Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ Category

Done And Done? Nats Fall Hard To New York

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

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It might have been possible for the Washington Nationals to survive the 3-2 squeaker against the Mets on Friday, but it is going to be harder for Washington to keep its hope for a post-season slot alive after the Nats were routed by New York, 11-3 on Saturday. The Nationals now trail Cincinnati by 7.5 games in the N.L. Wild Card Race.

The hero for the New Yorkers on Saturday was Zack Wheeler, the young right handed hurler that has teamed with the now-injured Matt Harvey to give the Madoffs hope for the future. Wheeler tamed the suddenly hot Washington line-up by pitching into the 7th inning while holding the Nationals to five hits and two earned runs.

While the Nationals couldn’t get on track against New York’s rookie, Dan Haren had his worst outing of the year. Haren gave up nine hits and seven earned runs before being relieved in the third. Nearly everyone in the Mets’ line-up teed off against Washington’s pitching: Eric Young, Daniel Murphy, Josh Satin and Juan Lagares each had three hits in the game.

“We know that we’re running out of time,” center fielder Denard Span, who was 3-5 on the night, said. “Each game that goes by, it’s getting even more and more [important] for us to win. Tonight, just a terrible game. The type of loss like this came at the wrong time.”

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Despite the Mets’ seventeen hit barrage, there was little praise for Washington’s in-division competitors. Haren claimed that he had good stuff and Denard Span pointed out that the Mets were lucky to have some hits fall in. But it’s also true that the Nationals didn’t hit when they needed to, spraying eleven hits but leaving fourteen on base.

“We know what we’re up against,” Haren said following the loss. “Everyone is pretty down in here right now. We’ll go home and get sleep and come back and try to win tomorrow and go from there. There’s no use being down about it too long.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The 2003 Seattle Mariners were a heck of a team. Jamie Moyer won 21 games for the Navigators, while Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro anchored a sold staff, including a steady bullpen. But Seattle’s greatest asset was its defense: the team committed just 65 errors in 162 games, an MLB record . . .

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Harper, Roark Lead Nationals Rally

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

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At the end of the third inning in Kansas City on Friday, starter Gio Gonzalez replayed the body language used by Stephen Strasburg when he pitched against the Cubs in Chicago: he found himself on the bench and shaking his head. The difference between Gio and Stras, however, was that Gonzalez lasted just 3.1 innings.

Gonzalez had one of his worst outings of the year, pitching to just one out in the fourth, before being yanked. Yet, at the end of the game, the Nationals found themselves 11-10 victors in a back-and-forth contest that saw the home towners score a breathtaking seven runs in the fourth inning.

As it turned out, the Nationals needed every run they could get and, at the end of the game, wished they had more.

“You are going to have games where you are going to be iffy,” Gonzalez said after the improbable Nationals triumph. “You are going to be all over the place. Today was a perfect example. Fastball was flat and I couldn’t find the strike zone. When you fall behind on a good hitting team, they are going to do some damage.”

What was true for Gonzalez was true for veteran Kansas City starter Bruce Chen, who entered the 3rd with a 6-0 lead, and departed in the fourth behind 8-6. The Nationals onslaught in the fourth inning came courtesy of three singles, a sacrifice fly, a walk, a bases clearing double, another walk and a home run.

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The bases clearing double came off the bat of Bryce Harper, who served up a shot to the base of the right center field wall, while the home run was the work of hotter-then-a-skillet Jayson Werth — and it landed behind the seats in the Kauffman Stadium’s pool in deep center field.

It was then, in the wake of Gonzalez’s struggles, that new found wonderboy Tanner Roark entered the game. He was nothing less than brilliant and, along with a Bryce Harper diving catch with one out in the 9th inning, saved the game for the Nationals.

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“A Win Is A Win” — Nats Outlast The Cubs

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

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“A win is a win,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson explained on Thursday evening following Washington’s 13 inning 5-4 victory against the Cubs in Chicago. What Johnson meant to say was that it’s easier to overlook an embarrassment, so long as (in the end), your team puts one in the win column.

The embarrassment, and that’s what it was, came in the bottom of the 9th inning, when an otherwise brilliant start from Washington righty Stephen Strasburg was squandered when the young ace inexplicably gave up a game tying home run to Cubs third sacker Donnie Murphy.

Strasburg squatted on the pitchers’ mound as Murphy circled the bases, and continued to shake his head in the dugout after, disbelieving that what should have gone into the books as his seventh victory (and into the Nationals’ win column), turned out to be a no decision.

Strasburg’s 9th inning was a breathtaking collapse: “I had my way with him all day,” Strasburg said of Murphy’s at bat. “And then he runs into that curveball. Obviously it’s the location that was the problem. A curveball, once it leaves your hands you really have no control over it. It just didn’t have the same kind of bite as it had early on in the game.”

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But Strasburg wasn’t the sole author of the Nats’ collapse. A throwing error from Anthony Rendon (subbing at shortstop for Ian Desmond), put Chicago’s second run across the plate in the 9th, when a good throw might have ended the game. Rendon’s errant throw brought Murphy to the plate.

Rendon’s 9th inning slip came on a tough play, but the young infielder admitted that his misstep added to the Nationals’ 9th inning troubles.  “You feel terrible,” Rendon explained to reporters after the game. “Obviously I had a little slip over there, but that’s no excuse. I still should have made that play.”

But deflating as the 9th inning was, credit the Nationals (and their bullpen), for hanging in and eventually notching the victory. Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen kept the Cubs at bay over the next four innings, holding the North Siders hitless while striking out four.

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Eckstein Out, Schu In

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The Washington Nationals have fired hitting coach David Eckstein and replaced him with Rick Schu, who spent his post-MLB career as a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks and has served the last four years as the Nationals’ minor league hitting instructor.

Word of Eckstein’s replacement was issued by the Nationals front office on Monday. While the firing of Eckstein was a surprise, it was predictable from the moment that Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche admitted that he’d consulted with old friend and former teammate Chipper Jones about how to get out of his hitting funk.

Schu spent nine years in the majors, most of them with the Philadelphia Philles, but also with the Tigers, Orioles and Angels. He holds a career .246 BA. The press release announcing Schu’s promotion noted that he’s had prior experience with a number of Nationals’ hitters, including Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi.

Eckstein was the longest tenured hitting coach in the National League, having served in that position with the Nationals since October of 2008. But the Nationals have not produced at the plate this year: they are 14th of 15 in runs scored in the National League and thirteen in BA, at .240.

Strasburg Exits After Two, But Nats Win

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Washington starter Stephen Strasburg didn’t make it into the third inning in Atlanta on Friday night, complaining of a strained right oblique, but Craig Stammen came on to pitch four perfect innings, and the Nationals downed the Braves, 3-2.

The Strasburg injury is not thought to be serious and does not involve his elbow or shoulder. “It’s something where, the last few starts, I’d feel it warming up and I’d go out there and wouldn’t feel anything,” he said following the game. “Tonight it was more the reverse. I started to feel it a little more.”

The Nationals bullpen responded to the challenge by holding their division rivals to two hits and a single run in seven innings, with Stammen leading the way. Stammen was followed by Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, with Rafael Soriano coming on in the bottom of the 9th to notch his fifteenth save.

“He went out there and gave them four strong innings, mowed right through us, and we just weren’t able to get to him,” Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Stammen following the Atlanta loss. “But we got into the bullpen, so maybe that will help us out in the next two games.”

The Nationals swatted nine hits against the Braves, but the big contributor was center fielder Denard Span, whose two triples led the way. In both cases Span was able to score, the result of sacrifice flies from Steve Lombardozzi. Span was 3-4 on the night with Lombardozzi contributing two RBIs.

“It’s real big to get to third with no outs. It increases our chances of scoring runs,” said Span, who continues to be among Washington’s steadiest producers at the plate. “Lombo did a good job hitting behind me and getting me in and getting us on the board.”

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Six Run 7th Dooms The Nats

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Ryan Zimmerman had a career night in Baltimore, hitting three home runs in three consecutive at bats — and notching four RBIs — but the Nationals were victimized by Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis and a six run 7th inning, and the Nationals lost at Camden Yards, 9-6.

Zimmerman’s home runs came in the first, fourth and fifth innings, sending Baltimore starter Chris Tillman to the pines and staking the Nationals to a 6-2 lead. But in the 7th inning the Orioles leaped on Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals for six hits, including home runs by Steve Pearce and Davis.

The Baltimore victory showed just how lethal their line-up can be: while Davis could not equal Zimmerman’s home run total, he went 4-4 on the night and hit two round trippers of his own. His second, in the seventh inning off of reliever Tyler Clippard, put the game out of reach for the Nats.

“That one hurt,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of the loss, and noted that the Orioles victory came in a ballpark with a reputation as a launching pad for free swingers. “I thought Zim had pretty good stuff,” Johnson said, “but this ballpark can eat you alive.”

Indeed, the Ace of Auburndale’s “stuff” was effective for six innings, as Zimmermann seemed headed for his ninth win. But Zimmermann couldn’t make it out of the seventh, surrendering singles to Ryan Flaherty and Nate McLouth, a double to Manny Machado — and a Davis home run — before being relieved by Clippard.

“I look up, and we’re losing,” Zimmermann said after the loss, his third of the season. “Those guys give me six runs like that, I’ve got to do a better job and we should win this ballgame. It’s solely on me [with] this one.”

Despite the loss, the Nationals showed again that they’re capable of putting the ball in play. In addition to Zimmerman’s three home runs, Roger Bernadina also went long and the Nationals accumulated eight hits, with Zimmerman, Bernadina and Denard Span coming away with RBIs.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t the only National Leaguer hitting the long ball on Wednesday. Out in Chicago, back-up Cubs’ catcher Dioner Navarro hit three of his own, as the Cubs pummeled the White Sox, 9-3 . . .

Navarro had never hit more than one home run in a game, telling reporters after the win that he might have hit two in one game when he played Little League baseball. Navarro’s homers came in the 2nd, 4th and 7th innings and (unlike the Zimmerman home runs) each of them was pulled . . .

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Zimmermann Set To Go Against O’s: Will Espinosa Return?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Jordan Zimmermann is set to take the mound against Orioles’ Chris Tillman on Wednesday night in Baltimore. The Washington righty has solidified his place among the elite of N.L pitchers: he’ second in ERA (behind Clayton Kershaw), leads the league in wins (with eight), and has a snappy 0.87 WHIP.

As of this writing it was uncertain whether Danny Espinosa, recovering from a fractured right wrist, would be in the starting line-up. “It’s just a time thing. But it does feel better,” Espinosa said. “The biggest thing we were concerned about is the inflammation, and the inflammation’s down.”

The question is of more than passing interest for Nationals’ fans, who’ve had doubts about Espinosa’s abilities in the batter’s box. Replacement Steve Lombardozzi has been a spark for the Nationals’ line-up since taking over the second base duties, hitting .270 over the last ten games — and driving in key runs against San Diego (on May 19) and Philadelphia, just last week.

Davey Johnson can expect more grumbling should Espinosa take the field tonight, particularly if he puts up another oh-fer. Espinosa has three hits in his last 38 at bats, and is hitting .163 for the year.

Right fielder Bryce Harper, meanwhile, is still nursing swelling in his left knee. He could remain out of the line-up at least until Thursday. “It’s still tender, still a little bit swollen,” manager Davey Johnson said of Harper’s knee. “The swelling’s down a little bit. I was probably being a little optimistic thinking he could DH over in Baltimore.