Archive for the ‘Fielding’ Category
Monday, August 11th, 2014
At the end of their 3-1 loss in Atlanta on Sunday night, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez waxed philosophical on his team’s series loss to the Braves. “There is still a lot of baseball left,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not over yet. We still have to go out there and try to compete. We have the Mets coming up. We have to do our job and keep playing one series at a time.”
Gonzalez is precisely right of course, though Washington fans are clearly wondering if the Nationals can reverse their fortunes against Atlanta if the Nats end up playing the Braves in the off-season. The Nationals are 4-9 against the Braves this year, and 10-22 since the start of 2013, but squandered an opportunity to distance themselves from their N.L. East nemesis, despite a Braves losing streak that lasted through eight games.
There’s no denying — there are just some teams that Washington has trouble with. St. Louis is one of them, Atlanta is the other. “It’s almost like a playoff game when we play them, no matter when it is,” Atlanta starter Alex Wood said, following the Braves victory. “I think we’ve got some guys that are gamers in here and really enjoy that challenge and enjoy rising to that occasion.”
The Nationals inability to score with runners on board was not much in evidence on Sunday, instead it was Wood that was the problem. The Atlanta southpaw fanned twelve Nats in 7.1 innings of work, a season high for him. “Wood understood what this game meant and he made pitches when he needed,” Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. “He knew we needed some innings out of him, and he went out there and put up a really good performance.”
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
The book on Zack Wheeler is that if you give him enough time he will implode — losing his command, walking hitters and giving up key hits. But after a mid-game tweak on Tuesday, New York’s young righty worked through his problems and delivered a strong outing to lead the Mets to a 6-1 victory against Washington at Nationals Park.
“I didn’t have my best stuff. And it wasn’t very fun. But you’ve got to find a way through it,” Wheeler, who picked up his seventh win said after his victory. “You’re mad at yourself, and you’re trying to figure out what it is. I wouldn’t say it’s mentally draining, but it’s just frustrating.”
Which is to say: while Wheeler pitched well when he needed to, the Nationals failed to take advantage of his weaknesses and were unable to score big in a tough second inning that might have knocked Wheeler from the game. The Nationals scattered eight hits on the Mets, with Adam LaRoche going 2-2.
The lost opportunities continued on into the third inning, when Washington again seemed poised to score. Denard Span and Anthony Rendon led off the inning with singles, but Jayson Werth grounded into a double play. After Adam LaRoche walked, Ian Desmond followed with a ground out.
The Mets victory came against Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who had difficulties of his own. The southpaw pitched through six complete innings, but gave up four runs on six hits. While Tuesday marked an improvement over Gio’s last outing (a 3.2 inning eight hit disaster against Philadelphia), Gonzalez has not returned to the form the Nationals expect.
The Mets got a big night from Daniel Murphy who was 3-4 and pushed across two runs. Murphy has been the big bat this year for the Madoffs and last night raised his season batting average to an even .300. Murphy has shown he’s one of the best contact hitters in the league, leading the N.L. in hits with 137. At the age of 29, he’s arrived.
There’s little doubt that Washington has hit a rough patch, after performing well (and hitting well with runners on) against the hapless Phillies. The team has lost two in a row and is now just nine games over .500. Luckily, the Nationals have maintained their grip on the top spot in the N.L. East with the Braves losing seven in a row.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It was forever our intention to provide a longish piece on Atlanta’s chances in the second half, but it never seemed to quite happen. What we were going to say was that the Bravos had recovered nicely from injuries to their pitching staff, and were poised for a solid run as top team in the N.L. East . . .
We were also going to mention that the Braves are a streaky bunch, having accumulated nine wins in row just before the All Star break, before going on a short but pointed losing streaking. Staying consistent (we were going to say), was Atlanta’s big problem . . .
The Braves haven’t done anything recently to change our view. The pre-All Star nine game winning streak has been more than offset by a cripping seven game losing skeen, complete with a 10-1 pasting at the hands of the Padres last Friday. That embarrassment inaugurated a San Diego sweep of the Bravos, who suddenly looked like they would join the Mets and Phillies as N.L. also-rans . . .
Friday, May 16th, 2014
It wasn’t the absolute best, but the Washington Nationals’ series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a much needed positive end to a rough road trip to the Left Coast. The Nats’ bats couldn’t come alive against D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo in Game Two, but that’s hardly a knock against the home towners. Arroyo went the distance and chopped and chipped his stuff so well that it at times the horsehide seemed to move in slow motion. Nats hitters just couldn’t seem to focus.
Jordan Zimmermann again illustrated that he doesn’t do well with extra rest, giving up five earned runs in 5.2 innings in Game 1. And Stras was good, but not good enough to best Arroyo. But the good news for Nats Nation is that new acquisition Doug Fister shook off his (very) lackluster start in Oakland and pitched like the guy the Nats thought they were getting — he threw six strikeouts and induced ten groundball outs in his start against the Snakes.
One might be tempted to say that Fister’s start wasn’t a great test (need we point out: his semi-gem was against the second-worst team in the league), but bear in mind that Arizona is currently fourth in the National League in team batting average. That’s not nothing.
The fielding in this series was . . . fine. Four double plays in three games, but Ian Desmond racked up two more errors at shortstop. Rightfielder Jayson Werth did get an outfield assist and . . . and . . . and nothing else really notable happened.
The Nationals’ lineup capitalizde where it could. Ian Desmond was a standout (finally), racking up four hits and four RBIs in the series. It looks like he’s taken some of the oomf out of his swing, giving it 75 percent instead of 135 percent, and that’s working well. Finally, finally — he isn’t overswinging. (Hey, maybe he’s been reading CFG.)
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
The Washington Nationals finished a disheartening series against the Oakland A’s, who have become the powerhouse of the AL West the last couple of years. The Nats were shut out, blew a save and lost in the 10th, and then were damn near shutout again. Things were so bad that MASN commentators Ray Knight and F.P. Santangelo both expressed their frustration with the Nats’ play in almost heated terms on Nats Xtra after the final game.
The only, and we mean only, bright spot for the Nats Nation was Tanner Roarks’ start in Game 2: 7.2 innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. It seems Tanner shook off his poor showing against the Phillies the week before and immediately returned to form, illustrating why he’s one of the best starting pitchers no one is talking about. If we have to stretch for a second bright spot, it’s that former Nats prospects Tommy Milone and Derek Norris, the A’s starting pitcher and catcher, both had great series. Cold comfort.
Aside from Roark, the Nats pitching staff was in meltdown. Doug Fister’s first start as a Nat only lasted 4.1 innings after giving up nine hits and seven runs, a performance Gio Gonzalez would repeat in his game. Fister couldn’t get anything down in the zone, and the only way Gio could find it was to throw two-seam heaters down the middle. Closer Rafael Soriano didn’t do anything different, pitching wise, but a wonky cut-off of rookie benchman’s Zach Walters throw from left field blew the save for the first time this season.
The defense, the one aspect of play manager Matt Williams really wanted to improve when he took his new position, was farm league. Lost flyballs, weird relays, poor fielding choices, they all added up. Theoretically, all of that could have been overcome if the lineup was moving and runs were scored. A’s general manager Billy Beane had a whole movie made about him for doing just that. But they weren’t. In the series, the A’s outhit the Nats two to one and outscored them four to one.
Saturday, May 10th, 2014
Doug Fister returned to the mound for the first time in the 2014 campaign, but struggled against the A’s — giving up five earned runs on nine hits in just 4.1 innings of work, and Oakland coasted to an 8-0 laugher on Friday night. Former Nats lefty Tommy Milone kept Washington off the scoreboard, while throwing a two hit seven strikeout gem.
Fister looked rusty in his first outing, though he later told the press that he was prepared for the game. “Physically, I felt like I was in the right place,” Fister said after the loss. “I felt strong. It was lack of execution. I was excited for tonight, no more than normal, everything felt good.”
Fister may have felt good, but he didn’t look good. His patented sinker ball was left too often in the middle of the strike zone. Fister gave up a home run to A’s catcher John Jaso in the 3rd and he allowed Yoenis Cespedes across the plate on a wild pitch in the 5th. Washington also committed three errors, which included an airmailed throw by Fister to first base in the first inning.
“That’s what you ask for when you do that,” Nationals’ skipper Matt Williams said of Washington’s sloppy play. “Want to play clean baseball, certainly, and you’re asking for trouble if you give them extra outs.”
Soft-tossing lefty Tommy Milone, meanwhile, was brilliant for Oakland. The hard luck southpaw (he was 0-3 entering the game and struggled to start the season), befuddled Nationals hitters, moving the ball in and out of the strikezone until relieved by Fernando Rodriguez to start the 9th.
“I don’t think he missed a location all night,” A’s catcher Derek Norris (also a former Nat) said of Milone’s performance. “I don’t think he missed a location one single time.” Milone threw 108 pitches, 71 of them for strikes — and was backed by home runs from Jaso, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes. Oakland sprayed 12 hits against the punchless Nationals.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MLB Network’s late night baseball wrap-up show is often well worth watching, even if the knock-down-drag-outs between Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams can be taxing. Last night’s disagreement was more of the same, while peeling back a fascinating debate about MLB scoring . . .
The argument came as a result of Yu Darvish’s near perfect game, which ended in the 7th inning in Arlington, Texas when the official scorer decided a “tweener pop up” off the bat of David Ortiz that landed between second and right field should be scored an error. The decision ended the chances for a perfecto, but kept Darvish’s chance for a no-hitter in place . . .
Reynold’s called the scoring decision “the worst decision in the history of baseball,” while Williams defended it by citing Baseball Rule 10.12, noting that it isn’t necessary for a fielder to touch the ball for it to be called an error if, in the scorer’s judgment, the ball could have been caught “with normal effort . . .”
Friday, May 9th, 2014
The Washington Nationals provided two-and-a-half games worth of solid baseball to get the series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Trolleys are one of the National League’s elite teams, as even casual fans know, and were picked by many pundits in the preseason to go all the way — so it’s heartening that the Nats played them hard and well in this early season match up.
Jordan Zimmermann was in command of the zone during his start, but a thunderstorm prevented him from getting past the 4th inning. Even so, the boys from the bullpen (Aaron Barrett, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Rafael Soriano) went the distance and kept everything on lock down, notching a much-needed shutout. Stephen Strasburg had a rough first inning on Wednesday, giving up four straight singles, but then went six-and-change to keep it close.
Strasburg went to the pines with the lead and was then ably assisted by Blevin and Clippard, who locked up the eighth. Clippard needed his outing, as he looked uneven before the Dodgers’ series. Clippard has moved his ERA back down to 2.40 for the season: it was above 4.00 for much of early April. Rafael Soriano untucked his seventh save and maintained his season ERA of 0.00 over 13 games played.
The bats in the two wins weren’t exactly extraordinary, but they were solid in much the way they were in 2012, when the Nats won more than a dozen one run games on the back of great pitching and good fielding. Speaking of fielding, the infield turned a total of five double plays over the series and center fielder Denard Span was his usual acrobatic self, making some great catches by the warning track.
And we’d be remiss not to mention Nate McLouth (filling left field for Bryce Harper), who hasnt’ done squat at the plate this season, but who literally put skin in the game on a great catch against the wall in foul territory on Monday: “I know it pretty much went catch, boom, wall,” he said. Good leather, no wood? Nate just needs to get his swing — and our bet is that he will.
Monday, May 5th, 2014
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez faced off against Philadelphia’s Roberto Hernandez at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday in a classic pitchers’ duel and pitched brilliantly — but ended up on the short end of a 1-0 defeat. Gio and Hernandez were almost evenly matched, but Philadelphia put a single run on the board in the 1st inning that proved the difference in the game.
“Hernandez was so locked in. He hit his spots. When he fell behind, he got a groundout or fly out. Today was his day,” said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere after the victory. Both Hernandez and Gonzalez threw 7.1 innings and both gave up four hits. Hernandez struck out three, while Gonzalez struck out seven.
Philadelphia’s single run came on a Jimmy Rollins triple followed by a Chase Utley RBI single. “It was just a good pitchers’ duel,” Gonzalez said after the tough luck loss. “I just tried to keep us in the game as long as possible.” One of the Nats’ best chances of putting a run on the board also came in the top of the 1st. Kevin Frandsen walked, but was thrown out at third on a Jayson Werth single.
“We’ve had some really key hits over the course of the season,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia duel. “It just wasn’t our day.” Washington’s loss leaves the Nationals still half-a-game behind slumping Atlanta in the N.L. East. The Nationals will face the Dodgers tonight at Nationals Park.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: When the Dodgers take the field tonight against the Nationals they’ll do so in the midst of an unusual early season funk. The Drysdales lost two of three against the Marlins in Miami, their latest defeat, on Sunday, when Miami’s Jeff Baker doubled in the winning walk off run against L.A. reliever Jamey Wright . . .
Worse yet, Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig crashed into the wall attempting to snag Baker’s double, then appeared to hurt his ankle when he landed. Concussion tests on Puig were negative, but the young all-world hitter is day-to-day. But the Miami loss and Puig’s injury is only the latest in a series of tough losses for the odds-on-favorites to win the N.L. East . . .