Posts Tagged ‘Baseball Tonight’

It’s 11 Straight For The Braves

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

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The difference in last night’s 3-2 Braves victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park came down to a single swing of the bat. In the 8th inning, Atlanta’s Justin Upton sent a 79 mph Tyler Clippard change-up into the left field seats, sealing a tough loss for the home towners.

The Upton home run wasted one of Stephen Strasburg’s best outings of the year, and gave the red hot Braves their 11th straight victory. The Braves extended their lead in the National League East to 13.5 games. The Nationals are now at 54-58 for the season, four games under .500.

Before Upton broke up the game, the Nationals’ Strasburg had been locked in a classic pitchers’ duel with Atlanta’s Mike Minor. The Washington righty left at the end of the 7th inning, after scattering five hits and striking out nine. Minor pitched six inning while giving up eight hits.

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The Nationals had a chance to get to Minor but, as so often has been the case during the season, could not take advantage of having men on base. The Nationals put the lead-off runner on base in four successive innings, but could not take advantage.

“Get runners out there, you’ve got to get them in,” Nationals’s shortstop Ian Desmond commented after the loss. “That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to score more than they do, and we didn’t score very many tonight.” The Nationals were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

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Nats Bludgeon The Cubs, Get The Sweep

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Prior to Thursday night, Washington righty Jordan Zimmermann was saddled with three poor outings and, in those appearances, had accumulated an ERA of over 6.00. But against the Cubs on Thursday, the “Ace of Auburndale” fought back from a shaky first two innings to tame Chicago’s Little Bears, throwing seven solid innings and giving up just two runs.

But the big story of Thursday was, once again, Washington’s ability to put runs on the board. The Nationals stroked out twelve hits — including home runs from Kurt Suzuki and Adam LaRoche — and bludgeoned the North Siders 9-2. The lopsided win marked a four game sweep of Chicago, and was Washington’s fifth win in a row.

“It was a great series. It’s nice to see a bunch of runs scored on our end,” Washington first sacker Adam LaRoche said after the victory. “Hopefully, we’ll keep that going.” LaRoche was one of the biggest reasons that Washington dominated the Cubs through four games: he was 9-15 in the series, with five home runs and eight RBIs.

As interesting, at least for Nationals fans, were two bench clearing confrontations — in the fifth and sixth innings. In the bottom of the fifth, with the Nats up 7-2, Cubs’ bench coach Jamie Quirk took exception to Jayson Werth’s swinging strike on a 3-0 count and began shouting obscenities at Nationals third base Bo Porter. Porter walked to the lip of the Cubs dugout to respond.

The Quirk-Porter confrontation emptied both benches, but with little shoving or pushing. Quirk was tossed by the umps. “Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities to the third-base coach,” home-plate umpire Jerry Layne said. “That was the ejection for the coach.”

The second confrontation came in the sixth innings, when Bryce Harper was nearly hit by Cubs reliever Lendy Castillo. Harper thought Castillo had purposely thrown at him, and was restrained by Cubs’ catcher Steve Clevenger. In the ensuing scrum, Clevenger took a swipe at Michael Morse and the situation nearly got out of hand.

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Nats Win Their Fourth Straight

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Baseball Tonight was all agog over the Washington Nationals last night, featuring a look at their top three pitchers — and speculating on whether Stephen Strasburg should be starting the All Star game for the National League. Ironically, even as ESPN’s premier baseball show was trumpeting the Nats top three, Washington’s fourth pitcher, Edwin Jackson, was soaking his elbow after throwing an eight inning four hit gem against he Toronto Blue Jays.

Jackson’s outing in Toronto, and the Nats eventual 6-3 win, is prime evidence that Washington’s touted one-two-three of Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann, is more appropriately viewed as a 1-2-3-4 punch that includes the well-traveled righty. “He’s got great stuff, he’s stingy about giving up hits per inning,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said after the victory in Toronto. “His command is a lot better.”

For non-Washington fans, Jackson is the forgotten starter in the Nats’ rotation — a savvy innings eater that provides a predictably steady and savvy outing every time he takes the mound. Jackson has been a steady presence — sporting a nifty 3.02 ERA and giving the Nationals a once-every-fifth-day arm that has helped Washington catapult to the top of the N.L East.

Last night, in Toronto, Jackson was at his best. After his SOP early game troubles, Jackson spun out a dominating 108 pitch performance, with three strike outs. His fastball was sinking, with a total of twelve ground outs and seven fly outs in his outing.

The Nationals clearly felt comfortable in Toronto’s bombs away Rogers Center, with a quartet of batters serving up a multi-hit game: Steve Lombardozzi was 2-5, Bryce Harper was 3-4, and Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond were 2-5. LaRoche hit his eleventh home run.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We’ve always thought the Seattle Mariners are a little light in hanging onto pitching talent, or any other kind of talent. But if you don’t believe that, just check the record. When the Mariners needed pitching back in 2009, they traded Adam Jones to Baltimore for lefty Erik Bedard, a breathtaking swap that reminded us of Cincinnati’s trade of Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas back in the 1960s . . .

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Is “Baseball Tonight” Out Of Touch With Reality . . .?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Here’s the rant: and it won’t be the first time you’ve heard it. “Baseball Tonight,” ESPN’s one hour premier baseball product (it went for three hours the other night, because of a rainout, so we got to see the syrupy Fenway-Is-So-Great package twice), is “in the bag” for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. That’s not a secret, but at least in the past they’ve tried to cover it up. Not so tonight, when their host laughed off tweets from fans complaining that their team wasn’t being covered. “For you fans of other teams,” Karl Ravech said at 10:55, “don’t worry, we’re getting to you.” Other teams?

Well, at least Ravech got it right — some of his viewers undoubtedly tune in from outside the Boston-New York television market, and he probably thought they needed an explanation. So all you had to do, if you live in Washington (and are up at 10:55, to see whether ESPN’s premier baseball show has actually noticed the Nationals), was wait until 10:58. “The Nationals won in San Diego,” Ravech said. “They’re good,” John Kruk said. “See you at 1:30,” Ravech said.

Actually, for Nationals fans, who root for a team that’s 14-4 (we’ve put the link in, just as a reminder) is leading the N.L. East and had just won another game in San Diego — it was clear that BBTN didn’t give a damn for the Nationals, as they were too busy covering what’s going to happen now that Boston’s Carl Crawford is going under the knife, and what it says about “Bobby V” that he filled out his line-up card wrong. Stop the presses, there’s news in Boston.

“We know there’s a lot more going on, and we’ll get to it on our 1:30 show, so stay tuned for that,” Ravech reassured us. Yeah, let’s stay up for the 1:30 show. Because we need to hear some more about whether Boston’s Daniel Bard should be in the bullpen. There it is. For in truth, and despite our habit of watching BBTN (they got us, you see — and that’s the problem), the Daniel Bard ditty, played out for viewers over a period of two days this week, was damn near the last straw.

Did you catch any of that? Here’s a guy, on the Red Sox pitching staff (donchaknow) who would be Washington’s sixth starter. That is to say: Mike Rizzo would have him in Syracuse, ranked somewhere below John Lannan — who actually belongs in the major leagues. The difference is that Bard plays for Boston, while Lannan plays for Washington. Or used to. Which was the first thought we had when Yoenis Cespedes signed with the Athletics: why would you do something like that? You’ll never get noticed playing out there. “Boy that guy can really hit,” the BBTN crew said the other night. Right, so “let’s talk about the Yankees pitching staff.”

Something is seriously out of wack. For a minute there, when BBTN was obsessing about this guy — Daniel Bard — I thought we were talking about a good pitcher who’s in some kind of unnatural slump. You know, a guy who’s proved himself and now going through some rough times. We’re not. For God’s sake: he was 2-9 last year. What is Boston going to do about Daniel Bard??? Here’s an idea . . .

In truth, we sympathize with BBTN’s problems. They’re going to get criticized from every side no matter what they do. And it’s not as if they haven’t covered the Nationals, or Marlins, or Mariners — they have. But this week was a little over the top, and Ravech’s comments tonight seem to show that even they know they’re missing the boat. (That’s obviously why they have the “West Coast Swing” — to show fans that they’ll “get to them.”)

And we’re also sure that the endless coverage of the Red Sox and Yankees is because their viewers are from New York and Boston. (Oh, sorry for the interruption, but did you know that tonight David Wright broke a Mets franchise record for RBIs in a career? Yup, he sure did . . .) Right, so . . . their viewers are in Boston and New York and that’s fine with Bud and so it’s fine with them. So yes . . .

that’s a given. But Baseball Tonight baseball fans are also from Miami and Houston and Arizona and Seattle and Kansas City — and even Oakland, by God. And they’re from Washington, where the Nationals (as John Kruk mentioned the other night) might well be the best team in the National League. We all thought: thank God, now maybe BBTN will cover the Nationals like they’re a real MLB team, instead of a kind of unplanned interruption of the exploits of those lovable Back Bay Crybabies and those lunch pail workaholics, the New York Vanderbilts. Or maybe not.

And . . . and most assuredly — probably not. But that’s okay: stay tuned for BBTN’s next show, which will be on the air somewhere near dawn. They’re going to cover the comeback of that incredible pitcher . . . Joba Chamberlain. Because we haven’t heard enough about that.

Same As It Ever Was: Strasburg Strong As Nats Fall

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Just a little over one year from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound in Washington, threw five complete innings — and left the game with the Nationals in the lead, 3-0. It almost looked as if the young righty had picked up from where he left off: he threw 56 pitches (40 of them for strikes), while giving up just two hits and striking out four.

Unfortunately for Strasburg, who was in line for the win, the Nationals’ bullpen could not hold the 3-0 lead, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to outslug and outscore the Nationals, 7-3. Despite the loss, Strasburg was the story. His fastball topped out at 99 mph, and he seemed in control and comfortable on the mound.

The Nationals had to be pleased with Strasburg’s outing, as it was right on schedule after one year of rehab. The righty will now follow the agenda laid out for Jordan Zimmermann (who also underwent Tommy John surgery), that Nats’ fans are familiar with: four starts to finish the season, an off-season of rest, followed by a closely monitored innings count for the 2012 campaign.

Despite this, tonight’s outing charted a way back, and now sets up a Nationals’ rotation with Strasburg as the number one starter, followed by Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan. The Nationals actually have a lot to choose from, as Davey Johnson tests out the young arms this September. Brad Peacock made his major league debut in relief of Strasburg tonight, throwing a serviceable 1.1 innings — but Johnson is also taking a good look at Chien-Ming Wang, who has looked impressive and Ross Detwiler.

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The Buster Posey “Debate”

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Baseball Tonight had a “debate” about Buster Posey’s injury that went something like this: given Posey’s value to the team (a terrific hitter, the growing face of the franchise, a good clubhouse presence — and young), wouldn’t it be better to put him in the outfield, where his chances of a major injury are greatly diminished? After all, that’s what the Nationals have done with Bryce Harper and, arguably, what the Twinkies will now do with oft-injured Joe Mauer.

The question is hardly academic: if Posey was in the outfield, he wouldn’t be laying in the hospital nursing a broken leg and shredded muscles. And think of this: Posey is just a good hitter or even just a good player, he’s the best player that the Giants have. Now he could be out for a year, and there’s no guarantee his rehab will be as smooth as it should be.

But there are a number of problems with the debate, not the least is that while the question comes up when a guy like Posey is injured, it hardly comes up at all when a player like (say) Jesus Flores is injured. The reason for that is obvious: Jesus Flores is simply not as valuable as Posey and can (but don’t tell the Nats), be replaced more readily. But that begs the question: is it okay for Jesus Flores to be injured, but not Buster Posey. Should Bruce Bochy, for instance, tell Posey replacement Eli Whiteside that it’s okay for him to be behind the place, because he’s not that valuable.

Maybe BBTN (a program that is valuable in itself, and much better than MLB Network’s nightly hysteria) is just trying to fill time. For Rick Sutcliffe, the question seemed rhetorical: a catcher is the only player on the field who’s involved in all parts of the game — “pitching, catching and offense.” If your team’s best player is a catcher (as is the case with Posey — in San Francisco) that’s where you want him, regardless of the chance of injury. So Posey’s in the hospital, and the Giants are scrambling.

As the debate about whether Posey should have been behind the plate rages simmers on, McCovey fans will continue to shake their heads and mutter, “if only, if only.” Yeah, “if only” — if only Roberto had not been on the aircraft, if only Mickey hadn’t stepped in that rubber drain and if only Bob Feller had played a full career, instead of going to fight the war. But then, of course, there’s this: Feller emerged from the war unscathed — and was only injured after he returned.

Nats Spear Marlins . . . Jeter, Ichiro and BBTN

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The Washington Nationals authored a decisive 7-2 spearing of the Florida Marlins on Sunday, through a combination of stellar starthing pitching and timely hitting. After a long rain delay, Nats’s starter John Lannan dominated the Marlins’ bats through five complete innings, holding the Miami Nine to six hits while striking out three. Reliever Tyler Clippard was, if anything, even more effective (holding the Marlins to one hit over two innings), before Jason Bergman closed out the game. Nats hitters accounted for five hits over unsteady Marlins’ starter Chris Volstad, with the big blows from the bats of Pete Orr and Elijah Dukes. The win boosted Lannan’s record to 9-11, while giving a needed infusion of confidence to Nationals’ hitters, whose bats wer unable to master Florida pitching on Saturday. The 7-2 win gave the Nats the series victory in Florida, three games to two.

Down On Half Street: Derek Jeter recorded his 2,722nd hit on Friday, passing Lou Gehrig for the most hits in Yankees franchise history. Jeter’s landmark hit was properly extolled in the New York and baseball media and we have to give credit where credit is due – there’s no doubt that the Yankees shortstop will end his career by being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and have a plaque dedicated to his accomplishments out in Yankee Stadium’s monument park. Even so, in the wake of Jeter’s accomplishment, ”Baseball Tonight” commentator Steven Berthiaume felt compelled to ask his guests (Orestes Destrade, Eric Young and Buster Olney) whether BBTN was paying too much attention to the Jeter record ”just because he’s a Yankee.” Absolutely not, the trio intoned: Jeter’s mark symbolizes his undisputed place in baseball history and puts him on “the Mt. Rushmore of Yankee greats . . .”  

Well, maybe. But, if you have to ask the question in the first place . . .

 

The Berthiaume question keeps coming up: is “Baseball Tonight” too much of a Boston and New York and east coast-oriented show, with too little focus on west coast teams and west coast match-ups? The producers at BBTN probably have something to say about this — and some of it might even make sense. New York probably provides the largest audience of ESPN viewers and “Baseball Tonight” often (but not always) ends too soon to do a report on west coast scores, particularly if those games run into extra innings. Then too, I’ll just bet that somewhere there’s an internal BBTN memo that says that when Berthiaume and crew lead the broadcast with news about the Padres or A’s, people change channels. Whether we like it or not, the Yankees are of abiding interest (even to fans outside of New York) and the Jeter record is probably more important to the average viewer than, say, the fact that Ryan Howard eclipsed the Phillies’ grand slam home run mark set by Mike Schmidt.  

But if the producers of “Baseball Tonight” are hammered for being “homers” for the Yanks and Red Sox (and the Mets, too, when they don’t stink), it’s only because they often deserve it. Last week the CFG brain trust was convinced that Ichiro would finally get the attention he deserves when he broke one of baseball’s nearly untouchable records: the number of consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits. But that’s not what happened. When Ichiro broke Wee Willie Keeler’s record on Sunday night, ESPN was busy covering the games of another sport while ESPN’s flagship sports reporting program, “SportsCenter,” barely mentioned the accomplishment. But while Baseball Tonight can thereby be excused for their seeming lack of interest, baseball’s pundit class took an “oh and by the way” attitude to Ichiro’s accomplishment in the days leading up to his record breaking infield single on Sunday night. Yankees fans might take umbrage at all of this: that Ichiro is not Jeter, that Ichiro’s record is hardly of the same class as Jeter’s and . . . and that you can’t really compare “Wee Willie” to the “The Iron Horse.” Some of this might be true, but not all of it. While Gehrig was a better ball player than Keeler, the two records are vastly different: Jeter’s record is a team record, while Ichiro’s will reside at Cooperstown.