Getty Images

Carlos Correa, Charlie Blackmon are MLB’s Players of the Month

1 Comment

Major League Baseball has announced its May award winners. They are as follows:

Players of the Month

Pitchers of the Month

Rookies of the Month

Relievers of the Month

Correa batted .386 (39-for-101) with 24 runs scored, eight doubles, seven home runs and 26 RBI in May. Blackmon hit .359 (42-for-117) with 24 runs scored, six doubles, five triples, six home runs, 29 RBI and stole three bases.

McCullers compiled a 4-0 record with a 0.99 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 36.1 innings pitched in six starts. Wood went 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA and K/BB ratio of 41/7 in 28.1 innings across six starts.

Judge batted .347 (33-for-95) with 17 runs scored, five doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 17 RBI, 15 walks and three stolen bases. This is his second straight Rookie of the Month Award. Bellinger hit .245 (26-for-106) with 22 runs scored, five doubles, a triple, nine home runs, 27 RBI, 11 walks and a stolen base.

Kimbrel was 7-for-7 in save opportunities in May, striking out 25 opposing batters in 12.2 innings of work. He has not allowed a hit to opposing batters over their last 31 plate appearances. Holland was 8-for-8 in save opportunities. It was his second consecutive NL Reliever of the Month Award.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.