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Monday, September 30th, 2013
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.
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 . . .
Saturday, September 28th, 2013
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.”
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.
Monday, September 23rd, 2013
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.
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.
Saturday, September 21st, 2013
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.
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 . . .
Friday, September 20th, 2013
Bryce Harper’s first inning three run home run was enough to push the Nationals past the Marlins, as Washington downed Miami 3-2 on Thursday night at Nationals’ Park. Harper’s blast with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth on base kept the Nats slim hopes of a playoff spot alive, with the home towners five games behind Cincinnati in the Wild Card hunt.
Harper’s home run provided the only scoring for Washington, leaving the game in the hands of southpaw starter Gio Gonzalez and three relievers. Harper was all smiles in the dugout after his dinger as he joined four other Nationals (Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche) in hitting twenty home runs on the year.
“He’s only going to get better,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said of his young slugger. “I think when you go through a period where you have all this attention and you try to live up to hype you try to do too much. I think he’s getting over that. I think he’s back to enjoying the game, and that’s great to see.”
Harper’s three RBIs might not have been enough against the Marlins line-up, but Gio Gonzalez provided a steady outing (two earned runs in six complete innings, while scattering seven hits) in notching his 11th win on the season. A trio of Nationals’ relievers (Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano) then shut down Miami in the last three frames.
The two Marlins’ runs came off an Ed Lucas single that scored Donovan Solano in the first and a Justin Ruggiano double that scored Giancarlo Stanton in the 6th. The Washington win slapped righty Henderson Alvarez with the loss, his fifth on the season.
The Washington victory came at a small personal price for Denard Span, who went 0-4, thus ending his 29 game hitting streak, the longest in the major leagues this year. The crowd of nearly 26,000 fans, realizing the Nationals center fielder would not extend his streak, gave Span a standing ovation after his fourth at bat. He was greeted by his teammates in the dugout with high-fives.
“You gotta tip your cap to Joe DiMaggio because that’s a record that I don’t think will ever be broke,” left fielder Bryce Harper said of Span’s streak after the game. “Denard made a good run at it. I tip my cap to him and I think everyone in baseball did.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Back in March, new ESPN analyst Alex Cora questioned whether the Red Sox had made the right decision in signing former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, saying that Boston should have gone after someone younger and more athletic . . .
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
The Washington Nationals have made the improbable now possible, stunning the Atlanta Braves in a split doubleheader on Tuesday, winning a come-from-behind first game in the bottom of the 9th inning, 6-5, then coming back to tame Atlanta 4-0 in the nightcap. The twin wins kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.
The Nationals seemed headed for defeat in the first game of the twin bill, trailing Atlanta by a score of 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. But the Nationals scored three runs on a walk to Adam LaRoche, a Wilson Ramos infield single, an Anthony Rendon walk, a fielder’s choice that scored LaRoche and a walk-off error from the usually sure-handed Andrelton Simmons.
The Simmons error came off the bat of Washington’s Denard Span, capping a three run rally that sparked a mass celebration by the Nationals. The rally marked a day in which the team and fans paid homage to those who had died at the nearby Navy Yard at the hands of a lone gunman on Monday. The Nats wore emblematic Navy hats as a tribute prior to the game.
Atlanta had trailed 3-0 in the game, but a furious comeback from the Braves in the 8th inning gave Atlanta a one run lead, which they expanded by a run in the 9th inning. The 8th inning comeback victimized sure-armed reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a walk to Freedie Freeman, following by an Evan Gattis home run — his 20th of the year.
“He felt terrible,” Nationals starter Dan Haren said of Clippard following the victory. “He was yelling for 15 minutes straight, screaming in the locker room. How many times has the guy picked us up this year in huge games? Has so many holds. The guy pitches six out of seven days. The guy has been money all year.”
But Clippard’s frustration couldn’t match that felt by Atlanta fireballer Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most effective closer in the National League in 2013. Kimbrel had converted 37 straight save opportunities before Tuesday, but couldn’t survive the Simmons’ error.
“Any time I go out there and don’t do my job, it’s a tough one to swallow, because my job is to go out there and solidify what everybody else has done the entire game,” Kimbrel said following his blown save. “Everybody worked their butts off all game long. We battled back and took a lead.”
Monday, September 16th, 2013
Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was 4-4 and drove in five runs, and righty starter Jordan Zimmermann notched his league-leading 18th win of the year, and the Nationals routed the Philadelphia Phillies 11-2 at Nationals Park on Sunday. The win, coupled with a Cincinnati loss in Milwaukee, brought the home towners within 4.5 games of the last Wild Card slot.
While the Nationals pounded out eighteen hits against a hapless Philadelphia pitching staff, Ramos was clearly the star of the show: the Nationals’ backstop singled in the bottom of the 1st (and plated Bryce Harper), singled again in the bottom of the 4th (scoring Harper again), homered to center in the 6th and singled in the 7th to score Zach Walters and Adam LaRoche.
Ramos has been a workhorse for the Nationals, appearing Sunday in his 23rd consecutive game. “He’s been hitting the heck out of the ball, catching good, throwing people out. He’s hard to take out of the lineup,” Washington skipper Davey Johnson said of his 26-year old catcher. “We’ve missed him for two years, so we’re going to ride him.”
But Ramos’ career day did little to overshadow the performance of righty Jordan Zimmermann, who’s been Washington’s staff ace for the 2013 campaign. Zimmermann turned in seven innings complete innings of seven hit baseball while striking out seven in taming the Philadelphia line-up.
“It feels good, but then again, I’ll trade all those wins in for a spot in the playoffs,” Zimmermann said after his victory. “That’s the only thing that matters right now. We’re playing good ball and scoring some runs, so it’s definitely fun.”
It took the Nationals just over three hours to polish off Philadelphia, who sent five pitchers to the mound in an effort to short-circuit Washington’s attack. The Phillies have great hopes for starter Tyler Cloyd, a sleeper pick in the 18th round of the 2008 draft. But the Nats victimized Cloyd with ten hits and five runs in four innings.
“Any time you have a bad outing, no matter how many good ones you have, you’re always disappointed,” Cloyd said after the Phillies’ loss. “Obviously I’m more disappointed that I’m pitching bad and not giving the team a chance to win. I’ve got to figure it out somehow.
While Ramos led the Nationals attack, he had plenty of help. Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond had two hits each (with Span extending his hitting streak to 26 straight games), while Bryce Harper was 3-5 on the day and raised his 2013 batting average to .280. Harper was 6-12 in the Philadelphia series.