Archive for the ‘houston astros’ Category

#2, Derek Jeter . . . Jeter

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


The simple truth is this: if you write a story on your blog about the New York Yankees (even on a blog that is focused on the Washington Nationals), people will read it. Not just some people, a lot of people. Put simply: a lot more people are willing to read about the Yankees than about the Nationals.

How do we know that? Because we tried it. Earlier this season we posted a pic of a baseball card of Joe DiMaggio on CFG’s “Facebook” page and received five times as many views as a normal posting. Yes, it’s a “single data point” (as they say in Washington), but it’s compelling. But why?

“Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser,” General George Patton told his troops during World War Two. “Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.” Patton’s right of course, which explains the appeal of the Gothams — and why people are paying so much attention, just now, to Jeter.

There’s no way to prove this, but we believe it’s true: if the Yankees had spent the last twenty years in last place, Jeter wouldn’t be getting the kind of attention he is now. And if the Yankees weren’t the Yankees (if, say, they were the Mets), they wouldn’t be America’s teams. The Yankee are the Yankees because they’re winners.

Yes, yes, yes. Of course. Jeter’s retiring and he’s had a great career, but we doubt if as many people would be paying attention to Jeter if he’d spent twenty years with the Astros, or even the Cubs. Face it: the Braves, Cubs and Dodgers (or anyone else, for that matter) aren’t America’s team, the Yankees are. And there are statistics to prove it.

Then too, it’s not as if Jeter didn’t have something to do with those five World Series rings he owns. We would even claim that while it’s likely that many, many baseball fans agree with what Keith Olbermann said the other day, people remain fascinated by him (and his Yankees) because . . . well, he’s a Yankee.

And, for the record here, in part, is what Olbermann said: “Contrary to what you have heard, Derek Jeter is not the greatest person in human history. He did not invent baseball, he did not discover electricity, he is not the greatest shortstop who ever lived.”

We agree with the gist of this, while noting that extolling the greatness of people is a current media fixation, a kind of art form. Talk show host Larry King once said that he thought there was no musician who ever lived who was better than Michael Jackson. One of the guests on his program furrowed his brow, shook his head — and offered this: “Well, there’s Mozart.”


Nats Slug Their Way To 6-2 Win In Baltimore

Thursday, July 10th, 2014


Home runs by Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth — and seven solid innings of pitching from starter Doug Fister — led the Washington Nationals past the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday night, 6-2. The Nationals victory in the Orioles slugfest secured Washington’s hold on first place in the National League East.

After the extra innings loss to the Orioles in Washington on Monday (during which the O’s slammed four round trippers), the Nationals not only needed the win, they needed to show they could stand toe-to-toe with one of the best hitting teams in major league baseball. They did that last night.

“This is a good ballpark to hit home runs in,” Nationals manager Matt Williams acknowledged following the Washington victory. “All you need to do is look at the other dugout to see that.” Given Fister’s solid showing, and a Nats bullpen that was in shutdown mode, the Ramos-Desmond-Werth show was more than enough to give the Nats the victory.

The Nationals started the night against O’s starter Bud Norris by putting two runs on the scoreboard in the first inning, courtesy of a Jayson Werth double that scored Anthony Rendon and an Adam LaRoche RBI single that brought in Werth. At the end of two, the Nationals led 3-1, thanks to Wilson Ramos’ third home run of the year.

Doug Fister, meanwhile, was befuddling the O’s potent line-up, though he and Nats skipper Matt Williams admitted that the steady righty was struggling with his command. But despite his early troubles (the O’s scored early on an RBI single from Chris Davis, then on a home run from Manny Machado in the 4th), Fister worked to stay in the game.

“Doug continues to battle,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “We stretch him out. We sent him back out there with the notion that if he got in trouble, we’ll go get him. He really found the zone the last inning, especially. He pitched really well.”

The victory on Wednesday also showed why the Nationals and their fans believe Anthony Rendon should be an All Star. With Ryan Zimmerman penciled into the line-up as a Designated Hitter, Rendon was slotted in at third, where he flashed his leather, robbing Baltimore hitters of at least two singles.

“Their third baseman had a great night playing third base,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told the press following the O’s loss. “We could have got back in it a little bit, but they didn’t let us defensively.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Battle of Texas (it’s now called, alternately, the Lone Stars SeriesĀ or the Silver Boot series) has never gone well for Houston. The Astros lost 17 of 19 games to their cross-state rival Texas Rangers last year, and were seemingly fated for another last place finish against their sprinting A.L. West rivals in 2014 . . .

Projected as a powerhouse prior to the season, the Rangers had everything: A strong starting staff anchored by Yu Darvish and a line-up that featured one of the game’s best long ball hitters in Prince Fielder. But Fielder is injured (with neck surgery) and out for the year, Darvish is struggling — and now the Texas Rangers are in last place . . .

The Astros made the Rangers fall from grace official last night, pummeling Darvish while running away from the Rangers in a decisive 8-4 victory. The win capped a Houston sweep of their three game series against the Rangers, in which they scored 28 runs while stroking 42 hits. This was a slaughter . . .


Nats Rally Grounds The Astros, 6-5

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Anthony Rendon’s tenth home run of the year sparked a Nationals seventh inning rally, and Washington went on to beat Houston on Wednesday, 6-5. The victory marked the return of starter Gio Gonzalez from a stint on the disabled list and marked Washington’s 17th comeback win of the 2014 campaign.

Clutch hitting was the key to the Nationals victory. With his team trailing in the 7th, Rendon took a first pitch 94 mph fastball from Houston righty reliever Josh Zeid to the seats in left center field. Zeid then walked Jayson Werth, who went to third on an Adam LaRoche single to center field. Ryan Zimmerman then grounded into a fielder’s choice.

With Zimmerman on first, Ian Desmond then doubled him to third, Danny Espinosa was intentionally walked and Nate McLouth scored Zimmerman on a sacrifice fly. The McLouth hit capped the Nats scoring on the night, as relievers Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano closed out the game. Soriano notched his 15th save of the season.

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“That’s kind of how we’ve done it all year, not necessarily lately, but we grind out at-bats,” Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said following the win. “We got some big hits late and came from behind there after a big inning for them.” The victory gave Washington a 1.5 game lead in the N.L. East, as the Braves lost their third in Philadelphia.

Gio Gonzalez seemed unsettled after his return from the disabled list, giving up five hits and four earned runs in five innings of work. But Gonzalez was philosophical about his inconsistencies after the game. “I felt like it was not one of my strongest outings, but it was a step in the right direction,” Gonzalez said. “I’m off the DL is a great sign.

In sealing the mini-sweep against Houston, the Nationals banged out eleven hits against five Astros hurlers. Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa were each two-fer on the night, with six Nationals contributing RBIs.

The Nationals now face Atlanta in an important four game series. “I think we feel good with where we are at,” Washington manager Matt Williams said reflected during his post game remarks. “We really face a difficult team in the next four games. I think it was really important to win this one tonight. We need to look into tomorrow and be prepared for that.


Nats Hold Off Astros, Back In The Win Column

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


Dallas Keuchel is probably the best pitcher you’ve never heard of. Entering Tuesday’s game at Nationals Park, the Houston southpaw (at 8-3 and with a snappy 2.38 ERA) was known for two things: getting great hitters to hit groundballs and getting good hitters to miss them.

But on Tuesday, the Nationals got to Houston’s young lefty, mixing line-drives with a raft of doubles to give the All Star-bound Keuchel his fourth loss of the season. In all, the resurgent Nationals (coming off a four game slump and a sweep in St. Louis) banged out six runs and nine hits on Houston pitching, downing the ‘Stros 6-5.

While the victory propelled Washington back into first place in the N.L. East (but just by a scootch), the win wasn’t as decisive as it might have been. Starter Tanner Roark could not locate his fastball (“my bailout was my curveball tonight,” he confirmed after his outing), while Houston’s impressive array of young hitters rallied against reliever Tyler Clippard, scoring four in the 8th.

Washington starter Tanner Roark lasted just five innings, but took the win, his sixth of the season. “It was a grind. Just one of those nights,” Roark said. “I couldn’t get ahead, but came up with some big pitches. And of course we come out early and score runs so it takes a lot of weight off.”

Washington’s anemic offense, on full display in St. Louis, got hot on Tuesday, with both Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon accounting for five of Washington’s six runs. Rendon doubled twice to drive in three runs, while Zimmerman added two doubles and two RBIs.

Tuesday night’s negative came from Tyler Clippard who had an unusual (which is to say — unheard of) meltdown in the 8th. Following on solid outings from relievers Craig Stammen and Drew Storen, Clippard gave up five hits and four runs in pitching just two-thirds of an inning.

In truth, however, some of Clippard’s difficulties came from facing a Houston line-up that has the best record in baseball since May 22. The 8th showed why so many in the game are suddenly paying attention to the Astros, with Houston’s line-up stacked with a budding superstar second sacker (Jose Altuve) a long ball rookie in George Springer and a left handed hitting gapper in Jon Singleton.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: If the Miami Marlins played all of their games at home they’d walk away with the National League East. On Tuesday night, after losing to the Cubs the night before (and after falling to the Bucs in two of three games), the Marlins rallied for a 6-5 victory behind a three run homer from Garrett Jones . . .

The Marlins are 24-14 at Marlins Park, where it’s still possible to overhear private conversations — and where home runs hit to left field can be picked up by the cleaning crew at the end of a game. Last night, the Marlins played in front of 20,000 fans, not bad (actually) for a team that’s 26th in attendance . . .


Rendon, Fister Lead The Nats, 10-2

Saturday, May 31st, 2014


Anthony Rendon was 4-5 with one of Washington’s four home runs and righty starter Doug Fister mastered the Texas Rangers as the Nationals went on to pummel Texas, 10-2 at Nationals Park on Saturday. This was the second successive win over Texas in as many days, as the Nationals seem to have finally found where the trainers keep the bats.

The Nationals pumped out 12 hits and four round trippers against three Texas pitchers, including starter Nick Tepesch — who gave up four runs and seven hits in just two innings of work. The Nationals four home runs came off the bats of Rendon, as well as Jose Lobaton (in the 2nd), Adam LaRoche (his seventh of the year, in the 4th) and Scott Hairston, who put a Scott Baker offering in the left field seats in the 6th.

Fister, meanwhile, was masterful. After a shaky debut, the former Detroit ace has had four successive solid outings. Today he threw six complete innings while giving up only four hits, lowering his 2014 ERA to 3.34 on the year. Fister threw 104 pitches, 69 of them for strikes while inducing nine ground ball outs.

“He’s got the ability to work quickly, which certainly helps your defense,” Nats manager Matt Williams said of Fister’s outing. “They expect the ball to be put in play.” Fister was helped in the field by a backhanded gem from Anthony Rendon in the second inning — which is sure to make the “Web Gems” segment of Baseball Tonight.

The Nationals’ have scored 24 runs and stroked 42 hits over their last three games and have outscored the Rangers 19-4 in the last two games. And everyone is hitting: “This was huge to build off of, to know that we can go out there and get more than five or six hits a game and just keep pouring it on,” Nats first sacker Adam LaRoche said. “That’s what the really good teams do.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Orioles have spent the last three games facing off against the red hot Houston Astros — that’s right, the red hot Astros. Last night, in the annual Civil Rights game, the O’s squandered a stellar pitching performance from starter Miguel Gonzalez, who took a no hitter into the 6th . . .

Friday’s game was a coulda. woulda, shoulda: if the O’s could have just found some hitting, they would have and should have won the game. Instead, Gonzalez exited with a 2-1 deficit which held up for Houston’s sixth straight win. And the crowd at Minute Maid Park went crazy — primarily because the suddenly torrid ‘Stros hadn’t won six in a row since . . . well, forever . . .

The Nationals know all about what ails the O’s: Baltimore has recently been incapable of putting men on base, and when they have they’ve been downright pathetic at bringing them in. The night prior to Gonzalez’s outing, Baltimore dropped a 3-1 decision to Houston while going 1-15 with runners in scoring position . . .

Welcome to our world . . .


Werth’s Last Second Leap Saves The Nats

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Friday night’s victory over the New York Mets may well have marked the ultimate expression of closer Rafael Soriano’s habit of getting into deep trouble, but then managing to notch yet another save. On Friday, it was Jayson Werth who came to the rescue with a last second leap against the right field fence to save Soriano — and the game.

Werth’s acrobatic leap came on the last swing of the night, when the right fielder nabbed a long line drive off the bat of Daniel Murphy with two on and two out. The catch preserved a hard fought 5-2 Washington victory. “I probably should have untucked my shirt, but I didn’t,” Werth joked after the win, referring to Soriano’s signature game-over habit.

Washington scored all of their runs off of Mets’ starter Jonathan Niese by the end of the third inning. Washington scored three in the first on a Jayson Werth single and a Wilson Ramos sacifice fly. Washington capped their attack in the third inning, with a Scott Hairston double and a Tyler Moore single. Washington sprayed an impressive eleven hits in the contest.

Nats’ manager Matt Williams pulled starter Tanner Roark after the fifth inning, in deference to New York’s lefty weighted line-up — bringing in Ross Detwiler in relief. The Nats bullpen was perfect thereafter, with Detwiler, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Soriano holding the Mets to three hits and no runs through four complete innings.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: You would have thought that by now the Nats-Mets rivalry would be among the most bitterly fought in all of baseball. But that’s hardly the case. The Nats have won nine straight against the Apples, dating from last season. Dominance, it seems, does not a rivalry make . . .

The Lords of Baseball would have it otherwise, but the hype has never fit the facts. Even as MLB pushes the match-up as of abiding and traditional interest, the two franchises have forever been going in opposite directions: when the Nats were lousy (as, you might remember, they once were), the Mets were playing for pennants. Now, their roles are reversed . . .


Rendon, Zimmermann Crush Houston

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Anthony Rendon

The Washington Nationals played one of their few laughers on Wednesday night, shutting out the Astros in Houston, 7-0. Jordan Zimmermann threw 6.1 innings of seven hit baseball in recording his second victory on the season, while Anthony Rendon was 4-5 with three RBIs.

Rendon’s night was one of the best for any Nat for the season, as he hit a home run, a double and two singles — one triple short of the cycle. It was an exciting game for Rendon, because Houston is his hometown. About 200-300 Rendon fans showed up at Minute Maid Park to cheer him on.

“There’s not many young guys that can hit the ball line to line like Anthony does,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Rendon’s performance. “He proved it again — double to right-center, single to right, double to left and a homer to right. Pretty impressive night.”

Starter Zimmermann admitted that Houston’s hit count (at 7) was a little high, but that he settled into his normal groove after the first two innings. “The first inning I threw 20-some pitches, and basically, the whole night I was battling back to get the pitch count to where I wanted it to be,” Zimmermann confirmed following the victory.

The Nationals have an odd day off on Thursday (their second this week), before opening a weekend series in Philadelphia. The Nationals are now two games back of the Braves, who lost again last night in Miami, where they were pounded, 9-3.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The days of “The Killer B’s” (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Derek Bell –among others) are long gone in Houston. The forever rebuilding Astros must now wait for the development of a semi-stocked farm system, which could make them a contender in a couple of years. They hope . . .

“If you’re writing about Houston, it’s more of a prospect report than a major league report,” one scout told SI prior to the season. In essence, the Astros have three solid major league players in second sacker Jose Altuve, third baseman Matt Dominguez and center fielder Dexter Fowler, who they got from Colorado this last winter . . .