Posts Tagged ‘Chipper Jones’

Strasburg Solid As Nats Rally In Pittsburgh

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

To hear the experts on “Baseball Tonight” talk about it (Rick Sutcliffe, Nomar Garciaparra et. al.), you’d think that Washington starter Stephen Strasburg struggled through Saturday’s start in Pittsburgh (in which the Nationals rallied to notch a 5-4 victory), and was lucky to get out the game alive.

But that’s not the way that Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson saw it: “I thought he was throwing well. The way he started the ballgame, he was going after them, making good pitches,” Johnson said after the Nationals’ win. “He made a couple of mistakes, right on the heart of the plate. You can’t do that. He held us in there and did a good job.”

True enough, Washington’s celebrated ace “made a couple of mistakes” (a home run to Starling Marte in the 3rd, and to Clint Barmes in the 5th), but he also threw 65 strikes and lasted seven innings — long enough so that Ryan Zimmerman could lead a double steal and score on a Tyler Moore sacrifice fly in the 9th inning to clinch the Nationals’ one run victory.

The Nationals’ win was a just-hang-in-there, grind-it-out kind of triumph. coming after a disheartening so-so start to the season. It was exactly what the team needed. The Nationals fell behind early, rallied to tie it at four apiece, then literally stole the game in the 9th, when Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche engineered a heads-up double steal that took the Pittsburgh defense by surprise.

Then, with Zimmerman on third and LaRoche on second, Tyler Moore short-stroked a fly ball to Pirate Travis Snider, which brought the winning run home. Moore’s hit was a vindication for the young slugger, who’d struck out twice in his previous at bats, leaving the bases jammed both times. “Just to come through at the end was huge. I battled it out for the team,” Moore said of his 9th inning heroic.

Tyler Clippard picked up his second win of the season by pitching a scoreless eighth inning, while Rafael Soriano was credited with his 10th save. The Nationals banged out only six hits in the win, leaving an astonishing 21 runners on base. Still, a victory is a victory: “Well, we got a few more guys on base,” Davey Johnson said in the clubhouse afterwards. “We didn’t get many in — but it’s a start.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The big news of the day (outside of the win) was a team meeting that Davey Johnson had prior to the game. “So, just trying to clear the air, make it simpler,” was the way Johnson later described the confab. “Let’s keep having fun. We are here to do things that we are capable of doing. It was that kind of a meeting . . .”

The Johnson meeting had an immediate impact, as did his decision to take some batting practice with the players before the game. He took about 40 swings, but the lesson wasn’t lost on his team — nor were his comments afterwards: “I wanted to see if it was that hard to hit a baseball,” he joked . . .


Bring On The Redbirds

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

The Nationals will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS starting on Sunday, the result of the Redbirds’ 6-3 win over the Braves on Friday night in Atlanta. The Braves lost the game on three errors and a controversial infield fly rule call, but were also victimized by timely St. Louis hitting.

The loss marked the end of an otherwise successful season for the 94-68 Braves, and the final game for third sacker Chipper Jones, who now heads to the baseball Hall of Fame. “I know one thing is for sure, you won’t be able to say that Braves fans don’t care,” Jones said after the loss. “They came out in full force tonight, 50,000 strong. We love each and every one of them.”

The controversy over the calling of the infield fly rule came in the 8th inning, when St. Louis shortstop Peter Kozma appeared to settle under a pop fly behind shortstop off the bat of Andrelton Simmons. The left field line umpire signaled that the infield fly rule was in effect, but perhaps too late, and Kozma failed to catch the fly: with the batter out in any event.

Fredi Gonzalez, the Atlanta manager, protested the call — and vehemently. But the ruling on the field was upheld, and Simmons was ruled out. “I was under it,” Kozma later said. “I should have made the play. I took my eyes off it. I was camped under it.”


The Nationals Are Swept In Atlanta

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The Nationals missed their chance to nearly cinch the National League East flag against the Braves this week, dropping a three game series in Atlanta — the latest disappointment coming in a 5-1 Sunday night pasting that saw Gio Gonzalez notch his eighth loss on the year.

The Atlanta three game victory against the D.C. Nine avenged an earlier May sweep by the Nationals and kept the Braves in the race. The Chops are now 5.5 games behind the Nationals, and while they remain long-shots to win the division race, their three game set gives them a psychological edge should they meet their rivals from D.C. in the post-season.

Sunday night’s game was one of those rare poor outings for Gonzalez. He threw too many pitches over too few innings, walking an unusually high four batters in five innings. Gonzalez threw 100 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. Gonzalez admitted that he couldn’t find the strike zone in the first two innings.

“I think that’s where my biggest mistake today was — I wasn’t being as aggressive in the first three innings,” Gonzalez said following the loss. “Then the next two, it was exactly what I should’ve been doing off the bat.”

“Obviously Gio had a little problem locating the strike zone,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said. “He had a whole bunch of pitches but I wanted to give him every chance to win 20.”


Gio Wins His 19th, Nats Blast Mets

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Gio Gonzalez won his 19th game of the year on Monday in New York, as the Nationals knocked out three home runs and went on the beat the New York Mets, 5-1. Gonzalez is the first National League pitcher to win 19 games, putting his name at the top of the list of potential Cy Young award winners.

Despite his season-long mound mastery, Gonzalez struggled with his control in the contest, and at one point was throwing more balls than strikes. He ended the game with 58 strikes and 46 balls, and an envious pitching line: throwing six innings of three hit baseball with six strikeouts.

“I couldn’t find the strike zone. I don’t know what it is. There is a bunch of different answers to that one,” Gonzalez said, following his victory. “I’m grateful to have great teammates to help me [find] my way back in there.”

Gonzalez’s victory was supported by just five Nationals’ hits, but three of them were home runs: from Ryan Zimmerman (his 21st, in the third inning), from Ian Desmond (his 22nd, in the fourth) and from Kurt Suzuki (his fourth this year with the Nationals, in the fifth inning).


Braves Take The Last Of Three, 5-1

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

On a night in which the Nationals took time to honor the career of Atlanta third sacker Chipper Jones, righty hurler Kris Medlen proved too much for the hometown nine, shutting out the Nationals through seven innings and coming away with a 5-1 victory. The win allowed the Braves to exit Washington with a single win in their three game series.

Medlen, a tenth round pick in the 2006 player draft, showed why the Braves think he will be a key part of their rotation during the last weeks of the season. “He has a great curveball, he spotted his fastball, he has a great changeup,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said following the loss. “No one really saw him that good. It just reaffirmed what I said earlier: he is one heck of a young pitcher.”

Ross Detwiler is also “one heck of a young pitcher,” but he wasn’t on on Wednesday night, giving up seven hits in 5.1 innings, including a 5th inning Martin Prado double over the head of center fielder Bryce Harper that scored two. “I didn’t have good command of the breaking stuff,” Detwiler explained. “Overall, I didn’t give our team an opportunity to win. That’s what it boils down to.”

The game was still within reach in the 9th inning, but with reliever Tom Gorzelanny on the mound, the Nationals came apart. The inning started when third sacker Ryan Zimmerman “air mailed” a grounder from Jones over the head of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Freddie Freeman followed with a double and David Ross scored Jones on a sacrifice fly. But the Bravos weren’t finished.

The inning continued on a single from Michael Bourn (who the Nationals had set down throughout the series), then took second on a Gorzelanny wild pitch. With Paul Janish at the plate, Bourn took third, but a bad throw to Zimmerman from catcher Kurt Suzuki allowed him to score. The three runs put the game out of reach for the Nationals.

The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Just over 29,000 fans packed the ballpark, with the section alive with regulars. Soon enough the talk in the section turned to the jabs delivered by baseball pundits on Monday’s game — in which only 21,000 fans had showed. There was more than just a touch of anger at the local baseball media . . .


Nats Bats Silent In 4-0 Loss

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

After Friday night’s disappointing loss in extra innings, the Nationals needed a strong outing from Edwin Jackson, and that’s just what they got. But Jackson’s workmanlike seven inning, nine strike out, five hit performance went to waste on Saturday, as the Nationals could only muster six hits against a trio of Braves’ hurlers, dropping the first of two on Saturday, 4-0.

Ben Sheets, Atlanta’s back-from-the-dead righty, was as effective as Jackson, throwing six innings of five hit baseball — and keeping the Nationals off the scoreboard. The Nationals mustered two hits from Roger Bernadina, who replaced a limping Bryce Harper in the line-up, but no other regular starter was able to notch anything more than a single.

Atlanta’s offense was keyed by a second inning Brian McCann home run — with another single run added by the Bravos in the eighth off less-than-effective reliever Henry Rodriguez. Chipper Jones added two more in the 9th inning, as a pinch hitter, when he put a first pitch offering from Ryan Mattheus into the upper deck in right field.

The Braves shutout of the Nationals brought them to within 1.5 games of the N.L. East leaders, and the D.C. Nine looked listless during the Saturday afternoon contest. The bad news for the Nationals continues to mount — a poor showing on Friday night, a not even so-so showing on Saturday afternoon, and a contusion suffered by Bryce Harper in his first at bat this afternoon.


Harper Should Be An All Star — Whether He Wants It Or Not

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Here it is finally, nearly halfway through the season: Bryce Harper is now not only threatening to be a very, very good ballplayer (a potential All Star, no less) — but a kind of franchise icon, a St. Paul of Washington, D.C. And like that same Paul of Tarsus, he is fast becoming all things to all people, a tabula rasa on which people write their every wish.

It can get embarrassing. Columnist Mark Judge, for instance, says that Harper is a symbol of American conservatism, a ballplayer whose throwback ways have “slapped baseball awake, and every time he steps up to the plate, years of crusty baseball routine no longer apply.” For others, those less ideological than Judge, Harper is baseball’s answer to Tim Tebow — while still others predict he’ll be baseball’s first $400 million man.

There are the dissenters (of course): those who think Harper should “grow up,” that he is (and the following adjectives have all been applied to him): “selfish,” “arrogant,” “immature,” and “idiotic.” And why? Because once upon a time, in frustration, he slammed a bat into a wall — an action reserved only, it seems, for the “mature.”

As always, and sadly, the cynics are threatening to capture the narrative. Harper, they would have us believe, is a nasty piece of work who says things not because he believes them, but for political effect. He talks modestly to cover his arrogance; he says that Chipper Jones should go to the All Star game because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to say.

But the cynics have got it wrong: Harper doesn’t sit around trying to play the public, he doesn’t know how. Rather, he does what all nineteen year olds do: he looks over his shoulder, he tries to fit in. Which is to say: Bryce Harper is a kid who happens to be very good at his game — and who is also wide-eyed and probably a little bit nervous. Sure handed on the field, nervous off it.

How can we tell? A fan who has met Harper told me that “the Kid” is, in fact, “a kid.” He’s the kind of guy who thinks “it’s cool” to be on a charter with the guys — headed to the next game — who spices up his sentences with that most insecure of all phrases (“ya know”) and who thinks Chipper Jones deserves to be on the All Star team because he really believes it.

Bryce Harper isn’t slowly or secretly “calculating” how to get rich and famous, or “optimize” his opportunities, or “enhance” his “brand,” or out think baseball reporters, or suck up to the manager, or undermine the fame of others — he’s sitting right over there, on the bench, trying to figure out how to hit Andy Pettitte’s slider. Bryce Harper isn’t arrogant, he’s guileless. He doesn’t need to grow up — we do.