Archive for the ‘St. Louis Cardinals’ Category

Nats Sweep In Miami, Return For Final Homestand

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

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The Nationals completed an impressive four game sweep of the Marlins on Sunday afternoon in Miami 2-1, behind a strong seven inning outing from righty Stephen Strasburg. The Nats righty struck out five while giving up three hits and no runs, keeping Washington ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the best record in the National League.

“Really important, a good road trip for us against some teams that has been playing well especially here in a place where they play very good at home,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said, following the victory. “We won some close ones and pitching was good, that certainly will keep you in any ballgame.

This was Strasburg’s 13th win of the year and, with just seven games left in the season (three against the Mets, four against Miami), the Washington ace seems to be peaking at just the right time. Strasburg threw 84 pitches, 55 of them for strikes. “Just have to keep the train rolling,” Strasburg said following his strong outing.

With Strasburg on his game, the Nats needed just two runs to subdue the Marlins, and got both of them in the top of the 5th inning on a lead-off double from Jose Lobaton, an RBI triple from Nate Schierholtz and an Anthony Rendon double to left. Washington victimized Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi, who gave up seven hits in six innings.

Washington’s bullpen once against provided a solid performance. Craig Stammen provided a no hit, no run 8th inning, while Rafael Soriano (making a rare appearance in a save situation), gave up a single run in preserving the Nationals victory.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: With less than a week to go in the regular season, now might be a good time to check this year’s attendance figures — which are down from last year. Baseball has drawn 155,000 fewer fans to this point this year than to a similar point in 2013, a relatively insignificant per game decline. Still . . .

Washington has contributed to this, with a fall-off of 1,065 fans per game. That’s a marginal difference and well in line with the standard in baseball, where attendance figures lag performance by a year. Given the Nationals run to the playoffs in the 2014 campaign, we can expect the team’s attendance to go back up in 2015 . . .

Not to worry. It was going to be difficult for the franchise to outdraw last year’s totals, which were the best since 2005, the Nationals first year in D.C. Then too, the franchise’s attendance figures continue to be solid, putting them just ahead of the middle of the pack in the MLB. They currently rank 12th in attendance per game . . .

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Nats Outlast The Rain, And The Braves, 4-1

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

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After a nearly four hour rain delay that pushed Washington’s game against Atlanta into the early morning hours, the Nationals overcame the Braves in an 11 inning marathon, 4-1. The Washington win marked Atlanta’s ninth loss in ten games and pushed the Nationals 4.5 games ahead of the Braves in the National League East.

A bases loaded single off the bat of Wilson Ramos in the 11th inning was the difference in the game, as the Washington catcher plated Anthony Rendon for the go-ahead run. Kevin Frandsen followed Ramos with a double over the head of Jason Heyward, scoring Adam LaRoche (who had singled) and Bryce Harper (who had walked).

Skipper Matt Williams was pleased with his team’s effort. “Considering all that happened today, and the way we had to fight through the last couple of days, it was pretty good for us,” Williams said after the hard-fought victory. “We fought all the way.”

The game featured a solid pitchers’ duel, with Washington’s Tanner Roark matched up against Atlanta’s Aaron Harang. The two hurlers numbers were similar, with the Nats and Braves trading singles and runs through ten straight innings. Roark’s and Harang’s final lines (each threw seven complete and gave up a single earned run) reflected just how tightly the two teams play.

Washington scored first, in the sixth inning, on Adam LaRoche’s 16th home run of the season. Atlanta responded in the bottom of that frame, when Jason Heyward’s sacrifice fly scored Tommy La Stella. Washington’s bullpen was, once again, outstanding: Matt Thornton, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano held the Braves scoreless through four complete, with Soriano picking up his 26th save.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s mid-August (the dog days, when the season seems to go on forever), so analysts, pundits and columnists are searching for things to write and talk about. On Friday, MLB Network listed nominees for the A.L.’s MVP award, apparently because it’s never too soon to speculate . . .

Among those listed were Baltimore’s Adam Jones, L.A.’s Mike Trout, Detroit’s Victor Martinez, Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. The surprise in the list (at least for us), is Victor Martinez, who is worthy but often overshadowed by Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera, who’s having an off year — at least for him . . .

Our pick is Adam Jones, who’s the heartbeat of the first place Orioles. You won’t find Jones at the top of the league in batting average (he’s hitting a respectable .285 on the year), but he’s plated 22 round trippers, which puts him in the company of Jose Bautista and Albert Pujols and he’s knocked in 70, which puts him 11th in the A.L . . .

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Marlins Hook The Nats, 3-0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Henderson Alvarez pitched seven complete innings and Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and drove in two runs as the Miami Marlins shut out the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, 3-0. The victory was Miami’s sixth in a row and narrowed the gap separating them from first place in the National League East.

Alvarez showed why he’s one of Miami’s premier starters, particularly at home. Alvarez allowed just three hits while striking out four, outdueling Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg matched Alvarez’s numbers, also allowing just four hits. The Washington righty also struck out four Marlins.

The Nationals had plenty of scoring opportunities against Alvarez, but couldn’t find a way to get their runners across the plate. The Nats had the bases loaded in the second inning with no outs, but failed to score, and then had Anthony Rendon on third and Bryce Harper on first in the fifth but couldn’t push a run across.

Alvarez admitted that he struggled in the early going, before finding his command. “I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” Alvarez said of his performance. “When the bases loaded with nobody out, I started to find my control of my pitches and of the game.”

After showing a solid ability to push runners across the plate earlier in the current road trip, the Nationals reclaimed their inability to score with runners on base. Washington left 26 on base last night, threatening Miami’s lead in the last of the 9th, when they again failed to score with the bases loaded.

The game also marked a revival for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game at zero for his last nine at bats. But Stanton certainly looked good against the Nationals, lacing a double to left against Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th, scoring Jordany Valdespin.

“I haven’t felt good for a while now,” Stanton said after last night’s victory. “I did a little setup pregame. Hopefully I’m feeling better and more comfortable at the plate. Today was a good plus to that.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the hunt for starting pitchers, with both teams inquiring about Boston’s Jon Lester, who’s a free agent after the season. The Redbirds have kicked the tires on nearly everyone who’s even remotely available, according to baseball analysts . . .

The once-upon-a-time pitching rich Cardinals are mired right in the middle of the pack with their staff, at least statistically, with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia sidelined with arm issues. Wacha has a tweaky shoulder while Garcia is out for the duration with nerve problems in his pitching arm . . .

The loss of Wacha and Garcia have not sent the Cardinals into a tailspin, but St. Louis will need to bolster its pitching to have a shot at another world title. Everyone is in play: the Redbirds have scouted Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.j. Burnett of the Phillies, Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, in addition to Lester . . .

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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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A Lousy 7th Dooms The Nats

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

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A lead off home run from Matt Adams and a rare breakdown in the Nationals bullpen spelled the difference between victory and defeat on Saturday, as Washington dropped its second straight game to St. Louis, 4-1. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg paid the price for the team’s poor showing in the 7th inning, after throwing what looked to be his standard starting gem.

The 7th was the difference. After Matt Adams led off the inning with a home run, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead, St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay singled — which marked the end of Strasburg’s night after a solid 95 pitching outing. With reliever Jerry Blevins on the mound, Jose Lobaton allowed a passed ball and Blevins walked Matt Carpenter.

Even with men on first and second, Washington might well have survived the St. Louis surge. But usually lights-out reliever Drew Storen then hit second sacker Mark Ellis and (with the bases loaded), Storen walked Matt Holliday, which scored a  St. Louis run, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. An Allen Craig single then plated the third run of the inning, giving St. Louis the 4-1 victory.

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“The ball slipped out of his [Storen's] hand on a curveball and then he hit him and then he kind of got all over the place,” manager Matt Williams said of his reliever’s outing. “We got out of the inning, but the damage was done at that point. They’ve been good. The bullpen’s been very good. It’s going to have a hiccup every once in a while.”

While the 7th inning was the talk of both clubhouses after the Nationals defeat, Washington’s inability to hit St. Louis pitching was a major subtext of the series. The Nationals banged out a measly four hits against St. Louis pitching on Saturday and were unable to get to St. Louis starter Shelby Miller.

Miller, a first round pick of St. Louis in 2009 — the year that Strasburg was the MLB player draft’s first overall pick (and Storen was ninth) — struck out seven Nationals hitters in sealing the St. Louis win. “What can you say?” Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton acknowledged after the defeat. “They’ve been throwing good and today was one of those days.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Saturday was a tough day for the National League East. The Nationals, Braves, Mets and Marlins were all losers, with the Phillies the only team to come away with a win . . .

The Braves were defeated 11-6 in 13 innings in Atlanta, with the Halos scoring five runs in the top of the 13th inning on a bases loaded single from Kole Calhoun. The Braves deflating loss (after their 4-3 win against the Belinskys on Friday) kept the Nationals in a tie with Atlanta atop the division . . .

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Lynn-Zimmermann Duel, Cardinals Edge Nats

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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The Cardinals Lance Lynn and Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann went head-to-head on Friday night, with Lynn and the Cardinals prevailing 1-0 in a classic pitchers’ duel in St. Louis. Lynn held Washington to just two hits in eight complete innings, with St. Louis reliever Trevor Rosenthal closing out the game.

The lone St. Louis run was scored on a Matt Adams home run in the second inning. “I had a good fastball again, down in the zone, and the curveballs and sliders were there when I wanted them,” Zimmermann said of his stellar outing. “Really, it was one mistake on a changeup that was down the middle. He made me pay.”

“He’s been really good,” Washington manager Matt Williams said of Zimmermann. “He hung a changeup to Adams and didn’t get that pitch where he wanted to get it. Other than that, he induced some double plays and we played good defense behind him.”

There’s no question: Zimmermann was superb on Friday. But the notoriously inconsistent Lynn was even better. The St Louis righty threw 111 pitches, 73 of them for strikes while striking out eight. Washington’s two hits came from Jayson Werth and Jose Lobaton. Lynn did not allow a baserunner until the second hitter of the 6th inning.

Victimized by walks for most of the season, Lynn’s command was spot-on through eight innings. Lynn clearly needed the lift — as did the Cardinals. In his last outing, against Toronto, he walked four and on June 1 he gave up four runs on eight hits (and walked another four) against the Giants.

“He threw a lot of fastballs that came back to the plate, started off the plate and came back to the outside corner,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Lynn’s performance. “He threw really well. We hit some balls hard, but the difference tonight was one swing, and they got us.”

The Nationals have to figure out a way to win in St. Louis, and against the Cardinals. The Nationals have had difficulty with the Cards over the last several years, are 6-21 against them at Busch Stadium and were 0-6 against them in 2013. This year, so far, the Nationals (including last night’s game) have been marginally better, at 2-3.

The Nationals are back in a tie for first place in the National League East with the Atlanta Braves, who squeezed out a 4-3 win last night against the Angels in Atlanta. The still-surprising Marlins, who lost in an extra innings knock-down with the Pirates, remain just one game back.

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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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