Archive for the ‘chicago cubs’ Category

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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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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