Posts Tagged ‘houston astros’

Nats Fall In Home Opener, 2-1

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

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A sellout crowd of over 42,000 rabid Nationals’ fans watched as Washington dropped its home opener to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1 on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. The game was marred by a controversy involving a replay and three questionable Nationals’ base running gaffes.

The controversy erupted in the bottom of the 5th inning, when Washington’s Ian Desmond hit a ball down the left field line that skittered to the base of the outfield wall. Atlanta left fielder Justin Upton threw up his hands, claiming the ball had become lodged under the tarp as Desmond circled the bases.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that Upton threw up his hands (here is the video of the play) to indicate his inability to get to the ball, then picked it up and winged it back into the infield — but too late to nab Desmond. As the crowd chanted “home run, home run,” the umpires decided to review the play and, after consulting with replay officials in New York, awarded Desmond second base on a ground rule double. The decision took a Washington run off the board.

“One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure that we get the calls right. I have a question with that one, though, because of what happened after the fact,” Washington manager Matt Williams said after the game. “The fact that when he had to, he reached down and threw it in.”

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The reversal of the Desmond home run kept the Nationals from tying the Braves, who went on to score the winning run on a Chris Johnson sacrifice fly in the top of the 8th. The Nationals were also victimized by over-aggressiveness on the bases: Bryce Harper was caught between first and second and tagged out in the bottom of the second, Adam LaRoche was sent home and tagged out at the plate in the 4th and Desmond was caught between second and third after his ground rule double in the 5th.

Williams, who has said he will bring a more aggressive approach to the team, admitted that Desmond was probably over-anxious when he broke for third and was caught stealing in the 5th. “We want to take advantage of it when it’s there for us, but we also want to make sure that we are sure in that situation, so it was little overaggressive,” he confirmed.

Despite the loss, the Nationals continued to show that they have a more potent offense this year than last, outhitting the Braves 8-6. The team also got a solid start from Jordan Zimmermann, who threw five solid innings of four hit ball. The only Zimmermann hiccup was a home run off of the bat of Evan Gattis, subduing the sell-out crowd.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about the Yankees’ Thursday tilt against the Astros in Houston, excepting for the 26,000-plus Houston fans who came to the ballpark expecting to see former free agent and Yankee newbie Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. Instead, he was on the bench because (as Yankee manager Joe Girardi noted) “he needed a rest . . .”

The decision brought derisive comments from baseball analysts, who questioned whether signing a player like Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and then sitting him makes any sense. Ever. Don’t teams sign players in order to play them? MLB Radio’s Jim Bowden, the former Nationals’ G.M., hooted the Ellsbury decision during his Sirius XM talk show yesterday . . .

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Cardinals Sweep The Nats, 4-1

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

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With their chances of a playoff berth at an end, the Washington Nationals played flat in St. Louis on Wednesday, losing to the Cardinals, 4-1. The loss notched a St. Louis sweep of the Nationals in the three game set and put the Cardinals a single game from winning the N.L. Central crown.

The loss also ensured that Washington righty Jordan Zimmermann will not reach twenty wins on the season, his 2013 campaign finishing at 19-9. The Cardinals were led by rookie pitcher Shelby Miller, who stifled Nats’ hitters through six innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run.

The St. Louis offense was not overwhelming, but it was enough to seal the win: St. Louis got its first run on a Matt Carpenter ground out that scored Daniel Descalso in the 3rd, a Yadier Molina single that scored two runs in fourth and a Matt Adams home run in the bottom of the 6th.

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The Cardinals have dominated the Nationals following their victory against them in the playoffs in 2012. The Nationals have faced the Cards six times this year and lost every game; they were swept in Washington in April (in three close games) and, now, in St. Louis in September.

“I’ll tell you: They kicked our butt in just about every aspect of the game,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said in the clubhouse after this team was swept yesterday. “I tip my hat to them. Matheny has done a good over there, I wish them luck. They had their way with us.”

In each of the two series this year, the Nationals have had trouble scoring runs off the Cardinals pitching staff. The key in the most recent series has been the St. Louis relief corps, and on Wednesday four Cardinal relievers (Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal) combined to hold the Nationals to a single hit and no runs.

“The Cardinals have done a good job with their pitching staff. They have good starters, but I think what sets them apart is their bullpen,” right fielder Jayson Werth acknowledged after Wednesday’s loss. “The bullpen is good. They have a lot of velocity and they have a lot of depth.”

MLB relief statistics show just how effective Cardinal relievers have been — they’ve given up just 3.74 runs per game, good enough for fifth best in baseball and are particularly good when holding a lead (fourth best in the National League). More impressive still is that the Cardinals relief corps is young: each of the four relievers on Wednesday were rookies.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The media powers that be are yakking about the “unbalanced schedule” in baseball, the topic providing running commentaries yesterday on both Mike & Mike on ESPN and then, later in the evening, on the MLB Network . . .

“The schedule is designed with the division races in mind,” Jayson Stark noted on ESPN. “For the first time every team in a division plays essentially the same schedule.” The problem (Stark noted) is that while baseball’s schedule emphasizes division rivalries (with each team in a division playing other division rivals up to nineteen times) that unbalance has a significant impact on the Wild Card races . . .

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Zimmerman Foils Wacha’s No Hit Bid

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

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Cardinals’ starter Michael Wacha came within a single out of no-hitting the Nationals on Tuesday night, but a Ryan Zimmerman infield bounder put the Nationals in the hit column as St. Louis went on to down Washington, 2-0. Wacha, who entered the game at 3-1 after a swift rise through the minors, threw 112 pitches before being lifted after Zimmerman’s single.

“For a kid to do that against a lineup like that, at this point in the season, it’s hard to get your head around it,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said after the victory. Zimmerman, who Wacha struck out twice prior to his single hit, also praised the young righty. “He pitched great. He really had his stuff going,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s bounder hit in front of the pitcher’s mound and flew over Wacha as the young pitcher reached for it. It hit off his glove, but was fielded by shortstop Peter Kozma, who flipped the ball to first baseman Matt Adams, who swiped at Zimmerman but missed him.

After the hit, Matheny brought in reliever Trevor Rosenthal to close out the game. Rosenthal ended it on six fastballs to Jayson Werth, who grounded out sharply to first baseman Adams. “I guess it just wasn’t to be,” Wacha said of his short-circuited no hitter. “But it was still a pretty special night.”

Wacha’s performance overshadowed a solid outing from Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who threw seven innings while striking out six and giving up six hits. Drew Storen shut the Cardinals down at the end of the eighth, setting up the tumultuous 9th inning. It was Gonzalez’s eighth loss on the year against eleven wins.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “Don’t be surprised if the Indians, losers of 94 games a year ago, turn out to this year’s Orioles,” Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen said back in March. Cleveland fans apparently didn’t believe him, accounting for the third worst attendance in baseball this year . . .

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Braves Rally Downs The Nats, 5-2

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

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A three run sixth inning overcame an early two run deficit, and the Atlanta Braves hung on to down the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, 5-2. The Atlanta victory, combined with Cincinnati’s extra inning win in Houston, increased the odds against the Nats catching the Reds for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

Wednesday’s game started well enough, with Washington putting two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 5th inning on a bases loaded walk to Jayson Werth and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Bryce Harper. And Ross Ohlendorf was cruising, putting down Braves’ hitters with a snappy fastball and effective curve.

But Atlanta responded to the Nats’ fifth by mounting a rally in the top of the next frame, on a home run from Dan Uggla, a bunt single from Jordan Schafer (who later scampered to third on an Ohlendorf throwing error) and Justin Upton’s 26th home run of the year. The Nats could not surmount this challenge and failed to score in each of the last four innings.

“I just made a couple of bad pitches in the sixth,” Ohlendorf said following the loss. “I thought I pitched well after [Schafer] got on third. But I made a bad pitch to Upton. He did a good job hitting it. I felt strong the whole time. I felt it’s probably as good as I’ve pitched. I’m just disappointed how it turned out.”

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The Nationals had a good chance to catch the Braves in the bottom of the 7th, after a Denard Span single to single to right field (which extended his hitting streak to 29 consecutive games) and a Jayson Werth walk. But with two out, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond flew out to right field to end the rally.

The Nationals ended up taking two of three games from Atlanta, a positive result at any other time during the season. But with under ten games left in the 2013 campaign, and with Washington trailing the Redlegs by 5.5 games, the team knew the series victory wasn’t enough.

“At this point, we know we can’t lose, but we did. We definitely could have won today and should have won,” Span said of the Washington loss. “With 10 games left … right now, it’s a must-win every day. That’s the way we have to approach each and every day from here on out.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Cincinnati’s victory last night in the 13th inning against Houston notched a Redlegs’ sweep of the former N.L. cellar dwellers and seemed to all-but-cinch a playoff spot for the Queen City franchise. The Red have nine games to play, three of them against the no-account Mets . . .

The Nailbiters have at least made it interesting for the Nationals since early September: they split a four game series against the Cardinals, then swept the Trolleys in three itchy-close games (3-2, 4-3 and then 3-2), but dropped two series in a row, against the Cubs and Brewers respectively . . .

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Nats Stun The Braves: Twice

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals have made the improbable now possible, stunning the Atlanta Braves in a split doubleheader on Tuesday, winning a come-from-behind first game in the bottom of the 9th inning, 6-5, then coming back to tame Atlanta 4-0 in the nightcap. The twin wins kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

The Nationals seemed headed for defeat in the first game of the twin bill, trailing Atlanta by a score of 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. But the Nationals scored three runs on a walk to Adam LaRoche, a Wilson Ramos infield single, an Anthony Rendon walk, a fielder’s choice that scored LaRoche and a walk-off error from the usually sure-handed Andrelton Simmons.

The Simmons error came off the bat of Washington’s Denard Span, capping a three run rally that sparked a mass celebration by the Nationals. The rally marked a day in which the team and fans paid homage to those who had died at the nearby Navy Yard at the hands of a lone gunman on Monday. The Nats wore emblematic Navy hats as a tribute prior to the game.

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Atlanta had trailed 3-0 in the game, but a furious comeback from the Braves in the 8th inning gave Atlanta a one run lead, which they expanded by a run in the 9th inning. The 8th inning comeback victimized sure-armed reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a walk to Freedie Freeman, following by an Evan Gattis home run — his 20th of the year.

“He felt terrible,” Nationals starter Dan Haren said of Clippard following the victory. “He was yelling for 15 minutes straight, screaming in the locker room. How many times has the guy picked us up this year in huge games? Has so many holds. The guy pitches six out of seven days. The guy has been money all year.”

But Clippard’s frustration couldn’t match that felt by Atlanta fireballer Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most effective closer in the National League in 2013. Kimbrel had converted 37 straight save opportunities before Tuesday, but couldn’t survive the Simmons’ error.

“Any time I go out there and don’t do my job, it’s a tough one to swallow, because my job is to go out there and solidify what everybody else has done the entire game,” Kimbrel said following his blown save. “Everybody worked their butts off all game long. We battled back and took a lead.”

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Is Good “Clubhouse Chemistry” Overrated?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

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This last Wednesday, the Washington Post’s Mike Wise penned an article that was sure to raise some hackles in the Nats’ clubhouse. Under the headline “Nationals could use a refresher in team dynamics,” Wise opined that the Nats might you might consider the Anacostia Nine a “family,” but only if the term is preceded by the word “dysfunctional.”

Wise baldly stated that the Nats had “mishandled” Drew Storen this season and that, in doing so, we have “a window into a culture of doing business, one the franchise might have to re-think at some point before it goes beyond their clubhouse.”

Wise didn’t exactly say that the Nats’ clubhouse was in chaos, or that the team was fighting with its own front office, but the implication was clearly there. The Wise piece was followed by a Nationals Journal article by Adam Kilgore that opened with the words “simmering resentment” — hardly a description of clubhouse amity.

It impossible for us to pass judgement on Wise or Kilgore’s description of what’s happening inside the Nationals (they’re the beat reporters, we’re hardly), but we’re not entirely convinced that “good clubhouse chemistry” (or, as Wise puts it, good “team dynamics”), is a sophisticated indicator of how a team is doing.

The 1977 New York “Bronx Is Burning” Yankees counter the notion that you have to have “good clubhouse chemistry” to win. Manager Billy Martin and star Reggie Jackson repeatedly clashed, owner George Steinbrenner regularly criticized Martin’s managing skills: and the team went on to win the World Series in six games over the Dodgers.

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Werth, Desmond “Eat” Philadelphia’s “Face”

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

After losing to the Phillies on Tuesday, Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth sat in front of his locker at Citizens Bank Park and talked about how his team needs to start winning. “You’ve got to show up tomorrow ready to eat somebody’s face,” he said.

Werth said it with a smile, but he meant it — and that’s exactly what the Washington Nationals did on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, as an 11th inning grand slam home run off the bat of Ian Desmond provided a thrilling, and badly needed, 6-2 victory over the Phillies.

Desmond’s home run came after a single from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span tying the game in the top of the 9th. But unlike the Nationals showing in the first game of the series, when the team also tied Philadelphia in the 9th, this time the Nats’ bullpen propelled the Anacostia Nine into extra frames, setting up Desmond’s heroic blast.

“Ian is quite a character. He got a lot of big hits for us in the past,” skipper Davey Johnson said of Desmond’s home run. “The only thing that I worry about sometimes is that he tries too hard. It seemed like he was a little too geared up, and then when he got to two strikes, he shortened up and he crushed that ball.”

Werth and Desmond’s late innings offensive put a coda on what was one of lefty Gio Gonzalez’s better outings of the year. While the Nationals’ southpaw came away without a decision on Wednesday, he held the Phillies to just two hits over seven innings, while striking out eleven.

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