Posts Tagged ‘Albert Pujols’

Marlins Hook The Nats, 3-0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Henderson Alvarez pitched seven complete innings and Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and drove in two runs as the Miami Marlins shut out the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, 3-0. The victory was Miami’s sixth in a row and narrowed the gap separating them from first place in the National League East.

Alvarez showed why he’s one of Miami’s premier starters, particularly at home. Alvarez allowed just three hits while striking out four, outdueling Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg matched Alvarez’s numbers, also allowing just four hits. The Washington righty also struck out four Marlins.

The Nationals had plenty of scoring opportunities against Alvarez, but couldn’t find a way to get their runners across the plate. The Nats had the bases loaded in the second inning with no outs, but failed to score, and then had Anthony Rendon on third and Bryce Harper on first in the fifth but couldn’t push a run across.

Alvarez admitted that he struggled in the early going, before finding his command. “I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” Alvarez said of his performance. “When the bases loaded with nobody out, I started to find my control of my pitches and of the game.”

After showing a solid ability to push runners across the plate earlier in the current road trip, the Nationals reclaimed their inability to score with runners on base. Washington left 26 on base last night, threatening Miami’s lead in the last of the 9th, when they again failed to score with the bases loaded.

The game also marked a revival for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game at zero for his last nine at bats. But Stanton certainly looked good against the Nationals, lacing a double to left against Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th, scoring Jordany Valdespin.

“I haven’t felt good for a while now,” Stanton said after last night’s victory. “I did a little setup pregame. Hopefully I’m feeling better and more comfortable at the plate. Today was a good plus to that.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the hunt for starting pitchers, with both teams inquiring about Boston’s Jon Lester, who’s a free agent after the season. The Redbirds have kicked the tires on nearly everyone who’s even remotely available, according to baseball analysts . . .

The once-upon-a-time pitching rich Cardinals are mired right in the middle of the pack with their staff, at least statistically, with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia sidelined with arm issues. Wacha has a tweaky shoulder while Garcia is out for the duration with nerve problems in his pitching arm . . .

The loss of Wacha and Garcia have not sent the Cardinals into a tailspin, but St. Louis will need to bolster its pitching to have a shot at another world title. Everyone is in play: the Redbirds have scouted Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.j. Burnett of the Phillies, Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, in addition to Lester . . .

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Nats Notes: The Bad (And Good) of the Angels Series

Friday, April 25th, 2014

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The 9th inning heroics of Wednesday night’s game notwithstanding, the just-ended series against the Los Angeles Angels was nothing for the Washington Nationals to be proud of. Sure, the Belinskys have bats in center fielder Mike Trout and first sacker Albert Pujols, and their starting pitchers are competent. But that’s really it.

Game 1 of the series is a case in point. Nats starter Tanner Roark and reliever Drew Storen kept Trout and Pujols under wraps for 7 innings, keeping the Nats to a 1-0 lead. Then set-up man Tyler Clippard and error-prone shortstop Ian Desmond gave up the farm in the 8th on a 3 RBI double from aging pinch hitter Raul Ibanez, who had gone 0 for 11 prior to his rip. The Nats should know Nats-killer Ibanez: he made the 2009 All Star Team as a Philly back in 2009 — in part because of his BA against the Nats.

This was a game the Nats should have and could have won, but a moment of weakness was all it took for a middling team to put one in the books. And while the sloppy 8th was the downfall, the lineup certainly didn’t do much to help, being outhit by the Halos 12 to 3.

Unfortunately, the second game of the series looks like it dashed whatever hopes Taylor Jordan had of earning the 5th starter position once Doug Fister comes off the disabled list. Jordan gave up up six runs (four earned) in five innings. The Nats’s bats were quiet against Angels starter Tyler Skaggs (a sleeper rookie with a 3.21 ERA and terrific stuff) with only three hits — and third baseman Anthony Rendon committed two errors, the usual story in the Nats’ losses this year.

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The Nats barely missed the sweep of the broom on Wednesday night when Trout and Pujols finally figured out Nats stalwart Gio Gonzalez, who pitched a solid five innings. Nats reliever Aaron Barrett started the 6th with a 0.00 ERA and left it with a 1.23 on two hits and a run. Nats’ hitters found their swings, outhitting the Halos 11-8  and finally got some clutch hits from Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, and Adam LaRoche, who had a walk off RBI single.

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The “Anaheim Clipper” Chases “The Rajah”

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run on Tuesday night — so let the comparisons begin. Pujols is almost certainly the best right-handed hitter of his generation and perhaps the best right-handed hitter since Henry Aaron and Willie Mays played the game, back in the 60s and 70s.

In fact, he’s probably better. Pujols has hit more than 30 home runs and batted in over 100 runs in ten straight seasons (his first ten in the majors), a feat unequaled by either Aaron or Mays, and he’s on a path to eclipse their career BAs. It’s not even close. Mays hit .302 for his career and Aaron is at .305. So far, Pujols career batting average stands at .321.

Of course, both Aaron and Mays were victimized by poor seasons late in their careers, as the two stars played into their forties. Pujols is 34, and may well hit that plateau. Pujols also has enough power to eclipse both Aaron and Mays in total home runs, but while he might catch Mays (with 660), it seems unlikely he’ll catch Aaron (with 755).

Pujols is a better RBI man than either Aaron or Mays and (if he stays healthy) will eclipse their RBI numbers in the next five to seven years. His OBP, at least so far, is more than thirty points higher. He will come close to equaling them in hits. Aaron won one MVP award, while Willie Mays won two. Pujols has won three . . . so far.

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That said, a case can be made that Pujols is better at the plate than either of them. But is he better than Rogers Hornsby? Hornsby is one of the greatest to ever play the game (certainly in the top five) and holds pride of place for dominating the game as a St. Louis Cardinal. In truth, his legacy as the game’s best right-handed hitter (ever) seems secure — even from Pujols.

Hornsby won seven batting titles (Pujols has won one) and hit over .400 three times (in 1922, 1924 and 1925). Hornsby’s career BA is breathtaking (at .358) and while he didn’t hit the long ball nearly as consistently as Pujols (or Aaron or Mays), he led his league in home runs twice. He led the N.L. in OBP, Slugging and OPS six years in a row. Which is astounding.

That is to say: “The Rajah’s” place as the greatest right-handed hitter in the history of the game is secure, and probably forever. But Pujols could, arguably, end his career as the greatest first baseman to play the game, eclipsing the career of Yankee Lou Gehrig. Their numbers are almost eerily similar.

Gehrig hit for both power and average, was a terrific RBI man, and was voted MVP twice. While Pujols’ power numbers are better, even now, Gehrig took more walks, had fewer strikeouts and nudges out Pujols for getting on base. Who was the better overall hitter? Pujols is probably better, but it’s close — itchy close.

Baseball knows what it has in Pujols, but it’s still an effort to get your mind around the fact that when you see Albert Pujols emerge from the dugout, you’re watching one of the best hitters to ever play the game. He’s not “the Rajah” (no one is “the Rajah”), but he’s better than Aaron or Mays — and he’s the only first baseman in history to equal the output of “the Yankee Clipper.”

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Pujols Hits Numbers 499, 500 — Angels Down Nats

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit two home runs, lefty Tyler Skaggs and a young Angels’ bullpen held Washington to just three hits — and the Los Angeles Angels went on to dominate the Nationals 7-2 on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. The loss put the Nationals just one game over .500 on the season.

Pujols is the 26th player in baseball history to hit 500 home runs. The first baseman’s first home run of the night, number 499, came in the top of the first inning off of a Taylor Jordan change up, while his second of the night came in the top of the 5th on a Jordan fastball.

“I admire the man. I admire his ability and the way he goes about playing the game, and I have for some time,” Washington manager Matt Williams said after the loss. “I just wish he’d do it against somebody else.”

Pujols told Angels shortstop Erick Aybar before the game that he would hit two home runs on the night, and they were the difference in the victory. Following his injury plagued 2013 season, Pujols has regained his stride. He now leads the American League in home runs (with eight) and batted in five runs against the Nationals on Tuesday night.

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Pujols clapped his hands together as he rounded the bases on his 500th home run, was greeted at home plate by his teammates and then acknowledged Nationals fans who gave him a standing ovation. “You don’t see 500, obviously, every night,” Pujols said following the Angels victory. “It’s been a great career.” Pujols hit over 450 of his 500 home runs as a St. Louis Cardinal.

Washington suffered its second loss in as many games against the Angels and have tallied only three hits per game in the series. The victim of Tuesday’s loss was starter Taylor Jordan, who gave up eight hits and four earned runs in just five innings of work.

The Nationals also committed two more errors on Tuesday, their 23rd and 24th in 21 games — which leads major league baseball.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Just what the hell do you suppose is wrong with the Washington Nationals . . . ?

“I’m baffled,” Nats’ manager Matt Williams told the press in reflecting on the Nationals’ sloppy play in the field. “It’s not what we want, for sure, but we can’t do anything but do what we’re doing and that’s work at it. We do extra, we work on it . . . ”

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Span’s 9th Inning Sacrifice Gives Nats The Win

Monday, April 21st, 2014

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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.

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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 attitude’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 . . .

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April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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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:

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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.

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Nats Squeeze By Chicago

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Adam LaRoche ended his standard early season drought with two home runs in consecutive at bats and the Nationals squeaked by the Chicago White Sox, 8-7 to bring their record to 5-2. LaRoche’s homers helped the Nationals stave off a surging Chicago line-up — and helped the team to survive some shaky bullpen outings.

LaRoche’s blasts came in the 6th inning with one on and in the 8th with no one on. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth also went deep for the home towners. “You get into the second week of the season, that’s never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit,” Laroche said following the win. “I felt great that first series at home, I just couldn’t get the ball to fall. To come back and get a couple [tonight] was nice.”

The home runs were needed: Chicago’s Paul Konerko blasted a three run home run in the 7th inning off of Tyler Clippard to bring the score within one. Washington came back to tack on a run in the bottom of the 7th, which was followed by LaRoche’s second home run — but Chicago added two more in the top of the 9th off of Rafael Soriano, who then closed out the game.

Both Chicago and Washington were hoping their starters would turn Tuesday’s game into a classic pitching match-up, but Jake Peavy gave up six runs on nine hits in 5.1 inning, while Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez surrendered four hits in five innings. That wasn’t so bad, but Washington’s bullpen gave up seven hits and four runs in the next four frames.

Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when the Nationals put four runs on the board — with home runs from Werth and LaRoche. “Obviously, the sixth inning got away from us,” Peavy said. “I didn’t have much there, and it was hot and humid, and I ran out of gas. I didn’t have much left with LaRoche, and he put a good swing on it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s deja vu all over again for the Los Angeles Angels, who are repeating their slow start from a year ago. The Angels dropped a slugfest at home last night, in their opener, against the forever surprising Oakland A’s. The Angels yielded a one run lead in the top of the 7th by giving up home runs to pinch hitter John Jaso and first sacker Brandon Moss. The A’s went on to dump the Halos 9-5 . . .

Nothing seems to be working for the Belinskys, and you can read the frustration in the face of Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia. Ace C.J. Wilson came out of the clubhouse and promptly gave up three runs in the top of the 1st, but it could have been a lot worse: Wilson left the inning with the bases loaded . . .

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