Archive for the ‘atlanta braves’ Category

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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Braves Rally Downs The Nats, 5-2

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

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A three run sixth inning overcame an early two run deficit, and the Atlanta Braves hung on to down the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, 5-2. The Atlanta victory, combined with Cincinnati’s extra inning win in Houston, increased the odds against the Nats catching the Reds for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

Wednesday’s game started well enough, with Washington putting two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 5th inning on a bases loaded walk to Jayson Werth and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Bryce Harper. And Ross Ohlendorf was cruising, putting down Braves’ hitters with a snappy fastball and effective curve.

But Atlanta responded to the Nats’ fifth by mounting a rally in the top of the next frame, on a home run from Dan Uggla, a bunt single from Jordan Schafer (who later scampered to third on an Ohlendorf throwing error) and Justin Upton’s 26th home run of the year. The Nats could not surmount this challenge and failed to score in each of the last four innings.

“I just made a couple of bad pitches in the sixth,” Ohlendorf said following the loss. “I thought I pitched well after [Schafer] got on third. But I made a bad pitch to Upton. He did a good job hitting it. I felt strong the whole time. I felt it’s probably as good as I’ve pitched. I’m just disappointed how it turned out.”

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The Nationals had a good chance to catch the Braves in the bottom of the 7th, after a Denard Span single to single to right field (which extended his hitting streak to 29 consecutive games) and a Jayson Werth walk. But with two out, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond flew out to right field to end the rally.

The Nationals ended up taking two of three games from Atlanta, a positive result at any other time during the season. But with under ten games left in the 2013 campaign, and with Washington trailing the Redlegs by 5.5 games, the team knew the series victory wasn’t enough.

“At this point, we know we can’t lose, but we did. We definitely could have won today and should have won,” Span said of the Washington loss. “With 10 games left … right now, it’s a must-win every day. That’s the way we have to approach each and every day from here on out.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Cincinnati’s victory last night in the 13th inning against Houston notched a Redlegs’ sweep of the former N.L. cellar dwellers and seemed to all-but-cinch a playoff spot for the Queen City franchise. The Red have nine games to play, three of them against the no-account Mets . . .

The Nailbiters have at least made it interesting for the Nationals since early September: they split a four game series against the Cardinals, then swept the Trolleys in three itchy-close games (3-2, 4-3 and then 3-2), but dropped two series in a row, against the Cubs and Brewers respectively . . .

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Nats Stun The Braves: Twice

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals have made the improbable now possible, stunning the Atlanta Braves in a split doubleheader on Tuesday, winning a come-from-behind first game in the bottom of the 9th inning, 6-5, then coming back to tame Atlanta 4-0 in the nightcap. The twin wins kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

The Nationals seemed headed for defeat in the first game of the twin bill, trailing Atlanta by a score of 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. But the Nationals scored three runs on a walk to Adam LaRoche, a Wilson Ramos infield single, an Anthony Rendon walk, a fielder’s choice that scored LaRoche and a walk-off error from the usually sure-handed Andrelton Simmons.

The Simmons error came off the bat of Washington’s Denard Span, capping a three run rally that sparked a mass celebration by the Nationals. The rally marked a day in which the team and fans paid homage to those who had died at the nearby Navy Yard at the hands of a lone gunman on Monday. The Nats wore emblematic Navy hats as a tribute prior to the game.

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Atlanta had trailed 3-0 in the game, but a furious comeback from the Braves in the 8th inning gave Atlanta a one run lead, which they expanded by a run in the 9th inning. The 8th inning comeback victimized sure-armed reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a walk to Freedie Freeman, following by an Evan Gattis home run — his 20th of the year.

“He felt terrible,” Nationals starter Dan Haren said of Clippard following the victory. “He was yelling for 15 minutes straight, screaming in the locker room. How many times has the guy picked us up this year in huge games? Has so many holds. The guy pitches six out of seven days. The guy has been money all year.”

But Clippard’s frustration couldn’t match that felt by Atlanta fireballer Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most effective closer in the National League in 2013. Kimbrel had converted 37 straight save opportunities before Tuesday, but couldn’t survive the Simmons’ error.

“Any time I go out there and don’t do my job, it’s a tough one to swallow, because my job is to go out there and solidify what everybody else has done the entire game,” Kimbrel said following his blown save. “Everybody worked their butts off all game long. We battled back and took a lead.”

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RIP: RISP

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

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The Braves describe it as “pitching out of trouble,” while the Nationals call it “an inability to drive in runners in scoring position.” But no matter what your view, or how you describe it, there’s little question the Nationals reverted to form on Sunday afternoon, outhitting Atlanta but falling to the Braves 2-1 at Turner Field.

The Nationals had a chance to score against Braves starter Julio Teheran in each of the first three innings on Sunday, but couldn’t push a run home. In the end, and despite a much-need solid performance from Gio Gonzalez, that is what turned out to be the difference: the Nationals were 1-13 with runners in scoring position.

Washington’s biggest opportunity came in the 7th inning, when reliever Scott Downs gave up a lead-off single to Denard Span. After a ground out (with Span out at second on a fielders’ choice and Anthony Rendon at first), Downs walked Bryce Harper, bringing Jayson Werth to the plate.

With a golden opportunity to put runs on the board, Werth singled to center, scoring Rendon. But the Nationals couldn’t tack on any more. During the next at bat, the Nationals ran and whiffed themselves out of the rally on a strike-em-out throw-em-out double play that had first sacker Adam LaRoche walking away from home plate shaking his head.

The Nationals needed a strong outing from Gonzalez, particularly after going deep into their bullpen to salvage Saturday night’s fifteen inning marathon. Gonzalez came through: he pitched seven complete innings of five hit baseball, while striking out nine.

In fact, Gonzalez pitched much better than Atlanta starter Teheran, who left in the sixth inning — leaving the Nationals to relievers Downs, David Carpenter, Jerome Walden and closer Craig Kimbrel. In all, Washington sprayed eight hits against the covey of Braves’ pitchers, including a 3-5 afternoon from Denard Span and a 2-4 outing from Bryce Harper.

So there it is: Washington outhit Atlanta and outpitched them. Gonzalez was brilliant and the seemingly reincarnated Drew Storen (who pitched another scoreless inning) kept a tough hitting team in check. But in the end, it just wasn’t enough. The Nationals now head on to Chicago, where they will face the revived and rebuilding Cubs in a four game set.

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Photos: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

 

“Golly, What A Battle” — Nats Triumph In 15

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

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“That’s a real body blow for the Nationals,” MASN commenter F.P. Santagelo said after Justin Upton’s home run off of Nats’ closer Rafael Soriano sailed into the seats on Saturday night. And he added: “Again.” The Upton home run tied the game at seven runs apiece, in what should have been a clear Nationals’ win.

But instead of a victory, the Braves and Nats entered an extra inning marathon that saw each team use nearly everyone on their roster — and only ended in the bottom of the 15th, with Dan Haren shutting down the Braves after Adam LaRoche gave the Nationals a one run lead on his 18th home run of the year. “Golly, what a battle,” LaRoche said.

The Nationals fifteen inning win was a battle, for sure, but it was also an epic narrative — with enough story lines to fill a thick novel. It began with starter Stephen Strasburg’s retaliation (and subsequent ejection) against Atlanta’s Upton for the fact that Bryce Harper had been hit three times by Braves’ pitchers, and it ended when Washington starter Haren pitched for the first time in his career as a closer.

In between, the Nationals accumulated seventeen hits (including home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche), used seven relievers, and lofted a lone home run against Atlanta starter Kris Medlin, who’d been slotted by the Braves as their starter next Tuesday.

“Nothing comes easy against these guys, period,” LaRoche said following the exhausting victory. “We had some games where we had it put away, we have it in the books and they find a way to come back. We grind it out, and it was a full-team effort. We used everybody we had.”

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Ironically, the fifteen inning marathon marked Stephen Strasburg’s shortest outing of the year, though for good reason. Everyone with any rooting interest knew that Strasburg would throw at an Atlanta hitter: and he did, plunking Justin Upton in the left hip on a fastball in the first inning.

The Strasburg HBP came after Atlanta’s Jason Heyward lofted a long home run into the left center field stands on Atlanta’s first at bat of the game. But Strasburg wasn’t done. He threw inside and then behind Andrelton Simmons after walking Jordan Schafer in the top of the second, and was immediately ejected by umpire Marvin Hudson.

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Upton Downs The Nats

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

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Justin Upton has been a constant menace for the Washington Nationals, both when he was an Arizona Diamondback, and now that he is a part of the N.L. East leading Atlanta Braves. Upton was a menace again on Friday night, hitting a game winning home run against Ian Krol to give the Braves a ten inning 3-2 win.

“There’s a lot of baseball to be played,” Upton told reporters in the Atlanta clubhouse after his walk-off. “Our lead is pretty big right now, but crazier things have happened in baseball. You’ve got to go out and win as many games as you can.” Upton is 10-16 in his last four games against Washington.

The Upton home run came after Washington had tied the game at two in the eighth inning on a Jayson Werth single that scored Ryan Zimmerman. The single run rally gave hope to Washington that they could defeat the division leaders, despite trailing in the season series — having won only three games in thirteen outings.

“It’s not easy losing, that’s for sure,” Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth reflected, after the tough extra inning loss. “It’s been kind of the story of the year so far. We’re pretty good enough to lose.”

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The Washington loss squandered another solid outing from rookie righty Taylor Jordan, who scattered seven hits over six complete innings of work. “I thought I did well,” Jordan said of his outing. “I got a lot of weak ground balls, and they really didn’t hit anything too hard off me. So that’s what I go off of, how hard they hit me. I think I did pretty well.”

Taylor was not overwhelming, but he kept the Nationals in the ballgame, pitching past three Washington errors — which included a third inning throwing error from Anthony Rendon that gave Atlanta their second run and a 2-0 lead. Washington had three errors in the game.

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Why The Nationals Need To Hire Matt Williams

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

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The Nationals rally past the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Nationals Park infused the Anacostia Nine with a new sense that somehow (maybe), the one-game-at-a-time philosophy of the ballclub could somehow vault them back into contention — and into the post season.

That seems improbable. St Louis is two games up on the Reds in the Wild Card standings and sixteen games over .500. The Redlegs, meanwhile, are 4.5 games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last Wild Card slot, with the D-Backs (pretty typically) playing like a deflated balloon.

Maybe it would be better for the Nationals to set their sights on Atlanta, hoping that the Braves will swoon in the final two months, allowing the Nats to sprint into October. But just how likely is that? It’s not: the Braves have just completed a fourteen game winning streak (they lost on Saturday, 1-0 against the no account Miami Marlins), and at 25 games over .500 their collapse would have to be among the most monumental in baseball history.

So here it is, as plain as your 30-year-old step sister: the Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in baseball (you might want to read that out loud, just to get the flavor of it), and the Braves are running away in the National League East. I would rather slam my fingers with a hammer than see the Braves in the World Series, but there you have it.

It’s no wonder, then, that Washington’s baseball pundits are chewing over the lost 2013 season, the most important assessments all coming in the last week. Not surprisingly, these postmortems have coincided with speculation about who will take over for manager Davey Johnson, a sure sign that the one-game-at-a-time philosophy is no more than a verbal conceit.

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