Posts Tagged ‘Baseball Tonight’

Strasburg, Cabrera Spark Eighth Straight Win

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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Stephen Strasburg threw eight complete innings of three hit baseball and newbie Nat Asdrubal Cabrera’s line drive double capped a six run third inning and the Washington Nine notched their eighth win in a row, in a convincing 8-1 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

This was a dominant outing for Strasburg who notched his tenth win on the year. “I guess it’s what the doctor ordered,” Strasburg said after his win. “I just wanted to go out there and build off the last start and keep doing the things that I’ve been trying to work on. [Catcher Jose Lobaton] called a great game, we played great defense.”

Washington’s onslaught victimized Arizona starter Chase Anderson, who was pulled in the third inning after pitching to six batters, but without getting an out. The frame featured a single (and stolen base) from Denard Span, singles from Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Bryce Harper, a walk to Adam LaRoche and Cabrera’s gap double that cleared the bases.

Cabrera has had key hits in each of the last four games, but notched three RBIs on Tuesday. “He’s a pro,” Manager Matt Williams said of his new second sacker. “His time at shortstop I think helps everything. Coming in, he hadn’t played second base in a while, but switch-hitting capabilities, been in situations like this, hitting in the middle of the order of a team, and a contending team, helps everything.”

Ian Desmond wielded the other big bat for the Nationals, going 3-4 on the night while accumulating four RBIs. “It’s one of those nights where I didn’t hit it super well, but I got some hits,” Desmond said. “Fortunately for me, guys were on base in front of me. They have been doing that all year long. I’ve been trying to do a better job getting on for Bryce [Harper].

The punchless D-Backs were powerless against Strasburg, but even less so against close-out lefty Jerry Blevins, who fanned two in a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. But the night was Strasburg’s.

“He had his fastball working, he was locating,” D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill said. “He’s one of the better fastball pitchers in the game, and we were hoping to maybe get his pitch count up a little bit and get into the bullpen, and it just didn’t happen.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We’re not inclined to give Baseball Tonight commenter and former major league righty Rick Sutcliffe any kind of love at all — his BT monologues are off-putting, long-winded and sometime incoherent. We loved him as a player, honestly, but . . .

But just this once we’ll give him credit. Back on August 8, Sutcliffe told Baseball Tonight aficionados that the reason Strasburg had authored such a lousy outing that day against the Braves was that he “wasn’t throwing the ball inside.” Strasburg’s inability to “control the inside part of the plate,” Sutcliffe said, was allowing hitters to lean into his outside pitches . . .

We’ve learned since then that Sutcliffe’s views reflected what the Nationals themselves were thinking. In the wake of the righty’s poor outing against the Braves, pitching guru Steve McCatty had an intense side session with Stras to polish his inside pitching. The results have been impressive . . .

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LaRoche Rocks The Mets, 7-1

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche homered twice and Doug Fister threw 7.1 innings of six hit baseball, as the Washington Nationals downed the New York Mets at Nats Park on Wednesday night, 7-1. LaRoche’s two round trippers brought his total to 15 home runs on the year, while his RBI count stands at 59.

LaRoche is the first to admit that he’s been struggling at the plate, having hit a less-than-mediocre .159 in July while seeing his power numbers fall off. “It’s nice to see them go in the seats and not to the warning track or just foul,” LaRoche said after Washington’s victory last night. “I felt like I was snake bit last month.”

But if LaRoche has been struggling, Doug Fister has thrown his hat into the ring as Washington’s best front-of-the-rotation starter. The former Detroit righty now has 11 wins on the year against three losses and is the proud owner of a snappy 2.49 ERA.

On Wednesday against the Mets, everything seemed to be working for him. Fister threw 101 pitches, 69 of them for strikes and stymied a New York line-up that has often been the bane of Washington pitchers. The key for the Nationals is that Fister works quickly, which keeps the D.C. defense on its toes.

It helps the Fister doesn’t walk anyone, issuing only 1.20 free passes per nine innings. That skill was very much in evidence on Wednesday, as Fister issued zero base on balls and induced twelve ground ball outs. The Mets flailed vainly at his sinker.

The Nationals victory handed the loss to sore armed Mets starter and southpaw Jonathan Niese, who threw six complete innings while giving up six earned runs and eight hits. Niese took his eighth loss on the season against just five wins.

While LaRoche and Fister were the big stories from the Nationals win, the Washington Nine received unexpected help from Danny Espinosa, who rocketed a 386 foot homer to left field in the sixth, with Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper at the plate.

While Espinosa is not a fan favorite, he’s a popular teammate and has labored this season while playing second fiddle to a host of second sackers who are auditioning to take his place — including new Nat Asdrubal Cabrera. But Espinosa has taken on his new role with nary a complaint.

“It’s great,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the second sacker. “We all pull for each other, obviously. But Danny is one we really want to see him do well. The guy works so hard, hasn’t been getting in there a whole lot. He’s had some bad luck on top of that. It’s good to see him hit a big three-run homer for us.”

Washington’s win, coupled with an Atlanta loss (their eighth in a row) in Seattle opened a four game lead for the home towners over the Braves, who the Nationals will face this weekend.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Here’s a hint — don’t piss off Matt Williams. After saying during a radio interview that a young player who’s not hitting well is always in danger of being optioned to the minors, Williams was asked whether this applied to Bryce Harper, who’s been struggling at the plate . . .

During a pre-game meeting with the press on Wednesday, Williams lashed out at reporters, his standard low boil bubbling over and his eyes flashing in anger. Here’s what Williams said: “I would caution everybody in this room: The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken . . .”

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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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