Posts Tagged ‘Cole Kimball’

Nats Lose It In The Ninth

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Washington couldn’t hold a solid lead after the 4th inning, then gave up the winning walk-off run in the ninth, to fall to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, 9-8. The loss came on the shoulders of the bullpen — one of the team’s strong squads. The good news from the loss was that the Nationals’ bats came alive, as the team rapped out 11 hits on the afternoon.

The turning point in the game came in the 5th inning. Leading 6-2 going into the bottom half of the inning, reliever Henry Rodriguez (pitching for starter Tom Gorzelanny, who injured his ankle on a play at the plate in the second), gave up a double to Wilken Ramirez and hit Jason Heyward with a pitch. Jordan Schafer then singled to drive in a run. When Schafer stole second, Davey Johnson replaced Rodriguez with struggling lefty Sean Burnett.

It was all downhill from there: Brian McCann put a Burnett offering into the seats, scoring three and tying the game. Another run on a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice put the Braves in the lead. “It was poor location,” reliever Burnett said of his pitch to McCann. “It was a pitch that caught a lot of the plate to a good hitter. He made me pay for it again.”

Even with that, the Nationals could have (and should have) won. The Anacostia Nine recaptured the lead by scoring two in the sixth, but Atlanta stormed back: the normally reliable Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to light hitting Nate McLouth in the eighth, that tied the game. Ryan Mattheus came in to pitch the ninth, but gave up the winning run on a Freddie Freeman single to right field.


“Standing Pat” At The Trade Deadline

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

With the MLB trade deadline looming, rumors of what the Washington Nationals will — and won’t — do are now beginning to circulate. This morning, commenter and analyst Buster Olney, wrote that “the dam is about ready to burst on the trade market,” with teams looking for a way to help themselves (or wave the white flag), before the end of July. The Tigers are looking for pitching, the Philllies are looking for a bat, and Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez is on everyone’s radar screen.

What will the Nationals do? G.M. Mike Rizzo isn’t exactly saying, though he notes that the team could be “both buyers and sellers” at the trade deadline. We have no clue what that means, which was obviously Rizzo’s intent. Still, the Nationals have been actively talking about acquiring a lead-off hitter (Michael Bourn’s name has been mentioned), and they have apparently inquired about Tampa’s B.J. Upton. There was even talk that the Nationals are willing to trade All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard in an attempt to answer some of their outfield problems.

There’s no question, a B.J. Upton trade would be intriguing: back in mid-June, Ken Rosenthal said that Upton could be had for the right price — with the Nationals ponying up a hot young infield prospect in a package with Clippard that would bring the then-struggling Upton to Washington. Rosenthal’s thinking was compelling: if the Rays fall out of contention, they could off-load Upton, and save themselves some future bucks. Hmmmmm. And, as Rosenthal noted then: Todd Coffey is being eyed by a number of teams who need a good righty out of the bullpen.


Is This The Low Point?

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Anyone who watched the Nationals fall to the San Diego Padres, 7-3 on Thursday night could tell you what ails the team — but it’s a long list: lack of timely hitting, too many strike outs and, most surprising, a great collapsing bullpen. This last is the most surprising, because for a while there the Nationals had one of the best bullpens in the majors. Now, they can’t get anyone out.

The problem starts with Sean Burnett (and does not include Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen or Todd Coffey), but it extends to Henry Rodriguez and Cole Kimball. Last night, Burnett came in for Livan Hernandez — and immediately walked rookie Anthony Rizzo. Cole Kimball followed him, and walked pinch hitter Kyle Phillips. Henry Rodriguez followed suit: he registered two quick outs in the seventh, but then walked the bases loaded and threw a wild pitch. The Friars won the game, but the final score veils what was (at least in baseball terms) a “romp.”

Is this the team’s low point? “It was not a good game,” Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman said after the loss. “The effort and intensity [was] there, but it was not a good game. We had a couple of things that happened on the bases. We walked people. It was not a pretty game. I don’t know how else to say it.” In the postgame interview with MASN analyst Ray Knight, Riggleman was even more blunt — saying that coming into a game and walking hitters was “unacceptable.” Clearly, changes are on the way, including demotions or even trades. (more…)

Are The Nats Feuding?

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This movie is about to become “A Nightmare On Half Street.” The Nationals are now 21-28, and have won only one game in their last seven. It’s getting old (hell, it’s been old), particularly for the team’s veterans — who expect more. After the Nationals dropped their latest in Milwaukee (by a score of 6-4, and at the hands of might-have-been-a-Nat Zack Greinke), Jayson Werth showed his frustration. “Things need to change,” he said, but then refused to say exactly what those things were. “I’m not really going to get into it right now,” he told a crowd of reporters. “It is what it is. It’s unfortunate. We’re a way better ball club.”

Well, yes. And no. The Nationals’ latest run (or spiral), might have been predicted. Pitching carried the anemic line-up through all of April and most of May — but without more consistent at-bats, it was bound to reach its natural level: it’s just average, and maybe not even. Which is to say: sooner or later the starters and bullpen were going to have problems, it’s the way things are in baseball, and even for the best teams. That’s happened to the Nationals, and the frustration is showing: Jason Marquis blew up at Jim Riggleman in Baltimore, Jayson Werth spouted off yesterday and reliever Cole Kimball threw an on-the-bench tantrum on Wednesday.

Are the Nationals feuding? Tom Boswell takes on the question in the Washington Post this morning — under the print edition headline “In danger of falling apart.” Boswell’s conclusion is that the recent spate of clubhouse eruptions is the predictable result of losing, and actually a good sign: “Maybe they are sick and damn tired of it.” Agreed. If the signing of Werth, the return to health of Marquis and the addition of veterans Adam LaRoche, Rick Ankiel, Alex Cora, Todd Coffey, Jerry Hairston and Matt Stairs means that the team expects a lot more than they’re getting that’s just great. But . . .

But Ankiel, Cora, Hairston and Stairs are not the heart of this team, and they’re not the future. Ramos, Zimmermann, Espinosa, Desmond, Morse and Bernadina (and Storen, Burnett, Clippard and Coleman — and others) are the heart of this team, and they’ve been losing. After calming down, Werth got it right. “A lot of these guys are younger,” he said following yesterday’s loss. “We have to make sure they continue to develop regardless of whether we are winning or losing. I think that’s important for the future of this club. But you know, things need to change.” Yeah right. Things need to change: the Nationals need to stop all the fussing and just start winning. If they do, the feuding will go away.

Espinosa Scuttles Bucs

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Danny Espinosa’s two run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning at Nationals Park lifted the Anacostia Nine to a 4-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, bringing the Nationals to within one game of .500. The Pirates counted on Espinosa batting from the left side, where he has been struggling — and they paid the price. Did Espinosa’s blast end his early season slump? Even Espinosa says it’s too soon to tell: “The first thought was that it helped the team. The second thing was that it was a bad idea bringing in the righty,” said Espinosa. “A lot of people want to do that. That frustrates me. That puts fuel in my tank. You don’t think I can hit left-handed. I’m not going to get you every time, but I’m going to get you.”

The Nationals only accounted for six hits in the game (Jayson Werth, who now seems on track, was 2-4), but they were timely — and the Nationals were once again perfect on defense, stranding seventeen (17!) Bucs runners. After the win, the Nationals were all atwitter about Espinosa’s home run and Cole Kimball’s gutsy relief job of John Lannan. Kimball, who entered the game in the 7th, gave up an inherited runner that tied the game, but then fought back to gain the win. Kimball has already earned a reputation as a tough guy out of the bullpen: “He’s definitely one of those guys you wouldn’t challenge to a fight,” Jerry Hairston said of Kimball. “He’s one of those guys that — in a good way, very lovingly — he may not be all there. But that’s a good thing.”

The addition of Kimball adds another arm to the normally lights-out Washington bullpen — to go along with a set of pitchers that is now getting some attention in baseball. Kimball, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen once again shut down their opponents, holding the Pirates to no runs in nearly three innings of work. Despite the meager at-bats, the Nationals are playing National League baseball, relying on their pitching and defense to win games.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is gasping for air: they have dropped six in a row and are forcing the issue. Last night they missed a squeeze bunt, were caught by the arm of Roger Bernadina in going from first-to-third and could not get a hit when they needed it. Pirates’ starter Paul Maholm seems snake bit, pitching well, but not able to get the run support from his teammates when he needs it. “Tonight’s just kind of how the season’s gone for me,” Maholm said. “In five days, I’m going to go out there and expect to win. I enjoy going out there. I’m not going to let run support or anything mess with my mindset. I’m going to go out there and lay it on the line every time.”

Marlins Slide Past Nats

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Omar Infante narrowly avoided a tag from Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in the 11th inning of the Nats-Marlins contest at Nats Park last night — giving the Marlins a they-just-keep-coming 6-5 victory. The Infante slide (the result of a Greg Dobbs double) was the culmination of a classic back-and-forth between the two teams, which is turning into one of the more bitterly contested rivalries in the N.L. East. While Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman argued the call, the replay showed Infante had just barely eluded the tag. “He was safe,” Riggleman said. “I knew.”

The game began with the Nationals down by three to the Marlins, with Gaby Sanchez and John Buck registering back-to-back dingers against less-than-effective Nationals’ starter Tom Gorzelanny. But the Nationals struck back, with a clutch single in the third by Ian Desmond and an upper deck home run by Laynce Nix. The Nationals tied it in the eighth with another hit by Nix, this one a double, that scored Jayson Werth. Nats’ skipper Riggleman was in his head-shaking mode after the loss: “I try to stay away from those words — disappointment and frustration — but that was a great ballgame,” Riggleman said. “We played really good baseball.

Those in attendance were treated to what might well be the defensive play of the year, which came in the fifth inning off a long drive from Marlins’ youngster Mike Stanton. Bernadina went back on the ball, which seemed over his head — but then reached up and rolled, snagging the line drive and saving the Nationals from a long inning. “The only thing I could do is dive,” Barnadina explained.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals will face some tough decisions over the next two weeks, not the least of them being what to do with Roger Bernadina when Rick Ankiel comes off the disabled list. If you were to poll Nats fans, they are likely to say that Bernadina should be given the job in center field, with Laynce Nix taking Michael Morse’s spot in left (Mark Zuckerman has this right — over at Nats’ Insider). Will Riggleman made the switch? Here’s what he told Zuckerman: “You can’t get too far ahead of yourself,” Riggleman said. “Mike did what he did for six weeks in spring training, and Laynce has been hot here for the last 10 days. We’re just going to ride that out. It’s certainly not cast in stone as to who will be playing left field or whatever. We’re just going to try to put a lineup out there that gives us the best chance to win.”

Bernadina has been a catalyst, and not simply because he makes great defensive plays in center. Bernadina led off Friday’s game with a bunt single, which is the same thing he did in Atlanta on Thursday. The Nats have been looking for a lead-off hitter; well, here he is . . . Or, as Federal Baseball slings it: “Shark attack! Roger Bernadina is 3-5 with a game-tying, two-RBI double, a bunt hit, a stolen base, and a fantastic highlight-reel catch that he sadly gets no WPA credit for at all.” Yup . . .

It’s clear that Jim Riggleman is feeling the pressure from his bullpen — shuffling and reshuffling arms to cover weaknesses. The core of Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey and Sean Burnett (despite his recent troubles), is among the best in baseball. They’ve all proven their toughness in close games. Which leaves Brian Broderick, Henry Rodriguez and Doug Slaten. Broderick is a Rule 5 pick (and should be learning his trade in the minors), Rodriguez is a major talent (who threatens to walk the bases loaded everytime he appears) and Doug Slaten is struggling. Riggleman can use Broderick, Rodriguez and Slaten in blow-outs (taking pressure off the core four), but when exactly does a “blow out” ever happen . . .

The issue will be forced once Chad Gaudin returns. Gaudin, who is nursing shoulder inflammation, is a savvy and tested veteran who is not likely to be cowed by appearing in the show (Broderick), knows how to throw strikes (Rodriguez), and has pitched well enough recently to be a part of the core-four (Slaten). Our prediction? Unless Slaten shows he can stick as a “lefty one out guy” that job will default to Burnett, which means that Slaten is likely to go elsewhere . . . Ah, of course, the Nats could designate Broderick for assignment and call up Cole Kimball (as they just did, as we were posting this), but that doesn’t exactly solve the problem — though maybe, if his performance this year is any indication, Kimball can now work his way into the Nats’ core four . . .