Archive for the ‘san francisco giants’ Category

Let’s Play The . . . Giants

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

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Somewhere here soon, and actually any minute now, Nats skipper Matt Williams will tell the Washington sports press that he doesn’t care whether the Nationals face the Pirates (and, well, perhaps the Cardinals) or the Giants in the playoffs — “they’re both good teams.” That’s fine for Matt, but the rest of us should have a decided preference: Let’s play the Giants.

It’s not that we don’t like the Pirates (we love them, and if the Nats weren’t in the playoffs . . .), it’s that of the two teams that the Nats are likely to face in the playoffs first round, the Giants are (arguably) the easier opponent. They’ve had an inconsistent September (swept by the Padres and dumped by the Dodgers) and, with the exception of Madison Bumgarner (and Jake Peavy) their pitching is a mess.

The Giants know it. Having backed into the playoffs, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is now juggling his starting staff to make certain San Francisco puts Bumgarner on the mound on Wild Card Wednesday, no matter who the Giants face. Which means that, if the Giants were to win, the Nationals would face either Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy or Tim Hudson in the first game of the N.L. Division series — while Bumgarner sits.

San Francisco will enter the playoffs with the worst pitching stats of any of the five N.L finishers, with a so-so team ERA (at 3.52), a habit of giving up big runs to small teams and a back of the rotation that has been absolutely shelled.

The Giants lost to the Padres 4-1 last night at home, but gave up eight runs to them on Thursday, in a game the franchise said it had to win. Earlier in the month, the McCoveys were outscored by the Friars in a three game set, 16-2.

But our argument doesn’t have as much to do with the Giants as it does with the Pirates. Pittsburgh is red hot (they’ve won nine of their last eleven), their line-up is that much more formidable and their starting rotation is tougher than San Francisco’s. Pittsburgh is the N.L.’s big secret: they can hit, they can pitch, they’re patient at the plate and they’re fast.

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Mets End Drought Vs. Nats, Win 4-3

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

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The Mets have been nearly hopeless in playing the Nationals in New York, but on Friday night they ended their drought, notching a 4-3 victory over Washington behind the pitching of starter Dillon Gee and the bat of Juan Lagares. The victory ended a twelve game winless streak for New York against the Nationals at Citi Field.

The New York victory came at the expense of Washington southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who reacted angrily to Matt Williams decision to take him out of the game in the 7th inning. Gonzalez slammed the ball into Williams’ hand when the skipper relieved him, then exchanged words with him in a heated conversation in the dugout.

Gonzalez later downplayed the mini-confrontation. “Matt did his best to defuse it as much as possible,” he said. “It’s part of the sport. It’s high intensity, trying to keep the game close. He has been part of it; it’s part of baseball. You want to keep pitching, you want to keep going out there.”

Gonzalez pitched well on Friday night, but not well enough to notch the win, or keep the Mets out of the scoring column. The Mets put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning on an Eric Young, Jr. single, a Juan Lagares HBP, a walk to Lucas Duda and a Travis d’Arnaud double to deep left field. The three run inning forced Gonzalez to start over in the second.

“Second inning, it was a clean start, and I just tried to pound the strike zone, keep going after them,” Gonzalez confirmed after the loss. “Throwing the changeup for strikes. I’m trying to work fast and get us back in the dugout as soon as possible to get our guys to swing the bat.”

The Nationals struck back by plating two runs in the top of the third and a single run in the fifth, but New York answered with another Lagares double in the bottom half of that frame. Anthony Rendon provided most of Washington’s offense, including a home run in the top of the 5th (his twentieth of the season) to tie the score at three.

“He has been unbelievable,” teammate Denard Span said of the Nats third sacker. “He has been our most valuable player from start to finish. He has been in the lineup pretty much every day, giving us everything we need. He is scoring runs. We need him to steal a bag, he steals a bag, driving in runs. He is doing it all.”

Mets manager Terry Collins was visibly relieved by his team’s win, particularly after a winless lull against Washington at Citi Field that goes back 14 months. “There’s been a lot of nights where we’ve had them late in the game and they’ve come back and done some big damage against us, but it was a good win for us tonight for sure, ” Collins said.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The nation turns its lonely eyes to the West Coast, where the most interesting baseball is being played. The Giants opened what could be a winner-take-all series against the Dodgers in San Francisco last night, derailing the N.L. West leading Trolleys 9-0 in the first of a three game set . . .

This is a damned near ancient rivalry in the Great Game, made all the more important by the fact that prior to last night’s contest the Giants trailed the Kershaws by just two games. Madison Bumgarner stepped up in his start last night, throwing seven innings of three hit baseball . . .

Dodger fans need to take a quick gulp: southpaw starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was removed after the first inning with left shoulder irritation — he’d just given up four runs. Bumgarner, meanwhile, notched his 18th win and struck out eight . . .

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LaRoche’s Bat Salvages Phillies Series — Storen Gets The Save

Monday, September 8th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche slugged two home runs, Gio Gonzalez tossed a solid six innings and reliever Drew Storen earned his second save of the season as the Washington Nationals downed the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory, coupled with an Atlanta loss, reduced the Nationals “magic number” to win the N.L. East to fourteen games.

LaRoche has been on fire for the Nationals over the last week. LaRoche has ten RBIs in his last four games, along with three home runs. His first home run in the second inning on Sunday tied the game at one run apiece, while his second in the fourth tied it at two.

LaRoche has had a career of success over Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, who provided a solid performance for the Ashburns on Sunday (6.1 innings with three earned runs). “It was just one of those days where he left a couple of pitches right over the plate,” LaRoche said in explaining his success against Hamels.

After two tough losses to the Phillies, and reliance on an over-taxed bullpen, Washington needed a good outing from its starter, and Gio Gonzalez gave it to them on Sunday. The lefty picked up his eighth win on the season in throwing 105 pitches, 67 of them for strikes.

But the game also had its quota of strange, and not very good, plays — at least for the Nationals. The Phillies notched their first run of the game in the first inning on an unusual throwing error from Denard Span in center to Anthony Rendon covering third, who then retrieved the ball and threw it past Jose Lobaton at home plate. The two errors gave Philadelphia its first run of the game.

Then, in the sixth inning, after Nats shortstop Ian Desmond doubled to left field, a Cole Hamels balk moved him to third. Desmond then sprinted home on a long sacrifice fly to left field off the bat of Scott Hairston that barely stayed in the park. It was the first time in Hamels’ memory that he’d lost a game by a balk: “It’s unfortunate,” Hamels said.

The Hairston sacrifice vindicated Matt Williams’ view that Hairston would contribute against Hamels. “He has good numbers against Hamels,” Williams confirmed after the win. “He has seen him well and hit him well over time. I wanted to give him that opportunity, for sure.”

“Cole wasn’t as sharp with his command and just controlling the ball,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said after the Hamels loss. “And then the balk kind of came into play. It was a questionable call. He does that often.”

With the Nationals up 3-2, Washington skipper Matt Williams called on Drew Storen to save the game, the first time the righty had come on in the role since Williams announced that the team would give a struggling Rafael Soriano some time off to correct the flaws in his delivery.

Storen was philosophical about his new role, which he will presumably share with others in a “closer by committee:” set up shaped by Williams. “Really, the only thing different is the run to the mound — fans are real into it,” Storen said after notching his save. “You soak that in for a second, and move on, and lock in and do what you need to do.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Count the Phillies as among those in baseball who have consistently had the Nationals’ number. The Nats had lost five straight against Philadelphia coming into Sunday’s game and finished out the season with a 9-10 record vs. their N.L. East rivals . . .

Among the elite teams in baseball, the Nationals have losing records (as Adam Kilgore points out) against five other solid squads — the Braves, Orioles, Angels, Athletics and Cardinals (of course), and a losing record against Philadelphia . . .

Here’s how Kilgore explains it: “The Nationals went 6-3 against the Phillies before the all-star break, then split a four-game series against them in early August. This month, the Phillies have turned their bullpen from disastrous to dominant . . .”

The Nationals “magic number” to clinch the National League East now stands at 14, the result of Atlanta’s 4-0 loss on Sunday to the Miami Marlins. The 4-0 shutout confirmed what has ailed the Braves in the last part of the 2014 campaign: they can’t hit worth a damn . . .

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Nats Notes: And Down The Stretch They Come . . .

Friday, September 5th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals have entered the home stretch: there are only some 20-plus games remaining in the regular season, all of which the Nats are playing against their N.L. East rivals. The bookmakers currently have the odds the Nationals make it to October at 99.8 percent.

Don’t let that number fool you – there’s no guarantee here, and there’ll be meaningful and exciting baseball through the end of the month. But no matter what happens down the stretch, Nats fans will remember the past month as confirmation that the Washington Nine are genuine contenders in the top tier of Major League teams.

The Nats put together a hardscrabble 10-game streak and a 9-for-10 homestand in August, sweeping one NL wildcard contender (the Pittsburgh Pirates) and winning a series against another (the San Francisco Giants). They then took two series on the West Coast, one from an AL wildcard contender (the Seattle Mariners) and one from the NL West leaders (the Los Angeles Dodgers). The Nationals were 4-2 on the recent West Coast swing, and let’s not kid ourselves: that’s no mean feat.

That month-long series of victories wasn’t ho-hum, by-the-numbers videogame baseball. Multiple walk-offs and come-backers were a part of the streak, with Nats’ hitters feasting on some of the best pitching in the Majors (e.g., the Sailors’ “King” Felix Hernandez: 10 hits, 4 homers, 5 ERs; the Trolley’s Kenley Jansen, third in saves in the NL: 4 hits, 1 homer, 3 ERs).

Of course, like all quests, there were setbacks and insurmountable obstacles along the way. A sweep at the hands of the Ashburns, bottomfeeders in the NL East (and longtime Washington irritants), stung without mercy. And the Nats have yet to discover the key that unlocks Trolleys’ ace Clayton Kershaw: he pitched a three-hitter, giving up one run in 8 innings.

The fact that the remaining games are all against the N.L East is worrisome. While it’s possible (though unlikely) that the wheels will come off and the Nats will be consigned to playing golf in October (they wouldn’t be the first team that’s happened to), the more realistic concern is that Washington forsakes home field advantage in the NLCS – which is granted to the team with the best regular season record.

But if you eye the schedule logically, you wouldn’t think that was really a serious risk. The Atlanta Braves are fighting gamely to stay in the Wild Card race, while the Marlins, Mets and Phillies are all sub-.500 teams. But the fact of the matter is that (with the exception of the Madoffs), the Nats just don’t play their fellow Easterners all that well. Their season records are (an embarrassing) 4-9 against the Barves, 6-5 against the Fish, 10-2 against the Mets, and only 8-8 against the Phils.

Right now, the magic number for the Nationals is 17. Which means the Strasburgs are at the point in the season when what their opponents do against anyone else is mostly irrelevant. But to put it away, to seal it all, the make themselves the one, the true cham-peens on the right coast, the Nats will have to figure out a way to feast on the East.

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Harper Homers Can’t Lift The Nats

Monday, September 1st, 2014

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Two home runs from Bryce Harper, one in the second inning and one in the fourth, weren’t enough to lift the Nationals in Seattle, as Washington came out on the losing end of a 5-3 contest. The loss was the fourth in the last six games for the Nationals, who now travel to L.A. to face the Dodgers.

The Mariners win, which salvaged a single victory in the three game series, turned on the bat of Dustin Ackley, who homered and drove in four runs for Seattle — and made a loser of Washington starter Tanner Roark, who registered his ninth loss on the season against twelve wins.

The Nationals took an early lead in the game, posting single runs in the second, third and fourth innings off of Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma threw six complete innings of five hit baseball for his 13th victory on the 2014 campaign.

Seattle’s big inning was the fifth, when Brad Miller singled on a line drive to center, Austin Jackson followed with a soft single to left, and Ackley took a 92 mph Roark fastball deep to right field to plate Seattle’s first three runs.

Ackley, a highly touted draft pick out of North Carolina, has been a late bloomer for the Mariners. “Listen, he’s a good player,” Seattle skipper Lloyd McClendon said of Ackley. “When he was drafted, he was the best college player in the draft, college hitter. Sometimes, it takes a while.”

The Nationals loss, coupled with Atlanta’s 1-0 win over the Miami Marlins, narrowed Washington’s lead over the Braves to six games in the National League East. After two exciting victories in Seattle on Friday and Saturday, the Nationals offense was non-existent on Sunday, with Washington coming away with only six hits against Seattle pitching.

The good news for the Nationals is that, after several weeks of struggling (after returning from an injury that kept him out 57 games), Harper has finally found his groove — and his swing. Sunday’s outing gave him seven home runs in his last 23 games. The left fielder is hitting .306 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs since August 7.

“I feel pretty good out there. I’m trying to put together some good at-bats,” Harper said after his team’s loss. “I get my work in every day and see how I feel every single day. Stick to the same routine, same plan and try to execute.” New acquisition Nate Schierholtz also homered (in the third inning) for the home towners.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It was all about pitching in Atlanta, where Braves southpaw Alex Wood struck out twelve in leading the Chops to a nail biting 1-0 victory over the lumbering Marlins. The Braves victory came off the bat of Evan Gattis, who’s second inning solo shot proved the difference in the game . . .

In San Francisco, meanwhile, the Giants showed they’re still very much in the race for the N.L. West flag by grabbing a sweep against the suddenly reeling Brewers. Sunday’s victory was a laugher, with San Francisco plating fifteen runs on sixteen hits. Pablo Sandoval had a two run homer and three RBIs in the victory . . .

The San Francisco win was the 15th on the season from Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, who notched seven strikeouts in six innings. The game also featured the first appearance of the season of Tim Lincecum in relief. The two time Cy Young Award winner pitched the eighth and ninth innings, but gave up two runs on three hits . . .

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A.J. Pitches Philly Past The Nats

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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Veteran Phillies righty A.J. Burnett tamed the Nationals with twelve strikeouts on Monday night, leading Philadelphia past Washington at Citizens Bank Park, 3-2. Burnett’s victory was his first since the All Star break, and came against Washington starter Tanner Roark, who was saddled with his eighth loss of the season.

Burnett’s victory was supported by home runs from third sacker Cody Asche and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who hit only his fourth of the year. Dominic Brown had two hits and an RBI for Philadelphia, while the Washington attack was led by two solo home runs from Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon.

The Nats defeat followed on the heels of an offensive outburst against the San Francisco Giants, in which the Nationals notched 23 runs, which included a 14 run shelling on Sunday. The Nats performance against Philadelphia on Monday was much more modest, as Washington banged out just two runs on six hits.

As in many of Washington’s losses, the game was filled with a number of might-have-beens. Washington hitters led off the seventh and eighth innings with doubles (from Ian Desmond and Kevin Frandsen), but were unable to plate the runs. Nor could Washington mount one of its by now legendary comebacks — with a Wilson Ramos home run in the 9th giving only a taste of the kind of heroics the team is known for.

Righty Roark, meanwhile, provided a workmanlike outing, while giving up thigh high gift to Asche in the 5th. “It was a changeup but it didn’t change,” Roark said of the Asche home run. “It was just a BP fastball. It was right down the middle, thigh high. He got me.” Roark gave up just five hits in the game, and one walk.

Jerry Blevins relieved Roark for the 7th inning, but gave up a round tripper to Philadelphia’s Ruiz. “It was a bad pitch, mistake. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. He got all of it,” Blevins said. “Track record shows that I’m better than what’s going out there. And I don’t feel like I’m pitching as bad as it looks.”

While Philadelphia remains mired in last place in the N.L. East, the performance of Burnett, who has been struggling, provided a needed tonic for their team. Burnett attributed his win to a change in his mechanics, solving a glitch he noticed in his delivery. “I wish I could have found that little glitch about a month, two months ago,” Burnett said after his team’s victory. “Unfortunately it took a long time, but better late than never.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: If only the Chicago Cubs could face American League East teams all the time. Back in late June, the Cubbies swept the Red Sox in three games and this past Sunday they completed a surprise sweep of the A.L. East leading Baltimore Orioles . . .

The Cubs victim on Sunday was Baltimore righty Miguel Gonzalez, who threw a solid 6.1 innings, but couldn’t come away with the win. The problem for Gonzalez wasn’t Chicago’s hitters (who scruffed a measly six hits off of him), but Cubbies southpaw starter Tsuhyoshi Wada, who carried a no hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a home run to Steve Pierce . . .

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Zimmermann Gets Nats Back On Track

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

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Washington righty Jordan Zimmermann threw eight complete innings, Jayson Werth plated two RBIs and Asdrubel Cabrera homered as the Nationals snapped back from their Friday 10-3 loss, defeating Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants on Saturday at Nationals Park, 6-2.

“Last night they score 10 runs, they kind of put a dagger in us a little bit,” Nationals center fielder Denard Span said of his team’s victory. “The first inning they were swinging away again. For us to respond, and come out and get a win is definitely good for us.”

The Giants scored all of their runs in the first inning on a Hunter Pence home run that gave the Giants the lead. But that was the only glitch in Zimmermann’s outing, as the Auburndale, Wisconsin native threw 107 pitches, 78 of them for strikes. “His most effective pitch was his fastball,” backstop Wilson Ramos said of Zimmermann’s outing. “It was really working well.”

“I had a good fastball.. I was locating in and out. The slider was there. I mixed a curveball the second and third time through the lineup,” Zimmermann said of his performance. “I started throwing more curveballs. The last two innings, I mixed in a few changeups and got some ground balls.”

The Nationals showed their resilience after the Giants put their runs on the board early. Trailing 2-0, Denard Span led off the bottom of the 1st inning with a triple, Anthony Rendon walked and Jayson Werth followed with single that scored Span. Rendon then scored when Adam LaRoche grounded into a fielder’s choice — and the Nats were suddenly back in the game at 2-2.

The Nationals piled on a shaky Lincecum in the 2nd inning, chasing three more runs across the plate. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a walk, was sacrificed to second and then scored on a Denard Span single. Span then scored on a Pablo Sandoval error that put Anthony Rendon on second and Rendon scored on another Jayson Werth single.

The Nationals added a sixth run to their total on a long home run off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera in the bottom of the third. The Cabrera home run marked the end of the night for Giants starter Lincecum, who gave up four earned runs in just 2.2 innings of work. Lincecum took the loss for the Giants and is now 10-9 on the year with a 4.64 ERA.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Giants are frustrated with Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young award winner and four time All Star who’s had an up-and-down season, but mostly down. Saturday was only the most recent example of what ails Lincecum, who kept his now 92-mph fastball out over the plate, where Nationals hitters crushed it . . .

While the Giants are frustrated, so too is Lincecum, who described his Saturday outing as “horseshit, just horseshit.” While that was obviously true, there was a time this season when opposing hitters couldn’t touch the righty. Starting on June 25, when he threw a no-hitter against the Padres, Lincecum was brilliant, notching a 0.92 ERA in his next five outings . . .

But starting on July 25, against the Dodgers, Lincecum has been repeatedly roughed up. The one exception came earlier this week, when Lincecum notched a win against the Phillies, though he gave up seven hits and four walks in just five innings of work. While beating the Phillies, Lincecum was all over the place, a sign of what was to come on Saturday versus the Nationals . . .

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