out of reach.

The problem with managing for the (pitcher) win is that it also exposes you to the possibility of the team loss.

Reliever Roulette. Or it could be that Matty doesn't want to play Russian Roulette with his relievers. Matt Thornton entered Tuesday night's game to put out the fire started by Desmond's error. He doused it with gasoline, giving up consecutive hits to Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. In the seventh (!) inning of Wednesday afternoon's game, Felipe Rivero and Aaron Barrett each managed to squander the baserunners they inherited. Other than Drew Storen, the Nationals' relief corps has been underwhelming at best. The procession of Syracuse Chiefs and Harrisburg Senators that pass for middle relief gives way to Aaron Barrett or Blake "Runaway Train" Treinen, neither of whom have been consistently competent all year. Matt Thornton's average four-seam fastball velocity is down 2.5 miles per hour from this time in 2014. This is a worrying development for a reliever that depends on throwing it by hitters.

Bryce Harper Yankees Talk Will Never Die. Harper made a show of his reverence at Monument Park. He's been known to root for the Yankees when the Nats season is over. And although Harper refused to be drawn about his feelings—he loves the Nationals!—he is probably never going to shake the perception that he's a Yankee-in-waiting. It makes you wonder whether his idiotic bunt attempt with two strikes was an attempt to play a little to the bleachers. It was certainly not in keeping with Harper's unusually patient approach at the plate this year.

(Incidentally: If any of the talk that Harper will eventually leave D.C. for the Yankees in free agency makes you angry, this is your reminder to get down to Nats Park as often as you can to watch Harper wearing the Curly W. These Nationals are not forever. Some of your favorites (Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, notably) may be gone, and very soon. Go see them while you can.)

ALYSSA'S TAKE

Denard Span is a Trooper. Still coping with his first-ever bout of back spasms, Span essentially drove the Nationals’ offense Wednesday afternoon, going 3-for-6 with two RBIs. His performance offers hope that even the banged-up pieces of a batting order can contribute when absolutely needed. Given Washington’s luck on the injury front, it’s a safe bet there will be other games in which less-than-healthy players will need to power through a day’s work.

Michael Taylor Doesn't Always Make Contact, but When He Does, It's Usually a Game-changer. Michael Taylor has tallied his fair share of strike-outs already. But, Wednesday afternoon, he yet again came through for the Nats in an unexpected situation. After replacing Clint Robinson in the field, he powered a two-run opposite field homer to tie the game. Each of his five home runs this season have been the difference-maker for the Nats, accounting for either the tying or go-ahead runs in a game.

Nats Fans Almost Forgot Gio Gonzalez's Horrendous Career ERA vs. the Yankees. Entering Wednesday’s game, Gio Gonzalez sported a career 8.60 ERA against the New York Yankees. Sure, he wasn’t lights out against a Yankee lineup on which one player alone—lead-off man Brett Gardner—stands a chance to flirt with a .300 average. But, he held on for 6 1/3 innings, keeping the Yankees to two runs over four hits and three walks.

Bryce Harper Loves Yankee Stadium. Fine, Bryce Harper was a New York Yankees fan in his youth...and may or may not actively root for the pinstripes when the Nats are eliminated from playoff contention. And sure, A-rod declared his love for Harper, which should tug at Nats fans like a backhanded compliment. Looking past childhood allegiances and childlike admiration, though, Nats fans should applaud Harper’s Yankee Stadium debut, during which he went 2-for-4 Tuesday night with a home run. Doing so against a pitcher of Masahiro Tanaka’s caliber adds icing to the cake.

Harper added another hit and a walk Wednesday afternoon, in a game that featured a matchup Nats fans had never before seen: Bryce versus a pitcher younger than himself. Harper only had one at-bat against left-hander Jacob Lindgren, 147 days his junior. He flied to left on the second pitch and, after the game, noted that he was unaware of Lindgren’s age.

Strasburg and Fister are Showing Signs of Life. Stephen Strasburg could pitch live batting practice as early as this week in Milwaukee and Doug Fister is set to make a rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg.


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