Archive for the ‘Arizona Diamondbacks’ Category

Padres Are No Match For Zimmermann

Monday, June 9th, 2014


The Padres saw the very best the Nationals have on Sunday, as Jordan Zimmermann had a perfect game going into the 6th inning and delivered a two hit shutout, leading the Nationals to a 6-0 win over San Diego. The Zimmermann gem captured the series 2-1 and provided the best antidote possible to the tough loss the team had suffered on Friday.

In the complete game shutout, Zimmermann threw 114 pitches, 83 of them for strikes. “For the most part he was down in the zone, painting corner to corner,” Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, the Padres’ hero on Friday, said. “He commands the ball so well, gets ahead of guys really quick. We couldn’t really put any good swings on him.”

“I was throwing strikes and the guys got me some runs early,” Zimmermann said following his victory. “My mentality changed to pour strikes into the zone and fill it up. Big ballpark, just let them hit the ball and I had a lot of strikeouts today which means my fastball was pretty good and I was able to locate it pretty good.” Zimmermann is now 5-2 on the year.

Nationals skipper Matt Williams had nothing but praise for his young righty. “It’s good. Today helps our bullpen. They have been taxed until now,” he said after the victory. “Jordan has the ability to save your bullpen.” Williams called the Zimmermann performance “outstanding,” particularly coming after a tough loss.

“From the first pitch, he was in the strike zone again,” Williams added. “Strike one is important. He was able to do that today. Fastball command — he was throwing it exactly where he wanted to throw it.” In fact, Zimmermann faced just 29 batters during Sunday’s game and threw first strikes to 22 of them.

Ian Desmond continued to have the hot hand at the plate. He was 2-5 on Sunday with two RBIs and smoked a round tripper in the second inning off of San Diego southpaw starter Eric Stults. Danny Espinosa, who continues to surge, as well as Jayson Werth, each had two hits.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The stars seem to be aligning for the Nationals. The Bravos took a 2-0 lead into the 7th inning in Arizona on Sunday, but came away losers after the Diamondbacks put six on the board in the bottom of that frame. The rally was led by Paul Goldschmidt and rookie David Peralta, who homered for Arizona during the D-Backs comeback, victimizing Atlanta starter Aaron Harang . . .

Say what you will about Arizona (and we have a lot to say, not much of it good), they know how to win when the Nationals need them to. The D-Backs are desperately trying to climb back into the race in the N.L. West (frankly, we will give you better odds on The Second Coming), which means they have to win at home — where they’ve been (at an embarrassing 11-23) simply atrocious . . .

The Arizona win over the boys from Cobb County, when coupled with Miami’s win in Chicago, knots up the N.L. Least, where the Nats, Braves and Marlins are snarling and circling and in a dead tie . . .

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants (the team the Nationals, gulp, will face next), were busy wrapping up their series sweep against the New York Mets, who are slipping and sliding into fourth place, as they sprint to the bottom against the still hapless Phillies . . .

The Giants are almost mindlessly good, though we are left to wonder why. No one on San Francisco’s starting nine on Sunday was (or is) hitting over .300. Of course, Angel Pagan was out of the line-up (he’s at .323, good for fifth in the National League), but still. Their next best hitter is Hunter Pence, at .290. Pablo Sandoval, the Panda (gag) is only at .247, with just eight home runs . . .


Nats Notes: The Positives In The Arizona Series

Friday, May 16th, 2014


It wasn’t the absolute best, but the Washington Nationals’ series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a much needed positive end to a rough road trip to the Left Coast. The Nats’ bats couldn’t come alive against D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo in Game Two, but that’s hardly a knock against the home towners. Arroyo went the distance and chopped and chipped his stuff so well that it at times the horsehide seemed to move in slow motion. Nats hitters just couldn’t seem to focus.

Jordan Zimmermann again illustrated that he doesn’t do well with extra rest, giving up five earned runs in 5.2 innings in Game 1. And Stras was good, but not good enough to best Arroyo. But the good news for Nats Nation is that new acquisition Doug Fister shook off his (very) lackluster start in Oakland and pitched like the guy the Nats thought they were getting — he threw six strikeouts and induced ten groundball outs in his start against the Snakes.

One might be tempted to say that Fister’s start wasn’t a great test (need we point out: his semi-gem was against the second-worst team in the league), but bear in mind that Arizona is currently fourth in the National League in team batting average. That’s not nothing.

The fielding in this series was . . . fine. Four double plays in three games, but Ian Desmond racked up two more errors at shortstop. Rightfielder Jayson Werth did get an outfield assist and . . . and . . .  and nothing else really notable happened.

The Nationals’ lineup capitalizde where it could. Ian Desmond was a standout (finally), racking up four hits and four RBIs in the series. It looks like he’s taken some of the oomf out of his swing, giving it 75 percent instead of 135 percent, and that’s working well. Finally, finally — he isn’t overswinging. (Hey, maybe he’s been reading CFG.)


Fister, Late HRs, Yield Arizona Series Win

Thursday, May 15th, 2014


Ian Desmond hit a 9th inning single with the bases loaded, and Tyler Moore followed with another hit, as the Nationals pushed across four runs against Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler — and the Nationals went on to win the third game of their three game Diamondbacks series, 5-1.

The four run 9th inning unlocked a straight-up pitchers duel, which featured a solid outing from Nationals newcomer Doug Fister. Fister threw seven innings of five hit baseball, matching Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy who went eight innings while yielding just two hits.

“We needed this one,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after his team’s victory. “It salvages the road trip. It started off really bad and it’s nice to get this one and head home on a positive note.” The Nationals will get a day off before beginning a six game home stand against the Mets and Reds.

The Washington 9th inning started when Ziegler issued a walk to Denard Span, which was followed by a double to right off the bay of Anthony Rendon. Ziegler then intentionally walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. The next hitter, Desmond, then put Ziegler’s 84 mph sinker into left field, scoring Span and Rendon. Tyler Moore’s single then scored Desmond and Werth.

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Fister’s outing came as a relief for the Nationals, who view the righty (acquired in an off-season trade with the Detroit Tigers), as filling a missing piece in their rotation. After spending the start of the season nursing an injury, Fister’s first start in Oakland (where he gave up five earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work) was not auspicious. But the former Cat turned it around on Wednesday.

“He had good stuff,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Fister’s outing. “He was changing speeds. He’s got a really good sinker and he was throwing it to both sides of the plate. He started going to his offspeed stuff later in the game, and he just had us off balance. He threw a good game.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Mets seemed to have the Yankees number this week — until last night, when the pinstripers push their best pitcher to the mound. In their first two games of the Mets-Yankees subway series this week, the Mets pummeled the Gehrigs, plating 21 runs while notching 24 hits . . .

The Mets outburst was met with head-scratching bewilderment by the New York media, which focused more on Yankee lapses than the Mets’ brilliance. Perhaps that’s understandable: the Mets took all four games in the subway series last year, and the first two games in the 2014 campaign set the tone for Yankee mediocrity . . .


Nats, Strasburg Fall To D-Backs

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


Stephen Strasburg was his usual steady and solid self on Tuesday night in Arizona, but the Diamondbacks’ veteran righty Bronson Arroyo was better, as the Nationals fell to the Rattlers in Phoenix, 3-1. The Nationals were only able to push across a single run against Arroyo, who threw a seven hit complete game for his fourth victory of the 2014 campaign.

The lone Washington run came in the second inning, when Ian Desmond’s triple scored Wilson Ramos. But the National failed to capitalize on their chances that inning, as Monday’s hero Kevin Frandsen hit into a double play to end the threat. Strasburg kept the Nationals close, nearly matching Arroyo, by throwing eight innings of eight hit baseball.

“Overall I thought he pitched fine,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Strasburg’s outing. “Bronson was better tonight though. All over the zone with all the pitches that he had, he kept everybody off balance.”

Arizona scored on Strasburg in the bottom of the 4th on a Paul Goldschmidt double and a Miguel Montero single, then again in the fifth when Goldschmidt scorched another double, scoring Bronson Arroyo and Martin Prado. But it was Arroyo who was the difference in the game.

“That’s the great thing about baseball,” Arroyo said following the victory. “I don’t really have to beat Stephen, I just have to beat their batters for the most part.” A finesse pitcher, Arroyo threw 110 pitches in his complete game outing, 79 of them for strikes.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Arizona G.M. Kevin Towers might be the most unpopular man in Phoenix, with rumors swirling of his imminent firing — the result of a terrible start (4-14 in their first three weeks, the worst in franchise history) and a series of bad trades that have stripped Arizona’s pitching rotation . . .

Even the players have been speaking out. “I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest with you,” third sacker Eric Chavez said at the end of April. “I’ve been on teams that weren’t very good, but at least I felt like we were competitive. So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow . . . ”

There seems little doubt, Towers has a lot to answer for. Nicknamed “the Gunslinger” for his penchant to pull the trigger on big trades, Towers’ hasn’t hesitated to swap home-grown players who (as he would say) haven’t panned out, for aging if experienced veterans who match manager Kirk Gibson’s “tough and gritty” mold . . .


Nats Rally In The 9th For 6-5 Arizona Win

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014


The Nationals were headed to their fourth loss in a row when they came to the plate in the 9th inning last night in Arizona. But Danny Espinosa’s home run tied the game and Kevin Frandsen’s pinch hit homer put the Nationals ahead 6-5 — and Washington went on to defeat the Diamondbacks in a must-need win.

“It was a good win for us,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said after the victory. “We needed that.” Williams’ comment was as close to a sigh as you will hear from the Nationals’ skipper, and followed a sweep in Oakland that had put the team on its heels. The victory continued Arizona’s poor showing at home, where they are now 3-16.

The win in Arizona also helped Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann get a no-decision in another so-so performance. The Ace of Auburn allowed five runs on ten hits in throwing 5.2 innings, his worst performance since April 9, when he couldn’t get out of the second inning against the Marlins.

“I felt pretty strong out there. The velocity was good. My misses were down the middle,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “They are a good-hitting team, and they are going to make you pay for pitches you leave in the middle.”

Despite the last-minute heroics, the Nationals hit Arizona well, putting a run on the board in each of the first two innings, then two more in the 4th. But the Diamondbacks kept surging back, matching Washington’s clutch at-bats. The D-Backs capitalized on two out RBIs from Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero.

After the clutch Espinosa home run in the 9th, the Washington Nationals dugout went crazy. “Wouldn’t you?” game hero Frandsen told the press. “Let’s be honest here, this weekend wasn’t fun. We ran into a good Oakland team, but we didn’t play our best baseball. We actually played ugly baseball. For us to come back . . . that’s how we’ve been all year. We’re resilient, we keep fighting.”

The victory provided Washington, and closer Rafael Soriano, a kind of redemption. After blowing a save in Oakland, Soriano closed out the 9th, saving a Nationals victory by inducing a double play ball from Eric Chavez and a third out ground out from Martin Prado. It was Soriano’s eighth save on the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The last time the Chicago Cubs scored seventeen or more runs against the Cardinals was in 1974, in a 19-4 mid-September victory. Burt Hooten was a Cubs starter, Jose Cardenal was patrolling the outfield and Hall of Famer Billy Williams was in the last years of his career — and playing first base . . .

So: the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Right. The Cubs were headed to last place in what was the N.L. East back then (and finished at 66-96), and they’re head to the same place in the standings this year. But don’t kid yourself, the 1974 Cubs bear no resemblance to the Cubs of 2014, who pummeled the Cardinals for 20 hits and 17 runs last night . . .

The difference? There aren’t any old duffers, like Williams, in the Cubs line-up, which is filled with young hitters who can’t wait to play the game. While the North Siders are one of baseball’s worst teams, the talk of rebuilding (a phrase that seems to actually accompany the term Chicago Cubs) is over. The Cubs are nearly rebuilt, and the product is (well, can be) a sight to see . . .

Last night is a good example. Left fielder Junior Lake, who accounted for six RBIs in the Chicago romp, is 24. Third sacker Mike Olt, the former top-shelf prospect in the Rangers’ system, is third in the league in home runs and hit his eighth last night. He’s 25. And Anthony Rizzo (.281, .393, .474, .867), who is fast becoming a young star, knocked in three runs. Rizzo is 24 . . .


Nats Notes: Facing An “Iffy” May

Friday, May 9th, 2014

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at San Francisco Giants

The Washington Nationals provided two-and-a-half games worth of solid baseball to get the series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Trolleys are one of the National League’s elite teams, as even casual fans know, and were picked by many pundits in the preseason to go all the way — so it’s heartening that the Nats played them hard and well in this early season match up.

Jordan Zimmermann was in command of the zone during his start, but a thunderstorm prevented him from getting past the 4th inning. Even so, the boys from the bullpen (Aaron Barrett, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Rafael Soriano) went the distance and kept everything on lock down, notching a much-needed shutout. Stephen Strasburg had a rough first inning on Wednesday, giving up four straight singles, but then went six-and-change to keep it close.

Strasburg went to the pines with the lead and was then ably assisted by Blevin and Clippard, who locked up the eighth. Clippard needed his outing, as he looked uneven before the Dodgers’ series. Clippard has moved his ERA back down to 2.40 for the season: it was above 4.00 for much of early April. Rafael Soriano untucked his seventh save and maintained his season ERA of 0.00 over 13 games played.

The bats in the two wins weren’t exactly extraordinary, but they were solid in much the way they were in 2012, when the Nats won more than a dozen one run games on the back of great pitching and good fielding. Speaking of fielding, the infield turned a total of five double plays over the series and center fielder Denard Span was his usual acrobatic self, making some great catches by the warning track.

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And we’d be remiss not to mention Nate McLouth (filling left field for Bryce Harper), who hasnt’ done squat at the plate this season, but who literally put skin in the game on a great catch against the wall in foul territory on Monday: “I know it pretty much went catch, boom, wall,” he said. Good leather, no wood? Nate just needs to get his swing — and our bet is that he will.


Strasburg Steady As Nats Take L.A. Series

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014


Stephen Strasburg struggled through a tough first inning, giving up four straight singles and two runs, but then settled in for yet another strong and steady start — leading the Nationals to a 3-2 win and a series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was an unusual early-May classic, pitting two tough teams against each other in what felt like a post-season showdown.

The Nationals faced their former teammate, Dan Haren, who started for L.A. Haren was effective, throwing six innings of seven hit baseball — but he couldn’t match Strasburg. The Nationals touched Haren for three runs, and the veteran righty registered his first loss of the year against four wins.

The game also marked the return of Wilson Ramos to his usual spot behind the plate. Ramos made his first start since being injured on opening day, and notched the game winning RBI on a fifth inning sacrifice fly that scored Denard Span. Ramos was 1-2 with an RBI on the day, while Span scored two of the Nationals’ three runs.

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Strasburg threw 114 pitches, cruising into the 8th inning before being relieved by Jerry Blevins. Nationals skipper Matt Williams dismissed Strasburg’s historic first inning troubles with a shrug during his post game comments. “He was throwing well. Those hits were on the ground,” he said. “Good fastball, good command, he pitched well.”

A trio of Nats’ relievers helped Strasburg bring home the win, his third of the still young season. Jerry Blevins battled L.A.’s Adrian Gonzalez in the 8th inning, throwing ten pitches to the first baseman (seven of them for strikes) before getting the first sacker to pop out to Anthony Rendon in foul territory.

Tyler Clippard then came in in relief of Blevins in an attempt to master all-world Yaisel Puig, getting him to line out to Span in center. Rafael Soriano then pitched the 9th, and set down the side in order: Andre Ethier grounded out to second, then Juan Uribe and Matt Kemp both struck out swinging.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals now head for the left coast, where they will face off against the Oakland A’s and the Arizona Diamondbacks. But before leaving the never-this-interesting N.L. East, we should tip our hats yet again to those lousy Miami Marlins. Who are anything but . . .

The Marlins started the season 5-2 before losing eight in a row, including four to the Nationals. Remember? And everyone thought: the Fish are playing at their level, with a tailspin that will never stop. Since then, Miami has gone 13-6, which has included a sweep of the Braves and two series sweeps of the Mets . . .

The Marlins have been almost unbeatable at home: they are 17-5 in front of their own (still sparse) fans at Marlins Park. The problem for Miami, it seems, is that league rules require them to play half their games on the road. That’s not great news: the Fins are 2-10 after getting off a charter . . .