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Lack of run support has Nationals’ starters on edge
PHILADELPHIA — There was one out in the third inning Monday when Michael Young sent a rocket to the wall in straightaway center field. Washington Nationals center fielder Jeff Kobernus leaped at the wall and tried to corral it. By the time the ball made it back to the infield, Young was standing on third base with a triple.
And then, Dan Haren’s thought process changed.
“I was obviously trying to minimize the run,” Haren said after the Nationals’ walk-off loss to the Phillies. Haren, working in a tie game, walked the next two batters before a sinking liner skipped past diving right fielder Jayson Werth to score two Phillies runs.
“My game isn’t walking guys,” explained Haren, who possesses the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher in MLB history who has started 200 games. “My game isn’t nibbling around the zone. My game is attacking hitters.”
But this season, pitching for a team that offers its starters the second-worst run support in the major leagues, Haren changed the way he attacked the next two hitters because Young was standing on third base.
“The runs have been somewhat of a premium,” Haren said, stating the obvious about one of the worst offensive units in the league. “I tried my best to keep that run from coming in.”
So the Nationals, perhaps without meaning to, unveiled another consequence of having an offense that has struggled so mightily for consistency that in 40 of their 69 games this season they’ve scored three runs or fewer: They’re putting significant added stress on their pitching staff.
Haren may not be the best example of how the Nationals’ pitchers have been wronged thus far this season by their offense. He readily acknowledged he has not caught many breaks, but also combined that with “just pitching like crap.”
Still, he is among the four Nationals starters who rank in the National League’s 25 least supported pitchers this season. Gio Gonzalez (3.50 runs per game), Ross Detwiler (3.67 runs per game) and Stephen Strasburg can also count themselves as part of that unlucky group.
Jordan Zimmermann, for years the leader in this category, has gotten the most at 4.43 runs per game started. For comparison’s sake, the St. Louis Cardinals have four starters among the top 30 most supported in the National League. Zimmermann is the Nationals’ only one.
Haren’s support is paltry, with the Nationals scoring 2.86 runs per game he starts, and the seventh-worst mark in the major leagues. But Strasburg has borne the brunt of the Nationals’ offensive woes.
The Nationals’ ace has started 13 games and has the 12th-best ERA (2.50) in the majors among qualified pitchers.
His run support is so criminally low, at 2.69 runs per game, that despite averaging 6 1/3 innings and 1.69 earned runs per game, his record is 3-6.
Only Ricky Nolasco and Wade LeBlanc of the Miami Marlins are supported less. And they pitch for a team widely considered among the worst two in the major leagues.
“That’s always what they have to deal with it,” said manager Davey Johnson. “‘We don’t score any, they don’t get any.’ That’s always the way you have to think.”
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About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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