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How Washington was Able to Succeed in Max Scherzer’s Absence

Max Scherzer

On July 29, ace Max Scherzer was placed on the 10 day IL with a mild upper back strain and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Atlanta Braves were in town for a pivotal three-game series with a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL East. Erick Fedde pitched in Scherzer’s stead in game two and gave up nine runs as the team lost 11-8. Atlanta took two of three in the series and pushed the division lead to 6 1/2 games. Despite the setback, the Nats were able to persevere in Scherzer’s absence as they went 12-8 since he was placed on the IL.

Now with Scherzer set to return on Thursday, Washington remains six games back of the Braves with 37 games to play in the season. The team owns a one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the first wild card, and a three-game lead over both the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets. Washington has been able to continue to win games without their ace. Here is how the team prevailed, while Max Scherzer recuperated.

Joe Ross and Erick Fedde stepped up

Max Scherzer
Image courtesy of NBC Sports.

Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez all continued to dominate in Scherzer’s stand. But the back end of the rotation remains a huge question mark.

Joe Ross and Erick Fedde have both struggled, inconsistent in their opportunities this year. But once the calendar turned to August, both of them stepped up. In four August starts, Joe Ross is 3-0 with 13 strikeouts, and a .42 ERA. He left his fourth start early on Monday after he was hit in the leg by a come-backer. Ross has finally started to return to his old self before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Erick Fedde has also begun to justify why the Nationals drafted him in the first round in 2014. In three August starts, he is 3-0 with eight strikeouts, and a 3.18 ERA. He stumbled in his last start against the Brewers on Sunday, but the offense picked him up.

Joe Ross will most likely stay in the rotation while Fedde will be moved to the bullpen. Fedde will take over as the bullpen’s much needed long reliever and will also provide another capable starter when needed.

The offense is raking

In addition to the starting rotation baffling opposing hitters, the red hot offense has provided plenty of run support. Anthony Rendon continues to perform toward an MVP caliber season. Rendon is hitting .322, with 27 home runs, and has an OPS of 1.007.  Juan Soto has taken the next step after his phenomenal rookie season. Soto is hitting .290 with 28 homers and has an OPS of .958. But it hasn’t just been the team’s best two offensive players producing. Rookie, Victor Robles has started to improve at the plate after struggling earlier this season. Robles is hitting .250 with 16 homers, but in the past week he is batting .417 with five RBIs.

General Manager Mike Rizzo signed some nifty picks-ups that include Asdrubal Cabrera and Gerado Parra off waivers. Cabrera has been platooning at second to give some extra rest to Brian Dozier. This has paid dividends as both are playing their best baseball of the season. In 32 games since joining the Nats, Cabrera is hitting .344 with 10 RBI’s.  Rizzo provided the team with enough veteran leadership off the bench to help take the offense to the next level.

MLB Network posted a tweet showcasing the Nationals recent offensive outburst.

The offense has been able to produce enough run support for the starting rotation due to the contributions from the entire lineup. The bench and bottom of the lineup have all started to find ways to supply the team with big hits when needed.

Washington has been able to keep winning games without Scherzer due to the offense reaching another level as well as Joe Ross and Erick Fedde elevating their games. Now that Scherzer is back, this team has the chance to go on a run.


Feature Image from Detroit Free Press.

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