Archive for the ‘Mike Rizzo’ Category

13 Runs, 19 Hits — Plus Gio

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

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Saturday’s whipping of Chicago was an offensive outburst like no other, as the Washington Nationals sprayed 19 hits (including eight doubles) and scored six times in the 3rd and four times in the 7th, victimizing the suddenly pitching poor Cubbies, 13-0.

The offensive onslaught was supported by an outstanding outing from lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who held the Cubs scoreless in eight complete innings. Gonzalez allowed just four hits in his outing, while striking out seven, notching his sixth win on the 2014 campaign.

“He stifled our offense,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the trouble his line-up had against Gonzalez. “He locates his fastball, works it to both sides of the plate. And his breaking ball is really good. … It’s got sharp, late break, good tilt. He can use it effectively against both lefties and righties.”

Every Nationals in Saturday’s line-up had a hit, including Gonzalez. Anthony Rendon was 3-4 (with three doubles), Jayson Werth was 3-4 (with two doubles), Ryan Zimmerman was 4-5 with three RBIs and Gonzalez stroked a 7th inning single that advance Wilson Ramos (who’d led off the inning — with a double).

“Obviously, this isn’t going to happen every day, but with the type of at-bats we put together today, even when the game is out of hand, it’s good to see every one grinding it out, even when it doesn’t matter,” third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, who is now hitting.272, said of the Nationals’ offensive outburst. “Everyone finished the game strong.”

The Nationals batted around in the third inning and scored six runs, eight Nationals batted in the 6th inning (while scoring “only” two runs) and nine Washington hitters came to the plate in the 7th inning, scoring four runs. The game marked the highest run and hit total for the home towners this season.

While Washington chased Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva after two innings, it was reliever Chris Rusin who was the designated goat for the North Siders. Rusin gave up nine hits and five runs in just 3.2 innings of work. Rusin’s shaky work raised his ERA from 1.80 to 6.23 on the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s all about tunnels in Chicago. Both major dailies, the staid and standard Chicago Tribune and the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, headlined Theo Epstein’s comment that yesterday’s swap of 40 percent of the Cubs rotation to Oakland now allows the North Siders to see “light at the end of the tunnel . . .”

We might expect Cubs fans to be skeptical, particularly after yesterday’s 13-0 drubbing of their beloveds at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but Epstein was all smiles during a press conference in which he announced the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. “We certainly hope we’ve improved our future,” Epstein said . . .

Epstein also said that the trade had nothing to do with Starlin Castro, who must be wondering what the Cubs are going to do with the (at least two) premium minor league shortstops (Javier Baez and Addison Russell — winging his way east to Chicago from the A’s), who are poised to challenge for his slot . . .

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Strasburg, Werth Crush The Rox

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

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Nats ace Stephen Strasburg recouped from his last outing, when he gave up seven earned runs against the Brewers, by thrashing the Colorado Rockies in 7.2 dominant innings. Coupled with Jayson Werth’s stellar 2-3, three RBI night at the plate, the Nats forged a 7-1 laugher at Nationals Park.

Strasburg’s outing was among his best of the year. The righty threw into the eighth inning, giving up five hits while striking out eight and was only relieved after giving up a home run (to D.J. LeMahieu) and a walk (to Cory Dickerson) in the 8th inning. Long reliever Craig Stammen finished the game on the mound for the Nationals.

“I was able to command the fastball a little bit better,” Strasburg said after his strong performance. “They were fouling them off. I wouldn’t say they were great pitches. I was able to execute the pitch a little bit better. I had them put it in play and make weak contact.”

Rockies’ starter Christian Friedrich, meanwhile, was victimized by a line-up that hit him hard. But Colorado pitching, suspect all season, gave seven free passes on the night, which included Friedrich’s two walks to start the game. Washington scored three runs in the 1st and four runs in the fourth.

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Friedrich’s first two walks came back to haunt him. The Colorado youngster walked Denard Span and Anthony Rendon to start the game and they were driven home by a Jayson Werth double down the left field line that followed an Adam LaRoche single. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman accounted for the first inning’s third run.

The Nationals continued the onslaught in the fourth inning, starting with a Stephen Strasburg double after Wilson Ramos struck out. Chad Bettis came on in relief of Friedrich, after the embattled starter walked Denard Span. But Bettis couldn’t close the door: An Anthony Rendon double scored Strasburg and Span, while another Jayson Werth double scored Rendon.

The Nationals have now won four in a row and are seven games over .500, their best mark of the year. “For the better part of the last few weeks, just the way we are going about it, the pitching has been great, the defense has been good,” Jayson Werth acknowledged after the team win. “The offense is coming around. I like the way we are setting up here going into July.”

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The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: There were complaints about the game from season ticket holders on Tuesday night, but they had nothing to do with the Nationals. “The only reason I got Rockies tickets was to see Troy Tulowitzki play,” one of the section’s regular complained, “and wouldn’t you know it — they decided to rest him . . .”

The comment sparked a lively argument on Tulowitzki’s career, which has been marred by injuries. “He’s the best hitter in the National League,” one fan claimed, a statement that garnered broad agreement, along with one dissent. “[Giancarlo] Stanton is better, more power,” this fan said . . .

This year’s statistics show the two in a dead heat: Tulowitzki leads the league in batting average, but Stanton has three more home runs (21 for Stanton, 18 for Tulowitzki). But Tulowitzki leads everyone in OBP, Slugging and OPS. The numbers show that Tulo is having a monster year . . .

Nor surprisingly, the other main topic of discussion focused on remarks made by Bryce Harper about who should be starting for the Nationals — and where. The comments generated a lot of criticism from baseball analysts, who reflected that Harper would be better off playing the game, while leaving the job of filling out the line-up card to Matt Williams . . .

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Harper Returns, Zim Leads Nats Over Rockies

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

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Bryce Harper returned to the Nationals line-up on Monday night in D.C., but it was Ryan Zimmerman who led the way, going 3-4 and leading Washington to a 7-3 victory over visiting Colorado. Harper, who was out of the line-up for the last 57 games, chalked up his first RBI since returning, singling home Zimmerman in the bottom of the 4th.

“It’s good to get that W. It’s huge,” Harper said following the Nats victory. The win allows the Nationals to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves, who beat the Mets in New York, and who remain one-half game in front of Washington in the N.L. East.

While the Nationals stroked nine hits against Colorado pitching, it was starter Jordan Zimmermann who kept the Rockies off the board. The righty gave up seven hits and struck out five in six innings of work, notching his sixth win of the season.

“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “I really had only two pitches — fastball and slider — the whole game. I didn’t throw any curveballs. I threw a few changeups. I mixed them up pretty good.” Drew Storen, Aaron Barrett and Jerry Blevins closed out the games for the Nationals, allowing Colorado a single run in the late going.

While Harper got most of the fan attention on Bryce Harper Bobblehead night, Zimmerman’s apparent return to form at the plate was the other big story. Zimmerman has been struggling since his return from the disabled list, hitting well below his usual .270-.290 clip.

The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the 6th, when the Nats broke through for five runs, sending 10 hitters to the plate against starter Yohan Flande and reliever Rob Scahill. The big blow was an Ian Desmond double, which scored Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “So far as I know, Bryce Harper doesn’t fill out the line-up card,” MASN commenter F.P. Santangelo said last night during the Colorado-Washington broadcast. F.P. was responding to Bryce Harper’s pre-game comments that implied he should be playing centerfield, with Zimmerman in left, Espinosa at second and Rendon at third . . .

F.P.’s got it right, of course, and we agree. Boiled out to its minimum, Harper should not have said anything at all. Since we’re available for counseling, here’s what we would have Harper say: “I’m just happy to be back and will play where the skipper puts me,” or how about “these kinds of decisions show just how great this team is, with lots of everyday players . . .”

The Post’s Thomas Boswell danced all over Harper’s comments this morning, quoting G.M. Mike Rizzo’s defense of him. Harper, Rizzo recently said, “has had two great seasons.” But Boswell’s Fred Astaire routine couldn’t cover up his final judgment, which is F.P.’s — it’s Harpers job to be in the line-ups, not make them . . .

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Nats Tally Just Three Hits In Miami Loss

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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The Nationals mustered only three hits against Miami pitching on Monday, and Washington was downed by the Marlins at Nationals Park on Memorial Day, 3-2. Washington’s lack of hit production highlighted the challenges Washington still faces with some of their best hitters out of the line-up.

But Monday’s loss also shows just how far the Marlins have come in developing a group of young arms — arms that have put them, at least so far, in the middle of the race for an N.L. East division title. Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi threw a gem: the young righty pitched into the seventh inning, gave up only two earned runs and struck out five.

“We’re definitely confident that we can win games,” Eovaldi said after the Miami victory. “We just haven’t been executing everything on the road. We’ve been playing well at home. To get the first one out of the way will be good for us. The bullpen was awesome, came in and slammed the door on them. The defense was good. We executed our pitches.”

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The futility of Nationals’ hitters was on full display against Eovaldi — when Washington scores more than four runs in a game they are 21-1, but when they don’t they lose. Monday was simply more evidence of the same; the only Washington hitter who was able to get to Eovaldi was Adam LaRoche, who homered to right field in the 6th, scoring Jayson Werth.

“Great to come back. Frustrating game today,” LaRoche said of the Washington loss. “I feel we just, we didn’t give ourselves a ton of opportunities. Not sloppy, we didn’t beat ourselves in any way, just weren’t on base enough.”

While Washington starter Tanner Roark said that he was struggling to find his pitches early in the contest, Washington’s righty matched up well against Eovaldi, throwing seven innings while giving up just five hits. But Roark proved shaky against Miami’s best hitter, as Giancarlo Stanton doubled off him in the 1st inning, then took him deep in the 3rd. Eovaldi and Stanton were the difference in the game.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Considering Washington’s lack of run production (as well as their inability to score with runners in scoring position), it’s amazing that they’re still ranked in the top ten in the N.L. in run production. But they’re 10th in batting average. Miami is twenty points higher . . .

Monday was a prime example of what ails the Nats, whose starting line-up is glove heavy and lumber light. Matt Williams penciled in his standard starters, which means that the numbers seven, eight and nine positions (Espinosa, McLouth and Roark) provided a punch that was somewhere in the combined .175 range . . .

But here’s the deal. Tanner Roark, who’s hitting .200, is actually a more dangerous hitter than McLouth. That is to say, the Nats might be better off with Roark in left field every day than with a guy who has, during his career, had real problems in finding his stroke — as the Pirates learned in May of 2012, when they sent him to the minors . . .

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Nats Downed In 15 Inning Marathon

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals had three extra inning opportunities to win Monday night’s 15 inning marathon against the Cincinnati Reds: in the bottom of the 12th (when Wilson Ramos lined out the second baseman Brandon Phillips), in the bottom of the 14th (when Anthony Rendon lined out to center) and again in the 15th — when Danny Espinosa took a Logan Ondrusek pitch deep to right.

It took amazing plays from the Reds, with a sprinkling of luck, but Cincinnati walked away with a win off the bat of Todd Frazier to win a 15 inning barn burner at Nationals Park, 4-3. The five hour endurance test (the official game length was 4:58), saw both teams use nearly every player — with a see-saw battle that was decided by a single swing of the bat.

The winning runs were finally scored in the top of the 15th inning, when center fielder Todd Frazier stroked a 2-1 change up from reliever Ross Detwiler into the left centerfield seats, scoring Brandon Phillips. Even then, however, the Nationals weren’t done, putting a single run on the board in the bottom of the frame (on a Jayson Werth double and Greg Dobbs single) before Espinosa’s final out.

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The game started as a match-up of team aces, with Washington’s Stephan Strasburg throwing seven innings of six hit baseball and Mike Leake responding by throwing 6.2 innings while giving up a single run. Strasburg and Leake were nearly evenly matched, with similar finishing lines: both notched four strikeouts, while Leake gave up seven hits.

Cincinnati entered the game struggling at the plate, and nothing on Monday would have dissuaded their fans that their team has finally turned the corner. But the Nationals also proved punchless. The Reds were 2-24 with runners in scoring position, while the Nationals were 2-18.

Even so, it took some amazing plays for the Reds to win, including the two game-saving diving catches on scorching line drives (off the bats of Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon) that would have decided the game in the Nationals’ favor. So it was that the true heroes of the Monday endurance test were Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier.

“All you can do is hit and sometimes you wish you could steer it after you hit it, but that doesn’t happen,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after the loss.

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: Cincinnati has some fans in D.C., but not many. All of them seemed to be in the section on Monday night. A young woman near the front of the section sported a Pokey Reese jersey, while her mate made do with a red-striped Sean Casey offering . . .

A Nationals fans, albeit one known for being a Nats’ critic, showed up, arguing that the Nationals might have done well to draft Mike Leake with their first pick in the 2009 draft. Instead, the Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, while the Reds picked up Leake with the eighth . . .

The critic argued that Leake’s numbers are better than those put up so far by the Nationals’ righty: Leake has 44 career wins versus Strasburg’s 32. “Don’t be ridiculous,” a fellow 1-2-9 regular snapped. “If you’re Cincinnati’s G.M. right now and Mike Rizzo called proposing an even-up swap, you’d grab it.” The comment brought general assent from nearby regulars . . .

“And Leake hasn’t had his Tommy John [surgery] yet,” another 1-2-9 regular noted. The comment brought chuckles and a nod from the Leake fan: “You’ve got a point,” he responded. Then too, though no one mentioned it at the time: the win numbers are not the only numbers worth comparing. Strasburg has one shutout, one complete game (Leake has none) and a better ERA. Which is not to mention the gap in career strikeouts . . .

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LaRoche Grounds The ‘Stros

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche’s RBI double to deep center in the top of the 8th tied the game, then his single in the 9th scored the winning run — and the Nationals went on to defeat the Astros, 4-3 on Tuesday night in Houston. The LaRoche hits did justice to his fast start: the first sacker is now hitting .312 on the year with 17 RBIs.

“It’s good for him because he’s not traditionally a fast starter,” manager Matt Williams said following the victory. “He really focused on it in spring training and really focused on driving one in. He’s going to hit homers with guys on base but that one’s big for us as evidenced tonight.

The Nationals also got a solid start from lefty Gio Gonzalez, who had problems early in the game in commanding his curveball; but Gio provided six solid innings of five hit baseball while striking out nine. The victory provided a lift for the Nationals on the road, after the team notched an only so-so homestand.

“Just need to get out of that cold air once in a while,” Gonzalez said in explaining the team’s performance in Houston. “Rooftop open, put a little humidity out there, and that helps. Then it was just back-and-forth battling.”

The game provided another example of how Washington can battle back from an early deficit. The team was down 3-2 until LaRoche came to the plate in the 8th, then battled to score the go ahead run in the 9th. Rafael Soriano provided his usual excitement in notching his fifth save, putting two Houston runners on in the 9th inning with two out.

The Houston victory also provided some improbable defensive plays, including a falling-backwards catch in center by Denard Span in the fourth inning. An inning earlier left fielder Kevin Frandsen snagged a ball high off the left field wall with an improbable (or impossible) backhanded snag. The Frandsen catch saved Washington a run in a tight ballgame.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: How will the Nationals fill the gaping hole left by Bryce Harper in left field? Don’t look to the line-up in Houston for answers. Matt Williams started Kevin Frandsen in left field in place of Harper (it’s now speculated that Harper won’t be back until after the All Star break), with Nate McLouth in center and Jayson Werth as the DH . . .

But that’s in inter-league play. We’d be surprised if McLouth didn’t play upwards of 80 percent of the games in left against N.L. opponents. After all, filling in for an injured outfielder is why G.M. Mike Rizzo went out and got him. So it’s McLouth in left, and get used to it  . . .

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Kennedy Pitches Padres To 4-2 Victory Vs. Nationals

Monday, April 28th, 2014

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San Diego righty Ian Kennedy stymied the Nationals’ offense on Sunday, throwing seven innings of three hit baseball and striking out nine, as the Padres went on to gain a split in their four game series against Washington, 4-2. Kennedy outdueled six Washington pitchers in gaining the victory, his second of the season.

San Diego’s offense, meanwhile, was powered by eight hits, two of them from outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was seeing his first action of the 2014 season. “Ian pitched his butt off,” Maybin said after the San Diego victory. “Fun being behind a guy like that who can command the zone like he does.”

The Nationals came up nearly empty against Kennedy, with Jayson Werth the only Washington regular who was able to notch two hits against him. It was a rough day for Washington hitters, but also a rough day for the pitching staff. Starter Taylor Jordan was battling the flu when he took the mound and lasted just four innings.

A host of Washington relievers who followed Jordan to the bump battled San Diego hitters — and their own control. Ross Detwiler gave up four hits in just 1.1 innings of work and Aaron Barrett walked two batters while registering a single out. Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard pitched well, but by then it was too late.

Huston Street notched his league leading ninth save without a blemish, wrapping up the game. “It’s a really good lineup they have over there, and I know that Adam LaRoche had a big series against us, so having Ian pitch so well was very important,” Street said of the victory. “To see him settle down and get into a groove, it put the momentum back on our side.”

The Nationals have Monday off, but will travel to Houston for a short series against the Astros that begins on Tuesday.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Major league teams dump salaries, they dump old starters and relievers and they dump washed up veterans. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, it seems, dump young and talented starters. How else do you explain last year’s swap of yesterday’s pitching hero, Ian Kennedy, to the Padres back in 2013 . . .?

True — Kennedy was struggling at the time, but he was two years down the road from a 21-4 season. The D-Backs got reliever Joe Thatcher, a minor leaguer (righty pitcher Matt Stites) and a draft pick in return, hardly enough to justify the swap of a proven youngster with electric stuff . . .

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