Archive for the ‘The McCovey’s’ Category

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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Padres Are No Match For Zimmermann

Monday, June 9th, 2014

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The Padres saw the very best the Nationals have on Sunday, as Jordan Zimmermann had a perfect game going into the 6th inning and delivered a two hit shutout, leading the Nationals to a 6-0 win over San Diego. The Zimmermann gem captured the series 2-1 and provided the best antidote possible to the tough loss the team had suffered on Friday.

In the complete game shutout, Zimmermann threw 114 pitches, 83 of them for strikes. “For the most part he was down in the zone, painting corner to corner,” Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, the Padres’ hero on Friday, said. “He commands the ball so well, gets ahead of guys really quick. We couldn’t really put any good swings on him.”

“I was throwing strikes and the guys got me some runs early,” Zimmermann said following his victory. “My mentality changed to pour strikes into the zone and fill it up. Big ballpark, just let them hit the ball and I had a lot of strikeouts today which means my fastball was pretty good and I was able to locate it pretty good.” Zimmermann is now 5-2 on the year.

Nationals skipper Matt Williams had nothing but praise for his young righty. “It’s good. Today helps our bullpen. They have been taxed until now,” he said after the victory. “Jordan has the ability to save your bullpen.” Williams called the Zimmermann performance “outstanding,” particularly coming after a tough loss.

“From the first pitch, he was in the strike zone again,” Williams added. “Strike one is important. He was able to do that today. Fastball command — he was throwing it exactly where he wanted to throw it.” In fact, Zimmermann faced just 29 batters during Sunday’s game and threw first strikes to 22 of them.

Ian Desmond continued to have the hot hand at the plate. He was 2-5 on Sunday with two RBIs and smoked a round tripper in the second inning off of San Diego southpaw starter Eric Stults. Danny Espinosa, who continues to surge, as well as Jayson Werth, each had two hits.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The stars seem to be aligning for the Nationals. The Bravos took a 2-0 lead into the 7th inning in Arizona on Sunday, but came away losers after the Diamondbacks put six on the board in the bottom of that frame. The rally was led by Paul Goldschmidt and rookie David Peralta, who homered for Arizona during the D-Backs comeback, victimizing Atlanta starter Aaron Harang . . .

Say what you will about Arizona (and we have a lot to say, not much of it good), they know how to win when the Nationals need them to. The D-Backs are desperately trying to climb back into the race in the N.L. West (frankly, we will give you better odds on The Second Coming), which means they have to win at home — where they’ve been (at an embarrassing 11-23) simply atrocious . . .

The Arizona win over the boys from Cobb County, when coupled with Miami’s win in Chicago, knots up the N.L. Least, where the Nats, Braves and Marlins are snarling and circling and in a dead tie . . .

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants (the team the Nationals, gulp, will face next), were busy wrapping up their series sweep against the New York Mets, who are slipping and sliding into fourth place, as they sprint to the bottom against the still hapless Phillies . . .

The Giants are almost mindlessly good, though we are left to wonder why. No one on San Francisco’s starting nine on Sunday was (or is) hitting over .300. Of course, Angel Pagan was out of the line-up (he’s at .323, good for fifth in the National League), but still. Their next best hitter is Hunter Pence, at .290. Pablo Sandoval, the Panda (gag) is only at .247, with just eight home runs . . .

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Nats Ambush The Rangers, 9-2

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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The Washington Nationals ambushed the Texas Rangers on Friday night behind the pitching of Stephen Strasburg — and with the help of a three run home run by Ian Desmond. For one of the few times this season, the Nationals actually seemed to coast to a victory, with Texas playing catch-up to a suddenly potent Nationals line-up. The Nats notched 15 hits in the victory.

Strasburg provided yet another stellar outing, but this time his team supported him. The young righty threw a solid six innings while striking out nine. His only hiccup came in the second inning, when the Rangers put two runs on the board after an Adrian Beltre double and a Strasburg error off the bat of Texas catcher Leonys Martin. Roughned Odor and Colby Lewis then followed with successive singles.

The Nationals took the lead in the 4th inning when Ian Desmond put a Lewis offering into the right centerfield seats, which scored Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Reversing a recent trend, the Nationals were 4-12 with runners in scoring position — and broke open the game on a 3-5 night from both Jayson Werth and Denard Span.

“[The homer] was real big,” Washington’s Denard Span said of the Desmond blast. “We got behind early. The mood was like, ‘Here we go again.’ We have been falling behind lately. With this home run, it gave us some type of energy. After that, we just piled on.”

Strasburg has now had eight straight starts where he has pitched six innings or more — and he could have gone much longer tonight, but with runners on base in the bottom of the 6th, Nats’ skipper Matt Williams decided that he had to have Tyler Moore pinch hit for him. The decision paid off, as Moore hit a two run double that all but sealed the Texas loss.

“Early in the first inning, he had some power behind his fastball and threw his breaking ball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said in analyzing Strasburg’s outing. “Then we started swinging the bats better. The guy is a good pitcher. We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t get a base hit. He’s a quality pitcher.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: That terrible sound you here is the San Francisco Giants eating the St. Louis Cardinals. Or maybe it’s the sound of the Giants eating all of the National League. On Friday night, the Giants showed why they’re the class of the N.L., downing the Redbirds in a 9-4 ho-hummer at Busch Stadium . . .

In truth, the score doesn’t do the game, or the Giants, justice. The Giants are 36-19, have hit more home runs than anyone in the senior circuit except for Colorado and are second in team ERA to the Braves. Scared? The Giants aren’t scared of anyone, so on Friday — when the Cardinals rolled out Mr. Universe, Adam Wainwright — the McCovey’s touched him for seven runs in 4.1 innings . . .

And . . . and the Giants did this on the same day that they announced that their powerhouse ace, Matt Cain, would go on the 15 day disabled list. Cain was due to return for his next start, but the Giants will play it safe, saving their righty for a mid-summer run against their in-division rivals . . .

Which leads us to ask: who the hell are these guys? The Giants finished ten games under .500 last year, but they spent the off-season retooling and restocking. While their core talent (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt) remained the same, G.M. Brian Sabean signed big bat Michael Morse to a one year, $6 million deal . . .

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Werth, Strasburg Skin The Snakes

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

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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.”

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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.

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The Math Gets Worse: Marlins Dominate The Nats

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

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The nail in the Washington Nationals 2013 season may well have been hammered home in Miami on Friday night, as Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins spun a dominating 7-0 win, leaving the Nats eight games out of the last National League Wild Card slot with just 22 games to play.

“It’s not looking good, that’s for sure,” right fielder Jayson Werth said after the disheartening loss. “We’re in a spot now where we really can’t afford another loss. It puts you in a tough place, a bad place. You know, keep grinding. It’s not over until it’s over.”

The Marlins feasted off of Nationals’ pitching, victimizing Washington starter Dan Haren for six hits and five earned runs in just three complete innings. Haren suffered his 13th loss on just eight wins for 2013, which is not the kind of production the Nationals expected from their big off-season signing.

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“My stuff was average, and putting us in a three-nothing hole against a pitcher like that is a downer for the whole team,” Haren told reporters in the clubhouse in describing his performance. “I didn’t obviously start out the ideal way.”

Miami starter Fernandez, meanwhile, pitched a gem: the young righty, who is one of the few bright spots for last place Miami this year, gave up a single hit in seven complete inning while striking out nine Nationals. This was Fernandez’s eleventh win on the season, against just six losses.

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