Yu Darvish’s performance on Sunday (five hits in eight innings with 12 strikeouts) certainly qualifies as one of the better games ever pitched against the Nationals, but this was also his first time facing them. Luckily for Washington fans, Darvish plays in the American League, so as Bob Carpenter might say, they’ll “see Yu later” (most likely in three years).
But over the past few weeks, some players who seem to make a regular living off the Nats have been up to their old tricks, turning a stretch of 18 seemingly winnable games into an 8-10 minefield.
Washington fans are tired of seeing Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton make the daily highlights by dropping the Nats below .500. Their continued success puts them on the list of active players who have been killing the Nats for years, according to stats from Baseball-Reference.com. This may not represent the definitive list of best active players against the Nats, but everyone in this lineup has been putting up big numbers against them for multiple seasons and most are continuing the trend this year. Many - but not all - are or once were regular National League East opponents.
Here they are, position by position, with their career numbers against the Nats. An opposing manager could stack these players in any order and have a pretty good chance of coming out ahead.
Catcher: Russell Martin, Dodgers/Yankees/Pirates (.348 average, four HR, 19 RBIs in 33 games). Martin wasn’t the biggest thorn in the Nats’ sides in their recent 1-3 visit to Pittsburgh, but he did go 3-for-5, scoring a pair of runs, in two of the Pirates’ wins. It’s been that way almost ever since Martin Broke into the majors in 2006 with the Dodgers.
First base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals/Angels (.324 average, 24 HR, 51 RBIs in 68 games). It’s fitting that Pujols smacked his 500th career homer at Nationals Park in April. Dating to his days in St. Louis, he’s hit more homers against the Nats than any team outside the NL Central.
Second base: Chase Utley, Phillies (.279 average, 18 HR, 86 RBIs in 151 games). His average is under .300 against Washington, but his numbers over almost a full season’s worth of games against the Nats would be a great year for most second basemen. He’ll get a chance to build on them this week.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins/Dodgers (.344 average, 30 HR, 86 RBIs in 118 games). He’s been frustrating the Nats since his days with the Marlins and he hasn’t stopped since moving to Los Angeles. He was 3-for-5 with a homer and a pair of RBIs in the Dodgers’ lone win in Washington last month.
Third base: David Wright, Mets (.305 average, 21 HR, 92 RBIs in 166 games). Captain America’s bat has not figured prominently in a win over the Nats this season, but he’s made them work for their five victories so far against the Mets, going 8-for-22. His totals in a little more than a season’s worth of games against the Nats have been better than those in some of his All-Star years.
Left field: Justin Upton, Diamondbacks/Braves (.296 average, nine HR, 27 RBIs in 54 games). No monster career home run or RBI numbers at this position, but Upton has been hurting the Nats consistently for five of the last six years. Since joining the Braves last season, he’s hit .365 with seven homers and 15 RBIs against Washington.
Center field: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (.357 average, 13 HR, 28 RBIs in 34 games). Even when he’s hitting just .143 against the Nats (so far) for the season, McCutchen still finds ways to kill them. He brought in the tying run in the Pirates’ 3-1 win over the Nats on May 22 when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and later singled in the go-ahead run. He also iced the game with a sliding catch of Anthony Rendon’s line drive with two out and two on in the bottom of the ninth.
Right field: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (.317 average, 21 HR, 50 RBIs in 62 games). His name spelled backwards is “not Nats,” and he’s been raking against Washington since his first visit to Nationals Park in August 2010. Stanton went 8-for-12 with a pair of homers and drove in six in a three-game Marlins sweep. All he’s done lately is hit a monster homer to set the tone for Miami’s 3-1 Memorial Day victory over the Nats.
Starting pitcher: Anibal Sanchez, Marlins/Tigers (9-1, 1.98 ERA, 109 strikeouts, 49 walks in 21 games). He has to be on this list, even though he’s out of the NL. Nationals fans should celebrate heartily every July 23. That’s the date in 2012 when Miami sent Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers. The Nats had never beaten him in seven seasons to that point. It’s doubtful that any pitcher will ever be such a headache, even Darvish.
Marty Niland blogs about the Nationals for D.C. Baseball History. Follow him on Twitter: @martyball98. His thoughts on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.