Archive for the ‘The McCovey’s’ Category

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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Nats Give It Up In The 9th

Friday, August 16th, 2013

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It was a beautifully played game on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park, with the home town team sporting a defensible 3-1 lead going into the 9th inning following another solid outing from veteran right hander Dan Haren. But then, with the team a pitch away from its sixth victory in a row, it all blew up.

The Nationals squandered a lead, a win — and perhaps a final chance to challenge for a Wild Card spot in the National League — as Rafael Soriano notched his fifth blown save and third loss of the season, by giving up a pinch hit three run home run to rookie Hector Sanchez.

The Nationals then went quietly in their half of the ninth inning, and Washington accounted for its 61st loss of the season. In truth, Soriano’s blown save was inexcusable: with two out in the 9th and Buster Posey on second, Soriano walked rookie Roger Kieschnick (with just 50 at bats on the season), then threw a fat fastball to Sanchez.

Soriano’s busted save came after the Giants threatened in the 8th inning, but could not score on bullpen MVP Tyler Clippard, who put the Giants back on their bench after giving up a single hit to Marco Scutaro. And Clippard had followed Fernando Abad, who’s glove slapping 7th inning had preserved Dan Haren’s solid outing.

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The deflating loss was pinned on Soriano, but emerging team leader Ian Desmond focused instead on the men left-on-base by the Nationals. Washington left two on in the fourth inning, left the bases loaded in the fifth inning and left two on in the sixth — all without pushing a single run across the plate.

“I think probably the bigger story is we had a lot of runners on base and we didn’t push them across,” Desmond said when asked about Soriano’s blown save. “We had the starter out after 3 2/3 and we didn’t score after that. We’ve got to do a better job to push more runs across.”

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The Giants Finally Get Some Pitching

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Don’t look now, but there are a whole lot of teams in major league baseball who are better than the San Francisco Giants — including, at least for a time last week, the Chicago Cubs. The McCoveys, the early part of the century’s Champeeeens of the World, are mired in fourth place in the N.L West, better only than the San Diego Padres.

So what the hell is wrong with the Giants? Well, pitching (of course), which has been a strong suit in San Francisco in each of the last five years.

Put simply, the San Francisco relief corps is in chaos and the starting five aren’t performing. That is: until last night, when Tim Lincecum threw his first-ever no hitter and the fifteenth in Giants’ history, in downing the San Diego Padres, 9-0.

“I think he was pretty aggressive in the zone, but he knew when to expand at the right time,” S.F. catcher Buster Posey said, citing Lincecum’s ability to get Padres hitters to chase certain pitches. “I think that was a big part of it.” In all, Lincecum needed 148 pitches to set down San Diego’s 27 hitters, second most in MLB history.

It’s all good for Lincecum, who was once the ace-without-parallel on the Giants’ staff, the most coveted starter in the game, the winner of two consecutive Cy Young awards, celebrated as “The Freak” on a Sports Illustrated cover, — and arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

But a single no-hitter is unlikely to help the McCoveys this year. Here are the numbers: San Francisco is 12th in the N.L. in ERA and walks more opponents than anyone except Pittsburgh or San Diego.

Then too, last year’s aces are this years bums: Matt Cain, who used to scare just about everyone, is now 5-4 with a gelatinous 5.06 ERA, Barry Zito weighs in at 4-6 with a 4.62 ERA (and gets shelled on the road), and filler Chad Gaudin (subbing for the injured Ryan Vogelsong) was recently charged with public lewdness.

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Strasburg Shines In Series Win

Monday, May 27th, 2013

In a match-up of hard luck pitchers, Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg outdueled Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels — aided by an error filled five run seventh inning — and the Nats took the three game series from the Phillies, 6-1. The win allowed the Nationals to keep pace with the surging Braves in the National League East.

Strasburg has now had three solid consecutive outings. On Sunday, before 39,000-plus he gave up just three hits and struck out a season high nine hitters. As in his previous superb outings, Strasburg commanded the strike zone and remained unruffled by the other team’s scoring chances. In all, he threw 112 pitches, 76 of them for strikes.

Once again, Phillies lefty Cole Hamels did not get the support he needed from his teammates, either at the plate — or in the field. The key was the five run 7th. Ryan Zimmerman led off by beating out an infield single, with the suddenly hitterish Adam LaRoche moving him to second with a clean single to right field.

With men on first and second, Nationals’ fans might have thought ‘here we go again,’ as their team was in the same position on Saturday, and failed to move the runners. But that was not the case on Sunday, as Ian Desmond’s sacrifice bunt (his first in two years), left both Zimmerman and LaRoche in scoring position on second and third.

That’s when it all came apart for Philadelphia. After Cole Hamels intentionally walked Tyler Moore to load the bases, Jhonatan Solano topped a Hamels’ pitch which was mishandled by Philly third sacker Michael Young, who threw it past catcher Humberto Quintero. The miscue scored two, and was followed by a Steve Lombardozzi double.

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A San Francisco Treat: Nats Snatch A Victory In Extras

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Nats southpaw Gio Gonzalez pitched brilliantly in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the Nationals denied the Giants a sweep of their series, winning in ten innings off of an Ian Desmond single. The team needed a pick-up after Tuesday night’s now-controversial debacle, and Gonzalez provided it.

Gonzalez gave up only four hits and struck out five, limiting the McCoveys to a single run in almost eight complete innings of work before being relieved by Drew Storen. The suddenly unsteady righty then proceeded to give up the tying run to San Francisco, and the Nationals went into extra innings knotted at a run apiece.

But in the 10th inning, with Bryce Harper on second and Ryan Zimmerman on first, shortstop Ian Desmond guided a Jeremy Affeldt offering into right field, scoring the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano came on in the bottom of the 10th, setting down the Giants in order — and preserving the win.

The Ian Desmond single came after Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy decided that Affeldt should intentionally walk Ryan Zimmerman and pitch to Desmond, who’s been slumping lately. “Numbers may have indicated that was the right move to do,” Desmond said after the win. “But I was 100 percent confident I was going to get the job done right there.”

The Nationals win was only their fourth in the last ten games and came during a classic pitching duel that pitted Gonzalez against an as-effective Madison Bumgarner, who matched Gonzalez pitch-for-pitch. Their pitching lines were exactly the same — except for Harper’s home run.

“He’s one of the best guys I face all year. He knows what he’s doing out there, and the Giants are very lucky to have him,” Harper said of the San Francisco southpaw. “Going out there and facing a guy like Bumgarner is a lot of fun. I look forward to those matchups for hopefully the rest of our careers.”

The big stories of the game were Gio’s mound performance, Desmond’s go-ahead single — and Bryce Harper’s day at the plate. The Nats’ right fielder was 2-5 on the day and hit his 12th home run.

The victory lifted the teams’ spirits as the Nationals boarded a flight for their return to Washington, where they will face the Phillies, Orioles and the surging Braves (they beat the Twins today, their sixth in a row) in a ten game home stand. “It’s going to be a good flight back home,” Gonzalez said.

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“The Express” Derails The Nats In Extras

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?

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