Archive for the ‘Rick Ankiel’ Category

Purple Pain: Rox Rally Nips Nats

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

For one of the few times this season, the Washington Nationals bullpen could not hold or save a game against a struggling opponent, allowing the Colorado Rockies to rally from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the D.C. Nine 4-3 at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon. The bullpen meltdown gave the Heltons, who are in last place in the N.L. West, two wins in the three game series.

With Washington poised to lock up the series against the Rockies, and with a small but (given their bullpen’s reputation) significant two run lead, lefty Sean Burnett gave up an 8th inning home run to Eric Young, and then back-to-back singles to Derek Fowler and Marco Scutaro. The successive singles sent Davey Johnson to the mound — and Burnett to the bench.

Reliever Michael Gonzalez looked snappy in relief, if only for a handful of pitches: he served up a wild pitch that scored Fowler from third. The Young home run, followed by the singles and the wild pitch, tied the game at 3. Even then, the Nationals had a chance to win the game — or send it into extra innings.

But, pitching the 9th, the almost always reliable Tyler Clippard gave up a double to Jordan Pecheco, who was then sacrificed to third. Pacheco came home one batter later, when Clippard issued his own pitch in the dirt. The pitch got by rookie catcher Jhonatan Solano and skittered to the backstop.

It was a tough loss for the Nationals, and for Jordan Zimmermann — “the Ace of Auburndale” — who pitched one of his best games of the year. Zimmermann, who had nearly perfect command, held the Rockies to three hits through seven complete innings, with Colorado hitters flailing at his fastball.

Zimmermann was not the only good news of the game: the Nationals stole six bases in the loss, with Ian Desmond powering his 17th home run of the year. Both Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse were 2-4. After nearly three weeks in a mini-slump, LaRoche seems to have regained his swing — with a BA that is consistently hovering around the .250 mark.

The Nationals had hoped to go into the All Star break with 50 wins on the first half — but will have to settle for a 49-34 record. Nats’ fans will happily take it, particularly considering that on Opening Day the team was viewed as, at best, a long-shot contender against the Phillies for the N.L. East flag. As of this writing, the Phillies are fourteen games out of first place.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ian Desmond has bowed out of the All Star Game, but there isn’t any doubt that that’s where he belongs. He now leads all MLB shortstops in doubles (24), home runs (with 17), and is second in OPS — at .820. Desmond has hit four home runs in his last six games, and one each in the last two . . .

Desmond is one of the reasons that Washington leads the National League in doubles, an statistic that seems oddly appropriate with the Rockies winging their way out of town. The Heltons have traditionally been a doubles machine (Helton has 567 of them in his sixteen years), which is at least partly attributable to the thin air and long alleys of Coors Field . . .

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Nats Knocks Notch Another Win, 9-4

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

The Washington Nationals pounded out twelve hits, four of them round trippers, in defeating the Giants on Independence Day, 9-4. The win put the Anacostia Nine at fifteen games over .500. The home runs, from Jhonatan Solano, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel, continued a team power onslaught that has seen the Nationals score 69 runs in the last eight games.

“Another fun day for the skipper,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said following the victory. “You’ve got to tip your hat to the offense.” Indeed, the offense provided all the fireworks the team would need on July 4 — with Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Ian Desmond driving in six of the Nationals runs. The victory came before another big crowd, of 35,000-plus, as Nats attendance has surged over the last month.

The most impressive show of the team’s new found power came in the bottom of the 5th inning, when Zimmerman and Morse launched back-to-back blasts, with Zimmerman’s sneaking over the railing in deep right center and Morse’s soaring into the Nationals bullpen in right field. Zimmerman, who is hitting .370 with four home runs in his last ten games, notched three RBIs on the day.

“Baseball’s a funny game,” Morse said, speaking of the team’s recent power surge. “You really never get a lot of opportunities to have everybody hitting. That’s just how it is. Some guys get hot, some guys don’t. But when everybody gets hot and everybody’s seeing the ball good, it’s pretty fun.”

The recipient of the surge on Wednesday was Edwin Jackson, who struggled through the first inning (giving up three runs), before settling down to throw 5.2 innings of steady ball — striking out three and walking two. It certainly wasn’t Jackson’s best outing of the year, but it was good enough to register the win, his fifth against four losses.

And, in what has now become a standard for the Nationals, the bullpen preserved the triumph, with Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez giving up just two hits in three-and-a-third innings of relief work, shutting down the Giants’ bats and ensuring the win.

“That was, to me, the key to setting up the ballgame — getting to Burnett and company,” Nats manger Davey Johnson said from the clubhouse after the win. “I think I like this bullpen as good as any I’ve ever had,” Johnson added. “I think the depth in this bullpen and the versatility of this bullpen for different lineups is the best I’ve ever had.”

The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: In a kind of new tradition common to other ballparks, Nationals’ fans are starting to show up at Nationals Park with posters. There were two in section 1-2-9 yesterday, including one that slammed the local power company. “Unlike Pepco,” it said, “[The Nationals] bring the power.” The poster (there were two of them, actually), was waved at the front of the section . . .

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Another Rocky Night For Colorado

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Jordan Zimmermann finally got the run support he needed to register a win, as the Washington Nationals continued to break out their bats, defeating the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, 11-5. In fact, the game was not as close as the score indicates, as the Nationals notched fourteen hits — and registered their second laugher in a row.

The Ace of Auburndale, known for pitching beautifully without run support, showed what he could actually do with it. While giving up eight hits, Zimmermann was effective enough to turn in seven complete innings, while limiting the heavy hitting Rockies to just one run. “It was definitely nice getting that support,” Zimmermann said following the victory. “It gave me some room to breathe.”

The Nationals victimized Rockies’ rookie hurler Edwar Cabrera, who was making his first major league start. The middle of the Nationals order gave Cabrera the most trouble: Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Ian Desmond went a combined 8-19 on the night, plating four RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman had three RBIs on his own, raising his average another four points.

But even with the middle of their order coming alive, the most impressive hitter over the last two nights has been Tyler Moore — the rookie outfielder and first baseman, who was 3-5 on Wednesday, after going 2-5 the night before. It’s now nearly impossible for Nats’ manager Davey Johnson to keep him out of the line-up, whether it’s playing left field, or subbing for first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Moore, a 16th round draft choice in 2008, is now hitting .346 over the last 23 games — his first in the majors. Initially slotted into the line-up against left handers, Moore is now seeing regular playing time against both righties and lefties. “There’s been some discussion on Tyler of, ‘not just lefties,’ ” Johnson said yesterday. “And if you’ve been paying attention here lately when they change to a right-hander, I’ve been leaving the at-bat with him.”

Moore’s emergence could make for a crowded outfield once Jayson Werth returns, and has already had the effect of giving Rick Ankiel fewer at bats (and a strictly late inning defensive role) and has pushed aside Roger Bernadina, relegating him to a once-in-awhile pinch hitter.

Nats Rally, But Can’t Catch O’s

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The Nationals bats went dead again on Saturday night at Nationals Park, and were not revived quickly enough to stave off yet another loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, 6-5. But the slump suffered by the Nationals certainly didn’t effect the Orioles, who scored a season high six runs against young lefty Ross Detwiler that included home runs by Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.

The Nationals, despite their problems at the plate, should be able to hit against Jason Hammel — Baltimore’s starter — but the former Colorado Rocky was able to notch his fifth win of the season against just one loss. The Nationals mounted a rally in the 6th inning, scoring three, on doubles from Ryan Zimmerman and Rick Ankiel, adding two more on a ground out from Carlos Maldonado and a single from Roger Bernadina.

Ryan Zimmerman added a solo home run in the 9th inning, but none of this was enough to catch the O’s, whose early lead proved insurmountable. “I put the team in a hole early; they did a great job trying to dig out,” Nats’ starter Ross Detwiler said. “It was just too much too early. I really didn’t have command of anything. The entire game was just terrible.”

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: There were newbies in the section tonight, including a fan who sported a Steely Dan t-shirt — and another in a Cubs jersey. “I haven’t seen one of those in twenty years,” a seat-mate said to the Steely Dan fan. He nodded: “They’re still around, you know. Sometimes they play out in Virginia. I have three more, the best one is of their ‘Aja’ cover.

The Steely Dan follower then turned on the Cubs fan, who was toting a camera with an expensive lens: “I think that’s the wrong team for this ballpark,” he said, and laughed. She shrugged, but throughout the game pointed to the outfield scoreboard — where the Cubs were being summarily crushed by the cross-town Pale Hose. “Typical. Just typical,” she said.

The newbie proved well informed. “Davey mixed things up,” he said when the line-up was announced. A regular of 1-2-9 added his views. “I think the Espinosa two strike bunt out last night really irritated him,” he said. “We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Lombardozzi. This is just the beginning.”

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Ankiel Lands The Fish

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Rick Ankiel went 3-3 with a home run and an RBI to lead the Washington Nationals to a clutch 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on Friday night. Ankiel’s hitting supported yet another stellar performance from Washington’s pitchers, who shut down the Marlins on four hits.

Washington fans hope the victory marks the first step in breaking the choke-hold the Marlins have had against the Nationals. While Ankiel’s hitting was key, Ross Detwiler showed once again why he was named Washington’s fifth starter after coming out of Spring Training. Detwiler threw six innings of three hit ball, then was supported by a trio of relievers — including Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard and closer Henry Rodriguez. This was Detwiler’s second victory of the year.

“Det was superb,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said following the victory. “I think he had another inning in him. But he had a shortened spring where he got into the rotation late, and that was just his third outing, against a good-hitting ballclub. I didn’t want to push my luck. I had a fresh bullpen. He was a little shocked that I took him out.”

Ankiel’s 3-3 night included a third inning home run (a shot — to the back of the center field entrance), a single in the bottom of the 5th, and an 8th inning double to right field. The Nats were pleased with their play, particularly considering the Marlins have dominated the team in the past. “This is a big series,” Johnson noted. “We’ve had a history of not playing good against Florida — or Miami. Not that we thrashed them, but we beat them first time out of the chute,” Johnson said.”We know we’re pretty good. We just have to go prove it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Daily Pitch says there’s no one pitching better, “or faster” than the Nationals. But it’s not simply speed that makes Nats’ starters special, the Pitch says. Nationals’ hurlers are throwing over 65 percent first pitch strikes, which ranks them just behind the Dodgers and Cardinals in the National League . . .

In case you didn’t notice, White Elephants veteran righty Bartolo Colon threw 38 straight strikes the other night against the Los Angeles Angels of (you got it) Anaheim — not exactly a bunch of chumps. According to Bleacher Report, “17 were called strikes, 10 were foul balls, 10 balls were put in play (eight outs and two hits) and stunningly only one was a swinging strike.” Thirty-five of the 38 strikes were either two seam or four seam fastballs. Here’s a video, and it’s well worth watching . . .

Here’s an even more impressive breakdown of Colon’s offerings: thirty five of the pitches were fastballs, 27 were in the zone, 17 were strikes without a swing, ten were foul balls, ten were put in play, and only one was a swing and a miss. Colon threw 108 pitches in the game (oh, the A’s won, 6-0 by the way), 82 of them for strikes . . .

Beginning in the 5th inning and well into the 8th, eleven batters in a row saw nothing but strikes. A’s fans extolled Colon, but fans of the Belinskis were less impressed. Their solution — fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. They have a point: Halo hitters stood there and watched it happen. “There appears to be no process for scouting pitchers and putting together a game plan before a game and there sure as hell aren’t any in game adjustments being made,” Halo Hangout noted.

“I felt like I threw a lot of strikes, but I never thought I threw 38 in a row. I didn’t know anything about it until I came in here,” Colon said through a translator. “The two-seamer was the most consistent pitch that I had tonight. I feel good because I know that team has great players.”

We shouldn’t be surprised by the Colon outing, though we know a lot of people who shook their head when Brad Billy Beane signed the righty for one year and $2 million in January. Admit it: we all thought ‘what an idiot. Brad Billy has lost his touch.’ We should know better. Colon pitched well for the Yankees last year, and won the A.L. Cy Young Award back in 2005 as a member of the Angels when he went 21-8 with 3.24 ERA and 157 strikeouts.

Nats Bats Come Alive . . . And The Fracas In Frisco

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

This is what the Nationals must have had in mind when the team came out of Florida after Spring Training: the lead-off hitter would get aboard and the big bats further down in the line-up would hit for power and average in providing the surge needed for a victory. That’s what the Nationals did, finally, in Colorado on Friday, banging out 15 hits to support the steady pitching of Jordan Zimmermann. The result was a much-needed 5-3 victory.

The Nationals’ barrage was led by a revived Rick Ankiel (who was 3-5, and seems to be settling in in the lead-off spot) and Ian Desmond, who was 4-4. The Nationals were able to chip away at the Rockies, scoring single runs in 4th, 5th and 9th innings. Zimmermann, meanwhile, produced another quality start (after two previous shaky outings), throwing 5.2, but giving up only four hits while registering eight strike outs.

The turning point in the game might well have come on a pick-off play engineered by reliever Tyler Clippard. With Chris Nelson aboard with nobody out in the bottom of the 8th and Ian Stewart at the plate, Clippard picked off Nelson for the first out. Moments later, Clippard struck out Stewart. The pick-off ended a potential late-inning rally from the Rockies. Jordan Zimmermann notched his seventh win of the season, Clippard got his 28th hold and Drew Storen his 28th save.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ramon Ramirez had just about had it with Shane Victorino, so in the 6th inning of last night’s Phillies-Giants match-up, he decided to hit him. The resulting scrum was hardly the donnybrook of yesteryear, but it was sill well outside the bob-and-weave that characterizes these sorts of things. When it was over, Ramirez, Victorino and Giants’ catcher Eli Whiteside were tossed, with suspensions and fines sure to follow.

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Lannan’s Arm, Ankiel’s Bat Spark 9-3 Nats Win

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

John Lannan seems to be getting better and better. But for skeptical Nats’ fans (who have a right to be skeptical), Lannan’s outing against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, seemed the clearest evidence that the young lefty deserves a prominent role in the Nationals’ future — and might be moving into the top tier of major league baseball’s most effective and consistent lefty starters. Lannan is now 8-7 with a 3.65 ERA.

Backed by home runs from Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel (who powered a Derek Lowe offering into centerfield — for a grand slam), Lannan pitched 6.2 innings and struck out eight, in leading the Nationals to a 9-3 rout of the Braves at Nationals Park. Everything seemed to click: Lannan baffled Atlanta hitters, who could never put enough hits together to threaten the Nats, while Ankiel (who is suddenly hot), raised his batting average by ten points in ten games.

The win was Washington’s fourth in a row, a needed lift after a rough road trip and a morale sapping dive into last place. Washington is now three games under .500 and within striking distance of the middle of the pack in the N.L. East. The Braves, on the other hand, seem to be going the other way: Lowe was shaky and the Braves are now in danger of losing their grip on the Wild Card spot.

Not surprisingly, particularly the way the game is being played in “the post-steroid era,” the break-out play of the contest had nothing to do with either Lannan or Ankiel. It was Jonny Gomes’ take-out slide of Atlanta catcher David Ross on a fielder’s choice play with the bases loaded that provided the spark for Washington. The Gomes’ play upended Ross, who never touched home for the force out.

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