Posts Tagged ‘Garrett Mock’

Nats “Can’t Get A Grip” In N.Y.

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Garrett Mock and the Nats’ bullpen couldn’t find the strike zone in New York and Jeff Francouer took full advantage, launching two home runs and leading the New York Mets to an 8-2 victory at Citi Field. The Nats have now lost three of four to start the season, and are firmly rooted in last place in the NL East. The disappointment in the otherwise confident Nats’ locker room was palpable. Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman, who has watched the team’s starters struggle to make it past the fifth, worried about the impact on the Nats’ bullpen — who are being called on more frequently as a result of the failure of the Nats’ front five. “That can’t continue. That’s not going to work,” he said, following Mock’s performance. “To this point, it’s not an excuse to bring a domino effect on our bullpen. We’ve already had an off day. We are carrying eight relievers. With eight relievers, nobody has been overtaxed or anything. … But if your starters [continue to] go three to five innings, it will cause problems that you can’t solve. The starters obviously have to pitch deeper in the game.”

Nats’ starter Garrett Mock, who blamed the cold and windy conditions for his inability to throw strikes, couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. The hurlers that followed (Miguel Batista, Jason Bergmann and Jesse English — all with ERAs above 10.00), weren’t much better. The Mets, on the other hand, received timely hitting from Francoeur, who put two Nats’ pitches into the Citi Field bleachers, and journeyman catcher Rod Barajas, who matched his total. “It was really windy. The wind was in my face. The ball had a ton of movement on it,” Mock explained after the game. “Everything I said, everything I believed in and worked on all spring has been attack the strike zone and throw it over the plate. On the other hand, I’m not going to say, the ball is going all over the place and just baby one in there for the sake of throwing strikes. I’m not going to say it’s the baseball’s fault, but I really couldn’t get a grip [on it]. I did everything I could — trying to keep my hands moist, licking my fingers. I was just uncomfortable.”

The news for the Mets is all good: Jason Bay adds power to the middle of the Mets line-up and spark plug shortstop Jose Reyes is set to make his season debut on Saturday. John Lannan will start for the Nats, after suffering through an indifferent start against the Phillies on Opening Day. No one is underestimating the Mets, least of all Lannan: “The Mets have another power bat in the middle with Jason Bay,” Lannan said on Friday. “Rod Barajas adds depth as well. The Mets have power. The balance is more even — more up front and power in the middle. It’s a tough lineup.” Standing now at 1-3, with another match-up against the Mets in New York this afternoon, the Nationals will face Oliver Perez. Facing their fourth loss in five games, the Nats need to (ah) “get a grip on it.”

In The Blogosphere: Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider details the woes of the Nats rotation and bullpen, focusing first on Mock: “In the span of three weeks,” Zuckerman writes, “he’s gone from the best-looking starter in camp not named Strasburg to a starter who may be pitching to keep his job next time out” . . . Mike Harris, over at Nationals Fan Boy Looser reflects the same frustration, noting that he’s “willing to bet there are 4-5 guys in Syracuse right now who would be less painful to watch.” There’s a bet we won’t take . . . Nats320 weighs in with an interesting reflection on Mets 20-year-old phenom Jennry Mejia who mowed “right through all three Washington batters he faced to close out this game in the 9th. Mejia pitched with the determination that comes from knowing you can succeed” . . . Half Street Blues, meanwhile, provides a cheeky but blunt look at Ted and Mark Lerner’s business acumen, and observes that “not paying for pitching really helps the bottom line.” Of particular interest is HSB’s calculation of the Lerner family’s profits from the Nats, over $100 million in three years . . .

Nats Ending With A Whimper

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

This is apparently the way that Nats end: not with a bang, but with a whimper. With seven games left in the season, the Atlanta Braves banged out thirteen hits against five Nats’ pitchers, victimizing Garrett Mock with seven hits and six runs in five innings of work. Mock, who has said he doesn’t pay attention to things like personal wins and losses, (or defensive gaffes – or his own ERA), began Saturday’s tilt against the Chops by allowing four runs in the first inning — a pattern of early innings futility that has become the sad norm amongst Washington’s young arms. It was all Braves thereafter, as Atlanta lumbered through an 11-5 win. Mock doesn’t pay attention to personal wins and losses? It’s a good thing: he’s now 3-10. With Washington losing nine of its last 11, it’s clear that the mounting losses are having an impact in the clubhouse — even this late in the season: “I don’t like losing,” Nats’ slugger Adam Dunn said after the game. “I can’t really point a finger why we are losing. It’s very frustrating. I can’t put it into words. I hate it. I hate it. It’s not good.”

Those Are The Details, Now for the Headlines: Saturday’s marquee match-up pitted the N.L. Central’s Redbirds against the Colorado Rockies — and dominant Redbird righty Adam Wainwright against fireballer Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a must-win for the Rockies, who are looking in the rearview mirror at the Braves, who are now just 2.5 out of the Wild Card lead. Which is why the Saturday match-up was so important. Shockingly, the usually steady Ubaldo Jimenez was shaky out of the gate while (less surprisingly) Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright look untouchable. Jimenez lost his control in the first inning — giving up three runs, but the Rockies’ rallied late, tying the game at three in the fifth. It stayed that way until the 7th, when unlikely hero Jason LaRue deposited a hanging Jimenez slider in the left field seats. That’s all St. Louis needed to win: and clinch the division championship.

Is there a growing sense of panic on the rockpile? ” We’re still ahead,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said after his team’s loss to the Cards. “We saw what the Cardinals just accomplished with their victory tonight, and if we keep going in the manner that we have the last couple of nights, I promise you that we’ll put ourselves in a very good position to maybe have a little celebration like that for ourselves.” Tracy is paid to be upbeat, but with Atlanta surging the Purple’s fans are beginning to show signs of gnawing doubt — and a feeling that the team is just not hitting (literally) on all cylinders. “There is a perception around the league that all of the Rockies get hot and cold together and that’s why they’re prone to stretches where they can’t win followed by stretches that they can’t lose,” Rox Girl at Purple Row says. “While there’s a little truth to that, those of us that follow the team closely know that there are slumps within the machine even while it’s working well, as well as hot players churning along even when it’s not.”

All Things Rockies, meanwhile, notes that some key players are slumping — including bopper Brad Hawpe, who was recently lifted for former White Elephant Jason Giambi. Hawpe isn’t the only one who’s slumping. Colorado’s fleet-footed Nyjer-like centerfielder, Dexter Fowler is hitting a forgettable .267, an average that belies his recent struggles. Fowler, whose speed is wasted if he can’t get on base, looked positively overmatched on Saturday, going 0-4. Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy finally threw in the towel, pinch hitting for Fowler in the 9th. The Fowler stand-in against Redbird reliever Ryan Franklin was part time left fielder Seth Smith — and you have to wonder why Tracy isn’t using him more. Smith was the N.L. player of the week in early September, when Smith was positively on fire: in six games he hit .542 with four home runs, five doubles and ten RBIs. He posted a .607 OBP.

The Rockies and their fans would deny there’s any sense of panic (of course) and the even-keeled Jim Tracy waves off reporters who remind him that the Braves are closing fast. But there are those niggling little signs (familiar to Mets fans) that signal doubt: complaints about the perceived unfairness of umpire calls (the normally phlegmatic Tracy questioned the strike zone on Saturday), reassurances from players that their “rhythm is coming back” (as Rockies’ catcher Yorvit Torrealba would say), and complaints among diehards that, while the Rockies are facing the class of the National League, their chief competitor is in the midst of a series against an also-ran. This is vintage whine. And disturbing evidence that the Rockies have stopped searching for ways to win — and started issuing excuses.

Nats Cannot Escape New York, Maine

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The Washington Nationals finished their three game set with the Mets with a 6-2 loss and finally made their long awaited escape from the Big Apple. The Nats played with little spark the entire game, and interim manager Jim Riggleman let them know it in the clubhouse after the loss. “It was just a lackluster performance. We can’t have that,” Riggleman said. “We were flat, and it’s just not acceptable. We were down a run and it was almost like, ‘Let’s see what we can do here to get through it.’ I just wasn’t pleased with the overall intensity of the game.” The lack of intensity showed on the field, but most especially with the team’s bats. Mets’ pitcher John Maine corraled the Nats with his one of his best performances, holding the Anacostia Nine to two hits in five innings. The team didn’t score until the ninth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn notched RBI singles against Mets’ reliever Brian Stokes.

Once again, for a Nats team that struggled all year to find pitching, the teams drought at the plate is surprising. But there may be more to the slump than just “one of those things” that will correct itself. While Riggleman didn’t say it, it wasn’t just that the Nats wanted to escape from New York: it may be that after nearly 150 games, the team is ready to escape from the season. “We have a lot of guys who are fighting on this ballclub to make an impression for the future,” Riggleman said. “I just reminded them that the last couple of weeks of the season count. You can’t play with a lack of energy. If you do, it’s going to show up in somebody’s mind, and [that person] is going to be making decisions about your future in this organization.”

Nats first baseman Adam Dunn disagreed with Riggleman’s clubhouse assessment, saying that he didn’t think the team was flat — it just wasn’t hitting. “I was in the game, so I’m not going to sit here and say I was flat. I wasn’t, and I can only speak for myself,” Dunn said. “I’m going to say no, I don’t think we were flat. We ran against some guys that pitched pretty good. We are not swinging the bats very well. That’s been the case.” In spite of the team’s lackluster performance, the game seemed to mark a transformation in the season long journey of Garrett Mock, who pitched through seven innings. While the young starter gave up nine hits, he was effective enough to hold the Mets to four runs and seemed to slide through the New York order after a rough third frame. That’s been a pattern for Mock, but at least in New York on Sunday, he survived the rough patches. “Mock gave us four good innings after the damage was done. If that is a meaningful game, we might have to pinch-hit for him in the future,” Riggleman said. “You put your club behind — four runs in three innings — you don’t get those opportunities to pitch those next four innings and show how good you are.”

Nats Can’t Solve Phils … and Joe Torre’s Night

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The Washington Nationals just can’t seem to solve the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phuzzies’ 6-5 victory was a near thing for the Nats, who threatened all the way to the end — but could never get the timely hits they needed to win. Nor could the Nats rely on the normally dependable Tyler Clippard, who gave up back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning after the Nats had tied the game at four. “Clippard wasn’t locating his fastball,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “He has taken the ball and has done a good job, but the last couple of nights, he hasn’t been able to locate the fastball and has paid for it.”

Big innings made the difference: starter Garrett Mock suffered through an insufferable second frame, giving up a double, single, single, walk and single before pitching two ground-outs and a fly ball. The Phillies scored three: but the Nats were lucky it wasn’t more. Once again, the playoff bound Phillies relied on the long ball, with home runs by Jason Werth and Pedro Feliz. Phillies’ pitcher Cliff Lee wandered through an unsteady performance, yet somehow survived seven innings of 10 hit baseball to take the win. The big news of the night (for Phillies fans) was the dog that didn’t bark: Brad Lidge remained seated in the Phillies bullpen as Ryan Madson closed the door on the Nats in the 9th: a sign, perhaps, of things to come for the A.L. East leaders.

Phillies Nationals Baseball

Down On Half Street: Call it the reverse curse. Twenty-four hours after he was scoured by television commentators Rob Dibble and Bob Carpenter, Alberto Gonzalez lit up Nationals Park with a three-for-three outing — all of them doubles. Gonzalez amazing rehabilitation wasn’t enough to boost the sinking Nats past the Phuzzies on Wednesday, but it raised his average to .259 — two points better than Trolley third baseman (yes, you heard me right) Ronnie Belliard, described by the MASN on-air crew as a “very good hitter” (this is my soapbox, and I’ll be damned if I’ll get down from it) . . . Gonzalez’s doubles weren’t cheap: a second inning rope down the first base line, a fifth inning shot off the centerfield wall and a seventh inning scorcher to left-center . . .

It’s never too late to watch baseball. If you live in the near-suburbs of either Maryland or Virginia a quick car ride home from Nationals Park puts you in front of the television in about the fourth inning of the west coast games. Last night’s featured match-up was the ESPN Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks tussle in Phoenix. A Trolleys-Showboats match-up is always entertaining. But last night was especially so: outside of the pure enjoyment of watching righty wizard Dan Haren pitch, the game included some interesting in-dugout politics. Haren pitched his usual clever hit-the-strikezone-with-every-pitch game (it really is something to see) before the 7th, but in the seventh he put two men on with one gone. Sure enough out trotted Showboat manager A.J. Hinch. Haren gave him a glance coming out of the dugout and then looked away. It looked like he was going to vomit. Later, when Haren was sitting on the bench, Hinch went over to explain, but Haren just shook his head: he wouldn’t even look at him. Surprise, surprise: Hinch made the right call. Reliever Juan Gutierrez pitched the Dbacks out of the jam and Hinch looked like a genius. Proof positive of that old adage: even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes.

Joe Torre pulled out all of the stops in trying to win the game, including getting through a jam in the 9th. George Sherrill had pitched an effective eighth, but was relieved by Ramon Troncoso. Troncoso opened the ninth, and immediately threw an infield chopper hit by Gerardo Parra past the right ear of Dodger first baseman James Loney. Parra ended up on second. Torre was not amused. The next hitter, Ryan Roberts, sacrificed pinch runner Trent Oeltjen to third. So man on third, one out, with Showboat hitter and Dodger-slayer Stephen Drew coming to the plate. Torre, leaning on the dugout fence, smiled to himself and turned to pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who was studying the stats book: “Put him on?” Torre asked. Honeycutt didn’t really answer, he just nodded. “You sure?” Honeycutt nodded again.

So, man on first and third, one out, with no-joke Justin Upton walking to the batter’s box. “Again?” Torre asked. This time he wasn’t smiling. And Honeycutt, still eyeing the stats book, nodded again. And so Torre held up four fingers. But this time Troncoso looked in at Torre, his jaw slack, so out Joe trotted to give his pitcher some calcium. We might guess at what he had to say: “Now listen, kid, we’re setting up the double play here and giving you someone to pitch to. Reynolds follows Upton and he’s got more strikeouts than a middle aged man at a high school prom. So put this guy on and then throw strikes.” Troncoso didn’t like it, but what was he going to say? He shuffled a bit, threw four balls to Upton and turned to face Mark Reynolds. It was a near thing. Torre watched every pitch while Honeycutt continued staring at his stats book — and Troncoso walked in the winning run.

Dodgers Diamondbacks Baseball

Cards Sweep Nats; Ronnie To L.A.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Garrett Mock and Adam Wainwright threw a classic pitchers’ duel at Busch Stadium on Sunday, but the Nats fell to the Redbirds, 2-1 to drop the third game of a three game set. Mock and Wainwright traded pitch-for-pitch through six complete, until Mock left a 3-2 pitch up in the strike zone against Albert Pujols, which turned out to be the difference in the game. Pujols stroked the mistake into centerfield, ending the deadlock and giving the Cards the win. Both bullpens closed out the game in near-perfection, as Nats’ bats could not provide an answer against a trio of Cards’ pitchers. The Nats accounted for only four hits in the game: one each by Willingham, Dukes, Orr and Bard. It was a tough series for D.C. hitters — but a particularly tough last game, as they faced one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, and arguably one of the contenders for the Cy Young Award. The masterful Wainwright had only one shaky inning and is now 16-7 on the year. 

Garrett Mock dueled Adam Wainwright in St. Louis (AP/Tom Gannam)

Garrett Mock dueled Adam Wainwright in St. Louis (AP/Tom Gannam)

Sunday’s game was one of the best of the year by Mock, who was spotting his breaking stuff nearly perfectly. But the pitch to Pujols, Mock said, will probably keep him awake: “The pitch that’s going to cost me some sleep tonight is the one that he got a hit on that scored the second run,” Mock said. “I wasn’t trying to throw the ball there, obviously — not trying to throw the ball anywhere where he could hit it. I feel like I did do a good job of executing my pitches today, but that particular pitch, I’ve got to be better than that.” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had praise for Washington’s starter. “I just called Jim Riggleman and said, ‘Whoever decided to put Mock in the rotation, it was a good decision,'” La Russa said. “Boy, he was very good.”

After the game, the franchise announced the departure of Ronnie Belliard for the sunny climes of L.A., where he will find service with the Trolleys. Ronnie’s gotta be as pleased as punch to be headed to a contender, after riding the pines for most of the season behind Anderson Hernandez, now riding the pines for the Chokes, and Adrian Gonzalez. Not surprisingly, Belliard was of two minds on the trade: “I’m happy because I’m going to L.A. and that team is in first place,” he said. “But I’m sad because I am going to leave a lot of friends. I’ve been here for the last three years and I made a lot of friends.” Belliard had been playing well since the All Star break, hitting .325 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. He’d been getting more playing time. The Nats received minor league righthander Luis Garcia and a player to be named in the swap.


The Orioles might, truly, be one of the forgotten teams of baseball. Fated to play in the A.L. East, the little orange birds are mired in last place, 28 games behind the Yankees — and only eight wins better than the Nats. But there’s hope in Birdland, and not simply because the O’s have won six of their last 11. The team arguably now has one of the best outfields in all of baseball, a clear contender for the rookier of the year award, and perhaps one of the league’s premier young pitchers. All of this was on display on Sunday, when the O’s took on the Naps in Baltimore and coasted to an easy win behind the power arm of rookie Brian Matusz. All of 22, the former first round (fourth overall) pick in the 2008 draft, is the thinking man’s pitcher, who studies game-day videos of himself to determine how best to spot his killer curve, then adjusts his arm slot accordingly. Matusz threw 97 pitches yesterday, 67 of them for strikes. He held the Indians to four hits over seven innings.

Matusz isn’t a surprise: he’s a can’t miss pitcher who won’t miss. The surprise is Felix Pie — a former Cubbie who has now, shockingly, set down roots in left field after going through nearly three years of trying to figure out how to hit major league pitching. Pie has been on a tear, raising his average over the last two months to a respectable .272 and showing some power; he now has seven home runs (a laughable total, we suppose, except that the punch-and-judy Dominican wasn’t supposed to have any at all). Pie weighed in to help Matusz on Sunday, jacking a two run homer in the third. He’s hitting .383 since August 14.

Pie is a nice addition in the outfield, completing a trio that includes Adam Jones in center and Nick Markakis in right. If Jones was playing in New York or Boston, we venture to guess, people would be describing him for what he is: the best young outfielder in all of baseball. The Pie-Jones-Markakis trio has kicked Noland Reimold, a contender for rookie of the year, into the D.H. spot. Reimold’s hot bat has been a surprise for the MacPhail’s this year: the 25-year-old climbed his way, hand-over-hand through the Baltimore system, before the front office gave him a grudging look. He was a prospect that was once ranked near the bottom in the O’s system. But he’s produced and it looks like he’s in Baltimore to stay.

Okay: things aren’t all that great in Baltimore and the fans are restless. How can they be otherwise. The team is in last place. They’re certainly not going to win a pennant next year, or maybe even the year after. But the MacPhail plan is on track — and if the outfield of Pie, Jones and Markakis ever hit together, the Baltimore Orioles could become one of the most formidable teams in all of baseball and a challenger to “the nation” and the evil empire. With Matusz they have the beginnings of a young staff, the only other ingredient they need. And so, after an era of irrational interference from a know-it-all owner, the Orioles are finally on the right track. If they only had a little more pitching.

Felix Pie (left) is congratulate by Melvin Mora after homering against the Indians

Felix Pie (left) is congratulated by Melvin Mora after homering against the Indians

Nats Claw Orphans

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Any team can have a bad century, but the former White Stockings, Colts, Orphans and, now, Chicago Cubs are in line for a major league unprecedented 101st season without a championship. The Washington Nationals may well have put the final nail in the Cubs’ coffin for this season on Tuesday night with a 15-6 clobbering of the little bears at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The Nats’ onslaught was led by two home runs from Josh Willingham — including a touch-em-all that landed beyond the left field wall on Waveland Avenue — and a grand slam dinger from a struggling Elijah Dukes. After the game, the usually reticent Dukes said that he was “waiting for something that moved” from Cubs reliever Aaron Heilman, a Mets castoff with a suspiciously high ERA. And he got it. Dukes, who has been taking so much batting practice that he had to sit out two games after injuring his thumb in the batting cage, accounted for five RBIs while walking twice. Dukes, whose BA has been see-sawing all season, has a fairly hefty RBI total: it now stands at 51. And it’s true — Dukes has been hitting the ball with more confidence and authority (and to the opposite field), after being recalled from the minors.

Elijah Dukes Accounts for 5 RBIs (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

Elijah Dukes Accounts for 5 RBIs (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

Washington righthander Garrett Mock pitched 5.2 innings for the win, his third of the season. Mock looked good, if not overpowering, with a snappy fastball, but was lifted by interim manager Jim Riggleman for reliever Tyler Clippard. Clippard and Saul Rivera closed out the game. Riggleman’s habit of pulling starters early was on prominent display at Wrigley — he has a history of pulling the trigger on his starters, a habit he developed when he managed in Chicago, his first managing job. Mock was clearly upset by the decision, showing his irritation on the bench. In fact, there’s no reason why the young righthander couldn’t have gotten the third out in the fifth, particularly with the Nats leading (at that point) 9-1. In all, Mock threw 89 pitches, 59 of them for strikes: hardly an elbow shattering experience.

Down On Half Street: Bill Ladson is reporting that the Nats have signed Livan Hernandez to a major league contract. The team has sent Collin Balester to the minors to make room for Hernandez. On MASN after the conclusion of the Nats-Cubs tilt, Ray Knight described the news as “a potential coup” by Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo. Nationals pitchers can use the steadying influence of a veteran presence like Hernandez, Knight said. He added that the Nats also want to set a standard of winning, with important games coming, and Hernandez knows how to win. Hernandez was a fan favorite when he was with the Nats. The official release from the Nats reads, in part: “He will make his first start on Wednesday at Chicago (NL), while J.D. Martin (2-3, 4.76) will start Thursday’s series finale at Wrigley Field” . . .  Is “ambitioned” a word? In a column in the Washington Post this week, I thought I read Chico Harlan say that a Nats’ pitcher had “ambitioned” to be a pitcher all his life. So is it? Is “ambitioned” a word? I admit, I have efforted to find out, but I’ll be damned if I can find it in the dictionary . . .

The horror; the horror: I have gotten sliced and diced from Chicago Cubs fans, dozens of whom have written (well, okay, three of whom have written) to say that the Cubs are still young and tough and plenty fast and that they don’t need to be totally rebuilt. They point out that the North Side Drama Queens are set at shortstop (with Ryan Theriot), at second (with Jeff Baker), in left field (with Jake Fox), at catcher (with Geovany Soto) and have some new former Ahoy pitchers on the mound that will be the new guns of the future — in Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. Yeah, okay. Gorzelanny looked particularly effective tonight, giving up only three runs in one inning of work . . . so I’ll stick with my two interlocking predictions, contradictory as they might seem: if the Cubs make the playoffs this year (and I don’t think they will) then they’ll win it all — since this will mark the first year after the end of the Merkle Curse (alright, that’s lame, but you never know) but if they don’t win it all, then the Nationals will win the world series before they do. And frankly, I think the second prediction is a pretty safe bet.

Rocks Sweep Nats; Rizzo Rewarded

Friday, August 21st, 2009

On the day that Mike Rizzo shed the title “acting,” the Washington Nationals dropped their third straight to the Colorado Rockies, scoring only eight runs in the three game series. The Nats’ quiet bats took second spot to Rizzo’s reclamation, a “just dues” naming of a man who had recast the Nats floundering Dominican scouting infrastructure, stepped in for humiliated G.M. Jim Bowden, traded head-case Lasting Milledge for the team’s regular centerfielder, revamped the Nats embarrassing bullpen, replaced manager Manny Acta with interim manager Jim Riggleman, and signed baseball’s first overall pick, Stephen Strasburg. Rizzo was named G.M. on the basis of his work as interim G.M., a source with the ballclub said on Thursday.

Team president Stan Kasten had nothing but praise for Rizzo: “In March, we had the turmoil that we had,” Kasten said. “We asked Mike to step in, and every job that needed [to be] done got handled flawlessly. Since that time, all Mike has done is gain respect from everyone in our organization, all the fans in D.C. and baseball people throughout the country.” What may well be Rizzo’s most important accomplishment will be on display on Friday, as first overall pick Stephen Strasburg appears at Nationals Park to answer questions from fans and reporters. On Thursday, Rizzo outlined the goals that he had for the team in his new position: “We understand that we have a young talented rotation,” Rizzo said. “We need an anchor at the top, some type of veteran starting pitcher. My philosophy is speed and defense, especially up the middle — have your big bats in the corners. We are going to take that into account. We have to stabilize a bullpen that has not performed up to standard.”

The good news on Rizzo did not help the Nats against the Rockies on Thursday night. Despite Garrett Mock’s solid outing (five innings, 3 hits and eight strikeouts), the Nats were outdueled by Colorado starter Jason Hammel, who gave the Rockies seven innings of three-hit ball. Colorado’s scoring was once again led by Rockies’ rookie Carlos Gonzalez — who was particularly effective against the Nats during the three game series. The Rockies head home to face the San Francisco Giants, with whom they are tied in the race for the NL Wild Card spot.

Garrett Mock was solid on Thursday (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Garrett Mock was solid on Thursday (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Mock Tames Reds

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

In the immediate aftermath of one of this season’s more-than-typical collapses — in which nothing worked — the Washington Nationals rebounded for a 2-0 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds, in which everything worked. Garrett Mock, on the heels of a steady start against the Showboats (which he won 5-2) pitched a six inning gem and the Nats took the second game of the four game set against the Redlegs 2-0. Mock got into trouble in the sixth inning, when he loaded the bases, but he was able to pitch out of the jam. Other than that, Cincy’s bats remained silent and Mock remained steady; he threw 101 pitches, 59 of them for strikes.

After a shaky outing on Thursday, the Nats’ bullpen was superb, with Jorge Sosa, Sean Burnett, Jason Bergman and Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal blanking Dusty Baker’s pitching-light Red Stockings through three perfect innings. MacDougal sailed through the ninth, recording his twelfth save. The game could not have been scripted any better: the starting pitching was strong, the relievers looked untouchable and (while the Nats were not overpowering at the plate) the Anacostia nine got hits when they needed them — on improbable solo shots from Wil Nieves and Ronnie Belliard.

Garrett Mock

Down On Half Street: The clock is ticking on the deadline for signing first overall pitching messiah Stephen Strasburg. Bill Ladson and the Washington Times are reporting that the Nats met with Strasburg last week in Southern California. Ladson reports that team officials came away from their meeting impressed by the young righthander. If he is signed, Strasburg may be called to the big club in September . . . It seems notionally true, particularly in the wake of Jordan Zimmermann’s impending Tommy John surgery, that the Nats may need Strasburg more than ever. But that knife (so to speak) cuts both ways. The Nats are in a need of a young starter — true — but Zimmermann’s injury points up the fragility of young arms, particularly as the Nats were careful not to overpitch J.Z., setting strict limits on his pitch and game numbers . . .

As Ladson points out, David Clyde and Ben McDonald are the only other two pitchers in MLB history to be drafted #1 and pitch in the majors in the same year. Clyde was rushed into the Rangers’ rotation (as a way of bringing fans to the park) and didn’t pan out, while McDonald battled arm problems during a curtailed career . . . Scott Boras is apparently telling reporters that Strasburg deserves the same level contract (about $50 million) as Daisuke Matsuzaka. If true, Boras may want to rethink his peroration: Dice-K is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA and is battling “shoulder fatigue. He is probably out for the season . . . Everyone is remaining silent on the Nats’ chances and most particularly Strasburg’s agent; but that’s not unusual for Scott Boras, who usually negotiates to the last second . . .

Friars Sizzle Nats

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

The San Diego Padres capitalized on four Washington Nationals’ errors Friday night to take the first of a three-game set from our Anacostia Boys, 6-2. After taking two of three from the Mets, the Nats reverted to the sloppy defense that had characterized the first part of their season: two errant throws to first base, a dropped pop-up in foul territory and the misplay of a rolling double in the left field corner. That’s one error on Garrett Mock, one on Jason Bergman, one error on catcher Josh Bard and one on left fielder Adam Dunn. “It was just a bad effort,” interim Manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.

Trade Winds: The St. Louis Cardinals got their man, trading three prospects to the Oakland A’s for outfielder Matt Holliday. The key to the trade for Oakland was the acquistion of third baseman Brett Wallace, who may eventually end up at first for the white elephants. The former Rockie, Holliday paid immediate dividends for the Redbirds, going four for five with one RBI in the Cardinals 8-1 win over the Phillies. Beset by uncertainty over their own financial situation — and with ownership of the ballclub undetermined — the Cubs will have difficulty matching the Cardinals’ upgrade. The Holliday trade reflects the kind of mid-season moves that both the Cards and Cubs are noted for: needing a big bat in May of last year, the Cubs signed free agent Jim Edmonds — a move that fueled their run to the NL Central flag. This year, it’s the Astros who need the bat, particularly after it was announced that Astros’ first baseman Lance Berkman was being sent to the DL for a calf strain.


New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The news in the NL Central will have an immediate impact on the Nats: it effectively takes the Cardinals out of the running for Adam Dunn (whose availability they reportedly inquired about this last week), while Berkman’s injury puts Nick Johnson on the table for the Astros. Houston called up Edwin Maysonet from triple-A Round Rock to take Berkman’s place, but he’s not the answer at first. The regular first base backup is Darin Erstad, but he’s also injured. Johnson seems a perfect fit for the Astros, with his high OBP and good glove. Astros’ players say they will “step up” to replace Berkman, but it will be difficult to replicate his numbers. “I’ll just say Lance, being honest and sincere, is a piece of our team that is going to be difficult to replace,” Astros’ outfielder Carlos Lee, who leads the team in RBIs, said. “The quality of player and what he means to this lineup, it’s going to be difficult to replace Lance. I think we’ll have to get it together and carry all the weight.”

Trade rumors involving Nationals’ players have escalated over the last week: the Phillies are said to be interested in Josh Willingham, the Tigers in Willingham and Dunn and, most recently, the Rangers have reportedly sent scouts to look at Nationals’ hitters. The Nats are said to be looking for “prospects” — primarily pitchers. The trade of Willingham to the Phillies becomes less likely if the Phuzzies pony up a handful of their best prospects (and pitcher J.A. Happ) to Toronto for Roy Halladay. And shipping Dunn or Willingham to Detroit (where the Nats are said to be scouting the Tigers’ double-A affiliate) seems perverse — trading players who are actually performing for a bunch of 21-year-olds who might (or might not) turn into major league players. That we got. Then too, a trade of Willingham to either Philly or Detroit means that we will be forced to watch a struggling Austin “Mendoza” Kearns (.198) learn how to hit. A good decision — but only if you want to drive what’s left of your fanbase out of the ballpark.