Posts Tagged ‘atlanta braves’

Nats Collapse In The 9th, Lose In Miami

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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In what had to be considered the most important game of the year for the Marlins, the Miami Nine scored four runs in the 9th inning on Monday night, and walked off with a stunning 7-6 win against the Nationals. The Nationals entered the 9th with what seemed a sure-thing victory, but Miami capitalized on a poor outing from Nats closer Rafael Soriano to win the game.

Soriano began the catastrophic 9th by walking Casey McGehee, the Marlins’ lead-off hitter, then gave up a double to Garrett Jones. A Marcell Ozuna single then scored McGehee and Miami was suddenly in the game with no one out. Jones then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adeiny Hechavarria then laced a triple, after Soriano gave up a wild pitch.

Even then, the Nats were still in the game, though Miami had tied it at six. But after closer Soriano hit Donovan Solano with a pitch, Nats manager Matt Williams pulled Soriano in favor of lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins struck out Christian Yelich before giving up the game winning single to Jeff Baker.

The game was an absolute heart breaker for Nationals fans, who’d seen their team take two of three from Cincinnati and play well on the road. Before Monday night, it even looked as if the Nationals might put some distance between themselves and the second place Atlanta Braves, who scraped by the Padres, 2-0.

The loss came at the expense of Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, who’d pitched one of his best games of the year. Zimmermann threw seven complete innings while giving up just four hits and striking out six. The young righty ace of the Nationals staff had a fastball that Miami’s hitters couldn’t seem to touch.

“He was really good tonight. He was down in the zone, he had a great slider,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of Zimmermann’s outing. “Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. Tonight, he proved that he is back on it.”

Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen came in in relief of Zimmermann, and while lefty Detwiler gave up a single run on two hits, the Nationals were still in line for the victory — with their top closer (“the best closer in the game,” as the Washington Post described him today) coming into the game.

“Bad day for me,” Soriano said of his performance in the ninth inning. “Every pitch that I threw, I had no command. Everything that I tried to throw didn’t work.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Marlins are trying to decide whether to be buyers or sellers, with the decision hinging on how they would do against the Nationals. Their stunning win tonight will undoubtedly help them to make the decision, though they remain under .500 by a single game and six games back in the standings . . .

It’s easy to see what the Marlins need: all you need do is take a look at their line-up. The Marlins can hit; they are an on-base team that registers just a tick above the Nationals in runs scored. That’s not true for their pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the National League with a 3.92 ERA . . .

The problem is that pitching isn’t that easy to find and Miami would probably hesitate to give up a top prospect for either a rental or a high-priced starter. Nor are the Marlins willing to part with any of their bullpen pieces, though they’ve reportedly received calls on fireballer Steve Cishek, who wracked up five saves in Miami’s just-completed 6-1 road trip . . .

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Nats Notes: Guess What’s Missing?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals returned from the All Star break to win their series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies — and are now on top of the Natoinal League East by the smallest margin in any division in baseball. The Milwaukee and Colorado series give Nats fans a glimpse of what’s to come in the second half of the season. And that mostly means one thing: hitting.

MASN commentators F.P. Santangelo and Ray Knight often remark how deep the Nats’ lineup is, and it’s true. The Nats line-up is deep. When the Washington Nine are healthy, anyone can hit and one or even two players who are slumping get picked up by their teammates.

But in terms of swinging the bat, the Nats are doing just alright. They knocked 35 hits for 15 runs (including five doubles and two homers) against the Brew Crew and 36 hits for 18 runs (6 doubles, a triple, and two homers) against the Coors. That’s okay, if something less than downright good.

The downside of those numbers, as it’s been all season, is how the Nationals hit with runners in scoring position (the all important RISP): 8-30 against Milwaukee and 8-44 against Colorado. In other words, the Nats were able to cash in with runners in scoring position at about the same rate against the first place team in the NL Central and the last place team in the NL West.

So, guess what’s missing?

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Nats Outhit The Crew, But Fall 4-2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals proved that Milwaukee Brewers righty Kyle Lohse is very hittable, spraying ten hits in seven innings against him at Nationals Park on Friday night. But it was Lohse who had the last word, working out of threat after threat in delivering the Brewers a surprising 4-2 victory.

All of Lohse’s acrobatics came with two outs, as Washington failed to move runners off the bases — a habit that has victimized the D.C. Nine all season.

In all, Lohse pitched out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings. Of course, the Nationals could rightly claim that it was their lack of hitting with runners on base (and not Lohse’s pitching) that was the problem: The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

Lohse was able to joke about his on-base troubles, and his win, after the victory. “I think it was five out of seven innings that got led off with a hit,” he told reporters in the Brewers’ clubhouse. “I was thinking about starting off innings out of the stretch, but I didn’t want to let everybody know I was aware of it.”

The Nationals were hardly anemic at the plate. Denard Span was 3-4 on the night, Ryan Zimmerman was 2-4 (and stroked his 19th double) and Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

Lohse faced off against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in seven innings while striking out nine. But unlike Lohse, Strasburg was victimized by two round trippers (off the bats of second sacker Scooter Gennett and outfielder Khris Davis) and a Brewers’ offense that capitalized on their scoring opportunities.

“With Stras as a fastball pitcher, they are a home run-hitting club. That’s going to happen sometimes,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams noted following the loss. “If you are going to hit a home run, you want it to be a solo home run.”

But the difference in the game was not the long ball, but a bloop single off the bat of Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third inning. With Gennett and Ryan Braun on base, Ramirez hit a blooper just inside the right field line that scored both runners. The hit was the difference in the game.

The good news for the Nationals was that Bryce Harper seems to be on track after being sidelined for a good portion of the season, and struggling at the plate since his return. Armed with a new and more upright batting stance, the Nationals young left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, his third of the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals were losing at home against Milwaukee, Atlanta was winning at home against Philadelphia. The Braves 6-4 victory was their third in a row and put them a single game ahead of Washington in the National League East . . .

The Bravos celebrated the All Star break by making an uncomfortable roster move, releasing second sacker Dan Uggla who had struggled at the plate during the 2013 campaign, then repeated that performance again this year. Uggla has hit just .175 since the beginning of last season and without the power that greeted his arrival in Atlanta in the 2010 off season . . .

You really have to wonder what happened to Uggla’s power stroke. While the former Marlin could never hit for average, his penchant for hitting high and long drives into the upper deck made him a nemesis in the N.L. East. Uggla hit thirty or more home runs five seasons in a row, including 36 in 2011 . . .

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Nats Recover In Chicago, Take Two From The Cubs

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals relied on their starting staff, and the arms of Gio Gonzalez and Blake Treinen, on Saturday to sweep an unusual doubleheader in Chicago (the first since 1983) on scores of 3-0 and 7-2. The sweep of the twin bill followed on two successive losses to the last place Cubs, placing Washington’s hold on the top spot in the N.L. East in jeopardy.

While Nationals fans were treated to acrobatic plays from Denard Span in the 4th inning of the first game, it was Gio Gonzalez who dominated the game’s headlines, throwing seven innings of two hit baseball in shutting down a weak Cubs line-up. The Nationals capped their scoring in the first game victory in the 8th inning with a triple from Anthony Rendon (which scored Denard Span) and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Adam LaRoche.

Gonzalez now appears to be all the way back from the shoulder aches that sidelined him for two weeks. “Obviously coming (off) the DL and trying to work your way back is going to be a process,” Gonzalez said after the victory. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s good to see little by little using fastball and changeup at the same time. It’s good to know when you need them they’ll be there.”

“It’s important for us. I’m happy for him that he feels good about it and he’s had no shoulder issues, so that’s a good sign,” Nationals skipper Matt Williams said of Gonzalez’s recovery. “Velocity’s come back, the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes is huge for him. He pitched really good.”

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The Nationals leaped on Chicago pitching in the second game of the twin bill, notching seven runs on ten hits, victimizing Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. The big blows came off the bats of Wilson Ramos, Kevin Frandsen and Jayson Werth in the four run fifth. The outburst followed on Adam LaRoche’s 11th home run in the 2nd and an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly in the 3rd.

“They came out of the rain delay and they jumped on me right off the bat,” Samardzija said of the Nationals 5th inning rally. “They hit some fastballs over the plate and hit them up the middle and made me keep throwing pitches. They did a good job. They were ready out of the break. I probably needed to spin a couple more pitches and give them a different look.”

The Nationals victory also marked the first MLB career victory for rookie Blake Treinen, who threw five innings of four hit baseball in a game interrupted for one hour because of rain. “It means a lot,” Treinen said of his first victory. “I’m definitely excited, that’s for sure.”

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Cubs Maul The Nats — Again

Friday, June 27th, 2014

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After a solid series in Milwaukee, the Washington Nationals dropped their second in a row to the Cubs in Chicago. The Nationals were simply outplayed, and seemed sluggish at the plate and on the field. The loss dropped them to just three games over .500 on the season.

“There’s just no way to explain it,” MASN post-game analyst Ray Knight told his viewers in the wake of the Nationals 7-2 defeat this afternoon. “Sometimes, these teams at .450 or whatever, you come in and ‘wack.’ and it happens. After all, these are major league players.”

MASN color commenter F.P. Santangelo agreed but was disappointed that Washington seemed to lack a killer instinct. “I just didn’t see this coming,” he noted during the Nats loss. “There’s just not a swagger there. The Nationals are a first place team, the Cubs are a last place team. We’ve got to come in here and step on them.”

But no matter what the explanation, the 7-2 defeat at Wrigley Field on Friday reflected Washington’s inability to play well on the road (where they’re four games under .500), as well as hitting slumps from Jayson Werth (6-40 in his last ten games) and Danny Espinosa, who is hitting .200 in the same period.

But then there’s the Cubs. The Cubs are 21-17 over their last 38, which is four games over .500. Which means that if the season had started just 38 games ago, the Cubs would be good enough to be in first place in the N.L. Least, where Atlanta is dueling Washington in what appears to be a race to see who can play above .500.

The good news for the Nationals is that while Werth and Espinosa are struggling at the plate, first sacker Adam LaRoche is not. LaRoche was 2-4 on Friday while towering his tenth home run of the season. Anthony Rendon also seemed unfazed by Cubs pitching, going 2-4 while raising his season BA to .276.

The Cubs continue to swing a hot bat. Chicago accumulated 13 hits on Friday, with no-hit catcher John Baker having an all-career day at 3-3 while stroking a three run double. The Cubs notched ten hits against usually steady starter Anthony Rendon, then tattooed lefty reliever Jerry Blevins for three runs in just 2/3 of an inning.

Meanwhile Jason Hammel, who is nearly unbeatable when he faces the Nationals (he is now 7-0 in his career against them), threw into the 7th, while striking out six. “They hit today,” Roark said of the Cubs in his post-game comments. “We’ll face them again in Washington and so we’ll have to beat them. What can I do? Just keep throwing strikes. That’s the key.”

The Nationals face off against the Cubs in a double header on the North Side tomorrow, with Gio Gonzalez scheduled to throw in the first game (against Cubs rookie Dallas Beeler) and Blake Treinen (who will be recalled today from Syracuse) throwing against Jeff Samardzija in the second.

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Roark (And The Nats Bullpen) Stump The Braves

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

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Nationals skipper Matt Williams remained his usual unsmiling self after the Nationals bested the Braves on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, but allowed himself a fleeting moment of semi-humor. “I am going to respectfully not answer that question, if that’s okay,” he said when asked if the Nationals now had momentum in the N.L. East. “I know how this works.”

It’s not superstition exactly, but it’s pretty close: As Williams himself noted, “there’s a long way to go” and “we need to take one game at a time.” But Washington’s 4-1 win and a split in the Atlanta series in front of 39,000-plus Nats fans must have come as a relief to Williams, as it did to the Nationals players.

“Oh yeah, they’ve had our number,” Nats center fielder Denard Span, who got a key hit in the win, said after the victory. “So it’s good to come away with a win today.” The Nationals Sunday win came on yet another strong pitching performance from starter Tanner Roark — and a shutdown bullpen that yielded nadda, zippo, zero (3.2 innings, no hits and three strikeouts) to a tough hitting Braves line-up.

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Roark, who lasted 5.1 innings, did not have his best stuff, but set the tone by holding the Braves to four hits. Roark was frustrating for Braves hitters, who argued several high strike zone calls from home plate umpire Mark Carlson. The Braves Chris Johnson was ejected in the top of the 6th (here’s the video, and we trust you can read lips) and Justin Upton was tossed just prior to the end of the game.

The Nationals put two runs on the board in the bottom of the 1st (on an Adam LaRoche single and a Ryan Zimmerman sacrifice fly), added single runs in the 5th (on a clutch Denard Span double that scored Sandy Leon), and added an insurance run in the 8th when Anthony Rendon scored on a wild pitch.

The Nationals broke out for nine hits in their win on Sunday, but the key to the series split was the team’s pitching — and particularly their relief corps. Storen, Clippard and Soriano all pitched well in the series, but Craig Stammen was the standout, throwing 4.2 innings in relief while giving up a single hit. If we had to pick a hurler to go to Minneapolis for the All Star game, it would be Stammen.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Speaking of superstition — as soon as we wrote that Cincinnati should shovel their bats into a wood chipper they scored eleven runs on Saturday and another four today. This followed the 14-8 stunner on Friday night, in which they led Toronto 8-0 after two, but ended up losing the game . . .

We know how it looks, but we’re going to stick with what we said. Of all the teams in the National League, the Cincinnati Bridesmaids are the most disappointing. They hit more home runs than the Nationals (not a surprise, come to think of it), but can’t seem to put runs on the board when they need to, and seem to fall asleep in big games. It’s a puzzle . . .

The only reason we mention this is that our cheeky coverage of the Redlegs sparked an avalanche of reader emails (well, an avalanche for us), decrying our anti-Cincinnati bias and our “premature prediction” (all predictions are, by nature, premature — but nevermind) in counting them out of the running in the N.L. Central . . .

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Nearly Flawless: Fister, Rendon Lead Nats Past The Braves, 3-0

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

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In what has to count as one of the best games Washington has played all year, righty Doug Fister shined through eight shutout innings and Anthony Rendon was 3-4 with two big RBIs, as the Nationals dominated the Atlanta Braves, 3-0 on Saturday night in front of 40,000-plus at Nationals Park.  The win nudged the Nationals back into first place in the National League East.

Fister, who is now 6-2 on the year, surrendered just five hits while striking out three. The righty threw 117 pitches, 78 of them for strikes and induced twelve ground ball outs. “He controlled the strike zone, threw all of his pitches for strikes, and worked ahead in the count,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Fister’s performance. “All of those things pitchers do when they go deep in the game.”

Washington scored its first run in the bottom of the 3rd when third sacker Anthony Rendon singled home catcher Jose Lobaton, who had reached on a leadoff single. Ryan Zimmerman added a second run in the 6th on a ground ball up the middle that scored Adam LaRoche and Rendon finished off the Washington attack with a double in the 7th.

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Washington’s runs came at the expense of Atlanta righty Julio Teheran, who hadn’t given up a walk in 94 innings before giving a free pass to Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the 6th. Teheran struggled through most of the game, though he kept the game close and struck out ten Nationals.

Teheran’s frustration was evident in mid-game, when he continued to shake off pitches from Atlanta catcher Evan Gattis. “I showed a little bit of frustration,” Teheran later admitted. “It didn’t happen before to me, but I was really working hard to concentrate on the game and to control my emotions. Today, it was just the first time that it happened.”

But the key to the much needed Washington victory was the pitching of their starter. “He’s funky,” Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman said of Fister’s night. “He’s a big guy. He seems like he’s releasing the ball right in front of your face. He’s so quick he makes you want to kind of rush things to get things going.”

Rafael Soriano pitched a flawless 9th inning to notch his sixteenth save of the year. The Washington victory marked only the second time the Nationals have beaten the Braves this year, but they have a chance to even the four game series on Sunday, when they send Tanner Roark to the mound to face tough Atlanta righty Ervin Santana.

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