Archive for the ‘Chien-Ming Wang’ Category

Nationals Exit St. Louis Still Needing One

Monday, October 1st, 2012

This was not Washington at its best, and everyone on the Nationals knew it. With a chance to clinch the National League East, the Nationals didn’t pitch or hit, and seemed sluggish in their three game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis, and no more so than during their last loss on Sunday, when they came away with a 10-4 defeat.

“We’ve had rough outings before and come back good. We’ll be fine,” Davey Johnson said as his team packed up for the return to Washington. “And I like clinching at home in front of the home fans. That’s nice.” Well, that’s what the team is hoping — as it opens a three game series tonight at Nationals Park against the Phillies.

The latest victim of the St. Louis hitting barrage was Ross Detwiler, who lasted just 2.1 innings while giving up four hits and seven runs — three of them earned. “I had the first chance at it, and I [stunk],” said Detwiler of his loss, before shrugging. “This was for all the fans back in D.C. Wanted them to see the team clinch.”

“I just didn’t throw any strikes,” Detwiler went on to say. He was right: He threw only 43 of 81 pitches in the strike zone. “You walk five people in two innings, you won’t have much success doing that.” Detwiler is now 10-8 on the season.

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Nats Still Grasping For Elusive Flag

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The Nationals magic number to win the National League East flag remains at six games. Winning that flag, and decisively, has thus far eluded the Nats; and while no one on the team says they’re worried, the hunt for the East flag suffered its most recent setback on Sunday, when the suddenly up-and-down D.C. Nine fell to the red hot Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park, 6-2.

The loss puts the Nationals still within easy striking distance of cinching the top spot in the N.L. East, but the Atlanta Braves are not out of the race yet and are a mere 4 1/2 games behind the Nats. The Nationals are at 92-60, the Braves are at 88-65. And no one is taking anything for granted.

The Brewers, who have won 25 of their last 32 games, are now only only 2.5 games behind St. Louis for the last spot in the Wild Card standings, and with just ten games to play. If the Brewers are to win that spot, with their playoff hopes surprisingly alive after an otherwise disappointing season, they will undoubtedly do it with hitting, as they did on Sunday.

Milwaukee stroked 15 hits against an array of Washington pitching on Sunday, putting together a three run seventh inning that included an infield single and a double. But Milwaukee also benefited from a brutal Nationals’ Park sun field: with both Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth unable to make routine catches on soaring fly balls because of the sun’s glare.

The lost-in-the-sun flies weren’t the difference in the game, but they added to the sense of frustration among the D.C. Nine, who struggled for mastery of the Brewers throughout the contest, played in front of an expectant crowd of 33,000-plus. The Nats’ play was less than stellar. “Just one of those days, I guess,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said.

“You can’t catch what you can’t see. There is nothing you can do about it.” Harper said of the mishaps. “The sun monster got me. There is nothing you can do.” The problem for Washington was that its hitters were not able to put together a rally against Milwaukee’s pitching. “There wasn’t much offense,” Davey Johnson said after the loss. “We gave them a few runs. It’s tough to win.”

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The Rebirth Of Zach Duke

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

There was a time when southpaw Zach Duke was considered one of the very best (actually he was called “brilliant”) young pitchers in baseball. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round of the 2001 MLB first year player draft, Duke surprised everyone (and not least the Pirates) by wending his steady and certain way through the Bucs’ farm system — making it to the big club in 2005 at the age of 22. He was young, but it was said that he knew how to “pitch.”

No one expected Duke to be much when he was drafted (at best, perhaps, a back of the rotation starter), but after posting an 8-2 record in his debut season, the Pittsburgh press couldn’t stop talking about him. Okay, Duke was then playing for a team that had nearly two decades of losing seasons, but teamed with Paul Maholm the Clifton, Texas high school “stud,” (as one Bucco blog called him) gave plenty of hope for the future.

Sadly, that 2005 rookie season might well have been the best that Duke ever had. Over the next six years, Duke never raised his ERA over 4.06 (and that was a considered a good year) and never won more than 11 games: that was in 2009, when he lost 16. Duke made the All Star team in 2009, but was traded by the Stargells to the D-Backs in November of 2010.

But after his time with the D-Backs, Duke never again saw a major league mound. Arizona basically gave up on him in 2011, and he signed on with the lowly Houston Astros. As it turns out, the Astros weren’t thrilled with Duke either, which is how he ended up with the Washington Nationals — signing a minor league contract with the team this last March. The Nationals assigned him to the Syracuse Chiefs at the beginning of the current campaign.

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What To Do About Henry . . .

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Nationals Journal reporter Adam Kilgore is all over Henry Rodriguez. The headline for his article today — in the wake of the Nationals impressive 5-2 win (and sweep) in New York — says it all: “Henry Rodriguez creates another mess, and Drew Storen gets out of it.”

Kilgore is reacting to another blowup by Rodriguez, the second in a row that nearly cost the Nationals a game. “Suddenly, the tying run in a 5-1 game had moved into the on-deck circle,” Kilgore wrote. “Johnson came to yank Rodriguez. For the second straight appearance, Rodriguez had faced two batters, allowed them both to reach base and been pulled.”

Of course, Kilgore wasn’t the only one who noticed — Nationals fans were tweeting about Rodriguez like crazy this afternoon. We’re embarrassed to say this, but the Centerfield Gate editorial staff (for those who’ve forgotten, here we are) were among the chirpers: “out of it” we said after the bullpen rescued Rodriguez: “#nats pitch around the wildness of Henry Rodriguez . . . should be a mantra . . .”

So what should the Nationals do about Henry? There are a number of choices, including one that seems popular just now with a whole boatload of exasperated and frustrated Nationals’ fans: designate him for assignment — the equivalent in Henry’s case (since he’s out of options) of a death sentence. Or trade him, now, for whatever the team can get. But no matter, in either case it would mean the Nationals are giving up on him.

Somehow that not only doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t sound like something that either Mike Rizzo or Davey Johnson would do. Rizzo paid a pretty price for Rodriguez, giving up Josh Willingham to the A’s for him, and for Corey Brown. Willingham is doing pretty well just now: he’s not only playing well for the Minnesota Twins, he is the Minnesota Twins.

Nor does it sounds like something that Davey Johnson would do. The Nats’ skipper has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Rodriguez — and he’s had to. “There’s another day tomorrow,” Johnson said after today’s adventure. “I’m not afraid to run him out there. He’s been spectacular for us, and at times not so good. Next time out, it’ll probably get spectacular.”

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How The Nats Got Mark Buehrle Right — By Accident

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

When Davey Johnson looks out on the mound tonight in Miami, he’ll see a southpaw pitcher who was a Nationals might-have-been — and he’ll breath a sigh of relief. We forget: back in November of last year, Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo made it clear that then-White Sox starter Mark Buehrle was his number one free agent target — a lefty veteran that could shore up his team’s young pitching staff.

Rizzo made this clear to Buehrle himself, when he visited him at his home in St. Louis in November of last year. That meeting followed one with Buehrle’s agents, at CAA, just weeks before — a confab held to find out just how much the Chicago veteran would cost. Signing Buehrle seemed like a great idea: the Nationals staff was then comprised of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan and an untested Brad Peacock. It wasn’t nearly enough.

“Buehrle, a consistent and durable veteran who has thrown more than 200 innings for all 11 years of his career, spent entirely with the Chicago White Sox, perfectly fits Rizzo’s description of the kind of pitcher the Nationals hope to add to the top of their rotation this winter,” Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore said on the day of Rizzo’s visit to Buehrle.

By all accounts, that meeting went well. Buehrle was interested in the Nationals — and they were definitely interested in him. The only difficulty was that he was asking for a lot of money. He thought he was worth it: he was just 32, had notched a workmanlike 3.59 ERA with the Pale Hose in 2011 and had won his third consecutive Gold Glove.

The Nationals made a good offer but, as it turned out, it wasn’t good enough. Just two weeks after talking to Rizzo, Buehrle opted to sign with the Miami Marlins, who’d offered him more money, and a chance to pitch for Ozzie Guillen, his old manager in Chicago. “The Nationals’ best offer, made Wednesday morning, fell short of what the Marlins offered in duration and salary per season,” Kilgore explained on December 7 — and he went on to speculate that Rizzo & Company would focus on a secondary target: Roy Oswalt.

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Rays Shine Against Nats, Peralta Tossed

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

The big news of the night at Nationals Park will not be the D.C. Nine’s fourth straight loss, but Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta’s ejection for having a foreign substance in his glove. The ejection came just before the Nationals came to bat in the bottom of the 8th, when Nats’ manager Davey Johnson asked the umpires to inspect the glove of the Rays’ reliever.

The ejection immediately eclipsed the other news of the night — bad news for the Nationals, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Joe Maddon’s surging Rays. The Rays attacked Washington from the outset, putting five runs on the board against Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang in the game’s first three frames and holding the Nationals to just six hits in seven innings.

Speaking after the loss, Johnson said that Wang’s mechanics weren’t right, that he was throwing his shoulder out before bringing his arm forward — a problem that Johnson said that he and pitching coach Steve McCatty had identified and would fix. “It’s our job to get him right,” he said. “And we’ll do it.”

Johnson added that he was not yet thinking of substituting long reliever and former starter Ross Detwiler as the team’s fifth man in the rotation. “I’m not going to make a decision on the basis of one bad outing,” he said. Wang pitched just 3.1 innings, throwing 77 pitches before being pulled.

The good news for the Nationals was the recently returned outfielder and middle-of-the-order bomber Michael Morse connected for his first home run of the season. Morse, who also hit a scorcher past Rays’ pitcher David Price, now seems to be reaching mid-season form after being sidelined for all of April and May. Ian Desmond also connected, for his eleventh of the year.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nats’ skipper Johnson said that he’d heard “chirping” about Peralta’s use of a foreign substance on the ball all the way back in Spring Training, then all but said that the report came from a Nationals’ player. “He used to play for us you know,” Johnson said. “It’s not like I’m making it up.”

Color commentator Ray Knight also weighed in, smiling at his own reminiscences of pitchers who went once-too-often to the back of their head, their mouth or the bill of their cap in doctoring their pitches. “Lew Burdette was famous for this,” he said. So true — Burdette was famous for spitting tobacco into his glove and throwing a nasty sinker, which helped account for his stellar record in sending the Milwaukee Braves to consecutive World Series.

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Toronto Swept: Bring On The Yankees

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Washington Nationals probably never imagined that they would stand at 6-0 after six games with the mighty American League East. But after a convincing 6-2 victory today in Toronto — which marked a sweep of the Blue Jays on their own turf — and following a three game sweep in Boston, the Nationals are riding high. They are still in first place in the N.L. East, and they have the second best record in baseball.

The Nationals six game slice-and-dice of the A.L. East was led by a predictable rotation of fine pitching, and some not so predictable bats, including today’s two home run outburst from rookie Tyler Moore. Moore was 3-4 with five RBIs in todays win, adding a double to his two home runs.

Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, was his usual stifling self, holding the Blue Jays to five hits and two runs in six total innings — clearly not as dominating as he was in Boston, but dominating enough to notch another victory, his eighth. He was pulled from the game after six inning because of a cut on his middle finger. That was enough for Nats’ manager Davey Johnson to call on the Nats’ bullpen.

“I didn’t want him to come out there and cut it further and expand that little wound,” Johnson said following the victory. “Then he might have to miss a start and I didn’t want that.” Reliever Craig Stammen followed Strasburg to the hill and held the Blue Jays to two hits while striking out four. Newly returned fireballer Brad Lidge followed Stammen, pitching a perfect 9th.

In their A.L. odyssey, the Nationals outscored the Red Sox and Blue Jays 31-16, and outpitched the two teams with convincing wins from their five-deep rotation. Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson all pitched well, and Chien-Ming Wang, who is starting to locate his sinker, pitched well enough on Tuesday to pick up the win. “We’re no longer a secret to anybody,” Davey Johnson commented after the sweep. “We’re a pretty good ballclub, and not just pitching.”

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