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Monday, September 30th, 2013
The Washington Nationals finished their season in Arizona with a loss to the Diamondbacks, 3-2. In many ways the loss was representative of what the team had done all season: entering the eighth inning with a one run lead, the Nationals’ bullpen gave up two runs to an Arizona team they’d beaten handily in the previous two outings.
While the game was the last in a season that saw the Nats drop out of contention for the N.L. East title back in June and July, the team came back in September with a run at the Wild Card. The key to the Nationals resurgence was a revived offense and pitching contributions from unlikely rookies, including Tanner Roark, who held the D-Backs to just three hits in seven innings on Sunday.
“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen,” Roark said after his performance on Sunday. “Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.” Roark has been outstanding since arriving in the majors in early August: he finished at 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.
The final game of the season also marked Davey Johnson’s last game as the Nats’ manager. “Time to go home,” Johnson said after the game. “Put me out to pasture.” The Nationals praised their 70-year-old skipper, with Tyler Clippard noting that a good manager “builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing.”
Johnson was philosophical about what is apparently the end of his career, choosing to bypass comments on the Nationals’ season. “I felt really lucky to have had the big league experiences I’ve had as a player and as a manager,” he told the press after the Arizona loss. “When you love a game as much as I love this game and like the competition, you just enjoy it.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: An 86-76 record would have sparked celebrations in Washington just a few years ago, but the Nationals (picked by many as the premier team in the National League) must be disappointed. Even so, there is good reason for celebrating a season that saw the Nationals finish ten games out of the hunt in the N.L. East . . .
Saturday, September 28th, 2013
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.”
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.
Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright subdued Washington’s line-up and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals, 4-3 at Busch Stadium. The loss eliminated the Nationals from the post-season: they are six games out of the last Wild Card slot with five games to play.
The key to the St. Louis win was Beltran’s fifth inning home run (his 24th on the year) that scored John Jay, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting the Cardinals ahead 4-2. Washington could only muster a single run the rest of the way. “It doesn’t feel too good,” manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.
The Nationals put on a run in September, going 16-6 on the month and winning a key day-night double header against the Atlanta Braves on September 17 that vaulted that team back into contention for a playoff spot in the National League. But the Cardinals has always played Washington tough, and that was true on Monday night.
Washington starter Tanner Roark notched his first loss of the season after an impressive 7-0 run, but the Cardinals heavy hitting line-up victimized him for nine hits in just five innings. “I was getting behind hitters a lot,” Roark said after the loss. “When you do that with a good team, they are going to hit your mistakes when you get them back in the count. They are going to battle like they did tonight.”
Washington’s scoring came early, on a home run from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span and gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. St. Louis clawed back, despite an additional run put on the board from the Nationals in the 8th inning: a fielder’s choice on a Ryan Zimmerman grounder the scored Anthony Rendon.
But three runs are rarely enough to defeat the Cardinals, who score just under five runs every game. Then too, Adam Wainwright got stronger on the mound as the game went on: Wainwright’s night ended after the 7th, with five strike outs while scattering five hits. The St. Louis victory was Wainwright’s 18th win on the year.
The Nationals stared into the night after a three-up-three-down ninth inning, stunned that their run for the postseason was over. The clubhouse was reportedly silent after the loss, as the team took stock of its “World Series or bust” season. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “So I feel bad for everybody.”
Mea Culpa: We take no special pride in getting things right and, like everyone else who writes about baseball, we get plenty wrong. We said at the beginning of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were overrated and would tank: that players who finished with an attitude in Boston would bring that same attitude to Los Angeles. Well . . .
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Nationals newbie Tanner Roark threw six innings of six hit baseball while his teammates supported him with four home runs, and the Nationals downed the Mets in New York, 7-2, for a four game series sweep on Thursday. The win kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.
The Nationals came into the game with nine home runs off of Mets pitching in the last three games, but exited it with thirteen. Ryan Zimmerman homered in the first inning (it was his 23rd), Adam Laroche hit his 20th in the second, Wilson Ramos added his 13th in the fifth and Anthony Rendon hit his seventh home run in the 9th.
“Oh man, it was a lot of fun. It’s a good way to finish up New York, sweeping the Mets,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said of the team’s sixth straight victory. “There were a lot of good things all around.” Washington’s long-ball offensive victimized Mets’ starter Aaron Harang and five New York relievers.
This was Harang’s first start for the Mets after being signed as a free agent on September 1. But the veteran righty’s debut did not go as planned: he gave up four hits and three earned runs in six innings. He was responsible for serving up three of the Nats’ four home runs.
The Nationals-Mets match-up had gotten increasingly testy over four games, and threatened to turn ugly on Thursday after Mets’ reliever Frank Francisco plunked Jayson Werth on a 3-0 count in the 8th inning. Werth exchanged words with Francisco as he trotted to first base.
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
The power of baseball superstitions are such that we dare not even whisper (let alone shout) about what is now true. But we’ll do it anyway: the Washington Nationals are suddenly a part of “the October conversation,” as they say, having won their fourth in a row in New York by overpowering the Mets, 6-3.
The Nationals latest win, coming off the arm of Jordan Zimmermann (who won his 17th) and bat of Jayson Werth, left the Nationals just six games out of the last Wild Card slot, with Cincinnati being overpowered by the Cubs (it was a no contest 9-1 drubbing) at home. The Nationals are in the hunt.
Tuesday’s game seemed almost a replay of the previous three: the Nationals came out swinging, chipping away at starter Dillon Gee (Denard Span continued his consecutive game hitting streak) and then serving up New York fastballs into Citi Field’s lower deck.
The Nationals have had little luck against Gee this year, but Tuesday night was different. The home towners touched the puzzling righty for four runs in 6-plus innings, which included a home run from Werth in the first, a home run from Adam LaRoche in the second and in-the-gap doubles from Span and Werth in the third.
Prior to Tuesday, Gee had tamed the Nationals in four of his last five starts, transforming himself into the N.L. East’s premier Nats’ killer. But he was flummoxed on Tuesday, talking to himself on the mound. “Obviously, I wasn’t commanding the ball as well as I have been,” Gee said of his outing. “You can’t get away with that against these guys. They made me pay.”
Gee’s nemesis was Werth, who has propelled himself into the race for the N.L. batting title. But it wasn’t all Werth: Jordan Zimmermann and four relievers (Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano) held the Mets to three runs, putting the lid on the Mets line-up.
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Everything clicked into place for the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday night. After a season of frustration at the team’s inability to get hits and score runs, the Nationals broke through with twelve hits against the Marlins, and went on to rout Miami, 9-0.
The Washington attack was sparked by home runs from Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond (each of whom had three run shots) and Bryce Harper, who hit his 19th of the year. “We’re a scary team when we’re going good, and I think everybody knows that,” Harper said after the victory.
The Washington onslaught was complemented by a solid outing from starter Gio Gonzalez, his first in five weeks. Gonzalez gave the Nats’ bullpen a badly needed rest, as he held the Marlins to just three hits over seven complete innings. Long reliever Tanner Roark finished out the win by pitching a scoreless 8th and 9th innings.
“We’re getting our groove back,” Gonzalez said of the Nationals’ win. “I think that you can see it live, and the chemistry in here is just getting better and better.” The Nationals have won eight of their last nine games, and now sit just 6.5 games behind Cincinnati in the race for the last Wild Card spot.
Bryce Harper had a great night against Miami pitching (he was 2-3 with two RBIs), but Jayson Werth remains Washington’s best hitter over the last two months. Since July 1, Werth is 68-175 and is hitting .389 with a .476 OBP. If the Nats’ right fielder had enough AB’s to qualify, he’d be tied with Chris Johnson of Atlanta for second in the N.L. batting race.
All of Washington’s middle order hitters feasted off Miami pitching on Thursday. In addition to Harper and Werth, Ian Desmond was 2-4 (his home run was his 20th on the year), and Ryan Zimmerman was 3-3 and upped his 2013 BA to .275.
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Washington shortstop Ian Desmond was 3-3 and knocked in the key go-ahead run in the bottom of the 7th inning as Drew Storen and the Washington bullpen once again tamed the Miami line-up, and the Nationals went on to defeat the Marlins at Nationals Park, 4-3.
The rain-delayed contest marked Washington’s seventh win in eight games and maintained the seven game gap separating the Nationals from a playoff spot. But at least at first, the game started inauspiciously: a 72-minute rain delay knocked Stephen Strasburg off the mound, leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen.
And, as they had the night before, the bullpen came through. While reliever Ryan Mattheus had a difficult outing, Drew Storen proved effective against Miami’s biggest bats: after giving up a single and a walk to start the 7th, Storen struck out Giancarlo Stanton and induced pop outs from Logan Morrison and Donovan Solano.
With the victory, it seems that the Nationals are finally on a roll. They are two games over .500 and, most important of all, are playing well. “No one said it was going to be easy. We have to keep going,” Jayson Werth, whose home run in the 6th tied the game, said. “We have to continue to play like this the rest of the way. That’s fine. It is what it is.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals still have a shot at the post-season, and so do the Arizona Diamondbacks. But you’d never know it if you lived in Phoenix, where a paltry 20,500-plus fans showed up to watch their Snakes fall to the lowly San Diego Padres . . .