Archive for the ‘american league east’ Category
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
The Nationals’ hitting woes not only continued on Monday night in San Francisco, they might have actually gotten worse. Washington’s anemic line-up was able to muster only three hits against Ryan Vogelsong, a starter with the worst ERA in the National League, and the Giants defeated the hometowners, 8-0.
For the first time this year, Vogelsong looked like the starter that notched a 14-9 record last year. The righty kept the Nats off balance through five innings and struck out two. “That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Vogelsong said of his outing. “From a mental aspect, physical aspect, everything felt good.”
“That was a tough one,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “Been in a lot of funny games, but going into that one being a couple of pitchers short was tough.” The Nationals have now lost three in a row, and stand at 3-5 on their current road trip.
The Nationals were hoping that spot starter Zach Duke would be able to hold the Giants at least through five innings, but the southpaw threw only 57 pitches before being lifted in the fourth inning for reliever Craig Stammen. The Giants, meanwhile, victimized Duke for seven hits and four runs.
The Giants looked fully recovered from their recent 1-5 road trip against Toronto and Colorado — where they looked like the punchless Nationals. On Monday night, the Giants pounded out seventeen hits against Washington pitching, the most at AT&T Park since August of 2010, with first sacker Brandon Belt going 4-5 with a home run, his sixth of the year.
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Washington righthanded ace Jordan Zimmermann was brilliant once again, holding the Atlanta Braves to just two hits in eight innings, and pitching the Nationals to a much-needed victory in Atlanta, 2-0. Zimmermann struck out eight and allowed only one Atlanta runner past first base.
“We needed that one bad and he went out and pitched a blueprint game,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said following the Washington victory. “I thought he was one of the elites last year. We just didn’t give him a lot of run support.
This was Zimmermann’s third superb outing in a row: Zimmermann threw a one hit complete game in his previous outing against Cincinnati and before that had been nearly untouchable against both the Marlins and Mets. In the constellation of Nationals’ starters, it turns out that it’s Zimmermann — and not Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez — who’s the “stopper.”
“He’s obviously got everything working right now,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Zimmermann. “He’s pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he’s really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he’s throwing breaking balls for strikes. He’s got it working. Even during the game, he keeps it loose. He’s really fun to work with.”
Washington got its two runs in the fourth inning, the result of a walk to Bryce Harper and a home run to Ian Desmond. Atlanta’s Paul Maholm took the loss and Washington closer Rafael Soriano notched his eighth save of the season.The victory broke Washington’s eight game losing streak to the Bravos.
Sunday, April 28th, 2013
How ’bout them O’s? The Orioles powered past the Oakland A’s 7-3 yesterday off of home runs from Nick Markakis, Adam Jones (which were back-to-back) and Nate McLouth. This was the Birds’ eighth victory in their last ten games, and assured them of a series win over the reeling White Elephants.
The Orioles are 15-9 on the season and are currently in second place in the tough A.L. East. There are all kinds of reasons for the O’s early season success, but none of them has to do with good starting pitching. While Chris Tillman gave them a solid outing yesterday (six innings, seven strikeouts), it’s the O’s bats that have made the difference.
The Orioles are third in runs scored in the A.L., third in home runs, fifth in team average and fourth in hits. In the opinion of CFG’s crack research team (here we are, in case you’ve forgotten), the O’s two through five hitters are among the most formidable in baseball: Manny Machado, Markakis, Jones and Chris Davis.
It’s possible to date the “arrival” of the O’s from the day that Manny Machado (their first pick in the 2010 draft) showed up at third base, which was on August 9 of last year. The O’s worried, worried, worried that Machado wasn’t quite ready, (he was just 20, and just three years out of high school), but he hit a respectable .262 last year and is at .277 this year.
Machado immediately showed he belonged; he singled and tripled in his debut, then hit two homers in his second game. At the end of the season, Machado’s .445 slugging percentage was the fourth highest by a third sacker his age, behind Jimmie Foxx, Bob Horner and Eddie Matthews. O’s fans took notice: the team went 33-18 after he arrived.
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
There are people who throw salt over their shoulder, who won’t walk under a ladder, who dodge sidewalk cracks as they head to their office — and then there are the rest of us: who audibly groan when we see own hometown boys featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s the kiss of death.
Honest To God: the S.I. “Kiss Of Death” syndrome is not just some kind of black cat superstition. Just ask Cubs’ fans. Back in 2004, S.I. featured fireballer Kerry Wood on its cover under the headline “Do You Believe?” In fact, the answer to that question for “long suffering Cubs fans” (note: the words “Cubs fans” must always be preceded by the words — “long suffering”) was an emphatic “no.” They knew better, especially with Dusty “arm killer” Baker in charge. The 2004 Champs were the Boston Red Sox, who swept the series from the stinking Cardinals. The Cubs finished sixteen back.
Which is not to say that this year’s S.I prediction, authored by Tom Verducci (who says our guys look a lot like Davey Johnson’s ’86 Mets), is wrong. The CFG crew (and, as a reminder, here we are), thinks this is the best team the Nationals have ever fielded (well, that was easy) and arguably the best in baseball. But predicting a World Series match-up against the Rays (S.I.’s pick in the well-named Junior Circuit) is a bit of a stretch. The playoffs are now a second season, in which anything can happen — as any old Nationals’ fan can now tell you.
Is the Sports Illustrated jinx real? The first baseball player to appear on an S.I. cover — this was back in 1954 — was Eddie Matthews who, after his appearance, broke his hand. Pete Rose appeared on the cover in the same week, in 1978, that his 44 game hitting streak ended. “Indian Uprising,” back in 1987 featured the powerhouse Cleveland Indians: who finished in last place, with the worst record in baseball. And in May of last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers (then in first place) appeared on the cover with the headline “Fun and Games In L.A.” — and promptly tanked.
So, while the S.I. jinx is simply a superstition, it’s hard to argue with history. Then too, the reason there’s a 162 game season is not simply to test of team’s excellence, but it’s luck. It’s ability to overcome fate, and injuries and those odd little bounces that rob a sure winner of a Series championship. And there’s that other thing: the Nationals might well be “the best team in baseball,” at least on paper, but the coming season won’t be played on paper. It’ll be played against the likes of the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. Among others.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ah, we’re back — and this time for good. The snow has melted, we can feel Spring in the air, and the Nationals are just days from their opener. It’s the season of predictions: with everyone assessing starting rotations and winter trades.
So too, usually, we make our predictions at this time of the off-season. But this year, we’re going to do something different — we’re going to pick the counterfactuals: those teams expected to do well who, in our estimation, are overrated. Here we go:
Monday, October 1st, 2012
This was not Washington at its best, and everyone on the Nationals knew it. With a chance to clinch the National League East, the Nationals didn’t pitch or hit, and seemed sluggish in their three game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis, and no more so than during their last loss on Sunday, when they came away with a 10-4 defeat.
“We’ve had rough outings before and come back good. We’ll be fine,” Davey Johnson said as his team packed up for the return to Washington. “And I like clinching at home in front of the home fans. That’s nice.” Well, that’s what the team is hoping — as it opens a three game series tonight at Nationals Park against the Phillies.
The latest victim of the St. Louis hitting barrage was Ross Detwiler, who lasted just 2.1 innings while giving up four hits and seven runs — three of them earned. “I had the first chance at it, and I [stunk],” said Detwiler of his loss, before shrugging. “This was for all the fans back in D.C. Wanted them to see the team clinch.”
“I just didn’t throw any strikes,” Detwiler went on to say. He was right: He threw only 43 of 81 pitches in the strike zone. “You walk five people in two innings, you won’t have much success doing that.” Detwiler is now 10-8 on the season.
Saturday, September 29th, 2012
“It wasn’t happening tonight,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said, after the Nationals were upended by the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, 12-2 on Friday night. But the stunningly lopsided score, the worst of the season for the D.C. Nine, still left the team just two games away from the N.L. East title, as the Braves lost to the Mets in Atlanta, 3-1.
This wasn’t much of a contest from the very beginning, as Nats’ starter Edwin Jackson struggled against a potent playoff bound Redbird line-up. Jackson was pulled after notching just a single out in the second inning, while giving up eight runs on six hits and walking four. The otherwise steady righty is now 9-11 on the season.
“Short-term memory, man. It’s not the first game. Just shake it off,” Jackson said of his outing. “I’m not dead from this game. It just definitely leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But I’m not going to go jump off a bridge or anything because of the game.”
Jackson’s short sprint forced the Nationals to respond to St. Louis with four relievers: Tom Gorzelanny, Christian Garcia, Zach Duke and Michael Gonzalez. All pitched well, except for Gonzalez, who gave up another three runs to the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth.
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
An improbable and heroic comeback from the hometown nine — a six run 8th inning that tied the game at six apiece — was undone in the 9th inning by a Matt Kemp home run off of Nationals’ reliever Tyler Clippard, and the Los Angeles Dodgers took the second game of a doubleheader at Nationals Park, 7-6.
The loss kept the Nationals from clinching a playoff spot, but brought the crowd at the Half Street stadium to their feet to cheer their team on in one of the more exciting rallies of the season. The comeback followed two three run sets scored off of Nationals starter John Lannan in the third and the fourth innings. But, as it turned out, the rally fell short of providing a needed victory.
The six run eighth inning started with a Michael Morse home run, followed by an Ian Desmond single. Steve Lombardozzi followed, with his third home run of the season, and suddenly the Nationals were back in the game, having cut L.A.’s lead in half.
After Jesus Flores grounded out and Corey Brown reached on an error by first sacker Adrian Gonzalez, L.A. manager Don Mattingly did what he should have done to start the inning — he pulled starter Josh Beckett, who had tamed the Nationals through seven complete.
But the Nationals had only begun their rally. With reliever Randy Choate on the mound, pinch hitter Mark DeRosa singled, pushing Brown to third. Bryce Harper then followed, with the fifth hit of the inning, plating the inning’s fourth run. Danny Espinosa then came to the plate, singled — and suddenly the bases were loaded.