Archive for the ‘new york mets’ Category

Strasburg, Cabrera Spark Eighth Straight Win

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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Stephen Strasburg threw eight complete innings of three hit baseball and newbie Nat Asdrubal Cabrera’s line drive double capped a six run third inning and the Washington Nine notched their eighth win in a row, in a convincing 8-1 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

This was a dominant outing for Strasburg who notched his tenth win on the year. “I guess it’s what the doctor ordered,” Strasburg said after his win. “I just wanted to go out there and build off the last start and keep doing the things that I’ve been trying to work on. [Catcher Jose Lobaton] called a great game, we played great defense.”

Washington’s onslaught victimized Arizona starter Chase Anderson, who was pulled in the third inning after pitching to six batters, but without getting an out. The frame featured a single (and stolen base) from Denard Span, singles from Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Bryce Harper, a walk to Adam LaRoche and Cabrera’s gap double that cleared the bases.

Cabrera has had key hits in each of the last four games, but notched three RBIs on Tuesday. “He’s a pro,” Manager Matt Williams said of his new second sacker. “His time at shortstop I think helps everything. Coming in, he hadn’t played second base in a while, but switch-hitting capabilities, been in situations like this, hitting in the middle of the order of a team, and a contending team, helps everything.”

Ian Desmond wielded the other big bat for the Nationals, going 3-4 on the night while accumulating four RBIs. “It’s one of those nights where I didn’t hit it super well, but I got some hits,” Desmond said. “Fortunately for me, guys were on base in front of me. They have been doing that all year long. I’ve been trying to do a better job getting on for Bryce [Harper].

The punchless D-Backs were powerless against Strasburg, but even less so against close-out lefty Jerry Blevins, who fanned two in a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. But the night was Strasburg’s.

“He had his fastball working, he was locating,” D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill said. “He’s one of the better fastball pitchers in the game, and we were hoping to maybe get his pitch count up a little bit and get into the bullpen, and it just didn’t happen.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We’re not inclined to give Baseball Tonight commenter and former major league righty Rick Sutcliffe any kind of love at all — his BT monologues are off-putting, long-winded and sometime incoherent. We loved him as a player, honestly, but . . .

But just this once we’ll give him credit. Back on August 8, Sutcliffe told Baseball Tonight aficionados that the reason Strasburg had authored such a lousy outing that day against the Braves was that he “wasn’t throwing the ball inside.” Strasburg’s inability to “control the inside part of the plate,” Sutcliffe said, was allowing hitters to lean into his outside pitches . . .

We’ve learned since then that Sutcliffe’s views reflected what the Nationals themselves were thinking. In the wake of the righty’s poor outing against the Braves, pitching guru Steve McCatty had an intense side session with Stras to polish his inside pitching. The results have been impressive . . .

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Nats Notes: Washington’s XBH Machine

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

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There are now less than 40 games to go in the regular season and we are one game into a home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Washington Nationals are seventeen games over .500 and lead the division by six games on the back of a series loss in Atlanta and sweeps of the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Nats are working on their longest winning streak of the season (currently seven games long), a good place to be in the home stretch.

The last three wins were each walk-offs, courtesy of catcher Wilson Ramos on Saturday, pinch hitter Scott Hairston on Sunday, and first sacker Adam LaRoche on Monday.

The compulsion to grind has been key over the streak. The Nats have pulled off multiple come-from-behind wins over the past ten games and came within a hair of doing so in the first game against the Barves.

Offensively, these wins were built not so much on the long ball, but on extra base hits and small ball. The addition of Asdrubal Cabrera and, most recently, Nate Schierholtz will only enhance that capacity: both of them are notorious gappers and Cabrera is a doubles machine.

Over the last ten games, these are the XBHs the Nats have tallied (not including the fourteen homers):

Denard Span: a triple, three doubles, and a stolen base
Anthony Rendon: a triple and a stolen base
Wilson Ramos: two doubles
Asdrubal Cabrera: a double and a sac fly
Kevin Frandsen: a double and a sac fly
Jayson Werth: a double and a sac fly
Adam LaRoche: a double and a stolen base
Bryce Harper: a sac fly
Scott Hairston: a sac fly
Ian Desmond: a stolen base
Stephen Strasburg: a sacrifice

In other words, over the past ten games, every member of the regular starting lineup, two bench guys, and a pitcher were getting in scoring position, driving in runs, and moving runners. That’s not only impressive, it’s been the key to the recent Nats surge.

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Nats Sweep The Mets, Head Home

Friday, August 15th, 2014

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Washington righty Stephen Strasburg reversed his road woes (he is 2-8 while pitching away this year), throwing seven innings of snappy three hit baseball, as the Nationals extended their dominance over the New York Mets, winning 4-1 at Citi Field and sweeping their three game series.

Strasburg was all but unhittable in the Nationals triumph. “He really had fastball command from both sides of the plate. That’s where it starts with him,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said of his starter’s outing. “If he can do that, it just opens up everything else. He pitched well. He had a jam in the middle inning and he got out of it with a great double-play ball. He pitched well.”

The Nationals line-up, meanwhile, was just as dominant as Strasburg. The Nationals runs came on two home runs. Adam LaRoche hit his 17th home run in the first inning with Asdrubel Cabrera on base, while a revived Bryce Harper hit his sixth of the season with Ian Desmond on base in the fourth.

Harper’s recent performance has been a boon for the Nationals, who are counting on added production from their left fielder now that Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list. “If Bryce gets on track, watch out,” MASN commenter F.P. Santangelo said after Harper’s fourth inning home run.

“His strength is coming back, and if he gets a ball that is in a little bit, sometimes it hurts him. He feels it for a day or so, but that is part of the process coming back from that,” Williams said of his young star. “He is getting stronger by the day. He is seeing it better.”

The Nationals scored their runs against New York starter Dillon Gee, who proved effective against the Phillies in his last outing (one run in seven innings), but was undone by Washington round-trippers on Thursday. Gee was among the stalwarts on New York’s injury riddled starting rotation at the beginning of the year, but he left the ball in the middle of the plate in last night’s loss.

But the big news of the night was Stasburg, who was trying to bounce back from his worst outing of the season against the Braves — a five inning seven-earned-runs affair versus Atlanta. The righty ace was anything but shaky against the Mets, throwing 101 pitches, 66 of them for strikes.

“This game is funny,” Strasburg told the press after his win. “You can always learn something new. I think I’ve had bad games on the road. I think there’s things that I do that put me in a position where they can take a better swing at it. I’m just going to keep trying to learn as much as I can.”

Washington wrapped up its three game set in New York by relying on their shut down bullpen after Strasburg left the game at the end of seven. Tyler Clippard pitched a no hit eighth, while closer Rafael Soriano held the Madoffs hitless in the 9th, notching his 28th save.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The lone New York run on Thursday night came off the bat of Lucas Duda, whose single scored Nats killer Daniel Murphy, who’d singled off Strasburg to start the bottom of the 4th. Murphy has always hit well against the Nats, but as Matt Williams put it earlier this week — “the truth is that Murphy hits well against everyone . . . ”

The Nationals sweep in New York probably ended whatever hopes the Mets had of a post-season berth. Mets manager Terry Collins told the New York press following his team’s schooling of Philadelphia (last week), that they shouldn’t count New York out of the post-season just yet. But it now looks official: the Mets are eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the N.L. East . . .

Collins has been under scrutiny in New York, where Mets watchers have consistently questioned his odd in-game decisions, as well as his team’s inability to get on base. But the questions have apparently had little effect on the front office which, according to some baseball analysts, has decided to bring him back for a fifth season . . .

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Nats Blast New York, 7-1

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

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Washington homered four times, Doug Fister notched his twelfth win (against just three losses) and the Nationals went on to down the New York Mets at Citi Field, 7-1. This was Washington’s ninth win in a row in New York, with the team extending their N.L. East Division lead to five games over Atlanta in the N.L. East.

Fister was the key to the win. The former Detroit righty stymied the Mets offense, throwing seven innings of shutout baseball while allowing New York seven hits. Fister struck out three. The Nats righty threw 107 pitches, 71 of them for strikes and didn’t walk anyone.

“Doug throws what he wants when he wants and where he wants,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after his team’s loss. “When you go up there, especially when you’re looking at our lineup four through nine, they’re all pretty young, and he can carve you up and he does.”

Most of Washington’s runs came on round trippers, with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and rookie Michael Taylor each hitting home runs. Taylor, subbing for right fielder Jayson Werth, also notched his first career hit in his first time at bat in the major leagues in the second inning.

Newly acquired second sacker Asdrubal Cabrera also had a big night for the Nationals, going 3-5 while stroking two doubles. Harper, Desmond (who hit his 20th home run) and Taylor each had two RBIs for the Nationals, who put six runs on three home runs on the board in the five run fifth inning.

Desmond’s 20th home run marked the third season in a row the young shortstop has hit at least twenty round trippers. “It’s difficult to do,” Nats manager Matt Williams said of Desmond’s accomplishment. “He also steals some bases for us and his defense has been fantastic. So, he is certainly one of our leaders on the club and he wants to play every day.”

But the biggest celebration of the night was reserved for Taylor, the 23-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida native who was seeing his first big league action. It was a memorable start for the Nats newbie, who was 2-4 on the night with his first big league home run.

“It’s fantastic. He has worked really hard. He has taken all the BP and worked his way to get here,” Williams said of the youngster. “It’s gratifying for everybody. The bench was excited on the first base hit, and the homer, even more excited. Good for the kid and certainly a memory he’ll remember forever.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Mets pitching future is on the DL and, if recent reports are any indication, likely to remain there. The team recently announced that young righty Jeremy Hefner, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has had a setback in his rehab and may have to have surgery yet again . . .

It was devastating news for the New Yorkers, who once believed that Hefner and Matt Harvey, who’s also recovering from Tommy John surgery, would lead a 2014 Mets renaissance. Now it appears that the Mets front office will stick to their guns and slow Harvey’s return, waiting to put him on the mound for the start of the next season . . .

This is actually a double-wammy, as the Mets put rookie of the year candidate Jacob deGrom on the disabled list on Monday with shoulder tendinitis. Righty deGrom has been a find for New York, and is 6-5 on the year with a 2.87 ERA. The Nationals faced deGrom last Thursday, and the youngster threw an effective six innings against the home towners . . .

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Nats Drop Atlanta Series, Head To New York

Monday, August 11th, 2014

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At the end of their 3-1 loss in Atlanta on Sunday night, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez waxed philosophical on his team’s series loss to the Braves. “There is still a lot of baseball left,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not over yet. We still have to go out there and try to compete. We have the Mets coming up. We have to do our job and keep playing one series at a time.”

Gonzalez is precisely right of course, though Washington fans are clearly wondering if the Nationals can reverse their fortunes against Atlanta if the Nats end up playing the Braves in the off-season. The Nationals are 4-9 against the Braves this year, and 10-22 since the start of 2013, but squandered an opportunity to distance themselves from their N.L. East nemesis, despite a Braves losing streak that lasted through eight games.

There’s no denying — there are just some teams that Washington has trouble with. St. Louis is one of them, Atlanta is the other. “It’s almost like a playoff game when we play them, no matter when it is,” Atlanta starter Alex Wood said, following the Braves victory. “I think we’ve got some guys that are gamers in here and really enjoy that challenge and enjoy rising to that occasion.”

The Nationals inability to score with runners on board was not much in evidence on Sunday, instead it was Wood that was the problem. The Atlanta southpaw fanned twelve Nats in 7.1 innings of work, a season high for him. “Wood understood what this game meant and he made pitches when he needed,” Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. “He knew we needed some innings out of him, and he went out there and put up a really good performance.”

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Harper Homer Hammers Mets In Extras

Friday, August 8th, 2014

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A Bryce Harper home run in the bottom of the 13th inning broke a 3-3 tie as the Washington Nationals took their three game set against the New York Mets 5-3, in walk-off style on Thursday at Nationals Park. The home run was only Harper’s fourth of the year, but it was probably his most important.

Harper’s dramatic and timely blast, a long line drive into the left field seats, came against Mets reliever Carlos Torres. “I knew it was gone. I mean, I felt it,” Harper said in his post-game comments. “I haven’t felt like that in a while. I haven’t got extension on a ball in a pretty long time.”

Harper’s home run provided an ironic coda to a mini-controversy that erupted when members of the press speculated that Harper might be demoted to Syracuse. The left fielder had been struggling at the plate, before going 2-6 on Thursday. “We’re all pulling for him,” Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann said of his teammate. “Hopefully he gets out of this little rut he’s in.”

The Nationals and Mets were locked in a classic pitchers’ duel prior to entering extra innings, with righty Zimmermann facing off against flashy New York rookie Jacob deGrom — the best feel good story in the Big Apple this summer. Zimmermann was solid in 6.1 innings of work, while deGrom matched Zimmermann’s numbers through six complete.

The Nats got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the second, with shortstop Ian Desmond depositing a deGrom fastball into the visitors bullpen in left center field. It was Desmond’s 18th home run of the year. Desmond’s long ball season has been matched by Denard Span, who continued his hot hitting. Span was 4-6 on Thursday, raising his average to an even .300.

New York responded with a single run in the top of the third. But a two run top of the 7th knotted the game at three apiece, with the Mets pushing across two runs on singles from Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, an Eric Young, Jr. sacrifice fly and a Curtis Granderson RBI.

It was then that the Nationals bullpen went to work. Five Nats relievers went to the mound (Drew Storen, Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano and newbie Matt Thornton), before skipper Matt Williams brought Craig Stammen in to finish the game. Stammen was brilliant, throwing three innings of one hit baseball and taking the victory.

Stammen has been inconsistent over the last month, but his performance on Thursday showed why he’s so valuable for the Nats. “I felt more comfortable out there,” Stammen said of his performance. “I’ve been working on a few things that kinda clicked. Made some good pitches. Got some outs early and gave me a little bit of confidence and I could keep going.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: New York might be all atwitter over the arrival of rookie hurler Jacob deGrom, but nothing can match the excitement of Cubs fans, who are turning somersaults over the promotion of rookie second sacker Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa . . .

So far, at least, the 21-year-old Baez is everything the Chicago press has said he’d be. Baez has only had 14 at bats in the bigs, but they’ve been big ones, fueling fan excitement over what they hope will be a Cubs renaissance. Baez has taken Chicago by storm, going 4-14 in three games . . .

Yesterday in Colorado, Baez was 3-4 with two home runs and notched three RBIs against the Rockies, leading the Cubs to a ho-hum 6-2 triumph over the fast-sinking Heltons. On Tuesday, in his debut, Baez deposited a Boone Logan fastball into the far reaches of Coors Field to give the Cubs the win . . .

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LaRoche Rocks The Mets, 7-1

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche homered twice and Doug Fister threw 7.1 innings of six hit baseball, as the Washington Nationals downed the New York Mets at Nats Park on Wednesday night, 7-1. LaRoche’s two round trippers brought his total to 15 home runs on the year, while his RBI count stands at 59.

LaRoche is the first to admit that he’s been struggling at the plate, having hit a less-than-mediocre .159 in July while seeing his power numbers fall off. “It’s nice to see them go in the seats and not to the warning track or just foul,” LaRoche said after Washington’s victory last night. “I felt like I was snake bit last month.”

But if LaRoche has been struggling, Doug Fister has thrown his hat into the ring as Washington’s best front-of-the-rotation starter. The former Detroit righty now has 11 wins on the year against three losses and is the proud owner of a snappy 2.49 ERA.

On Wednesday against the Mets, everything seemed to be working for him. Fister threw 101 pitches, 69 of them for strikes and stymied a New York line-up that has often been the bane of Washington pitchers. The key for the Nationals is that Fister works quickly, which keeps the D.C. defense on its toes.

It helps the Fister doesn’t walk anyone, issuing only 1.20 free passes per nine innings. That skill was very much in evidence on Wednesday, as Fister issued zero base on balls and induced twelve ground ball outs. The Mets flailed vainly at his sinker.

The Nationals victory handed the loss to sore armed Mets starter and southpaw Jonathan Niese, who threw six complete innings while giving up six earned runs and eight hits. Niese took his eighth loss on the season against just five wins.

While LaRoche and Fister were the big stories from the Nationals win, the Washington Nine received unexpected help from Danny Espinosa, who rocketed a 386 foot homer to left field in the sixth, with Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper at the plate.

While Espinosa is not a fan favorite, he’s a popular teammate and has labored this season while playing second fiddle to a host of second sackers who are auditioning to take his place — including new Nat Asdrubal Cabrera. But Espinosa has taken on his new role with nary a complaint.

“It’s great,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the second sacker. “We all pull for each other, obviously. But Danny is one we really want to see him do well. The guy works so hard, hasn’t been getting in there a whole lot. He’s had some bad luck on top of that. It’s good to see him hit a big three-run homer for us.”

Washington’s win, coupled with an Atlanta loss (their eighth in a row) in Seattle opened a four game lead for the home towners over the Braves, who the Nationals will face this weekend.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Here’s a hint — don’t piss off Matt Williams. After saying during a radio interview that a young player who’s not hitting well is always in danger of being optioned to the minors, Williams was asked whether this applied to Bryce Harper, who’s been struggling at the plate . . .

During a pre-game meeting with the press on Wednesday, Williams lashed out at reporters, his standard low boil bubbling over and his eyes flashing in anger. Here’s what Williams said: “I would caution everybody in this room: The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken . . .”

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