Posts Tagged ‘Danny Espinosa’
Monday, August 11th, 2014
At the end of their 3-1 loss in Atlanta on Sunday night, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez waxed philosophical on his team’s series loss to the Braves. “There is still a lot of baseball left,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not over yet. We still have to go out there and try to compete. We have the Mets coming up. We have to do our job and keep playing one series at a time.”
Gonzalez is precisely right of course, though Washington fans are clearly wondering if the Nationals can reverse their fortunes against Atlanta if the Nats end up playing the Braves in the off-season. The Nationals are 4-9 against the Braves this year, and 10-22 since the start of 2013, but squandered an opportunity to distance themselves from their N.L. East nemesis, despite a Braves losing streak that lasted through eight games.
There’s no denying — there are just some teams that Washington has trouble with. St. Louis is one of them, Atlanta is the other. “It’s almost like a playoff game when we play them, no matter when it is,” Atlanta starter Alex Wood said, following the Braves victory. “I think we’ve got some guys that are gamers in here and really enjoy that challenge and enjoy rising to that occasion.”
The Nationals inability to score with runners on board was not much in evidence on Sunday, instead it was Wood that was the problem. The Atlanta southpaw fanned twelve Nats in 7.1 innings of work, a season high for him. “Wood understood what this game meant and he made pitches when he needed,” Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. “He knew we needed some innings out of him, and he went out there and put up a really good performance.”
Saturday, August 9th, 2014
The Washington Nationals might have lost in Atlanta last night, but they’re still sitting on a solid lead in the National League East. And their lead is now the second largest in the majors (the Baltimore Orioles’ lead is just a tad more impressive). The recent homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Fighting Showalters, and the New York Mets delivered everything the Nats have been doing well and (let’s admit it) everything they haven’t.
The Nats were given a chance to set the pace for the NL pennant run, but they let two blowouts and a scraper to two sub-.500 teams get past them. As much as we like to complain about how well they should have done, we can take heart that the hated Atlanta Braves fared even worse. The Barves were swept on their West Coast road trip and returned to Atlanta reeling from an eight game dip.
Nice as it is that Washington is in first place, the Washington 9 get blown away whenever their starter has a meltdown — or can’t make it past the third inning. And they drop one and two run games whenever the bullpen can’t lock it down or the defense is sloppy. Conversely, they win squeakers when the pitching is on point, the defense is tight, and their baserunning is smart. And they blow away the other guys when everything is firing on all cylinders.
We admit — that’s pretty standard stuff for any team. When the Braves, Marlins, Mets or Phillies can’t “lock it down,” they look as bad as (or worse than) anyone.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the Nats could (just once) author a blow-out of the Chops (as they did with the Phillies) that would leave Fredi Gonzalez reeling, and the Upton Brothers wondering what hit ‘em. That’s the kind of win the Nationals need just now to seal the feeling of inevitability that’s the hallmark of a champ.
Pointing out the positives from the homestand, Bryce Harper’s two-run opposite-field walk-off homer in the 13th inning against the Mets was well timed, both for him and the team. Each of the outfielders (Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth) notched at least one outfield assist, and Span is working on a 34 game on-base streak, a definite plus for a lead-off hitter.
And there’s this: New acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera (2B) slotted right into the defense and even Danny Espinosa (2B) demonstrated that he shouldn’t be counted out of the lineup, at least when he’s batting right-handed.
That said, the team did some things that are still a cause for concern. Jayson Werth has been playing through tweaky knees and a sore ankle (“he’s pretty banged up,” the Post says) the past few weeks and it has shown in his defense. Lately, in right, it has taken him awhile to make it to balls down the line, in the corner, or blooped behind first. First-sacker Adam LaRoche, while healthy, has always been prone to streaks both hot and cold and, until his two-run homer on Wednesday, he’s been pretty cold.
So, was this the best homestand in Nats’ history? No, but neither was it the worst. All of the ingredients are there, a few nitpicks aside, and things should be trending up. A good test is the current series in Atlanta. The road to October always (always) goes through the Barves.
But never fear: this year, and thanks to the way the Chops are playing, that highway may actually be smoother than it’s been in a long time.
Thursday, August 7th, 2014
Adam LaRoche homered twice and Doug Fister threw 7.1 innings of six hit baseball, as the Washington Nationals downed the New York Mets at Nats Park on Wednesday night, 7-1. LaRoche’s two round trippers brought his total to 15 home runs on the year, while his RBI count stands at 59.
LaRoche is the first to admit that he’s been struggling at the plate, having hit a less-than-mediocre .159 in July while seeing his power numbers fall off. “It’s nice to see them go in the seats and not to the warning track or just foul,” LaRoche said after Washington’s victory last night. “I felt like I was snake bit last month.”
But if LaRoche has been struggling, Doug Fister has thrown his hat into the ring as Washington’s best front-of-the-rotation starter. The former Detroit righty now has 11 wins on the year against three losses and is the proud owner of a snappy 2.49 ERA.
On Wednesday against the Mets, everything seemed to be working for him. Fister threw 101 pitches, 69 of them for strikes and stymied a New York line-up that has often been the bane of Washington pitchers. The key for the Nationals is that Fister works quickly, which keeps the D.C. defense on its toes.
It helps the Fister doesn’t walk anyone, issuing only 1.20 free passes per nine innings. That skill was very much in evidence on Wednesday, as Fister issued zero base on balls and induced twelve ground ball outs. The Mets flailed vainly at his sinker.
The Nationals victory handed the loss to sore armed Mets starter and southpaw Jonathan Niese, who threw six complete innings while giving up six earned runs and eight hits. Niese took his eighth loss on the season against just five wins.
While LaRoche and Fister were the big stories from the Nationals win, the Washington Nine received unexpected help from Danny Espinosa, who rocketed a 386 foot homer to left field in the sixth, with Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper at the plate.
While Espinosa is not a fan favorite, he’s a popular teammate and has labored this season while playing second fiddle to a host of second sackers who are auditioning to take his place — including new Nat Asdrubal Cabrera. But Espinosa has taken on his new role with nary a complaint.
“It’s great,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the second sacker. “We all pull for each other, obviously. But Danny is one we really want to see him do well. The guy works so hard, hasn’t been getting in there a whole lot. He’s had some bad luck on top of that. It’s good to see him hit a big three-run homer for us.”
Washington’s win, coupled with an Atlanta loss (their eighth in a row) in Seattle opened a four game lead for the home towners over the Braves, who the Nationals will face this weekend.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Here’s a hint — don’t piss off Matt Williams. After saying during a radio interview that a young player who’s not hitting well is always in danger of being optioned to the minors, Williams was asked whether this applied to Bryce Harper, who’s been struggling at the plate . . .
During a pre-game meeting with the press on Wednesday, Williams lashed out at reporters, his standard low boil bubbling over and his eyes flashing in anger. Here’s what Williams said: “I would caution everybody in this room: The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken . . .”
Friday, August 1st, 2014
The Washington Nationals traded promising second base prospect Zach Walters to the Cleveland Indians for shortstop/second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera just one hour before the trade deadline on Thursday. The addition of Cabrera gives them a solid veteran presence in the middle of the infield and keeps Danny Espinosa as a reserve and late inning defensive replacement.
Cabrera is a two-time All Star and an eight year MLB veteran. His best year was in 2011, when he hit .273 with 25 home runs. It’s no secret that the Nationals needed to add a bigger bat to their line-up, particularly given Ryan Zimmerman’s injury problems. Cabrera is hitting .246 with nine home runs for the Indians this year.
“I like that he is battle tested,” Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo said of the thinking behind the trade. “He has been in the playoffs before. He has been through pennant races. He is a terrific two-way player. He is a great defensive middle infielder. He has been a terrific shortstop defensively. He played second base earlier in his career and played that outstanding. He is very balanced from both sides of the plate. He is a big league hitter. We did a lot of work on his makeup and character. He fits in our clubhouse.”
Cabrera was surprised by the trade and obviously upset at the prospect of leaving Cleveland. His voice trembled as he talked to reporters. “That’s the business,” Cabrera told reporters. “It surprised me a little bit, but there is nothing I could do. I knew this was going to be possible. Today when I got here, I didn’t even know it was happening.”
The attraction for Nationals Manager Matt Williams is that he can bat Cabrera in the second slot behind Denard Span, while moving Anthony Rendon down in the order. Like Espinosa, Cabrera is a switch hitter, an added attraction to the Nationals on-field brain trust. And while Cabrera has been Cleveland’s regular shortstop, he actually has better defensive numbers at second base.
Sunday, July 27th, 2014
Yesterday Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson wrote that Washington had inquired about the availability of Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, but were “rebuffed.” The report sent tremors through Nats-Land, as it seemed to confirm that Mike Rizzo & Co. were interested in an upgrade at the hot corner, and searching for more power for the Nats line-up.
There are any number of reasons for the Nats search, all of them obvious. Regular third sacker Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list, and the Nationals are apparently uncomfortable with shifting their regular second baseman, Anthony Rendon to third to take his place. Then there’s Danny Espinosa.
Espinosa has often been a punching bag for Nats fans, who are skeptical of his abilities at the plate. This didn’t seem to matter to the Nats front office, who always had faith in Espinosa. But now, with the Ladson report, it seems the Nationals have finally conceded that an infield of Rendon-Desmond-Espinosa and LaRoche just isn’t enough to carry them into the post-season.
Then too, the Nationals need power — and a player like Beltre, with 14 home runs this year (and four Gold Gloves) would mark a significant upgrade for the Nationals line-up. And the Nationals have a lot to give — including some young arms that would fit in well with the eviscerated Rangers rotation.
The Nationals are backed up on the mound and could deal some of their young pitchers, including Blake Treinen, a ready-for-the-show righty currently at Syracuse, as well as Taylor Jordan, who has appeared as a sometimes starter for the Nationals in the past. Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo would be loathe to part with any pitching prospects, of course, but to get someone like Beltre he’d almost have to.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Ian Desmond was 5-5 with two RBIs, Doug Fister threw 5.2 innings of solid baseball and reliever Aaron Barrett snuffed out a dangerous Rockies’ rally, as Washington went on to beat Colorado at Coors Field, 7-2. The victory, coupled with a Braves’ loss, put the Nationals in first place in the N.L. East.
Desmond’s night was the talk of the Nationals clubhouse following the victory. While the Washington shortstop has hit for power all season, he’s struggled to raise his batting average. But his 5-5 night against the Rockies raised his 2014 batting average to .253, a distinct improvement from his anemic April and May.
“I just thought he stayed middle of the diamond and didn’t overswing,” Nats manager Matt Williams concluded. “He hit a couple of balls back through the middle, one the other way. When he’s swinging it and going good, that’s what you’ll see.”
“I just look for the ball and swing as hard as I can,” Desmond said after the Washington victory. That may be, but whatever the shortstop is doing, it seems to be working. Desmond hit his 17th home run of the season in the top of the 4th inning to spark Washington’s offense.
The Washington win gave starter Doug Fister is 9th victory of the year, as the right hander suffocated Colorado’s bat-heavy line-up into the sixth inning. But the turning point in the game came when reliever Aaron Barrett was called on to douse a Colorado rally with two outs in the 6th. Barrett struck out Brandon Barnes with the bases loaded to end the threat.
The Washington win was also spurred by Colorado’s sloppy play. Two throwing errors by Colorado starter Franklin Morales in the 4th inning sparked a big inning for the Nationals. Morales threw wide to first on a Doug Fister sacrifice bunt, then overthrew first on a pickoff attempt. The second error cost Colorado a run, as it scored Danny Espinosa from third.
For the second night in a row the Nationals broke out their bats. In addition to Desmond’s impressive five hit performance, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa (who started at second base) were 2-4. Espinosa was particularly impressive, with a triple and a long fourth inning double that scored Wilson Ramos.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: This is turning into an ugly, ugly year for the Colorado Rockies. Their loss to the Nationals on Monday night was their sixth in a row and the team now finds itself mired in last place in the National League West . . .
It’s easy to identify the Rockies’ failings — lots of injuries and lack of pitching. But that’s only a part of the story. The front office is in chaos, the owner seems to mistrust the team’s head of baseball operations and it’s not clear what the General Manager is doing . . .
Fox Sports reports that team owner Dick Monfort said in a recent radio interview that he blames Bill Geivett, who is the senior vice president of major-league operations, for the Rockies rough year. Geivett has put his office in the clubhouse, putting pressure on manager Walt Weiss — and making Geivett a kind of deputy manager, or perhaps advisor-in-chief . . .
The Geivett move has touched off a kind of civil war inside the Rockies organization, with players befuddled by the teams plans — and wondering if there are any . . .
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Bryce Harper returned to the Nationals line-up on Monday night in D.C., but it was Ryan Zimmerman who led the way, going 3-4 and leading Washington to a 7-3 victory over visiting Colorado. Harper, who was out of the line-up for the last 57 games, chalked up his first RBI since returning, singling home Zimmerman in the bottom of the 4th.
“It’s good to get that W. It’s huge,” Harper said following the Nats victory. The win allows the Nationals to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves, who beat the Mets in New York, and who remain one-half game in front of Washington in the N.L. East.
While the Nationals stroked nine hits against Colorado pitching, it was starter Jordan Zimmermann who kept the Rockies off the board. The righty gave up seven hits and struck out five in six innings of work, notching his sixth win of the season.
“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “I really had only two pitches — fastball and slider — the whole game. I didn’t throw any curveballs. I threw a few changeups. I mixed them up pretty good.” Drew Storen, Aaron Barrett and Jerry Blevins closed out the games for the Nationals, allowing Colorado a single run in the late going.
While Harper got most of the fan attention on Bryce Harper Bobblehead night, Zimmerman’s apparent return to form at the plate was the other big story. Zimmerman has been struggling since his return from the disabled list, hitting well below his usual .270-.290 clip.
The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the 6th, when the Nats broke through for five runs, sending 10 hitters to the plate against starter Yohan Flande and reliever Rob Scahill. The big blow was an Ian Desmond double, which scored Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “So far as I know, Bryce Harper doesn’t fill out the line-up card,” MASN commenter F.P. Santangelo said last night during the Colorado-Washington broadcast. F.P. was responding to Bryce Harper’s pre-game comments that implied he should be playing centerfield, with Zimmerman in left, Espinosa at second and Rendon at third . . .
F.P.’s got it right, of course, and we agree. Boiled out to its minimum, Harper should not have said anything at all. Since we’re available for counseling, here’s what we would have Harper say: “I’m just happy to be back and will play where the skipper puts me,” or how about “these kinds of decisions show just how great this team is, with lots of everyday players . . .”
The Post’s Thomas Boswell danced all over Harper’s comments this morning, quoting G.M. Mike Rizzo’s defense of him. Harper, Rizzo recently said, “has had two great seasons.” But Boswell’s Fred Astaire routine couldn’t cover up his final judgment, which is F.P.’s — it’s Harpers job to be in the line-ups, not make them . . .