Archive for the ‘predictions’ Category

It’s Nats-Giants In NLDS

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night, 8-0, propelling San Francisco into the National League Division Series, where they will face the Washington Nationals. Bumgarner threw a complete game four hitter in leading the Giants.

The Giants’ win came off the arm of Bumgarner, and the bats of shortstop Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. Crawford hit a grand slam home run in the fourth inning to give San Francisco a four run lead, while Belt chipped away at Pirates pitching with two hits and three RBIs.

“We got outplayed tonight,” Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker said after his team was eliminated from the post season. “Bumgarner went out there, he did what he wanted to do. He put up the strike zone and he made it tough on us.”

The Giants victimized Pittsburgh starter Edinson Volquez, who was rocked for five runs in just five innings of work. The Pirates followed with five relievers, but Pittsburgh’s hitters still couldn’t get to Bumgarner, who threw 109 pitches in the game, 79 of them for strikes.

The Giants win sets up a five game series with the Nationals in Washington. The Nats are expected to throw ace Stephen Strasburg in the opening game of the series on Friday, while the Giants will throw veteran Jake Peavy and follow with another veteran, Tim Hudson. The Nationals took five of the seven games in which they faced the Giants this year.

While Washington has yet to make its final roster and starting rotation decisions, the team is expected to follow Strasburg with Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister. Gio Gonzalez will be the sole Washington lefty starter should Washington need him. The first game of the series will be played at 3 pm on Friday at Nationals Park.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Washington’s Internet Baseball Writers Association announced their 2014 player awards on Wednesday, and CFG was one of the voters. Anthony Rendon took top honors among the voters in winning the Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player Award while Jordan Zimmermann was named the winner of the Walter Johnson starting pitcher award . . .

Centerfield Gate was outside this mainstream: we voted Denard Span the team MVP and Doug Fister the team’s best starting pitcher (this was before we saw Zimmermman’s no-hitter, which might have changed our vote). Drew Storen received the best reliever award, while Adam LaRoche was named the teams best slugger . . .

It’s worth reviewing the season’s final player stats — to show just how solid the Nationals were in the regular season. Washington’s Span led the the N.L. in hits (tied with Philadelphia’s Ben Revere), Anthony Rendon was fifth and Jayson Werth was in the top 30 . . .

Anthony Rendon led the league in runs scored (with 111), while Werth was third in OBP (.394). Rendon and Span were fourth in doubles, Adam LaRoche was fifth in RBIs and Span was fifth in stolen bases. It was a solid year for the team at the plate (fifth in BA, fourth in OBP, fifth in Slugging, fourth in OPS) . . .

But no one outshone the Nationals on the mound, where Washington finished first in team ERA, was second in the league in shutouts (behind the Dodgers) and gave up fewer walks than anyone. Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann finished in the top ten in ERA, while Stephen Strasburg finished tied with Johnny Cueto for the league lead in strikeouts . . .

The Nationals had the second best bullpen in the National League (just behind San Diego, and measured by bullpen ERA), and has to be accounted as having one of the best benches. The Nats weighed in with the best record in the National League, at 96-66. But the most important test yet remains, and it begins tomorrow — against the Giants . . .

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Let’s Play The . . . Giants

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

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Somewhere here soon, and actually any minute now, Nats skipper Matt Williams will tell the Washington sports press that he doesn’t care whether the Nationals face the Pirates (and, well, perhaps the Cardinals) or the Giants in the playoffs — “they’re both good teams.” That’s fine for Matt, but the rest of us should have a decided preference: Let’s play the Giants.

It’s not that we don’t like the Pirates (we love them, and if the Nats weren’t in the playoffs . . .), it’s that of the two teams that the Nats are likely to face in the playoffs first round, the Giants are (arguably) the easier opponent. They’ve had an inconsistent September (swept by the Padres and dumped by the Dodgers) and, with the exception of Madison Bumgarner (and Jake Peavy) their pitching is a mess.

The Giants know it. Having backed into the playoffs, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is now juggling his starting staff to make certain San Francisco puts Bumgarner on the mound on Wild Card Wednesday, no matter who the Giants face. Which means that, if the Giants were to win, the Nationals would face either Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy or Tim Hudson in the first game of the N.L. Division series — while Bumgarner sits.

San Francisco will enter the playoffs with the worst pitching stats of any of the five N.L finishers, with a so-so team ERA (at 3.52), a habit of giving up big runs to small teams and a back of the rotation that has been absolutely shelled.

The Giants lost to the Padres 4-1 last night at home, but gave up eight runs to them on Thursday, in a game the franchise said it had to win. Earlier in the month, the McCoveys were outscored by the Friars in a three game set, 16-2.

But our argument doesn’t have as much to do with the Giants as it does with the Pirates. Pittsburgh is red hot (they’ve won nine of their last eleven), their line-up is that much more formidable and their starting rotation is tougher than San Francisco’s. Pittsburgh is the N.L.’s big secret: they can hit, they can pitch, they’re patient at the plate and they’re fast.

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Nats Keep Rolling, Edge Miami 3-2

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

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Sloppy play and a slow start weren’t enough to deny the Nationals their 90th win of the season, or starter Jordan Zimmermann his 13th, as Washington rallied to edge the Marlins in Miami on Saturday night, 3-2. The win, coupled with a Dodgers loss against the Cubs, lifted the Nats 2.5 games ahead of Los Angeles for the best record in the National League.

Starter Zimmermann was once again the ace of the game, throwing six innings of five hit baseball while striking out four. The victory for Zimmermann marked the Nationals tenth consecutive win with “the Ace of Auburndale” on the mound. Zimmermann soldiered on after taking a pitch off his shoulder in the sixth inning — a dangerous line drive that threw ripples of fear through the Nats dugout.

“It happened so fast,” Zimmermann said, after the Nationals victory. “I saw the ball coming and thought that it was stopped. I just tried turning and lift my shoulder. I was lucky enough that it hit my shoulder and not my face. It’s a little sore, pretty tight right now but it will be fine. It’s not going to affect me.”

The victory also marked the return of third sacker (and, now, left fielder) Ryan Zimmerman, who had missed 55 games, to the line-up. Zimmerman’s contribution was immediate. The “face of the franchise” was 2-3 on the night, with a single (in his first at bat in the second inning), and a triple in the 7th that scored Ian Desmond. “It was fun to be out there and be part of the team and be out with the guys in a really good win,” Zimmerman said.

Miami scored a single run in the first inning on four hits, including an RBI single from rookie Justin Bour. The Marlins scored their second run in the fourth, after Reed Johnson led off with a double to center field. Denard Span retrieved the ball off the wall, but overthrew cutoff man Asdrubal Cabrera. Backing up the play, Jordan Zimmermann overthrew Anthony Rendon at third, which allowed Johnson to score.

“I knew I overthrew the first cutoff guy, but I thought the ball was gonna get caught,” Denard Span said of the unusual two error play. “I turned my head and all of a sudden I heard the crowd roaring. I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ Next thing you know, he was rounding third.”

All of Washington’s runs were scored during a 7th inning rally that began with an Ian Desmond single. Desmond then scored on a Ryan Zimmerman triple, with Zimmerman then ruled out at home on a Wilson Ramos fielder’s choice. But second sacker Asdrubal Cabrera kept the inning going with a triple that scored Ramos. Cabrera, in turn, scored on a Denard Span single.

The three run 7th inning held up, with the Nationals bullpen closing out the game. Aaron Barrett and Tyler Clippard closed down Miami in the 7th and 8th innings, with Drew Storen keeping the Marlins off the board in the 9th (with the help of a game ending double play), notching his ninth save.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Braves season was still alive last week, but their skid just goes on and on. Last night the Braves were upended in Atlanta by the suddenly dangerous Metropolitans, who shut out the Tomahawks, 2-0. Atlanta is 4-13 in the month of September. Which means that the Braves “tragic number” is two: if they lose today, and the Pirates win, the Braves will be out of the post-season . . .

“I thought we had good at-bats up and down the lineup,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, after last night’s loss. Really? The Braves were 2-10 with runners in scoring position. And. And don’t look now, but the Mets and Marlins have an outside chance of catching the Braves for second place in the National League East, which would just about do-in the Cobb County faithful . . .

And, ah, wouldn’t that be a shame . . .

Meanwhile, the Braves of the West (otherwise known as the Oakland Athletics) continue their imitation of a demolition derby. It’s getting really ugly, which means that it’s nearly impossible to avert your eyes. We tune in every night to watch the A’s, just so we can see how they’ll screw up this time. The A’s are 6-12 in September, and continue to find new ways to lose . . .

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Baltimore Ends Its Drought, Wins A.L. East

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

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The Baltimore Orioles defied the odds-makers, pundits and baseball analysts, sweeping to their first American League East title since 1997, with an 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Tuesday night. The victory gave the O’s a 91-60 record on the year, second best in all of baseball.

This is not where the O’s were supposed to be. As the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays retooled in the off-season (with the Yankees spending wildly to rebuild their outfield and pitching staff), the Orioles made do with a late signing of outfielder Nelson Cruz, a decision that brought nearly unanimous hoots of derision from baseball experts.

But the Orioles, who suffered in-season injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and All-World third baseman Manny Machado (as well as the suspension of home run powerhouse Chris Davis), mixed and matched and scratched their way to victory after victory, matching the third best ERA in the American League to the best long-ball hitting team in the majors.

But Baltimore’s pitching and hitting tell only a part of the story. The unsung hero of the O’s 2014 campaign might well be G.M. Dan Duquette, whose mid-summer moves kept the O’s alive when they should have been fading. Duquette shuffled players back and forth to Triple-A Norfolk, getting key starts from journeyman infielder Jimmy Paredes, trading for Bosox reliever Andrew Miller and then swapping two minor leaguers for Alejandro De Aza and Kelly Johnson.

Nearly all of this handiwork was on display in Baltimore last night. Paredes was 2-3 with an RBI while playing third, De Aza stroked a triple and notched three RBIs, Miller provided a two-batter bridge to Tommy Hunter who pitched the 9th, Steve Pierce (released, then re-signed by Duquette back in April) hit his 18th home run of the season — and the O’s laughed their way to an 8-2 victory.

But this is hardly the trash heap O’s. Baltimore boasts perhaps the best outfield in baseball, as well as one of the American League’s favorites for MVP. Cruz, De Aza and Pierce hold down left field, steady veteran Nick Markakis is in right and potent and potential MVP Adam Jones mans center. Nelson Cruz is the DH, and he has 39 home runs on the year — best in the junior circuit.

And then there’s Buck Showalter, now the favorite to win the Manager of the Year Award, not least for shaping (with Duquette) the almost famous “Baltimore Shuffle” — the up-to-the-majors, down-to-Triple-A moves that have characterized the team’s handling of the pitching staff all year. Somehow, it’s all worked out.

And here’s how: Wai-Yin Chen (the underrated Japanese import) is 16-4, Miguel Gonzalez has won seven of his last ten outings, Chris Tillman has been brilliant (a 3.29 ERA and 1.22 WHIP), and the Baltimore bullpen has the fourth best ERA in the American League.

And last night Buck Showalter handed the ball to the up-and-down Ubaldo Jimenez, an unusual act of confidence in a starter who’s been inconsistent — at best. And how did Jimenez react? He threw an improbable five innings of two hit baseball.

“You get older, you want to get a good angle and a good seat and see good people get a return for what they put into it and what they’re trying to achieve,” Showalter told the press after last night’s clincher. “And this is a huge step, to get a chance now. We’ve got to figure out a way to win 11 games.”

Which is to say: in our opinion, the always-underrated O’s are not simply the best team in the fast eroding American League Least, they’re the class of the American League — and our pick as the team to beat in the post-season.

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It’s All Strasburg In Atlanta

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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The Nationals edged closer to playing in October Monday night, downing the Braves at Atlanta’s Turner Field behind the shut-down seven inning pitching of righty ace Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg stymied the Braves, 4-2, leaving the Nationals on the verge of their second National League East championship in three years.

Strasburg has always had difficulty pitching against the Braves at Turner Field and entered the game with a stiff neck, but none of these problems were much in evidence on Monday. The righty gave up five hits while striking out seven and walking none in a 90 pitch outing. The win gave the Nats their league leading 86th win on the season.

“I’ve never seen him pitch bad against us,” Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez said after the Nats win. “You see the numbers, the seven-plus ERA his last four starts here. He’s a pretty darn good pitcher every time we face him. I know those numbers don’t bare that. But he’s a guy that we respect. He’s a guy who has been a big pitcher for them.”

Strasburg’s win was also the result of timely Nationals hitting, which began with a Denard Span double off of Atlanta starter Ervin Santana in the third inning. Span’s double plated Wilson Ramos for Washington’s first score. Ramos then homered in the top of the 5th inning for the Nats second score. The Nats added their third run on a Strasburg single in the 7th and a Nate Schierholtz RBI in the 8th.

The Braves mounted a comeback in the 9th inning, with Rafael Soriano taking the mound to protect a 4-0 lead. Andrelton Simmons greeted Soriano with a double and then scored on a Justin Upton double to left. When Soriano walked Chris Johnson with two outs, Nats manager Matt Williams brought in Drew Storen to get the third out — a B.J. Upton grounder that ended the game.

The Braves frustration at falling out of both the race for the N.L. East crown and a spot as a Wild Card team was evidenced in the 6th inning when first sacker Freddie Freeman was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Tim Timmons. Freeman slammed his bat in disgust and was ejected from the game; when Gonzalez defended his player, he was also tossed.

We all collectively, from the front office to our coaches to our fans, we want to win,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Anything short of us getting into some playoff game or play-in game is not acceptable. You see guys fighting.”

The loss symbolized the demise of the Braves who, despite their early season woes with a rash of pitching injuries, were supposed to contend with the Nationals for the N.L East title. That’s not what happened: Atlanta played well against the Nats, but poorly against the rest of the league. Last night’s loss put them at a so-so 75-75 for the year. A disappointment . . .

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Baltimore’s Orioles are a single win away from clinching their first American League East title since 1997. Last night, against the Toronto Blue Jays, they continued their dominance of their division, finishing off the struggling Jays, 5-2. If they win again tonight, they’ll win the A.L. East crown . . .

It seemed only right that Wei-Yin Chen would be the pitcher to lead the O’s in Toronto. After last night’s performance (the underrated southpaw scattered nine hits in 5.2 innings of work), Chen is 16-4 on the season, the first time a Baltimore lefty had 16 or more wins in a season since Jimmy Key did it way back when . . .

“I allowed quite a few hits out there, but I was trying to battle,” Chen said of his performance after his team’s victory. “I was trying to keep the ball down without allowing too many runs. Fortunately I can do that with the help of my teammates . . .”

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Mets End Drought Vs. Nats, Win 4-3

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

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The Mets have been nearly hopeless in playing the Nationals in New York, but on Friday night they ended their drought, notching a 4-3 victory over Washington behind the pitching of starter Dillon Gee and the bat of Juan Lagares. The victory ended a twelve game winless streak for New York against the Nationals at Citi Field.

The New York victory came at the expense of Washington southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who reacted angrily to Matt Williams decision to take him out of the game in the 7th inning. Gonzalez slammed the ball into Williams’ hand when the skipper relieved him, then exchanged words with him in a heated conversation in the dugout.

Gonzalez later downplayed the mini-confrontation. “Matt did his best to defuse it as much as possible,” he said. “It’s part of the sport. It’s high intensity, trying to keep the game close. He has been part of it; it’s part of baseball. You want to keep pitching, you want to keep going out there.”

Gonzalez pitched well on Friday night, but not well enough to notch the win, or keep the Mets out of the scoring column. The Mets put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning on an Eric Young, Jr. single, a Juan Lagares HBP, a walk to Lucas Duda and a Travis d’Arnaud double to deep left field. The three run inning forced Gonzalez to start over in the second.

“Second inning, it was a clean start, and I just tried to pound the strike zone, keep going after them,” Gonzalez confirmed after the loss. “Throwing the changeup for strikes. I’m trying to work fast and get us back in the dugout as soon as possible to get our guys to swing the bat.”

The Nationals struck back by plating two runs in the top of the third and a single run in the fifth, but New York answered with another Lagares double in the bottom half of that frame. Anthony Rendon provided most of Washington’s offense, including a home run in the top of the 5th (his twentieth of the season) to tie the score at three.

“He has been unbelievable,” teammate Denard Span said of the Nats third sacker. “He has been our most valuable player from start to finish. He has been in the lineup pretty much every day, giving us everything we need. He is scoring runs. We need him to steal a bag, he steals a bag, driving in runs. He is doing it all.”

Mets manager Terry Collins was visibly relieved by his team’s win, particularly after a winless lull against Washington at Citi Field that goes back 14 months. “There’s been a lot of nights where we’ve had them late in the game and they’ve come back and done some big damage against us, but it was a good win for us tonight for sure, ” Collins said.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The nation turns its lonely eyes to the West Coast, where the most interesting baseball is being played. The Giants opened what could be a winner-take-all series against the Dodgers in San Francisco last night, derailing the N.L. West leading Trolleys 9-0 in the first of a three game set . . .

This is a damned near ancient rivalry in the Great Game, made all the more important by the fact that prior to last night’s contest the Giants trailed the Kershaws by just two games. Madison Bumgarner stepped up in his start last night, throwing seven innings of three hit baseball . . .

Dodger fans need to take a quick gulp: southpaw starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was removed after the first inning with left shoulder irritation — he’d just given up four runs. Bumgarner, meanwhile, notched his 18th win and struck out eight . . .

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Kershaw Too Much For The Nats

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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Clayton Kershaw gave up just three hits and one run in eight complete innings of work on Tuesday night, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a ho-hum 4-1 victory over the Nats. The victory was Kershaw’s league leading 17th win on the season against just three losses.

The L.A. lefty’s only mistake came in the seventh inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Bryce Harper — a relative rarity in the Annals of Clayton Keshaw. “He just didn’t give us any opportunities,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said of the southpaw. “That’s why he’s doing so well. He’s just not making any mistakes.”

“He is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down” said Harper, who went 1-for-4 in the game and notched his 11th home run on the season “He goes out there and locates his pitches. He has his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. He is very, very good.”

Kershaw showed why he’s in line to win the National League Cy Young Award, and why he’s also being mentioned as a front runner as league MVP. The L.A. southpaw, with the best curve that L.A. has seen since the days of Sandy Koufax, fanned eight and walked just two in throwing a three hit, eight inning victory. Kenley Jansen notched his 39th save of the season for the Trolleys.

The Nationals hoped to provide a counter to Kershaw in steady Doug Fister, but Washington’s righty gave up ten hits to the Dodgers over five innings of work (Fister couldn’t make it out of the 6th), which included an in-the-hole infield single to Adrian Gonzalez in the 5th (that scored Kershaw and Dee Gordon) and a home run to L.A. third sacker Juan Uribe in the 6th.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way tonight,” starter Fister said of his outing. “There were things that happened. I gave up a few hits. I have to be better. I have to be better picking up my teammates. It’s unacceptable for me. That’s what teams do. They pick one another up. I didn’t do that. I left the ball over the middle for Uribe. I have to be much better with him.”

Washington’s night included a muffed infield play in the two run fifth, when an in-the-hole Gonzalez grounder brought home both Kershaw and Gordon. Gordon should have been out on the plate on a throw from Desmond, but the shortstop wildly overthrew the ball, a rarity for the usually defense-oriented Nationals.

“I tried to throw it to first, I lost the grip, looked up and Dee Gordon is taking off for home. I just rushed it a little bit. I should have set my feet,” Desmond said of the play.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MLB Tonight’s Billy Ripken reminded viewers on Tuesday night that one of the biggest stories of the season is the seemingly sudden appearance of game-changing Cuban imports, including Cubs outfield phenom Jorge Soler . . .

Soler, the most recent rookie call-up of the retooled Cubs (they’ve won two in a row against the Brew Crew — and swept the O’s in mid-August), has only 22 at bats in the majors, but 11 of them have gone for hits, which includes three home runs and eight RBIs . . .

But Soler is only the second most exciting player in Chicago, bragging rights for the first spot still held by Jose Abreu, who is hitting a staggering .320 with a .381 OBP and .602 slugging percentage for the South Siders. Abreu has been on fire: he is hitting .500 in his last 12 games and is a lock-on favorite for the A.L.’s Rookie of the Year award . . .

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