Archive for the ‘pittsburgh pirates’ Category

Marlins Hook The Nats, 3-0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Henderson Alvarez pitched seven complete innings and Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and drove in two runs as the Miami Marlins shut out the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, 3-0. The victory was Miami’s sixth in a row and narrowed the gap separating them from first place in the National League East.

Alvarez showed why he’s one of Miami’s premier starters, particularly at home. Alvarez allowed just three hits while striking out four, outdueling Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg matched Alvarez’s numbers, also allowing just four hits. The Washington righty also struck out four Marlins.

The Nationals had plenty of scoring opportunities against Alvarez, but couldn’t find a way to get their runners across the plate. The Nats had the bases loaded in the second inning with no outs, but failed to score, and then had Anthony Rendon on third and Bryce Harper on first in the fifth but couldn’t push a run across.

Alvarez admitted that he struggled in the early going, before finding his command. “I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” Alvarez said of his performance. “When the bases loaded with nobody out, I started to find my control of my pitches and of the game.”

After showing a solid ability to push runners across the plate earlier in the current road trip, the Nationals reclaimed their inability to score with runners on base. Washington left 26 on base last night, threatening Miami’s lead in the last of the 9th, when they again failed to score with the bases loaded.

The game also marked a revival for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game at zero for his last nine at bats. But Stanton certainly looked good against the Nationals, lacing a double to left against Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th, scoring Jordany Valdespin.

“I haven’t felt good for a while now,” Stanton said after last night’s victory. “I did a little setup pregame. Hopefully I’m feeling better and more comfortable at the plate. Today was a good plus to that.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the hunt for starting pitchers, with both teams inquiring about Boston’s Jon Lester, who’s a free agent after the season. The Redbirds have kicked the tires on nearly everyone who’s even remotely available, according to baseball analysts . . .

The once-upon-a-time pitching rich Cardinals are mired right in the middle of the pack with their staff, at least statistically, with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia sidelined with arm issues. Wacha has a tweaky shoulder while Garcia is out for the duration with nerve problems in his pitching arm . . .

The loss of Wacha and Garcia have not sent the Cardinals into a tailspin, but St. Louis will need to bolster its pitching to have a shot at another world title. Everyone is in play: the Redbirds have scouted Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.j. Burnett of the Phillies, Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, in addition to Lester . . .

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Werth Walk Off Wins It For The Nats

Monday, July 21st, 2014

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Jayson Werth’s ninth inning walk off double provided Washington with a dramatic 5-4 win over the Brewers at Nationals Park on Sunday, keeping the Nationals in first place in the National League East. The victory came after Milwaukee tied the contest in the top of the 9th on a Rickie Weeks single.

Werth’s walk-off brought the crowd of 36,000-plus to their feet in appreciation for the Washington right fielder. “That’s what it’s all about, right? It’s why we do this,” Werth said of his hit after the game. “If you find yourself in that situation and you don’t want to be there, I think you’re in the wrong line of work.”

But it wasn’t just Werth who was tough at the plate. The Nationals scalded twelve hits in the victory, including two hit days apiece from Denard Span, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman notched his fourth home run of the season in the 4th inning against Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo.

The Nationals’ victory sealed a series win against the Brewers, after a back-and-forth game that saw both teams fighting for the victory. The win helped retrieve a shaky start for Washington southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who gave up three runs in just 3.1 innings. But the Nationals bullpen picked up the slack, hurling 5.2 innings of one run baseball.

The Brewers hit Gonzalez hard, with Milwaukee’s usual suspects of Jonathan Lucroy and Khris Davis notching key RBIs. “It’s one of those games where you have to brush under the rug,” Gonzalez said of his less than stellar outing. “Nine days off, it didn’t help. Obviously, my command and fastball location wasn’t where I wanted it to be.”

This was a tough loss for the Brewers, who continue to make mental mistakes in close games. In the bottom of the 9th, with Washington’s Rendon headed towards home, outfielder Khris Davis overthrew the cutoff man, Jean Segura, allowing the Nationals to walk off. The play left Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke fuming.

“If he hits the cutoff man, he’s out,” Roenicke said of the play. “And there should be somebody behind ‘Seggy,’ too, so if you overthrow him, there’s a second guy there.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The pressure seems to be getting to Milwaukee, who once upon a time seemed to be running away with the National League Central. But no more: Prior to the All Star break the Crew lost a crucial series in Cincinnati, dropped four in a row to the Phillies and lost a series against the Cardinals . . .

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is ripped. “You know, I don’t care about ‘the stretch’ and what happened before,” Roenicke angrily told the press after yesterday’s loss. “We’re playing a game now. I don’t care what happened in the past. We know where we are. We’re here to win games today. That’s all we’re worried about . . .”

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have been winning (despite their loss to the Dodgers last night) and are a workmanlike 9-6 in July. And the Reds are back from the dead, even though they were swept most recently by the Yankees. Then too, playing .500 ball might just be enough to win the suddenly weak National League Central . . .

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Nats Outhit The Crew, But Fall 4-2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals proved that Milwaukee Brewers righty Kyle Lohse is very hittable, spraying ten hits in seven innings against him at Nationals Park on Friday night. But it was Lohse who had the last word, working out of threat after threat in delivering the Brewers a surprising 4-2 victory.

All of Lohse’s acrobatics came with two outs, as Washington failed to move runners off the bases — a habit that has victimized the D.C. Nine all season.

In all, Lohse pitched out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings. Of course, the Nationals could rightly claim that it was their lack of hitting with runners on base (and not Lohse’s pitching) that was the problem: The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

Lohse was able to joke about his on-base troubles, and his win, after the victory. “I think it was five out of seven innings that got led off with a hit,” he told reporters in the Brewers’ clubhouse. “I was thinking about starting off innings out of the stretch, but I didn’t want to let everybody know I was aware of it.”

The Nationals were hardly anemic at the plate. Denard Span was 3-4 on the night, Ryan Zimmerman was 2-4 (and stroked his 19th double) and Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

Lohse faced off against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in seven innings while striking out nine. But unlike Lohse, Strasburg was victimized by two round trippers (off the bats of second sacker Scooter Gennett and outfielder Khris Davis) and a Brewers’ offense that capitalized on their scoring opportunities.

“With Stras as a fastball pitcher, they are a home run-hitting club. That’s going to happen sometimes,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams noted following the loss. “If you are going to hit a home run, you want it to be a solo home run.”

But the difference in the game was not the long ball, but a bloop single off the bat of Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third inning. With Gennett and Ryan Braun on base, Ramirez hit a blooper just inside the right field line that scored both runners. The hit was the difference in the game.

The good news for the Nationals was that Bryce Harper seems to be on track after being sidelined for a good portion of the season, and struggling at the plate since his return. Armed with a new and more upright batting stance, the Nationals young left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, his third of the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals were losing at home against Milwaukee, Atlanta was winning at home against Philadelphia. The Braves 6-4 victory was their third in a row and put them a single game ahead of Washington in the National League East . . .

The Bravos celebrated the All Star break by making an uncomfortable roster move, releasing second sacker Dan Uggla who had struggled at the plate during the 2013 campaign, then repeated that performance again this year. Uggla has hit just .175 since the beginning of last season and without the power that greeted his arrival in Atlanta in the 2010 off season . . .

You really have to wonder what happened to Uggla’s power stroke. While the former Marlin could never hit for average, his penchant for hitting high and long drives into the upper deck made him a nemesis in the N.L. East. Uggla hit thirty or more home runs five seasons in a row, including 36 in 2011 . . .

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Gio, LaRoche Key Nats 3-0 Win Against The Crew

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

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Gio Gonzalez was anxious to fit back into the rotation, particularly after his first start since returning from the disabled list proved so unsatisfying. But on Monday night in Milwaukee Gonzalez seemed to fit right in, hurling six innings of three hit baseball in leading the Nationals to a 3-0 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.

“It was one of those nights where I needed to bounce back,” Gonzalez said following the victory. “I was just proud to see these guys compete and give me a chance to be part of this rotation. Being the odd man out right now, you want to be 100 percent at their level. Seeing the way these guys are throwing the ball, you want to make sure you don’t fall behind.”

Gonzalez admitted after the game that he did not have his best stuff. But he was able to befuddle Brewers’ hitters by ample use of his change-up, which was particularly effective in a difficult bases loaded jam in the bottom of the third. “He was working with changeups,” Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez noted. “We didn’t expect him to be working with changeups. It was a really good pitch for him. He threw the ball well, so we have to give the credit.”

The Nationals stroked seven hits against Milwaukee pitching, five of them against Brewers’ starter Matt Garza. But the big hit in the game came off the bat of Adam LaRoche in the third inning, when the first sacker took a Garza slider deep to center field to give the Nats the only runs they would need. The blast scored Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth.

“In that spot, you’re really just trying to hit something hard and hit something in the air. It just happened to go out of the park,” LaRoche said of his at-bat. “It was one of the few mistakes he [Garza] made.”

The game was not without its controversy. When Danny Espinosa was called out looking at an out-of-the-zone ball in the top of the 2nd, Nationals’ skipper Matt Williams argued the call with umpire Mark Wegner — and was thrown out of the game. Randy Knorr then took over managing the team the rest of the way. This was the first time this season that the normally fiery Williams was tossed.

Once again the Washington bullpen showed why it’s the best in the majors. Aaron Barrett, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard were flawless in three innings of work, with Clippard striking out the side in the 9th inning to notch his first save in nearly two years.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Everyone in Milwaukee is yakking about the year that Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy is having at the plate, a line (.331, .397, .520) that puts him in the running for a slot on the National League All Star team. He’s one of the reasons that the Brewers are the surprise team in the N.L. Central . . .

But Lucroy is just one of Milwaukee’s bashers, with a line-up filled with fleet-footed slick fielding singles hitters (like Jean Segura, who scored from first on a wild pitch this last weekend), supplemented by dueling long ball artists (Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez) and swing-and-miss or hit-em-long bombers, like the much-traveled Mark Reynolds . . .

But our favorite Brewer (though, we admit, the bar is low) is Aramis Ramirez, the Crew’s underrated third baseman. Injured most of last year, the Younts limped home in fourth place, fourteen games under .500. But the year before, with Ramirez’s fifty doubles in the line-up (he led the league), the Brewers made a stab at the Central Division flag . . .

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Is Clayton Kershaw The New Sandy Koufax?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

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The big news in baseball on Wednesday was the gem spun up by Dodger southpaw Clayton Kershaw, who no-hit the Colorado Rockies at Dodgers’ Stadium. Baseball analyst Jeff Passan commented that Kershaw’s line was reminiscent of the perfect game posted by Sandy Koufax in September of 1965.

That’s a fine, but still inexact, comparison. People keep matching Kershaw to Koufax, but we can’t possibly know if the still-young Dodger will have the same kind of career. Kershaw’s first years have been stellar, but Koufax’s career was remarkable. Then too, Koufax was a knee-buckling fastball-curveball pitcher, while Kershaw’s truly great pitch is his stomach churning slider.

The lefty’s match-up last night against Brandon Barnes (just as a for instance), was quintessential Kershaw, who threw Barnes three pitches — all strikes: A 93 mph four seam fastball, followed by two sliders, one at 85 and one at 87 mph. The fastball set up the sliders, but it was the sliders that mattered. Barnes didn’t have a prayer.

So far as we can tell, the real difference between Koufax and Kershaw (outside of the fact that Kershaw, for all his brilliance, has only pitched in the majors for seven years) is that hitters swung over the top Koufax’s curve (with their asses bailing into the dugout) while it dove down, while hitters swing over the top of Kershaw’s slider as it dives down and in . . .

Passan also called the game “the no-hitter we knew was coming.” That sounds exactly right: Kershaw’s stuff has always been “electric” (as they say), with the southpaw throwing a mix of fastballs and sliders in retiring 28 Colorado hitters, while striking out fifteen of them. That’s one more than Koufax whiffed in his 1965 no-no.

The Koufax perfect game remains an MLB classic, and one of the greatest games ever pitched by anybody, but in part because the Cubs very forgettable Bob Hendley was tossing a one hitter at the same time. And lost.

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A Lousy 7th Dooms The Nats

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

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A lead off home run from Matt Adams and a rare breakdown in the Nationals bullpen spelled the difference between victory and defeat on Saturday, as Washington dropped its second straight game to St. Louis, 4-1. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg paid the price for the team’s poor showing in the 7th inning, after throwing what looked to be his standard starting gem.

The 7th was the difference. After Matt Adams led off the inning with a home run, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead, St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay singled — which marked the end of Strasburg’s night after a solid 95 pitching outing. With reliever Jerry Blevins on the mound, Jose Lobaton allowed a passed ball and Blevins walked Matt Carpenter.

Even with men on first and second, Washington might well have survived the St. Louis surge. But usually lights-out reliever Drew Storen then hit second sacker Mark Ellis and (with the bases loaded), Storen walked Matt Holliday, which scored a  St. Louis run, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. An Allen Craig single then plated the third run of the inning, giving St. Louis the 4-1 victory.

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“The ball slipped out of his [Storen's] hand on a curveball and then he hit him and then he kind of got all over the place,” manager Matt Williams said of his reliever’s outing. “We got out of the inning, but the damage was done at that point. They’ve been good. The bullpen’s been very good. It’s going to have a hiccup every once in a while.”

While the 7th inning was the talk of both clubhouses after the Nationals defeat, Washington’s inability to hit St. Louis pitching was a major subtext of the series. The Nationals banged out a measly four hits against St. Louis pitching on Saturday and were unable to get to St. Louis starter Shelby Miller.

Miller, a first round pick of St. Louis in 2009 — the year that Strasburg was the MLB player draft’s first overall pick (and Storen was ninth) — struck out seven Nationals hitters in sealing the St. Louis win. “What can you say?” Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton acknowledged after the defeat. “They’ve been throwing good and today was one of those days.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Saturday was a tough day for the National League East. The Nationals, Braves, Mets and Marlins were all losers, with the Phillies the only team to come away with a win . . .

The Braves were defeated 11-6 in 13 innings in Atlanta, with the Halos scoring five runs in the top of the 13th inning on a bases loaded single from Kole Calhoun. The Braves deflating loss (after their 4-3 win against the Belinskys on Friday) kept the Nationals in a tie with Atlanta atop the division . . .

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The Best Outfield In Baseball — Arrives

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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You can actually feel the electricity in Pittsburgh. The Pirates (who lost A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Garrett Jones this off-season), are one game under .500 and 6.5 games back in the N.L. Central. But, recently, they’ve been finding ways to win (they took three of four from the Scrubs), with their victory against the Marlins last night serving as Exhibit A.

The Pirates cruised into the 9th inning versus The Fish with a sassy 6-2 lead, courtesy of a strong pitching performance from Jeff Locke, the slow-to-develop former Braves prospect who was 10-7 last year. Then the Pirates, behind three relievers, proceeded to walk six of ten hitters (one intentionally) and (just-like-that) the game was tied.

We’d say that this was a typical Pirates meltdown, but there was nothing typical about it. The Pirates bullpen was among the best in baseball last year, and is still ranked seventh overall for 2014 and the Marlins, a group of free-swingers, are not known for being patient at the plate.

Pittsburgh’s solution? “You rip off the rearview mirror and keep playing” — a that’s-the-way-it-goes shrug from Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

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Which is exactly what the Buccos did. With the scored tied 6-6 going into the 10th, the Pirates called on Jeanmar Gomez to tame Miami’s bats. Gomez, a fastball-slider specialist, did just that, throwing four innings of one hit baseball to keep the Pirates in the game.

Finally, in the 13th inning, Pittsburgh’s hitters showed up. It was bound to happen. The Pirates are the owners of the National League’s second highest on base percentage and legendary for moving runners station-to-station (as they say). But the key for the Pirates, at least last night, was a long ball powered by Gregory Polanco — Pittsburgh’s next big thing.

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