This weekend in D.C., the Washington Nationals have the chance to make history. For the first time since 2005 when they were made up of the remnants of the veteran Montreal Expos, the Nationals (48-32) could finish at or above the 50 game mark before the All-Star break. They will try to take those wins from the Colorado Rockies (31-51), who have already achieved the opposite feat: 50 losses before the All-Star Break.
Although the Nationals are 7-17 against the Rockies at home, it is clear that the 2012 Nationals are a drastically different team than the Nationals of the past. They are taking the National League by storm, and are hot off a four-game winning streak after sweeping what was the second-best team in the NL before they faced the dominance of the Nationals.
Ignite Your Offense-itude
Last week, the Rockies and the Nats combined to score 60 runs in a four-game series that they split. Since scoring their 35 runs off the Rockies and their sad pitching staff, the Nats offense hasn’t quieted down a bit. They have averaged 7.7 runs per game since the beginning of that series, compared to their 4.2 runs per game on the year. The Rockies offense, however, has not followed suit. They have scored just 23 runs in seven games (3.3 runs per game) since the Nats left Denver, and the Nationals will try to keep that trend going during the Rockies’ visit to Nationals Park.
Despite having the fourth highest batting average in the major leagues (.269), the Rockies’ offensive numbers dip way down when they are away from Coors Field. In away games, they are hitting .244, compared to .291 at home. Meanwhile, the Nationals’ batting average is slowly creeping upwards; they are now at a 14th-place .250, and that number will only get higher if this series goes the way they want it to.
Still Having Pitcher Problems
The Rockies have made two changes to their starting rotation since they last pitched against the Nationals: Josh Outman and Edwar Cabrera have both been optioned to the minor leagues after poor performances. Cabrera didn't last long in the majors - he was sent back after completing just 2.1 innings of a major league debut against the Nats that he would probably like to forget, - and Outman (9.00 ERA) allowed five runs on five hits in the three innings he completed against the Nationals.
Jeremy Guthrie and Drew Pomeranz were called from the bullpen and the minors, respectively, to replace them. Guthrie was the Rockies’ opening day starter, but his repeated struggles on the mound forced the coaching staff to send him to the bullpen. Since reclaiming his spot in the starting rotation he has been effective, allowing just two earned runs in the Rockies’ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He will attempt to remain as effective when he faces the Nats this weekend, and hopefully bump his -0.5 WAR up a bit.
Pomeranz has also made just one start since being invited back to the rotation. He allowed only two hits and zero earned runs (one unearned), but, like Guthrie, he was not rewarded for his performance and was charged with a loss.
The Rockies are hopeful that their ever-changing pitching staff will settle down with the re-addition of what looks like an improved version of these two pitchers.
Since their move to a four-man rotation on June 19, the Rockies are 6-11 and their team ERA is 5.39, which is consistent with their 5.36 ERA on the year.
Carlos Gonzalez (LF) .340 AVG, .597 SLG, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 10 SB
Michael Cuddyer (RF) .262 AVG, 482 SLG, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 8 SB
Tyler Colvin (LF) .302 AVG, .599 SLG, 12 HR, 37 RBI
Matt Belisle (RP) 1.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 37 SO (44.1 IP)
Todd Helton (1B) .239 AVG, .333 OBP, .404 SLG (4-for-last 22)
Tyler Chatwood (RP) 7.62 ERA, .362 AVG, 2.00 WHIP
Stephen Strasburg (9-3, 2.81 ERA) vs. Drew Pomeranz (0-3, 3.72 ERA)
Gio Gonzalez (11-3, 3.01 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (2-1, 5.16 ERA)
Jordan Zimmermann (5-6, 2.70 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3-8, 6.28 ERA)