Archive for the ‘Ross Detwiler’ Category

Nats Walk Off (Again), This Time In Extras — And In “A Classic”

Monday, August 18th, 2014


Think of all the baseball cliches, and you will almost certainly touch on one that describes Washington’s 6-5 eleven inning walk-off triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates: If you didn’t see it, you should have — if you weren’t there you should have been. Indeed, the Bucs-Nats tilt of August 17 will go down in D.C. baseball history as “a classic,” the kind of win remembered for a long time.

The game began modestly enough, with Washington’s Doug Fister facing off against Pirate ace Edinson Volquez. Fister had his usual ace stuff, allowing just five hits and no earned runs (the Pirates scored two in the 6th on two D.C. errors), while striking out five before being lifted after seven complete for 8th inning relief whiz Tyler Clippard.

Volquez was nearly as good (he’s 10-7 on the season, and is a workhorse), though he gave up a single earned run through 6.1 innings, while notching five strikeouts. But in the bottom of the 7th frame, the Nationals put three runs on the board, when Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch, Kevin Frandsen and Denard Span singled — and the Nationals plated three runs on fielders choice singles off the bats of Asdrubal Cabrera and Anthony Rendon.

Then, with the Nationals leading 4-2 in the 9th inning (and coasting to a seemingly assured victory), it all fell apart for the home towners. With Rafael Soriano on the mound to close the game (and searching for his 30th save), the Pirates struck for three runs.

Soriano’s troubled 9th began when the big righty hit Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Soriano then gave up a single to Travis Snider, then allowed Marte to score and pinch runner Michael Martinez to advance to second on a wild pitch. Ike Davis was then walked. And although the Nats picked up an out on a Gaby Sanchez fielders’ choice, rookie sensation Gregory Polanco doubled to center to score sprinting pinch runner Jordy Mercer and Sanchez.

With Soriano slumping on the bench, reliever Matt Thornton got the Nationals out of the 9th, but the Nationals seemed deflated by the blown save — and headed for defeat. It was then that the fireworks began, courtesy of Jayson Werth, who’d been sidelined for the last week with a tweeky shoulder.

With one out in the 9th, Werth (who was hitting for Thornton) drew a walk from Pirates reliever Mark Melancon. Werth’s reappearance in the Nationals line-up reenergized the Nationals, with the right fielder advancing to third on a Denard Span single and scoring on a clutch fielders choice off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera. Unaccountably, but dramatically, the Nationals had knotted the game at 5.

The dramatic Nationals fall, and rise, lasted through the scoreless 10th, with lefty reliever Ross Detwiler holding the Pirates scoreless. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, the Nationals walked off in dramatic fashion: on a Werth double, a move-em-over grounder to the right side from Denard Span and a game-winning sacrifice fly off the bat of uber-sub Scott Hairston.

“Today was a tribute to just the team mentality in general,” starter Doug Fister said of his team’s victory. “That’s a lesson learned for us, knowing that [if] something goes wrong, there’s 24 guys right behind you that pick you up. Whether it’s offense, whether it’s defense, guys are playing well together.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.29.36 AM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Pirates came into Washington with high hopes, but have now dropped five games in a row. “We get to play in front of 120,000 people over the weekend, playing a good team,” Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle said of his team’s effort. “Got to keep battling, score one more run than they — that didn’t happen for us this weekend . . .”

The three game Washington-Pirates set was worthy of October, with two walk-off Nationals wins and each game decided by a single run. The Nationals were saved from their sloppy play (two errors on Sunday that allowed two Pittsburgh runs, both in the 6th inning), by clutch at bats from Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Scott Hairston . . .


Nats Recover In Chicago, Take Two From The Cubs

Sunday, June 29th, 2014


The Washington Nationals relied on their starting staff, and the arms of Gio Gonzalez and Blake Treinen, on Saturday to sweep an unusual doubleheader in Chicago (the first since 1983) on scores of 3-0 and 7-2. The sweep of the twin bill followed on two successive losses to the last place Cubs, placing Washington’s hold on the top spot in the N.L. East in jeopardy.

While Nationals fans were treated to acrobatic plays from Denard Span in the 4th inning of the first game, it was Gio Gonzalez who dominated the game’s headlines, throwing seven innings of two hit baseball in shutting down a weak Cubs line-up. The Nationals capped their scoring in the first game victory in the 8th inning with a triple from Anthony Rendon (which scored Denard Span) and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Adam LaRoche.

Gonzalez now appears to be all the way back from the shoulder aches that sidelined him for two weeks. “Obviously coming (off) the DL and trying to work your way back is going to be a process,” Gonzalez said after the victory. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s good to see little by little using fastball and changeup at the same time. It’s good to know when you need them they’ll be there.”

“It’s important for us. I’m happy for him that he feels good about it and he’s had no shoulder issues, so that’s a good sign,” Nationals skipper Matt Williams said of Gonzalez’s recovery. “Velocity’s come back, the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes is huge for him. He pitched really good.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.13.35 AM

The Nationals leaped on Chicago pitching in the second game of the twin bill, notching seven runs on ten hits, victimizing Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. The big blows came off the bats of Wilson Ramos, Kevin Frandsen and Jayson Werth in the four run fifth. The outburst followed on Adam LaRoche’s 11th home run in the 2nd and an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly in the 3rd.

“They came out of the rain delay and they jumped on me right off the bat,” Samardzija said of the Nationals 5th inning rally. “They hit some fastballs over the plate and hit them up the middle and made me keep throwing pitches. They did a good job. They were ready out of the break. I probably needed to spin a couple more pitches and give them a different look.”

The Nationals victory also marked the first MLB career victory for rookie Blake Treinen, who threw five innings of four hit baseball in a game interrupted for one hour because of rain. “It means a lot,” Treinen said of his first victory. “I’m definitely excited, that’s for sure.”


Nats Win In 16 On Zimmerman Home Run

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014


Ryan Zimmerman’s two run home run in the top of the 16th inning was the difference in Washington’s 4-2 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday night (actually, Wednesday morning) — what went into the books as the longest game in Nationals history. By then, the Nationals had burned through their bullpen, and were set to send Adam LaRoche to the mound in the 17th.

While Zimmerman notched the game winning RBI, the Nationals bullpen was once again stellar. Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard pitched the near-equivalent of a complete game, ending Milwaukee threats in the bottom of the 13th, 14th and 15th innings.

The Washington Post notes that the game used up “fifteen pitchers and 24 position players” and that “485 pitches were thrown and the teams combined for 111 at-bats.” By the time the game was over, Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann’s solid start (six innings, six hits, nine strike outs) was a fading memory.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.16.45 AM

Zimmermann had no-hitter stuff to begin the game, but the Brewers pressed him hard in the fourth and fifth innings. “The fourth and fifth were a little rough,” Zimmermann acknowledged on his outing. “First time through the lineup, I used the fastball and it was good. Second time through, they made some adjustments. I was leaving some balls up. They strung a few hits together.”

While it was Zimmerman who keyed the victory, much of the credit for the win must go to lefty Ross Detwiler, who threw four innings of four hit baseball in relief. It was, by far, Detwiler’s best outing of the year. “Det was above and beyond tonight,” manager Matt Williams said. “Going in, we had some guys that were feeling [tired], so we didn’t want to go to them. Turned out, we had to. Det was fantastic. He really stretched it for us.”

This was a big win for the Nationals, a victory over a tough team with a solid and power-packed line-up. The win kept Washington two games in front of Atlanta in the National League East and, after the Nationals throat gulping performance against the Cardinals, showed that the team can play tough against tough teams.

For the Brewers, on the other hand, the twin losses against the Nationals throw a shadow on a season that, at least so far, has been a dream. But despite the two losses, Milwaukee leads the National League in wins and they remain 4.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in the N.L. Central.

The Brewers loss squandered an excellent outing from Yovani Gallardo, who threw six innings while giving up just four hits. Like Washington, Milwaukee had to depend on its bullpen, with Mike Fiers pitching the last four innings of the marathon game and taking the loss.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs, the doormat of the N.L. Central, have set a pattern — the front office accumulates veteran hurlers, then swaps them out for younger pieces. This has occurred in each of the last three years, with Epstein shipping aging arms Paul Maholm, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman hither and yon for younger arms and a handful of prospects and potentials . . .

Now, those swaps are starting to work out, and the future Cubbies are finally beginning to take shape. Fans of the North Siders could see that future on the mound at Wrigley last night, when former Orioles prospect Jake Arrieta continued his remarkable climb to prominence as a solid Cubs starter . . .


Nats Notes: Splitting With The Mets And Reds . . .

Friday, May 23rd, 2014


The Washington Nationals split the homestand against the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds three games to three, winning the first series and losing the second. It is tempting for the Nats Nation to blame this water-treading performance on having so many big bats out of commission: Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche.

But we don’t buy it. Consider: when all three were healthy and just catcher Wilson Ramos and righty starter Doug Fister were on the DL, the longest winning streak the Nats put together lasted a measly four games.

Then too, Washington’s hitters won the series against the Madoffs in spite of the lengthy list of names on the DL. Starting pitchers Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann were good, but not great, in their starts, and Gio Gonzalez tried to play through a sore shoulder and whiffed it.

The relief corps, as we’ve come to expect, did their jobs, giving up just four hits and no runs over thirteen total innings. Ian Desmond started to come alive at the plate, getting four hits, a walk, and four RBIs in the series, and Wilson Ramos notched five RBIs off a double, a single, and a sac fly.

The series loss against the Redlegs was a damn near thing, literally decided by inches (twice) in Game One. Credit where credit is due: Reds second-sacker Brandon Phillips and centerfielder Billy Hamilton made fantastic diving plays in the 12th and 15th innings to snuff potential Nats’ walk-offs. Ross Detwiler got the loss, but it’s hard to fault a guy (too much) for allowing a homer to arguably the Reds’ best infielder, Todd Frazier — who produced all series long.

Nats starters Stephen Strasburg and Fister were both great in their games, but Tanner Roark struggled. The Nats can take some satisfaction from having eaten Redlegs starter and best pitcher in the majors Johnny Cueto — plating eight runs against the now healthy (and now celebrated) righty. The Nats were good — yes — but the lineup was still milquetoast in the series.

Well, except for Denard Span who apparently heard all the criticisms being leveled at him — and responded by getting nine hits and four RBIs (including his first homer of the season) in the one game against Cincy that we can class a “laugher.”


Span Sparks Nats, D.C. Burns Cincy

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014


Nationals center fielder Denard Span was 5-5 with two runs, two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base, as Washington downed the Cincinnati Reds and vaunted ace righty Johnny Cueto 9-4 on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. It was Span’s best game of the year, and Cueto’s worst outing.

The Reds, a normally solid defensive team, committed four errors in the loss — in large part because of Span’s constant and disruptive threat. If that wasn’t bad enough (at least from Cincinnati’s point of view), Washington righty Doug Fister outpitched the normally unflappable Cueto. The righty threw seven innings of six hit baseball while striking out five.

Washington eclipsed Cincinnati’s early 1-0 lead in the third inning, scoring two runs on two Reds’ defensive lapse. Todd Frazier couldn’t handle a Doug Fister grounder and third sacker Ramon Santiago threw wide of first on Span’s bunt single. Santiago’s error put Span on third, where he was promptly driven in by an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 8.37.42 AM

But Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when Span singled to right, stole second and then moved to third on a throwing error from Cincy backstop Brayan Pena. Washington then piled on. Cueto hit Tyler Moore, gave up a single to Jayson Werth and then hit Kevin Frandsen. Danny Espinosa singled off of reliever Sean Marshall, Jose Lobaton followed with another single — and Span finished off the Reds with a double.

The Nationals didn’t score again for the rest of the game, but they didn’t need to: Washington had put seven runs on the board in the 6th and, considering Washington’s bullpen strength, it seemed unlikely the Reds would match the Nats offensive output. For Washington the story was Span (and suddenly solid starter Doug Fister), but for Cincinnati it was the unexpected collapse of their starting ace.

“We didn’t play a great defensive game; [Cueto] hit two batters and he wasn’t just the ground-ball machine/strikeout machine that he’s been to this point,” Reds manager Bryan Price said after the Reds’ loss. “It’s just the law of averages caught up with us today, no doubt about it.”

Ironically, Span’s 5-5 heroics came just hours after Nationals’ manager Matt Williams said he was sticking with his center fielder in the lead off spot, despite criticisms that the lead-off lefty had not produced in the top spot. Prior to Tuesday’s performance, Span’s OBP as the team’s lead off hitter was a meager .287.

“He’s a very important part of our team,” Williams told Washington Post reporter James Wagner. “If he doesn’t get any hits, he’s saves us runs in the outfield and that’s production in and of itself.” Span did more than that on Tuesday, raising his average to .263 and getting on base every time he came to the plate.

The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Gone were the Cincinnati fans that were so prominent in the section on Monday, but they were replaced by an odd assortment of out of towners for Tuesday’s blow-out of the Reds. The visitors included a middle aged married couple from San Francisco, who were visiting relatives and (as one of them noted) “wanted to see what this ballpark was like . . .”

The woman and her husband were Giants fans, and oddly dismissive of the Nationals. “We don’t have fireworks,” a regular explained to them, “because people in the neighborhood complained.” The woman smiled, though indulgently. “Well, you probably don’t have much to celebrate. I mean, you use fireworks for victories, right?” She smiled, knowing she was surrounded by a group of Nationals regulars . . .


Nats Downed In 15 Inning Marathon

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014


The Washington Nationals had three extra inning opportunities to win Monday night’s 15 inning marathon against the Cincinnati Reds: in the bottom of the 12th (when Wilson Ramos lined out the second baseman Brandon Phillips), in the bottom of the 14th (when Anthony Rendon lined out to center) and again in the 15th — when Danny Espinosa took a Logan Ondrusek pitch deep to right.

It took amazing plays from the Reds, with a sprinkling of luck, but Cincinnati walked away with a win off the bat of Todd Frazier to win a 15 inning barn burner at Nationals Park, 4-3. The five hour endurance test (the official game length was 4:58), saw both teams use nearly every player — with a see-saw battle that was decided by a single swing of the bat.

The winning runs were finally scored in the top of the 15th inning, when center fielder Todd Frazier stroked a 2-1 change up from reliever Ross Detwiler into the left centerfield seats, scoring Brandon Phillips. Even then, however, the Nationals weren’t done, putting a single run on the board in the bottom of the frame (on a Jayson Werth double and Greg Dobbs single) before Espinosa’s final out.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 11.07.55 AM

The game started as a match-up of team aces, with Washington’s Stephan Strasburg throwing seven innings of six hit baseball and Mike Leake responding by throwing 6.2 innings while giving up a single run. Strasburg and Leake were nearly evenly matched, with similar finishing lines: both notched four strikeouts, while Leake gave up seven hits.

Cincinnati entered the game struggling at the plate, and nothing on Monday would have dissuaded their fans that their team has finally turned the corner. But the Nationals also proved punchless. The Reds were 2-24 with runners in scoring position, while the Nationals were 2-18.

Even so, it took some amazing plays for the Reds to win, including the two game-saving diving catches on scorching line drives (off the bats of Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon) that would have decided the game in the Nationals’ favor. So it was that the true heroes of the Monday endurance test were Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier.

“All you can do is hit and sometimes you wish you could steer it after you hit it, but that doesn’t happen,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after the loss.

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: Cincinnati has some fans in D.C., but not many. All of them seemed to be in the section on Monday night. A young woman near the front of the section sported a Pokey Reese jersey, while her mate made do with a red-striped Sean Casey offering . . .

A Nationals fans, albeit one known for being a Nats’ critic, showed up, arguing that the Nationals might have done well to draft Mike Leake with their first pick in the 2009 draft. Instead, the Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, while the Reds picked up Leake with the eighth . . .

The critic argued that Leake’s numbers are better than those put up so far by the Nationals’ righty: Leake has 44 career wins versus Strasburg’s 32. “Don’t be ridiculous,” a fellow 1-2-9 regular snapped. “If you’re Cincinnati’s G.M. right now and Mike Rizzo called proposing an even-up swap, you’d grab it.” The comment brought general assent from nearby regulars . . .

“And Leake hasn’t had his Tommy John [surgery] yet,” another 1-2-9 regular noted. The comment brought chuckles and a nod from the Leake fan: “You’ve got a point,” he responded. Then too, though no one mentioned it at the time: the win numbers are not the only numbers worth comparing. Strasburg has one shutout, one complete game (Leake has none) and a better ERA. Which is not to mention the gap in career strikeouts . . .


Werth’s Last Second Leap Saves The Nats

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Friday night’s victory over the New York Mets may well have marked the ultimate expression of closer Rafael Soriano’s habit of getting into deep trouble, but then managing to notch yet another save. On Friday, it was Jayson Werth who came to the rescue with a last second leap against the right field fence to save Soriano — and the game.

Werth’s acrobatic leap came on the last swing of the night, when the right fielder nabbed a long line drive off the bat of Daniel Murphy with two on and two out. The catch preserved a hard fought 5-2 Washington victory. “I probably should have untucked my shirt, but I didn’t,” Werth joked after the win, referring to Soriano’s signature game-over habit.

Washington scored all of their runs off of Mets’ starter Jonathan Niese by the end of the third inning. Washington scored three in the first on a Jayson Werth single and a Wilson Ramos sacifice fly. Washington capped their attack in the third inning, with a Scott Hairston double and a Tyler Moore single. Washington sprayed an impressive eleven hits in the contest.

Nats’ manager Matt Williams pulled starter Tanner Roark after the fifth inning, in deference to New York’s lefty weighted line-up — bringing in Ross Detwiler in relief. The Nats bullpen was perfect thereafter, with Detwiler, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Soriano holding the Mets to three hits and no runs through four complete innings.

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 12.06.06 PM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: You would have thought that by now the Nats-Mets rivalry would be among the most bitterly fought in all of baseball. But that’s hardly the case. The Nats have won nine straight against the Apples, dating from last season. Dominance, it seems, does not a rivalry make . . .

The Lords of Baseball would have it otherwise, but the hype has never fit the facts. Even as MLB pushes the match-up as of abiding and traditional interest, the two franchises have forever been going in opposite directions: when the Nats were lousy (as, you might remember, they once were), the Mets were playing for pennants. Now, their roles are reversed . . .