Archive for the ‘Fielding’ Category
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
Nats southpaw Gio Gonzalez pitched brilliantly in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the Nationals denied the Giants a sweep of their series, winning in ten innings off of an Ian Desmond single. The team needed a pick-up after Tuesday night’s now-controversial debacle, and Gonzalez provided it.
Gonzalez gave up only four hits and struck out five, limiting the McCoveys to a single run in almost eight complete innings of work before being relieved by Drew Storen. The suddenly unsteady righty then proceeded to give up the tying run to San Francisco, and the Nationals went into extra innings knotted at a run apiece.
But in the 10th inning, with Bryce Harper on second and Ryan Zimmerman on first, shortstop Ian Desmond guided a Jeremy Affeldt offering into right field, scoring the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano came on in the bottom of the 10th, setting down the Giants in order — and preserving the win.
The Ian Desmond single came after Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy decided that Affeldt should intentionally walk Ryan Zimmerman and pitch to Desmond, who’s been slumping lately. “Numbers may have indicated that was the right move to do,” Desmond said after the win. “But I was 100 percent confident I was going to get the job done right there.”
The Nationals win was only their fourth in the last ten games and came during a classic pitching duel that pitted Gonzalez against an as-effective Madison Bumgarner, who matched Gonzalez pitch-for-pitch. Their pitching lines were exactly the same — except for Harper’s home run.
“He’s one of the best guys I face all year. He knows what he’s doing out there, and the Giants are very lucky to have him,” Harper said of the San Francisco southpaw. “Going out there and facing a guy like Bumgarner is a lot of fun. I look forward to those matchups for hopefully the rest of our careers.”
The big stories of the game were Gio’s mound performance, Desmond’s go-ahead single — and Bryce Harper’s day at the plate. The Nats’ right fielder was 2-5 on the day and hit his 12th home run.
The victory lifted the teams’ spirits as the Nationals boarded a flight for their return to Washington, where they will face the Phillies, Orioles and the surging Braves (they beat the Twins today, their sixth in a row) in a ten game home stand. “It’s going to be a good flight back home,” Gonzalez said.
Saturday, May 11th, 2013
If Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park proved anything, it’s that the book on righty ace Stephen Strasburg is fast becoming . . . well, the book on Stephen Strasburg.
Cruising along with two outs in the 5th inning (and pitching better than he had all season), Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error on a routine grounder seemed to unhinge Strasburg, who proceeded to give up four runs — and the Cubs went on to defeat the Nationals 8-2 at Nationals Park.
It’s hard to know what to worry about most: Ryan Zimmerman’s nagging inability to make an accurate throw to first, or Strasburg’s inability to roll with the punches. Nats’ manager Davey Johnson, it seems, has made up his mind. Anyone can make an error, he said after the Saturday loss, but it’s up to the pitcher to put it behind him and keep throwing strikes.
“It was unfortunate,” a puzzled Johnson said after the loss, “That inning he threw 40 pitches? It’s hard to explain. He’s throwing good. Good stuff. Hitting his spots. And then just seemed to — when we needed him to pick us up, he kind of — the air went out.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one who was befuddled. The stadium was deathly quiet as Strasburg seemed to suddenly struggle against himself: after Wellington Castillo reached on Zimmerman’s error, Strasburg walked Darwin Barney, gave up a double to pitcher Edwin Jackson, walked David DeJesus — then gave up successive singles to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
If it had not been for a poor base running decision by Rizzo, it appeared that Strasburg would be lifted. “Just a bad throw,” Zimmerman said of his error. “It’s frustrating. Stevie’s throwing the ball well and has a heck of a game going and that obviously changed the momentum a little bit.”
Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Denard Span’s gazelle-like defensive abilities were on full display at Nationals Park on Saturday, as the Nats’ new centerfielder robbed Joey Votto of a potential home run with a leaping catch in the sixth inning and then, in the seventh, tracked down a line shot off the bat of Zack Cozart.
Span’s acrobatics preserved a 6-3 victory and propelled Nats’ starter Dan Haren to his second win of the season. For Nats’ fans, Span’s saving catch against Votto was the day’s most impressive play. “I’m not sure if the ball would have went over,” Span said after the Nats secured their victory. “But I was prepared to bring it back if it did go out.”
The Washington win was their third in a row and brought the Nationals to within 2.5 games of fading Atlanta in the National League East. The Washington victory was solidified by another hot day at the plate from Washington’s offense: Bryce Harper hammered his ninth home run of April, while both Span and Jayson Werth had two hits each.
While Span and Harper were the day’s story, the Nationals and skipper Davey Johnson breathed a sigh of relief that starter Dan Haren pitched like the Dan Haren of old. The veteran righty had his best outing of the year, throwing six innings and striking out five.
“It sucks it’s taken so long to have a good outing, but I finally feel like part of the team,” Haren said after the victory. “I’ve got to be like this or better the rest of the year. There’s no excuse for me not to be. I’m happy with the way it went. I’m not going to get too overblown about it. It’s just one start. I think I’ve been throwing the ball a little bit better as the year’s gone on.”
“That was more like him. He’s still throwing with velocity, but he just changes speeds, moves the ball around, pitches,” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said of Haren’s solid outing.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals got to Stephen Strasburg early, scoring three runs in the first inning against the righty, and the Nationals went on to lose to the Redbirds, 4-2. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Nationals, who were swept at home by their Central Division rivals.
What ails the Nats? Well, nearly everything: their defense has been erratic since the end of Spring Training, exacerbated now by a monumental hitting drought. The Nationals have committed 19 errors in 21 games (a National League worst), and the team is hitting a combined .235 — which is just three from the bottom in the N.L.
The team’s loss on Wednesday afternoon gave a clear snapshot of both problems. Anthony Rendon threw wildly to second in the first inning (when there was a play at home), allowing Carlos Beltran to score; the Nationals seemed to have a hard time recovering: the team squandered an important scoring opportunity in the 6th, but Ian Desmond struck out swinging.
The Nationals haven’t scored in 34 of their last 37 innings and, on Wednesday, went 0-7 with runners in scoring position. “We’re just not doing the things we’re capable of doing right now,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said following the loss. “It’ll change, but I’m going to have to jumble things up a little bit. Try to light a fire.”
The good news of the day is that, after a shaky first, Washington starter Stephen Strasburg settled down, throwing seven complete innings and retiring 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. “I was trying to throw the perfect pitch. I tell myself, ‘Don’t do that.’ Then I go out there and do it,” Strasburg said of his rocky first inning.
Despite the mounting problems, the Nationals seem quietly confident — even certain that they will live up to their pre-season expectations. Jayson Werth, who homered in the 8th inning (his fourth of the year), remains positive.
“This is definitely not the end of the world,” Werth said when faced by reporters at the end of the game. “We’re just going through it. Hopefully we’ll get over this soon and start playing good baseball and things will start going our way. At some point, I really do believe the ball will start bouncing our way.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals aren’t the only N.L. East team that are having problems at the plate. After sweeping the Nationals at home in mid-April, the Atlanta Braves have been slumping: they split a two game series with the Kansas City Royals and then lost three of four against the underrated Pirates . . .
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
The Nationals fell to Dillon Gee and the New York Mets, 2-0 in New York — dropping two of three games in their series against their division rivals. The Nationals, a strong defensive team in 2012, committed three errors.
But the loss is most likely to be remembered for a Jayson Werth at bat in the 8th inning. Werth came to the plate with two on and nobody out, and the Mets pressing for the win. But Werth squandered the scoring opportunity, hitting into a double play on a 3-0 count.
The Nationals might have looked forward to facing Gee in their final New York weekend contest, particularly since the New York righty had been ineffective in the early going. But Gee pitched his best game of the year, giving up just three hits while striking out six in 5.2 innings of work.
“I’m just happy to finally contribute to a win,” a clearly happy Gee said following the game. “That’s the truth — we needed to step it up. It’s been really eating away at me the past few weeks, not going out there and doing my job.”
Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann was not as effective as he was during his prior outing, when he pitched a complete game, but he gave his team a chance to win. Zimmermann pitched five complete, giving up just two hits and two runs. The big blow for New York came off the bat of John Buck, who stroked his 7th home run of the year in the second inning.
Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson was clearly irritated by the loss, and particularly by Jayson Werth’s swing on the 3-0 count in the 8th. It was the best chance the Nationals had of putting runs on the board. Johnson refused to comment on Werth’s at bat.
But while Johnson remained silent on the incident, Jayson Werth did not: “Looking back, I was trying to do too much, I was trying to win the game right there,” he said following the loss. “The situation got the best of me. It was probably one of the dumber things I’ve done on the field in a while.”
The Nationals return home today to begin a three game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, and hope to gain retribution for last year’s playoff loss. The Nationals will then face the Cincinnati Reds in a four game contest — a stretch of seven tough games against some of their strongest N.L. competition.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals and Cardinals are evenly matched. Both teams are 10-8 and both teams are having problems with their bullpen. Last night in Philadelphia, St. Louis got six-plus strong innings from starter Jake Westbrook before reliever Mitchell Boggs gave up four runs in the eighth . . .
The Cardinals don’t have the pitching the Nationals do (at least not on paper) but while their starting five is older it is also savvy. The likely end of Chris Carpenter’s career has vaulted Adam Wainwright into the first slot in the St. Louis rotation and he’s a gamer. Just two weeks ago he threw a complete game four hitter in Milwaukee . . .
Thursday, April 11th, 2013
By now, eight games into the season, there should be no doubt that the Nationals know how to score runs. On Wednesday, Washington’s bats were nearly silent through the first three innings of their game against the White Sox, but in the fourth inning the team began to roll — and went on to seal a 5-2 victory, their second in a row against the Comiskeys.
“These guys, they’re going to score some runs sooner or later,” Washington starting hurler Jordan Zimmermann said after the victory. For Zimmermann, who notched his second win in as many outings, Washington run support (which was in short supply when he pitched last year), was a “given.”
Once again, Bryce Harper led the attack, going 2-4 while racking up his fourth home run. But last night’s game featured hits from the normally quiescent middle of the order: Ian Desmond was 3-4 and scored twice and Danny Espinosa was 2-4 with two RBIs.
None of this might have mattered without Zimmermann, who scattered seven hits over seven innings — and befuddled White Sox hitters just enough to give his hitters a chance. “It starts with Jordan,” said Desmond. “He was working quick, getting quick outs, getting us back in the dugout, and the other guys around me were hitting, too.”
This was a stellar outing for the Ace of Auburndale, who looked in mid-season form. “I was just sticking with the fastball pretty much all game,” Zimmermann said. “Mixed in a handful of changeups in there, some sliders and a couple curves, but for the most part, we were just going fastball…. It was just one of those games where it it felt good and I felt like I could locate it at any time so we stuck with it.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: After years of waiting for their youngster to arrive, they have — the White Sox line-up is much younger than it was several years ago. But the real question is: is it better? “The White Sox are about a .500 team, so it would be a surprise if they finish fourth,” Sports Illustrated intoned at the beginning of the year . . .
That sounds about right, but while the White Sox might not contend this year, they have a plan. And while that plan does not include the word “rebuild,” there isn’t any question that the White Sox are trying to get younger and faster . . .
Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers are now the face of a franchise that was once dominated by the likes of Omar Vizquel (44 in 2010), Mark Buehrle (now 34 and in Toronto), Juan Pierre (long gone — at 35), Mark Kotsay (the D.H. in 2010) and Freddy Garcia (now 35 — and with the Yankees) . . .
Saturday, April 6th, 2013
This is a game that should have gone into the books as a win in the 8th, and then again in the 9th, but it took the Washington Nationals, and five home runs, to down the Cincinnati Reds in 11 innings at the Great American Bandbox Ballpark, 7-6.
This was a game of firsts for the Nationals in 2013: the first solid start for lefty youngster Ross Detwiler, the first home run for Ian Desmond (in the 11th with nobody on), the first blown late lead for the team during the season — and the first blown save for fireballer and veteran save artist Rafael Soriano.
Soriano’s blown save was the result of a home run from Cincy slugger Shin-Soo Choo, followed by a triple from Joey Votto — and a wild pitch that brought Votto home. Soriano’s so-so outing knotted the score at five, with the Nationals reeling from the unexpected Cincinnati rally.
But the Nationals fought back in extra innings. The Nationals got back on the board in the top of the 11th with a home run from Ian Desmond (whose inexplicable boot at shortstop in the 8th could have cost the Nationals the win), followed by a long shot to center from Wilson Ramos. The Ramos dinger was his second of the game.
But the real hero of the nail biter might well have been Craig Stammen, whose mound presence seemed to calm the Nationals. Stammen entered the game in the 10th and pitched two innings of two hit, one run ball — picking up his first win of the season. Stammen’s two seam fastball and late-moving slider stifled Reds’ hitters, allowing the Nats to ring up their fourth win of the season.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We love Carp and F.P of course, but F.P. is so unapologetically in the bag for Ian Desmond that, well, it makes ya think that ‘ol Frank Paul is channeling his glory days as an Expos infielder . . .
When Desmond launched a grounder into the 18th row behind first base in the 4th inning (“what the hell was that,” Nats Nation yelled, as one), F.P. told us that he does this early in the season — and that he’ll get on track. Well, we’re sure that’s right, or at least we sure as hell hope so . . .
Then MASN interviewed Desmond in the postgame and implied his 11th inning homer made the difference in the game, when it absolutely did — and didn’t. The final score was 7-6 and according to our book the winning home run in the 7-6 game was launched by (let’s see, we’re checking) Wilson Ramos . . .