Posts Tagged ‘Adam LaRoche’

Span’s 9th Inning Sacrifice Gives Nats The Win

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Untitled

Denard Span’s walk off sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Danny Espinosa with the winning run as the Nationals defeated the Cardinals at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory assured a series split between the two teams, who are predicted to meet in the off-season, and allowed the Nats to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East.

The bases were loaded when Span stepped to the plate in the 9th, with the Cardinals playing five infielders to prevent the winning run. “I counted: one, two, three, four, five,” Span said of his clutch at bat. “Right there I told myself a groundball probably not going to do it. Try to get the ball in the air somehow.”

The Washington victory was another come-from-behind win, with the Nationals scoring two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game. The 7th inning rally featured classic station-to-station scoring from a team that has too often relied on the long ball — with singles from Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 9.46.47 AM

The Cardinals scored their runs against Washington ace Stephan Strasburg, who pitched six complete inning of five hit baseball, but failed to get the decision. Strasburg threw 90 pitches, 63 of them for strikes, before yielding to Washington’s suddenly effective relief corps. Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Rafael Soriano kept the Cards off the scoreboard, with Soriano notching the win.

The Washington win was particularly gratifying because it came off one of the best bullpens in baseball and included a return to the lineup of Bryce Harper, who was benched on Saturday for failing to hustle. Harper met with Washington skipper Matt Williams prior to Sunday’s game to talk of the incident. “[Williams] just said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ That’s the three words he said. He was every enthusiastic,” Harper said of their pre-game talk.

While Span was the hero of Sunday’s game, the key to the Nats resurgence was Danny Espinosa, who was 3-4 and got key hits during the 7th inning rally and then again in the 9th — scoring the Nationals’ winning run. “His approach is good, his intensity is good, his attitudeā€™s fantastic, and he loves to play,” Williams said of Espinosa’s reemergence.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nearly every year the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are picked to win the American League West, and nearly every year they disappoint. That was particularly true for 2012, when the Angels signed free agent Albert Pujols, and then against last year, when they signed slugger Josh Hamilton . . .

(more…)

April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Untitled

Monday was home run day in Major League Baseball. In Miami, on their way to a 9-2 crushing of the wayward Miami Marlins (the fish have now lost eight in a row), Washington’s Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon hit dingers (it was Leon’s first ever), while the Marlins got their second run on a moon shot from Garrett Jones.

In Anaheim, where the A’s played the Belinskis, John Jaso’s pinch hit home run topped the Halos, but only after Albert Pujols put his 496th career round tripper into the Anaheim stratosphere. That was the second game of ESPN’s nightly offering, which led off with a head-shaking match-up between the Braves and Phillies.

The Braves-Phillies tilt was nearly unwatchable until the 8th inning, when Dominic Brown’s three run blast sent Philadelphia to what seemed an unlikely late-inning victory. That was not the story, as it turned out: Atlanta had scored its runs on back-to-back-to-back skyballs in the previous frame, courtesy of Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, then went on to beat the Ponies in the 9th, when Dan Uggla homered.

Even then (with Washington, Miami, Oakland, Anaheim, Atlanta and Philadelphia all going long), April’s most impressive home run derby took place in Cincinnati, where the stinking Reds and mighty Pirates put ten (count ‘em) ten balls over the fence. It was a sight to behold: Pittsburgh had three sets of back-to-back home runs, while Cincinnati hit four solo shots. Pittsburgh’s Gaby Sanchez hit two, as did Neil Walker.

Ironically, while home runs played vital roles in all of these match-ups, the Cincinnati derby (at the Great American Bandbox, so there’s that) counted for nothing, with the game suspended in the 7th inning due to rain. Don’t think it was impressive? Take a look at this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.43.57 PM

So? So what the hell is going on? Right here would be a good time for some statistical analysis, reputedly showing that April 14 was a “statistical anomaly” — an argument any old wag could make except that nearly every game in baesball (or so it seems) provides some kind of “statistical anomaly.”

Last year at about this time, baseball writers were going on about how 2013 was the “year of the pitcher” (when I was younger, the year of the pitcher was 1968). By June of last year, it was official, with analysts pointing out that over a period of five years the majors had seen 18 no hitters and six perfect games.

(more…)

Nats-Braves Claw Their Way Through 10

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Untitled

The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves scratched and clawed their way through another bitterly fought contest, with the Bravos eventually coming away with a 7-6 10th inning win on a Justin Upton single. The game was another one run contest, which is becoming the new standard in the growing Nats-Braves rivalry.

Atlanta was first on the board, plating four runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning against Washington starter Tanner Roark. Despite the early score, Roark settled into the game, pitching into the fifth inning and allowing his teammates to fight their way back into the game — scoring one run in the 4th inning and three in the 5th, courtesy of a Ryan Zimmerman home run.

“I felt great out there,” Roark said following the tough loss. “I just didn’t really have the command of my pitches that I wanted.” Indeed, Roark had trouble finding the strike zone, plunking Justin Upton, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman with pitches.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 12.05.18 PM

The teams traded runs after the 4-4 tie, with Atlanta scoring one in the bottom of the 5th and the Nationals responding in the top of the next frame. “The guys continued to fight back. It’s a really good sign,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said following the loss. “It didn’t come out our way tonight, but they got back in it with the lead. We’ll take our chances with that every day.”

The Nationals, who are becoming known for their ability to launch late inning comebacks, were helped by solid performances from the middle of their order. Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper were a combined 7-13, with Zimmerman accounting for half of the Nationals runs.

The Nationals led 6-5 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, but reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to Justin Upton, the Nationals new nemesis. The Braves then brought on closer Craig Kimbrel — perhaps the best closer in the majors. Kimbrel set down the Nats in the top of the 9th, striking out Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

(more…)

Werth’s Slam Downs The Marlins

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Untitled1

Jayson Werth’s grand slam in the 8th inning proved the difference against the Miami Marlins, as the Nationals beat their division rival, 10-7. “Crazy game. Back and forth,” Werth said following the hard fought victory. “One of those games where you play that long, you want to win.”

Werth’s line drive howitzer was the coda in a game that saw starter Jordan Zimmermann give up seven hits and five runs in just 1.2 innings, one of the worst outings (and the shortest start) for the righty in his career. Washington relievers were also victimized in the 7th and 8th innings, with Drew Storen giving up a home run to Jerrod Saltalamacchia and Tyler Clippard giving up a run in the 8th.

‘I was terrible out there,” Zimmermann said of his performance. “The fastball was all over the place. That’s not like me. I just couldn’t get a very good feel. I fell behind guys and when you fall behind you’ve got to come in with a fastball — and they’re a good fastball hitting team.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.55.54 AM

Despite Zimmermann’s early struggles (which left the team down 5-0 going into the bottom of the 4th) Washington refused to give in. While Werth’s slam gave Washington the victory, the game might well have turned on Bryce Harper’s brilliant ten pitch at bat in the bottom of that frame.

The struggling youngster (who came into the game batting just a hair about .160), fouled off numerous offerings from Miami starter Brad Hand in a ten pitch at bat before depositing a 95 mph fastball in the third deck of Nats Park. Harper’s home run brought the crowd of 21,000-plus to their feet, scored Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman — and put Washington back into the game.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.55.00 AM

“I never felt out of this game, that’s for sure. We battled. We’ve just got to keep pressing,” Werth told reporters after the comeback win. It was the Nationals fifth comeback win this season in only eight games and kept Washington atop the N.L. East standings at 6-2.

Washington skipper Matt Williams noted that the Washington victory would not have been possible without the solid pitching of Craig Stammen, who shut down Miami in the middle innings — giving his team just over three innings of stellar relief while striking out four.

(more…)

Nats Notes For Game #7: Nats Arms Leave Fish Gasping

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Untitled

The big takeaway from last night’s shutout of the Miami Fish is that Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon are the team’s early season on-base machines. LaRoche went 3 for 3 with a a walk, Rendon went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs. It’s a good start for LaRoche, who’s noted for swinging a weak bat in temperatures under 90 . . .

LaRoche even took two extra bases on an error and a wild pitch and got thrown out trying to steal! And all in a a single game! When Matt Williams said he wanted the Nats to be aggressive, we doubt that he intended sending the normally speed-challenged good-glove first sacker regularly motoring to second. Denard Span and Danny Espinosa, yes. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, sure. But LaRoche? But it’s hard to argue with success; after all, it seems to be working out more often than not — so far . . .

The scouting report on Fish starter Henderson Alvarez was that he’s a good fastball-changeup guy who’s tough to hit when he’s on target, but that he tends to lose his command. That was the case last night. After Alvarez gave up a run in the 1st, the Marlins’ starter kept it close, until the 6th. By then, every other pitch was in the dirt, behind the catcher — or both. So the Nats pounced in the 6th and then pounced again in the 8th, when Marlins reliever Mike Dunn (high and fast) arrived to try to stem the bleeding . . .

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 3.15.10 PM

The Nats pitchers, sensing a kill of a team they have dominated, were no slouches. Starter Gio Gonzalez pitched six solid innings. Gio’s pitch count was worrisome after the first two innings, but beginning in the 3rd inning he locked in the strike zone and (as Matt Williams noted in his post game comments), probably could have gone longer had the Nats not scored behind him . . .

(more…)

Desmond HR Saves Nats Series

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Untitled

The Washington Nationals authored a win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon, 2-1, riding shortstop Ian Desmond’s second home run of the year to victory — and salvaging a single game win of the three game Atlanta series. The Nationals needed the victory, if only to show that they can beat a team that has consistently had their number.

“It was nice to get that ‘W’ and monkey off our back,” Desmond told the press following the win. “We obviously understand we have some things that need to be addressed when we’re playing them.” Starter Taylor Jordan, who escaped from multiple jams in his first start of the season, agreed: “I love beating the Braves,” he said. “We needed that. They’re our rivals, and it’s great to get one.”

It’s also clear that Nats’ manager Matt Williams was intent on turning his team’s fortunes around, particularly after Washington’s embarrassing 6-2 unraveling on Saturday. Williams gave Bryce Harper (3 for 21 in the team’s first five) a rest, played Anthony Rendon at third base and inserted uber sub Kevin Frandsen in left field.

The alchemy worked, but most particularly on the mound, where Jordan tossed a workmanlike 6.1 innings of six hit baseball — relying on the team behind him to keep him out of trouble. Jordan pitched out of trouble in the second and fourth innings, but was able to notch his first win of the season.

The Nationals were outhit by the Braves, but Desmond’s home run subdued the out-of-towners, who then couldn’t seem to find their swing against a steady Nationals’ bullpen. Washington sent Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard and closer Rafael Soriano to the mound the preserve Jordan’s outing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 6.51.01 PM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The baseball always finds the problem, no matter what team you play for. If you’re bullpen is weak you can be damn sure you’ll need it, if your team is having trouble hitting you’ll always face the best pitchers — and if you’re shoulder is tweaky you can be sure there’ll be a tough ground ball hit just to your right that will force a long throw . . .

(more…)

Nats Notes For Game #4: Braves 2 Nationals 1

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Untitled

It’s possible to spend hours discussing what happened on Opening Day, but it might be more useful to summarize it as follows: Ian Desmond’s 5th inning infield homer-not-a-homer Charlie Foxtrot, Bryce Harper’s timing issues at the plate (“he’s off a tick,” Matt Williams said following the loss), and “overaggressive” base running from Desmond, Adam LaRoche, and Harper. All this brought groans from Nats’ watchers, especially those who were privileged to see it from the stands . . .

Notwithstanding, while the regulars at the ballpark-on-the-Anacostia on Friday left disappointed by the loss, they left the game happy with the not-so-new-look Nationals — and the fact that winter, at long last, seemed to be over. And there probably won’t be much disagreement with our own take:

Jordan Zimmermann, on an off day recovering from the flu, is as good a starting pitcher as any team could hope for. He gave up one run, just like every other Nats starter so far this season, but he made it through the first two innings on 22 pitches. That’s an economy of effort that Steve McCatty would look for, though the long ball that “the Ace of Auburndale” gave up was prodigious . . .

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 7.10.36 PM

It sounded like a howitzer. “Holy shit,” the fan next to me said when the Gattis shot was three-quarters of the way to the left field bleachersĀ  . . .

When healthy, Zimm typically goes seven innings, and the fact that he was able to go five and let Matt Williams avoid having the game pitched by a bullpen committee is a major advantage against a team like the Braves. Craig Stammen delivered two solid innings (the slider is his out pitch, and it’s working real well), Aaron Barrett was better than good, and then too Tyler Clippard — well, we’re still only at 98.7, which isn’t much of a fever . . .

(more…)