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Monday, September 30th, 2013
The Washington Nationals finished their season in Arizona with a loss to the Diamondbacks, 3-2. In many ways the loss was representative of what the team had done all season: entering the eighth inning with a one run lead, the Nationals’ bullpen gave up two runs to an Arizona team they’d beaten handily in the previous two outings.
While the game was the last in a season that saw the Nats drop out of contention for the N.L. East title back in June and July, the team came back in September with a run at the Wild Card. The key to the Nationals resurgence was a revived offense and pitching contributions from unlikely rookies, including Tanner Roark, who held the D-Backs to just three hits in seven innings on Sunday.
“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen,” Roark said after his performance on Sunday. “Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.” Roark has been outstanding since arriving in the majors in early August: he finished at 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.
The final game of the season also marked Davey Johnson’s last game as the Nats’ manager. “Time to go home,” Johnson said after the game. “Put me out to pasture.” The Nationals praised their 70-year-old skipper, with Tyler Clippard noting that a good manager “builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing.”
Johnson was philosophical about what is apparently the end of his career, choosing to bypass comments on the Nationals’ season. “I felt really lucky to have had the big league experiences I’ve had as a player and as a manager,” he told the press after the Arizona loss. “When you love a game as much as I love this game and like the competition, you just enjoy it.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: An 86-76 record would have sparked celebrations in Washington just a few years ago, but the Nationals (picked by many as the premier team in the National League) must be disappointed. Even so, there is good reason for celebrating a season that saw the Nationals finish ten games out of the hunt in the N.L. East . . .
Friday, September 20th, 2013
Bryce Harper’s first inning three run home run was enough to push the Nationals past the Marlins, as Washington downed Miami 3-2 on Thursday night at Nationals’ Park. Harper’s blast with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth on base kept the Nats slim hopes of a playoff spot alive, with the home towners five games behind Cincinnati in the Wild Card hunt.
Harper’s home run provided the only scoring for Washington, leaving the game in the hands of southpaw starter Gio Gonzalez and three relievers. Harper was all smiles in the dugout after his dinger as he joined four other Nationals (Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche) in hitting twenty home runs on the year.
“He’s only going to get better,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said of his young slugger. “I think when you go through a period where you have all this attention and you try to live up to hype you try to do too much. I think he’s getting over that. I think he’s back to enjoying the game, and that’s great to see.”
Harper’s three RBIs might not have been enough against the Marlins line-up, but Gio Gonzalez provided a steady outing (two earned runs in six complete innings, while scattering seven hits) in notching his 11th win on the season. A trio of Nationals’ relievers (Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano) then shut down Miami in the last three frames.
The two Marlins’ runs came off an Ed Lucas single that scored Donovan Solano in the first and a Justin Ruggiano double that scored Giancarlo Stanton in the 6th. The Washington win slapped righty Henderson Alvarez with the loss, his fifth on the season.
The Washington victory came at a small personal price for Denard Span, who went 0-4, thus ending his 29 game hitting streak, the longest in the major leagues this year. The crowd of nearly 26,000 fans, realizing the Nationals center fielder would not extend his streak, gave Span a standing ovation after his fourth at bat. He was greeted by his teammates in the dugout with high-fives.
“You gotta tip your cap to Joe DiMaggio because that’s a record that I don’t think will ever be broke,” left fielder Bryce Harper said of Span’s streak after the game. “Denard made a good run at it. I tip my cap to him and I think everyone in baseball did.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Back in March, new ESPN analyst Alex Cora questioned whether the Red Sox had made the right decision in signing former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, saying that Boston should have gone after someone younger and more athletic . . .
Monday, September 16th, 2013
Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was 4-4 and drove in five runs, and righty starter Jordan Zimmermann notched his league-leading 18th win of the year, and the Nationals routed the Philadelphia Phillies 11-2 at Nationals Park on Sunday. The win, coupled with a Cincinnati loss in Milwaukee, brought the home towners within 4.5 games of the last Wild Card slot.
While the Nationals pounded out eighteen hits against a hapless Philadelphia pitching staff, Ramos was clearly the star of the show: the Nationals’ backstop singled in the bottom of the 1st (and plated Bryce Harper), singled again in the bottom of the 4th (scoring Harper again), homered to center in the 6th and singled in the 7th to score Zach Walters and Adam LaRoche.
Ramos has been a workhorse for the Nationals, appearing Sunday in his 23rd consecutive game. “He’s been hitting the heck out of the ball, catching good, throwing people out. He’s hard to take out of the lineup,” Washington skipper Davey Johnson said of his 26-year old catcher. “We’ve missed him for two years, so we’re going to ride him.”
But Ramos’ career day did little to overshadow the performance of righty Jordan Zimmermann, who’s been Washington’s staff ace for the 2013 campaign. Zimmermann turned in seven innings complete innings of seven hit baseball while striking out seven in taming the Philadelphia line-up.
“It feels good, but then again, I’ll trade all those wins in for a spot in the playoffs,” Zimmermann said after his victory. “That’s the only thing that matters right now. We’re playing good ball and scoring some runs, so it’s definitely fun.”
It took the Nationals just over three hours to polish off Philadelphia, who sent five pitchers to the mound in an effort to short-circuit Washington’s attack. The Phillies have great hopes for starter Tyler Cloyd, a sleeper pick in the 18th round of the 2008 draft. But the Nats victimized Cloyd with ten hits and five runs in four innings.
“Any time you have a bad outing, no matter how many good ones you have, you’re always disappointed,” Cloyd said after the Phillies’ loss. “Obviously I’m more disappointed that I’m pitching bad and not giving the team a chance to win. I’ve got to figure it out somehow.
While Ramos led the Nationals attack, he had plenty of help. Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond had two hits each (with Span extending his hitting streak to 26 straight games), while Bryce Harper was 3-5 on the day and raised his 2013 batting average to .280. Harper was 6-12 in the Philadelphia series.
Sunday, September 15th, 2013
The coulda-woulda-shoulda Nationals might have won Saturday night’s contest against the Philllies at Nationals Park, if only home ump Jim Joyce had not been so liberal with the strike zone, if only a liner off the bat of Wilson Ramos had been inches further up-the-middle: if only Gio Gonzalez hadn’t lost his command in the fifth inning.
Unfortunately, however, none of that happened: Jim Joyce called strike three on a pitch clearly out of the strike zone, the Wilson Ramos liner was deftly gloved in the bottom of the 9th by slick-leather expert Jimmy Rollins, and Gio Gonzalez gave up four runs in the fifth, as the Nationals were downed by the Phillies at Nationals Park, 5-4.
The Phillies victory ended the Nationals winning streak at seven, giving Washington its 70th loss of the year, a heartbreaker that, when coupled with a Redlegs win in Milwaukee left the home towners 5.5 games back in the race for the last Wild Card slot. There are just fourteen games left to play.
The key for the Phillies was catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was 2-5 on the night with three RBIs. It was a Ruiz double to deep right in the 5th inning (Jayson Werth waved at it as it sailed past), that cleared the bases and gave Gonzalez his seventh loss of the season. A furious rally by the Nationals in the bottom of the 7th, meanwhile, fell a single run short.
“As a pitcher, it is a tough pill to swallow when you want to go out there and do your best, especially for the guys the way they’re swinging the bat,” starter Gonzalez said of his shaky fifth inning. “To give up those runs makes a huge difference. That could have changed the whole game.”
The Washington fifth showed that Philadelphia is still a formidable team: Gonzalez began the top of the inning by striking out left fielder Freddy Galvis, but then gave up a home run to John Mayberry, a long ball specialist with not much to show for his year in terms of BA.
And the inning was downhill from there. Cole Hamels and Cesar Hernandez followed Galvis with successive singles. While Gonzalez responded by inducing a fly out from Jimmy Rollins, Gonzalez loaded the bases by walking Chase Utley. Carlos Ruiz then authored the inning’s coup, hitting a bases clearing double into right field.
Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
The Nationals committed three errors and Gio Gonzalez walked three Philadelphia batters, but Washington banged out eleven hits (including a Wilson Ramos three run home run in the top of the 2nd inning) and the home towners went on to down the Phillies 9-6 at Citizens Bank Park.
“It was an ugly game, that’s all I can tell you,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s one of the ugly ones I’ve seen. Gio had a real rough start. He threw a lot of pitches. He hung in there. [The fielders] were sloppy behind him. It’s not the way you win pennants, I’ll tell you that.”
Thankfully for Johnson (although that might not be the best word to use), the Nationals are in no danger of winning a pennant. The win in Philadelphia still left Washington struggling to catch Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card spot. The Nationals remain 7.5 games behind the Redlegs with 24 games to play.
The Nationals were hoping that starter Gio Gonzalez would give them a solid outing on Tuesday night, as he did during his last outing against Miami at Nationals Park, but the struggling southpaw gave up five hits and five runs (just one of them earned) in 5 2/3 innings on the mound.
Gonzalez, who contended for the Cy Young award in 2012, has been up-and-down all season — with his 5 2/3 innings outing reminiscent of his 3 1/3 innings stint two weeks ago against the Kansas City Royals, in which he yielded ten hits and seven runs.
“I was fortunate to go at least that long, especially knowing that I felt uncomfortable on the mound the whole game,” Gonzalez said of his outing. “You can look at it from both sides: The Phillies had a lot of walks, we had a [few] walks. It was just one of these weird games. You just can’t explain it.”
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Everything clicked into place for the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday night. After a season of frustration at the team’s inability to get hits and score runs, the Nationals broke through with twelve hits against the Marlins, and went on to rout Miami, 9-0.
The Washington attack was sparked by home runs from Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond (each of whom had three run shots) and Bryce Harper, who hit his 19th of the year. “We’re a scary team when we’re going good, and I think everybody knows that,” Harper said after the victory.
The Washington onslaught was complemented by a solid outing from starter Gio Gonzalez, his first in five weeks. Gonzalez gave the Nats’ bullpen a badly needed rest, as he held the Marlins to just three hits over seven complete innings. Long reliever Tanner Roark finished out the win by pitching a scoreless 8th and 9th innings.
“We’re getting our groove back,” Gonzalez said of the Nationals’ win. “I think that you can see it live, and the chemistry in here is just getting better and better.” The Nationals have won eight of their last nine games, and now sit just 6.5 games behind Cincinnati in the race for the last Wild Card spot.
Bryce Harper had a great night against Miami pitching (he was 2-3 with two RBIs), but Jayson Werth remains Washington’s best hitter over the last two months. Since July 1, Werth is 68-175 and is hitting .389 with a .476 OBP. If the Nats’ right fielder had enough AB’s to qualify, he’d be tied with Chris Johnson of Atlanta for second in the N.L. batting race.
All of Washington’s middle order hitters feasted off Miami pitching on Thursday. In addition to Harper and Werth, Ian Desmond was 2-4 (his home run was his 20th on the year), and Ryan Zimmerman was 3-3 and upped his 2013 BA to .275.
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
With two runners on in the top of the 9th and San Francisco rallying against a reeling Nationals’ relief corps, Giants’ right fielder Hunter Pence hit a line drive into the gap in left center field — a clutch hit that would have certainly tied, and might have even won the game for the McCovey’s.
But fleet-footed Denard Span raced back and to his right, leaving his feet to snag the drive — thereby preserving a 6-5 Nationals victory. Span’s game saving play was greeted with a standing ovation by Nats’ fans, who also celebrated the team’s fifth win in a row. “I didn’t think he had it,” Jayson Werth said of the play.
“I take pride in my defense,” Span told reporters after the victory. “Would I like to be hitting .400? Of course. But I love the feeling of taking a hit from somebody or robbing a home run or robbing an extra-base hit. There’s no better feeling than being able to do that, especially like tonight.”
The Nationals victory came at the expense of Tim Lincecum, whose no hitter several weeks ago was the highpoint of his season. Lincecum was not nearly as effective on Wednesday, giving up six runs and seven hits in just six innings of work, including a 448 foot blast off the bat of Giants’ killer Ian Desmond.
Desmond’s home run and a double off the bat of Anthony Rendon with the bases loaded in the fourth inning provided a large and early Washington lead for starter Jordan Zimmermann, who was attempting to win his National League leading fourteenth game of the season.
The Desmond-Rendon heroics should have sealed the game for the home town Nationals, but San Francisco kept chipping away, especially after Zimmermann left the game after throwing seven innings of six hit baseball. Ian Krol and Ryan Mattheus proved ineffective in the 8th, with Tyler Clippard coming in to put out the San Francisco fire.