Archive for the ‘pittsburgh pirates’ Category

April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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Monday was home run day in Major League Baseball. In Miami, on their way to a 9-2 crushing of the wayward Miami Marlins (the fish have now lost eight in a row), Washington’s Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon hit dingers (it was Leon’s first ever), while the Marlins got their second run on a moon shot from Garrett Jones.

In Anaheim, where the A’s played the Belinskis, John Jaso’s pinch hit home run topped the Halos, but only after Albert Pujols put his 496th career round tripper into the Anaheim stratosphere. That was the second game of ESPN’s nightly offering, which led off with a head-shaking match-up between the Braves and Phillies.

The Braves-Phillies tilt was nearly unwatchable until the 8th inning, when Dominic Brown’s three run blast sent Philadelphia to what seemed an unlikely late-inning victory. That was not the story, as it turned out: Atlanta had scored its runs on back-to-back-to-back skyballs in the previous frame, courtesy of Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, then went on to beat the Ponies in the 9th, when Dan Uggla homered.

Even then (with Washington, Miami, Oakland, Anaheim, Atlanta and Philadelphia all going long), April’s most impressive home run derby took place in Cincinnati, where the stinking Reds and mighty Pirates put ten (count ‘em) ten balls over the fence. It was a sight to behold: Pittsburgh had three sets of back-to-back home runs, while Cincinnati hit four solo shots. Pittsburgh’s Gaby Sanchez hit two, as did Neil Walker.

Ironically, while home runs played vital roles in all of these match-ups, the Cincinnati derby (at the Great American Bandbox, so there’s that) counted for nothing, with the game suspended in the 7th inning due to rain. Don’t think it was impressive? Take a look at this:

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So? So what the hell is going on? Right here would be a good time for some statistical analysis, reputedly showing that April 14 was a “statistical anomaly” — an argument any old wag could make except that nearly every game in baesball (or so it seems) provides some kind of “statistical anomaly.”

Last year at about this time, baseball writers were going on about how 2013 was the “year of the pitcher” (when I was younger, the year of the pitcher was 1968). By June of last year, it was official, with analysts pointing out that over a period of five years the majors had seen 18 no hitters and six perfect games.

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Nats Swept In Atlanta

Monday, April 14th, 2014

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Repeat after me: “It’s still early, it’s still early, it’s still early.” And that’s a mighty good thing, because if this was September, with the N.L. East a dogfight between its two best teams (Atlanta and Washington), the Nationals would be in deep trouble.

Just days after rolling out of Washington with a series sweep against Miami under their belts, the Nationals are now departing Atlanta feeling as the Marlins must have felt. Yesterday’s loss, a 10-2 whupping at the hands of the Braves, only emphasized the Nationals problems — in the three game series the team was outscored (23-11), outhit (33-31) and (well) outplayed.

Sunday’s matinee only highlighted Washington’s problems, which seem to be magnified against their division rival. Ace Gio Gonzalez lasted six innings, but was hit hard, giving up six runs on nine hits over six innings. The middle of the Braves line-up seemed to play with Washington: B.J. Upton was 2-5, Freddie Freeman was 2-3, Justin Upton was 2-3 and Andrelton Simmons was 2-5.

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Worse yet, Washington’s hitters couldn’t seem to touch Atlanta starter Aaron Harang, the 35-year-old well traveled righty who Atlanta fans doubted could fit into a rotation that the Braves front office vowed would get younger year-by-year. It was Harang, and not Gonzalez, who ended up on top, with Harang throwing six innings of five hit ball and taming a suddenly anemic Washington line-up.

“The Braves have the Nationals’ number,” Baseball Tonight’s Karl Ravech said during last night’s broadcast. The numbers seem to prove it. Yesterday’s 10-2 pasting was Atlanta’s 18th win in its last 25 match-up against the Nationals, and its fifth win this season in six meetings.

“It’s going to happen sometimes, but what we can’t do is get out of ourselves,” manager Matt Williams said following the loss. “We can’t allow anything to take us out of our game. It didn’t work for us this weekend. We have another one tomorrow against the Marlins. We have to concentrate on that one.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: That long deep sigh you hear comes to you all the way from the North Side of Chicago, where the Cubbies have started the season with a 4-8 record. The most recent example of North Side futility came yesterday, against the Cardinals, when Chicago pitching was victimized by 11 Cardinal hits and a snappy 6.1 innings from starter Michael Wacha . . .

Baseball’s punditocracy has written off the Cubs for 2014, saying the team is headed for 90 losses — at least. But there’s light at the end of Chicago’s endless tunnel, faint though it may be. Chicago has a keeper in first sacker Anthony Rizzo (who’s hitting .319 on the young season), and has a farm system stacked with talent, including third sacker Kris Bryant, center fielder Albert Almora and shortstop uber prospect Javier Baez . . .

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Nats Bats, Gio Mash The Apples

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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Washington stroked thirteen hits, including four from Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez notched his first win of the season as the Nationals downed the Mets at Citi Field, 5-1. Gio Gonzalez also contributed a home run, his third of his career, in the top of the 5th inning.

Manager Matt Williams worried about a letdown after the Nationals took the opener on Tuesday, but the home towners seemed primed from their opening win. “They were ready to go today,” Williams said after the victory, “which was great.” The victory came off of Mets starter, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who gave up nine hits and three runs in six innings.

Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez, on the other hand, looked in mid-season form. Battling against an ump with a low strike zone (and showing frustration with some of the calls), Gonzalez successfully eluded some tough innings, helped by some slick fielding — which included a Bryce Harper throw from left field that nabbed a spring Ruben Tejada in the bottom of the 6th.

“The things he can do with that arm are pretty special,” Ian Desmond said of the Harper throw. “Your instincts tell you what a normal outfielder can do, not one with a Bazooka.”

Washington youngster Tanner Roark will wrap up the New York series for the Nationals at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon — after which the Nationals will play their home opener on Friday versus Atlanta.

 

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Let us now praise Kyle Farnsworth. Nats’ fans are familiar with the big (6-4, 230 pounds) righty, who broke into the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 1999 and has since served stints with Pittsburgh, Kansas City, the Yanks, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and (as we saw last night) the New York Stinking Mets . . .

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The Nats Head Home After An 86-76 Season

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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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.

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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 . . .

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Werth, Strasburg Skin The Snakes

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

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Stephen Strasburg pitched seven solid innings and Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each hit three run home runs, and the Washington Nationals easily downed the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night, 8-4. The victory capped the first of a three game series, with two games remaining in the Nats’ season.

Strasburg, who is one of the ERA leaders in the National League (at a snappy 3.00), notched only his eighth victory on the year, throwing 101 pitches, 63 of them for strikes. Strasburg was undoubtedly disappointed with his 2013 win total, but Nats’ manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that the young righty didn’t always enjoy good run support from his teammates.

“We didn’t score many runs for him,” Johnson confirmed following the victory. “A bunch of times, we didn’t score any runs, one run or two runs when he was starting. His numbers indicated he should have won 15 ballgames, at least. He was certainly consistent all year long.”

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Despite the 8-9 campaign, Strasburg is 3-0 in his last three starts. “I think physically I held up pretty well,” he said following last night’ victory. “I think one thing I learned is sometimes less is more. I like to work really hard and when you reach a point in September you’ve really got to back things off or it’s going to be counterproductive.”

The Nats powered Strasburg to victory on home runs from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. The Werth home run came in the top of the fifth with Anthony Rendon and Jeff Kobernus on base, while the Ramos home run came in the top of the 8th with Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond on base.

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Two “Must Wins” Yield A Single Victory

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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The Nationals split a “must win” day-night doubleheader with the Miami Marlins in their last home games of 2013, which all but knocked them out of the running for the last Wild Card spot in the National League. While not mathematically eliminated from the post season, the Nationals now trail Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by five games with six to play.

Trailing by 4-2 with just six outs to go in their first game against Miami, the Nationals could not mount a comeback, despite the urgings of a crowd of 35,000-plus. The Nationals, behind starter Dan Haren, were victimized by Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s most potent long ball hitter (who hit his 24th on the season), and 21-year-old rookie Christian Yelich, who hit his fourth.

Managing the Nationals in his last home game, skipper Davey Johnson provided a blunt assessment after the Marlins 4-2 afternoon victory. “This one hurt,” he said. Third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, while not conceding the end of the season, was just as blunt:  “I’m not good at math, but I’m good enough to know that losing makes it tougher,” he said.

The team honored Johnson before the opening of the first game, including scoreboard tributes from Nationals’ players. Johnson, who steers clear of such emotional tributes was, nevertheless, gracious in his post-game comments. “The players coming out and guys talking about me, that was moving. I feel for them greatly,” he said. “To get something like that coming back makes you happy and sad at the same time.”

Haren, on the other hand, focused on the Nats’ future, hinting that he’d like to be a part of it. “I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them,” he said in post-game comments, “but I think the most important thing is to keep this group together. This could be a building block.”

Haren, who was lifted after the 6th inning of the first game after giving up three runs on eight hits, finished the season with nine wins and 14 losses and a 4.87 ERA. His problem all season has been giving up the long ball to opposition hitters, a problem on full display on Sunday. Haren has given up 28 home runs this season, second worst in the league.

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The Nationals bounced back from their afternoon loss with an exciting win in the nightcap, mounting a ninth inning surge that culminated in a walk-off ground ball off the bat of Wilson Ramos that was misplayed by Marlins’ third baseman Chris Coghlan. The grounder scored pinch runner Eury Perez from third, giving the Nationals a 5-4 victory.

The walk-off finished off a back-and-forth game that saw the Marlins knot up the game at four with a single run in the top of the 8th inning. But the Nationals responded in the ninth with a lead-off double from Jayson Werth, who was then brought into the dugout by Johnson to a standing ovation from Nationals’ fans.

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Nats Feast On The Fish

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

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Jordan Zimmerman was electric on Friday night, holding the Marlins to just two hits in throwing an 8-0 complete game shutout of Miami, his second complete game shutout of the year. The Ace of Auburndale now has 19 wins in the 2013 campaign as the Nationals attempt to catch Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card slot.

“It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever had up here,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “The bullpen before the game wasn’t that good, and I thought it might be a long game. But as soon as I stepped out there and the first inning went on, I knew I had some pretty good stuff.”

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were unable to gain on Cincinnati, who notched an improbable 10th inning come-from-behind 6-5 victory against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. “We’re not mathematically out of it yet,” Zimmermann said after pitching his gem. “So we’ve got to keep fighting until the end, and hopefully one of these other two teams tank.”

Zimmermann’s 19th win came with nine strikeouts and only one walk. He had a no hitter going into the sixth inning and threw 79 strikes on 107 pitches. Nats hitters, meanwhile, scorched Miami pitchers with eleven hits, scoring seven runs in the sixth inning: one of the few “laughers” the team has had this year.

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Denard Span began the Nationals’ sixth inning rally with a single to right, followed by a Ryan Zimmerman single and doubles from Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. The first out of the inning came on an Ian Desmond ground out, but Miami starter Jacob Turner then walked Adam LaRoche.

Replacing Turner with reliever Chris Hatcher, however, did not stem the Nationals’ tide. Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon victimized Hatcher with successive singles, adding two runs to the two that had already been scored. A Jordan Zimmermann bunt notched the second out of the inning, but then Denard Span followed with a bases clearing triple.

The Washington sixth continued the Nats’ hot hitting in September, with Span and Werth both scoring two RBIs on the night, with four hitters (Span, Desmond, Ramos and Rendon) each accounting for two hits. The Nationals have outscored Miami 11-2 in two games.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals’ 8-0 scrubbing of the Marlins on Friday night marked their fifteenth win of September against only four losses. But to get into the post-season Washington will not only have to win-out in their last eight games, they will have to depend on Cincinnati or Pittsburgh to go into a tailspin . . .

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