Posts Tagged ‘boston red sox’

Harper’s Blast Leads The Nats

Friday, September 20th, 2013

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Bryce Harper’s first inning three run home run was enough to push the Nationals past the Marlins, as Washington downed Miami 3-2 on Thursday night at Nationals’ Park. Harper’s blast with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth on base kept the Nats slim hopes of a playoff spot alive, with the home towners five games behind Cincinnati in the Wild Card hunt.

Harper’s home run provided the only scoring for Washington, leaving the game in the hands of southpaw starter Gio Gonzalez and three relievers. Harper was all smiles in the dugout after his dinger as he joined four other Nationals (Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche) in hitting twenty home runs on the year.

“He’s only going to get better,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said of his young slugger. “I think when you go through a period where you have all this attention and you try to live up to hype you try to do too much. I think he’s getting over that. I think he’s back to enjoying the game, and that’s great to see.”

Harper’s three RBIs might not have been enough against the Marlins line-up, but Gio Gonzalez provided a steady outing (two earned runs in six complete innings, while scattering seven hits) in notching his 11th win on the season. A trio of Nationals’ relievers (Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano) then shut down Miami in the last three frames.

The two Marlins’ runs came off an Ed Lucas single that scored Donovan Solano in the first and a Justin Ruggiano double that scored Giancarlo Stanton in the 6th. The Washington win slapped righty Henderson Alvarez with the loss, his fifth on the season.

The Washington victory came at a small personal price for Denard Span, who went 0-4, thus ending his 29 game hitting streak, the longest in the major leagues this year. The crowd of nearly 26,000 fans, realizing the Nationals center fielder would not extend his streak, gave Span a standing ovation after his fourth at bat. He was greeted by his teammates in the dugout with high-fives.

“You gotta tip your cap to Joe DiMaggio because that’s a record that I don’t think will ever be broke,” left fielder Bryce Harper said of Span’s streak after the game. “Denard made a good run at it. I tip my cap to him and I think everyone in baseball did.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Back in March, new ESPN analyst Alex Cora questioned whether the Red Sox had made the right decision in signing former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, saying that Boston should have gone after someone younger and more athletic . . .

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The Worst Baseball Card . . . Ever?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

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If there’s one thing that baseball card collectors enjoy doing, it’s going on and on about the worst baseball card in their collection. Actually, the word card should be plural: cards — for in every collection of tens of thousands of baseball cards (that’s not a large number for some), there are hundreds (and maybe hundreds of hundreds) of worst cards possible.

So it’s no wonder that every once in awhile a writer pens his own opinion about the worst baseball card — as happened yesterday in the pages of Slate, when Josh Levin identified the 1996 Pinnacle Foil No. 289 as the worst card he’s ever seen. “First, Bob Hamelin’s enormous head takes up most of the frame,” Levin writes. “Second, the small portion of the card that is not consumed by Hamelin’s melon is filled by a placard.”

Levin makes the point that a “bad” baseball cards isn’t a card that we don’t like: those are easy to come by. Rather, a “bad baseball card is one in which errors of composition, design, or production conspire to turn a 2.5-by-3.5-inch piece of cardboard into a memorabilia crime scene.”

Levin goes on to argue that while the Pinnacle Foil No. 289 is bad, the worst cards come from the 1970s, when Topps had a monopoly on the “industry.” In true free market fashion, when Topps got competition their cards got better. They had to, particularly when Upper Deck started putting out beautiful collectables.

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The problem with competition, particularly among baseball card aficianados, was that those who bought the cards could never keep up with the sheer number of cards available. The market was flooded with cards, diminishing their overall value. Then too, who the hell wants a flashy “hologram-and-foil-bedecked‘ pic of (say) Derek Bell?

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Cowboy Down: The New, Slimmer Red Sox

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

It’s hard to define, but it’s true nevertheless — a little of the strut has gone out of Red Sox Nation, despite their 47-33 record and their 3.5 game lead over the struggling Yankees. The Red Sox have the best record in the American League (and are 25-25 at home), but don’t tell Red Sox fans — who actually seem disinterested.

Last night’s game might serve as an example: 34,632 fans showed up to watch the Sox snatch a 5-3 victory from the Colorado Rockies, their opponents in the 2007 World Series. This was as solid a victory as any the Red Sox have had: Boston banged out ten hits and starter John Lackey struck out twelve.

Once upon a time, Sox fans would have killed to get a seat for such a match-up, now they don’t even have to stand in line. There were empty seats at Fenway last night, which would have been unthinkable not that long ago.

Red Sox attendance is significantly off from last year (by some 162,000 fans), when the team stunk. Now, seats are selling at a discount. There’s no good explanation. “Attendance lags performance, sometimes by a lot,” experts say and they may be right — but this is the Nation. So what’s going on?

Our view is that these Red Sox, good as they are, are not perceived by the Boston faithful as nearly as exciting as the fiery “cowboy up” personalities of recent years (when the Sawx were not just good, but great), or as controversial as the beer swilling overweight Fenway bad boys of 2011. That is to say, the Red Sox are good, but they’re not interesting.

On second thought, the “820 straight sellouts streak” might have been a bit exaggerated. Baseball pundits laughed when it was announced earlier this year that the streak had ended, as it had been dependent for quite some time (they claimed) on giveaways of upwards of 800 seats per game.

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Ace Zimmermann Revives The Nats

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Washington righthanded ace Jordan Zimmermann was brilliant once again, holding the Atlanta Braves to just two hits in eight innings, and pitching the Nationals to a much-needed victory in Atlanta, 2-0. Zimmermann struck out eight and allowed only one Atlanta runner past first base.

“We needed that one bad and he went out and pitched a blueprint game,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said following the Washington victory. “I thought he was one of the elites last year. We just didn’t give him a lot of run support.

This was Zimmermann’s third superb outing in a row: Zimmermann threw a one hit complete game in his previous outing against Cincinnati and before that had been nearly untouchable against both the Marlins and Mets. In the constellation of Nationals’ starters, it turns out that it’s Zimmermann — and not Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez — who’s the “stopper.”

“He’s obviously got everything working right now,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Zimmermann. “He’s pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he’s really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he’s throwing breaking balls for strikes. He’s got it working. Even during the game, he keeps it loose. He’s really fun to work with.”

Washington got its two runs in the fourth inning, the result of a walk to Bryce Harper and a home run to Ian Desmond. Atlanta’s Paul Maholm took the loss and Washington closer Rafael Soriano notched his eighth save of the season.The victory broke Washington’s eight game losing streak to the Bravos.

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S.I.’s “Kiss Of Death”

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

There are people who throw salt over their shoulder, who won’t walk under a ladder, who dodge sidewalk cracks as they head to their office — and then there are the rest of us: who audibly groan when we see own hometown boys featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s the kiss of death.

Honest To God: the S.I. “Kiss Of Death” syndrome is not just some kind of black cat superstition. Just ask Cubs’ fans. Back in 2004, S.I. featured fireballer Kerry Wood on its cover under the headline “Do You Believe?” In fact, the answer to that question for “long suffering Cubs fans” (note: the words “Cubs fans” must always be preceded by the words — “long suffering”) was an emphatic “no.” They knew better, especially with Dusty “arm killer” Baker in charge. The 2004 Champs were the Boston Red Sox, who swept the series from the stinking Cardinals. The Cubs finished sixteen back.

Which is not to say that this year’s S.I prediction, authored by Tom Verducci (who says our guys look a lot like Davey Johnson’s ’86 Mets), is wrong. The CFG crew (and, as a reminder, here we are), thinks this is the best team the Nationals have ever fielded (well, that was easy) and arguably the best in baseball. But predicting a World Series match-up against the Rays (S.I.’s pick in the well-named Junior Circuit) is a bit of a stretch. The playoffs are now a second season, in which anything can happen — as any old Nationals’ fan can now tell you.

Is the Sports Illustrated jinx real? The first baseball player to appear on an S.I. cover — this was back in 1954 — was Eddie Matthews who, after his appearance, broke his hand. Pete Rose appeared on the cover in the same week, in 1978, that his 44 game hitting streak ended. “Indian Uprising,” back in 1987 featured the powerhouse Cleveland Indians: who finished in last place, with the worst record in baseball. And in May of last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers (then in first place) appeared on the cover with the headline “Fun and Games In L.A.” — and promptly tanked.

So, while the S.I. jinx is simply a superstition, it’s hard to argue with history. Then too, the reason there’s a 162 game season is not simply to test of team’s excellence, but it’s luck. It’s ability to overcome fate, and injuries and those odd little bounces that rob a sure winner of a Series championship. And there’s that other thing: the Nationals might well be “the best team in baseball,” at least on paper, but the coming season won’t be played on paper. It’ll be played against the likes of the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. Among others.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ah, we’re back — and this time for good. The snow has melted, we can feel Spring in the air, and the Nationals are just days from their opener. It’s the season of predictions: with everyone assessing starting rotations and winter trades.

So too, usually, we make our predictions at this time of the off-season. But this year, we’re going to do something different — we’re going to pick the counterfactuals: those teams expected to do well who, in our estimation, are overrated. Here we go:

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Miggy’s Triple Crown

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

You can now add to your list of bad baseball trades the one that sent slugger Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the then-Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers on December 4, 2007.

The Tigers gave up a knapsack of top prospects for the two fish: Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. Not surprisingly, almost all of the players that the Marlins got in the swap are out of baseball, or playing for someone else.

Remember? The baseball world was all atwitter about how the Tigers had solidified their rotation with the addition of Willis. Cabrera, however, was hardly a throw-in. Even then, he was considered one of the best hitters in baseball. But he’d put on a lot of weight and that had raised eyebrows in Miami.

“A lot of pounds” is an understatement. Cabrera looked like Dumbo. He arrived in Florida in 2003 at a trim 185 and left for Detroit at 255. But the Tigers thought he was worth the bet: he was a four time All Star and had just come off a season where he’d hit 320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs.

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Nationals Exit St. Louis Still Needing One

Monday, October 1st, 2012

This was not Washington at its best, and everyone on the Nationals knew it. With a chance to clinch the National League East, the Nationals didn’t pitch or hit, and seemed sluggish in their three game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis, and no more so than during their last loss on Sunday, when they came away with a 10-4 defeat.

“We’ve had rough outings before and come back good. We’ll be fine,” Davey Johnson said as his team packed up for the return to Washington. “And I like clinching at home in front of the home fans. That’s nice.” Well, that’s what the team is hoping — as it opens a three game series tonight at Nationals Park against the Phillies.

The latest victim of the St. Louis hitting barrage was Ross Detwiler, who lasted just 2.1 innings while giving up four hits and seven runs — three of them earned. “I had the first chance at it, and I [stunk],” said Detwiler of his loss, before shrugging. “This was for all the fans back in D.C. Wanted them to see the team clinch.”

“I just didn’t throw any strikes,” Detwiler went on to say. He was right: He threw only 43 of 81 pitches in the strike zone. “You walk five people in two innings, you won’t have much success doing that.” Detwiler is now 10-8 on the season.

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