Series Preview: Washington Nationals III

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Headlines

Jose Reyes, New York Met: Few would have though they’d see it again, especially under the irregular circumstances, but Jose Reyes signed a minor league deal with the Mets over the weekend. It’s not entirely known what role he will play with the big league club when he gets there, but early implications seem to suggest a potential super-sub role. Lost in the shuffle is an interesting detail: the deal includes a club option for 2017 at league minimum rate, so if the Mets catch lightning in a bottle, Reyes could very well be here for a while.

Brown Out: Aside from an 8 run explosion on Friday, the Mets offense has continued to struggle to score runs. Having scored 4 runs or less in their last 8 out of 9 games, it’s a wonder they have even maintained a 4-5 records during that span.

‘Mental confusion’: Mercifully, the Mets optioned Michael Conforto to AAA Las Vegas, with his prolonged slump looking uglier by the day (8-75 since May 24, good for a .107 average. Said Manager, Terry Collins,”I think it was after his second at-bat. He came off the field and I was just looking at him, and I could just see that he had reached the state of mental confusion. Just looking in his eyes, you could almost see him shaking his head, saying, ‘What the heck is going on here?'” Brandon Nimmo was brought up in his stead. Get your head right soon Michael.

Know Your Foe

With this visit to Washington D.C., we got to talk Nats, bats, and beer with Sean Hogan of Citizens of Natstown, home of some great Nationals news and analysis.

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It appears things have been going about as well as can be expected thus far for the Nationals. With a shiny .600 winning percentage, has the season gone the way you hoped it would through June?

Results-wise, yes, the season has gone the way I hoped through June. There were a lot of question marks going into the season with Dusty Baker running the show, an almost fully rebuilt bullpen, and a second half collapse to try and forget, so being over .500 by more than 10 games and in first place is great. On the flip-side, I don’t think the Nats have played to their full potential. While they have Ramos and Murphy hitting the cover off of the ball, Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Werth, and Revere have all been disappointing to some degree by failing to replicate their success in previous years. I’m not really surprised that the starting pitchers have done so well, but I am pleasantly surprised at the overall work of the bullpen (recent results notwithstanding).

Mets fans have kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop on Daniel Murphy’s incredible hot streak this year. While he has cooled off a bit lately, he’s still north of .350 at the plate. From what you’ve seen for a decent 2016 sample size, do you think he has what it takes to keep it up?

Our own James O’Hara wrote about “The New Daniel Murphy” back in April, noting that Murphy made a conscious decision in 2016 to be more selective, swinging at fewer pitches that he could put in play and waiting on pitches to drive. Obviously he’s not going to hit .350 all year, but you can tell that he’s sticking to that approach, hitting for average and power while still striking out only about 10% of the time and having a career-low 11.7% soft-hit ball percentage. Again, he’ll definitely come down to earth, but I think he has made permanent positive changes in his approach, and we should still see him as a .310/.350/.475 type of hitter moving forward.

Even as he plays for the ‘enemy,’ it’s tough not to root for Murph. Joe Ross has picked up right where he left off last year, and is pitching quite well. Are there rumblings on an innings limit for this year? Are we finally going to see the debut of vaunted prospect, Lucas Giolito if so?

There have been rumblings over the last week or so that the Nats will be cautious with Ross, potentially slowing him down as he approaches the 180 inning mark. I’m not fully convinced that they will handle him with kid gloves; he threw 152 and 2/3 innings last year, but is not coming off of injury, and to be fully honest, I don’t think that they would trust Gio Gonzalez as one of their potential playoff starters at this point. If they decide to be cautious with his innings, I could see them potentially moving him to the bullpen in September.

As for Giolito, I think it’s a coin flip that we see him this season. He will definitely be shut down early, as he only threw 117 innings last season and is already at 71 innings this year. He hasn’t been lighting up AA (shiny 3.17 ERA, but 1.423 WHIP and 4.3 BB/9 aren’t exactly dominant), but there are not many other options ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, with only two minor league starting pitchers on the 40-man (A.J. Cole, former top prospect getting hit hard in AAA, and Taylor Jordan, who just had Tommy John surgery in May). It probably depends on the situation, and it wouldn’t surprise me in a spot starting situation if the Nats decided to go with AJ Cole or a AAA veteran like Aaron Laffey who they could turn around and DFA right after his start.

What’s your favorite DC beer at the moment?

I recently enjoyed a pint of Raised by Wolves, a Pale Ale by Right Proper Brewing Company. It’s a nice summery beer with an orangeish/yellowish color, a foamy head, and just the right amount of a touch of citrus.

Given the choice, do you prefer to head to a particular brewery to grab a pint, or do you have go-to bar/restaurant in the area?

I’ve gone to The Big Stick a few times (20 M Street) and had a good time. During the St. Louis series, they hosted a cool DC vs St. Louis beer battle, with some special brews from Schlafly. I also like Justin’s Café (same owner – 1025 First Street SE) as a more budget-friendly pregame spot, because they have a progressive happy hour where the beers cost whatever time it is (e.g. 2 pm = $2 beers, 4 pm = $4 beers, etc.).

I just got over to The Big Stick the last time the Mets were in town – good pregame grub!

Thanks again to Sean for the low-down on Nationals happenings!

Standings & Probables

Nationals 44-32 .579
Mets 40-34 .541
Marlins 41-35 .539
Phillies 32-45 .416
Braves 26-49 .347

Monday, June 27 Noah Syndergaard (8-2 2.08 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (6-4 3.11 ERA)

Tuesday, June 28 Matt Harvey (4-9 4.64 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (0-0 0.00 ERA)

Wednesday, June 29 Steven Matz (7-3 3.29 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (8-5 3.52 ERA)

Beer From the Bad Guys

Hellbender Brewing Co. – Groundskeeper Islay Barrel Aged Scotch Ale

As per the other two editions of Series Preview in D.C., as a D.C. resident, I headed over to a local brewery to test the goods straight from the source. Hellbender is a wee seven minutes from my house, and I really need to get over there more often, as they have a solid slate of tasty (and inexpensive!) beers, with a relaxed, low-key tasting room.

GI is a dark ruby in the glass with plenty of bourbon in the nose. The taste is a real highlight, as the balance of bourbon and malty scotch ale is extremely well executed, both flavors melded together seamlessly. The malty scotch base and relatively low carbonation makes for a smooth, eminently enjoyably mouthfeel. The brew finishes on a sweet note, with plenty of residual bourbon ethanol radiating through one’s nose.

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Scouting Report (20-80 scale)

See: 65

Smell: 60

Taste: 70

Feel: 75

Overall: 70

There’s plenty of complexity to Groundskeeper Islay, as imparted by the bourbon barreling. Whereas many have used the stout as the main style for barreling, I would argue that the scotch ale may serve as a better canvas. There’s plenty of body to support the added alcohol without worrying about potential overpowering of dark roasted malt. Hellbender did a great job of striking the proper balance of the two. LGM!

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