The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
Braves 21-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. nabbed his 30th stolen base of the season on Friday, becoming the second-youngest player in Major League history to produce at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season. Per MLB Stats, the only other player under 22 years old to pull off the feat is Mike Trout, who did so with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases during his age-20 season in 2012.
Acuña’s triumphant moment came in the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the Mets. He drew a six-pitch walk against righty reliever Seth Lugo, then waited for an opportune moment as Ozzie Albies stepped to the plate. Lugo fired a 93-m.p.h. fastball to Albies for ball no. 2, which was promptly returned to second base by catcher Wilson Ramos. The throw came in high, however; Amed Rosario had to jump to make the catch, allowing Acuña to slide safely into the bag and hit his career mark.
It’s been an eventful season for the All-Star outfielder, whose 36 home runs and 30 stolen bases helps pad a .294/.377/.536 batting line and 5.1 fWAR over 597 plate appearances. Through the first 11 innings of Friday’s contest, he went 0-for-3 with a pair of walks and a stolen base.