Posts Tagged ‘Clayton Kershaw’
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Ace righty Jordan Zimmermann pitched 7.2 innings and notched his MLB league leading seventh win and third sacker Ryan Zimmerman drove in three Washington runs, as the Nationals topped the Dodgers in L.A., 6-2.
Zimmermann showed why he’s the ace of the staff and, as of now, the leading candidate for the N.L. Cy Young Award. While Zimmermann scattered nine hits, he was able to cut through the tough Los Angeles line-up, registering five strikeouts without walking a hitter.
“He just kept attacking the zone,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said after the D.C. victory “He was getting himself in good counts and it’s a good way to pitch, ahead in the count. He did a great job tonight of that.” As always, the key to Zimmermann’s success was his ability to throw strikes: 67 of them in a 101 pitching outing.
Washington’s league leading 7-1 fireballer was aided by a Washington parade that banged out ten hits, including a Ryan Zimmerman double in the 3rd that drove in two. “I’m starting to get back into the groove now. I’m starting to feel better at the plate,” Zimmerman said in his post-game comments.
The big news of the game was the 5th inning collision that Bryce Harper had with the Dodger Stadium wall in right field. Harper was tracking a ball off the bat of A.J. Ellis and collided with the wall, cutting his chin and slamming his shoulder. Harper walked from the field, but needed eleven stitches to close the gash on his face.
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:
Sunday, September 9th, 2012
The Nationals worked past a two-and-one-half-hour rain delay, and a 6-3 seventh inning deficit, to rally past the Miami Marlins for a stunning ten inning 7-6 win. There were, in all, three Nationals’ rallies in the game — in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings. The Nats were able to accomplish on Saturday against the Marlins what they couldn’t accomplish on Friday.
With the team down 6-3 in the 8th inning, third sacker Ryan Zimmerman (2-4 on the day) put an A.J. Ramos pitch into the left field seats for his twentieth home run of the year. Zimmerman’s blast, with Bryce Harper on base, propelled the Nationals back into the game. Entering the 9th inning the Nats were down by a single run.
After the Marlins failed to score in the top of the 9th inning, Marlins’ closer Heath Bell came in to finish the game. It was then that the skies opened, with torrential rains falling. This was one of those cascading and dangerous late-summer storms that Washington is known for.
But the interruption seemed to somehow galvanize the home team, and when Jayson Werth came to the plate in the bottom of 9th, he put a 2-2 Heath Bell offering into deep center field to tie the game. “We had a nice little rain delay,” Werth said of his stunning game-tying homer. “I got a little massage, changed clothes, had a chicken salad and then we tied it up. It was well-written.”
Monday, April 30th, 2012
The description that fits Washington starter Gio Gonzalez — that he deserved better than what he got — might have been said for any of Washington’s starters during the team’s three game series against the Dodgers. Gonzalez pitched more than well enough to win, but the Dodgers came away with a 2- victory on Sunday to sweep the three game series on L.A.
The problem, as is now clear, is hitting — or, rather, the lack of it. The Nats smacked out three paltry hits (scoring two) on Friday, a solid eight hits (scoring three) on Saturday, and a measly four hits yesterday. Certainly the triumvirate of Kershaw, Billingsley and Capuano had something to do with that, but combined with the four hits in the last game at San Diego, that’s an average of five hits per game — hardly the breakfast of champions.
Yesterday was not emblamatic, it was worse. The Nationals seemed incapable of threatening lefty Chris Capuano: Ian Desmond struck out three times, Espinosa twice and the D.C. Nine left thirteen runners on base. Gonzalez pitched brilliantly into the sixth, but then suddenly lost his command. He later admitted that he was “trying to be too perfect — to throw pitches too perfectly.” More simply, Gonzalez knew that his team’s anemic production meant that he had to be perfect. That’s a lot to put on a pitcher, even someone as good as Gonzalez.
It’s not as if this isn’t known, of course. A big part of the reason that Mike Rizzo has brought Bryce Harper (he was 1-3 again yesterday) up to the big club is that the Nats are missing big guns Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. Thank the baseball gods that Adam LaRoche has been hot; but despite his fire, he can’t possibly carry the team alone. The Nationals open against the Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow night at Nationals Park.
Saturday, April 28th, 2012
Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw dominated the Washington Nationals in a closely fought contest in Chavez Ravine on Friday night — and the Dodgers took the first game of the three game set 3-2. While Kershaw later said that he struggled during the game, Nationals hitters couldn’t solve him, though Adam LaRoche was 2-4 with a home run.
“It was a tough ballgame,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “Kershaw made a lot of quality pitches. He crowded right-handed hitters all night. We weren’t able to hit the ball real hard.” In a match-up of dueling lefties, Kershaw outmatched Washington starter Ross Detwiler. But Detwiler held his own — the difference being Kershaw’s experience. Detwiler was more than adequate, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings.
The continuing good news for the Nationals is Adam Laroche’s firecracker start. LaRoche’s 2-4 night kept the Nationals in the game, gave them a chance to win — and showed that Kershaw was merely human. “Against a guy like that, it’s straight grind mode — trying to put the barrel on something,” LaRoche said of Kershaw. “You hope he makes a mistake. He is one of those pitchers that is effectively wild. He can throw one up under your chin, and just as easily throw one down and away in the same at-bat.”
Friday, April 27th, 2012
The San Diego Padres bounced back from consecutive losses at the hands of the D.C. Nine and stung the Nationals at Petco Park with a 2-1 victory. The win victimized reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a two out pinch hit double to Mark Kotsay in the 8th inning to account for the difference. The loss ended a four game winning streak for Washington and sent the Nationals north to Los Angeles without a sweep.
The normally steady Clippard said that he got out of his game plan with Kotsay. “I threw him four straight fastballs and got behind him,” Clippard said following the loss. “It was just poorly executed, and the pitch selection wasn’t good either. It’s kind of frustrating on my part.”
Starter Edwin Jackson continued the phenomenal run of Washington’s rotation, pitching 6.2 inning before being relieved. “I was able to work out of some jams and had some great defense behind me,” Jackson said. “A couple key strikeouts, but I got in some jams early in the game, and I was able to wiggle my way out of them.” Jackson’s ERA now stands at a snappy 3.16.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Even BBTN has been touting the Washington-Los Angeles series as a match-up of tough and rising teams. The story in L.A. of course, is Matt Kemp, who’s on a pace to hit 85 home runs. But their pitching isn’t too shabby either. Ted Lilly — believe it or not — leads the National League in ERA (Strasburg is fourth) . . .
Forget Lilly (he’s going through his usual every-other-year renaissance), all eyes are on Clayton Kershaw, the “next Sandy Koufax” — and yada yada yada. Ross Detwiler will face Kershaw tonight in a duel of lefthanders. Detwiler has his work cut out for him. Kershaw has 22 strikeouts in twenty-two innings this year. Strasburg has been as good, or better — 25 strike outs in twenty-five innings . . . and, just for the record, the Nats have had trouble hitting lefties this year . . .
This series will be test for the Nationals and, dare we say, a tune-up for games to come. Perhaps even in October (unless you jinx it forever by saying stupid things like that). Or, as Bleacher Report describes it: “At the end of the weekend, we will know if the Nationals are legitimate and if Kemp can continue his destruction against the best rotation in the National League.”
Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
You can never have too much pitching, but it appears that (if yesterday is any indication), the Nationals have more than enough for next year. Ross Detwiler is the latest evidence — the young lefty produced another more-than-solid outing on Tuesday night, at the back end of a day-night double header, taming the Philadelphia Phillies through 7.1 innings. He shut down the defending N.L. East champs and provided a sweep of the doubleheader in Philadelphia.
The 3-0 victory put the Nationals at 8-8 vs. Philadelphia this season, and Charlie Manuel has to be impressed — the Nats play Philadelphia tough, which is more than you can say about their abilities against the Marlins. Of course, Detwiler had help: a Danny Espinosa home run in the second, a throwing error from Phillies’ catcher Carlos Ruiz that allowed Jayson Werth to score, and his own single up the middle in the sixth.
But Detwiler’s heroics tell only a part of the story: while the box score shows a Nationals’ win, a Philadelphia fans memory will come down to this — an upstart team and untried lefty came into “the Bank” and outdueled Cliff Lee (with his stinking 2.38 ERA), a member of Philadelphia’s vaunted quartet of starters — the third of four veteran pitchers that Philadelphia is counting on to mount yet another assault in this game of capture the flag.
Of course, the other line in Philadelphia is not so much that the Nationals won, but that the Phillies lost. The Ashburns have already clinched the division and can rightly (if lamely) claim that impressive as Detwiler was, Philadelphia’s twin losses on Tuesday show that the Ponies aren’t exactly all in. Still, the Bard of South Philadelphia, is a little disturbed, and not necessarily because he’s paid to be.
“I’m not worried, I just like to see us play better,” manager Charlie Manuel said following the twin losses. “We clinched our division three days ago. Right now, I wouldn’t call it going through the motions. I’d say we’re not focused. We’re not focused into the game, I feel like. It’s normal in some respects.”
For Davey Johnson, however, Detwiler’s pitching (and not the Phillies’ performance), was the story of the game — he was why they performed poorly. “I can’t say enough good things about him,” Johnson said of his young starter. “The Phillies are a great hitting ballclub and he was letter perfect . . . Today he was nice, calm and collected and threw a lot of quality pitches.”
Detwiler made headlines, but so too did Drew Storen, who was perfect in the ninth, and notched his 40th save. Considering the Nationals’ bullpen performance in 2010, Storen’s season long excellence should be cause for a celebration or two. Storen has given the Nationals just over 72 innings in the role of closer this year, with a 2.86 ERA. Those numbers put him among the league’s elite.
No Country For Tim Lincecum: Forget pitching, what you can’t ever have enough of is baseball. Sliding up and down the dial last night (well, it used to be a dial), you could take in a murder in Connecticut over at CNN, or No Country For Old Men on AMC — it must be a marathon, they’ve shown it back to back on successive nights . . .