Thursday, June 13, 2024
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MLB Preview: Washington Nationals (15-21) at San Francisco Giants (16-19)

WASHINGTON NATIONALS NOTES:

BATTLE IN THE BAY
The Washington Nationals wrap up a three-game series today in San Francisco following a 4-1 defeat last night against the Giants…Today’s game wraps up the Nationals second west coast road trip of the season…The Nationals will visit the Pacific Time Zone four times in the first half.

• Washington’s offense collected nine hits off Giants starter Logan Webb, but was just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, leading to just one run, thanks to an RBI single from Dominic Smith in the sixth…The RBI was part of a three-hit night for Smith, who reached base four times, going 3-for-3 with a walk.

• Patrick Corbin took the loss, but worked 6.0 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts…It was Corbin’s fourth quality start in his last five and the fifth time he’s given the Nationals 6.0 innings in his eight starts this season.

STATUS CHECK
The Nationals have won five of eight, six of 10 and 10 of 18 games dating to April 21 at Minnesota…The Nationals have won three series and lost two since April 21.

• Washington has a 14-15 record after losing six of seven games to start the season…That stretch included series against the Atlanta Braves (1-2) and Tampa Bay Rays (0-3) as well as a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies on their Opening Day.
LEFT IS RIGHT
The Nationals rank fourth among Major League clubs in batting average (.289) and seventh in on-base percentage (.344) against left-handed pitching.

• Luis García leads all Major League left-handed hitters – and is sixth among all National League hitters – with a .385 average against left-handed pitching.

• Dominic Smith is ninth among National League left-handed hitters with a .294 average against lefthanded pitchers.

• Lane Thomas is tied for eighth in the National League with 13 hits against lefties and is 13th with a .361 batting average.

HE’S HEATING UP
Joey Meneses is hitting .326/.333/.421 with three doubles, two homers, 13 RBI, one walk and 11 runs scored over his last 22 games.

• Meneses is one of eight players in Major League Baseball with at least two separate four-hit games this season.

• He is ninth in the National League and leads Washington with a .371 average with runners in scoring position.

• Since his debut on August 2, 2022, only Toronto’s Bo Bichette (132) and New York’s (NL) Jeff McNeil (116) have more hits than Meneses (114)…Bichette led the AL in hits in 2022 and McNeil won the 2022 NL batting title…In 2023, he is tied for seventh in the National League in hits with 42.

GARCÍA IN A GROOVE
Luis García has multi-hit games in four of his last five, going 11-for-23 (.478) with two doubles, a home run, two RBI, a walk and four runs scored.

• Since April 14, García is hitting .303 (27-for-89) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 13 RBI, eight walks, one stolen base and 12 runs scored.

SPEAKING OF DOM
Dominic Smith is 14-for-36 (.389) with one double, one homer, three RBI, five walks, hit by a pitch and five runs scored over his last 11 games…He’s struck out just three times in 42 plate appearances over this stretch.

• He is one of four National League first baseman to accumulate at least one defensive run saved so far this season.

NO Ks HERE
Thanks to Luis García (2nd, 7.9%) and Keibert Ruiz (4th, 8.3%), the Nationals have two players in the top 5 in MLB in strikeout rate…Cleveland is the only other team with two in the top 10….As a team, the Nationals have the lowest strikeout rate in Major League Baseball (18.4%) and the fewest strikeouts (248) ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks (269).

DEFENSE NOT RESTING
Thanks to strong infield defense so far this season, Nationals opponents have a .225 batting average on ground balls, fifth-best in the National League (MLB avg: .244)…In 2022, the Nationals had the third-highest opponents’ batting average on ground balls in Major League Baseball (.260).

• Washington has turned 39 double plays this season, tied for the most in the National League and second in the Majors with St. Louis…Only Baltimore, 41, has turned more double plays

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHER – #40 JOSIAH GRAY
Right-hander was acquired by the Nationals from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2021 Trade Deadline…Was Los Angeles’ No. 2 prospect entering 2021 and its Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019…Was originally selected by Cincinnati in the second round (No. 72 overall) of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York…Was acquired by the Dodgers on his 21st birthday, Dec. 21, 2018…Is the Player Ambassador to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

LAST START
Allowed three runs on seven hits over 5.0 innings at Arizona on May 5…Suffered the loss and allowed more than two runs in a start for the first time since his first start of the year on April 1.

RECENCY BIAS
Gray ranks sixth in the National League (10th in MLB) with a 2.14 ERA (8 ER/33.2 IP) in six starts since April 6…He has allowed just two home runs in that span.

vs. SAN FRANCISCO
Faces the Giants for the third time in his career, making his second start…In his only start, Gray worked 6.0 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit and four walks while striking out three on May 1, 2022 at Oracle Park.

THE STORY OF HIS CUTTER
As told to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post in a recent story: “At the start of spring training, Gray debuted a cutter he learned from Erasmo Ramírez, who drew his grip on a baseball Gray practiced with until he lost it at the gym during the offseason. Gray joked that some Florida teenager could be throwing Ramírez’s cutter in high school games. Yet by the time he misplaced the ball, Gray knew where to put his fingers. The pitch felt like a natural complement to his slider, moving more side-to-side while his gyroscopic slider drops almost straight down.”

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS NOTES:

TODAY’S GAME: The Giants look to capture a series victory in this afternoon’s rubber match with the Nationals with the series tied at a game apiece…SF has won two straight series overall (at HOU, vs. MIL) and has gone 2-0-1 in their last three home series (split vs. NYM, 3-1 series win vs. STL, 2-1 series win vs. MIL).

SCHMITT-A-DOON!: IF Casey Schmitt went 2-for-4 with a homer in his Major League debut last night, becoming the 19th player in Giants history to club a homer for his first MLB hit in his first MLB game…the last to do it prior to Schmitt was C Aramis García, who did so on August 31, 2018 vs. the Mets here at Oracle…the 24-year-old was the youngest Giant to homer in his MLB debut since Will Clark did so in his debut off Nolan Ryan on April 8, 1986 (22 years, 26 days)…Schmitt also became the 22nd player in the SF-era (1958-pres.) to record a multi-hit game in his MLB debut.

STRENGTH IN (POWER) NUMBERS: With Schmitt hitting his first MLB homer last night, the Giants now have had 14 different players hit at least one homer this year…that is tied for second-most in the Majors with Minnesota, Boston and St. Louis…only the Yankees have had more players homer at least once this year (15).

HOME ON THE RANGE: With last night’s win the Giants have now gone 8-3 in their last 11 home games here at Oracle with a +7 run differential…in their first eight home games of the year, the Giants were 2-6 with a -21 run differential…overall, the Giants are now 10-9 here at Oracle Park.

GRAND LARCENY: IF Thairo Estrada swiped his 10th base of the season last night, which has him tied for ninth-most in MLB and fifth-most in the National League…furthermore, Estrada became the first Giant to steal 10 or more bases within the team’s first 35 games since IF Emmanuel Burriss did so in 2009…even wilder, the last person to do it prior to Burriss was OF Barry Bonds in 1996.

HOW DOES “ON-BASE LaMONTE” SOUND?: IF/OF LaMonte Wade Jr. enters today’s game riding a career-best 15-game on-base streak dating to April 20…that streak is tied for the eighth-longest active streak in the Majors…during the 15- game stretch, Wade is slashing .308/.438/.673 (1.111 OPS) with two doubles, one triple, five homers, seven RBI, 11 walks and 10 runs scored…Wade enters today with the third-best
OBP in the Majors (.438) and the second-best walk-rate (20.3%) in MLB.

NO BULL…: After a rough first month of the season where the bullpen posted a 6.15 ERA that was 28th of 30 Major League teams and allowed 20 homers, they have gotten off to a nice start here in the early part of May…through the team’s first eight games this month the bullpen has logged a 3.26 ERA (7er, 19.1ip), 12th-best in MLB and have not allowed a homer…they are the only ‘pen this month that has not allowed a homer.

JUST GONNA LEAVE THIS HERE: Nationals starter Josiah Gray has the highest HR/9ip ratio among qualified starters since 2022 (2.07)…SF starter Sean Manaea is second (1.74)

IT ALL COMES OUT IN THE WSH: Since 2021, the Giants are 10-5 against the Nationals, outscoring them 68-56 (+12)…SF’s offense has averaged 4.5 runs per game, with pitchers posting a 3.39 ERA in the stretch.

CAN WE MAKE IT THREE IN A ROW?: SF struck out six times on Monday night and then only five times in yesterday’s win…the two-game total of 11 is the Giants lowest two-game strikeout total for any two consecutive games this season…this comes on the heels of SF striking out 14 times in the series finale vs. Milwaukee on Sunday, their second-highest in a game this season behind their 16 on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium…SF has not struck out fewer than 10 times in three straight games at any point this season.

A GIANT MILESTONE: The winningest club in MLB history, the Giants are close to becoming the first team ever to reach 11,500 wins (including playoffs), currently sitting at 11,498 franchise victories…the Giants are followed by the Dodgers (11,385), Cardinals (11,278), Cubs (11,225) and Braves (11,047) in the all-time win list (Stats, LLC).

WAIT, WE DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE TIME ZONES?: Following today’s game the Giants will embark on a quick four-game roadie to Arizona over the weekend before returning home Monday…this trip will be the first that the Giants have taken this year where they don’t have to change time zones at any point…SF opened the year in New York and Chicago (two different time zones) then went back to the Eastern Time Zone to Detroit and Miami on their second trip…on their third trip they once again tackled two different time zones (Central Standard Time in México City and Central Daylight Time in Houston).

TODAY’S STARTER – SEAN MANAEA LHP #52
2023 RECORD: 1-1, 7.33 ERA

WITH THE GIANTS: His first season with Giants…signed two-year, $25 million contract with San Francisco this offseason after spending 2022 with San Diego…Manaea has an opt-out in his contract after this season.

LAST OUTING: Manaea battled through 5.0 innings to earn his first win as a Giant last Friday vs. Milwaukee…the outing was his longest since he pitched a season-high 6.0 innings in his first start of the year (April 8 vs. Kansas City)…he struck out six Brewers, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks…the start also broke Manaea’s three-game streak of allowing a homer.

VS. WASHINGTON: Manaea has one career start against Washington, while with the Padres in 2022…the lefty struck out four across 7.0 innings while allowing one run on a homer to current Padres DH Nelson Cruz…the only National with a home run against Manaea is IF Jeimer Candelario, who is 2-for-9 with two walks and a home run…IF/OF Michael Chavis is 2-for-7 with a double, but his five outs were strikeouts.

WHO BLINKS FIRST: The lefty has struggled to keep the ball in the yard since last season…his 1.74 HR/9 is the second highest since the start of 2022 behind today’s Nationals starter Josiah Gray…the Nationals have equally been poor at taking lefties deep, however… their six home runs vs. left-handers are fewest in the Majors this season, and they rank 27th with 45 homers since the start of 2022.

FAST AND FURIOUS: Manaea has thrown his four-seam fastball 44.8% of the time this year and the Nationals have a .791 OPS this year off fastballs (16th in MLB)…Nationals IF Luis García had a .744 slugging percentage against four-seam fastballs last season, which was fifth best in the Majors (min. 25 PA)…this year, however, García’s slugging percentage vs. four-seam fastballs is down to .462…García, OF Lane Thomas and IF Joey Meneses have negative run values vs. four-seamers this season…OF Stone Garrett is batting .571 vs. four-seamers, which leads the team.

MAY I BE EXCUSED: May has historically been Manaea’s second-worst month (behind August)…in 26 career games, the lefty is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA, 134 strikeouts and a 1.33 WHIP in 145.1 May innings…since 2016, Manaea’s first year in the Majors, the lefty has the second-highest May ERA in MLB (min. 140.0 innings).

KEEP IT LOW: Opponents are batting .167 (4×24) with a .375 OPS on groundballs vs. Manaea, with just two hits among 30 hits to the infield…on fly balls, opponents are batting .455 (10×22) with a 1.844 OPS…Manaea’s fly ball rate is 41.5%, which is the second-highest of his career, while his 33.8% ground ball rate is the lowest of his career.

DON’T FALL BEHIND: The first five hitters in the lineup have at least a 1.000 OPS vs Manaea this season, with cleanup hitters posting a 1.164 mark…leadoff hitters are 5-for-15 with two doubles, a home run and a 1.000 OPS…when batters are ahead in the count against Manaea, they are 8-for-19 (.421) with 13 walks and a 1.542 OPS…where teams break it open again Manaea is the 3rd and 4th inning…he has a 7.71 ERA and 1.083 opposing OPS in the 3rd, and 15.00 ERA and opposing 1.500 OPS in the 4th.

HOME SWEET HOME: Manaea has traditionally been much better at home than on the road in his career…he has a 5.63 ERA, 19 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP in 16.0 frames at Oracle Park this year compared to a 11.05 ERA, eight strikeouts and a 2.46 WHIP in 7.1 road innings…in eight seasons, Manaea has a 3.74 ERA in 464.0 innings at home compared to a 4.56 ERA in 444.1 innings as the away pitcher.

FROM DIEGO TO THE BAY: All eight seasons in the Majors have been with California teams, pitching for Oakland 2016- 2021, and San Diego in 2022…despite the Giants being his third team, Gabe Kapler is Manaea’s second MLB manager as former Oakland skipper Bob Melvin also left for San Diego in 2022.

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