Posts Tagged ‘Larry Bowa’

Z & Z Are Tops Versus Philadelphia

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014


There were two “returns” for the Nationals on Tuesday: Ryan Zimmerman returned from the disabled list and stroked two badly needed doubles in four at bats, while Jordan Zimmermann returned to the form that made him Washington’s winningest pitcher last year — and the Nationals downed the Phillies at Nationals Park, 7-0.

The new left fielder hit the ball like he’d never left, while his teammate threw eight complete inning while giving up just five hits. The return of the duo seemed to spark the Nationals. But it was Jordan Zimmermann, who had struggled in his last five starts, who was the big star of the night.

“May was a pretty rough month for me, and hopefully June has better things to come,” the Nats young ace said after the victory. “I wanted to go nine, but eight’ll be good enough.” Zimmermann was the model of pitching efficiency, throwing 102 pitches, 71 of them for strikes.

The difference for the Ace of Auburndale on Tuesday was that he was the master of command. Of the thirty batters he faced, 25 of them started with a strike, usually from a Zimmermann fastball. “I was hitting my location,” Zimmermann acknowledged. “When I wanted to throw a ball, I was throwing a ball and not leaving it over the middle. It was one of those nights where it was fun to be out there. I had everything working.”

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The return of Ryan Zimmerman to his new position in left field, meanwhile, added more than just an extra bat to a sometimes anemic line-up. The appearance of Zimmerman in the batter’s box seemed to spark the team.

“It’s nice to have it the way we wanted to have it initially. We are still missing a guy [Bryce Harper],” Nationals manager Matt Williams told the press after the 7-0 showing. “Our guys swung the bats tonight. It was all around good. It was a good victory for us.”

Center fielder Denard Span, who is hot at the plate (and 3-5 last night), agrees that having Zimmerman back in the line-up provides a heft for the Washington nine that the team has been missing for the last month. “He gives headaches for other teams,” he said. “You have Jayson, you have Ramos, LaRoche and you are adding ‘Z’ back in the lineup. It just makes the lineup a whole lot deeper. It doesn’t give the other pitchers a break.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Things aren’t going well for the Phillies, but we have a hard time believing that’s a surprise. 2014 was always viewed as a gamble, with G.M. Ruben Amaro calculating that his aging team had one last run-to-the-Series in them. Well (and in fairness), Amaro had to say that, because who was going to take all of those bloated contracts . . . ?

The Phillies are dead last in the N.L. Least, Cliff Lee is nursing an aching elbow (he has trouble opening doors because he can’t turn the knob), Reid Brignac is playing third base because Cody Asche is down with a tweaky hamstring and the Ashburn’s pitching staff sports a 4.15 ERA. Ugh . . .

Prior to facing off against the Nationals, the Phillies faced the Mets in five games in Philadelphia . . . and they looked awful. They were outhit, outpitched, ourscored and outplayed by the Mets who (in case you haven’t noticed) are hardly the class of the league. The Mets took four of five in Philadelphia, the last one (on Monday) an 11-2 evisceration . . .


Four Dingers Derail The Dodgers

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

John Lannan threw 5.1 innings of five hit ball and the Nationals stroked four home runs to down the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-2 at Nationals Park on Monday. Ian Desmond led off the game with a home run, Michael Morse hit two and Jayson Werth hit one to lead the Nationals’ attack. The Nationals assault was in stark contrast to the problems they’ve been having at the plate over the last two weeks.

All of the Nationals’ homers except for one came in the first inning, and off of Trolley righty Hiroki Kuroda. John Lannan, meanwhile, threw 94 pitches in registering his ninth win against 11 losses. Lannan later said that he was anxious to go deeper into the game, but couldn’t convince Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson to keep him in. “I felt good and I wanted to keep battling,” Lannan said after the win. “But my pitch count was high. It was a hot day. Our bullpen was fresh. I understood why.”

Michael Morse’s two home runs gave him 26 for the year — to go along with 82 RBIs. The first baseman/left fielder is clearly the team’s MVP for 2011, having put together his best season of his late blooming career. Jayson Werth took time to compliment Morse after the win on Monday. “I’m really happy for him,” Werth said. “This game is not easy. We had similar parts of our career as far as the age. I can appreciate it. I think he always had it in him.” Werth’s game is also improving, after a tough 2011 and what has accounted for nearly a year-long slump. Werth hit his 18th home run of the year in the first inning, and notched his 52nd RBI.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There’s been a changing of the guard in Florida, where the Marlins have struggled not only to put fans into the seats, but to put a good ball club on the field. The Marlins started to unravel after 6-7 fireballer Josh Johnson went out with a shoulder injury and the team cratered during a mid-June losing streak (they lost 18 of 19, and eleven in a row) that saw the rehiring of steady-as-she-goes Jack McKeon . . .

The return of Johnson will help next year, but it’s not likely to be enough. Last night on MLB Network, the irascible Larry Bowa said there had been a “changing of the guard” in Florida. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez “is no longer the face of the franchise,” Bowa said — “it’s Mike Stanton.” That sounds right. Yesterday, Ramirez was told that he will need surgery on his left shoulder . . .


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.

Padres Blank Nats . . . Bowa On Nabbing Garland

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Washington Nationals — with the team’s bats silenced by Padres’ pitching, at least the Nats could count on their starters to put in six or maybe even seven innings of solid work. That was particularly true for John Lannan, perhaps the club’s steadiest starter. That’s not true now. The normally predictable lefty was anything but predictable on Wednesday, as Lannan struggled through a difficult fifth inning, allowing the Friars to score five runs to extend the Nationals’ losing streak to an embarrassing six games. That makes two sweeps in a row: one in St Louis and one in San Diego — with the Nationals now without a win since the series against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats seem to have slipped back to some their worst habits under Manny Acta: of scoring little and pitching poorly — but at least playing with fire.

If Willie catches that ball . . .

If Willie catches that ball . . .

While hard luck lefty John Lannan pitched well, though not brilliantly, the Padres found ways to score: in the fifth, Everth Cabrera and David Eckstein hit seeing eye singles before all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive that tailed away from left-fielder Wille Harris. The ball landed just out of his reach, scoring two runs. Chase Headley’s two-run double later in the half-inning added to San Diego’s lead, and that was essentially the game. In the clubhouse afterwards, Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman remained upbeat: “[Lannan] was a lot better than the line scores are going to say,” Riggleman said. “If Willie catches that ball, and I know it was a tough play, if we catch that ball, we’ve got a bunch of zeroes on the board and it doesn’t get us into trouble right there. You look for effort, and we got a good effort.” Lannan was also philosophical: “That’s the way the game goes,” he said. “It has happened to me before. You’ve just got to tip your hat, they made things happen in the fifth. I battled today, I felt pretty good.”

Down On Half Street: Former Philadelphia Phillies All Star shortstop and Chicago Cubs manager (and now Trolleyman third base coach) Larry Bowa was in his element today on the MLB satellite radio network — he was in front of a microphone being asked his opinion. This isn’t the first time. Bowa has been here before and is now counted on as somewhat of a regular. Bowa can be obnoxious, which is why he’s no longer managing, but he’s mostly right about almost everything having to do with baseball. And he was again today. It was a fascinating interview and former Angels skipper and now XM Radio “Home Plate” on-air personality Kevin Kennedy did what he was supposed to do: he fed him softballs that Bowa dutifully lofted into the stands.

The American League is “far and away” the better league, Bowa said, and added that the A.L. East is packed with talent. He added that the difference between the two leagues is not even that close. (See, what did I tell you — this guy is obviously a moron.) Bowa then said that he thought that Manny Ramirez was overswinging in the wake of his suspension, to show that he could put the ball out of the ballpark without steroids, but that his swing would soon return to normal. “He’ll be okay,” Bowa said. That makes sense (and it’s what any L.A. cabbie could have told us). Bowa also said that it was the plan of the Dodgers to keep James Loney at first and play new-guy-in-L.A. Jim Thome off the bench: to keep a lefthanded bat ready for the post-season (another safe prediction). My own sense is that L.A. is haunted by the spectre of Matt Stairs, whose post-season home run last year so buckled the Trolley’s knees that they will not allow it to happen again. Hence — Thome!

But by far the most interesting and insightful comment — and least from a purely baseball perspective — was Bowa’s analysis of L.A.’s reason for acquiring the much-traveled Jon Garland, lately of Arizona. Garland is not simply a steady pitcher who can be another starting arm in the run-up to the post-season, he said, “he’s a very steady ground ball pitcher.” Bowa said that if you check Garland’s stats you’ll see that he pitches mostly down in the zone “and to contact” — as he did throughout his career with the White Sox, Angels and most recently the Diamondbacks. “So you have to have good fielders behind him, which he didn’t have in Arizona.” That’s not true with the Dodgers.

With the Dodgers, “who are either one or two in defense, I can’t remember which” (Bowa added) Garland can pitch to contact and get people out in a way that he couldn’t in Arizona. Los Angeles can put a defense behind Garland that will make him a better pitcher than he ever was in Arizona — and maybe even take half-a-run off his ERA. That would make Garland’s current ERA of 4.29 in Arizona somewhere in the under 3.50 range in L.A. “Which is darn good” by National League standards. That’s not bad statistical thinking for a shlameel like Bowa, who regularly harumphs about Bill James and sabarmetrics with his buddy-buds on the radio: “Bill James, you know, the guy who invented Sabermetrics,” radio guy Dan Patrick once reminded Bowa during an interview. Bowa turned up his nose. “What team did he play for?” Bowa whined. “This guy Bill James has all the answers, but he’s never worn a uniform.” Yeah, that’s right Larry. And neither did L.A. General Manager Ned Colletti — the guy who pulled the trigger on the Garland trade.

Now pitching ground balls in L.A.: Jon Garland

Now pitching ground balls in L.A.: Jon Garland