Archive for the ‘national league east’ Category
Monday, May 20th, 2013
The Padres rapped out fifteen hits — which included three home runs — and San Diego went on to thrash the Washington Nationals at Petco Park on Sunday, 13-4. Washington’s attack against San Diego starter Andrew Cashner, on the other hand, was punchless: a scattering of ten hits, but few of them that did any real damage.
Washington had hoped to take the series, particularly given Saturday night’s tough one-run loss that victimized ace Jordan Zimmermann. “It was good to bounce back in beating Zimmermann, who is arguably the best pitcher in the National League right now,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “That was a big win last night.”
Black added: “Then to come back today against Haren, who’s a great competitor. We got to him early and got him there in the middle part of the game with a couple big swings. Good for our guys. It was a good win.” Haren’s outing breaks a solid streak for the veteran righty, who gave up seven runs on nine hits in just five innings.
“I made a bunch of mistakes in the first inning. I was able to keep it close for a while. You can’t keep letting balls over the plate to a professional lineup like that,” Haren said after his loss. “I was fighting myself out there with mechanics. I was working behind in the count too much. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
This was all good news, but only if you were a Padres’ fan. Stuck in mediocre, starter Andrew Cashner proved he belonged in the San Diego rotation with 6.2 innings of steady strikes, while the Friars received long bombs from a trio of little monks: Will Venable, Kyle Blanks and rookie second sacker Jedd Gyorko.
The Padres got on the board early, scoring three runs in the first inning off of Haren, then extended their lead by scoring four more off the righty in the fifth. The Washington bullpen wasn’t much better: the usually steady Ryan Matheus gave up five runs on four hits in a single inning to raise his ERA to 4.96.
“I just fell behind hitters,” Mattheus said of his outing. “I had to come back and make a pitch and they put good swings on the ball. It’s inexcusable to not come in the strike zone and leaving balls up.”
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Chad Tracy’s pinch hit 10th inning home run negated three Washington errors and a rare blown save from Rafael Soriano as the Nationals went on to defeat the Padres in San Diego to salvage a 6-5 win. The Tracy blast came off of Padres’ reliever Huston Street, negating a San Diego 9th inning rally.
This was a game highlighted by unsteady starting pitching (Gio Gonzalez struggled through his first two innings), fielding errors (Washington committed three), and a sudden back-of-the-bullpen collapse — Rafael Soriano gave up three straight singles to allow San Diego to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
But the Washington victory was also highlighted by the long ball: Washington hit four home runs — two by a suddenly revived Adam LaRoche (which gives him seven on the season), one from Ryan Zimmerman (his second of the season, in the 6th inning), in addition to Tracy’s game winner.
“Any time you win a ballgame you feel great,” Tracy said following the victory. “But when you do something to win it in that fashion, especially after they came back and had the guy on third with less than two outs in the ninth, I think everybody was a little bit more fired up.”
The Tracy home run in the top of the 10th might have gotten Washington the win, but even in the bottom of the frame, reliever Drew Storen had to battle back from two straight singles to strike out Chris Denorfia and induce a ground ball from San Diego’s Everth Cabrera to notch the victory.
“It was a big strikeout getting Denorfia,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said of Storen’s 10th inning performance. “That was huge. He threw a great breaking ball. It had bite to it. It was good for a couple of guys. We got Storen back and Tracy.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nationals’ fans have to be pleased with their teams performance so far; despite an end-of-April swoon and two of three losses in Los Angeles, Washington’s two wins in San Diego have put them at four games over .500 and just half-a-game behind the Braves . . .
That said, Washington’s weaknesses have been exposed: a surprisingly shaky defense and a lack of offense. If it wasn’t for Washington snappy starting pitching (they are second in the league in ERA, just behind St. Louis), Washington would be worse than mediocre . . .
Some of this is a result of injuries; Ryan Zimmerman is only now getting his swing back after a longish stint on the D.L. and Jayson Werth continues to nurse a sore hamstring. And then there’s Danny Espinosa. The Nats’ second sacker has cut down on his strikeouts this year (he led the league, at more than one a game in 2012), but he’s hitting just .172 . . .
Friday, May 17th, 2013
Stephen Strasburg had his best outing of the year, throwing eight complete innings of three hit baseball, and the Washington Nationals won their first of a four game series in San Diego, 6-2.
Not only did Strasburg look unhittable, he pitched around difficulties that previously derailed him. In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and one out (and after a throwing error by third sacker Ryan Zimmerman), Strasburg induced a ground out and then struck out Will Venable to hold San Diego to a single run.
The San Diego native pitched in front of a large number of friends and relatives — which seemed to spur him on. “It’s just another place for me, to be honest,” he told the press following the victory. “That’s my hometown, I’m an Aztec. I look forward to pitching any place in the big leagues. Now, it’s a dream come true.”
Strasburg’s win was only his second on the year, but he looked better than he has since Opening Day. Strasburg threw 117 pitches, 68 of them for strikes. This was the first time that Strasburg had pitched into the 8th inning in his MLB career.
“I thought he pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said. “It was the first time he’s ever gone eight innings. It was a good homecoming for him. I liked it. I didn’t think he was as sharp as he usually is, but it was a good ballgame. It was nice to see some offense coming up to give him some run support.”
The Nationals punched out seven hits, but their scoring came on home runs from first sacker Adam LaRoche and the returning Bryce Harper — who hit his eleventh in the 7th inning. Harper’s shot was a monster: the ball traveled 431 feet to straight centerfield off of reliever Tyson Ross.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nats’ win came came against righthander Edinson Volquez, who has struggled on the mound this year. San Diego swapped Matt Latos to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 2011 for Volquez, who is 3-4 with a 5.55 ERA so far this year . . .
San Diego had high hopes for Volquez, but the Dominican fireballer has turned into more of an innings eater than an ace. He was 11-11 last year for the Padres in 182 innings. His best outing this year came at the end of April against Milwaukee, when he showed flashes of what he could be — throwing seven innings of five hit ball . . .
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
“It was a tough night, tough night,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson said of Washington’s disappointing 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Johnson’s words reflected not simply the team’s latest inability to score runs, but a rash of in-game injuries — to lefty starter Ross Detwiler (who left with back tightness after the third inning) and catcher Wilson Ramos, who reinjured his hamstring and left the game in the top of the 4th inning.
Wednesday night’s loss to the Dodgers left the Nationals at just two games over .500, and allowed Los Angeles to take the three game series. The problem for Washington (aside from the two injuries) continued to be the team’s inability to drive in runs: the Nats’ stroked nine hits in Wednesday’s loss, but left 16 runners on base.
For L.A., the big story of the night was the return of Zack Greinke, who took the mound after more than four weeks on the disabled list. Greinke pitched five complete innings in notching his second win on the season. “I thought my stuff was pretty good,” he said after the victory. “My stamina needs to grow a little bit, but that could be next start.”
While there’s no doubt that Greinke pitched well, the Nationals had several opportunities to knock him out of the game — but were unable to capitalize. Before leaving the game, Wilson Ramos got on base in both of his at-bats, but was left stranded his teammates. The only Washington score in the early going (and all night) came in a home run off the bat of Adam LaRoche, his fourth of the season.
The only piece of good news for the Nationals was the continued brilliant relief pitching of Craig Stammen who came in after Detwiler left the game and kept the Dodgers scoreless in three innings of work. Stammen has been the best pitcher in the Washington bullpen and lowered his ERA to 2.25 on the year.
The best chance to win the game for the Nationals came in the 8th inning, when the Nationals had runners on first and third with nobody out but weren’t able to push across a run. “We had the right guys up there,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if we are trying to do too much instead of just hitting the ball and putting it in play. I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s amazing but true — after losing two of three in L.A. (and after struggling at the plate), Washington is still only one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the surprisingly uncompetitive N.L East . . .
The reason? The Braves have a deplorable road record, going only 7-13 on their two ten game road trips this year. The losses have been keenly felt in Atlanta, particularly after the early 12-1 start. The Braves have only won ten of their last 27 games, and are 11-15 against teams better than .500 . . .
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Ace righty Jordan Zimmermann pitched 7.2 innings and notched his MLB league leading seventh win and third sacker Ryan Zimmerman drove in three Washington runs, as the Nationals topped the Dodgers in L.A., 6-2.
Zimmermann showed why he’s the ace of the staff and, as of now, the leading candidate for the N.L. Cy Young Award. While Zimmermann scattered nine hits, he was able to cut through the tough Los Angeles line-up, registering five strikeouts without walking a hitter.
“He just kept attacking the zone,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said after the D.C. victory “He was getting himself in good counts and it’s a good way to pitch, ahead in the count. He did a great job tonight of that.” As always, the key to Zimmermann’s success was his ability to throw strikes: 67 of them in a 101 pitching outing.
Washington’s league leading 7-1 fireballer was aided by a Washington parade that banged out ten hits, including a Ryan Zimmerman double in the 3rd that drove in two. “I’m starting to get back into the groove now. I’m starting to feel better at the plate,” Zimmerman said in his post-game comments.
The big news of the game was the 5th inning collision that Bryce Harper had with the Dodger Stadium wall in right field. Harper was tracking a ball off the bat of A.J. Ellis and collided with the wall, cutting his chin and slamming his shoulder. Harper walked from the field, but needed eleven stitches to close the gash on his face.
Monday, May 13th, 2013
No one in the stands at Nationals Park on Sunday was fooled by the argument over balls and strikes that Nats’ catcher Kurt Suzuki had with home plate umpire John Tumpane in the bottom of the 9th. The issue wasn’t balls and strikes, the issue was Suzuki’s errant throw to third to stop a double steal in the top of the frame that fueled a disappointing 2-1 Nats’ loss.
“You’re a princess, Suzuki,” a fan shouted along the third base line. “Stop whining and start playing.” Another fan, nearby, was as outspoken — if less vocal. “He wants us to remember that he argued balls and strikes,” he said, “so that we’ll forget his error. Well, good luck with that.”
But Suzuki’s errant throw (the ball actually skipped off the bat of Welingon Castillo) was only one let-down in an otherwise hard fought Nats-Cubs contest. The other was Drew Storen’s inability to keep the Cubbies off the board in the top of the 8th, when he gave up the tying run on a single from Starlin Castro that scored pinch runner Travis Wood.
The Suzuki error and Storen’s blown hold reversed a stellar outing from starter Gio Gonzalez, who threw seven innings of near perfect baseball. The Gonzalez performance promised to be a gem: the lefty was perfect until the top of the 6th, when Cubs backstop Dioner Navarro notched the first Cubs hit.
The Suzuki throw and Storen’s blown hold were, at least in some respects, explicable: Suzuki’s error could be put down to bad luck, Storen’s blown hold could be explained as just one of those things. But Washington fans also wondered why Davey Johnson decided, with Gio cruising along, that he would pinch hit for his near-perfect lefty in the bottom of the 7th. Why not let Gio finish?
“It’s just the way I manage,” Johnson said of his decision. “You can chalk it up to me. You don’t like it, chalk it up to me. It didn’t work out.” Which is to say that, while Gio might have been on his way to a complete game, Johnson felt that the Nationals had to somehow get more runs on the board.
Saturday, May 11th, 2013
If Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park proved anything, it’s that the book on righty ace Stephen Strasburg is fast becoming . . . well, the book on Stephen Strasburg.
Cruising along with two outs in the 5th inning (and pitching better than he had all season), Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error on a routine grounder seemed to unhinge Strasburg, who proceeded to give up four runs — and the Cubs went on to defeat the Nationals 8-2 at Nationals Park.
It’s hard to know what to worry about most: Ryan Zimmerman’s nagging inability to make an accurate throw to first, or Strasburg’s inability to roll with the punches. Nats’ manager Davey Johnson, it seems, has made up his mind. Anyone can make an error, he said after the Saturday loss, but it’s up to the pitcher to put it behind him and keep throwing strikes.
“It was unfortunate,” a puzzled Johnson said after the loss, “That inning he threw 40 pitches? It’s hard to explain. He’s throwing good. Good stuff. Hitting his spots. And then just seemed to — when we needed him to pick us up, he kind of — the air went out.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one who was befuddled. The stadium was deathly quiet as Strasburg seemed to suddenly struggle against himself: after Wellington Castillo reached on Zimmerman’s error, Strasburg walked Darwin Barney, gave up a double to pitcher Edwin Jackson, walked David DeJesus — then gave up successive singles to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
If it had not been for a poor base running decision by Rizzo, it appeared that Strasburg would be lifted. “Just a bad throw,” Zimmerman said of his error. “It’s frustrating. Stevie’s throwing the ball well and has a heck of a game going and that obviously changed the momentum a little bit.”