Archive for the ‘Washington Nationals’ Category
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.
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?
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
The Nationals’ hitting woes not only continued on Monday night in San Francisco, they might have actually gotten worse. Washington’s anemic line-up was able to muster only three hits against Ryan Vogelsong, a starter with the worst ERA in the National League, and the Giants defeated the hometowners, 8-0.
For the first time this year, Vogelsong looked like the starter that notched a 14-9 record last year. The righty kept the Nats off balance through five innings and struck out two. “That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Vogelsong said of his outing. “From a mental aspect, physical aspect, everything felt good.”
“That was a tough one,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “Been in a lot of funny games, but going into that one being a couple of pitchers short was tough.” The Nationals have now lost three in a row, and stand at 3-5 on their current road trip.
The Nationals were hoping that spot starter Zach Duke would be able to hold the Giants at least through five innings, but the southpaw threw only 57 pitches before being lifted in the fourth inning for reliever Craig Stammen. The Giants, meanwhile, victimized Duke for seven hits and four runs.
The Giants looked fully recovered from their recent 1-5 road trip against Toronto and Colorado — where they looked like the punchless Nationals. On Monday night, the Giants pounded out seventeen hits against Washington pitching, the most at AT&T Park since August of 2010, with first sacker Brandon Belt going 4-5 with a home run, his sixth of the year.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
The Padres rapped out fifteen hits — which included three home runs — and San Diego went on to thrash the Washington Nationals at Petco Park on Sunday, 13-4. Washington’s attack against San Diego starter Andrew Cashner, on the other hand, was punchless: a scattering of ten hits, but few of them that did any real damage.
Washington had hoped to take the series, particularly given Saturday night’s tough one-run loss that victimized ace Jordan Zimmermann. “It was good to bounce back in beating Zimmermann, who is arguably the best pitcher in the National League right now,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “That was a big win last night.”
Black added: “Then to come back today against Haren, who’s a great competitor. We got to him early and got him there in the middle part of the game with a couple big swings. Good for our guys. It was a good win.” Haren’s outing breaks a solid streak for the veteran righty, who gave up seven runs on nine hits in just five innings.
“I made a bunch of mistakes in the first inning. I was able to keep it close for a while. You can’t keep letting balls over the plate to a professional lineup like that,” Haren said after his loss. “I was fighting myself out there with mechanics. I was working behind in the count too much. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
This was all good news, but only if you were a Padres’ fan. Stuck in mediocre, starter Andrew Cashner proved he belonged in the San Diego rotation with 6.2 innings of steady strikes, while the Friars received long bombs from a trio of little monks: Will Venable, Kyle Blanks and rookie second sacker Jedd Gyorko.
The Padres got on the board early, scoring three runs in the first inning off of Haren, then extended their lead by scoring four more off the righty in the fifth. The Washington bullpen wasn’t much better: the usually steady Ryan Matheus gave up five runs on four hits in a single inning to raise his ERA to 4.96.
“I just fell behind hitters,” Mattheus said of his outing. “I had to come back and make a pitch and they put good swings on the ball. It’s inexcusable to not come in the strike zone and leaving balls up.”
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Chad Tracy’s pinch hit 10th inning home run negated three Washington errors and a rare blown save from Rafael Soriano as the Nationals went on to defeat the Padres in San Diego to salvage a 6-5 win. The Tracy blast came off of Padres’ reliever Huston Street, negating a San Diego 9th inning rally.
This was a game highlighted by unsteady starting pitching (Gio Gonzalez struggled through his first two innings), fielding errors (Washington committed three), and a sudden back-of-the-bullpen collapse — Rafael Soriano gave up three straight singles to allow San Diego to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
But the Washington victory was also highlighted by the long ball: Washington hit four home runs — two by a suddenly revived Adam LaRoche (which gives him seven on the season), one from Ryan Zimmerman (his second of the season, in the 6th inning), in addition to Tracy’s game winner.
“Any time you win a ballgame you feel great,” Tracy said following the victory. “But when you do something to win it in that fashion, especially after they came back and had the guy on third with less than two outs in the ninth, I think everybody was a little bit more fired up.”
The Tracy home run in the top of the 10th might have gotten Washington the win, but even in the bottom of the frame, reliever Drew Storen had to battle back from two straight singles to strike out Chris Denorfia and induce a ground ball from San Diego’s Everth Cabrera to notch the victory.
“It was a big strikeout getting Denorfia,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said of Storen’s 10th inning performance. “That was huge. He threw a great breaking ball. It had bite to it. It was good for a couple of guys. We got Storen back and Tracy.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nationals’ fans have to be pleased with their teams performance so far; despite an end-of-April swoon and two of three losses in Los Angeles, Washington’s two wins in San Diego have put them at four games over .500 and just half-a-game behind the Braves . . .
That said, Washington’s weaknesses have been exposed: a surprisingly shaky defense and a lack of offense. If it wasn’t for Washington snappy starting pitching (they are second in the league in ERA, just behind St. Louis), Washington would be worse than mediocre . . .
Some of this is a result of injuries; Ryan Zimmerman is only now getting his swing back after a longish stint on the D.L. and Jayson Werth continues to nurse a sore hamstring. And then there’s Danny Espinosa. The Nats’ second sacker has cut down on his strikeouts this year (he led the league, at more than one a game in 2012), but he’s hitting just .172 . . .
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 . . .
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
“It was a tough night, tough night,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson said of Washington’s disappointing 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Johnson’s words reflected not simply the team’s latest inability to score runs, but a rash of in-game injuries — to lefty starter Ross Detwiler (who left with back tightness after the third inning) and catcher Wilson Ramos, who reinjured his hamstring and left the game in the top of the 4th inning.
Wednesday night’s loss to the Dodgers left the Nationals at just two games over .500, and allowed Los Angeles to take the three game series. The problem for Washington (aside from the two injuries) continued to be the team’s inability to drive in runs: the Nats’ stroked nine hits in Wednesday’s loss, but left 16 runners on base.
For L.A., the big story of the night was the return of Zack Greinke, who took the mound after more than four weeks on the disabled list. Greinke pitched five complete innings in notching his second win on the season. “I thought my stuff was pretty good,” he said after the victory. “My stamina needs to grow a little bit, but that could be next start.”
While there’s no doubt that Greinke pitched well, the Nationals had several opportunities to knock him out of the game — but were unable to capitalize. Before leaving the game, Wilson Ramos got on base in both of his at-bats, but was left stranded his teammates. The only Washington score in the early going (and all night) came in a home run off the bat of Adam LaRoche, his fourth of the season.
The only piece of good news for the Nationals was the continued brilliant relief pitching of Craig Stammen who came in after Detwiler left the game and kept the Dodgers scoreless in three innings of work. Stammen has been the best pitcher in the Washington bullpen and lowered his ERA to 2.25 on the year.
The best chance to win the game for the Nationals came in the 8th inning, when the Nationals had runners on first and third with nobody out but weren’t able to push across a run. “We had the right guys up there,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if we are trying to do too much instead of just hitting the ball and putting it in play. I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s amazing but true — after losing two of three in L.A. (and after struggling at the plate), Washington is still only one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the surprisingly uncompetitive N.L East . . .
The reason? The Braves have a deplorable road record, going only 7-13 on their two ten game road trips this year. The losses have been keenly felt in Atlanta, particularly after the early 12-1 start. The Braves have only won ten of their last 27 games, and are 11-15 against teams better than .500 . . .