Archive for the ‘national league east’ Category

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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Nats Notes: Are The Nats Tough Guys . . . Or Choke Artists?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

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The 4-game series split between the Washington Nationals and the reigning National League champion St. Louis Cardinals was a microcosm of the 2014 season so far: one blowout plagued with fielding errors, one pitchers’ duel with adequate run support, one pitchers’ duel with inadequate run support, and one come-from-behind walk off win.

Game 1 of the series brought back the worst memories of the dark times of 2008 and 2009, with the Redbirds shutting out the Nats 8-0. Nats starter Taylor Jordan gave up 5 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and whatever the defense was, it wasn’t major league caliber. It was just by coincidence that Thomas Boswell, the great columnist at the Washington Post, wrote a piece that day about how hemming and hawing about the Nats this early in the season is fun — but they’re so good there really wasn’t much to worry about.

Manager Matt Williams was less than happy with what he saw that day and let the team, and by extension the fans, know it. This game only fueled the chatter that the Nats are bipolar: they dominate over lesser teams like the New York Mets and Miami Marlins, but they’re choke artists when it comes to playing the real contenders like the Braves and Cards.

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Games 2 and 3 were more in line with what Washington fans have come to expect from their team. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann provided quality starts, the base running wasn’t haphazard, and the lineup clawed up the ladder of hits and runs in a sometimes you catch them, sometimes you don’t way. That one of these was a win and the other a loss can be chalked up to two things: errors and stranded runners.

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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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Late Nats Rally Falls Short, Harper Benched

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

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A late, 9th inning, rally from a trailing Nationals team against Cardinals’ reliever Trevor Rosenthal fell just short on Saturday afternoon, and St. Louis downed Washington, 4-3. The Cardinals , who lead the series two games to one, have a chance to take the series today at Nationals Park when Stephen Strasburg faces off against Shelby Miller.

The miscues that have dogged the Nationals in the early going were in evidence again on Saturday, giving the Cardinals a chance to score early. A throwing error from Anthony Rendon in the top of the 2nd on a possible double play ball allowed the Cardinals to put two on the board, on a single off the bat of Tony Cruz, which was followed by an improbable double from pitcher Lance Lynn.

The Nationals now lead the majors in errors, having committed twenty in eighteen games. “It’s not because of a lack of effort. We are just a little unlucky, right now,” outfielder Jayson Werth said about his team’s defense. “I feel like it’s going to come back around. We’ll be all right.”

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The Nationals battled back from their early bobbles behind the hitting of Danny Espinosa (who notched his first home run of the season), Denard Span (who was 2-5 in his first game back from the 7 day disabled list) and Rendon — who was a nifty 2-4 on the day, raising his season average to .324.

The loss squandered a workmanlike outing from righty starter Jordan Zimmerman, who threw seven solid innings of seven hit baseball. “Zim pitched well. He got in a situation with Holliday in his last inning in which he gave up a base hit,” Washington skipper Matt Williams acknowledged. “But other than that, he pitched well enough to win.”

As good as Zimmerman was, St. Louis starter Lance Lynn was just as effective. Lynn, who said he had his best stuff of the year, held the Nationals to five hits in pitching into the sixth inning. The victory was his fourth of the year, with no losses.

The Nationals had a chance to win the game in the 9th after Rendon’s double brought the team to within two in the 8th. After notching the first out, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal walked pinch hitter Zach Walters then allowed Denard Span to reach base after he threw his slow grounder late to second. Rosenthal then balked Walters and Span to third and second.

With the sellout crowd of 41,000-plus on their feet, Keven Frandsen grounded out to third — which scored Walters, and suddenly the game was 4-3 with the tying run a single away. But Jayson Werth struck out swinging on a 99 mph Rosenthal fastball to end it, and give St. Louis the victory.

Team Rank                                                                        Games      Errors                Percentage          

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Diehard fans of the Nationals will tell you, albeit quietly, that their one criticism of now-retired skipper Davey Johnson was that he wasn’t tough enough. Most Washington fans would tell you precisely why they thought this, but often it came down to Johnson’s handling of phenom Bryce Harper . . .

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Nats Shake Off Their Losses, Beat The Cards

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

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This time it was the St. Louis Cardinals who made the errors — with the Nationals capitalizing on the brilliant pitching of southpaw Gio Gonzalez to beat the Redbirds, 3-1 at Nationals Park. The Friday night victory was much-needed after a game that saw four Nats’ errors. This was the first Nats’ victory in eight head-to-head meetings with St. Louis.

“It was one of those games that we needed. We needed to bounce back,” Gonzalez told reporters after the victory. “We needed something like this. It put us back together. Now we go from here, one game at a time.” Gonzalez notched his third win of the season in holding the Cardinals to just four hits and a single run.

The winning edge came for the Nationals in the seventh inning, when Ian Desmond scampered home on a wild pitch from St. Louis starter Michael Wacha. When sure-handed Yadier Molina threw wild to the plate in an attempt to nab Desmond, Danny Espinosa also scored — accounting for all of the Nationals’ runs.

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“I short-hopped one to Yadi that got away from him, and they end up scoring two runs on it. I have to make a better pitch in that situation and try and get out of it,” Wacha said of the play. “It was 0-1 and you want to make your pitch for sure. I spiked a changeup down in the dirt and it ended up getting away from Yadi. I’ve got to make a better pitch in that situation.”

The Cardinals seemed to repeat the problems that Nats had in the field on Thursday: Ian Desmond would not have been able to score on a wild pitch if he had not been on third — the result of a muffed throw to Matt Carpenter from Michael Wacha that was intended to get the lead runner after a bunt off the bat of Danny Espinosa.

The Nationals still might have lost the game if it had not been for the relief pitching of Drew Storen, who came on after Tyler Clippard had put two men on base. With one out, Storen induced a pop up from heavy hitting Matt Holliday and got Allen Craig to ground out to shortstop Desmond.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There have been 170 walk off grand slam home runs in major league baseball since 1950. So while the event isn’t rare, it’s unusual. By comparison, there have been only 27 “super walk off grand slams” — where the home run wins the game when the home team is trailing by three in the bottom of the ninth . . .

Such phrases are probably lost on the fans of the Marlins, who showed up in less-than-record numbers last night to watch their Fish take on Seattle’s Mariners. Besides producing Miami and Seattle headlines that play off the team names, the three game tilt features under-producing teams with high hopes for the future. The far future, as it turns out . . .

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Nats Boot The Ball, Drop St. Louis Series Opener

Friday, April 18th, 2014

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In his post game press conferences, Nationals skipper Matt Williams sometimes appears as a barely controlled caldera — like Yellowstone, he seems always on the verge of exploding, particularly after a loss. So it was on Thursday night, after his Washington Nationals dropped a sloppily played error-filled game to the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-0.

The loss led to a short post game team meeting, at which Williams spoke — but he said the message he conveyed would not be made public. “That’s for me and my team.” he said. “I seem very upset? I’m just not answering that question. That’s for me and my team, and nobody else’s business. Regarding the game, it was probably the worst one we played.”

Williams had plenty to be upset about. The first play of the game featured a booted ball by shortstop Ian Desmond, which was followed by starter Taylor Jordan’s inability to dig a squiggler off the bat of Kolten Wong out of his glove. The play was scored as a single, but it was an error — and suddenly the Cardinals, with the fans still filing into the ballpark, were threatening.

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That’s twenty errors in Washington’s first sixteen games, and this from a team whose manager prizes defense. “The first ball of the game, you boot it, that doesn’t set the tone,” Desmond said of his performance. “If I ever want to be the captain of this team — and I do — I’m going to have to be better than that.”

St. Louis, meanwhile, played flawlessly behind the two hit pitching of righty Adam Wainwright. Wainwright kept the Nationals off the bases and off the board, depending on an attack from Matt Holliday (2-3 with two RBIs), Matt Adams (1-4 with three RBIs) and Jhonny Peralta (who was 2-5).

We’ll keep grinding away at it,” Williams said. “We will go out there tomorrow and we’ll certainly take a full [batting practice], full grounders. It is scheduled to be extra work for the pitchers tomorrow. It’s part of the schedule. … We do it all the time. What to make of [the bad defense]? I don’t know.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There was an odd semi-takedown of MASN broadcasters Bob Carpenter and F.P Santangelo on the Sporting News website last week. Headlined “Nationals broadcasters let cliches, homerism get in the way . . .” the article purported to show how amateurish and boorish the two are . . .

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Nats Take The Miami Series, Head Home

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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The hobbled Washington Nationals escaped Miami with a 6-3 win on Wednesday night, taking two games of three from their division rivals. The Nationals were powered by sloppy Marlins fielding, a three run home run off of Miami starter Jose Fernandez by Jayson Werth in the top of the 6th (which tied the game at 3) and a pinch hit home run from rookie Zach Walters.

The errors from Miami and the two Nats home runs were the difference in the game, besting Miami ace Fernandez. In the 6th, the usually sure-handed Jerrod Saltalamacchia allowed Jose Lobaton to scamper to third on a throwing error and the Miami catcher then dropped a pop foul off the bat of Anthony Rendon.

“We’re in a funk out there, for whatever reason,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said after the loss. “We just have got to keep throwing these guys out there and get them going. Another pinch-hit home run. Stuff like that just can’t happen late in the game. We’ve given up a lot of big hits late in the game. Those are crushers. We’ve got to find a way to make an adjustment.”

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The Nationals were shut down by Fernandez, who owns a snappy 2.66 ERA on the season — and who only gave up a four hits in seven innings last night. “He’s an animal,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Fernandez. “He’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.”

The Nationals’ runs in the 6th inning were all unearned, leaving Fernandez the victim of his teammates poor play. After the Fernandez departure, the Nationals put three runs on the board off of two Miami relievers: Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos.

After being swept in Atlanta, the Nationals needed the Miami salvage operation, and they got it. The team put up nine runs on sixteen hits in the first game of the series, and last night were able to get a solid starting performance from righty Tanner Roark, who pitched into the 7th inning while notching five strikeouts.

Roark was at his best in the 5th, when he ended a Miami rally that had Marcell Ozuna on third with one out. Roark struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones flied out to left to end the threat. “It was a big momentum swing,” said Roark of his clutch pitching. “I felt like we had a good weight off our shoulders and my shoulders as well.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: No one likes to hear this, but it’s true. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the standard of success in the American League is the New York Yankees; it’s impossible to read anything about baseball without reading about them. But that’s also true for the St. Louis Cardinals, the N.L. version of the Bombers. For good reason . . .

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