Posts Tagged ‘Javier Vazquez’

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 . . .

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Vazquez Shuts Down The Nats

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Veteran righty Javier Vazquez, who has done much to retrieve an otherwise poor season, pitched the Florida Marlins to a 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Friday night. Vazquez held the anemic Nationals to just five hits, notching a win over Washington lefty John Lannan.

The Marlins’ victory ended a five game winning streak from the home town nine, quieting a line-up that had scored ten runs in its last outing against the New York Mets. “You have to tip your hat — Vazquez pitched a heck of a ballgame,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I thought we had a chance to get to him. He was coming right after us. He threw a lot of fastballs. We hit a couple of balls hard but couldn’t mount anything.”

Nationals starter Lannan was not sharp, but seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He ended up pitching six innings of eight hit baseball, but took the loss — which brought his record to 9-13. Lannan’s ERA, meanwhile, remains more than just respectable — at 3.68 for the year. Craig Stammen pitched well in relief, thus putting himself in the running for a slot out of the bullpen in 2012. Stammen’s ERA now stands at a wizard-like 1.35.

The Marlins seem to have the Nats’ number. They are 25-8 against the Nationals over the last four seasons, and always play them tough. “We didn’t play badly,” shortstop Ian Desmond said of the loss. “Vazquez just pitched well. They were ready to go, and we were a little less.”

You Want To Hear Intenseness? You Can’t Handle Intenseness: Mets manager Terry Collins blew up at his team in front of the press on Thursday — following the Madoff’s 10-1 loss to the Nationals in New York. “Perception is reality in our game and the perception I have right now is weíve folded it up,” Collins said. “You want to see intenseness? You want to see me be intense? You guys are going to see it . . . Our fans should be upset. I donít blame them one bit.”

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Vazquez Dominates Nats

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Faced with a must-win situation, the Atlanta Braves stayed in the race for a wild card birth in the N.L. playoffs with a three-hit shutout pitched by Chops’ ace Javier Vazquez. Vazquez was brilliant in his nine inning, 4-1 complete game outing, though John Lannan was nearly as good: the Nats’ hard luck lefthander pitched seven innings of six hit ball, giving up runs to errors and a hit lost in the lights. The Nats had one chance to give Vazquez something to think about¬†– in the fourth inning,¬†but Ryan¬†Zimmerman was stranded at second as Josh Willingham and Pete Orr flied out. The only Nats’ run came on a solo shot by Josh Bard.¬† The Nats were once again victimized by poor play: an error by Pete Orr, a ball lost in the lights, a fly ball that should have been caught but wasn’t. This was the Nats 101st loss of the season, but the win leaves the Braves just three games behind the Colorado Rockies, who have lost two.

Down On Half Street: Nats 320 has a transcript of Josh Willingham’s fan appearance at ESPN Zone (a public service,¬†that).¬†Willingham’s comments on the differences between playing at Sh-ti¬†Field as compared to¬†Shea Stadium¬†are interesting. He can’t quite admit that he thinks the new home of the Mets is¬†a terrible park, but he comes close. “I didn‚Äôt get to play in New Yankee Stadium because I was home. But as far as Shea Stadium and Citi Field, there is absolutely no comparison. Citi Field is so big. The wall is so tall. And like I was saying, when you are running for a ball in the gap in left centerfield‚ÄĒit never ends” . . .

It’s old news, but Nats Farm Authority has Nationals roster for the Instructional League. All¬†eyes are already on Stephen Strasburg — and Drew Storen. But, there are others to watch, including forgotten fireballer Josh Smoker. Once upon a time, in a draft far far away, Smoker was a left handed fireballing supplemental first round prodigy: and all things to all men. Then he went¬†0-4 at Hagerstown, before ending up in the Gulf League. He reported a little tightness in his shoulder and ended¬†up¬†under the knife with a couple of bloody bone spurs rolling around on the shiny¬†steel table beside him.¬†It’ll be interesting to see how he does. The Nats insist that he’ll be ready for spring training. With all the attention on Strasburg, it’s easy to forget Smoker, who’s only 20 . . . ¬†

 

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Tomahawks¬†are on a run — they have won three in a row and 13 of their last 16. Vazquez has carried the team on his arm — in his last four outings he’s 4-0 with a 0.72 ERA. Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens have provided the Braves with an almost unbeatable one-two punch over the last two weeks, just in time to challenge the Rockies.¬†With all the buzz¬†about the L.A. and San Francisco pitching staffs, the¬†troubles with¬†Phuzzy closer and emergent head case Brad Lidge, the oohing and ahhing over Carpenter and Wainwright and the very predictable Gammonization of Dice-K (isn’t he wonderful, isn’t he fantastic, isn’t he just¬†something), Jurrjens has been lost in the chaff. He’s had one bad outing in the last ten games and has the sixth best ERA in baseball. The heat of the September wild card race has made him pitch better: like Vazquez, he’s won three in a row. If you squeeze your eyelids together real tight and furrow your brow and think real hard you can imagine¬†what he might become: he’s 23.

If you’re from my generation (those of us born before the Reformation), it’s hard to think of the Braves as a pitching dependent team. The franchise has a history of breeding legendary sluggers¬†: from Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews to Bob Horner¬†and Chipper Jones. Even when the Braves were bad they could count on the bat of at least one slugger to make headlines — with a¬†Rico Carty or Dale Murphy or Chris Chambliss (or Sarge, for that matter) providing the lumber.¬†Even in the 1990s, when the Braves were on their historic run, the triumverate of Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux were complimented by a trio of titans,¬†all “hitterish” — Chipper and Justice (that bane, that bum) and (of course) Fred McGriff.

But not this year.

The Chops’ top ’09¬†on base guy is Adam LaRoche (a mid-season acquisition), their dominant long-ball artist is catcher Brian McCann (with a measly 20) and their¬†spark plug is slash-and-burn singles hitter and glove man Martin Prado. Ryan Church, brought aboard to provide some spark (as well as a warm body¬†stand-in for dearly departed Jeff Francoeur — whom the Braves couldn’t wait to dump) is slumping –¬†with just four dingers.¬†Worse yet, the normally dependable Chipper Jones has 17 home runs, well below his average, and is struggling at the plate. Finally, Nate McLouth, the former Ahoy and mid-season “steal,” not only looks average, he is: he’s hitting .264. That leaves the hopes of a post-season pinned firmly on Vazquez, Jurrjens and all-around clutch pitcher and tantrum thrower¬†Derek Lowe. Add rookie phenom Tommy Hanson and a solid bullpen (saves leader Rafael Soriano — and¬†set-up artist Mike Gonzalez) and you can see why Braves’ fans are excited. With a handful-plus games to go the Braves’ll need¬†some help from the suddenly wobbly Rockies, but don’t count ‘em out.

The Battle of …

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Atlanta Logo

Having finally returned to Peachtree and Sweet Auburn after a west coast swing, and now within striking distance of both the Wild Card (they’re 3.5 back) and the division title (they trail the Phuzzies by 4.5),¬†you might guess that Braves fans would be excited by their team’s chances.¬†Guess again. Despite¬†taking three of four from the Dodgers (and going 5-2 on their recent road trip), Braves’ bloggers (but, most especially Talking Chop) report a distinctive lack of fan confidence in the team.¬†Or perhaps it’s just anxiety about the future:¬†their next stretch features twelve of fifteen games at home¬†(where the Braves are always tough), including¬†two¬†against the surging (well, “red hot“) Nationals and then three¬†against the Phillies.¬†August will¬†be a make-or-break month for the Chops: after facing¬†the Nats and Phillies (and a one game break to play the Showboats), the Braves take on the Mets (in New York) and Marlins. At the end of the month they travel to Philadelphia for three. So this is it for the¬†Atlanta nine: by August 31¬†they’ll know whether they’ll be¬†playing baseball in October — or teeing off to play 18.¬†

Atlanta fans are worriers. The Braves seem at the top of their game — two of their knock-downs in L.A. were decided by a Braves’ starting rotation that has finally come together. Tough-as-nails Javier Vazquez might be the best reflection of the way the Braves play. He’s gritty, low key and plays better when the pressure’s on. While the world ooohs and aaahs over Tommy Hanson (and for good reason,¬†methinks), Vazquez has become the workhorse of the Atlanta rotation, posting a 10-7 record and a snappy 2.90 ERA. Vazquez eats innings — he’s notched over 200 innings per season in seven of his twelve years in the majors. Vazquez pitched a gem against the Trolleys on Sunday, going eight innings while giving up only five hits.¬†The knock against Vazquez is that he’s good until the end of the fifth or sixth — but can’t close out opponents who see him the third time through the line-up. But Vazquez has all but erased that rap this year: he’s walked only 32 (32!) in 155 innings and surrendered¬†129 hits. He’s second in the N.L. in strikeouts with 171.

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Vazquez has always been underrated and underappreciated: he was trade bait in Montreal (where he was swapped to the Yanks for¬†Nick Johnson), then in New York (he was swapped for Randy Johnson), then in Arizona (he was swapped for Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizcaino and Chris Young — who’s now back in triple-A) and then in Chicago (where he was sent packing — get this — in exchange for Brent Lillbridge and three minor leaguers). He may have finally found a permanent home in Atlanta.

Don’t get me wrong: Vazquez is only one of the reasons Atlanta has a shot in the east. Atlanta G.M. Frank Wren has spent the last month snapping off surprise deals: getting Nate McLouth from Pittsburgh to cover the yawning gap in center, acquiring¬†Ryan Church¬†for the overexposed and dissatisfied Jeff Francoeur¬†and bringing Adam LaRoche back to Turner Field for¬†Casey Kotchman. In three swift moves, Wren said¬†”not yet”¬†to “can’t miss” centerfield prospect Jordan Schafer (.204 in 50 games), rid the team of a complainer, and shipped out an unpopular player — all while filling three desperate needs with better-than-average talent. And he’s done this all while bringing in a free-be¬†in rookie pitcher Tommy Hanson who, at 6-6/220 looks like his release point is about halfway to home.¬†

So Atlanta fans are anxious? Well, ain’t we all. But after their recent 5-2 road trip — and a starting staff that matches up well against the Phillies¬†(even with Cliff¬†Lee) –¬†the Braves are poised to give the Phuzzies a run for the NL East flag. Two months ago no one would have given a nickel for their chances; now no one’ll bet against em.¬†The good news for the Nats is that they won’t have to face¬†the up-and-in Vazquez in the¬†Battle of Atlanta. The bad news is that they’ll be facing Tommy Hanson instead.¬†The Nationals Nine¬†will attempt¬†to extend their eight game winning streak when they send John Lannan to the mound against the Braves at Turner Field tomorrow night.