Archive for the ‘Fielding’ Category

Pujols Hits Numbers 499, 500 — Angels Down Nats

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit two home runs, lefty Tyler Skaggs and a young Angels’ bullpen held Washington to just three hits — and the Los Angeles Angels went on to dominate the Nationals 7-2 on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. The loss put the Nationals just one game over .500 on the season.

Pujols is the 26th player in baseball history to hit 500 home runs. The first baseman’s first home run of the night, number 499, came in the top of the first inning off of a Taylor Jordan change up, while his second of the night came in the top of the 5th on a Jordan fastball.

“I admire the man. I admire his ability and the way he goes about playing the game, and I have for some time,” Washington manager Matt Williams said after the loss. “I just wish he’d do it against somebody else.”

Pujols told Angels shortstop Erick Aybar before the game that he would hit two home runs on the night, and they were the difference in the victory. Following his injury plagued 2013 season, Pujols has regained his stride. He now leads the American League in home runs (with eight) and batted in five runs against the Nationals on Tuesday night.

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Pujols clapped his hands together as he rounded the bases on his 500th home run, was greeted at home plate by his teammates and then acknowledged Nationals fans who gave him a standing ovation. “You don’t see 500, obviously, every night,” Pujols said following the Angels victory. “It’s been a great career.” Pujols hit over 450 of his 500 home runs as a St. Louis Cardinal.

Washington suffered its second loss in as many games against the Angels and have tallied only three hits per game in the series. The victim of Tuesday’s loss was starter Taylor Jordan, who gave up eight hits and four earned runs in just five innings of work.

The Nationals also committed two more errors on Tuesday, their 23rd and 24th in 21 games — which leads major league baseball.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Just what the hell do you suppose is wrong with the Washington Nationals . . . ?

“I’m baffled,” Nats’ manager Matt Williams told the press in reflecting on the Nationals’ sloppy play in the field. “It’s not what we want, for sure, but we can’t do anything but do what we’re doing and that’s work at it. We do extra, we work on it . . . ”

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Nats Notes: Are The Nats Tough Guys . . . Or Choke Artists?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

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The 4-game series split between the Washington Nationals and the reigning National League champion St. Louis Cardinals was a microcosm of the 2014 season so far: one blowout plagued with fielding errors, one pitchers’ duel with adequate run support, one pitchers’ duel with inadequate run support, and one come-from-behind walk off win.

Game 1 of the series brought back the worst memories of the dark times of 2008 and 2009, with the Redbirds shutting out the Nats 8-0. Nats starter Taylor Jordan gave up 5 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and whatever the defense was, it wasn’t major league caliber. It was just by coincidence that Thomas Boswell, the great columnist at the Washington Post, wrote a piece that day about how hemming and hawing about the Nats this early in the season is fun — but they’re so good there really wasn’t much to worry about.

Manager Matt Williams was less than happy with what he saw that day and let the team, and by extension the fans, know it. This game only fueled the chatter that the Nats are bipolar: they dominate over lesser teams like the New York Mets and Miami Marlins, but they’re choke artists when it comes to playing the real contenders like the Braves and Cards.

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Games 2 and 3 were more in line with what Washington fans have come to expect from their team. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann provided quality starts, the base running wasn’t haphazard, and the lineup clawed up the ladder of hits and runs in a sometimes you catch them, sometimes you don’t way. That one of these was a win and the other a loss can be chalked up to two things: errors and stranded runners.

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Late Nats Rally Falls Short, Harper Benched

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

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A late, 9th inning, rally from a trailing Nationals team against Cardinals’ reliever Trevor Rosenthal fell just short on Saturday afternoon, and St. Louis downed Washington, 4-3. The Cardinals , who lead the series two games to one, have a chance to take the series today at Nationals Park when Stephen Strasburg faces off against Shelby Miller.

The miscues that have dogged the Nationals in the early going were in evidence again on Saturday, giving the Cardinals a chance to score early. A throwing error from Anthony Rendon in the top of the 2nd on a possible double play ball allowed the Cardinals to put two on the board, on a single off the bat of Tony Cruz, which was followed by an improbable double from pitcher Lance Lynn.

The Nationals now lead the majors in errors, having committed twenty in eighteen games. “It’s not because of a lack of effort. We are just a little unlucky, right now,” outfielder Jayson Werth said about his team’s defense. “I feel like it’s going to come back around. We’ll be all right.”

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The Nationals battled back from their early bobbles behind the hitting of Danny Espinosa (who notched his first home run of the season), Denard Span (who was 2-5 in his first game back from the 7 day disabled list) and Rendon — who was a nifty 2-4 on the day, raising his season average to .324.

The loss squandered a workmanlike outing from righty starter Jordan Zimmerman, who threw seven solid innings of seven hit baseball. “Zim pitched well. He got in a situation with Holliday in his last inning in which he gave up a base hit,” Washington skipper Matt Williams acknowledged. “But other than that, he pitched well enough to win.”

As good as Zimmerman was, St. Louis starter Lance Lynn was just as effective. Lynn, who said he had his best stuff of the year, held the Nationals to five hits in pitching into the sixth inning. The victory was his fourth of the year, with no losses.

The Nationals had a chance to win the game in the 9th after Rendon’s double brought the team to within two in the 8th. After notching the first out, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal walked pinch hitter Zach Walters then allowed Denard Span to reach base after he threw his slow grounder late to second. Rosenthal then balked Walters and Span to third and second.

With the sellout crowd of 41,000-plus on their feet, Keven Frandsen grounded out to third — which scored Walters, and suddenly the game was 4-3 with the tying run a single away. But Jayson Werth struck out swinging on a 99 mph Rosenthal fastball to end it, and give St. Louis the victory.

Team Rank                                                                        Games      Errors                Percentage          

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Diehard fans of the Nationals will tell you, albeit quietly, that their one criticism of now-retired skipper Davey Johnson was that he wasn’t tough enough. Most Washington fans would tell you precisely why they thought this, but often it came down to Johnson’s handling of phenom Bryce Harper . . .

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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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