Archive for the ‘pitching’ 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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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 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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Rethinking The Braves “Ambush”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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As we said (and repeatedly) yesterday — after the Nationals were swept by the Atlanta Braves: “It’s still early.” Much has been said of the state of this I-95 rivalry. “They” have the Nats’ number. “They’re” inside the Nats’ heads. They’re Washington’s kryptonite. Maybe, but we’ll leave that particular analysis to the sports psychologists.

In looking back on the series, we here at CFG have come up with something else: in spite of having dropped five of six to the Bravos, there is no real overall difference in quality between Atlanta and the Nationals. For two of the three games in that Atlanta series, the Braves didn’t actually win — so much as the Nationals lost.

Consider: for the first two games, the Nationals outhit the Braves 25-22, while losing both contests by four fewer runs (13 to 9). The reason? Sloppy fielding and poor base running. The usually sure-handed Ian Desmond committed an unheard of three errors, exacerbated by one from Nate McLouth in a call that should have gone the other way. Bryce Harper was caught stealing, and both he and Zimmerman were picked off.

Game three of the series was a legitimate Bravos victory, to be sure, but that’s to be expected in any series against a quality team, which the Braves certainly are. The Braves outhit and outplayed the Nationals in that game, but that wasn’t true for the first game — or the second.

The Braves’ bullpen (with the possible exception of Craig Kimbrel), is not some unhittable juggernaut — as was clear last night in Philadelphia. The Nats chewed up starters Julio Teheran for 10 hits and 5 runs and Alex Wood for 6 hits and one run – and generated nine hits and three runs in the first two face-offs against relievers Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and Anthony Varvaro.

Early as the season is, there are still plenty of reasons for confidence. Harper has gotten comfortable at the plate again, banging out six hits over the course of the series. New acquisitions Kevin Frandsen and Nate McLouth and Nats veteran Danny Espinosa have shown themselves to be solid bench players.

The Nats are snake-bit against the Braves, for sure. Snake bit? That just means that, for whatever reason, they’ve played poorly against them. That won’t last. The next time the Nats face the Braves (a four game set in mid-June), Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, and Ryan Zimmerman should be off the disabled list — and the team will be out to prove that April was a fluke. And there will have been plenty of games (both easy and tough) for the boys in the field to learn each others ticks.

Then too, Nats manager Matt Williams may have even settled on a lineup by then.

Nats Fall Again To Braves; Zimmerman Out 4-6 Weeks

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

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What a difference 48 hours can make. Just two days ago, the Nationals had just swept the Marlins, were sitting atop the National League East and seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. Now, just two days later, the team is struggling against the division rival Atlanta Braves and — in response to mounting injuries — new skipper Matt Williams is shifting his players from position to position.

Those troubles seemed particularly in evidence on Saturday night, as the Nationals dropped yet another game to the Atlanta Braves, 6-3 and Ryan Zimmerman, the team’s third base stalwart, team leader and big middle-of-the-order bat fractured his right thumb during a pick-off play in the fifth inning. Zimmerman will be lost from four to six weeks.

The Zimmerman injury eclipsed Washington’s loss, which was fueled by starter Taylor Jordan’s inability to subdue a powerful Braves’ line-up. Atlanta put four runs on the board in the first inning on a B.J Upton homer, a Justin Upton double and timely hitting from Dan Uggla and Evan Gattis.

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“I wasn’t hitting my spots, and they capitalized on that. It was a very tough first inning,” Jordan said following the loss. “By the third inning, I started to get my slider back, and it was working for me a little bit,” he then added.

The Nationals gamely fought back, but squandered numerous scoring opportunities, leaving 11 on base for the game. The Nationals, who dominated division rivals New York and Miami, couldn’t capitalize against the Braves and were a pathetic 1-16 with runners in scoring position.

Already hit by injuries to Denard Span and Jayson Werth (Span was placed on the 7-day disabled list with “concussion like” symptoms, Werth is day-to-day with a nagging groin), the team will now feature an infield with Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinosa at second.

“It is what it is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” manager Matt Williams said following the announcement that the team had lost Zimmerman. “You’ve got to play.” The Nationals have recalled infielder Zach Walters from Triple-A Syracuse for added bench depth and to (presumably) spell Espinosa at second.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The early take on the new MLB rules on umpire reviews has been mostly positive, until recently. Matt Williams was frustrated by an interminable review of a bang-bang play at first base involving Nate McLouth during the second inning on Saturday, which went against the Nationals . . .

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Nats-Braves Claw Their Way Through 10

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves scratched and clawed their way through another bitterly fought contest, with the Bravos eventually coming away with a 7-6 10th inning win on a Justin Upton single. The game was another one run contest, which is becoming the new standard in the growing Nats-Braves rivalry.

Atlanta was first on the board, plating four runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning against Washington starter Tanner Roark. Despite the early score, Roark settled into the game, pitching into the fifth inning and allowing his teammates to fight their way back into the game — scoring one run in the 4th inning and three in the 5th, courtesy of a Ryan Zimmerman home run.

“I felt great out there,” Roark said following the tough loss. “I just didn’t really have the command of my pitches that I wanted.” Indeed, Roark had trouble finding the strike zone, plunking Justin Upton, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman with pitches.

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The teams traded runs after the 4-4 tie, with Atlanta scoring one in the bottom of the 5th and the Nationals responding in the top of the next frame. “The guys continued to fight back. It’s a really good sign,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said following the loss. “It didn’t come out our way tonight, but they got back in it with the lead. We’ll take our chances with that every day.”

The Nationals, who are becoming known for their ability to launch late inning comebacks, were helped by solid performances from the middle of their order. Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper were a combined 7-13, with Zimmerman accounting for half of the Nationals runs.

The Nationals led 6-5 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, but reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to Justin Upton, the Nationals new nemesis. The Braves then brought on closer Craig Kimbrel — perhaps the best closer in the majors. Kimbrel set down the Nats in the top of the 9th, striking out Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

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