Archive for the ‘predictions’ 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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Nats Collapse In The 9th, Lose In Miami

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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In what had to be considered the most important game of the year for the Marlins, the Miami Nine scored four runs in the 9th inning on Monday night, and walked off with a stunning 7-6 win against the Nationals. The Nationals entered the 9th with what seemed a sure-thing victory, but Miami capitalized on a poor outing from Nats closer Rafael Soriano to win the game.

Soriano began the catastrophic 9th by walking Casey McGehee, the Marlins’ lead-off hitter, then gave up a double to Garrett Jones. A Marcell Ozuna single then scored McGehee and Miami was suddenly in the game with no one out. Jones then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adeiny Hechavarria then laced a triple, after Soriano gave up a wild pitch.

Even then, the Nats were still in the game, though Miami had tied it at six. But after closer Soriano hit Donovan Solano with a pitch, Nats manager Matt Williams pulled Soriano in favor of lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins struck out Christian Yelich before giving up the game winning single to Jeff Baker.

The game was an absolute heart breaker for Nationals fans, who’d seen their team take two of three from Cincinnati and play well on the road. Before Monday night, it even looked as if the Nationals might put some distance between themselves and the second place Atlanta Braves, who scraped by the Padres, 2-0.

The loss came at the expense of Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, who’d pitched one of his best games of the year. Zimmermann threw seven complete innings while giving up just four hits and striking out six. The young righty ace of the Nationals staff had a fastball that Miami’s hitters couldn’t seem to touch.

“He was really good tonight. He was down in the zone, he had a great slider,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of Zimmermann’s outing. “Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. Tonight, he proved that he is back on it.”

Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen came in in relief of Zimmermann, and while lefty Detwiler gave up a single run on two hits, the Nationals were still in line for the victory — with their top closer (“the best closer in the game,” as the Washington Post described him today) coming into the game.

“Bad day for me,” Soriano said of his performance in the ninth inning. “Every pitch that I threw, I had no command. Everything that I tried to throw didn’t work.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Marlins are trying to decide whether to be buyers or sellers, with the decision hinging on how they would do against the Nationals. Their stunning win tonight will undoubtedly help them to make the decision, though they remain under .500 by a single game and six games back in the standings . . .

It’s easy to see what the Marlins need: all you need do is take a look at their line-up. The Marlins can hit; they are an on-base team that registers just a tick above the Nationals in runs scored. That’s not true for their pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the National League with a 3.92 ERA . . .

The problem is that pitching isn’t that easy to find and Miami would probably hesitate to give up a top prospect for either a rental or a high-priced starter. Nor are the Marlins willing to part with any of their bullpen pieces, though they’ve reportedly received calls on fireballer Steve Cishek, who wracked up five saves in Miami’s just-completed 6-1 road trip . . .

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Rockies Halt Streaking Nationals, 6-4

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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The Nationals four game winning streak was stopped by the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday, as a 9th inning Washington rally fell short and Colorado went on to win, 6-4. The hero for Colorado was starter Jorge De La Rosa (now an impressive 11-6 on the year), who threw into the 8th inning and struck out 11.

Matt Williams had nothing but praise for the Colorado right hander, whose performance helped to end the Rockies seven game skid. “He knows how to pitch here,” Williams said. “He has a surprising fastball when he needs it, but he relies on his changeup a lot. That’s a great strategy here.”

While De La Rosa pitched one of his best games of the year, the Rockies needed help from their bullpen, and a little luck, to take the victory. The Nats rallied to score two runs in the 9th inning and had the bases loaded when Colorado veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins fanned Washington shortstop Ian Desmond to end the threat, and the game.

The 9th inning was a key for the Nationals, who looked like they might actually catch and then pass Colorado. Hawkins registered two outs before allowing RBI singles to Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon to make it a 6-4 game. But the Nationals came up just short, providing Rockies’ fans with a too rare win at home . . .

“Got scary there at the end,” Colorado third sacker Nolan Arenado admitted. “We have a lot of confidence in Hawk. He’s done a great job this year putting people away.”

Despite the loss and failed rally, Washington scrapped out twelves hits on the Rockies, who are viewed as one of the best offensive teams in the game. Denard Span had a second solid game at the plate, going 4-5, while Danny Espinosa (now, with the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, a regular fixture at second base), weighed in with a double . . .

The Colorado win not only marked an end to Washington’s four game winning streak, it gave Stephen Strasburg his eighth loss on the year, against seven wins. Strasburg had trouble out of the gate, giving up three runs in the 1st inning on doubles from Josh Rutledge and Corey Dickerson, and singles to Ben Paulsen and Michael McHenry.

Strasburg was not satisfied with his performance, but gave himself points for hanging in in the tough Colorado environment. “Giving up three runs early, I could’ve easily shut it down,” Strasburg said after the loss. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it as close as possible. Give the guys a chance to come back — anything can happen here.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals will have the day off on Thursday, before facing the Redlegs in Cincinnati on Friday. The Reds vaulted themselves into contention in the N.L, Central before the All Star break, but nothing has gone well for them since then. The six game spiral now finds the Reds just a single game over .500 . . .

The Reds were swept by the Brewers in a three game set in Milwaukee, losing the last of three on Wednesday, 5-1. Not surprisingly, the Reds have been hit hard by injuries to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, which provided much of the Reds punch to a now suddenly anemic line-up . . .

“Offensively, we averaged two runs a game. That’s not going to cut it,” All Star third baseman Todd Frazier said after the Milwaukee loss on Wednesday. “We depend on our pitchers, and they’re pitching great. When we depend on them, we have to also produce . . .”

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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 Crush The Crew, 8-3

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

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The Nationals came ready to play against Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night, scoring five runs in the bottom of the 1st inning and then going on to crush the crew, 8-3. The Nationals victory gave Washington starter Tanner Roark his team leading ninth win on the season.

The five run first inning was the difference in the game, as the Nationals batted around. Denard Span started the Nats assault with a single. Then, after Garza struck out Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth doubled, Adam LaRoche walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled to bring in the first two Nationals’ runs.

But the Nats weren’t done: Garza walked left fielder Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond reached first on a muffed infield single that scored LaRoche. Desmond’s single was mishandled by Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura, but scored a single as Desmond couldn’t be caught in his sprint to first. A Wilson Ramos single to center then scored two more runs.

“You want to be aggressive,” manager Matt Williams said of his team’s five run first. “We have an opportunity for a crooked number there. I think the big at-bat was Wilson Ramos. He got behind [in the count], got to two strikes. He hit a slider. That’s a big cushion and it extended the inning.”

The five runs were all that Tanner Roark would need in shutting down the potent Milwaukee offense. The Nats young righty threw seven innings of six hit baseball in holding the Crew to just one run. “The biggest thing for me is that we are playing good team ball and scoring runs early. It helps a lot,” Roark said of his victory. “It gives me confidence and I pitch with no fear.”

The Brewers view of their loss was that the Nationals were lucky: “The Nationals blooped, bounced, dribbled and flicked Garza from the game after 42 pitches, five runs and five well-placed hits,” Milwaukee’s website related. The Nationals didn’t disagree, while noting they were due for some luck.

“We need some luck every now and then, too,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We just kind of hit the ball where they weren’t. We got some timely hits like we didn’t yesterday. We got a good lead to start the game.”

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The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: There might have been three dozen or so Brewers fans in attendance at Saturday night’s game, but that’s about all. 1-2-9, a standard home for some out-of-towners (particularly when the Cubs are visiting) was denuded of all Brewers jerseys, with boos greeting the plate appearance of Ryan Braun . . .

“I don’t normally like booing anything having to do with baseball, even when I hate the other team,” a regular said, “and I don’t mind giving credit when it’s due. That’s just being a good sport. But I can’t stand Braun.” Many others agreed, and joined in the chorus. “He should have just taken his medicine and told the truth. It was the lie that turned fans against him,” another Nats fan noted . . .

There was only one voice of dissent, given by a fan in a nearby row who greeted the anti-Braun sentiment with a shrug. “The guy knows how to hit,” he said, “which makes you wonder why he thought he needed to juice in the first place.” That sentiment was unscored when Braun put a 91-mph Jerry Blevins fastball into the left field seats in the 8th . . .

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Nats End Philadelphia’s Streak, Win In 10

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

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Ryan Zimmerman’s 10th inning single lifted the Washington Nationals past the Phillies 5-3 at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. The win kept the Nationals in a virtual tie for first place in the N.L. East with the Atlanta Braves and ended Philadelphia’s five game winning streak.

Zimmerman’s clutch single came against Phillies’ southpaw reliever Jake Diekman with Denard Span and Jayson Werth on base. The Zimmerman single scored Span, while a wild pitch from Diekman scored Werth. The Washington win was preserved when closer Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the bottom of the frame. Soriano’s save was his 22nd on the season.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of Soriano. “He has taken the ball whenever we’ve asked him to — not only in save situations, but in tie games as well to get us an extra inning or an extra at-bat. He’s been great.”

Washington starter Stephen Strasburg was inconsistent in his outing against the Phillies, striking out the side in one inning (in the bottom of the 4th), while running into trouble in others (particularly in the 6th, where he gave up three singles and a walk). Strasburg ended up surrendering seven hits in 5.2 innings of work while striking out nine.

Despite Strasburg’s inconsistency (“he was a little off tonight,” Williams confirmed), his face off with Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels provided plenty of drama for the 32,000-plus Phillies fans in attendance. The two engaged in a head-to-head duel through six innings, with Hamels being lifted after seven complete. Hamels gave up four hits and struck out five.

The Philadelphia loss highlighted the problems faced by a veteran, but aging line-up. The Ashburns were 2-14 with runners in scoring position. “Strasburg had something to do with that,” Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg noted. “He had an outstanding power changeup, which was 89-90 mph. That’s what he went to with the men on base. But we scrapped hits and had hits in opportunities, and he pitched out of them.”

This series has marked yet another return to Citizens Bank of Jayson Werth, who is still greeted with a smattering of boos from Phillies fans. Before Zimmerman’s single, Werth was the big producer in the Nationals line-up. The Nationals right fielder accounted for three of Washington’s five runs, hitting his 11th home run into the seats in right center in the 6th.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Werth was nearly wistful in remembering his time in Philadelphia after Saturday’s game, saying that he enjoyed matching up against his old teammates and particularly Philadelphia lefty starter Cole Hamels . . .

“You play with somebody as long as I did and you play the type of games, meaningful games in October, win a World Series,” Werth said. “We’ll have a common bond our whole life. But it’s fun to compete against those guys. It’s like I know them inside and out, and they probably feel the same way. It’s challenging . . . ”

There have been two great eras in Phillies baseball. Back in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, the Phillies were among the class of the National League, finishing first in their division five times in eight years and winning the World Series in 1980 before losing it in 1983. 1980 marked their first World Series victory ever . . .

The second great era was inaugurated in 2007, when they began a run of five straight years as division champs. They won the series in 2008, but lost it the next year. That second era of greatness is now over, with the Phillies in last place in the N.L. East, two games behind the Mets . . .

It’s been hard for the Phillies to let go. They’ve retained their core up-the-middle combination of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley and signed Cole Hamels to a long-term contract, but now it appears that G.M. Ruben Amaro will begin the long awaited turnover of the team that (if truth be told) should have been taken apart two years ago . . .

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Cubs 7th Inning Rally Downs The Nats

Friday, June 27th, 2014

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These are the last place Cubs, the Chicago Doormats who can’t pitch, can’t hit and can’t run. But you’d never know it from the way they played on Thursday night on the North Side of Chicago, where they rallied for two runs in the 7th inning to down the Washington Nationals, 5-3.

The Chicago 7th came after the Nationals fought back on a 3-0 deficit to tie the game — punching a single run across the plate in the 6th, then putting two more on the scoreboard in the 7th. Chicago’s runs came off of Washington long reliever Craig Stammen, who gave up a double to light hitting Darwin Barney, a Chris Coghlan walk and a two RBI double to Justin Ruggiano. The Ruggiano double was just inside the third base line and past Anthony Rendon.

“Stammen’s been really good for us, and it started with Barney and him trying to go down and away with a slider and hung it over the middle of the plate,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said following the loss. “He was one pitch from getting out of it. It’s tough to see from the dugout, but I don’t how that ball [the Ruggiano double] was fair, but not by a lot.”

Nats starter Doug Fister, who’d had multiple quality starts over the last month, struggled to keep the Cubs off the board. But a three run fourth inning gave the Cubs the early lead, with the middle of the Cubs line-up of first sacker Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro and catcher Welington Castillo providing Chicago’s firepower.

“Felt like I was executing, but at the same time, the pitches need to be a little bit better,” Washington righty and starter Fister said. “I need to make sure they’re in or out a little bit more, down more. If I get it in a little bit further on that jam shot over the infield, then who knows. A lot of ‘shoulda-woulda-couldas,’ it’s just a matter of going out there and getting it done.”

The game was played under less than ideal conditions. A fog rolled in off of Lake Michigan in the afternoon and caused havoc among outfielders, including Nats centerfield Denard Span, who lost a fly ball in the gray soup. “Just rough conditions,” Span said after the loss. “Nothing you can do to prepare for that. I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game with that much fog.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Cubbies may be a last place team, but they’ve been a tough team over the last forty games. They are 20-17 in that period (and 13-11 in June) as their younger players have begun to hit, and their bullpen is ranked seventh in the majors and fourth in the National League . . .

Baseball analysts will tell you that the Cubs rebuilding process is taking a little longer than either President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and G.M. Jed Hoyer thought it would take, but there’s no doubt the Cubs farm system is packed. It’s only a matter of time before Cubs fans see the results with the Big Club . . .

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