Archive for the ‘The McCovey’s’ Category
Saturday, September 27th, 2014
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.
Sunday, August 24th, 2014
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.
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 . . .
Friday, August 22nd, 2014
The San Francisco Giants were our pick to win the National League West, and we had good reason to suppose so. The Giants had a snappy starting rotation, we thought that Tim Lincecum would recover some of the velocity on his fastball, and the team could hit — not least because they added Michael Morse to their mix.
For much of the season our prediction looked solid. The Giants appeared to be running away with the West, the Dodgers were struggling (and Clayton Kershaw was on the disabled list for a short time), and Morse was hitting the snot out of the ball, and still is.
But starting in late June and extending well into mid-August, the Giants were hit by a series of devastating injuries: Matt Cain went down for the season, Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez were hit with concussions, Marco Scutaro went down with a bad back and a stiff neck and the McCoverys spiraled out of first place.
But the real loss for the Giants came in late June when center fielder Angel Pagan was hit with a back injury that refused to heal. Pagan is San Francisco’s spark and had led the Giants in BA and OBP prior to sitting out an eight game streak in late June. Finally, realizing that he just wasn’t healing, the Giants took Pagan off the bench and put him on the disabled list.
The Giants went 19-26 without Pagan, though G.M. Brian Sabean did his best to back-and-fill off the Pagan injury. Sabean signed struggling second sacker Dan Uggla to a contract on July 25, then swapped two minor leaguers for Red Sox starter and veteran tosser Jake Peavy the next day.
Sabean’s moves haven’t worked out. Uggla went 0-11 with six strikeouts in two weeks of work for the Giants (who then outrighted him, putting him back on the street) and Peavy has been just so-so. The former San Diego righty began his time in San Francisco by going 0-3, though he’s recovered lately, authoring two key wins in his last two outings.
It hasn’t been enough. While the Giants have been able to patch together a workable starting rotation and supplemented it with a solid, very solid, bullpen, the Giants are just middling run scorers. The McCoveys offense is not only not as good as L.A.’s, it’s probably worse than Arizona’s, with a sorry .305 team OBP.
Yes, we know: the Giants have heavyweights Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Morse in their line-up. But the guy the Giants really have to have (they’re 21st in runs and 21st in BA) is Angel Pagan — who needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Pagan is the key, the one guy that makes it all work. Without him, they’re just not the same team.
Thursday, June 12th, 2014
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.
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 . . .
Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
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.
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 . . .
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
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.”
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 . . .
Monday, June 9th, 2014
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.
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 . . .