Posts Tagged ‘Clayton Kershaw’

. . . And Here Come The Giants

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres

The San Francisco Giants were our pick to win the National League West, and we had good reason to suppose so. The Giants had a snappy starting rotation, we thought that Tim Lincecum would recover some of the velocity on his fastball, and the team could hit — not least because they added Michael Morse to their mix.

For much of the season our prediction looked solid. The Giants appeared to be running away with the West, the Dodgers were struggling (and Clayton Kershaw was on the disabled list for a short time), and Morse was hitting the snot out of the ball, and still is.

But starting in late June and extending well into mid-August, the Giants were hit by a series of devastating injuries: Matt Cain went down for the season, Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez were hit with concussions, Marco Scutaro went down with a bad back and a stiff neck and the McCoverys spiraled out of first place.

But the real loss for the Giants came in late June when center fielder Angel Pagan was hit with a back injury that refused to heal. Pagan is San Francisco’s spark and had led the Giants in BA and OBP prior to sitting out an eight game streak in late June. Finally, realizing that he just wasn’t healing, the Giants took Pagan off the bench and put him on the disabled list.

The Giants went 19-26 without Pagan, though G.M. Brian Sabean did his best to back-and-fill off the Pagan injury. Sabean signed struggling second sacker Dan Uggla to a contract on July 25, then swapped two minor leaguers for Red Sox starter and veteran tosser Jake Peavy the next day.

Sabean’s moves haven’t worked out. Uggla went 0-11 with six strikeouts in two weeks of work for the Giants (who then outrighted him, putting him back on the street) and Peavy has been just so-so. The former San Diego righty began his time in San Francisco by going 0-3, though he’s recovered lately, authoring two key wins in his last two outings.

It hasn’t been enough. While the Giants have been able to patch together a workable starting rotation and supplemented it with a solid, very solid, bullpen, the Giants are just middling run scorers. The McCoveys offense is not only not as good as L.A.’s, it’s probably worse than Arizona’s, with a sorry .305 team OBP.

Yes, we know: the Giants have heavyweights Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Morse in their line-up. But the guy the Giants really have to have (they’re 21st in runs and 21st in BA) is Angel Pagan — who needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Pagan is the key, the one guy that makes it all work. Without him, they’re just not the same team.

Nats Walk Off (Again), This Time In Extras — And In “A Classic”

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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Think of all the baseball cliches, and you will almost certainly touch on one that describes Washington’s 6-5 eleven inning walk-off triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates: If you didn’t see it, you should have — if you weren’t there you should have been. Indeed, the Bucs-Nats tilt of August 17 will go down in D.C. baseball history as “a classic,” the kind of win remembered for a long time.

The game began modestly enough, with Washington’s Doug Fister facing off against Pirate ace Edinson Volquez. Fister had his usual ace stuff, allowing just five hits and no earned runs (the Pirates scored two in the 6th on two D.C. errors), while striking out five before being lifted after seven complete for 8th inning relief whiz Tyler Clippard.

Volquez was nearly as good (he’s 10-7 on the season, and is a workhorse), though he gave up a single earned run through 6.1 innings, while notching five strikeouts. But in the bottom of the 7th frame, the Nationals put three runs on the board, when Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch, Kevin Frandsen and Denard Span singled — and the Nationals plated three runs on fielders choice singles off the bats of Asdrubal Cabrera and Anthony Rendon.

Then, with the Nationals leading 4-2 in the 9th inning (and coasting to a seemingly assured victory), it all fell apart for the home towners. With Rafael Soriano on the mound to close the game (and searching for his 30th save), the Pirates struck for three runs.

Soriano’s troubled 9th began when the big righty hit Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Soriano then gave up a single to Travis Snider, then allowed Marte to score and pinch runner Michael Martinez to advance to second on a wild pitch. Ike Davis was then walked. And although the Nats picked up an out on a Gaby Sanchez fielders’ choice, rookie sensation Gregory Polanco doubled to center to score sprinting pinch runner Jordy Mercer and Sanchez.

With Soriano slumping on the bench, reliever Matt Thornton got the Nationals out of the 9th, but the Nationals seemed deflated by the blown save — and headed for defeat. It was then that the fireworks began, courtesy of Jayson Werth, who’d been sidelined for the last week with a tweeky shoulder.

With one out in the 9th, Werth (who was hitting for Thornton) drew a walk from Pirates reliever Mark Melancon. Werth’s reappearance in the Nationals line-up reenergized the Nationals, with the right fielder advancing to third on a Denard Span single and scoring on a clutch fielders choice off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera. Unaccountably, but dramatically, the Nationals had knotted the game at 5.

The dramatic Nationals fall, and rise, lasted through the scoreless 10th, with lefty reliever Ross Detwiler holding the Pirates scoreless. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, the Nationals walked off in dramatic fashion: on a Werth double, a move-em-over grounder to the right side from Denard Span and a game-winning sacrifice fly off the bat of uber-sub Scott Hairston.

“Today was a tribute to just the team mentality in general,” starter Doug Fister said of his team’s victory. “That’s a lesson learned for us, knowing that [if] something goes wrong, there’s 24 guys right behind you that pick you up. Whether it’s offense, whether it’s defense, guys are playing well together.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Pirates came into Washington with high hopes, but have now dropped five games in a row. “We get to play in front of 120,000 people over the weekend, playing a good team,” Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle said of his team’s effort. “Got to keep battling, score one more run than they — that didn’t happen for us this weekend . . .”

The three game Washington-Pirates set was worthy of October, with two walk-off Nationals wins and each game decided by a single run. The Nationals were saved from their sloppy play (two errors on Sunday that allowed two Pittsburgh runs, both in the 6th inning), by clutch at bats from Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Scott Hairston . . .

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Roark Punishes The Reeling Reds

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

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Tanner Roark was all smiles when he walked off the mound after the 7th inning in Cincinnati last night, and for good reason. The young Washington righty was on his way to his tenth victory of the season, with the only thing left for the Nats to do was to call on one of baseball’s best bullpen to nail down the victory.

And that’s precisely what happened. Tyler Clippard came on the 8th to throw a 1-2-3 inning, while closer Rafael Soriano pitched the 9th inning to notch his 24th save of the season. And so that Nationals rolled to a 4-1 victory — winning for the seventh time in nine games and solidifying their tenuous place atop the National League East.

While Roark was supported by a 12 hit Washington attack (Denard Span was 4-5 and Anthony Rendon 2-4), this game was Roark’s. The righty gave up just three hits, struck out six and walked just one.

“It’s pretty cool just to think about,” Roark said of his performance during the 2014 campaign. “You dream ever since you’re a kid of getting to the big leagues. I took the opportunity and tried to run away with it.”

The Nationals attack victimized Cincinnati starter Alfredo Simon, who has struggled since the All Star break. In particular, Simon just couldn’t seem to master Span who, in addition to four singles, stole a base and knocked in a run. Span is 9 for 18 on Washington’s road trip with two four-hit games.

“He’s been great,” Nationals’ manager Matt Williams said of his star centerfielder. “The key for him is hitting the ball back through the middle. We’ve seen that over the last week or so, hitting the ball up the middle or the other way.”

The Reds, on the other hand, are in desperate need of a speedy singles hitter and a little bit of power. Since Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips went on the disabled list, Cincinnati has suffered a singles and power outage that has dimmed their prospects in the N.L. Central.

Reds fans are feeling it. “The Redlegs played like utter garbage,” Red Reporter intoned after the loss, “while the Senators looked bored. This game ain’t showing up on any¬†This Week in Baseball highlight reels any time soon, unless they make a tape of ‘Least Impressive RBI Singles in Baseball History.’”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We admit — we’ve been a tad bit remiss in posting, but it’s not like we’re sitting at the beach. We’ve been involved in other issues over the last days, and realize that we have a bit of catching up to do. That said, it’s not like we’re not paying attention . . .

For instance. We note with some pride that what we’d said about the Reds just a day or two ago, has turned out to be true. They just can’t hit. A trade for Marlon Byrd now seems in the offing, though the Phillies must be salivating on what they’ll get for him now that the Redlegs are turning desperate . . .

Unless, of course, the Reds stand pat: Which would be the equivalent of waving the white flag. That appears to be what the Red Sox have done, though perhaps with something less than the finality that seems to infect the uncertain Cincinnati front office

Yesterday, the Red Sox swapped Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants for two pitching prospects, which is an admission that it’s time to look to the future in Boston. Last year was a feel good story for the Red Sox, but this year is a lot less so, though the Boston press (lacking a real hook on which to hang the Sox) keeps touting Brock Holt, the next best thing in Beantown . . .

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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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