Posts Tagged ‘Derek Lowe’

Bottom Feeders Win In Miami

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The Washington Nationals will not be able to finish the 2011 season at .500 — and you can thank the bottom feeding Florida Marlins for that. Bryan Petersen sent the Nationals home a loser last night, stroking a walk off two out home run to make the Marlins winners, 3-2. The loss put the Nationals at 79-81, with one game to play.

The home run, off of lefty Doug Slaten, clouded an otherwise successful night for starter John Lannan, who pitched six innings while giving up only three hits. But the story of the night was on the side of the Marlins, whose starter — Javier Vazquez — might well have pitched his last game before retiring. Vazquez went nine innings while giving up only five hits to the Nationals, an exclamation point for what the team needs to find this off-season.

Despite the loss, the Nationals were able to contribute a highlight: Michael Morse hit his 31st home run of the year. Though it’s hardly a surprise, the dinger means that Morse will finish the season as the Nationals’ top slugger, leading the team in batting average (.303), home runs (31) and RBIs (95). “I put in a lot of hard work, and I’m glad that it paid off,” Morse said following the loss.

The Mess in Atlanta: Last night’s starting pitchers for the Red Sox and Braves — Erik Bedard and Derek Lowe — oughta tell us something about where those teams are. And they didn’t disappoint: Bedard lasted just 3.1 in the Red Sox win in Baltimore, while Lowe lasted just four in the Braves’ 7-1 loss against the Phillies in Atlanta . . .

We’re no fans of the Cardinals, but it’s hard to take the Braves seriously. Atlanta’s rotation is badly hobbled: Tommy Hanson has a tear in his shoulder, Jair Jurrjens has a sore knee, and Lowe (who looks like he should be on the DL) is shot-putting the ball in the hope that it ends up somewhere near the plate. You can’t go into the playoffs like that — well, you can, but you won’t win . . .


Lowe, Bullpen Subdue Nats

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

It’s a lousy realization, but it’s true: the Washington Nationals have a very good bullpen; but if Wednesday night is any indication, the Braves’ bullpen is better. After giving up a home run to the relentless Michael Morse, the Braves’ bullpen of Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel came on to pitch three innings of perfect (hitless and walkless) baseball, and the Nationals went down to defeat in Atlanta, 3-1.

Of course, one of the reasons the Braves’ bullpen is good is that they follow a solid starting staff. On Wednesday, the starter-of-choice was Derek Lowe, the tough veteran who has had his ups-and-downs, but who seems to match up well against the Anacostia Nine. Wednesday was no different. Lowe pitched a solid, if not brilliant, six innings. He gave up just three hits while striking out six.

While Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson criticized his team for not being aggressive at the plate, he praised Lowe. “He kept the ball down pretty much all night,” Johnson said. “I thought he really had command of the outside corner. He pitched a good ballgame. We didn’t get much offensively. I like us being aggressive. I thought we got some pitches to hit, but some days it’s like that.”

But Johnson’s most effusive praise was reserved for Braves’ relievers, fast becoming acknowledged as the best in baseball. “Their back side of the bullpen has been almost unhittable. You have to get the Braves pretty early,” Johnson said. The truth is in the stats: O’Flaherty picked up his 25th hold, Venters his 28th, while Kimbrel notched his 41st save. Kimbrel’s save set a rookie record.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: For some reason, the Braves have always produced good power hitters. The current generation’s long ball artist, Chipper Jones, compares well with Braves’ great Eddie Mathews who (if it weren’t for Mike Schmidt) would be considered the best hitting third baseman of all time. There’s also Henry Aaron (of course), who defined greatness for the Braves.

But there have been others: Dale Murphy (with 398 HRs), David Justice (with a measly 305), and Joe Adcock — with 336. What’s shocking about Adcock is that he’s arguably one of the greatest Braves’ of all time, but has not made it into the Braves’ Hall of Fame.


Lannan’s Arm, Ankiel’s Bat Spark 9-3 Nats Win

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

John Lannan seems to be getting better and better. But for skeptical Nats’ fans (who have a right to be skeptical), Lannan’s outing against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, seemed the clearest evidence that the young lefty deserves a prominent role in the Nationals’ future — and might be moving into the top tier of major league baseball’s most effective and consistent lefty starters. Lannan is now 8-7 with a 3.65 ERA.

Backed by home runs from Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel (who powered a Derek Lowe offering into centerfield — for a grand slam), Lannan pitched 6.2 innings and struck out eight, in leading the Nationals to a 9-3 rout of the Braves at Nationals Park. Everything seemed to click: Lannan baffled Atlanta hitters, who could never put enough hits together to threaten the Nats, while Ankiel (who is suddenly hot), raised his batting average by ten points in ten games.

The win was Washington’s fourth in a row, a needed lift after a rough road trip and a morale sapping dive into last place. Washington is now three games under .500 and within striking distance of the middle of the pack in the N.L. East. The Braves, on the other hand, seem to be going the other way: Lowe was shaky and the Braves are now in danger of losing their grip on the Wild Card spot.

Not surprisingly, particularly the way the game is being played in “the post-steroid era,” the break-out play of the contest had nothing to do with either Lannan or Ankiel. It was Jonny Gomes’ take-out slide of Atlanta catcher David Ross on a fielder’s choice play with the bases loaded that provided the spark for Washington. The Gomes’ play upended Ross, who never touched home for the force out.


Fish Fillet

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

The Washington Nationals pulled out a much-needed extra innings victory against the Florida Marlins last night in Miami, 3-2. The 10th inning squeaker came on a sacrifice fly by Adam LaRoche in the top of the game’s final frame that scored Jayson Werth from third. The Nationals, who almost always struggle in Miami, are now 2-2 on the year against the Marlins. The victory was sealed by the Nats’ bullpen in the bottom of the 10th, when Sean Burnett relieved Drew Storen and retired Chris Coghlan on one pitch with men on second and third.

The Nationals-Marlins tilt reflected Friday’s pitching-dominant match-ups throughout the majors. Jordan Zimmermann pitched beautifully through six complete innings, holding the Marlins to two runs on five hits — and striking out six. Zimmermann was particularly effective in the second inning, when he struck out the side on nine pitches, all of them strikes. The Nats continued to struggle at the plate, or perhaps Ricky Nalasco was on his game: the Marlins’ righty struck out eleven, bringing the total number of strikeouts for the game to 30.

The win in Miami gave the Nats a lift after their pummeling in Philadelphia, where they were swept. But outside of the win, the story of the night was Tyler Clippard, who came on in relief of Zimmermann in the sixth inning and struck out six batters in a row. Drew Storen pitched the ninth inning, and retired the Marlins in order. “Clippard was his amazing self, and Storen was outstanding, and you almost forget that Zimmermann had a nice ballgame for us,” skipper Riggleman said after the win. “It was just a great team effort. That was a great effort all night. It was a well-played game by both clubs.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Just how good is the Nationals’ bullpen? Drew Storen has saved 100 percent of all games that he’s been called on to save (that’s six for six), with an ERA of 0.51, with a 0.91 WHIP. Tyler Clippard is one of the game’s best set-up men. Only four other relievers have struck out six hitters in a row over the last twenty-five years — with Clippard now one of the game’s best late-inning strikeout kings. He has a 1.29 ERA and is a workhorse, having appeared in fifteen games already this season.

Todd Coffey might be the forgetten guy in the bullpen. After a slow start he’s been incredibly effective: in Philadelphia on Thursday he struck out five, including Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and John Mayberry, Jr. He has lowered his ERA to 3.72. Sean Burnett, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the league’s most effective lefty specialists — when he’s not closing. Victimized in New York on April 27, Burnett has fought back, vindicating his effectiveness with a one-pitch out last night to register his fourth save. Henry Rodriguez (an electric fastball, with five strikeouts in four innings), Doug Slaten (a lefty specialist) and Brian Broderick (a young, talented work in progress) round out the back seven, which may well be the best relief corps in the game.

Hitting the “Invisi-ball: The 30 strikeout Nationals-Marlins contest seemed par for the course on Friday. In St. Louis, Redbird righty Jaime Garcia flirted with a perfect game through the seventh inning, but had to settle for a two hit, 6-0 shutout of the Brewers. Garcia struck out eight. He’s now 4-0 . . . Out in San Francisco, strikeout expert Ubaldo Jimenez struck out seven in six innings, but just couldn’t come up with a win. Jimenez, the 2011 version, is trying to recover from a rocky (so to speak) start and was in line for the win: until Freddy Sanchez stroked a walk off single in the ninth that scored World Series hero Cody Ross . . . This Colorado-San Francisco thingie could turn into the story of the summer, but only if San Francisco can stay close . . .

But the best game of the night was played in Philadelphia (now didn’t we tell you that, huh? huh? huh?), where Derek Lowe went to the mound against Cliff Lee. The final score (a 5-0 Atlanta victory) tells only a part of the story. Derek Lowe had a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Lee had a weird final line: seven innings, nine hits, three earned runs — and 16 strikeouts. Lee struck out nearly two-thirds of the batters he faced, and lost the game. After the game, Chipper Jones implied that the Braves were lucky, by hitting em where they ain’t. ”It seemed to be all or nothing,” Jones said. “Whenever we put a ball in play, it found a hole.”

Sure, but the story line from our perspective was the pitching of Derek Lowe, who seemed unfazed by either Lee or Philadelphia’s fans. “D-Lowe, he had the invisi-ball tonight,” Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after the Atlanta win. “Invisi-ball. Yep. You see it in one place, and when you go to swing, it just wasn’t there.”

Phillies Drub Lannan, Again

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Washington Nationals’ lefty starter John Lannan is now 0-10 against the Phillies — the classic definition of “snake bit.” Last night in Philadelphia, Lannan couldn’t make it out of the third inning, as the Phillies put up six runs on seven straight hits. After the Phillies recorded a 7-3 win (sweeping the Nationals at Citizens Bank) Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman shook his head over Lannan’s record: “What are they, 10-0? That’s too much for the quality of stuff John has for any club to do that,” he said. “I don’t have any explanation other than that they are a very good ballclub, but they just see him good or something. Most of their guys are on him good.”

If there is good news from the loss, it is that the Nats’ bullpen was, once again, effective — giving up just one run in eight innings. Nationals hitters, however, couldn’t master the Phillies’ starting pitching, as uber ace Roy Halladay glided to his fifth win of the season. Halladay pitched seven innings of six hit ball, registering 10 strikeouts without walking anyone. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt — Halladay’s 2011 campaign makes him the best pitcher in baseball, his only loss coming on April 19 in Milwaukee. He has a 2.19 ERA, while averaging a little over eight strikeouts per game.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Atlanta Braves, with the upstart Marlins, are emerging as Philadelphia’s competitor for the top spot in the NL East. The Tomahawks swept their four game set with the Brewers, taming the beer kings at home last night by a score of 2-1. The key for the Braves has been their pitching — they are first in the NL in ERA and their staff has thrown five complete games. Last night was symbolic of what the Bravos have done: nifty new righty Brandon Beachy (he’s 24, with a 2.98 ERA) threw six innings of four hit baseball and the Braves got just enough runs to win.

Can the Braves give Philadelphia a run? We’ll find out soon enough: Atlanta waltz’s into Philadelphia tonight to take on the red-hot Phillies, with Derek “NASCAR” Lowe taking on Cliff Lee. Both have had their issues. Lowe can’t seem to get any run support from his teammates. The last time he faced Philadelphia, on April 10, he pitched beautifully against Phillies’ boppers, but received no run support and lost the game — 3-0. While Lowe hasn’t been exactly lights-out this season (he’s 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA), the Braves score just a bit over one run when he’s on the mound.

Cliff Lee, meanwhile, has been Lannan-like against the Tomahawks. He’s had three starts against the Bravos and is an embarrassing 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA. The Peach Tree Nine scalded Lee in his first start against them this year: on April 8, he just couldn’t seem to get them out — giving up 10 hits and six earned. It’s a head-scratcher. This is an important series for the Braves, who trail both the Marlins (who take on the Nationals starting tonight in Miami) and Phillies in the N.L. Least.

The Marlins must be pleased with these May match-ups. With Philadelphia and Atlanta slugging it out in the City of Brotherly Love (or whatever), the Fish can strut their stuff in Miami, where they play well against the Nats. The Marlins are emerging from a knock-down, drag-out three game series against the Redbirds in St. Louis, where they lost two of three. Their last loss, last night, featured Josh Johnson looking confused — the first time this year that has happened. Johnson gave up 5 runs in 7.1 in taking his first loss of the season. Even with that, he wasn’t that bad: his command was a little off (he gave up four walks), but with some run support, he’d have been in the game. St. Louis scored four in the 8th, but not against him.

No one is fooled: even with the loss, Johnson still sports a 1.68 ERA. Just how good is this guy? While he’s not carrying the team, he’s a near sure-lock win everytime he appears. In seven appearances this year, he’s never gone less than six innings — his walk totals are low, his strikeouts high, his command good and his stuff better. He might be the best pitcher in baseball, excepting Halladay (oh, and Tim Lincecum). The Nats stroll into whatever-their-stadium-name-is-this-year to take on the Marlins tonight for a three game set. The good news is they won’t be facing Johnson.

An Opening Day Loss

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Livan Hernandez had a good outing on opening day at Nationals Park, but Braves ace Derek Lowe was better. Hernandez gave up just four hits (one was a homer by sophomore Jason Heyward in the second inning) over 6.2 innings, struck out three and walked none using a very tidy 77 pitches in taking the loss. Lowe’s sinker — in the mid to high 80s — kept the Nats guessing all afternoon. Despite having to throw 105 pitches in just 5.2 innings, Lowe’s go-to pitch chalked up six Ks and produced seven ground outs; it was all the Atlanta nine needed.

The only real threat the Nats had yesterday afternoon came in their half of the first when they had a first and third situation with one and could not push a run across. They posted the Braves a one-run lead in the top half of the inning when Chipper Jones doubled and scored on a Brian McCann single that probably could have been kept in the infield had second-sacker Danny Espinosa chosen to get his uniform dirty. Dan Uggla flied out to end the inning immediately after Jones scored. It’s the little things that win games; hopefully Espinosa got an earful from Jayson Werth and the Grownups afterward.

The overall impressions of Opening Day were good — even with the cold temps and sprinkles late in the game. The scoreboard has a new format for displaying lineups, balls, strikes and outs which is cleaner than last year (not counting the font size being a tad on the small side for these aging eyes). Very nice overall though. The pre-game “festivities” seemed to drag a bit even with the Navy Band and the kids of active duty troops in war zones in attendance and with the smooth emceeing job done by James Brown. Could have been the weather. Some freakish climatic zone must be occurring inside the park, since none of the cherry trees were in bloom, despite the trees at the Tidal Basin being at their peak. And the wait for food in the 300 level continues to be way too long. I was encouraged to get in line with just three people ahead of me, but I still missed the entire second inning. And the onions were already gone by then. Note to concessions staff: figure this out please, it’s not rocket science.

Laid Lowe

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Braves’ righty Derek Lowe pitched like he had when he was with the Dodgers (or maybe it was the Red Sox) last night, blanking the Washington Nationals in a 4-0 win at Turner Field in Atlanta. Lowe’s gem overawed the punchless Nats and Washington rookie Yunesky Maya, who balked twice in the second inning. While Maya snapped back to provide a solid outing, Lowe was the night’s story. Lowe scattered eight Nats’ hits over eight innings, striking out twelve. “That’s about the best game that I’ve pitched in a long time,” Lowe said after the victory. “It was just one of those days where kind of everything clicked.” But it didn’t click for the Nationals, who showed just how vulnerable they are to good pitching. The twelve strike outs included four by Ian Desmond and two each from Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse.

Maya’s balks in the second inning showed that the Nats’ new Cuban righthander has yet to master the pressure of the major leagues, with Maya saying he “rushed” his pitches in order to keep himself out of a big inning. The Nats didn’t argue with the calls: “No explanation needed. He balked,” skipper Jim Riggleman told the press. “He just flinched a little bit. … There was a little indecision … and instead of stepping off, he balked.” Despite the problems, Maya pitched well — and set a pattern that began with his first outing against the Mets: after initial shakiness, Maya settles down and pitches steadily the rest of the way. As he did in Atlanta: after the second he pitched four complete innings, with his game totals showing a command on the strike zone (90 pitches, 58 strikes) and a certain yen for inducing ground balls (ten in all). In the end, the problem for the Nats in their sixth loss in a row wasn’t Maya, it was Lowe.

Pick Me Out A Winner Bobby: Back on this day in 2003 — when the Washington Nationals were the Montreal Expos and playing to non-existent crowds in Olympic Stadium –Vladimir Guerrero hit for the cycle (what was called “Le Carrousel” in Montreal). It should not have been a surprise. Guerrero has to be the best bad ball hitter in baseball, and perhaps the best ever if you don’t count Yogi Berra. But what was surprising about Guerrero’s feat was that it came at the hands of lefty Tom Glavine, then pitching for the Mets. After toiling away for the Angels for six seasons, Guerrero has had a revival in Texas, which signed him as a free agent in the off season. The 2004 MVP is having a banner year (.305, 26 HRs) for the Rangers, who now lead the White Elephants by eight in the A.L. East.

Despite his revival, you have to wonder just how many years Guerrero has left. He hit what looked like a sure double the other night against the Yankees, but it was a stretch — and as  he rounded first, grimacing, you could tell he wasn’t going to make it. Guerrero’s knees are gone and he struggles to stay in shape. If Guerrero had another four seasons he might reach the 500 home run mark, but it seems unlikely he’ll get the opportunity. While Guerrero has been relatively healthy this year, he was on the disabled list five times during the ’09 campaign. When he came into the league in 1993 (signed by Montreal as an amateur free agent), he didn’t have to worry too much about preparation: he was a natural athlete with a beautiful swing who didn’t need to stretch scratch hits into doubles. He loped. But not anymore. Now he spends an hour before every game icing whatever ails — this week it’s his shin. “I try to keep playing as best as I can and stay away from injuries,” he recently told a Dallas reporter.

Oddly, the key to Guerrero’s health may well be Josh Hamilton, who can sub for Vlad as the team’s DH. The problem is that Hamilton is suffering from his own aches and pains — and is still in-and-out of the line-up with some torn up ribs, the result of a meeting with an outfield fence in Minnesota. Maybe it’s not such a bad problem if you’re running away with your division, but having two great players with nearly chronic problems (Hamilton’s knee and his ribs, Guerrero’s knee and his shin) is causing headaches for Rangers’ skipper Ron Washington. While the Rangers began to pull away in the A.L West in August, they went the entire month without their full line-up, and Rangers’ fans are concerned that their team is an injury away from seeing their post-season slip away. They should stop whining: the toast of Arlington just swept the Yankees (6-5. 7-6, 4-1), with the gimpy and iced-up Guerrero going 16 for 31 over his last seven games.