Archive for the ‘chicago cubs’ Category

The Nats’ Season Ends In San Francisco

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

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A strangely quiet line-up, a misplayed grounder, a well-placed bunt, a defensive gem, and a wild pitch ended Washington’s season on Tuesday night, as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Washington Nationals, 3-2. The defeat ended the Nationals season, as the Giants now go on to face the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League championship.

The difference in this series, as any Nationals fan will tell you, was Washington’s strangely quiet line-up. While Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper hit well against Giants’ pitching in the series, San Francisco was able to consistently quiet the bats of Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond — the heart of Washington’s offense.

The same was true on Tuesday, with a medley of Giants pitchers (from starter Ryan Vogelsong to closer Hunter Strickland) throwing on oh-fer to Span (0-4), Werth (0-3), LaRoche (0-4), and Desmond, who notched a single hit. Even the normally productive Anthony Rendon (0-4) proved unable to provide the Nationals with needed offense.

The misplayed grounder on Tuesday came in the 2nd inning, when a hit back to the pitcher off the bat of Juan Perez was muffed by Nationals southpaw starter Gio Gonzalez, putting two Giants runners on base with no one out. A well-placed bunt (by Ryan Vogelsong) one batter later loaded the bases, with the Giants then scoring two runs — on a walk to Gregor Blanco and a Joe Panik ground out to first, which scored Perez.

Did Gonzalez pitch well? The 2-0 score at the end of two reflected the reality of the series: the Giants were moving runners on bloops, bleeders, walks and errors — a habit of championship teams. They were finding a way to win. At no time was this more apparent than in the 6th inning, when a long drive off the bat of Jayson Werth was snagged by right fielder Hunter Pence, who made a Roberto Clemente-like back-to-the-wall catch.

But the game came down to a Nationals miscue in the 7th inning, when Nats fireballer Aaron Barrett came on in relief of Matt Thornton and walked Pence to load the bases. Barrett then threw a wild pitch to Pablo Sandoval, which scored Panik with the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Barrett made up for the gaffe when he tagged out Buster Posey after blooping a ball to the backstop on an intentional walk, but the damage was done — and San Francisco was the 3-2 winner of the game, and the victor in the series. “I got lucky, obviously, with the wild pitch,” Barrett said after the loss. “The bottom line is I didn’t make pitches when I had to, and it ended up costing us the game.”

If there was a Washington hero for the loss, it was Bryce Harper, who showed that he can be a big-game player in a winner-take-all series. Harper ripped his third homer of the Nats-Giants toe-to-toe in the top of the 7th inning on a 97-mph Hunter Strickland fastball, a long and deep fly ball that ended up in McCovey Cove.

“This is tough,” center fielder Denard Span said after the loss. “We didn’t play well all series. That’s the bottom line. The Giants made the least amount of mistakes. We made too many mistakes. The little things added up.” Nats skipper Matt Williams called the defeat “bitter,” but praised his team for their 96 win season. “I’m proud of them,” he said.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Winners go on to play another day, while losers talk about things like “perspective” — as in, “I know we lost, but let’s put this in perspective.” Still, it’s worth standing back, particularly after a season-ending loss like the one last night, to talk about history . . .

Back in 2010 I wore my ‘Curly W’ hat to the Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum post-season face-off in Philadelphia, calculating that no one would really look to see whether the cap bore the trademark Philadelphia “P.” I was mostly right, though one Philadelphia fan gave me a puzzled look: “Really?” he asked, eying my hat. “Why would you root for such a loser . . .”

I might have told him that if anyone should know about losing it was a fan of the Philadelphia Stinking Phillies, Established in 1883, it took the Phillies 22 years to just appear in a championship game (which they did, in 1915), and just under one hundred years to win their first one, which came in 1980 . . .

If you study the Phillies or Cubs or White Sox or Twins or Braves (or just about anyone else, perhaps, excepting the Cardinals and Yankees) you realize that it sometimes takes years to build a winner — and a little bit of luck to win it all even when you have one . . .

That’s true for the Nationals too. It’s taken ten years for the Nationals’ front office to build a winner, but it might have taken a lot longer. Back in 2008, the Nationals offered a huge contract to Mark Teixeira, and were disappointed when he decided to sign with the New York Yankees. He signed with them because they were a “winner” . . .

But here’s the thing: If Teixeira had signed with the Nationals, the team might have had a stronger 2009 and finished with, say, 63 wins instead of 59. Which means? Which means that Bryce Harper would probably be playing in Pittsburgh (or in Baltimore) instead of in Washington . . .

So what would you rather have — Mark Teixeira playing first base, or Bryce Harper in left field? Which is why we take universal take-it-to-the-bank judgments about baseball (or about anything else, for that matter) with more than a grain of salt . . .

We’re going to hear a lot of such judgements in the days ahead: the Nats loss to the Giants shows “they’re not ready for prime time,” that the Nats don’t know how to don’t “step up on the big stage,” that skipper Matt Williams “needs seasoning,” that the Nationals need to show some “character . . . ”

What a bunch of baloney. This has nothing to do with character. The Giants didn’t win their series against the Nationals because they’re better citizens, they won it because they hit some timely bleeders and some down-the-third base line bunts . . .

Perspective? How this for perspective: If the “just a little outside” Zimmermann called “ball” in game two had been called a “strike,” we’d still be playing . . .

It was a great season. It was fun to watch. The Nationals are a fine baseball team. They didn’t win it all, but that’s the way it goes . . .

So here’s the argument for perspective. When you lose a series like this one, you pack up your bats, you hop on the airplane, you start planning for next year — and you live to fight another day. In almost everything else, that’s never an option . . .

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“We Decided To Go With The Closer”

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

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A transforming season that saw the Washington Nationals lead the National League in victories suddenly became a season of “what ifs” on Saturday night, with the Nats losing an historic 2-1 eighteen inning contest to the San Francisco Giants. The loss leaves the Nats now having to notch three “must wins” to advance to the NLCS  — two of them on the road.

With two outs in the ninth inning, and starter Jordan Zimmermann coasting to a 1-0 victory, Nats skipper Matt Williams walked to the mound, took the ball from Zimmermann, and called on closer Drew Storen to get the final out of the game. Storen couldn’t do it — giving up a hit to Buster Posey and a game-tying double to Pablo Sandoval.

What the Nationals have notched their win if Williams had stuck with Zimmermann? Would the outcome have been different had home plate umpire Vic Carapazza not have tightened the strike zone on the D.C. righty? We’ll never know. Instead, nine innings after Zimmermann left the game, Giants first sacker Brandon Belt homered off of Tanner Roark to give the Giants their improbable 2-1 win.

Williams explained his decision to lift Zimmermann to the press following the loss: “If he got in trouble in the ninth or got a baserunner, we were going to bring our closer in,” Williams said. “That is what we have done all year. Zimmermann got the first two guys, he wasn’t going to face Posey . . . We decided to go with the closer.”

The 18 inning game was the longest in MLB post-season history and lived up to its billing. Zimmermann dueled a revived Tim Hudson through seven complete innings (Hudson left, down 1-0, after 7.1), as both pitchers matched 1-2-3 lines. Hudson’s only hiccup came in the bottom of the 3rd, when an Anthony Rendon single scored Asdrubal Cabrera for Washington’s lone run.

The Giants first run (and the one that knotted the game at one apiece) in the top of the 9th provided the sell-out crowd with the most dramatic moment of the game. After closer Storen gave up a hit to Posey, and with Joe Panik on second, third sacker Pablo Sandoval followed with a dipsy-doodle stroke down the left field line. Panik scored, but Bryce Harper winged a throw to Ian Desmond, who gunned out Posey at the plate.

The play was reviewed, but the umpire’s call on the close tag of Posey by Wilson Ramos stood and the Nats and Giants headed to extra innings. What followed was a marathon as both teams emptied their bullpens, until Brandon Belt’s home run in the top of the 18th.

The extra innings marathon feature pitching that was nearly as brilliant as Zimmermann’s. Craig Stammen and the iffy Rafael Soriano (and Tyler Clippard and Jerry Blevins — and everyone else) stepped up for the Nationals, while Yusmeiro Petit was brilliant in six innings for the Giants. But, in the end, it was Belt’s blast that made the difference.

“I just wanted to get on base for the guys behind me: `Get `em on, get `em over and get `em in.’ Fortunately, I put a good enough swing on it,” Belt said after the Giants’ win.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The best commentary on Williams’ 9th inning decision that we’ve read, or heard, comes for the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell. Writing this morning, Boswell questioned whether Williams made the right decision in bringing Storen in in relief . . .

For Boswell, at least, the answer is “no.” It’s hard to disagree. Williams himself noted in his post-game presser that “it’s easy to second guess” and that “hindsight is 20-20.” All true. But the words are Exhibit A that Boswell isn’t the only one questioning the Williams decision — Williams is too. And while Williams is no Ned Yost (the Kansas City Curse), we are left to wonder why he simply couldn’t utter the words “what the hell, he got us this far . . .”

Boswell comes up with the only explanation out there: Williams thinks through a plan, implements it, and follows it through — no matter what. “From the first day of spring training, Williams has been a man defined by his detailed plans, his schedules and his love of predictable order,” Boswell writes. “It has served him and his team 96-wins well. But he is not very flexible . . .”

That seems right to us. Our only mumbled addition is a defense of Williams that goes something like this: having an inflexible plan is better than not having one at all — which was the case in Chicago and Cincinnati during the Dusty Baker years . . .

Inaction is sometimes a “virtue,” as Boswell writes, and last night in the 9th was certainly one of them for the Nationals. But if Washington fans think bad decision making is a fault, they should have been in Chicago during the Prior-Wood era, or in Cincinnati (where arms go to die) two years ago . . .

We’ll take Williams, despite his faults, in lieu of the more undisciplined approach of Davey Johnson, or the incoherent (lets fight with the players) style of the dreadful Yost. That said, it wouldn’t be too much to ask for Matty to admit what we all know to be true, particularly in the wake of heartbreakers like Saturday night. “This one is on me . . .”

But we can’t let the moment pass without reflecting on the other unnecessary intervention in Saturday’s game. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s strike zone was the most incoherent we’ve seen in some time. He lowered the strike zone on Bryce Harper (who yapped at him in disgust), then raised it on Asdrubal Cabrera, who was tossed (along with Williams) when Cabrera and Williams argued it . . .

Carapazza was lousy, and we’re not the only ones who think so. MASN analyst F.P. Santangelo allowed that Carpazazza called “a terrible game,” MLB Network veteran Mark DeRosa speculated that Carapazza was out of his depth (“maybe the stage was too big for him”) and Jon Heyman noted that Carapazza’s 9th inning strike zone was, ah, “borderline . . .”

Nevermind. It’s all history now. The Nationals are on to San Francisco, where they face elimination at the hands of a Giants team that finds a way to win — or, perhaps, sometimes simply figure that, if they hang in there long enough, the other guys will find a way to lose . . .

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Kershaw Too Much For The Nats

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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Clayton Kershaw gave up just three hits and one run in eight complete innings of work on Tuesday night, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a ho-hum 4-1 victory over the Nats. The victory was Kershaw’s league leading 17th win on the season against just three losses.

The L.A. lefty’s only mistake came in the seventh inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Bryce Harper — a relative rarity in the Annals of Clayton Keshaw. “He just didn’t give us any opportunities,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said of the southpaw. “That’s why he’s doing so well. He’s just not making any mistakes.”

“He is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down” said Harper, who went 1-for-4 in the game and notched his 11th home run on the season “He goes out there and locates his pitches. He has his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. He is very, very good.”

Kershaw showed why he’s in line to win the National League Cy Young Award, and why he’s also being mentioned as a front runner as league MVP. The L.A. southpaw, with the best curve that L.A. has seen since the days of Sandy Koufax, fanned eight and walked just two in throwing a three hit, eight inning victory. Kenley Jansen notched his 39th save of the season for the Trolleys.

The Nationals hoped to provide a counter to Kershaw in steady Doug Fister, but Washington’s righty gave up ten hits to the Dodgers over five innings of work (Fister couldn’t make it out of the 6th), which included an in-the-hole infield single to Adrian Gonzalez in the 5th (that scored Kershaw and Dee Gordon) and a home run to L.A. third sacker Juan Uribe in the 6th.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way tonight,” starter Fister said of his outing. “There were things that happened. I gave up a few hits. I have to be better. I have to be better picking up my teammates. It’s unacceptable for me. That’s what teams do. They pick one another up. I didn’t do that. I left the ball over the middle for Uribe. I have to be much better with him.”

Washington’s night included a muffed infield play in the two run fifth, when an in-the-hole Gonzalez grounder brought home both Kershaw and Gordon. Gordon should have been out on the plate on a throw from Desmond, but the shortstop wildly overthrew the ball, a rarity for the usually defense-oriented Nationals.

“I tried to throw it to first, I lost the grip, looked up and Dee Gordon is taking off for home. I just rushed it a little bit. I should have set my feet,” Desmond said of the play.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MLB Tonight’s Billy Ripken reminded viewers on Tuesday night that one of the biggest stories of the season is the seemingly sudden appearance of game-changing Cuban imports, including Cubs outfield phenom Jorge Soler . . .

Soler, the most recent rookie call-up of the retooled Cubs (they’ve won two in a row against the Brew Crew — and swept the O’s in mid-August), has only 22 at bats in the majors, but 11 of them have gone for hits, which includes three home runs and eight RBIs . . .

But Soler is only the second most exciting player in Chicago, bragging rights for the first spot still held by Jose Abreu, who is hitting a staggering .320 with a .381 OBP and .602 slugging percentage for the South Siders. Abreu has been on fire: he is hitting .500 in his last 12 games and is a lock-on favorite for the A.L.’s Rookie of the Year award . . .

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Nats HR Derby Downs King Felix In Seattle

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

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Six Washington home runs, and six steady innings from righty Jordan Zimmermann, pushed the Nationals past Felix Hernandez (perhaps the best right-handed pitcher in the American League), as the Nats went on to down the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Park on Friday night, 8-3.

With “the King’s Court” along the left field line looking on in stunned silence, Hernandez gave up home runs to Anthony Rendon (in the first inning), Jayson Werth (in the third inning), and Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos — both in the fourth inning. It was the third poor outing in a row for Hernandez.

“It was a tough day,” Hernandez admitted to the press in talking about Seattle’s loss. “I couldn’t get out of the middle of the plate the first four innings. I was up and I got crushed. Everything was off.”

The victory snapped a three game losing streak for the Nationals, who were swept in Philadelphia earlier in the week. “They were aggressive with Felix,” Nats skipper Matt Williams noted in speaking of his hitters. “They got some balls up in the zone to hit. It’s a big ballpark. You don’t expect that in a park like this. But then, we put some good swings on it.”

Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, righted himself after a after a shaky first inning (Dustin Ackley tripled, Robinson Cano walked and Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager singled to score two), to throw six complete innings in striking out eight Mariners. This was Zimmermann’s tenth win of the season.

“I was a little strong the first, second inning. Fastball was up and I couldn’t get it down,” Zimmermann said after his team’s victory. “Throwing that many pitches helped me a little bit.”

The Nationals tacked on three runs in the 8th and 9th innings, once again as a result of the long ball. Bryce Harper hit the 50th home run of his career in the 8th, followed by a 409 foot shot by Wilson Ramos — his second home run of the game. Adam LaRoche put the game away in the 9th with a sacrifice fly that scored Denard Span.

Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano pitched well in relief of Zimmermann. The trio gave up three hits and one run (all of them while Soriano was on the mound) in three innings of relief.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Atlanta Braves are gamely attempting to stay in the N.L. East race, downing the Marlins last night in Atlanta, 5-2. As usual, the Braves relied on the long ball to secure the victory, with Justin Upton and Jordany Valdespin each hitting home runs . . .

It’s interesting to track the fate of both the Nationals and Braves through a comparison of their schedules. Earlier in August, Atlanta made nearly the same road trip to the Left Coast that the Nationals are making now. The Braves dropped a three game set to the Padres, lost both of their games versus the Mariners and then (after facing the Nats), dropped three of four to the Dodgers at home . . .

Last night’s win in Atlanta kept the Braves just six back of the Nationals, as teams enter the final month of the season. An N.L. East pennant isn’t necessarily out of reach for Atlanta, but there’s only 29 games left to play and Atlanta would have to come close to sweeping Washington in the six games they have yet to play against them to have a shot at the flag . . .

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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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