Posts Tagged ‘Joe Torre’

Desmond Pounds The Cubs: Streak Now At Five

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Ian Desmond went 3-4, which included a home run and an RBI double, and the Nationals won their fifth in a row in downing the Chicago Cubs, 7-3 at Nationals Park. Desmond’s hitting came at just the right time: Jayson Werth is poised to go on the D.L. and Bryce Harper sat out with an ingrown toenail.

While the Cubs pounded out more hits than the Nationals (10 vs. 9), Washington made their at-bats count: the Nationals left only eight men on base during the game, while the Cubs stranded 15.

“I go out there and try to play to win,” Desmond said after the victory. “It seems like every year that I’ve been here, we have gotten a little bit better. That’s all you could really ask for as a player”

The Nationals feasted off the fastball pitching of Chicago Cubs’ ace Jeff Samardzija, who gave up five earned runs in five innings. “I needed to make a couple better pitches and get out of those innings with no damage and get your offense back in the dugout to score some runs,” Samardzija said.

Washington lefty Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, was able to scatter eight Chicago hits over 6.2 innings of work, with steady Craig Stammen throwing 2.1 innings in solid relief. The victory marked Detwiler’s second win of the season, while Stammen sports an impressive 2.65 ERA in 17 innings of work.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Angel Hernandez was behind the plate for last night’s Nationals-Cubs match-up, and his strike zone was as wiggy as it’s always been. Hernandez is at the center of the storm over a blown call in Cleveland on Thursday. Given Hernandez’s reputation, that’s hardly a surprise . . .

The Hernandez home run controversy is now legion: with two outs in the top of the 9th, the A’s Adam Rosales launched a shot into the stands at Progressive Field which bounced off a railing above the fence and back onto the field. The umpiring crew called it a double, then retreated to the clubhouse to review the videotape . . .

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Stammen Takes A Bite Of The Apples

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Craig Stammen’s up-and-down season (and it’s been spent mostly down, in Syracuse) headed upwards on Tuesday — as the former 2010 starting hurler and career .217 hitter put a single into right field, then scored the winning run on a Ryan Zimmerman RBI to give the Nationals another 3-2 victory in New York. Stammen’s heroics at the plate were matched by those on the mound, as he picked up the win in relief.

Stammen has not been with the big club that often this year, but when he has he’s produced, accumulating a 1.93 ERA in very limited exposure. Even so, Stammen’s time in Washington, while measly, has been impressive, and Davey Johnson confirms that the righty is in the running for a spot in the bullpen for 2012.

Stammen’s outing, and the win, brought praise from the Nationals’ skipper, who is testing farm arms with an eye towards next year: “That is the second time I’ve seen him since the callup,” Johnson said following the game. “I’ve really been impressed with the way he is throwing the ball. I gave him a couple of days rest. He was sharp. I’m pleased with what I’m seeing.”

The Nationals win came after the Mets scored two runs in the fifth off Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang. Wang has struggled in the first inning of his outings this year, but he broke that mold on Tuesday, allowing a double and three singles to a line-up that had little trouble smacking the ball around the yard. In all, Wang pitched five complete innings, but he gave up nine hits — not a stellar outing from an arm that Nats hope will fill a hole in the back of the starting rotation next year.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There’s a lot of hubbub in New York, and around baseball, about baseball’s decision that the Mets would not be allowed to wear NYPD and NYFD hats on 9/11 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s U.S. attack. After the Mets loss to the Nationals on Monday, Mets manager Terry Collins said that, because of the controversy, his team was not focused on the game . . .

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Nats Nipped In St. Louis

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Jordan Zimmermann pitched solidly and steadily in the second game of a day-night doubleheader, but could not come away with a win, as the Washington Nationals dropped the third game of their set with the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-3. Zimmermann threw six complete innings, and while he gave up eight hits and five runs, he kept the Nats in the game. The Cardinals Jaime Garcia and the St. Louis bullpen (thought to be the Redbirds’ weak spot), pitched better: holding the Nationals to five hits and one earned run.

The St. Louis hero was Houston retread Lance Berkman, who collected two singles, a double and two RBIs. Baseball fans remain skeptical of St. Louis skipper Tony LaRussa’s decision to set Berkman down in right field, but Berkman was been the spark for a slow-starting Cardinals’ offense. Last night’s win over the Anacostia Nine continued that early-season tradition: “The ball doesn’t know how old you are or how much experience you’ve got,” Berkman said after the victory. The Nats are set to take on the Cardinals again today, for the final game of their four game series.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The big news in baseball is Bud Selig’s decision that Major League Baseball will take control of the day-to-day running of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Trolleys are in a heap of trouble — with the owner looking for ways to meet the payroll. This is the second time in three seasons that this has happened: Major League Baseball took over the Rangers when its owner (Tom Hicks) ran up debts. The Texas team was then (in January of 2010) sold to a consortium of business people that included Nolan Ryan. That was last year — the year the Rangers surprised baseball and ended up in the World Series. It’d be nice if this turned out as well . . .

Don Mattingly says that the takeover doesn’t really concern the team, which still has to play well, no matter who’s in the front office. Maybe they will, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Dodgers have been doing just fine on the field — but they’re not the same team that Joe Torre took into the playoffs in 2009, and (honestly) that team (despite the 95 wins) wasn’t all that great. The difference then, particularly with just an average starting staff (Wolf, Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda — none of them won more than 12 games), was Torre, who stepped into retirement just as things headed south. We’re just saying . . .

So, where are the vaunted Dodgers? They have a team ERA of 4.66 (that’s fourteenth in the National League), are fourteenth in runs scored (well behind the Nationals, by the bye), and are tenth in team batting average. In the only stat that matters, they trail Colorado, San Francisco and Arizona in the N.L. West and are one-half game ahead of the Friars. Ugh. There are notable bright spots: Jon Garland is throwing ground ball outs (he made the Braves look sick last night), Clayton Kershaw is still one of the league’s premier lefties, Hiroki Kuroda has an ERA of 3.33 (and has turned into a downright frightening pitcher), Matt Kemp is hitting a torrid .426, and Andre Ethier is underrated (and batting .384). You would think Donnie could do something with that . . .

The key is probably Kemp — and for Trolley fans that’s definitely not good news. The outfielder is prone to forgetting exactly where he is and is hardly a clubhouse leader. We can put some of this down to his off-field distractions, which might have caused Kemp’s in-season troubles last year (faster than a speeding bullet, he stole 19 bases in 34 attempts . . . not great). Once upon a time former Dodger coach Larry Bowa (not exactly Sigmund Freud, is our bet) attempted to do an intervention with Matthew (something no one, we imagine, might want), but even that didn’t work. “He’s wound pretty tight,” Torre said of Kemp before departing L.A.

There’s a pattern here somewhere, let’s see if we can guess what it is. L.A.’s financial problems date from the owner’s very public divorce — with the team split between former husband and former wife. Frank (McCourt) even accused Jamie (McCourt) of having an affair, and fired her from her position with the team. Ugly. Really ugly. So ugly that it has spilled a lot of ink, ink better spent talking about runs and outs. There’s even a blog for Trolley fans called Dodger Divorce. And Kemp? Kemp’s 2010 spiral coincided with his focus elsewhere. Wags say, well . . . ah . . . they say that now that that’s done, Kemp can worry about baseball, instead of giving new meaning to the term “good with the stick.

What a mess.

Jonathans Are Wild

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The season may have ended yesterday for two storied franchises. The Red Sox and the Dodgers both blew late-in-the-game leads (the Sox to the Blue Jays, the Dodgers to the Phillies) and lost on the road as they attempted to chase down a wild card slot in their respective divisions. The Nation, who are four games back in the Wild Card race, look to be in better shape than the Trolleys — who trail in the N.L West by six-and-a- half. But the similarity between the two teams, and the reason they both may be done, is their fate-crossed closers. Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers and Jonathan Papelbon of the Sox sport very similar lines, and they’re not pretty.  Both closers have four losses, both have ERAs over 3.0, and both have blown an inordinate number of saves (Papelbon has blown six; Broxton has blown five). And both closers also took the loss yesterday.

The Dodger implosion was the more bloody of the two, with the Torre squad blowing a seven run lead with six outs to go. The only reason I continued to watch the game into the late innings was that I don’t like the Phils –while I’ve got an unexplained affection for the Dodgers. Basically, I wanted to see the Ponies getting drubbed. But, I’d forgotten about the Dodger bullpen (though that’s not hard to do if you don’t have one). Torre looked absolutely gray in the last two innings (especially in the ninth), when Broxton hit the first batter and then walked the second. Torre trudged to the hill to tell his man to “trust [his] stuff.”  Actually, he said it twice (you could read his lips). Broxton promptly walked the next batter, and then it was only a matter of time.

The Sox weren’t much better: they led the Blue Jays 5-2 going into the final frame, but they couldn’t hold it. Starter John Lackey started off the ninth and gave up a solo dinger; he was pulled. That said, Lackey had pitched effectively, scattering seven hits over eight innings with only one walk. Then Papelbon came on: and the wheels fell off. In one-third of an inning Papelbon gave up four hits and walked one. Fireballer Daniel Bard then entered the fray, but it was too late. While Bard got his man to fly out to center by then the game had been tied and the winning run had tagged from third to score.

The Dodgers are certainly done. Broxton looks absolutely lost on the mound. It’s not clear how, in the wake of the Broxton disaster, the Trolleys can rebound from “the Philadelphia Massacre.” And the Sox? Well, we’ll see . . . but it doesn’t look good. And it’s because of their closer. Effective closers don’t blow six save opportunities and keep their team in contention. It’ll be a mammoth test of the Sox stick-to-it-iveness to continue the march to the Wild Card.  They’ve certainly showed their mettle thus far, particularly given the almost unbelievable number of key players they’ve had on the DL this season. But with Kevin Youkilis gone for the year with a thumb injury its just not certain they can come back from their collapse in Toronto.

Dunn, Atilano Clip Dodgers

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Backed by two homers from Adam Dunn, right handed rookie starter Luis Atilano subdued the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, 5-1. It was Atilano’s first start. The rookie threw an effective mix of fastballs, curves and change-ups in notching his first major league victory — earning the praise of both Dodger skipper Joe Torre and Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman. “The youngster really did a good job of throwing strikes and changing speeds,” Torre said. “We had some scouting reports on him and some video, but the fact that he had so many strikes early in the count enabled him to do what he did, which was very impressive. He did a great job.”

While Dunn passed off reporters who questioned whether his 2-3 showing ended his slump, the slugger seemed more comfortable at the plate than he has since the beginning of the season: “It’s just a first game. But it felt good,” Dunn said. “Again, I’ve been feeling good all along. I just haven’t been doing much. Two thoughts went through my head. On the first home run, I went up there, I was going to basically jam myself and stay inside of [the ball]. The other one was to revert back to slow-pitch softball, minus the beer coolers in the dugout.” Dunn’s game vaulted his BA above .200 for the year and eased fears that his slump might be more permanent. His first home run of the night (in the fourth inning) was prodigious — it landed in the upper deck in right field.

Are The Nationals “For Real?” It’s a good question — at least for baseball commentators and “power ranking” gurus. From “Baseball Tonight” to the MLB Network, the Nats are getting a lot of ink. The Nats 9-8 record is nothing to brag about, unless you’re a team with 103 losses in 2009. But the baseball press is taking the Nats seriously, in spite of injuries to Jason Marquis, Ryan Zimmerman’s nasty and nagging hamstring and Adam Dunn’s power outage. Tim Kurkjian (not surprisingly) predicted the Nats’ break out, calling the Nats the “most transformed team in the National League” at the beginning of the season. Baseball’s “power rankings” reflect this new reality: the Nats are listed at 24 (ahead of the White Sox and Mets) by ESPN, but 18th by Fox Sports (ahead of the Red Sox!).

There are some simple truths here: the Nats are better than last year, are better than the Astos, Diamondbacks, Orioles and Royals and deserve credit for their strong and early start. But it’s hard to believe that a staff of Lannan, Stammen, Olsen and Hernandez can out-pitch a staff anchored by the likes of Lester and Beckett. Nats fans know that “power rankings” go out the window once Rizzo and Company have to rely on rookie pitchers to provide stop-gap wins. But the glass is half full: if Chien-Ming Wang can return healthy when he’s supposed to, if Jason Marquis can come back quickly and if Stephan Strasburg is all everyone says he is (and he is), then come June all bets are off. For the first time in five years, the team is tough defensively and has a strong bullpen. It might be hard for some to swallow (like Mets fans for instance, or that team up the road) , but Nats fans don’t need the power rankings to tell you — this team is for real.

Is “The Fix” Really In?

Friday, December 18th, 2009

In yesterday’s Washington PostTom Boswell reported that Bud Selig has put together a group of the game’s best and brightest to, in Boswell’s words, “fix” the game.  Boswell seems to think the game is broken: I don’t.  He seems to think surgery is required; I think the patient just needs a trip to the chiropractor for an adjustment. But Boswell’s was a good piece and very well received by this baseball fan who hit his “Skins fatigue threshold” two months ago — and has ceased to be fascinated by Tiger’s woes.  It was a good not-yet-winter article to take my mind off the cold.

Despite my belief that the game isn’t as bad off as some believe, I love the managers who comprise the on-field contingent of the 14-man committee: La Russa, Leyland, Torre and Scioscia. Future Hall of Famers every one. The Wise Men of Baseball.  Who doesn’t like those guys? 

La Russa is a vegetarian lawyer — who just so happens to have also won a World Series and Manager of the Year award in both leagues. But he should also be admired for how he responded to his 2007 DUI arrest. He said he was embarrassed, then pleaded guilty and said “I accept full responsibility for my conduct, and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again.” In other words, unlike so many sport folk these days, he didn’t hire a crisis management team to carefully craft a statement. He manned-up and did the right thing. Leyland (on the other hand) is the crusty old baseball guy who takes crap from no one, smokes Marlboros in the clubhouse ramp between innings and does more with his teams than one would expect.  Did the Florida Marlins really win the ’97 Series?  Really?!  And, you gotta love a guy who gets thrown out before the first pitch.

Torre is Torre. It’s hard to say much that would add anything to his record in New York. He’s a class act who wins.  And his dugout persona makes La Russa look excitable.  Buddha in a ball cap. Scioscia (like Leyland) is a fiery type who knows the game. He won a World Series in his third year with the Angels and has won the division in five of the last six years. If he were an every day player he’d be considered “a gamer.”

But, to the point of Boswell’s article: he recommends that the committee take a look at the pace of the game, at the issue of awarding the World Series home field advantage to the winner of the All Star game, is opposed to playing the World Series in November and thinks the way to do this is to cut back on the 162 game season.

I’m in full agreement with no November baseball. It should never happen; end of story. Cutting back on 162 games?  No. Sorry. One of the great things about baseball are the stats and being able to make comparisons between the greatest players of all time. We had to get over the switch from 154 games, no reason to go through that again. Plus, its a non-starter from a revenue point of view. Ain’t gonna happen. Then too, I actually like the All Star game counting for something. Boswell seems to think these things go in streaks and one league dominates the All Star game for years at a time giving an unfair advantage for years in a row to one league at Series time.  Maybe, but my reaction would be for the “weaker” league to get better.  But I’d also be happy with awarding home field to the team with the most regular season wins as Boswell suggests.

And the pace of the game? It can be speeded up, but it was my perception that it had gotten much better in the last couple of years — especially in the American League. One of my idiosyncrasies is to look at game times at the bottom of the box score. I don’t know why but I just do. And I thought that the problem had been fixed. But let’s go with Boswell’s contention that the game still has much to do in this area and address his five ideas for speeding it up:

1) Ban mound visits: I assume Boswell is joking so I’ll just say that if Jim Leyland thinks it’s okay to use a Blackberry to calm a kid pitcher down with runners on second and third (with one out in a one-run game in the seventh) then it’s okay with me.

2) Limit the time to make a pitching change. Yup. Shouldn’t a reliever be be loose by the time he gets to the mound? 

3) End the singing of “God Bless America” during the Stretch. Yes again. Enough already.

4) Wave the hitter to first when an intentional walk is indicated. Nope. You never know when that kid pitcher will hit the backstop.

5) Requiring relief pitchers to face at least two batters to eliminate pitching changes. I go back and forth on this one; so I’ll waffle and say “perhaps.”

Agree with Boswell or not, it was a great exercise to think this through in mid December. The only thing better was to realize that pitchers and catchers report in 60 days.

Rockies Even Series; Trolleys Stun Redbirds

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Colorado Rockies held off the rallying Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday to take the second game in their five game series, 5-4. The key for the Purples was an unlikely two run homer off the bat of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who hadn’t had a four base knock since May. Torrealba’s knock was complemented by solid pitching from Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook and bullpen aces Jose Contreras, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales and all-world closer Huston Street (above). The Heltons, who won during the regular season by counting on the bats of an unlikely mix of new heroes, depended on the bat of yet another unknown newcomer: in this case it was left fielder Carlos “Cargo” Gonzalez. Gonzalez — a former Showboat prospect and a throw-in in the off season Oakland-Colorado Matt Holliday-for-Huston Street trade — spent much of the last two seasons in triple-A, while Denver’s front office waited for him to pan out. Gonzalez got his chance this year, after a series of injuries made room for him in the Colorado outfield. On Thursday, the fleet Venezuelan went 3-5 to spark the otherwise sleepy Rockies’ line up.

When the Oakland A’s got Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in the Huston Street trade back in November of 2008, they thought their search for a big bat was over: the Stillwater, Oklahoma native was a three time all star and three time silver slugger and he’d been named the 2007 World Series MVP. But Holliday didn’t seem to fit in in Oakland (he hit an otherwise anemic .286 with 11 home runs in 93 games), and on July 24, 2009 Oakland A’s guru Billy Beane swapped him to St. Louis for three top prospects: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. In St. Louis, Holliday tore the cover off the ball — hitting .353 with 13 home runs in just 63 games, and propelling the Redbirds into the post season. He was just what Tony La Russa ordered.

Holliday’s post season experience gave St. Louis the confidence they needed against L.A. With Albert Pujols and Holliday in the middle of their order and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright their big guns as starters, St. Louis was set to head into L.A. to face Joe Torre’s big bats. L.A. took the first game, with a surprisingly shaky outing by Carpenter. But St. Louis came back to dominate the second game: and it looked like the Redbirds were set to even the series at one game apiece. But with two outs in the ninth ining and St. Louis leading, the otherwise sure-handed Holliday dropped a sinking liner off the bat of first sacker James Loney to give the Dodgers new life. Casey Blake then walked and former Nats Ronnie Belliard singled home the tying run, before Mark Loretta’s short centerfield single provided the 3-2 walk off win. “It’s tough to swallow,” Holliday said after the game. “Obviously, I feel terrible. But I just missed the ball. It hit my stomach. I think I can catch a ball hit right at me.” The Trolleys now lead the series, 2-0.