Archive for the ‘san francisco giants’ Category

Nats Outhit The Crew, But Fall 4-2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals proved that Milwaukee Brewers righty Kyle Lohse is very hittable, spraying ten hits in seven innings against him at Nationals Park on Friday night. But it was Lohse who had the last word, working out of threat after threat in delivering the Brewers a surprising 4-2 victory.

All of Lohse’s acrobatics came with two outs, as Washington failed to move runners off the bases — a habit that has victimized the D.C. Nine all season.

In all, Lohse pitched out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings. Of course, the Nationals could rightly claim that it was their lack of hitting with runners on base (and not Lohse’s pitching) that was the problem: The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

Lohse was able to joke about his on-base troubles, and his win, after the victory. “I think it was five out of seven innings that got led off with a hit,” he told reporters in the Brewers’ clubhouse. “I was thinking about starting off innings out of the stretch, but I didn’t want to let everybody know I was aware of it.”

The Nationals were hardly anemic at the plate. Denard Span was 3-4 on the night, Ryan Zimmerman was 2-4 (and stroked his 19th double) and Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

Lohse faced off against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in seven innings while striking out nine. But unlike Lohse, Strasburg was victimized by two round trippers (off the bats of second sacker Scooter Gennett and outfielder Khris Davis) and a Brewers’ offense that capitalized on their scoring opportunities.

“With Stras as a fastball pitcher, they are a home run-hitting club. That’s going to happen sometimes,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams noted following the loss. “If you are going to hit a home run, you want it to be a solo home run.”

But the difference in the game was not the long ball, but a bloop single off the bat of Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third inning. With Gennett and Ryan Braun on base, Ramirez hit a blooper just inside the right field line that scored both runners. The hit was the difference in the game.

The good news for the Nationals was that Bryce Harper seems to be on track after being sidelined for a good portion of the season, and struggling at the plate since his return. Armed with a new and more upright batting stance, the Nationals young left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, his third of the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals were losing at home against Milwaukee, Atlanta was winning at home against Philadelphia. The Braves 6-4 victory was their third in a row and put them a single game ahead of Washington in the National League East . . .

The Bravos celebrated the All Star break by making an uncomfortable roster move, releasing second sacker Dan Uggla who had struggled at the plate during the 2013 campaign, then repeated that performance again this year. Uggla has hit just .175 since the beginning of last season and without the power that greeted his arrival in Atlanta in the 2010 off season . . .

You really have to wonder what happened to Uggla’s power stroke. While the former Marlin could never hit for average, his penchant for hitting high and long drives into the upper deck made him a nemesis in the N.L. East. Uggla hit thirty or more home runs five seasons in a row, including 36 in 2011 . . .

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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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2 For 2 For 2

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

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The days of Tim Lincecum’s 95 mph fastball are gone, but on Wednesday Lincecum showed the Padres his new snappier slider, mixing it with a solid change-up to hold San Diego hitless in nine innings. “Two” seems to be the operative number: The owner of two Cy Young Awards and two championship rings, this was Lincecum’s second no hitter.

“It’s hard enough to do one,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “To do two, that puts you in a little different class. I couldn’t be happier.” Lincecum, who sports an ERA north of 4.00, threw 113 pitches, 73 of them for strikes, while walking a single San Diego hitter.

I didn’t feel like my stuff was great,” Lincecum noted after his performance. “The more it was down, the more movement it had, and I was getting the ground balls that I needed and the weak pop flies. So I was leaning on that. I didn’t feel like it was a ‘stuff’ day; I felt like it was a location day.”

Lincecum joins an elite list of 27 MLB pitchers who have notched two no-hitters or more. And he also joins Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey,  Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Toronto’s Mark Buehrle as one of three active pitchers who are now looking for their third.

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The Nationals “RISP Problem”

Monday, June 16th, 2014

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It wasn’t that long ago that we were pondering the hitless-homerless St. Louis Cardinals, a team that (we said) was struggling at the plate and headed for a mediocre season. Wouldn’t you know: The punchless Cardinals had plenty of punch against the Nationals, sweeping their three game set in St. Louis and sending Washington home at just two games above .500.

Sunday’s 5-2 loss at Busch Stadium was a depressing coda for the road trip, which started with a series win in San Diego and a celebrated series win in San Francisco. But the 5-2 loss on Sunday saw the Nationals slip back into their old ways, consistently challenged to drive in runners and stymied at the plate by a very good pitching staff. The Nationals left 15 runners on base yesterday and 14 on Saturday.

So, what does the St. Louis sweep mean? The Nationals, our friends at Nationals Journal say, “need to find more consistency” — and point out that Washington is lucky to be where it is: the Braves have also been sluggish, going 5-5 over the last ten games. That’s the same record as the Nationals.

By more consistency, the people at Nationals Journal mean that Washington needs to put together longer strings of wins of the kind that saw the team put up ten wins in a thirteen game run. Which begs the question: Just how precisely can the Nationals repeat that?

Our answer now has been the same as it was in April, or May. The Nationals offense just isn’t that good: The team is eighth in the National League in runs scored, ninth in hits, tenth in home runs, eighth in OPS and sixth in on base percentage. So, this much is clear: While the Nationals hitters get on base, they usually stay there.

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Nats Can’t Sweep, Fall To Giants 7-1

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

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Veteran starter TIm Hudson comes as advertised. The Giants righty is the proud owner of the lowest ERA in the National League and now, after his team backed him in a 7-1 win against the Nationals, he’s also the proud owner of seven wins. Hudson was solid and steady in San Franciso on Thursday afternoon, tossing the Giants to their sole win in their series against Washington.

We might say that Hudson deserved the win, in large part because he pitched out of numerous Nationals scoring opportunities, including a near game-breaking two-on-and-no-outs top of the fifth. But Hudson always seemed to bear down when it counted the most — with a strike out and double play saving the Giants in the 5th.

The Nationals attack was hardly anemic, with seven hits in all. But Washington couldn’t match San Francisco’s run production. Former National Michael Morse, whose San Francisco revival has been the talk of Giants’ fans (his thirteen home runs puts him third in that category in the N.L.) was 3-4 and scored twice in the Nationals loss.

Washington trotted out rookie Blake Treinen to start the game, which must have been a relief for Giants hitters (who had faced Strasburg, Fister and Roark in three successive losses), but Treinen has a snappy 1.78 ERA (that’s before his loss today) and a late moving fastball. Treinen worked into the 5th, and pitched well, but was clearly struggling against the potent San Francisco line-up.

His relief replacement, Craig Stammen, failed to stem the Giants tide however; Stammen gave up four hits and two runs in a single inning, as well as a balk — unusual for him. Then the Giants unloaded on Stammen replacement Aaron Barrett for three runs, two of them in the 8th inning.

The lone Washington run came in the fourth inning: Adam LaRoche singled to center and then advanced to second on a passed ball. A Ryan Zimmerman single to right field scored LaRoche.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals now head to St. Louis where they will face the up-and-down Cardinals in a three game set. But for the Redbirds it’s been a frustrating season. Predicted to breeze to the N.L. Central title, the only breeze being felt in St. Louis has come from Cards bats — which are nowhere to be found . . .

St. Louis started the month in a funk, being blown out by the Giants, then losing three of four to the Kansas City Royals. The loss to the Giants, their reputed opponents in this year’s post-season, seemed to unnerve the Redbirds, who looked hardly in attendance against Kansas City . . .

St. Louis fans point to the Giants game as a kind of bellweather of the 2014 campaign. The Cardinals looked particularly ineffective at the plate against (guess who?) Tim Hudson. We’d say that pitching has been a nagging concern for St. Louis (Lance Lynn has been inconsistent and Adam Wainwright’s elbow is tweaky), but the Cardinals just haven’t been able to hit . . .

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Nats Surging, Down San Francisco Again

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals flew into San Francisco this week after a series win in San Diego knowing that they would face the most important test of this still-young season. So far, at least, the Nationals have met the challenge, taking the first game in the four game set 9-2 and then, on Tuesday night, holding off the Best Team In Baseball in a classic pitcher’s duel, 2-1.

Righty Doug Fister was the key to the Nats triumph last night, scattering eight San Francisco hits while keeping the Giants off the board. This was Fister’s sixth straight solid start, his only hiccup in the 2014 season the first game he pitched for the Nationals. “That was awesome,” sometime starter Kevin Frandsen said after the victory.

Fister threw a gem, no question: but he also was savvy enough to dodge a number of early San Francisco scoring opportunities. Fister pitched out of mini-jams in the third and sixth innings. In all, the Giants stranded 22 runners in the game’s nine innings, unusual for a team that has been superb at driving in runners in scoring position.

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Washington’s starter had particular trouble with San Francisco third sacker Pablo Sandoval, who was 3-3 on the night. But Sandoval was the only Giant who seemed zeroed in on Fister. “Overall, again, there are some positive things and some things I need to work on. It was a constant battle tonight. We were able to do what we needed to do. It’s good,” Fister said of his performance.

The Nationals scoring was led by the usually savvy Jayson Werth, who singled in Danny Espinosa with what would turn to be the go-ahead and winning run in the top of the 5th. That two run frame also saw Ian Desmond score on a Denard Span sacrifice fly. Two runs might not seem like enough against the powerful Giants, but it was enough on Tuesday.

The 22 left on base by the Giants was undoubtedly frustrating for San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, whose line was strikingly similar to Fister’s. Bumgarner gave up the same number of hits (eight) while striking out five. But his teammates were not able to support his outing.

“Looking back, we’ve been on a pretty good run,” Bumgarner said of his team’s two straight losses to Washington. “You have to take the good with the bad. You can’t expect perfection every time out. It’s about how quickly you can bounce back from times like these.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals have now won nine of their last 11 games, and it’s not a secret how they’ve done it. Their pitching staff has been brilliant, with Doug Fister only the latest instance of just how strong they’ve been . . .

The Nationals have now climbed over Atlanta to lead the National League in ERA (2.95 versus 3.10), and are second to Atlanta in runs allowed. But Atlanta can’t match the Nats gaggle of relievers, who are the best in baseball. Washington has the best bullpen ERA in the majors, just ahead of San Diego. Atlanta is tenth . . .

And the Nationals are starting to score, and to knock runners in. The team is now 7th in the National League in runs, eighth in hits and sixth in on base percentage. But those totals don’t begin to tell the real story, which is that Washington’s nine of 11 surge has put them at or in the top five in every batting category over the last week . . .

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Desmond, Strasburg Fell The Giants

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals blasted twelve hits (Ian Desmond had three of them) and Stephen Strasburg tamed San Francisco’s hitters — and the Nats went on to an impressive 9-2 victory over the Giants on Monday night. The nine runs given up by San Francisco pitching was the most they’d allowed all year.

It’s now official: the Nationals are playing better baseball than at any point this year, and better than they have since the end of the 2013 campaign. The key has been outstanding pitching. One day after a complete game shutout from Jordan Zimmermann, ace Stephan Strasburg was able to befuddle Giants’ hitters through six complete innings — giving up just four hits while striking out seven.

The Nationals have now won eight of the last ten games, many of them against top flight National League opponents. But the Nats remain all business: “Tonight is over. We go tomorrow. That’s all we can concentrate on is tomorrow,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said following his team’s impressive win.

The Nationals scored on Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong in the first inning, with doubles from Denard Span and Jayson Werth, then scored again in the second on a Wilson Ramos single and an Ian Desmond triple. Desmond accounted for two more RBIs in the top of the third, on a single that scored Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

Then the Nationals poured it on, scoring five runs in the top of the 7th, highlighted by an Ian Desmond double that scored Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos. By then, the Nationals were into the Giants’ bullpen, with Vogelson chased from the game after six innings. Vogelson gave up six earned runs on the night.

“They have some good hitters in that lineup and they’ve been on a roll,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said following the Washington win. “They played well in San Diego, swung the bats well in a tough park to hit in, so they came in here with a lot of confidence. [Vogelsong] was a little bit off and when you find a team that’s hot with the bats, they’re probably going to take advantage of some pitches that are elevated there, and they did.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The worst-to-first World Champion Boston Red Sox have an outside shot of going from worst-to-first-to-worst, the only thing saving them is the implosion of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox are struggling, and have settled in at ten games back of the Blue Jays in the A.L. East and seven games under .500 . . .

Last night in Baltimore, the Sox showed why their 2014 campaign doesn’t resemble anything that happened last year. Facing the O’s Bud Norris, the Beantowners managed only three hits, while the Orioles lit them up with three homes runs. The final 4-0 tab wasn’t a laugher, but the game just wasn’t that close . . .

The Red Sox are streaky. We wrote them off when they lost ten straight, but then counted them back in when they won seven in a row. Then they lost three in a row in Cleveland. Streaky? Maybe it would be better to describe them as inconsistent: and there are plenty of reasons to use the word . . .

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