Posts Tagged ‘Drew Storen’

Nats Shake Off Their Losses, Beat The Cards

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

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This time it was the St. Louis Cardinals who made the errors — with the Nationals capitalizing on the brilliant pitching of southpaw Gio Gonzalez to beat the Redbirds, 3-1 at Nationals Park. The Friday night victory was much-needed after a game that saw four Nats’ errors. This was the first Nats’ victory in eight head-to-head meetings with St. Louis.

“It was one of those games that we needed. We needed to bounce back,” Gonzalez told reporters after the victory. “We needed something like this. It put us back together. Now we go from here, one game at a time.” Gonzalez notched his third win of the season in holding the Cardinals to just four hits and a single run.

The winning edge came for the Nationals in the seventh inning, when Ian Desmond scampered home on a wild pitch from St. Louis starter Michael Wacha. When sure-handed Yadier Molina threw wild to the plate in an attempt to nab Desmond, Danny Espinosa also scored — accounting for all of the Nationals’ runs.

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“I short-hopped one to Yadi that got away from him, and they end up scoring two runs on it. I have to make a better pitch in that situation and try and get out of it,” Wacha said of the play. “It was 0-1 and you want to make your pitch for sure. I spiked a changeup down in the dirt and it ended up getting away from Yadi. I’ve got to make a better pitch in that situation.”

The Cardinals seemed to repeat the problems that Nats had in the field on Thursday: Ian Desmond would not have been able to score on a wild pitch if he had not been on third — the result of a muffed throw to Matt Carpenter from Michael Wacha that was intended to get the lead runner after a bunt off the bat of Danny Espinosa.

The Nationals still might have lost the game if it had not been for the relief pitching of Drew Storen, who came on after Tyler Clippard had put two men on base. With one out, Storen induced a pop up from heavy hitting Matt Holliday and got Allen Craig to ground out to shortstop Desmond.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There have been 170 walk off grand slam home runs in major league baseball since 1950. So while the event isn’t rare, it’s unusual. By comparison, there have been only 27 “super walk off grand slams” — where the home run wins the game when the home team is trailing by three in the bottom of the ninth . . .

Such phrases are probably lost on the fans of the Marlins, who showed up in less-than-record numbers last night to watch their Fish take on Seattle’s Mariners. Besides producing Miami and Seattle headlines that play off the team names, the three game tilt features under-producing teams with high hopes for the future. The far future, as it turns out . . .

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Nats-Braves Claw Their Way Through 10

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves scratched and clawed their way through another bitterly fought contest, with the Bravos eventually coming away with a 7-6 10th inning win on a Justin Upton single. The game was another one run contest, which is becoming the new standard in the growing Nats-Braves rivalry.

Atlanta was first on the board, plating four runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning against Washington starter Tanner Roark. Despite the early score, Roark settled into the game, pitching into the fifth inning and allowing his teammates to fight their way back into the game — scoring one run in the 4th inning and three in the 5th, courtesy of a Ryan Zimmerman home run.

“I felt great out there,” Roark said following the tough loss. “I just didn’t really have the command of my pitches that I wanted.” Indeed, Roark had trouble finding the strike zone, plunking Justin Upton, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman with pitches.

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The teams traded runs after the 4-4 tie, with Atlanta scoring one in the bottom of the 5th and the Nationals responding in the top of the next frame. “The guys continued to fight back. It’s a really good sign,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said following the loss. “It didn’t come out our way tonight, but they got back in it with the lead. We’ll take our chances with that every day.”

The Nationals, who are becoming known for their ability to launch late inning comebacks, were helped by solid performances from the middle of their order. Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper were a combined 7-13, with Zimmerman accounting for half of the Nationals runs.

The Nationals led 6-5 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, but reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to Justin Upton, the Nationals new nemesis. The Braves then brought on closer Craig Kimbrel — perhaps the best closer in the majors. Kimbrel set down the Nats in the top of the 9th, striking out Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

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Nats Notes: Takeaways From The Miami Sweep

Friday, April 11th, 2014

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Fans don’t normally expect a series sweep to be dramatic, but this past series against the Miami Marlins provided theatricality in spades. Nats fans will note: these are not the Fish of yesteryear, or even the Fish of last year. Miami has a real team, forcing the punditocracy to rethink their near-unanimous criticism of Miami’s fire sale to Toronto in 2013.

As MASN commenter F.P Santangelo pointed out yesterday, the Marlins have some good young players (like the surprising Christian Yelich, who’s hitting a torrid .438 over the last week) and preseason predictions about this being just another “rebuilding year in Miami” already look like they’re way off. The Marlins were swept, but they look more dangerous than either New York or Philly.

Nats starter Gio Gonzalez opened the series with a shutout performance, looking as if he’s reached mid-season form, and Stephen Strasburg shook off whatever baggage there might have been from his two earlier and shakier starts to keep his game on lock down. The two aces are exactly where Nats Nation expects them to be on any given day — which will send shivers to the rest of the division.

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But Jordan Zimmermann? Oh my. No one, least of all him, had any explanation for what happened to him on Wednesday, when he gave up five runs in less than three innings and left the game shaking his head. We’ve never seen him have a meltdown like that. That said, Wednesday’s game demonstrated one thing we haven’t always associated with the Nationals: resilience –  the capacity to recover quickly from adversity.

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Werth’s Slam Downs The Marlins

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

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Jayson Werth’s grand slam in the 8th inning proved the difference against the Miami Marlins, as the Nationals beat their division rival, 10-7. “Crazy game. Back and forth,” Werth said following the hard fought victory. “One of those games where you play that long, you want to win.”

Werth’s line drive howitzer was the coda in a game that saw starter Jordan Zimmermann give up seven hits and five runs in just 1.2 innings, one of the worst outings (and the shortest start) for the righty in his career. Washington relievers were also victimized in the 7th and 8th innings, with Drew Storen giving up a home run to Jerrod Saltalamacchia and Tyler Clippard giving up a run in the 8th.

‘I was terrible out there,” Zimmermann said of his performance. “The fastball was all over the place. That’s not like me. I just couldn’t get a very good feel. I fell behind guys and when you fall behind you’ve got to come in with a fastball — and they’re a good fastball hitting team.”

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Despite Zimmermann’s early struggles (which left the team down 5-0 going into the bottom of the 4th) Washington refused to give in. While Werth’s slam gave Washington the victory, the game might well have turned on Bryce Harper’s brilliant ten pitch at bat in the bottom of that frame.

The struggling youngster (who came into the game batting just a hair about .160), fouled off numerous offerings from Miami starter Brad Hand in a ten pitch at bat before depositing a 95 mph fastball in the third deck of Nats Park. Harper’s home run brought the crowd of 21,000-plus to their feet, scored Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman — and put Washington back into the game.

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“I never felt out of this game, that’s for sure. We battled. We’ve just got to keep pressing,” Werth told reporters after the comeback win. It was the Nationals fifth comeback win this season in only eight games and kept Washington atop the N.L. East standings at 6-2.

Washington skipper Matt Williams noted that the Washington victory would not have been possible without the solid pitching of Craig Stammen, who shut down Miami in the middle innings — giving his team just over three innings of stellar relief while striking out four.

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Nats Notes For Game #7: Nats Arms Leave Fish Gasping

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

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The big takeaway from last night’s shutout of the Miami Fish is that Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon are the team’s early season on-base machines. LaRoche went 3 for 3 with a a walk, Rendon went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs. It’s a good start for LaRoche, who’s noted for swinging a weak bat in temperatures under 90 . . .

LaRoche even took two extra bases on an error and a wild pitch and got thrown out trying to steal! And all in a a single game! When Matt Williams said he wanted the Nats to be aggressive, we doubt that he intended sending the normally speed-challenged good-glove first sacker regularly motoring to second. Denard Span and Danny Espinosa, yes. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, sure. But LaRoche? But it’s hard to argue with success; after all, it seems to be working out more often than not — so far . . .

The scouting report on Fish starter Henderson Alvarez was that he’s a good fastball-changeup guy who’s tough to hit when he’s on target, but that he tends to lose his command. That was the case last night. After Alvarez gave up a run in the 1st, the Marlins’ starter kept it close, until the 6th. By then, every other pitch was in the dirt, behind the catcher — or both. So the Nats pounced in the 6th and then pounced again in the 8th, when Marlins reliever Mike Dunn (high and fast) arrived to try to stem the bleeding . . .

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The Nats pitchers, sensing a kill of a team they have dominated, were no slouches. Starter Gio Gonzalez pitched six solid innings. Gio’s pitch count was worrisome after the first two innings, but beginning in the 3rd inning he locked in the strike zone and (as Matt Williams noted in his post game comments), probably could have gone longer had the Nats not scored behind him . . .

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Gio Blanks The Fish

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

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Gio Gonzalez threw six innings of three hit ball while striking out five, leading the Washington Nationals to a 5-0 blanking of the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. Washington’s southpaw ace was in mid-season form, and was escorted to victory by eight Nats’ hits, which included three RBIs from third sacker Anthony Rendon.

“He competes every time he goes out there,” Nats skipper Mat Williams said following the shut down performance. “In his last couple of starts, he throws a lot of pitches, but when he has to lock it in, he locks it in. He has been good.” Gonzalez threw 101 pitches, 61 of them for strikes. Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Aaron Barrett followed Gonzalez to the mound and held the Marlins scoreless.

Gonzalez seems to own the Marlins. He has won his last four starts against Miami and was 3-0 against them last year, when the Nationals accumulated a 14-5 mark against the Fish. Gonzalez is now 2-0 on the young season, owning a snappy 0.75 ERA on the young season.

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“These guys have some good pitchers but we got to find a way to score some runs,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said of the Marlins’ loss. “We had a couple opportunities. We just didn’t get a big hit. But I’ve said that a lot over the last couple years, too.”

The Washington offense was sparked by a first inning Jayson Werth double and a run scoring single from Adam LaRoche. The Nationals struck again in the sixth on hits from Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon. The onslaught chased Miami starter Henderson Alvarez. Washington tacked on two more runs in the 8th on an Anthony Rendon double.

Rendon has been on fire. He is hitting .407 in the early going, which includes a home run and eight RBIs. Subbing for Ryan Zimmerman at third, Rendon also turned in a nifty flip to Adam LaRoche in the 7th inning, when Reed Johnson attempted to bunt his way on.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Major League Baseball’s punditry spent Tuesday, the fortieth anniversary of Henry Aaron’s record breaking HR mark that topped Babe Ruth’s record, explaining why Aaron is the baseball’s real home run king, despite the fact that Barry Bonds owns the record . . .

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The Good News From Opening Day

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Among this season’s changes to Centerfield Gate is that we have decided to use our posters real names. In addition, as our readers will see in the weeks ahead, we have several new features — including “Nationals Scorebook” in which we will post (on Facebook) key details and the actual scoring of select games.

And we have new contributors. CFG’s newest writer is Jason Knobloch, a veteran Nats’ watcher. This is his first post-game commentary, but certainly not his last:

The Nationals 9-7 win in New York carried with it plenty of good news for Nationals’ fans — poised prematurely (it would seem) to celebrate what could be a banner season. F.P Santangelo called it right: the Nats needed to get past Mets’ starter Dillon Gee and into New York’s bullpen. That said, until the very end of the game the Anacostia Nine didn’t have enough quality at-bats, and Gee lasted long than he should have.

The Nationals bullpen gave up two home runs and three RBIs, but it was still outstanding. Drew Storen looked particularly impressive (and like his old self — some of which we saw at the end of last year) and Aaron Barrett had a quality major league debut. He’s a keeper: two strikeouts. And despite the struggles of Jeremy Blevins, it’s worth noting that he set down three swing-throughs.

Stephen Strasburg kept the Nationals in the game (the job, ultimately, of any good starter) — but this was hardly his best outing. Stras has added a fifth pitch, a slider, and it was outstanding and certainly well beyond what a new pitch might look like this early in the season.

With Strasburg’s curve and change-up, the slider will be yet another pitch that will add punctuation to the ace’s real weapon, and overpowering fastball. That’s quite an arsenal, particularly when the right’s velocity returns (it won’t take long) to what it should be.

Danny Espinosa provided real value in his first game back in the majors from late season (2013) Triple A. His at-bat as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning kept the team alive and (batting from the left side) the former starting second sacker looked more relaxed that he did last year.

And there’s this: if’s Zim’s shoulder gets tweaky again or if he’s moved to first, its likely that Matt Williams can have confidence in who he slots in to second and third, a point bolstered by Anthony Rendon’s performance late in the game: a three run shot that (as it turns out) the Nationals needed.

Ray Knight got it right (as usual) during Nats Xtra — the Nationals of last season, and especially the Nats of early last season, would probably not have won this game. That doesn’t mean the team is assured of any early run away from the rest of the division, but it’s a good sign.