Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Angels’ Category

Nats Down The Halos In A Walk Off

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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In a season of improbable come-from-behind wins, the Nationals come from behind 5-4 walk off victory over the Los Angeles Angels has to count as the most improbable of all. Down by a score of 4-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Nats rallied to shock the Angels, sealing a triumph that salvaged a victory in a difficult three game series.

The Nats march to victory, in frigid Nationals Park, began when the normally light hitting Jose Lobaton (.239 on the year) homered off of Angels’ reliever Ernesto Frieri to left field, bringing the Nationals to within two. Zach Walters then struck out swinging, but Denard Span kept the Nationals in the game with a single to center.

With only two outs to get, Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia stuck with Frieri, hoping he could work the same magic with Anthony Rendon that he had with Walters. But with Span dancing off first, Frieri walked Rendon, with Jayson Werth coming to the plate. Werth, with a reputation as a clutch hitter, tied the game — stroking a double to left on a 3-0 count, with Span and Rendon scampering home.

“I can’t imagine anybody thinking that J-Dub’s going to swing,” Adam LaRoche said of his teammates clutch double. “Surprised all of us.”

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The Nationals might have settled for extra innings, particularly considering their game-long futility at being unable to score runs off of Angels’ pitching. That’s certainly what Scioscia hoped — bringing in reliever Fernando Salas to keep the game at four apiece. But Adam LaRoche, who’d already had a good night against Halo arms, won the game — scoring Werth with the winning run with a single to left center.

“He left a fastball up over the plate,” first sacker Adam LaRoche said of his game winning single off of Salas. “In that situation, just trying to hit something hard.”

The Nationals triumphant last inning made goats of the Angels bullpen, denied L.A. a much needed series sweep, and sent the Belinskys record back to below .500. The narrative was quite different for the Nationals, who’ve been struggling in the field and needed a lift. “The spark we needed,” Werth said of the victory.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from New York’s tilt with Boston after throwing just 1.2 innings on Thursday night — for using pine tar (which was smeared on his neck) on the ball. This morning the baseball press hooted derisively . . .

“It’s like a small-time crook robbing the neighborhood convenience store one day, getting away with it, and returning the next week to rob the same joint again,” USA Today said. Jon Heyman described Pineda as “the pine tar pinhead.” But the best comment came from former K.C. great George Brett: “you gotta hide the pine tar better than that,” he said . . .

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The “Anaheim Clipper” Chases “The Rajah”

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run on Tuesday night — so let the comparisons begin. Pujols is almost certainly the best right-handed hitter of his generation and perhaps the best right-handed hitter since Henry Aaron and Willie Mays played the game, back in the 60s and 70s.

In fact, he’s probably better. Pujols has hit more than 30 home runs and batted in over 100 runs in ten straight seasons (his first ten in the majors), a feat unequaled by either Aaron or Mays, and he’s on a path to eclipse their career BAs. It’s not even close. Mays hit .302 for his career and Aaron is at .305. So far, Pujols career batting average stands at .321.

Of course, both Aaron and Mays were victimized by poor seasons late in their careers, as the two stars played into their forties. Pujols is 34, and may well hit that plateau. Pujols also has enough power to eclipse both Aaron and Mays in total home runs, but while he might catch Mays (with 660), it seems unlikely he’ll catch Aaron (with 755).

Pujols is a better RBI man than either Aaron or Mays and (if he stays healthy) will eclipse their RBI numbers in the next five to seven years. His OBP, at least so far, is more than thirty points higher. He will come close to equaling them in hits. Aaron won one MVP award, while Willie Mays won two. Pujols has won three . . . so far.

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That said, a case can be made that Pujols is better at the plate than either of them. But is he better than Rogers Hornsby? Hornsby is one of the greatest to ever play the game (certainly in the top five) and holds pride of place for dominating the game as a St. Louis Cardinal. In truth, his legacy as the game’s best right-handed hitter (ever) seems secure — even from Pujols.

Hornsby won seven batting titles (Pujols has won one) and hit over .400 three times (in 1922, 1924 and 1925). Hornsby’s career BA is breathtaking (at .358) and while he didn’t hit the long ball nearly as consistently as Pujols (or Aaron or Mays), he led his league in home runs twice. He led the N.L. in OBP, Slugging and OPS six years in a row. Which is astounding.

That is to say: “The Rajah’s” place as the greatest right-handed hitter in the history of the game is secure, and probably forever. But Pujols could, arguably, end his career as the greatest first baseman to play the game, eclipsing the career of Yankee Lou Gehrig. Their numbers are almost eerily similar.

Gehrig hit for both power and average, was a terrific RBI man, and was voted MVP twice. While Pujols’ power numbers are better, even now, Gehrig took more walks, had fewer strikeouts and nudges out Pujols for getting on base. Who was the better overall hitter? Pujols is probably better, but it’s close — itchy close.

Baseball knows what it has in Pujols, but it’s still an effort to get your mind around the fact that when you see Albert Pujols emerge from the dugout, you’re watching one of the best hitters to ever play the game. He’s not “the Rajah” (no one is “the Rajah”), but he’s better than Aaron or Mays — and he’s the only first baseman in history to equal the output of “the Yankee Clipper.”

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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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Span’s 9th Inning Sacrifice Gives Nats The Win

Monday, April 21st, 2014

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Denard Span’s walk off sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Danny Espinosa with the winning run as the Nationals defeated the Cardinals at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory assured a series split between the two teams, who are predicted to meet in the off-season, and allowed the Nats to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East.

The bases were loaded when Span stepped to the plate in the 9th, with the Cardinals playing five infielders to prevent the winning run. “I counted: one, two, three, four, five,” Span said of his clutch at bat. “Right there I told myself a groundball probably not going to do it. Try to get the ball in the air somehow.”

The Washington victory was another come-from-behind win, with the Nationals scoring two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game. The 7th inning rally featured classic station-to-station scoring from a team that has too often relied on the long ball — with singles from Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.

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The Cardinals scored their runs against Washington ace Stephan Strasburg, who pitched six complete inning of five hit baseball, but failed to get the decision. Strasburg threw 90 pitches, 63 of them for strikes, before yielding to Washington’s suddenly effective relief corps. Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Rafael Soriano kept the Cards off the scoreboard, with Soriano notching the win.

The Washington win was particularly gratifying because it came off one of the best bullpens in baseball and included a return to the lineup of Bryce Harper, who was benched on Saturday for failing to hustle. Harper met with Washington skipper Matt Williams prior to Sunday’s game to talk of the incident. “[Williams] just said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ That’s the three words he said. He was every enthusiastic,” Harper said of their pre-game talk.

While Span was the hero of Sunday’s game, the key to the Nats resurgence was Danny Espinosa, who was 3-4 and got key hits during the 7th inning rally and then again in the 9th — scoring the Nationals’ winning run. “His approach is good, his intensity is good, his attitude’s fantastic, and he loves to play,” Williams said of Espinosa’s reemergence.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nearly every year the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are picked to win the American League West, and nearly every year they disappoint. That was particularly true for 2012, when the Angels signed free agent Albert Pujols, and then against last year, when they signed slugger Josh Hamilton . . .

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April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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Monday was home run day in Major League Baseball. In Miami, on their way to a 9-2 crushing of the wayward Miami Marlins (the fish have now lost eight in a row), Washington’s Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon hit dingers (it was Leon’s first ever), while the Marlins got their second run on a moon shot from Garrett Jones.

In Anaheim, where the A’s played the Belinskis, John Jaso’s pinch hit home run topped the Halos, but only after Albert Pujols put his 496th career round tripper into the Anaheim stratosphere. That was the second game of ESPN’s nightly offering, which led off with a head-shaking match-up between the Braves and Phillies.

The Braves-Phillies tilt was nearly unwatchable until the 8th inning, when Dominic Brown’s three run blast sent Philadelphia to what seemed an unlikely late-inning victory. That was not the story, as it turned out: Atlanta had scored its runs on back-to-back-to-back skyballs in the previous frame, courtesy of Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, then went on to beat the Ponies in the 9th, when Dan Uggla homered.

Even then (with Washington, Miami, Oakland, Anaheim, Atlanta and Philadelphia all going long), April’s most impressive home run derby took place in Cincinnati, where the stinking Reds and mighty Pirates put ten (count ‘em) ten balls over the fence. It was a sight to behold: Pittsburgh had three sets of back-to-back home runs, while Cincinnati hit four solo shots. Pittsburgh’s Gaby Sanchez hit two, as did Neil Walker.

Ironically, while home runs played vital roles in all of these match-ups, the Cincinnati derby (at the Great American Bandbox, so there’s that) counted for nothing, with the game suspended in the 7th inning due to rain. Don’t think it was impressive? Take a look at this:

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So? So what the hell is going on? Right here would be a good time for some statistical analysis, reputedly showing that April 14 was a “statistical anomaly” — an argument any old wag could make except that nearly every game in baesball (or so it seems) provides some kind of “statistical anomaly.”

Last year at about this time, baseball writers were going on about how 2013 was the “year of the pitcher” (when I was younger, the year of the pitcher was 1968). By June of last year, it was official, with analysts pointing out that over a period of five years the majors had seen 18 no hitters and six perfect games.

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Cardinals Sweep The Nats, 4-1

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

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With their chances of a playoff berth at an end, the Washington Nationals played flat in St. Louis on Wednesday, losing to the Cardinals, 4-1. The loss notched a St. Louis sweep of the Nationals in the three game set and put the Cardinals a single game from winning the N.L. Central crown.

The loss also ensured that Washington righty Jordan Zimmermann will not reach twenty wins on the season, his 2013 campaign finishing at 19-9. The Cardinals were led by rookie pitcher Shelby Miller, who stifled Nats’ hitters through six innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run.

The St. Louis offense was not overwhelming, but it was enough to seal the win: St. Louis got its first run on a Matt Carpenter ground out that scored Daniel Descalso in the 3rd, a Yadier Molina single that scored two runs in fourth and a Matt Adams home run in the bottom of the 6th.

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The Cardinals have dominated the Nationals following their victory against them in the playoffs in 2012. The Nationals have faced the Cards six times this year and lost every game; they were swept in Washington in April (in three close games) and, now, in St. Louis in September.

“I’ll tell you: They kicked our butt in just about every aspect of the game,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said in the clubhouse after this team was swept yesterday. “I tip my hat to them. Matheny has done a good over there, I wish them luck. They had their way with us.”

In each of the two series this year, the Nationals have had trouble scoring runs off the Cardinals pitching staff. The key in the most recent series has been the St. Louis relief corps, and on Wednesday four Cardinal relievers (Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal) combined to hold the Nationals to a single hit and no runs.

“The Cardinals have done a good job with their pitching staff. They have good starters, but I think what sets them apart is their bullpen,” right fielder Jayson Werth acknowledged after Wednesday’s loss. “The bullpen is good. They have a lot of velocity and they have a lot of depth.”

MLB relief statistics show just how effective Cardinal relievers have been — they’ve given up just 3.74 runs per game, good enough for fifth best in baseball and are particularly good when holding a lead (fourth best in the National League). More impressive still is that the Cardinals relief corps is young: each of the four relievers on Wednesday were rookies.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The media powers that be are yakking about the “unbalanced schedule” in baseball, the topic providing running commentaries yesterday on both Mike & Mike on ESPN and then, later in the evening, on the MLB Network . . .

“The schedule is designed with the division races in mind,” Jayson Stark noted on ESPN. “For the first time every team in a division plays essentially the same schedule.” The problem (Stark noted) is that while baseball’s schedule emphasizes division rivalries (with each team in a division playing other division rivals up to nineteen times) that unbalance has a significant impact on the Wild Card races . . .

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Nats Late Rally Stuns The Mets

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

The Washington Nationals waited for New York’s Matt Harvey to exit the game — then rallied late against the Mets’ bullpen and pulled out a stunning 6-4 victory at Citi Field on Friday night. Washington skipper Davey Johnson said the victory might be the biggest one of the season for Washington.

As expected, the talented Harvey provided a solid outing for the New Yorkers: he gave up just three hits in seven innings of work, while striking out eleven. His only mistake came in the fourth inning, when he gave up a home run to Washington shortstop Ian Desmond.

Harvey showed why he’s considered the best pitcher in the National League. He struck out Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth three times, more than half his strikeout total. “He’s always got no-hit stuff. He throws 97 miles per hour with a breaking ball, cutter, slider, changeup, everything else you got. He has it,” Ian Desmond said of Harvey.

Washington rallied after Harvey’s departure, scoring three runs with two outs in the eighth inning. The Nationals’ runs came off of reliever Brandon Lyon, who entered the game with Denard Span and Roger Bernadina on second and third. Lyon then walked Anthony Rendon and gave up a clutch double to Ryan Zimmerman, who cleared the bases and tied the score.

Reliever Tyler Clippard entered the game to pitch the bottom on the 8th, and kept New York off of the board. Washington then put the game away by scoring two in the top of the final frame: Ian Desmond doubled scoring Jayson Werth and Kurt Suzuki hit a sacrifice fly to score Desmond. Drew Storen picked up his second save of the season by pitching a perfect, lights-out ninth.

“The beginning of the year, we had no comeback wins, no runs scored late,” Ryan Zimmerman said following the victory. “The past couple of weeks, we have been getting a lot better at that. That’s the team we were last year. Hopefully we can continue to do that, because we are not going to get to the starter every day. Sometimes you have to come from behind. It’s not easy, but good teams do that.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It was another night of entertaining Left Coast baseball, especially in Oakland — where the St. Louis Cardinals, the National League’s best team, got a whiff of A’s ace Bartolo Colon. Colon made it look effortless: he threw eight innings of six hit baseball in notching his eleventh win as the Elephants stomped the Redbirds, 6-1 . . .

Colon is 40-years-old (but who knows, really), stands 5-11 and weighs 267 (but who knows, really) and (as you might recall), won the the Cy Young while pitching in Anaheim in 2005 (he was an eye-blinking 21-8). This year, at 11-2, he might actually be better . . .

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