Posts Tagged ‘Clayton Kershaw’

Is Clayton Kershaw The New Sandy Koufax?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

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The big news in baseball on Wednesday was the gem spun up by Dodger southpaw Clayton Kershaw, who no-hit the Colorado Rockies at Dodgers’ Stadium. Baseball analyst Jeff Passan commented that Kershaw’s line was reminiscent of the perfect game posted by Sandy Koufax in September of 1965.

That’s a fine, but still inexact, comparison. People keep matching Kershaw to Koufax, but we can’t possibly know if the still-young Dodger will have the same kind of career. Kershaw’s first years have been stellar, but Koufax’s career was remarkable. Then too, Koufax was a knee-buckling fastball-curveball pitcher, while Kershaw’s truly great pitch is his stomach churning slider.

The lefty’s match-up last night against Brandon Barnes (just as a for instance), was quintessential Kershaw, who threw Barnes three pitches — all strikes: A 93 mph four seam fastball, followed by two sliders, one at 85 and one at 87 mph. The fastball set up the sliders, but it was the sliders that mattered. Barnes didn’t have a prayer.

So far as we can tell, the real difference between Koufax and Kershaw (outside of the fact that Kershaw, for all his brilliance, has only pitched in the majors for seven years) is that hitters swung over the top Koufax’s curve (with their asses bailing into the dugout) while it dove down, while hitters swing over the top of Kershaw’s slider as it dives down and in . . .

Passan also called the game “the no-hitter we knew was coming.” That sounds exactly right: Kershaw’s stuff has always been “electric” (as they say), with the southpaw throwing a mix of fastballs and sliders in retiring 28 Colorado hitters, while striking out fifteen of them. That’s one more than Koufax whiffed in his 1965 no-no.

The Koufax perfect game remains an MLB classic, and one of the greatest games ever pitched by anybody, but in part because the Cubs very forgettable Bob Hendley was tossing a one hitter at the same time. And lost.

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Kershaw Handcuffs The Nats

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

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Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound for the first time since the end of March and led to Dodgers to an 8-3 victory over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Tuesday. Kershaw showed why he’s considered the best pitcher in baseball — throwing seven innings while striking out nine.

“It’s just good to be back,” Kershaw said of his performance. “It felt good tonight. They’ve got a great team over there. They’ve got a lot of guys that are tough outs over there. They got their hits. I was fortunate to limit the damage.”

While Washington’s line-up hit well against the southpaw, they were never able to string together enough hits to put him in any danger. Plus, as Nats fans no doubt noted, Kershaw was able to pitch out of shaky situations by relying on a curveball that has been compared to the one thrown by L.A. lefty Sandy Koufax.

As it turned out, however, the game turned on a strange series of errors in the top of the 6th inning. In the top of that frame Washington starter Blake Treinen bobbled a ball hit back to him from Kershaw, Dee Gordon reached base on an infield hit bobbled by Adam LaRoche and Carl Crawford reached on a squiggler to catcher Jose Lobaton. The Nationals were assessed two errors on the inning, but it could have easily been three.

By the time the top of the 6th was over, the Dodgers had scored three runs (on singles from Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe and a fielder’s choice out from Andre Ethier) and knocked an otherwise impressive Blake Treinen out of the game.

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Despite the loss, Washington rookie Treinen looked good in his first outing as a starter. The young six-foot-five fireballer has a hard fastball (clocked in the first inning at 98 mph) and a solid curve. Treinen was impressive until he reached his pitch count in the 6th, after which he was pulled for Nats long reliever Craig Stammen.

Treinen will now head back to Triple-A, but Nats’ skipper Matt Williams was so impressed by his outing that he says he’s hoping that Treinen will somehow, and eventually, find a way into the rotation. He’ll have a chance now for regular starts in Syracuse: “It will be nice to get him in a normal rotation so he could take it from here — from this start and move forward.”

Stammen was able to wiggle the Nationals out of the 6th inning without too much damage — and with the game still in reach. But the Dodgers touched lefty Ross Detwiler for four runs in the top of the 8th, putting the game out of reach. A mini rally from the Nationals in the bottom of that frame brought the Nationals to within five.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: All this yakking about how the A.L. East is the division to watch has got to stop. There’s no more exciting division this year than the N.L. East, which has turned into the equivalent of a high school fistfight — lots of circling and some wild haymakers . . .

The Atlanta Braves ended their seven game losing skid at home last night, depending for their 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on the spindly arm of veteran Gavin Floyd. Floyd had signed a $4 million one year deal with the Braves back in December, but he wasn’t slated to show up in Atlanta until just now because he was nursing a slow-to-heal right elbow . . .

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Dueling Gems In Philadelphia

Monday, May 5th, 2014

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Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez faced off against Philadelphia’s Roberto Hernandez at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday in a classic pitchers’ duel and pitched brilliantly — but ended up on the short end of a 1-0 defeat. Gio and Hernandez were almost evenly matched, but Philadelphia put a single run on the board in the 1st inning that proved the difference in the game.

“Hernandez was so locked in. He hit his spots. When he fell behind, he got a groundout or fly out. Today was his day,” said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere after the victory. Both Hernandez and Gonzalez threw 7.1 innings and both gave up four hits. Hernandez struck out three, while Gonzalez struck out seven.

Philadelphia’s single run came on a Jimmy Rollins triple followed by a Chase Utley RBI single. “It was just a good pitchers’ duel,” Gonzalez said after the tough luck loss. “I just tried to keep us in the game as long as possible.” One of the Nats’ best chances of putting a run on the board also came in the top of the 1st. Kevin Frandsen walked, but was thrown out at third on a Jayson Werth single.

“We’ve had some really key hits over the course of the season,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia duel. “It just wasn’t our day.” Washington’s loss leaves the Nationals still half-a-game behind slumping Atlanta in the N.L. East. The Nationals will face the Dodgers tonight at Nationals Park.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: When the Dodgers take the field tonight against the Nationals they’ll do so in the midst of an unusual early season funk. The Drysdales lost two of three against the Marlins in Miami, their latest defeat, on Sunday, when Miami’s Jeff Baker doubled in the winning walk off run against L.A. reliever Jamey Wright . . .

Worse yet, Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig crashed into the wall attempting to snag Baker’s double, then appeared to hurt his ankle when he landed. Concussion tests on Puig were negative, but the young all-world hitter is day-to-day. But the Miami loss and Puig’s injury is only the latest in a series of tough losses for the odds-on-favorites to win the N.L. East . . .

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Nats Fall In Home Opener, 2-1

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

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A sellout crowd of over 42,000 rabid Nationals’ fans watched as Washington dropped its home opener to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1 on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. The game was marred by a controversy involving a replay and three questionable Nationals’ base running gaffes.

The controversy erupted in the bottom of the 5th inning, when Washington’s Ian Desmond hit a ball down the left field line that skittered to the base of the outfield wall. Atlanta left fielder Justin Upton threw up his hands, claiming the ball had become lodged under the tarp as Desmond circled the bases.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that Upton threw up his hands (here is the video of the play) to indicate his inability to get to the ball, then picked it up and winged it back into the infield — but too late to nab Desmond. As the crowd chanted “home run, home run,” the umpires decided to review the play and, after consulting with replay officials in New York, awarded Desmond second base on a ground rule double. The decision took a Washington run off the board.

“One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure that we get the calls right. I have a question with that one, though, because of what happened after the fact,” Washington manager Matt Williams said after the game. “The fact that when he had to, he reached down and threw it in.”

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The reversal of the Desmond home run kept the Nationals from tying the Braves, who went on to score the winning run on a Chris Johnson sacrifice fly in the top of the 8th. The Nationals were also victimized by over-aggressiveness on the bases: Bryce Harper was caught between first and second and tagged out in the bottom of the second, Adam LaRoche was sent home and tagged out at the plate in the 4th and Desmond was caught between second and third after his ground rule double in the 5th.

Williams, who has said he will bring a more aggressive approach to the team, admitted that Desmond was probably over-anxious when he broke for third and was caught stealing in the 5th. “We want to take advantage of it when it’s there for us, but we also want to make sure that we are sure in that situation, so it was little overaggressive,” he confirmed.

Despite the loss, the Nationals continued to show that they have a more potent offense this year than last, outhitting the Braves 8-6. The team also got a solid start from Jordan Zimmermann, who threw five solid innings of four hit ball. The only Zimmermann hiccup was a home run off of the bat of Evan Gattis, subduing the sell-out crowd.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about the Yankees’ Thursday tilt against the Astros in Houston, excepting for the 26,000-plus Houston fans who came to the ballpark expecting to see former free agent and Yankee newbie Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. Instead, he was on the bench because (as Yankee manager Joe Girardi noted) “he needed a rest . . .”

The decision brought derisive comments from baseball analysts, who questioned whether signing a player like Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and then sitting him makes any sense. Ever. Don’t teams sign players in order to play them? MLB Radio’s Jim Bowden, the former Nationals’ G.M., hooted the Ellsbury decision during his Sirius XM talk show yesterday . . .

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Nats Take The Miami Series, 6-4

Monday, September 9th, 2013

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Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs and four hits in six innings, but pitched well enough to allow Washington’s hitters to get to Miami’s rotation, and the Washington Nationals went on to down the Marlins 6-4 on Sunday. It was Strasburg’s seventh win of the year and vaulted the Nationals to a two of three game series win.

This was certainly not the young righty’s best outing of the year, as skipper Davey Johnson confirmed following the victory. “Stras should have been able to go further but he was a little out of sorts today,” he said. Strasburg apparently knew that, but worked through his issues.  “I knew if I kept the game close we could bust it open,” he confirmed.

Strasburg has been a puzzle all year, with few guessing that he would have only seven wins in early September. Even more puzzling however, the righty balked home two runs in the second inning. “Pretty embarrassed with the balks,” Strasburg said. “Seems like something new happens every time this year. Learn from it and try and do better with that next time.”

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Strasburg admitted that he was shifting from the stretch into a full wind-up with a man on third base, which broke a season-long habit of his. With Ramos flashing signs, Strasburg put his hand into his glove, realized that Ramos wasn’t finished, and pulled his hand out: a rare mental error for the otherwise focused righty.

The Nationals continue to swing the bat well, their only recent down game coming against Miami ace rookie Jose Fernandez in the first game of the series. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos were each 3-5 in the triumph (the catcher added a homer), with Jayson Werth (2-4 on the day) continuing his tough pursuit of the National League batting title.

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Surging L.A. Sweeps The Nats

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The duel of aces promised by a Jordan Zimmermann-Clayton Kershaw face-off at Nationals Park on Sunday turned out to be a disaster for the Hometown 9, as Washington fell to the surging Dodgers, 9-2 — completing a three game sweep by L.A. that plunged the Nationals further into third place in the National League East.

While the Dodgers celebrated the return of Matt Kemp to their formidable line-up, Kershaw was the story on Sunday. The L.A. southpaw mastered the Nationals, holding Washington to two hits in seven complete innings of work. Kershaw struck out nine.

Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, had one of his worst outings of the year. The Ace Of Auburndale lasted just two innings, giving up a startling eight hits and seven earned runs. “Some games you get away with a few mistakes, and some games whatever you throw up there is getting hit hard,” Zimmermann said after the loss. “Today was one of those days.”

The Dodgers banged out fifteen hits against three Nationals’ pitchers. Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp each had three hits, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Kemp both notched three RBIs — and Kemp and Ramirez both put balls out of the park. If there was good news for the Nationals, it is that reliever Ross Ohlendorf threw six innings of effective relief.

The loss leaves that Nationals searching for answers as their hopes of second half success start to fade. Despite this the team remained upbeat. “Nobody hates losing worse than me,” skipper Davey Johnson said. “Those guys feel it in there, too. Maybe it’s pressing, I don’t know. But I think the confidence is there.”

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Ohlendorf’s Spot Start Lifts The Nats

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Ross Ohlendorf returned to the major leagues on Wednesday night, and led the Washington Nationals to a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Ohlendorf threw six innings of two hit baseball and, after the win, Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said he was going to find a way “to keep him around.”

Signed this past winter by the Nationals as a minor league free agent, Ohlendorf pitched for the Padres in 2012 (he was 4-4), and was anxious to get back to the big leagues. His most successful season was in 2009, when he was 11-10 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I knew that I needed to pitch well,” Ohlendorf said. “Their lineup’s really good, too. I knew I was capable of having a good game, I just needed to make sure to do it.”

“He had good movement on [his pitches],” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said after the win. “He used the curveball and slider, used both sides of the plate, and I liked his windup, too. That reminded me of some old-fashioned windups.”

Three of the Nationals five runs were produced by shortstop Ian Desmond, who was 2-3 on the night with three RBIs. Desmond is in the midst of a fourteen game hitting streak, and is 14-34 in June, raising his batting average to .282. Desmond is hitting .421 over the last seven games.

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