Archive for the ‘Fielding’ Category

Nats Notes For Game #6: Reliving 2013

Monday, April 7th, 2014

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Sunday’s game marked the first home win for Your Washington Nationals, and the first in the three game set at home against the Atlanta Braves. But this early trifecta was strikingly (and disturbingly) similar to what we saw last season: Nats’ pitchers were able to shut down their opponents in spite of meager run support — and occasional infield confusion.

Starting pitcher Taylor Jordan worked fast and pitched to contact, throwing seven pitches in the first inning. He made it into the 7th while surrendering a lone run.

New acquisition Jerry Blevins provided solid southpaw relief and Tyler Clippard found his control against the two batters he faced in the 8th. Matt Williams used both of them well in planned match-ups: Blevins faced Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman (left, right, left), while Clippard faced two right handed bats: Chris Johnson and Justin Upton. We’ll see more of that.

Rafael Soriano untucked his first save of the season by going after Atlanta’s Dan Uggla, Gerald Laird, and Jason Heyward with cutters high in the strike zone. This was the Rafael Soriano we’ve come to know so well: he got out of a jam he created for himself.

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The infield support for Jordan seemed a little confused at the outset, possibly due to Ryan Zimmerman’s sitting because of “non-structural” shoulder issues. They figured it out eventually, and new acquisitions Kevin Frandsen and Nate McLouth provided decent work in the outfield.

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Nats Feast On The Fish

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

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Jordan Zimmerman was electric on Friday night, holding the Marlins to just two hits in throwing an 8-0 complete game shutout of Miami, his second complete game shutout of the year. The Ace of Auburndale now has 19 wins in the 2013 campaign as the Nationals attempt to catch Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card slot.

“It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever had up here,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “The bullpen before the game wasn’t that good, and I thought it might be a long game. But as soon as I stepped out there and the first inning went on, I knew I had some pretty good stuff.”

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were unable to gain on Cincinnati, who notched an improbable 10th inning come-from-behind 6-5 victory against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. “We’re not mathematically out of it yet,” Zimmermann said after pitching his gem. “So we’ve got to keep fighting until the end, and hopefully one of these other two teams tank.”

Zimmermann’s 19th win came with nine strikeouts and only one walk. He had a no hitter going into the sixth inning and threw 79 strikes on 107 pitches. Nats hitters, meanwhile, scorched Miami pitchers with eleven hits, scoring seven runs in the sixth inning: one of the few “laughers” the team has had this year.

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Denard Span began the Nationals’ sixth inning rally with a single to right, followed by a Ryan Zimmerman single and doubles from Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. The first out of the inning came on an Ian Desmond ground out, but Miami starter Jacob Turner then walked Adam LaRoche.

Replacing Turner with reliever Chris Hatcher, however, did not stem the Nationals’ tide. Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon victimized Hatcher with successive singles, adding two runs to the two that had already been scored. A Jordan Zimmermann bunt notched the second out of the inning, but then Denard Span followed with a bases clearing triple.

The Washington sixth continued the Nats’ hot hitting in September, with Span and Werth both scoring two RBIs on the night, with four hitters (Span, Desmond, Ramos and Rendon) each accounting for two hits. The Nationals have outscored Miami 11-2 in two games.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals’ 8-0 scrubbing of the Marlins on Friday night marked their fifteenth win of September against only four losses. But to get into the post-season Washington will not only have to win-out in their last eight games, they will have to depend on Cincinnati or Pittsburgh to go into a tailspin . . .

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Why Todd Helton Should Be In The Hall of Fame

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

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Rockies’ first baseman Todd Helton announced on Monday that he will be retiring from baseball at the end of the 2013 season, bringing to an end a seventeen year career of one of his generation’s best hitters, and the best-known Colorado Rockie in that franchise’s history.

“It’s been an honor to be your first baseman for the last 17 years,” Helton told a crowd of reporters and fans at Coors Field. “I have grown from a man, to a husband and into a father. We have seen the good times and the bad. It has been a pleasure to share all of that with you.”

If Helton had actually stopped playing on Monday he’d leave the game with a .317 career batting average, a .415 on-base percentage, 2,505 career hits, 367 home runs and 586 doubles. His career average is the eighth-best for any player since 1946 with a minimum of 5,000 at-bats.

Helton has defined Colorado Rockies’ baseball: he’s the all-time Rockies leader in hits, runs, doubles, homers and RBIs, joined the team two years after its first appearance in the post-season and led it to the 2007 World Series and the playoffs in 2009.

But does Helton belong in the Hall of Fame? MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger described Helton as “Hall of Fame-ish” on Monday night’s broadcast and there seems some doubt that he’ll get the votes necessary for enshrinement. But for us, at least, Helton’s election is a no-brainer.

Helton is a five time All Star, won three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, a National League batting title, is ranked as one of the best ever in home OPS, finished in the top ten in batting average in his league nine times, led the N.L. twice in OBP and had one of the best years at the plate of any player in 2000, when he led his league in almost all major hitting categories.

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Nats Can’t Survive Phillies Fifth

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

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The coulda-woulda-shoulda Nationals might have won Saturday night’s contest against the Philllies at Nationals Park, if only home ump Jim Joyce had not been so liberal with the strike zone, if only a liner off the bat of Wilson Ramos had been inches further up-the-middle: if only Gio Gonzalez hadn’t lost his command in the fifth inning.

Unfortunately, however, none of that happened: Jim Joyce called strike three on a pitch clearly out of the strike zone, the Wilson Ramos liner was deftly gloved in the bottom of the 9th by slick-leather expert Jimmy Rollins, and Gio Gonzalez gave up four runs in the fifth, as the Nationals were downed by the Phillies at Nationals Park, 5-4.

The Phillies victory ended the Nationals winning streak at seven, giving Washington its 70th loss of the year, a heartbreaker that, when coupled with a Redlegs win in Milwaukee left the home towners 5.5 games back in the race for the last Wild Card slot. There are just fourteen games left to play.

The key for the Phillies was catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was 2-5 on the night with three RBIs. It was a Ruiz double to deep right in the 5th inning (Jayson Werth waved at it as it sailed past), that cleared the bases and gave Gonzalez his seventh loss of the season. A furious rally by the Nationals in the bottom of the 7th, meanwhile, fell a single run short.

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“As a pitcher, it is a tough pill to swallow when you want to go out there and do your best, especially for the guys the way they’re swinging the bat,” starter Gonzalez said of his shaky fifth inning. “To give up those runs makes a huge difference. That could have changed the whole game.”

The Washington fifth showed that Philadelphia is still a formidable team: Gonzalez began the top of the inning by striking out left fielder Freddy Galvis, but then gave up a home run to John Mayberry, a long ball specialist with not much to show for his year in terms of BA.

And the inning was downhill from there. Cole Hamels and Cesar Hernandez followed Galvis with successive singles. While Gonzalez responded by inducing a fly out from Jimmy Rollins, Gonzalez loaded the bases by walking Chase Utley. Carlos Ruiz then authored the inning’s coup, hitting a bases clearing double into right field.

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Ramos Leads Nats In 9-6 Win

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

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The Nationals committed three errors and Gio Gonzalez walked three Philadelphia batters, but Washington banged out eleven hits (including a Wilson Ramos three run home run in the top of the 2nd inning) and the home towners went on to down the Phillies 9-6 at Citizens Bank Park.

“It was an ugly game, that’s all I can tell you,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s one of the ugly ones I’ve seen. Gio had a real rough start. He threw a lot of pitches. He hung in there. [The fielders] were sloppy behind him. It’s not the way you win pennants, I’ll tell you that.”

Thankfully for Johnson (although that might not be the best word to use), the Nationals are in no danger of winning a pennant. The win in Philadelphia still left Washington struggling to catch Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card spot. The Nationals remain 7.5 games behind the Redlegs with 24 games to play.

The Nationals were hoping that starter Gio Gonzalez would give them a solid outing on Tuesday night, as he did during his last outing against Miami at Nationals Park, but the struggling southpaw gave up five hits and five runs (just one of them earned) in 5 2/3 innings on the mound.

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Gonzalez, who contended for the Cy Young award in 2012, has been up-and-down all season — with his 5 2/3 innings outing reminiscent of his 3 1/3 innings stint two weeks ago against the Kansas City Royals, in which he yielded ten hits and seven runs.

“I was fortunate to go at least that long, especially knowing that I felt uncomfortable on the mound the whole game,” Gonzalez said of his outing. “You can look at it from both sides: The Phillies had a lot of walks, we had a [few] walks. It was just one of these weird games. You just can’t explain it.”

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Done And Done? Nats Fall Hard To New York

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

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It might have been possible for the Washington Nationals to survive the 3-2 squeaker against the Mets on Friday, but it is going to be harder for Washington to keep its hope for a post-season slot alive after the Nats were routed by New York, 11-3 on Saturday. The Nationals now trail Cincinnati by 7.5 games in the N.L. Wild Card Race.

The hero for the New Yorkers on Saturday was Zack Wheeler, the young right handed hurler that has teamed with the now-injured Matt Harvey to give the Madoffs hope for the future. Wheeler tamed the suddenly hot Washington line-up by pitching into the 7th inning while holding the Nationals to five hits and two earned runs.

While the Nationals couldn’t get on track against New York’s rookie, Dan Haren had his worst outing of the year. Haren gave up nine hits and seven earned runs before being relieved in the third. Nearly everyone in the Mets’ line-up teed off against Washington’s pitching: Eric Young, Daniel Murphy, Josh Satin and Juan Lagares each had three hits in the game.

“We know that we’re running out of time,” center fielder Denard Span, who was 3-5 on the night, said. “Each game that goes by, it’s getting even more and more [important] for us to win. Tonight, just a terrible game. The type of loss like this came at the wrong time.”

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Despite the Mets’ seventeen hit barrage, there was little praise for Washington’s in-division competitors. Haren claimed that he had good stuff and Denard Span pointed out that the Mets were lucky to have some hits fall in. But it’s also true that the Nationals didn’t hit when they needed to, spraying eleven hits but leaving fourteen on base.

“We know what we’re up against,” Haren said following the loss. “Everyone is pretty down in here right now. We’ll go home and get sleep and come back and try to win tomorrow and go from there. There’s no use being down about it too long.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The 2003 Seattle Mariners were a heck of a team. Jamie Moyer won 21 games for the Navigators, while Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro anchored a sold staff, including a steady bullpen. But Seattle’s greatest asset was its defense: the team committed just 65 errors in 162 games, an MLB record . . .

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“A Win Is A Win” — Nats Outlast The Cubs

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

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“A win is a win,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson explained on Thursday evening following Washington’s 13 inning 5-4 victory against the Cubs in Chicago. What Johnson meant to say was that it’s easier to overlook an embarrassment, so long as (in the end), your team puts one in the win column.

The embarrassment, and that’s what it was, came in the bottom of the 9th inning, when an otherwise brilliant start from Washington righty Stephen Strasburg was squandered when the young ace inexplicably gave up a game tying home run to Cubs third sacker Donnie Murphy.

Strasburg squatted on the pitchers’ mound as Murphy circled the bases, and continued to shake his head in the dugout after, disbelieving that what should have gone into the books as his seventh victory (and into the Nationals’ win column), turned out to be a no decision.

Strasburg’s 9th inning was a breathtaking collapse: “I had my way with him all day,” Strasburg said of Murphy’s at bat. “And then he runs into that curveball. Obviously it’s the location that was the problem. A curveball, once it leaves your hands you really have no control over it. It just didn’t have the same kind of bite as it had early on in the game.”

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But Strasburg wasn’t the sole author of the Nats’ collapse. A throwing error from Anthony Rendon (subbing at shortstop for Ian Desmond), put Chicago’s second run across the plate in the 9th, when a good throw might have ended the game. Rendon’s errant throw brought Murphy to the plate.

Rendon’s 9th inning slip came on a tough play, but the young infielder admitted that his misstep added to the Nationals’ 9th inning troubles.  “You feel terrible,” Rendon explained to reporters after the game. “Obviously I had a little slip over there, but that’s no excuse. I still should have made that play.”

But deflating as the 9th inning was, credit the Nationals (and their bullpen), for hanging in and eventually notching the victory. Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen kept the Cubs at bay over the next four innings, holding the North Siders hitless while striking out four.

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