Washington Nationals

X’s Three Stars of the Week (7/19/15 – 7/25/15)

Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – according to X Marks the Sport.

1. Cole Hamels (SP – Philadelphia Phillies)

Well, this one was hard to see coming. Cole Hamels did not exactly come into Saturday’s start on a hot streak, or even a decent streak. In his previous two starts, Hamels failed to make it to the 5th inning and put up a dreadful 19.89 ERA while surrendering an alarming 20 hits. However, Saturday was a totally different story. In perhaps his last start as a member of the Phillies, Hamels had maybe the performance of his career against the Chicago Cubs. He went into Wrigley Field and hurled his first no-hitter (he previously pitched in a combined no-hitter but this was the first one he completed). He struck out at least 13 batters in a start for the first time since September 14, 2010. Hamels’ performance was so impressive, it caused some Cubs fans to send a public non-discreet message to the team’s front office.

The image is courtesy of @ryanlawrence21 on Instagram. If this was indeed Hamels’ last start as a member of the Phillies, it was a start that he and the Philadelphia fan base won’t soon forget.

2. Zach Johnson (PGA Golf – United States)

It had been eight years since his last win at a major event, but Zach Johnson emerged from under the radar to capture the 2015 Open Championship. Johnson shot a 66 in the 4th round, which tied for the best final round. He needed it too as Marc Leishman (Australia) matched him stroke for stroke. The strong rounds from both men qualified them for a decisive four-hole playoff with Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) who shot a solid 69 on the final day. In the playoff, Johnson was the only one of the trio who was able to birdie each of the first two holes, and that ultimately proved to be the difference as he beat out Oosthuizen by a stroke to pick up the win. With this victory, Johnson is now one of nine golfers on tour with two multiple major championships since 2007. It was his 12th overall win on tour, and second consecutive win with an aggregate score of 273.

3. Ian Desmond (SS – Washington Nationals)

The weight of pending free agency seems to have adversely affected Ian Desmond. He entered last week with a highly disappointing .206 batting average, far below his career-worst batting average .253. Desmond was desperately in need of a hot streak at the plate, and maybe this past week was the spark he had been waiting for all season at the plate. From Monday to Saturday, Desmond put together a 6-game hitting streak and had multiple hits in four of the six games. He scored at least 1 run in five of those six games, and ended the week on an impressive three-game home run streak. Desmond’s overall stat line for the week was a .455 batting average (10-22) with 4 home runs, 7 runs batted in, and 8 runs scored. His big week at the plate raised his season average by 16 points up to .222. The overall numbers are still quite underwhelming, but if Desmond can build off of last week’s momentum for the rest of the season he still has time to revive his free agent stock.

X’s Three Stars Of The Week (6/21/15 – 6/27/15)

Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – according to X Marks the Sport.

1. Jordan Spieth (PGA Tour – United States)

It would be easy to classify last week’s U.S. Open as a collapse or come-from-ahead loss by Dustin Johnson (United States), but we’ll stay positive and keep the focus on the winner. Jordan Spieth had to overcome some adversity of his own, giving up a 3-stroke lead on the 17th hole with a double-bogey, to pick up the win. Credit him for being able to recompose himself and pick up a birdie on 18 when he needed it most to put himself in position to win. Spieth came into the final round tied with the aforementioned Johnson and Branden Grace (South Africa) and bested them on Sunday by 1 and 2 strokes respectively. So this win was more than “just a guy blowing it” – Spieth earned it. With the win, Spieth became the youngest player (age 21) win the U.S. Open in 92 years. He joined some of golf’s royalty (Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Craig Wood, Tiger Woods) by winning the U.S. Open and Masters in the same year. He is the youngest player to win both majors in the same year, and the first player in 13 years to pull off the feat. For several reasons, Spieth’s win on Sunday was historic.

2. Nolan Arenado (3B – Colorado Rockies)

If Nolan Arenado were on a better team, he would be at the forefront of National League MVP discussions halfway through the season. This week was just another sampling of how good he has been in 2015. Arenado recording at least one hit in all six games he played this week, pushing his overall hitting streak to 14 games. He had two multi-home run games this week and scored at least one run in every game this week – often batting himself in via the long ball. He also had at least one RBI in every game, including a pair of 4-RBI games. His overall stat line for the last week was a .391 batting average with 6 home runs, 12 runs batted in, and 9 runs scored while slugging an impressive 1.217. Usually more power leads to more strikeouts, but Arenado only struck out once in 23 at bats. At just 24 years old, a superstar is being born in Colorado.

3. Washington Nationals Starting Pitching Rotation

When the Washington Nationals signed Max Scherzer in the offseason, their rotation on paper was one of the best Major League Baseball had ever seen. Outfielder Bryce Harper indicated as much when he (in)famously quipped “Where’s my ring?” in response to learning about the final piece to the loaded rotation. The performance by the rotation this week is what Harper had to be envisioning when he made that remark. Gio González kicked things off by firing 7 scoreless innings on Sunday to clinch a series sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stephen Strasburg (5 innings), Jordan Zimmermann (8 innings), and Doug Fister (7 innings) took turns pitching nothing but shutout innings in a series sweep of the Atlanta Braves. Max Scherzer closed out the weather-shortened week by holding the Philadelphia Phillies to 2 runs (the first runs surrendered by the starting rotation all week) in another Washington win. For the week, Washington’s starting pitchers combined for 4 wins (would have been 5 had Jordan Zimmermann not received a no-decision after a Drew Storen blown save). 35 innings, 0.51 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and a sparkling 24:4 K/BB ratio. If they keep performing at this level, they will end up fulfilling Harper’s brazen prophecy.