Archive for the ‘Stephen Strasburg’ Category
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
And so it’s official: after nearly fifty games the Nationals are playing .500 ball, have proven incapable of winning the big games, are mired in a team-wide batting slump, seem disoriented and demoralized, are losing games they should win — and are nowhere near the elite team they were projected to be at the season’s start.
Or, as Adam Kilgore put it at Nationals Journal this morning: “The Nationals 4-2, 10-inning loss included many hallmarks of their 3-6 road swing. A dearth of offense. Spotty relief pitching. Finding a way to lose.” Finding a way to lose?
The most recent example came on Tuesday night in San Francisco, when the Nationals dropped a 4-2 decision on a walk-off two run Pablo Sandoval blast on a pitch by Triple-A call-up Yunesky Maya. The loss dropped the Nationals to 3-6 on their ten game West Coast road trip and squandered a near-brilliant outing from righty workhorse Stephen Strasburg.
In Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo we trust (and absolutely), but this time there’s blame enough to go around. With the Nationals leading 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, and closer Rafael Soriano on the mound, Gregor Blanco hit a liner to right field that should have been caught by Bryce Harper for the final out. It wasn’t — and Andres Torres scored the tying run.
But Harper was playing in and towards the line, when he should have been playing back and in the gap, to guard against precisely the kind of over-the-head liner that Blanco smacked. That’s the way the Giants play it. That Harper shied away from the ball (the result of hitting the wall in Los Angeles, it was suggested) is nonsense: he was out of position.
This is hardly a radical point-of-view: it was hinted at by F.P. Santangelo — MASN’s color commenter who was covering the game — both at the time of the hit, and in his post-game comments. Harper, meanwhile, reacted like any good team player, even if he’s wrong. “I put that whole loss on me,” he said. “Really sucks.”
Then there’s Yunesky Maya. “Wise old” Davey Johnson is rightly praised for managing his bullpen just so (and, it is said, even brilliantly), and determining the exact pitcher-to-hitter match-ups. Maya is a righty and would be facing righties, so perhaps that is why Johnson decided to bring him in to pitch to the Giants in the 10th. But . . . Yunesky Maya?
Friday, May 17th, 2013
Stephen Strasburg had his best outing of the year, throwing eight complete innings of three hit baseball, and the Washington Nationals won their first of a four game series in San Diego, 6-2.
Not only did Strasburg look unhittable, he pitched around difficulties that previously derailed him. In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and one out (and after a throwing error by third sacker Ryan Zimmerman), Strasburg induced a ground out and then struck out Will Venable to hold San Diego to a single run.
The San Diego native pitched in front of a large number of friends and relatives — which seemed to spur him on. “It’s just another place for me, to be honest,” he told the press following the victory. “That’s my hometown, I’m an Aztec. I look forward to pitching any place in the big leagues. Now, it’s a dream come true.”
Strasburg’s win was only his second on the year, but he looked better than he has since Opening Day. Strasburg threw 117 pitches, 68 of them for strikes. This was the first time that Strasburg had pitched into the 8th inning in his MLB career.
“I thought he pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said. “It was the first time he’s ever gone eight innings. It was a good homecoming for him. I liked it. I didn’t think he was as sharp as he usually is, but it was a good ballgame. It was nice to see some offense coming up to give him some run support.”
The Nationals punched out seven hits, but their scoring came on home runs from first sacker Adam LaRoche and the returning Bryce Harper — who hit his eleventh in the 7th inning. Harper’s shot was a monster: the ball traveled 431 feet to straight centerfield off of reliever Tyson Ross.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nats’ win came came against righthander Edinson Volquez, who has struggled on the mound this year. San Diego swapped Matt Latos to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 2011 for Volquez, who is 3-4 with a 5.55 ERA so far this year . . .
San Diego had high hopes for Volquez, but the Dominican fireballer has turned into more of an innings eater than an ace. He was 11-11 last year for the Padres in 182 innings. His best outing this year came at the end of April against Milwaukee, when he showed flashes of what he could be — throwing seven innings of five hit ball . . .
Saturday, May 11th, 2013
If Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park proved anything, it’s that the book on righty ace Stephen Strasburg is fast becoming . . . well, the book on Stephen Strasburg.
Cruising along with two outs in the 5th inning (and pitching better than he had all season), Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error on a routine grounder seemed to unhinge Strasburg, who proceeded to give up four runs — and the Cubs went on to defeat the Nationals 8-2 at Nationals Park.
It’s hard to know what to worry about most: Ryan Zimmerman’s nagging inability to make an accurate throw to first, or Strasburg’s inability to roll with the punches. Nats’ manager Davey Johnson, it seems, has made up his mind. Anyone can make an error, he said after the Saturday loss, but it’s up to the pitcher to put it behind him and keep throwing strikes.
“It was unfortunate,” a puzzled Johnson said after the loss, “That inning he threw 40 pitches? It’s hard to explain. He’s throwing good. Good stuff. Hitting his spots. And then just seemed to — when we needed him to pick us up, he kind of — the air went out.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one who was befuddled. The stadium was deathly quiet as Strasburg seemed to suddenly struggle against himself: after Wellington Castillo reached on Zimmerman’s error, Strasburg walked Darwin Barney, gave up a double to pitcher Edwin Jackson, walked David DeJesus — then gave up successive singles to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
If it had not been for a poor base running decision by Rizzo, it appeared that Strasburg would be lifted. “Just a bad throw,” Zimmerman said of his error. “It’s frustrating. Stevie’s throwing the ball well and has a heck of a game going and that obviously changed the momentum a little bit.”
Sunday, May 5th, 2013
To hear the experts on “Baseball Tonight” talk about it (Rick Sutcliffe, Nomar Garciaparra et. al.), you’d think that Washington starter Stephen Strasburg struggled through Saturday’s start in Pittsburgh (in which the Nationals rallied to notch a 5-4 victory), and was lucky to get out the game alive.
But that’s not the way that Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson saw it: “I thought he was throwing well. The way he started the ballgame, he was going after them, making good pitches,” Johnson said after the Nationals’ win. “He made a couple of mistakes, right on the heart of the plate. You can’t do that. He held us in there and did a good job.”
True enough, Washington’s celebrated ace “made a couple of mistakes” (a home run to Starling Marte in the 3rd, and to Clint Barmes in the 5th), but he also threw 65 strikes and lasted seven innings — long enough so that Ryan Zimmerman could lead a double steal and score on a Tyler Moore sacrifice fly in the 9th inning to clinch the Nationals’ one run victory.
The Nationals’ win was a just-hang-in-there, grind-it-out kind of triumph. coming after a disheartening so-so start to the season. It was exactly what the team needed. The Nationals fell behind early, rallied to tie it at four apiece, then literally stole the game in the 9th, when Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche engineered a heads-up double steal that took the Pittsburgh defense by surprise.
Then, with Zimmerman on third and LaRoche on second, Tyler Moore short-stroked a fly ball to Pirate Travis Snider, which brought the winning run home. Moore’s hit was a vindication for the young slugger, who’d struck out twice in his previous at bats, leaving the bases jammed both times. “Just to come through at the end was huge. I battled it out for the team,” Moore said of his 9th inning heroic.
Tyler Clippard picked up his second win of the season by pitching a scoreless eighth inning, while Rafael Soriano was credited with his 10th save. The Nationals banged out only six hits in the win, leaving an astonishing 21 runners on base. Still, a victory is a victory: “Well, we got a few more guys on base,” Davey Johnson said in the clubhouse afterwards. “We didn’t get many in — but it’s a start.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The big news of the day (outside of the win) was a team meeting that Davey Johnson had prior to the game. “So, just trying to clear the air, make it simpler,” was the way Johnson later described the confab. “Let’s keep having fun. We are here to do things that we are capable of doing. It was that kind of a meeting . . .”
The Johnson meeting had an immediate impact, as did his decision to take some batting practice with the players before the game. He took about 40 swings, but the lesson wasn’t lost on his team — nor were his comments afterwards: “I wanted to see if it was that hard to hit a baseball,” he joked . . .
Saturday, May 4th, 2013
These are not your daddy’s Pittsburgh Pirates, these are the “real deal” Pirates, a team that has not won in nearly two decades but that sits now, at 17-12, just one game from the top in the National League Central. On Friday night they proved they belong there, as A.J. Burnett struck out nine Nationals in leading the Buccos in a 3-1 win over the home-towners.
Burnett gave up just five hits and one walk in subduing the Nationals, getting help from Jordy Mercer, who homered to break the tie and give Pittsburgh the win. The Nationals seemed particularly ineffective against Pirates’ pitching: they were 1-3 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times in all.
“Our offense seems to be sputtering. We just can’t get anything going. That’s our problem,” Nats’ skipper Davy Johnson said in the clubhouse after the loss. “We are not hitting balls early in the count. We have a lot better hitters than we are showing.”
The Nationals had every chance of winning, particularly with lefty Ross Detwiler on the mound. But Detwiler lasted only five innings, lifted by Johnson after giving up six hits and two walks. Detwiler was victimized by Nats’ killer Andrew McCutchen, who put a Detwiler offering into the left field seats with two out in the first inning.
“He is not going to hit a home run every time, but it seems like against us, he does,” Detwiler said of McCutchen’s Friday night performance. “You have to focus on keeping the ball down. Don’t let him lift the ball, though.”
Indeed, the Pirates’ centerfielder clearly has the Nats’ number: in twenty-four games against the Nats, McCutchen is hitting .456 with six doubles, two triples, 11 homers, 22 RBIs and 24 runs scored. McCutchen was 3-4 last night, lifting his season BA to .257.
The Nats loss in Pittsburgh put the team back at 15-15 for the year. One year ago, the team was 18-12. The frustration is starting to show, even with Davey Johnson, who called on his team to be more aggressive. “We are kind of hitting rock bottom. We just need to man up,” he said. “Let’s start doing the things we are capable of doing. The ones that get me are the [called strikeouts].
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Of course, the Pirates didn’t “steal” last night’s game (as our headline notes), but used the long ball and a rookie to seal the win. Our headline is, rather, a nod to the Bucco’s long history. They got their name for “pirating” Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics back in 1890 . . .
Since their founding in 1882 (as the Alleghenys), the Pirates have won only five world championships, the most recent in 1979, when the Willie Stargell led “family” subdued Baltimore’s Orioles. But the Pirates haven’t done anything since 1992, when they lost the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves . . .
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Washington righthanded ace Jordan Zimmermann was brilliant once again, holding the Atlanta Braves to just two hits in eight innings, and pitching the Nationals to a much-needed victory in Atlanta, 2-0. Zimmermann struck out eight and allowed only one Atlanta runner past first base.
“We needed that one bad and he went out and pitched a blueprint game,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said following the Washington victory. “I thought he was one of the elites last year. We just didn’t give him a lot of run support.
This was Zimmermann’s third superb outing in a row: Zimmermann threw a one hit complete game in his previous outing against Cincinnati and before that had been nearly untouchable against both the Marlins and Mets. In the constellation of Nationals’ starters, it turns out that it’s Zimmermann — and not Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez — who’s the “stopper.”
“He’s obviously got everything working right now,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Zimmermann. “He’s pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he’s really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he’s throwing breaking balls for strikes. He’s got it working. Even during the game, he keeps it loose. He’s really fun to work with.”
Washington got its two runs in the fourth inning, the result of a walk to Bryce Harper and a home run to Ian Desmond. Atlanta’s Paul Maholm took the loss and Washington closer Rafael Soriano notched his eighth save of the season.The victory broke Washington’s eight game losing streak to the Bravos.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Stephen Strasburg outpitched Atlanta’s Julio Teheran and the Nats’ lineup outhit the Braves (ten hits to seven), but Washington couldn’t find a way to win — and went down to defeat at Turner Field 3-2 on Monday night. The Atlanta victory snapped their four game losing streak, while Washington has yet to find a way to consistently defeat their divisional rival.
While Strasburg was once again not at his best, he kept Washington in the game, throwing six innings of six hit baseball while striking out eight. Strasburg is now 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA, and has not won since opening day. Worse yet, the Washington ace reported that he’s some forearm stiffness.
Davey Johnson noticed that “something was off” in the way that Strasburg was pitching, and in post-game remarks told the press that “I’m sure they’re going to put him on some medication.” No matter: Strasburg is obviously anxious to keep throwing. “I’m not missing my next start,” he said after the game. “I’ll tell you that right now.”
The difference in the game came in the bottom of the 7th inning. Tyler Clippard was brought on in relief of Strasburg and walked the first batter, Gerald Laird, who was then sacrificed to second. Jordan Shafer then punched a single to right field and stole second. Atlanta’s third run then crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Andrelton Simmons.
Washington’s hitters, meanwhile, had a good bead on Teheran, but couldn’t push across the runs to give the Nats a victory. The Nationals were 2-9 with runners in scoring position. Strasburg got a no-decision in the game, with Tyler Clippard taking the loss.
The Nationals continue their series in Atlanta tomorrow night, with Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the home towners. He will face off against savvy righty, Tim Hudson.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals know they have to find a way to beat the Braves, but we’re stumped as to how they’ll do it. Nats’ hitters beat up Teheran tonight, just as they did in his last outing, but it didn’t seem to matter. Atlanta has now won eight in a row against Washington, dating back to last year . . .
Back on April 12, the Nationals forced Teheranto the pine after six innings, plating four earned runs and six hits in two innings — but ended up losing the game in extra innings, 6-4. You have to wonder if maybe the Nationals are snake-bit against the Bravos, despite finishing last season four games ahead of them . . .