Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Angels’ Category

Strasburg Sharp As Nats Sink Seattle

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

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When Stephen Strasburg is on there is simply no one better, and the Washington ace showed why on Saturday night, throwing 7.2 innings while striking out eight in leading the Nationals to a 3-1 victory against the Mariners in Seattle. Strasburg’s eight Ks set a franchise record for strikeouts in a year, surpassing that set by Gio Gonzalez two years ago.

The Strasburg victory was a vindication for the righty, who struggled in his last outing and has been viewed as inconsistent by many baseball analysts. He was anything but on Saturday, walking none and allowing a single earned run (on a Dustin Ackley home run), in notching his 11th victory of the season.

“Just the fact that he had two good ones and then a little bit of a clunker, and tonight to come back and answer, for him is important,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of Strasburg. “For him, it’s just that if he throws it where he wants to, he can be dominant out there.

“I had pretty good fastball command today and kind of set up my other pitches,” Strasburg said of his outing. “I wanted to go out and give everything I had until [Williams] took the ball out of my hand. I just stuck to the game plan. I just had to execute pitches. I made them hit my best stuff.”

The Nationals scored early off of Seattle starter Roenis Elias. The Nationals plated two runs in the first inning when Jayson Werth hit his fifteenth home run of the season, scoring Denard Span who had reached on an error. Washington added a third run on an Anthony Rendon double in the fifth, which scored Jose Loboton.

The 3-1 victory put the Nationals up by seven games in the National League East, as the Braves lost to the Marlins 4-0 in Atlanta. The Nationals have a shot at sweeping Seattle today, with Tanner Roark facing off against the Mariners Hisashi Iwakuma.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MASN on-field analyst Dan Kolko engaged in an interesting bit of speculation on Saturday, pointing out that if the Nationals had finished just a bit better back in 2008, Seattle would have drafted Stephen Strasburg first overall in 2009, with Dustin Ackley falling to the Nationals with the second overall pick . . .

Seattle thought that the North Carolina hitter was bound for stardom and he might well be, but it’s taken him some time to develop — so long, in fact, that many Mariners fans were will to label him as a “bust” at any point over the intervening years. But Ackley, after hitting just .215 up to July 1, has found his swing and is hitting .313 since . . .

Seattle partisans point to the addition of Robinson Cano as the reason for Seattle’s revival, but the club was 16-8 in August, when Ackley drove in 19 of his 55 RBIs. Ackley credits his turnaround to fixing a glitch in his swing . . .

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Werth, Nats Trounce The Phils — Head To The Break

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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Jayson Werth is the Nationals hottest hitter in July and he only got hotter on Sunday. Facing off against his old team, the Nationals right fielder showed why he’s “worth” every cent of the contract Washington gave him several years ago, going 2-3 and driving in four runs in the Nationals rout of the Phillies, 10-3.

In a season of injuries to its Opening Day line-up, Werth has been the team’s steadiest and most productive player. And he’s been particularly hot in July, just as the fight for the N.L. East crown has also started to heat up. Werth is 15-40 (.375) with six homers and 19 RBIs since the beginning of the month. Werth’s power and value were on full display in Philadelphia.

Washington’s offensive outburst on Sunday (ten runs, two doubles and two home runs), supported a strong outing from Nats starter Tanner Roark, who rebounded from his last two uneven starts. Roark held the Phillies to just four hits in seven complete innings of work.

“I’m pitching with confidence, and I really didn’t try to nibble,” Roark said of his performance on Sunday. “The changeup was working today. That helped me get out of a jam a couple of times. The changeup was the biggest thing as far as getting ahead.”

The victory kept the Nationals in first place in the N.L. East, with a 51-42 record. The Braves are at 52-43, while the Mets, Marlins and Phillies are at least seven games back. Struggling Philadelphia is in last place, a full ten games off the pace.

“Considering everything that is going on, we are OK,” Nats manager Matt Williams said following his team’s victory. “We are right in the thick of our division. We have a chance. That’s all we could ask for, considering what’s going on. I’m happy about it.”

The Nationals run scoring barrage on Sunday (Denard Span was 2-5, Anthony Rendon 3-5 and Ryan Zimmerman and Werth each hit home runs), put three runs on the board in the first frame, then followed it up with a 4-spot in the 6th. The team added a single run in the 8th and two more in the 9th.

Washington’s hitters took advantage of Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick, with the veteran throwing into the 6th inning, but giving up five runs on five hits. This was the second poor outing in a row against the Nationals for Kendrick, who lost to the Nats back on June 5. The struggling Kendrick took the loss and is now 4-9 on the year.

Phillies hitters were particularly ineffective against Roark, scoring a single run against him in the 6th. The Phillies put two runs on the board in the 9th inning against Washington reliever Aaron Barrett. Ross Detwiler put in another inning of stellar work, shutting the Phillies down in the 8th.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: A much deserving Tyler Clippard was named to the National League All Star team which will played in Minneapolis on Tuesday. This will be Clippard’s second appearance as an All Star. He was on the All Star game in 2011, and picked up the win for the National League . . .

“I’m honored to do it. I feel like the Nationals need some representation,” Clippard said. “Jordan wasn’t able to be there. I was afraid we might not have anybody in uniform, so I’m just happy to go out there and just represent our team and maybe get into a game and see what happens . . . ”

Our opinion is that the National League has the edge in the Home Run Derby competition. The A.L.’s Jose Bautista is a feared participant in these kinds of things, but Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton is our odds-on favorite to win it all. But we’ll watch the Twins Brian Dozier with particular interest, as he’s a relative unknown for both Nats and National League fans . . .

Yesterday, in Colorado, Dozier sent two blasts into the seats at Coors Field, as the Twins knocked down the Rockies, 13-5. Dozier had what has to be pretty close to a career day. He was 3-6 with four RBIs and two home runs, his 17th and 18th on the year . . .

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Rollins Rolls The Nats, 6-2

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

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The Philadelphia Phillies are hot. Coming off a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies pitched and homered their way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Nationals in Philadelphia on Friday night, with righty A.J. Burnett and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins leading the way.

The Philadelphia win came against D.C. ace and All Star Jordan Zimmermann, who had difficulty with his command early in the game and was forced to leave it due to a biceps cramp in the 4th inning. While Zimmermann’s bicep injury probably isn’t serious, it will keep him out of the All Star game.

“It was getting a little tight in the last inning, and every pitch, it was getting tighter and tighter,” Zimmermann said of his decision to leave the game. “It was cramping up. I didn’t want to push it too far and have something worse happen. I figured it would be best if I came out.

Prior to his departure from the game, Zimmermann gave up an unusual four runs on six hits, which included a third inning two run home run off the bat of Rollins. Rollins stroked another round tripper in the bottom of the 7th inning against Washington reliever Craig Stammen.

While Philadelphia was scoring runs on Zimmermann and battling hard against the usually steady Stammen (who gave up two runs on four hits in just 3.1 innings of work), A.J. Burnett was working his veteran magic on the mound. Burnett threw 7.2 innings, holding the Nationals to just five hits while striking out six.

“Burnett has been tough on us. He beat us twice here, but we got him at home,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia veteran. “The ball moves. He is pretty good. He has an idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to attack hitters. He had [all his pitches] working tonight . . . ”

The only good piece of news for the Nationals (outside of the report that Zimmermann’s injury is not thought to be serious) is that Bryce Harper connected for a round tripper — his second on the year — after a long drought. Harper’s homer came in the 7th with no one on. Ryan Zimmerman added to the Nats total in the 8th with a double that scored Jayson Werth.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: They’re starting to pack them in at Safeco Field in Seattle, and for good reason. The Mariners are seven games over .500 on the year and climbing steadily upwards towards the dominating Oakland A’s in the American League West . . .

Perhaps the most important game the Griffeys have played this year took place on Friday night, with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez facing off against Oakland newbie Jeff Samardzija. Hernandez came into the game sporting a snappy 2.11 ERA, while Samardzija was making his second appearance for the White Elephants after his trade from Chicago . . .

The result was a dramatic pitchers’ duel that saw Samardzija pitch a complete game — and lose. The former Notre Dame righty threw brilliantly, giving up only five hits and three runs, but Hernandez was just that much better. King Felix dominated the Oakland line-up, striking out nine A’s, making way for closer Fernando Rodney in the 9th . . .

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Nationals Scorebook: April 21, 2014 (Angels Vs. Nationals)

Monday, June 16th, 2014

This is our fourth installment of Nationals Scorebook, featuring the April 21, 2014 tilt between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels at Nationals Park. The game was won by the Halos on a tie-breaking three run double off the bat of Nats killer Raul Ibanez (last of Phillies fame).

The Nationals were mired in a defensive slump which, in this game, included two errors from the usually sticky-handed Ian Desmond. With the bases loaded in the 8th inning, Ibanez (the second oldest player in the majors) doubled to bring in what would prove to be L.A.’s winning runs. Washington had three hits in the game, facing fireballer Garrett Richards.

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Lynn-Zimmermann Duel, Cardinals Edge Nats

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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The Cardinals Lance Lynn and Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann went head-to-head on Friday night, with Lynn and the Cardinals prevailing 1-0 in a classic pitchers’ duel in St. Louis. Lynn held Washington to just two hits in eight complete innings, with St. Louis reliever Trevor Rosenthal closing out the game.

The lone St. Louis run was scored on a Matt Adams home run in the second inning. “I had a good fastball again, down in the zone, and the curveballs and sliders were there when I wanted them,” Zimmermann said of his stellar outing. “Really, it was one mistake on a changeup that was down the middle. He made me pay.”

“He’s been really good,” Washington manager Matt Williams said of Zimmermann. “He hung a changeup to Adams and didn’t get that pitch where he wanted to get it. Other than that, he induced some double plays and we played good defense behind him.”

There’s no question: Zimmermann was superb on Friday. But the notoriously inconsistent Lynn was even better. The St Louis righty threw 111 pitches, 73 of them for strikes while striking out eight. Washington’s two hits came from Jayson Werth and Jose Lobaton. Lynn did not allow a baserunner until the second hitter of the 6th inning.

Victimized by walks for most of the season, Lynn’s command was spot-on through eight innings. Lynn clearly needed the lift — as did the Cardinals. In his last outing, against Toronto, he walked four and on June 1 he gave up four runs on eight hits (and walked another four) against the Giants.

“He threw a lot of fastballs that came back to the plate, started off the plate and came back to the outside corner,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Lynn’s performance. “He threw really well. We hit some balls hard, but the difference tonight was one swing, and they got us.”

The Nationals have to figure out a way to win in St. Louis, and against the Cardinals. The Nationals have had difficulty with the Cards over the last several years, are 6-21 against them at Busch Stadium and were 0-6 against them in 2013. This year, so far, the Nationals (including last night’s game) have been marginally better, at 2-3.

The Nationals are back in a tie for first place in the National League East with the Atlanta Braves, who squeezed out a 4-3 win last night against the Angels in Atlanta. The still-surprising Marlins, who lost in an extra innings knock-down with the Pirates, remain just one game back.

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Is There A “Nats Nation?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

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Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.

As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.

The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.

“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world.  The ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”

As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.

We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”

The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.

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Nats Notes: The Bad (And Good) of the Angels Series

Friday, April 25th, 2014

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

The 9th inning heroics of Wednesday night’s game notwithstanding, the just-ended series against the Los Angeles Angels was nothing for the Washington Nationals to be proud of. Sure, the Belinskys have bats in center fielder Mike Trout and first sacker Albert Pujols, and their starting pitchers are competent. But that’s really it.

Game 1 of the series is a case in point. Nats starter Tanner Roark and reliever Drew Storen kept Trout and Pujols under wraps for 7 innings, keeping the Nats to a 1-0 lead. Then set-up man Tyler Clippard and error-prone shortstop Ian Desmond gave up the farm in the 8th on a 3 RBI double from aging pinch hitter Raul Ibanez, who had gone 0 for 11 prior to his rip. The Nats should know Nats-killer Ibanez: he made the 2009 All Star Team as a Philly back in 2009 — in part because of his BA against the Nats.

This was a game the Nats should have and could have won, but a moment of weakness was all it took for a middling team to put one in the books. And while the sloppy 8th was the downfall, the lineup certainly didn’t do much to help, being outhit by the Halos 12 to 3.

Unfortunately, the second game of the series looks like it dashed whatever hopes Taylor Jordan had of earning the 5th starter position once Doug Fister comes off the disabled list. Jordan gave up up six runs (four earned) in five innings. The Nats’s bats were quiet against Angels starter Tyler Skaggs (a sleeper rookie with a 3.21 ERA and terrific stuff) with only three hits — and third baseman Anthony Rendon committed two errors, the usual story in the Nats’ losses this year.

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The Nats barely missed the sweep of the broom on Wednesday night when Trout and Pujols finally figured out Nats stalwart Gio Gonzalez, who pitched a solid five innings. Nats reliever Aaron Barrett started the 6th with a 0.00 ERA and left it with a 1.23 on two hits and a run. Nats’ hitters found their swings, outhitting the Halos 11-8  and finally got some clutch hits from Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, and Adam LaRoche, who had a walk off RBI single.

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