Archive for the ‘Mike Rizzo’ Category

Nats Fall In St. Louis, Eliminated From The Postseason

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

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Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright subdued Washington’s line-up and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals, 4-3 at Busch Stadium. The loss eliminated the Nationals from the post-season: they are six games out of the last Wild Card slot with five games to play.

The key to the St. Louis win was Beltran’s fifth inning home run (his 24th on the year) that scored John Jay, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting the Cardinals ahead 4-2. Washington could only muster a single run the rest of the way. “It doesn’t feel too good,” manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.

The Nationals put on a run in September, going 16-6 on the month and winning a key day-night double header against the Atlanta Braves on September 17 that vaulted that team back into contention for a playoff spot in the National League. But the Cardinals has always played Washington tough, and that was true on Monday night.

Washington starter Tanner Roark notched his first loss of the season after an impressive 7-0 run, but the Cardinals heavy hitting line-up victimized him for nine hits in just five innings. “I was getting behind hitters a lot,” Roark said after the loss. “When you do that with a good team, they are going to hit your mistakes when you get them back in the count. They are going to battle like they did tonight.”

Washington’s scoring came early, on a home run from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span and gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. St. Louis clawed back, despite an additional run put on the board from the Nationals in the 8th inning: a fielder’s choice on a Ryan Zimmerman grounder the scored Anthony Rendon.

But three runs are rarely enough to defeat the Cardinals, who score just under five runs every game. Then too, Adam Wainwright got stronger on the mound as the game went on: Wainwright’s night ended after the 7th, with five strike outs while scattering five hits. The St. Louis victory was Wainwright’s 18th win on the year.

The Nationals stared into the night after a three-up-three-down ninth inning, stunned that their run for the postseason was over. The clubhouse was reportedly silent after the loss, as the team took stock of its “World Series or bust” season. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “So I feel bad for everybody.”

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Mea Culpa: We take no special pride in getting things right and, like everyone else who writes about baseball, we get plenty wrong. We said at the beginning of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were overrated and would tank: that players who finished with an attitude in Boston would bring that same attitude to Los Angeles. Well . . .

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Mauled On The North Side

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

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Jordan Zimmermann stood at his locker after Monday night’s game 11-1 loss to the Cubs in Chicago and explained why he’d just pitched one of the worst games of his career. “I’m not hitting my spots right now,” he said in explaining his poor outing. “The fastball’s up. I’ve got to do a better job of locating.”

Zimmermann’s explanation was, if anything, an understatement. The Ace of Auburndale threw five complete innings and gave up eight earned runs, including three home runs — to right fielder Nate Schierholtz, catcher Dioner Navarro and journeyman third sacker Donnie Murphy.

Zimmermann’s poor showing was replicated, at least in part, by the Nationals’ bullpen, which proved incapable of keeping the North Siders in check. Chicago banged out nine hits in racking up eleven runs, with Schierholtz, who has resuscitated his career in Chicago, notching six RBIs.

Lefty Fernando Abad and rookie Ian Krol relieved Zimmermann, but Abad gave up two earned runs, while the Cubs got to Krol when Donnie Murphy homered to center in the eighth inning. “This is a ballpark where you leave the ball up out over the plate, bad things happen,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said after the game.

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The Chicago victory came in front of 31,290 Cubs fans, who have seen their favorites play poorly at home all year. The Cubs had been shut out in five of their last nine home outings. “The pitching, obviously, the hitting — everything clicked today,” manager Dale Sveum said after his team’s victory.

It was Zimmermann’s seventh loss of the year (against fourteen wins), and revived a Cubs squad that had been struggling both at the plate and on the mound. Zimmermann’s outing was a counterpoint to that provided by Chicago’s Jeff Samardzija, who threw a complete game, giving up six hits and striking out seven. Washington’s lone run came on a home run from Wilson Ramos.

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Why The Nationals Need To Hire Matt Williams

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

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The Nationals rally past the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Nationals Park infused the Anacostia Nine with a new sense that somehow (maybe), the one-game-at-a-time philosophy of the ballclub could somehow vault them back into contention — and into the post season.

That seems improbable. St Louis is two games up on the Reds in the Wild Card standings and sixteen games over .500. The Redlegs, meanwhile, are 4.5 games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last Wild Card slot, with the D-Backs (pretty typically) playing like a deflated balloon.

Maybe it would be better for the Nationals to set their sights on Atlanta, hoping that the Braves will swoon in the final two months, allowing the Nats to sprint into October. But just how likely is that? It’s not: the Braves have just completed a fourteen game winning streak (they lost on Saturday, 1-0 against the no account Miami Marlins), and at 25 games over .500 their collapse would have to be among the most monumental in baseball history.

So here it is, as plain as your 30-year-old step sister: the Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in baseball (you might want to read that out loud, just to get the flavor of it), and the Braves are running away in the National League East. I would rather slam my fingers with a hammer than see the Braves in the World Series, but there you have it.

It’s no wonder, then, that Washington’s baseball pundits are chewing over the lost 2013 season, the most important assessments all coming in the last week. Not surprisingly, these postmortems have coincided with speculation about who will take over for manager Davey Johnson, a sure sign that the one-game-at-a-time philosophy is no more than a verbal conceit.

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“They Outplayed Us” — Braves Sweep The Nationals

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

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The Nationals had an opportunity to end the Braves winning streak on Wednesday night, but the bullpen couldn’t keep Atlanta off the board in the eighth inning, and the Aarons went on to win the game and sweep the three game series against Washington by a score of 6-3.

“You just keep battling. Just one game can turn you around and get some momentum going,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said after the disheartening loss. “Things can change quick. They outplayed us, plain and simple.”

The Nationals set themselves up perfectly to gain ground against Atlanta, sending Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzelez and Jordan Zimmermann to the mound in successive games, but Strasburg and Gonzalez suffered from a lack of hitting support, while Zimmermann lasted only four innings.

“Every inning, the leadoff guy seemed like he was on,” Zimmermann said of his no-decision outing on Wednesday night. “Like I said, I had good stuff. I just fell behind or let them back in the count when I had them 0-2.”

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The Braves notched fifteen hits against the home towners in their Wednesday win, seven of them coming off of Zimmermann. But Washington’s starter at least limited Atlanta’s damage, which wasn’t true for the bullpen.

While newbie Tanner Roark proved effective, Fernando Abad, Ryan Mattheus and Ian Krol gave up five hits and three runs in the crucial seventh and eighth innings. Atlanta hitting feasted off the Washington bullpen: Justin Upton homered in the top of the 7th (his 21st), while Jason Heyward and Upton (again) victimized Washington in the 8th.

“This was a big series,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “We pushed the lead to three more games up on them. We came in here and we let them know we’re here to stay. They’re going to come back to our place next week and they’re going to be looking for payback. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

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Harper Homer Is The Lone Run, Braves Win Again

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

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Washington Nationals fans have to be among the most loyal in baseball. On Tuesday night at Nationals Park, all 30,875 of them remained on their feet throughout the 9th inning, clamoring for a Washington victory against the Nats N.L. East rival Atlanta Braves.

Sadly, the final score left them disappointed: the Nationals scored a lone run off the bat of Bryce Harper (his 17th), and Washington suffered a 2-1 loss to the Braves. It was the Braves twelfth win in a row and left the Nationals 14.5 games out of first place in the division and five games under .500.

Once again Nationals’ fans looked on as one of their team’s starters provided a stellar outing, but without backing from a team that remains next-to-last in hitting in the N.L. Gio Gonzalez, fighting back after a bad outing against the Tigers, threw seven complete innings while giving up only six hits.

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The Harper home run came in the bottom of the 3rd inning, providing Washington with its sole highlight. But when Harper came to the plate in the bottom of the 5th, Braves’ starter Julio Teheran plunked him with a 94 mph fastball, to which the young left fielder took issue.

The confrontation that followed, which included a twitter war-of-words, showed just how testy the Washington-Atlanta rivalry has become. Harper barked at Teheran and both benches came onto the field, but a full donnybrook was averted. Harper shrugged off the Teheran HBP.

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Haren Steps Up

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

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Veteran Nats’ starter Dan Haren dominated the Mets on Saturday, throwing seven complete innings while striking out six and walking just one, leading Washington to a 4-1 victory over their division rivals. Haren had not won a game in a Washington uniform since May 9.

Haren’s outing was masterful. “It’s obviously been a long time since I had that winning feeling after a game, so it definitely feels good,” Haren said after the victory. “I’ll enjoy it for a day or two and then try to keep the way I’ve been throwing the ball the last couple times, try to keep that going.”

“How about Haren? How about that?” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said during his postgame news conference. “Much better. Very consistent. He didn’t have any blips on the screen, like one bad inning. He was outstanding.” Haren allowed the Mets only three hits. Their single run came off the bat of David Wright in the 6th inning.

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Washington was also able to shake their old nemesis, Dillon Gee, who was 3-0 this season versus the Nationals. Washington used the long ball against Gee, with home runs from Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Bryce Harper. It was Span’s first home run of the year.

“The balls they hit out were definitely mistakes,” Gee said of his pitches to Desmond, Span and Harper. “They weren’t good pitches. They did a good job. I was happy to at least be able to get through seven innings — that was big. But the damage had been done.”

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An Embarrassment . . . And A Walk Off

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

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Ryan Zimmerman’s walk off home run in the 9th inning of the second game of a day-night doubleheader gave the Washington Nationals a desperately needed 2-1 victory over the New York Mets on Friday. The Zimmerman home run salvaged a day that saw the Nats fall to the Mets 11-0 in an embarrassing first game that saw the team collect just eight hits.

The 11-0 blow out marked the nadir of the Nationals season, as the Mets victimized four Nationals pitchers, including hard-luck ace Jordan Zimmermann, who gave up five runs in 6.2 innings of work.

The Mets sprayed thirteen hits in the afternoon game, scoring six runs in the top of the 9th inning and shredding the Nationals relief corps.

“It’s over,” Nats’s skipper Davey Johnson said of the blow out. “I hate to even be in here talking about it.” The Mets kept the Nationals off the board by playing off the arm of rookie Jenrry Mejia, a former top prospect whose young career has been interrupted by Tommy John surgery and elbow tendonitis.

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Starter Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, just couldn’t seem to get on track. The Ace of Auburndale gave up a home run to Daniel Murphy in the 1st inning and then another one to Murphy in the third. Murphy was 4-5 in the game and batted in five of the Mets eleven runs.

The Mets 9th inning barrage was a home town nightmare: a walk (to Omar Quintanilla), a double (off the bat of Juan Legares), a single (from Murphy), another single (from David Wright), a double (from Marlon Byrd), and a home run, off the bat of Ike Davis. The runs came off of relievers Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen, who was sent to Triple-A Syracuse at the end of the day.

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The Nationals needed to recover the confidence of their home town fans in the wake of their 11-0 thrashing, but they did so in fine style — and by relying on the arm of spot starter Ross Ohlendorf, who dueled Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey through seven complete inning of work in the D.C. nightcap.

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