Archive for the ‘Arizona Diamondbacks’ Category

Span’s 9th Inning Sacrifice Gives Nats The Win

Monday, April 21st, 2014

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Denard Span’s walk off sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Danny Espinosa with the winning run as the Nationals defeated the Cardinals at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory assured a series split between the two teams, who are predicted to meet in the off-season, and allowed the Nats to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East.

The bases were loaded when Span stepped to the plate in the 9th, with the Cardinals playing five infielders to prevent the winning run. “I counted: one, two, three, four, five,” Span said of his clutch at bat. “Right there I told myself a groundball probably not going to do it. Try to get the ball in the air somehow.”

The Washington victory was another come-from-behind win, with the Nationals scoring two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game. The 7th inning rally featured classic station-to-station scoring from a team that has too often relied on the long ball — with singles from Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.

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The Cardinals scored their runs against Washington ace Stephan Strasburg, who pitched six complete inning of five hit baseball, but failed to get the decision. Strasburg threw 90 pitches, 63 of them for strikes, before yielding to Washington’s suddenly effective relief corps. Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Rafael Soriano kept the Cards off the scoreboard, with Soriano notching the win.

The Washington win was particularly gratifying because it came off one of the best bullpens in baseball and included a return to the lineup of Bryce Harper, who was benched on Saturday for failing to hustle. Harper met with Washington skipper Matt Williams prior to Sunday’s game to talk of the incident. “[Williams] just said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ That’s the three words he said. He was every enthusiastic,” Harper said of their pre-game talk.

While Span was the hero of Sunday’s game, the key to the Nats resurgence was Danny Espinosa, who was 3-4 and got key hits during the 7th inning rally and then again in the 9th — scoring the Nationals’ winning run. “His approach is good, his intensity is good, his attitude’s fantastic, and he loves to play,” Williams said of Espinosa’s reemergence.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nearly every year the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are picked to win the American League West, and nearly every year they disappoint. That was particularly true for 2012, when the Angels signed free agent Albert Pujols, and then against last year, when they signed slugger Josh Hamilton . . .

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Nats Late Rally Downs New Yorkers In Flushing

Monday, March 31st, 2014

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Mets fans met all of our expectations on Opening Day, oohing and aahing on every Madoff pitch, but then booing their home town boys in the 10th inning, as the Nationals rallied to win their first game of the season, and their first under new Nationals’ manager Matt Williams, 9-7.

“You just can’t underestimate the fight in this ball club,” MASN’s color man F.P. Santangelo said just before the bottom of the final frame. “The team reflects the attitude of their manager.” That may be, but a lot of what the Nationals’ did on Monday looked a lot like what they did last year. The team struggled against Dillon Gee (New York’s resident Nats’ killer), but then made the New York bullpen look exactly like what it’s been in the last few seasons: Lousy.

The Nationals also got a solid, if sometimes uneven, start from Stephen Strasburg, who gave up four runs in six innings, including a first inning three run home run to Mets left fielder Andrew Brown (who?). But Washington’s power righty settled down for the rest of the game, striking out ten while giving up just five hits. “He settled down in the third,” manager Williams said after the game, before he shrugged: “He threw a fastball and Brown got it. That happens.”

 

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This might be standard operating procedure for the Nationals (Strasburg needs to settle down, Bryce Harper slid into the knee of a Mets’ infielder and early reports indicate that Wilson Ramos likely bruised a bone in his hand), but the team is as solid this year as it was last — when it finished as also-rans to the Bravos.

Yeah, well, here’s the deal (even if a single game doesn’t really show it): The Nationals are better this year than last, and not by a little bit.

Which is why the Nationals fans have a season to look forward to: Danny Haren in now in Los Angeles (and, phew, Edwin Jackson is still in Chicago), Doug Fister is the team’s new back-of-the-rotation ace (when he comes off the disabled list), and Jeremy Blevins (who gave up a tenth inning home run to David What’s-His-Name) solidifies the bullpen. And there’s this: Adam LaRoche hit an April home run, Anthony Rendon parked a fast ball in left field in the 10th and Danny Espinosa looked relaxed at the plate.

Then there’s rookie Aaron Barrett, who notched his first win as a National, and his first win as a major leaguer. The fastball-slider specialist (he spent last year at Harrisburg Double A), struck out two in a single inning of work, which ought to give Nationals fans hope that this year’s bullpen is a lot better than the one they saw in 2013. That alone would be a major improvement, and could make the biggest difference in the race for the N.L. East pennant.

And We’re Back: It’s been 183 days and at least eighteen major snowfalls (well . . .) since the Nationals last appeared on the field, and it’s about damned time. As we predicted before the end of last season (we can’t help praising ourselves, for who else will do it), Matt Williams has taken over the helm of the team, which ought to provide some fireworks as we go along . . .

Williams gained a reputation as a nose-in-the-dirt player, a legacy he carried into Arizona, which is perhaps the N.L.’s premier scrapping team. We don’t expect Williams to tell his players to pick fights, but gone are the days when Davey would shake his head at bean ball artists and odor-inducing umpire calls . . .

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The Nats Head Home After An 86-76 Season

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals finished their season in Arizona with a loss to the Diamondbacks, 3-2. In many ways the loss was representative of what the team had done all season: entering the eighth inning with a one run lead, the Nationals’ bullpen gave up two runs to an Arizona team they’d beaten handily in the previous two outings.

While the game was the last in a season that saw the Nats drop out of contention for the N.L. East title back in June and July, the team came back in September with a run at the Wild Card. The key to the Nationals resurgence was a revived offense and pitching contributions from unlikely rookies, including Tanner Roark, who held the D-Backs to just three hits in seven innings on Sunday.

“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen,” Roark said after his performance on Sunday. “Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.” Roark has been outstanding since arriving in the majors in early August: he finished at 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.

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The final game of the season also marked Davey Johnson’s last game as the Nats’ manager. “Time to go home,” Johnson said after the game. “Put me out to pasture.” The Nationals praised their 70-year-old skipper, with Tyler Clippard noting that a good manager “builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing.”

Johnson was philosophical about what is apparently the end of his career, choosing to bypass comments on the Nationals’ season. “I felt really lucky to have had the big league experiences I’ve had as a player and as a manager,” he told the press after the Arizona loss. “When you love a game as much as I love this game and like the competition, you just enjoy it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: An 86-76 record would have sparked celebrations in Washington just a few years ago, but the Nationals (picked by many as the premier team in the National League) must be disappointed. Even so, there is good reason for celebrating a season that saw the Nationals finish ten games out of the hunt in the N.L. East . . .

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Werth, Strasburg Skin The Snakes

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

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Stephen Strasburg pitched seven solid innings and Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each hit three run home runs, and the Washington Nationals easily downed the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night, 8-4. The victory capped the first of a three game series, with two games remaining in the Nats’ season.

Strasburg, who is one of the ERA leaders in the National League (at a snappy 3.00), notched only his eighth victory on the year, throwing 101 pitches, 63 of them for strikes. Strasburg was undoubtedly disappointed with his 2013 win total, but Nats’ manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that the young righty didn’t always enjoy good run support from his teammates.

“We didn’t score many runs for him,” Johnson confirmed following the victory. “A bunch of times, we didn’t score any runs, one run or two runs when he was starting. His numbers indicated he should have won 15 ballgames, at least. He was certainly consistent all year long.”

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Despite the 8-9 campaign, Strasburg is 3-0 in his last three starts. “I think physically I held up pretty well,” he said following last night’ victory. “I think one thing I learned is sometimes less is more. I like to work really hard and when you reach a point in September you’ve really got to back things off or it’s going to be counterproductive.”

The Nats powered Strasburg to victory on home runs from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. The Werth home run came in the top of the fifth with Anthony Rendon and Jeff Kobernus on base, while the Ramos home run came in the top of the 8th with Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond on base.

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The Math Gets Worse: Marlins Dominate The Nats

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

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The nail in the Washington Nationals 2013 season may well have been hammered home in Miami on Friday night, as Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins spun a dominating 7-0 win, leaving the Nats eight games out of the last National League Wild Card slot with just 22 games to play.

“It’s not looking good, that’s for sure,” right fielder Jayson Werth said after the disheartening loss. “We’re in a spot now where we really can’t afford another loss. It puts you in a tough place, a bad place. You know, keep grinding. It’s not over until it’s over.”

The Marlins feasted off of Nationals’ pitching, victimizing Washington starter Dan Haren for six hits and five earned runs in just three complete innings. Haren suffered his 13th loss on just eight wins for 2013, which is not the kind of production the Nationals expected from their big off-season signing.

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“My stuff was average, and putting us in a three-nothing hole against a pitcher like that is a downer for the whole team,” Haren told reporters in the clubhouse in describing his performance. “I didn’t obviously start out the ideal way.”

Miami starter Fernandez, meanwhile, pitched a gem: the young righty, who is one of the few bright spots for last place Miami this year, gave up a single hit in seven complete inning while striking out nine Nationals. This was Fernandez’s eleventh win on the season, against just six losses.

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Desmond Is 3-3 In Nats 4-3 Win

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

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Washington shortstop Ian Desmond was 3-3 and knocked in the key go-ahead run in the bottom of the 7th inning as Drew Storen and the Washington bullpen once again tamed the Miami line-up, and the Nationals went on to defeat the Marlins at Nationals Park, 4-3.

The rain-delayed contest marked Washington’s seventh win in eight games and maintained the seven game gap separating the Nationals from a playoff spot. But at least at first, the game started inauspiciously: a 72-minute rain delay knocked Stephen Strasburg off the mound, leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen.

And, as they had the night before, the bullpen came through. While reliever Ryan Mattheus had a difficult outing, Drew Storen proved effective against Miami’s biggest bats: after giving up a single and a walk to start the 7th, Storen struck out Giancarlo Stanton and induced pop outs from Logan Morrison and Donovan Solano.

With the victory, it seems that the Nationals are finally on a roll. They are two games over .500 and, most important of all, are playing well.  “No one said it was going to be easy. We have to keep going,” Jayson Werth, whose home run in the 6th tied the game, said. “We have to continue to play like this the rest of the way. That’s fine. It is what it is.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals still have a shot at the post-season, and so do the Arizona Diamondbacks. But you’d never know it if you lived in Phoenix, where a paltry 20,500-plus fans showed up to watch their Snakes fall to the lowly San Diego Padres . . .

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“Steps In The Right Direction” — Nats Hook The Marlins, 2-1

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

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Ross Ohlendorf threw five solid innings and four relievers combined to hold Miami scoreless over the next four, and the Washington Nationals went on to defeat the Marlins on Tuesday night, 2-1. It was the Nationals twelfth win in the last 17 games.

The two runs that the Nationals scored came against Marlins’ starter Nate Eovaldi in the bottom of the first inning on three singles: from Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond. The two runs were all the Nationals would need, as Ohlendorf and Nats’ relievers held the Marlins to a single run on four hits.

The Nationals have continued their late-season habit of hitting when they need to, which has fueled their recent flirtation with winning. Bryce Harper is hot (he was 2-4 last night) and Adam LaRoche is showing signs of life. The Nationals sprayed nine hits against four Miami hurlers.

But Nats’ fans should also credit Washington skipper Davey Johnson with putting Washington in the win column. When the otherwise effective Ohlendorf came out to pitch in the 6th, Johnson noticed he’d lost something on his fastball and pulled him. It was a surprise for the Washington starter.

“He just kind of ran out of gas like he did before,” Johnson explained after the game. “But you never know with him, because sometimes he puts a lot on it, and other times, it’s more like he is changing up off his fastball. When he takes 10 miles off it, it scares me a little bit.”

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Johnson’s decision put the burden for winning the contest on the team’s bullpen, but they performed admirably. Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano each pitched an inning, with the only hit given up by the four coming against Soriano in the 9th inning. Tyler Clippard pitched a brilliant 8th inning and Soriano notched his 34th save.

“We’ve all been through our ups and downs,” shortstop Ian Desmond commented after the win. “Obviously, the downs were pretty heavy this year. But we fought our way, and we’re starting to play better. Obviously, we’re not where we want to be, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “The only things the Nationals need to do is go 25-7 in their last 32 games,” CFG contributor Tom said before the face-off with the Marlins on Tuesday night. “Don’t laugh,” he added, “the Reds are starting to tank . . .”

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