Archive for the ‘chicago cubs’ Category

A.J. Pitches Philly Past The Nats

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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Veteran Phillies righty A.J. Burnett tamed the Nationals with twelve strikeouts on Monday night, leading Philadelphia past Washington at Citizens Bank Park, 3-2. Burnett’s victory was his first since the All Star break, and came against Washington starter Tanner Roark, who was saddled with his eighth loss of the season.

Burnett’s victory was supported by home runs from third sacker Cody Asche and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who hit only his fourth of the year. Dominic Brown had two hits and an RBI for Philadelphia, while the Washington attack was led by two solo home runs from Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon.

The Nats defeat followed on the heels of an offensive outburst against the San Francisco Giants, in which the Nationals notched 23 runs, which included a 14 run shelling on Sunday. The Nats performance against Philadelphia on Monday was much more modest, as Washington banged out just two runs on six hits.

As in many of Washington’s losses, the game was filled with a number of might-have-beens. Washington hitters led off the seventh and eighth innings with doubles (from Ian Desmond and Kevin Frandsen), but were unable to plate the runs. Nor could Washington mount one of its by now legendary comebacks — with a Wilson Ramos home run in the 9th giving only a taste of the kind of heroics the team is known for.

Righty Roark, meanwhile, provided a workmanlike outing, while giving up thigh high gift to Asche in the 5th. “It was a changeup but it didn’t change,” Roark said of the Asche home run. “It was just a BP fastball. It was right down the middle, thigh high. He got me.” Roark gave up just five hits in the game, and one walk.

Jerry Blevins relieved Roark for the 7th inning, but gave up a round tripper to Philadelphia’s Ruiz. “It was a bad pitch, mistake. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. He got all of it,” Blevins said. “Track record shows that I’m better than what’s going out there. And I don’t feel like I’m pitching as bad as it looks.”

While Philadelphia remains mired in last place in the N.L. East, the performance of Burnett, who has been struggling, provided a needed tonic for their team. Burnett attributed his win to a change in his mechanics, solving a glitch he noticed in his delivery. “I wish I could have found that little glitch about a month, two months ago,” Burnett said after his team’s victory. “Unfortunately it took a long time, but better late than never.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: If only the Chicago Cubs could face American League East teams all the time. Back in late June, the Cubbies swept the Red Sox in three games and this past Sunday they completed a surprise sweep of the A.L. East leading Baltimore Orioles . . .

The Cubs victim on Sunday was Baltimore righty Miguel Gonzalez, who threw a solid 6.1 innings, but couldn’t come away with the win. The problem for Gonzalez wasn’t Chicago’s hitters (who scruffed a measly six hits off of him), but Cubbies southpaw starter Tsuhyoshi Wada, who carried a no hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a home run to Steve Pierce . . .

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Harper Homer Hammers Mets In Extras

Friday, August 8th, 2014

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A Bryce Harper home run in the bottom of the 13th inning broke a 3-3 tie as the Washington Nationals took their three game set against the New York Mets 5-3, in walk-off style on Thursday at Nationals Park. The home run was only Harper’s fourth of the year, but it was probably his most important.

Harper’s dramatic and timely blast, a long line drive into the left field seats, came against Mets reliever Carlos Torres. “I knew it was gone. I mean, I felt it,” Harper said in his post-game comments. “I haven’t felt like that in a while. I haven’t got extension on a ball in a pretty long time.”

Harper’s home run provided an ironic coda to a mini-controversy that erupted when members of the press speculated that Harper might be demoted to Syracuse. The left fielder had been struggling at the plate, before going 2-6 on Thursday. “We’re all pulling for him,” Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann said of his teammate. “Hopefully he gets out of this little rut he’s in.”

The Nationals and Mets were locked in a classic pitchers’ duel prior to entering extra innings, with righty Zimmermann facing off against flashy New York rookie Jacob deGrom — the best feel good story in the Big Apple this summer. Zimmermann was solid in 6.1 innings of work, while deGrom matched Zimmermann’s numbers through six complete.

The Nats got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the second, with shortstop Ian Desmond depositing a deGrom fastball into the visitors bullpen in left center field. It was Desmond’s 18th home run of the year. Desmond’s long ball season has been matched by Denard Span, who continued his hot hitting. Span was 4-6 on Thursday, raising his average to an even .300.

New York responded with a single run in the top of the third. But a two run top of the 7th knotted the game at three apiece, with the Mets pushing across two runs on singles from Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, an Eric Young, Jr. sacrifice fly and a Curtis Granderson RBI.

It was then that the Nationals bullpen went to work. Five Nats relievers went to the mound (Drew Storen, Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano and newbie Matt Thornton), before skipper Matt Williams brought Craig Stammen in to finish the game. Stammen was brilliant, throwing three innings of one hit baseball and taking the victory.

Stammen has been inconsistent over the last month, but his performance on Thursday showed why he’s so valuable for the Nats. “I felt more comfortable out there,” Stammen said of his performance. “I’ve been working on a few things that kinda clicked. Made some good pitches. Got some outs early and gave me a little bit of confidence and I could keep going.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: New York might be all atwitter over the arrival of rookie hurler Jacob deGrom, but nothing can match the excitement of Cubs fans, who are turning somersaults over the promotion of rookie second sacker Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa . . .

So far, at least, the 21-year-old Baez is everything the Chicago press has said he’d be. Baez has only had 14 at bats in the bigs, but they’ve been big ones, fueling fan excitement over what they hope will be a Cubs renaissance. Baez has taken Chicago by storm, going 4-14 in three games . . .

Yesterday in Colorado, Baez was 3-4 with two home runs and notched three RBIs against the Rockies, leading the Cubs to a ho-hum 6-2 triumph over the fast-sinking Heltons. On Tuesday, in his debut, Baez deposited a Boone Logan fastball into the far reaches of Coors Field to give the Cubs the win . . .

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Nats Outhit The Crew, But Fall 4-2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals proved that Milwaukee Brewers righty Kyle Lohse is very hittable, spraying ten hits in seven innings against him at Nationals Park on Friday night. But it was Lohse who had the last word, working out of threat after threat in delivering the Brewers a surprising 4-2 victory.

All of Lohse’s acrobatics came with two outs, as Washington failed to move runners off the bases — a habit that has victimized the D.C. Nine all season.

In all, Lohse pitched out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings. Of course, the Nationals could rightly claim that it was their lack of hitting with runners on base (and not Lohse’s pitching) that was the problem: The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

Lohse was able to joke about his on-base troubles, and his win, after the victory. “I think it was five out of seven innings that got led off with a hit,” he told reporters in the Brewers’ clubhouse. “I was thinking about starting off innings out of the stretch, but I didn’t want to let everybody know I was aware of it.”

The Nationals were hardly anemic at the plate. Denard Span was 3-4 on the night, Ryan Zimmerman was 2-4 (and stroked his 19th double) and Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

Lohse faced off against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in seven innings while striking out nine. But unlike Lohse, Strasburg was victimized by two round trippers (off the bats of second sacker Scooter Gennett and outfielder Khris Davis) and a Brewers’ offense that capitalized on their scoring opportunities.

“With Stras as a fastball pitcher, they are a home run-hitting club. That’s going to happen sometimes,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams noted following the loss. “If you are going to hit a home run, you want it to be a solo home run.”

But the difference in the game was not the long ball, but a bloop single off the bat of Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third inning. With Gennett and Ryan Braun on base, Ramirez hit a blooper just inside the right field line that scored both runners. The hit was the difference in the game.

The good news for the Nationals was that Bryce Harper seems to be on track after being sidelined for a good portion of the season, and struggling at the plate since his return. Armed with a new and more upright batting stance, the Nationals young left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, his third of the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals were losing at home against Milwaukee, Atlanta was winning at home against Philadelphia. The Braves 6-4 victory was their third in a row and put them a single game ahead of Washington in the National League East . . .

The Bravos celebrated the All Star break by making an uncomfortable roster move, releasing second sacker Dan Uggla who had struggled at the plate during the 2013 campaign, then repeated that performance again this year. Uggla has hit just .175 since the beginning of last season and without the power that greeted his arrival in Atlanta in the 2010 off season . . .

You really have to wonder what happened to Uggla’s power stroke. While the former Marlin could never hit for average, his penchant for hitting high and long drives into the upper deck made him a nemesis in the N.L. East. Uggla hit thirty or more home runs five seasons in a row, including 36 in 2011 . . .

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Rollins Rolls The Nats, 6-2

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

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The Philadelphia Phillies are hot. Coming off a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies pitched and homered their way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Nationals in Philadelphia on Friday night, with righty A.J. Burnett and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins leading the way.

The Philadelphia win came against D.C. ace and All Star Jordan Zimmermann, who had difficulty with his command early in the game and was forced to leave it due to a biceps cramp in the 4th inning. While Zimmermann’s bicep injury probably isn’t serious, it will keep him out of the All Star game.

“It was getting a little tight in the last inning, and every pitch, it was getting tighter and tighter,” Zimmermann said of his decision to leave the game. “It was cramping up. I didn’t want to push it too far and have something worse happen. I figured it would be best if I came out.

Prior to his departure from the game, Zimmermann gave up an unusual four runs on six hits, which included a third inning two run home run off the bat of Rollins. Rollins stroked another round tripper in the bottom of the 7th inning against Washington reliever Craig Stammen.

While Philadelphia was scoring runs on Zimmermann and battling hard against the usually steady Stammen (who gave up two runs on four hits in just 3.1 innings of work), A.J. Burnett was working his veteran magic on the mound. Burnett threw 7.2 innings, holding the Nationals to just five hits while striking out six.

“Burnett has been tough on us. He beat us twice here, but we got him at home,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia veteran. “The ball moves. He is pretty good. He has an idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to attack hitters. He had [all his pitches] working tonight . . . ”

The only good piece of news for the Nationals (outside of the report that Zimmermann’s injury is not thought to be serious) is that Bryce Harper connected for a round tripper — his second on the year — after a long drought. Harper’s homer came in the 7th with no one on. Ryan Zimmerman added to the Nats total in the 8th with a double that scored Jayson Werth.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: They’re starting to pack them in at Safeco Field in Seattle, and for good reason. The Mariners are seven games over .500 on the year and climbing steadily upwards towards the dominating Oakland A’s in the American League West . . .

Perhaps the most important game the Griffeys have played this year took place on Friday night, with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez facing off against Oakland newbie Jeff Samardzija. Hernandez came into the game sporting a snappy 2.11 ERA, while Samardzija was making his second appearance for the White Elephants after his trade from Chicago . . .

The result was a dramatic pitchers’ duel that saw Samardzija pitch a complete game — and lose. The former Notre Dame righty threw brilliantly, giving up only five hits and three runs, but Hernandez was just that much better. King Felix dominated the Oakland line-up, striking out nine A’s, making way for closer Fernando Rodney in the 9th . . .

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Zimmerman Single Seals Series Win

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals got a taste of Cubs righty Jake Arrieta on Sunday, and he was everything Cubs fans say he is. Arrieta battled Washington ace Jordan Zimmerman for six full innings, a toe-to-toe pitching duel that was among the best played and hardest fought games at Nationals Park this year.

But the difference between Arrieta and Zimmermann in this game was that when Zimmermann left the contest (after throwing 105 pitches and keeping the Cubs off the board), the Nationals had supported their starter by scoring a single run, which was something the Cubs had failed to do for Arrieta.

It’s not surprising, then, that Sunday’s match-up came down to who had the better bullpen — and the better clutch hitting. In the end, Washington proved why their relievers are considered among the best in the game, while Cubs relievers are just so-so (and are 13th in the majors), with Pedro Strop giving up the go-ahead run on a single off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the 8th inning.

Zimmerman’s hit gave the Nats the win, as closer Rafael Soriano came on in the 9th to shut down the Cubs, notching his 21st save on the year. It was another high pressure performance from the Nationals third sacker, known for his plate discipline in clutch situations when playing at home.

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“It’s good to get the win against these guys,” Zimmerman said after the game, “and its good that we have such strong starting pitching. This was a tough game.”

The Cubs Arrieta (“he came as advertised,” Zimmerman said), agreed: “It was a dogfight,” Arrieta said after the game. “I really had to grind it out there. I had guys on base. I had to make pitches in big situations. I was able to do that.”

In fact, the Cubs outhit the Nationals on Sunday, spraying ten hits against five Nationals pitchers, while the Nats made do with seven. But the Cubs weren’t able to move their base runners home, stranding 20 of them through nine innings and were 1-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Nationals win gave Washington the series against a tenacious Chicago line-up, but the triumph didn’t come easy. Starter Jordan Zimmermann had to wriggle out of a jam in the 3rd, reliever Drew Storen got into trouble in the top of the 7th (and gave up the run that tied the game), and Tyler Clippard got in trouble in the 8th, but got two outs after putting two Cubs on base.

Zimmerman’s GW/RBI capped what was a monster series for him, as he now seems all the way back from an early season injury that sidelined him and left the Nationals line-up punchless. Zim has notched 13 hits in his last ten games, raising his average by 30 points. He was 6-12 in the Cubs series.

Jordan Zimmermann has been just as impressive, albeit on the mound. In June, Zimmermann put himself in contention for this year’s Cy Young, notching a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings. In all of June the Ace of Auburndale gave up six walks while striking out 41. Opponents in June hit .189 against him.

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13 Runs, 19 Hits — Plus Gio

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

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Saturday’s whipping of Chicago was an offensive outburst like no other, as the Washington Nationals sprayed 19 hits (including eight doubles) and scored six times in the 3rd and four times in the 7th, victimizing the suddenly pitching poor Cubbies, 13-0.

The offensive onslaught was supported by an outstanding outing from lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who held the Cubs scoreless in eight complete innings. Gonzalez allowed just four hits in his outing, while striking out seven, notching his sixth win on the 2014 campaign.

“He stifled our offense,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the trouble his line-up had against Gonzalez. “He locates his fastball, works it to both sides of the plate. And his breaking ball is really good. … It’s got sharp, late break, good tilt. He can use it effectively against both lefties and righties.”

Every Nationals in Saturday’s line-up had a hit, including Gonzalez. Anthony Rendon was 3-4 (with three doubles), Jayson Werth was 3-4 (with two doubles), Ryan Zimmerman was 4-5 with three RBIs and Gonzalez stroked a 7th inning single that advance Wilson Ramos (who’d led off the inning — with a double).

“Obviously, this isn’t going to happen every day, but with the type of at-bats we put together today, even when the game is out of hand, it’s good to see every one grinding it out, even when it doesn’t matter,” third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, who is now hitting.272, said of the Nationals’ offensive outburst. “Everyone finished the game strong.”

The Nationals batted around in the third inning and scored six runs, eight Nationals batted in the 6th inning (while scoring “only” two runs) and nine Washington hitters came to the plate in the 7th inning, scoring four runs. The game marked the highest run and hit total for the home towners this season.

While Washington chased Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva after two innings, it was reliever Chris Rusin who was the designated goat for the North Siders. Rusin gave up nine hits and five runs in just 3.2 innings of work. Rusin’s shaky work raised his ERA from 1.80 to 6.23 on the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s all about tunnels in Chicago. Both major dailies, the staid and standard Chicago Tribune and the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, headlined Theo Epstein’s comment that yesterday’s swap of 40 percent of the Cubs rotation to Oakland now allows the North Siders to see “light at the end of the tunnel . . .”

We might expect Cubs fans to be skeptical, particularly after yesterday’s 13-0 drubbing of their beloveds at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but Epstein was all smiles during a press conference in which he announced the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. “We certainly hope we’ve improved our future,” Epstein said . . .

Epstein also said that the trade had nothing to do with Starlin Castro, who must be wondering what the Cubs are going to do with the (at least two) premium minor league shortstops (Javier Baez and Addison Russell — winging his way east to Chicago from the A’s), who are poised to challenge for his slot . . .

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Cubs Swap Samardzija, Hammel

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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It was a bad day for the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, as the Oakland Athletics pulled the trigger on a trade that strengthens their shaky but tough pitching staff — and makes them the odds-on favorite to not only seize the American League West division championship, but to play deep into October.

Just hours after taming a potent Washington Nationals line-up in a 7-2 Independence Day victory, Jason Hammel was shipped out to Oakland along with tough Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija. The two will buttress an Oakland starting rotation that has had trouble competing with the likes of the Detroit Tigers, which just swept the A’s in three straight.

In exchange, the Cubs received Addison Russell (one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects), pitcher Dan Straily (who will report to Triple-A Iowa) and developing outfielder Billy McKinney.

It is not clear why the Cubs decided to complete the swap with the A’s as opposed to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were rumored among the front runners (with the Baltimore Orioles) in the race to get Samardzija. It was also thought that the Cubs would trade their two pitchers in separate deals, instead as a part of a package.

Then too, the Cubs already have a top flight shortstop in Starlin Castro and a shortstop waiting in the wings in Javier Baez, though as MLB Trade Rumors noted, “But [Cubs] president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future.”

For the Cubs, Russell has to be viewed as the key to the deal. It seems likely to us that when Billy Beane offered him to G.M. Jed Hoyer, the Cubs simply couldn’t pass him up. Russell is a solid hitter who grades out at 15-20-plus homers in the majors and a good glove. He’s as close as it’s possible to get to a “can’t miss” minor league middle infielder.

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