September 12th, 2013 / Author: Mark
Dan Haren held the Mets to just one hit in six complete innings and third sacker Ryan Zimmerman hit his fifth home run in five games, as the Nationals orchestrated a 3-0 victory in New York. But with Cincinnati winning at home against the Cubs, the end-of-season arithmetic for the Nationals continues to get worse.
The Mets looked overmatched by Haren, who recouped from his previous two bad outings. “The last game I pitched against the Mets, I gave up six or seven straight singles. Today, I had better stuff with the strikeouts,” the righty said after the victory. “I was getting a lot of swings and misses. I knew my stuff was better. I was happy I could come through for the team.”
In truth, Wednesday night’s win was probably closer than it should have been. The Nationals pounced on rookie Mets’ starter Zack Wheeler for eight hits and added three more after Wheeler’s departure after the end of the 7th inning. In addition to Zimmerman’s home run, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon were both 2-4.
But it was Ryan Zimmerman who got Washington started. The Nats’ third baseman put Washington’s first run on the board in the top of the 6th and was 2-5 on the night with an RBI. Zimmerman’s solo shot, his 22nd of the year, continued his long ball hot streak: Zimmerman has seven home runs in the last nine games.
“I just made that one mistake to Zimmerman,” Wheeler said of his sixth inning offering. “As soon as I let it go, I knew it was going to be a spinner right down the middle, and he capitalized on it.” It was enough to make a difference, though Mets’ manager Terry Collins praised his young hurler.
“I’m really impressed with the way Zack Wheeler goes about things,” he said. “I really am. He’s going to be really good.” That may be, but Wheeler was not as sharp as he has been in previous outings: he threw 95 pitches in just five innings and had to work himself out of trouble several times.
With Haren tiring after six innings, Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson brought Xavier Cedeno, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano to the mound. They combined for three scoreless innings of relief, with Soriano registering his 41st save on the season. The Nationals will close out their series with the Mets in New York tonight, with Tanner Roark facing off against Mets’ starter Aaron Harang.
Photos: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
September 11th, 2013 / Author: Mark
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.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 10th, 2013 / Author: Mark
GIo Gonzalez, in his best outing of the year, one-hit the Mets and Washington pounded out nine hits in all (including five round trippers) as the Nationals romped over New York at Citi Field, 9-0. Gonzalez was nearly untouchable, taking a no hitter into the 7th inning before Zach Lutz put a grounder just inside of first base for the Mets’ sole hit of the game.
This was Gonzalez’s first complete game shutout this year, raising his 2013 campaign record to 10-6. “What a job, a brilliant performance,” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said said of his southpaw starter following the victory. “He had control all night long. He was getting all of his pitchers over.”
Gio’s gem was backed by a five home run outburst from the Washington nine, including Ryan Zimmerman’s fourth home run in the last three games. With less than twenty games to play in the 2013 season, and trailing Cincinnati in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot, the Nationals are playing with a new intensity.
“We have to win. If we don’t win, nothing is going to matter anyway,” third sacker Ryan Zimmerman explained. “We put ourselves in this position and it’s not an ideal situation to be in. Nothing matters unless we win. So we have to go out every night and win. Hopefully, we can get some help. Hopefully, that will happen.”
In addition to Zimmerman’s round tripper, the Nationals were the recipients of homers from Denard Span (who led off the game with his fourth), Jayson Werth (who hit his 22nd), Tyler Moore (who was 2-3 with an RBI) and hot-handed catcher Wilson Ramos.
The home run barrage included back-to-back dingers from Span and Zimmerman, which put the Mets in a 2-0 hole to start the game and led to an early (4th inning) exit for New York starter Carlos Torres. Torres, it seems, has always had problems with the Nationals and after last night’s misery, he has given up nine runs to the Nats in fourteen innings.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 9th, 2013 / Author: Mark
Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs and four hits in six innings, but pitched well enough to allow Washington’s hitters to get to Miami’s rotation, and the Washington Nationals went on to down the Marlins 6-4 on Sunday. It was Strasburg’s seventh win of the year and vaulted the Nationals to a two of three game series win.
This was certainly not the young righty’s best outing of the year, as skipper Davey Johnson confirmed following the victory. “Stras should have been able to go further but he was a little out of sorts today,” he said. Strasburg apparently knew that, but worked through his issues. “I knew if I kept the game close we could bust it open,” he confirmed.
Strasburg has been a puzzle all year, with few guessing that he would have only seven wins in early September. Even more puzzling however, the righty balked home two runs in the second inning. “Pretty embarrassed with the balks,” Strasburg said. “Seems like something new happens every time this year. Learn from it and try and do better with that next time.”
Strasburg admitted that he was shifting from the stretch into a full wind-up with a man on third base, which broke a season-long habit of his. With Ramos flashing signs, Strasburg put his hand into his glove, realized that Ramos wasn’t finished, and pulled his hand out: a rare mental error for the otherwise focused righty.
The Nationals continue to swing the bat well, their only recent down game coming against Miami ace rookie Jose Fernandez in the first game of the series. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos were each 3-5 in the triumph (the catcher added a homer), with Jayson Werth (2-4 on the day) continuing his tough pursuit of the National League batting title.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 8th, 2013 / Author: Mark
There could be no better comparison than the one that now presents itself to Nationals fans: last night, in Miami, Tanner Roark threw six solid innings of four hit baseball while, the night before, Dan Haren was swamped by Marlins hitters in a blowout. The difference showed up on the scoreboard: Washington 9 Miami 2 in the Roark contest, Miami 7 Nationals 0 in the other.
“I knew I had something,” Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson said of his young starter. “He’s got great command and he’s made quality pitches out of the pen. I see it from where I’m sitting and even with talking to Wilson Ramos; he loves to catch him because he hits his spots. It’s one thing to have good stuff, but best thing in the world is to have that good command.”
Roark was not overpowering, his stuff is not the best in baseball, his fastball is fast but not super-fast, his curve is workable but not Koufax-like: but he knows how to pitch and . . . he throws strikes. And there really isn’t much question that, if this had been his fifth start, he could have finished the game.
In six innings against the Marlins, Roark threw 71 pitches, 49 of them for strikes and notched six groundouts, two flyouts and four strikeouts. He didn’t walk a batter. The Nats, meanwhile pounded out sixteen hits, with the big blasts coming off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, who had two home runs.
The surging Denard Span continued his hitting streak (he was 2-4), Zimmerman his his 18th and 19th home runs, Jayson Werth continued his pursuit of the National League batting title and Adam LaRoche tried to interrupt a late-season slump by wacking a single and a double.
September 7th, 2013 / Author: Mark
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.
“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.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 4th, 2013 / Author: Tom
In the 7th inning of last Sunday night’s home victory over the New York Mets, it became pretty apparent to the home fans watching the game at Nats Park that the attendance was a little down: to just over 28,000 people. “Unacceptable,” was the way it was termed by a season ticket holder in Section 313. What was meant by the one-word jab was pretty simple to understand: “why aren’t there more people here.”
That’s a pretty good question, particularly since, at the time (and yes, even now), the Nationals are in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National league.
Okay: school is back in session (it’s now September, after all), the nights are getting cooler, the lights are burning late at the Pentagon and State Department — all good reasons why, with the post-season looming, people can always find a reason to stay home.
But there might be an added reason: the minor drop off in attendance (and it is minor, considering how the team has packed ‘em in this year), could well be the result of the Adam Kilgore/Sports Junkies “why even bother” drivel that has infected all the talk about the Nationals over the last three weeks.
And let’s not forget the Washington Post’s front-of-the-sports-section article in mid-August speculating on who would replace Davy Johnson next year in the dugout. The article was white flag, a throw-up-your-hands symbol of what this city’s only newspaper thinks about
their our baseball team.
No one is being pollyanna-ish about what the Nationals need to do to make the playoffs. They must play .759 (or even better) to have a chance to catch the Redlegs.
But for Kilgore and the “Junkies” (aka: it’s never a bad time to talk aobut who might be the Redskins’ back-up punter), to dismiss the Nationals with 28 games to play means that the sports “experts” don’t know what they’re talking about.
Or, just maybe, they’re not really sports experts at all, or even football experts. Maybe they’re just Redskins fans.
Read the rest of this entry »