Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ Category

Nats On A Roll, Squeeze By The Bucs, 5-4

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper had two hits and two RBIs apiece, starter Tanner Roark pitched into the 6th inning, and closer Rafael Soriano provided another nail biting ending as the Nationals squeezed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-4 at Nationals Park on Friday night. This was Washington’s fourth victory in a row.

LaRoche and Harper were the big bats in the Nationals win. The Nationals took an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first frame, with a LaRoche single plating Asdrubal Cabrera. Then, with the bases loaded, Harper followed up with a single of his own — scoring Anthony Rendon and LaRoche.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton couldn’t keep the Nationals off the board in the early going and was pulled by Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle after just three innings of work. In all, the Nationals sprayed 11 hits versus Bucco pitching, with Denard Span once again hitting his stride, going 3-4 on the night.

While Roark picked up his twelfth win of the 2014 campaign, he gave up three runs on five hits in just 5.2 innings of work. Pittsburgh got back into the game in the fourth inning, when outfielder Starling Marte powered an 84 mph Roark slider into the left field seats, which scored second sacker Neil Walker. The Pirates were suddenly back in the game.

“He was a little off on his command tonight, the ball was up in the strike zone a little bit,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Roark’s performance. “Marte hit a slider for the homer and the ball just kind of elevated. But he battled. He got through the innings he needed to get through. He pitched well.”

The feisty Pirates showed why they’re still in the hunt for the National League Central crown, pushing the Nationals until the final out. The Pirates three run fourth was followed by a nail-biting 9th in which Starling Marte singled off of Nats closer Rafael Soriano, then scored on a Pedro Alvarez single to bring the Buccos to within one run of tying the game.

Soriano, struggling to notch his 29th save, then gave up a single to Chris Stewart, which put the tying run on base. But with Stewart looking to score, Soriano induced a foul pop off the bat of Josh Harrison (which landed in the glove of Wilson Ramos) to end the game.

On Wednesday, Soriano had told the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore that one of the reasons for his sometimes shaky outings was that he wasn’t getting enough work. The Soriano statement was apparently heard loud and clear by skipper Williams. “That’s three games in a row for Soriano. He got through it tonight. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Williams said after last night’s win.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Pirates fans begin each year with the dream that they’ll relive 1979, the last year that the Bucs brought home the World Series trophy. But what’s usually missing from the Pittsburgh narrative, and often forgotten by baseball pundits, is that the 1979 win was notched against a Baltimore team that was among the most celebrated in franchise history . . .

The 1979 Orioles won 102 games, had a winning record against every American League team except the Yankees, led the A.L from mid-April to the wire, featured a 23 game winner (in Mike Flanagan) and a lights-out closer (in Don Stanhouse), and dominated baseball in one run and extra inning games . . .

Which is to say: if the Pirates could just start playing a bit better (and reach the playoffs) a replay of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh seven game, down-to-the-final-out tilt of 1979 is not out of the question. To make this even plainer, we would claim that the 2014 edition of the Orioles might even be better than their 1979 ancestors . . .

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Nats Outlast The Rain, And The Braves, 4-1

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

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After a nearly four hour rain delay that pushed Washington’s game against Atlanta into the early morning hours, the Nationals overcame the Braves in an 11 inning marathon, 4-1. The Washington win marked Atlanta’s ninth loss in ten games and pushed the Nationals 4.5 games ahead of the Braves in the National League East.

A bases loaded single off the bat of Wilson Ramos in the 11th inning was the difference in the game, as the Washington catcher plated Anthony Rendon for the go-ahead run. Kevin Frandsen followed Ramos with a double over the head of Jason Heyward, scoring Adam LaRoche (who had singled) and Bryce Harper (who had walked).

Skipper Matt Williams was pleased with his team’s effort. “Considering all that happened today, and the way we had to fight through the last couple of days, it was pretty good for us,” Williams said after the hard-fought victory. “We fought all the way.”

The game featured a solid pitchers’ duel, with Washington’s Tanner Roark matched up against Atlanta’s Aaron Harang. The two hurlers numbers were similar, with the Nats and Braves trading singles and runs through ten straight innings. Roark’s and Harang’s final lines (each threw seven complete and gave up a single earned run) reflected just how tightly the two teams play.

Washington scored first, in the sixth inning, on Adam LaRoche’s 16th home run of the season. Atlanta responded in the bottom of that frame, when Jason Heyward’s sacrifice fly scored Tommy La Stella. Washington’s bullpen was, once again, outstanding: Matt Thornton, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano held the Braves scoreless through four complete, with Soriano picking up his 26th save.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s mid-August (the dog days, when the season seems to go on forever), so analysts, pundits and columnists are searching for things to write and talk about. On Friday, MLB Network listed nominees for the A.L.’s MVP award, apparently because it’s never too soon to speculate . . .

Among those listed were Baltimore’s Adam Jones, L.A.’s Mike Trout, Detroit’s Victor Martinez, Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. The surprise in the list (at least for us), is Victor Martinez, who is worthy but often overshadowed by Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera, who’s having an off year — at least for him . . .

Our pick is Adam Jones, who’s the heartbeat of the first place Orioles. You won’t find Jones at the top of the league in batting average (he’s hitting a respectable .285 on the year), but he’s plated 22 round trippers, which puts him in the company of Jose Bautista and Albert Pujols and he’s knocked in 70, which puts him 11th in the A.L . . .

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Nats Notes: The Road To October Still Goes Through Atlanta

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals might have lost in Atlanta last night, but they’re still sitting on a solid lead in the National League East. And their lead is now the second largest in the majors (the Baltimore Orioles’ lead is just a tad more impressive). The recent homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Fighting Showalters, and the New York Mets delivered everything the Nats have been doing well and (let’s admit it) everything they haven’t.

The Nats were given a chance to set the pace for the NL pennant run, but they let two blowouts and a scraper to two sub-.500 teams get past them. As much as we like to complain about how well they should have done, we can take heart that the hated Atlanta Braves fared even worse. The Barves were swept on their West Coast road trip and returned to Atlanta reeling from an eight game dip.

Nice as it is that Washington is in first place, the Washington 9 get blown away whenever their starter has a meltdown — or can’t make it past the third inning. And they drop one and two run games whenever the bullpen can’t lock it down or the defense is sloppy. Conversely, they win squeakers when the pitching is on point, the defense is tight, and their baserunning is smart. And they blow away the other guys when everything is firing on all cylinders.

We admit — that’s pretty standard stuff for any team. When the Braves, Marlins, Mets or Phillies can’t “lock it down,” they look as bad as (or worse than) anyone.

But wouldn’t it be nice if the Nats could (just once) author a blow-out of the Chops (as they did with the Phillies) that would leave Fredi Gonzalez reeling, and the Upton Brothers wondering what hit ‘em. That’s the kind of win the Nationals need just now to seal the feeling of inevitability that’s the hallmark of a champ.

Pointing out the positives from the homestand, Bryce Harper’s two-run opposite-field walk-off homer in the 13th inning against the Mets was well timed, both for him and the team. Each of the outfielders (Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth) notched at least one outfield assist, and Span is working on a 34 game on-base streak, a definite plus for a lead-off hitter.

And there’s this: New acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera (2B) slotted right into the defense and even Danny Espinosa (2B) demonstrated that he shouldn’t be counted out of the lineup, at least when he’s batting right-handed.

That said, the team did some things that are still a cause for concern. Jayson Werth has been playing through tweaky knees and a sore ankle (“he’s pretty banged up,” the Post says) the past few weeks and it has shown in his defense. Lately, in right, it has taken him awhile to make it to balls down the line, in the corner, or blooped behind first. First-sacker Adam LaRoche, while healthy, has always been prone to streaks both hot and cold and, until his two-run homer on Wednesday, he’s been pretty cold.

So, was this the best homestand in Nats’ history? No, but neither was it the worst. All of the ingredients are there, a few nitpicks aside, and things should be trending up. A good test is the current series in Atlanta. The road to October always (always) goes through the Barves.

But never fear: this year, and thanks to the way the Chops are playing, that highway may actually be smoother than it’s been in a long time.

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Nats Slug Their Way To 6-2 Win In Baltimore

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

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Home runs by Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth — and seven solid innings of pitching from starter Doug Fister — led the Washington Nationals past the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday night, 6-2. The Nationals victory in the Orioles slugfest secured Washington’s hold on first place in the National League East.

After the extra innings loss to the Orioles in Washington on Monday (during which the O’s slammed four round trippers), the Nationals not only needed the win, they needed to show they could stand toe-to-toe with one of the best hitting teams in major league baseball. They did that last night.

“This is a good ballpark to hit home runs in,” Nationals manager Matt Williams acknowledged following the Washington victory. “All you need to do is look at the other dugout to see that.” Given Fister’s solid showing, and a Nats bullpen that was in shutdown mode, the Ramos-Desmond-Werth show was more than enough to give the Nats the victory.

The Nationals started the night against O’s starter Bud Norris by putting two runs on the scoreboard in the first inning, courtesy of a Jayson Werth double that scored Anthony Rendon and an Adam LaRoche RBI single that brought in Werth. At the end of two, the Nationals led 3-1, thanks to Wilson Ramos’ third home run of the year.

Doug Fister, meanwhile, was befuddling the O’s potent line-up, though he and Nats skipper Matt Williams admitted that the steady righty was struggling with his command. But despite his early troubles (the O’s scored early on an RBI single from Chris Davis, then on a home run from Manny Machado in the 4th), Fister worked to stay in the game.

“Doug continues to battle,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “We stretch him out. We sent him back out there with the notion that if he got in trouble, we’ll go get him. He really found the zone the last inning, especially. He pitched really well.”

The victory on Wednesday also showed why the Nationals and their fans believe Anthony Rendon should be an All Star. With Ryan Zimmerman penciled into the line-up as a Designated Hitter, Rendon was slotted in at third, where he flashed his leather, robbing Baltimore hitters of at least two singles.

“Their third baseman had a great night playing third base,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told the press following the O’s loss. “We could have got back in it a little bit, but they didn’t let us defensively.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Battle of Texas (it’s now called, alternately, the Lone Stars Series or the Silver Boot series) has never gone well for Houston. The Astros lost 17 of 19 games to their cross-state rival Texas Rangers last year, and were seemingly fated for another last place finish against their sprinting A.L. West rivals in 2014 . . .

Projected as a powerhouse prior to the season, the Rangers had everything: A strong starting staff anchored by Yu Darvish and a line-up that featured one of the game’s best long ball hitters in Prince Fielder. But Fielder is injured (with neck surgery) and out for the year, Darvish is struggling — and now the Texas Rangers are in last place . . .

The Astros made the Rangers fall from grace official last night, pummeling Darvish while running away from the Rangers in a decisive 8-4 victory. The win capped a Houston sweep of their three game series against the Rangers, in which they scored 28 runs while stroking 42 hits. This was a slaughter . . .

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Baltimore Barrage Bombs The Nats In 11

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

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An old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that lasted through seven-plus innings pitting Chris Tillman against Stephen Strasburg gave way to an extra inning Baltimore barrage at Nationals Park on Monday night, with the Orioles coming away with an 11 inning 8-2 win in the first of a four game set of the Battle of the Beltways Series.

The Baltimore victory was triggered in the top of the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie game, when the Orioles sent nine batters to the plate against long reliever Craig Stammen. Over the next half inning (though not in this order), the Orioles scored six runs on two singles (from Nelson Cruz and Nick Hundley), a Nick Markakis double and home runs off the bats of Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado.

The big score in the 11th came off the bat of the otherwise slumping Chris Davis, who entered the game hitting under .200. “Stammen made some tough pitches, some close pitches,” Davis said after his 11th inning heroics. “I was just able to hang in there.” The Davis home run came on a 3-2 count when Stammen threw the power hitter a fastball that was high in the zone.

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“I really did not think he would be able to hit that pitch out,” Stammen said of the pitch to Davis. “He was right on it and he was looking for it. It was a little bit higher than I wanted.” The Davis round tripper seemed to tip the scales against the Nationals, as the Orioles showed why they’re one of the best hitting teams in the game.

In fact, however, the final score didn’t reflect what a tough, well-played and exciting pitchers’ duel the game was until it went into extra innings. Stephen Strasburg was nearly flawless in his start, throwing seven innings of four hit baseball while striking out nine. Baltimore starter Chris Tillman was nearly as good, matching Strasburg’s seven innings while striking out six.

The O’s and Nats both got on the scoreboard in the same way. Baltimore initial two runs came on a Nelson Cruz home run in the top of the 4th that scored Manny Machado, while the Nats first two runs came off the bat of Anthony Rendon who launched his 12th in the bottom of the 6th. Rendon’s round tripper scored Denard Span.

Manny Machado had a big night for the Orioles, going 5-6 with two RBIs. Nelson Cruz accounted for two more Baltimore runs in a 3-5 night. The big bat for Washington was Anthony Rendon, who was 2-5 and raised his season BA to .284.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Washington fans have plenty of reason to gripe about the final All Star selections, and gripe they have. A good case can be made that Rafael Soriano should have made the team as a closer ahead of Milwaukee head-case Francisco Rodriguez . . .

Soriano has better numbers than “K-Rod” and stacks up well against Aroldis Chapman, who made the team (in our opinion) more on the basis of his velocity than his 9th inning wizardry. If it were up to us (and of course, it isn’t), we would have removed K-Rod and Chapman and picked Soriano and savvy San Diego stalwart Huston Street . . .

Washington will be under-represented in Minneapolis, with one player on the roster. But the selection of Jordan Zimmerman was both right and obvious — he’s been Washington’s most consistent and feared starter, even given Stephen Strasburg’s latest snazzy numbers . . .

The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore made a strong case for Anthony Rendon being on the team over Matt Carpenter. Our view is that St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny can be justly accused of being a partisan, which we might come to expect from anyone in a Redbirds uniform. Cardinals fans have always struck us as believing that Busch Stadium is the world’s navel with the clydesdales the equivalent of the Bald Eagle . . .

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Cubs 7th Inning Rally Downs The Nats

Friday, June 27th, 2014

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These are the last place Cubs, the Chicago Doormats who can’t pitch, can’t hit and can’t run. But you’d never know it from the way they played on Thursday night on the North Side of Chicago, where they rallied for two runs in the 7th inning to down the Washington Nationals, 5-3.

The Chicago 7th came after the Nationals fought back on a 3-0 deficit to tie the game — punching a single run across the plate in the 6th, then putting two more on the scoreboard in the 7th. Chicago’s runs came off of Washington long reliever Craig Stammen, who gave up a double to light hitting Darwin Barney, a Chris Coghlan walk and a two RBI double to Justin Ruggiano. The Ruggiano double was just inside the third base line and past Anthony Rendon.

“Stammen’s been really good for us, and it started with Barney and him trying to go down and away with a slider and hung it over the middle of the plate,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said following the loss. “He was one pitch from getting out of it. It’s tough to see from the dugout, but I don’t how that ball [the Ruggiano double] was fair, but not by a lot.”

Nats starter Doug Fister, who’d had multiple quality starts over the last month, struggled to keep the Cubs off the board. But a three run fourth inning gave the Cubs the early lead, with the middle of the Cubs line-up of first sacker Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro and catcher Welington Castillo providing Chicago’s firepower.

“Felt like I was executing, but at the same time, the pitches need to be a little bit better,” Washington righty and starter Fister said. “I need to make sure they’re in or out a little bit more, down more. If I get it in a little bit further on that jam shot over the infield, then who knows. A lot of ‘shoulda-woulda-couldas,’ it’s just a matter of going out there and getting it done.”

The game was played under less than ideal conditions. A fog rolled in off of Lake Michigan in the afternoon and caused havoc among outfielders, including Nats centerfield Denard Span, who lost a fly ball in the gray soup. “Just rough conditions,” Span said after the loss. “Nothing you can do to prepare for that. I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game with that much fog.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Cubbies may be a last place team, but they’ve been a tough team over the last forty games. They are 20-17 in that period (and 13-11 in June) as their younger players have begun to hit, and their bullpen is ranked seventh in the majors and fourth in the National League . . .

Baseball analysts will tell you that the Cubs rebuilding process is taking a little longer than either President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and G.M. Jed Hoyer thought it would take, but there’s no doubt the Cubs farm system is packed. It’s only a matter of time before Cubs fans see the results with the Big Club . . .

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Nats Win In 16 On Zimmerman Home Run

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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Ryan Zimmerman’s two run home run in the top of the 16th inning was the difference in Washington’s 4-2 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday night (actually, Wednesday morning) — what went into the books as the longest game in Nationals history. By then, the Nationals had burned through their bullpen, and were set to send Adam LaRoche to the mound in the 17th.

While Zimmerman notched the game winning RBI, the Nationals bullpen was once again stellar. Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard pitched the near-equivalent of a complete game, ending Milwaukee threats in the bottom of the 13th, 14th and 15th innings.

The Washington Post notes that the game used up “fifteen pitchers and 24 position players” and that “485 pitches were thrown and the teams combined for 111 at-bats.” By the time the game was over, Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann’s solid start (six innings, six hits, nine strike outs) was a fading memory.

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Zimmermann had no-hitter stuff to begin the game, but the Brewers pressed him hard in the fourth and fifth innings. “The fourth and fifth were a little rough,” Zimmermann acknowledged on his outing. “First time through the lineup, I used the fastball and it was good. Second time through, they made some adjustments. I was leaving some balls up. They strung a few hits together.”

While it was Zimmerman who keyed the victory, much of the credit for the win must go to lefty Ross Detwiler, who threw four innings of four hit baseball in relief. It was, by far, Detwiler’s best outing of the year. “Det was above and beyond tonight,” manager Matt Williams said. “Going in, we had some guys that were feeling [tired], so we didn’t want to go to them. Turned out, we had to. Det was fantastic. He really stretched it for us.”

This was a big win for the Nationals, a victory over a tough team with a solid and power-packed line-up. The win kept Washington two games in front of Atlanta in the National League East and, after the Nationals throat gulping performance against the Cardinals, showed that the team can play tough against tough teams.

For the Brewers, on the other hand, the twin losses against the Nationals throw a shadow on a season that, at least so far, has been a dream. But despite the two losses, Milwaukee leads the National League in wins and they remain 4.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in the N.L. Central.

The Brewers loss squandered an excellent outing from Yovani Gallardo, who threw six innings while giving up just four hits. Like Washington, Milwaukee had to depend on its bullpen, with Mike Fiers pitching the last four innings of the marathon game and taking the loss.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs, the doormat of the N.L. Central, have set a pattern — the front office accumulates veteran hurlers, then swaps them out for younger pieces. This has occurred in each of the last three years, with Epstein shipping aging arms Paul Maholm, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman hither and yon for younger arms and a handful of prospects and potentials . . .

Now, those swaps are starting to work out, and the future Cubbies are finally beginning to take shape. Fans of the North Siders could see that future on the mound at Wrigley last night, when former Orioles prospect Jake Arrieta continued his remarkable climb to prominence as a solid Cubs starter . . .

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