Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’

The Nats Head Home After An 86-76 Season

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Untitled

The Washington Nationals finished their season in Arizona with a loss to the Diamondbacks, 3-2. In many ways the loss was representative of what the team had done all season: entering the eighth inning with a one run lead, the Nationals’ bullpen gave up two runs to an Arizona team they’d beaten handily in the previous two outings.

While the game was the last in a season that saw the Nats drop out of contention for the N.L. East title back in June and July, the team came back in September with a run at the Wild Card. The key to the Nationals resurgence was a revived offense and pitching contributions from unlikely rookies, including Tanner Roark, who held the D-Backs to just three hits in seven innings on Sunday.

“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen,” Roark said after his performance on Sunday. “Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.” Roark has been outstanding since arriving in the majors in early August: he finished at 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 10.03.45 AM

The final game of the season also marked Davey Johnson’s last game as the Nats’ manager. “Time to go home,” Johnson said after the game. “Put me out to pasture.” The Nationals praised their 70-year-old skipper, with Tyler Clippard noting that a good manager “builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing.”

Johnson was philosophical about what is apparently the end of his career, choosing to bypass comments on the Nationals’ season. “I felt really lucky to have had the big league experiences I’ve had as a player and as a manager,” he told the press after the Arizona loss. “When you love a game as much as I love this game and like the competition, you just enjoy it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: An 86-76 record would have sparked celebrations in Washington just a few years ago, but the Nationals (picked by many as the premier team in the National League) must be disappointed. Even so, there is good reason for celebrating a season that saw the Nationals finish ten games out of the hunt in the N.L. East . . .

(more…)

Werth, Strasburg Skin The Snakes

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Untitled

Stephen Strasburg pitched seven solid innings and Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each hit three run home runs, and the Washington Nationals easily downed the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night, 8-4. The victory capped the first of a three game series, with two games remaining in the Nats’ season.

Strasburg, who is one of the ERA leaders in the National League (at a snappy 3.00), notched only his eighth victory on the year, throwing 101 pitches, 63 of them for strikes. Strasburg was undoubtedly disappointed with his 2013 win total, but Nats’ manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that the young righty didn’t always enjoy good run support from his teammates.

“We didn’t score many runs for him,” Johnson confirmed following the victory. “A bunch of times, we didn’t score any runs, one run or two runs when he was starting. His numbers indicated he should have won 15 ballgames, at least. He was certainly consistent all year long.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 11.07.14 AM

Despite the 8-9 campaign, Strasburg is 3-0 in his last three starts. “I think physically I held up pretty well,” he said following last night’ victory. “I think one thing I learned is sometimes less is more. I like to work really hard and when you reach a point in September you’ve really got to back things off or it’s going to be counterproductive.”

The Nats powered Strasburg to victory on home runs from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. The Werth home run came in the top of the fifth with Anthony Rendon and Jeff Kobernus on base, while the Ramos home run came in the top of the 8th with Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond on base.

(more…)

Nats Fall In St. Louis, Eliminated From The Postseason

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Untitled

Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright subdued Washington’s line-up and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals, 4-3 at Busch Stadium. The loss eliminated the Nationals from the post-season: they are six games out of the last Wild Card slot with five games to play.

The key to the St. Louis win was Beltran’s fifth inning home run (his 24th on the year) that scored John Jay, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting the Cardinals ahead 4-2. Washington could only muster a single run the rest of the way. “It doesn’t feel too good,” manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.

The Nationals put on a run in September, going 16-6 on the month and winning a key day-night double header against the Atlanta Braves on September 17 that vaulted that team back into contention for a playoff spot in the National League. But the Cardinals has always played Washington tough, and that was true on Monday night.

Washington starter Tanner Roark notched his first loss of the season after an impressive 7-0 run, but the Cardinals heavy hitting line-up victimized him for nine hits in just five innings. “I was getting behind hitters a lot,” Roark said after the loss. “When you do that with a good team, they are going to hit your mistakes when you get them back in the count. They are going to battle like they did tonight.”

Washington’s scoring came early, on a home run from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span and gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. St. Louis clawed back, despite an additional run put on the board from the Nationals in the 8th inning: a fielder’s choice on a Ryan Zimmerman grounder the scored Anthony Rendon.

But three runs are rarely enough to defeat the Cardinals, who score just under five runs every game. Then too, Adam Wainwright got stronger on the mound as the game went on: Wainwright’s night ended after the 7th, with five strike outs while scattering five hits. The St. Louis victory was Wainwright’s 18th win on the year.

The Nationals stared into the night after a three-up-three-down ninth inning, stunned that their run for the postseason was over. The clubhouse was reportedly silent after the loss, as the team took stock of its “World Series or bust” season. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “So I feel bad for everybody.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.01.23 AM

Mea Culpa: We take no special pride in getting things right and, like everyone else who writes about baseball, we get plenty wrong. We said at the beginning of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were overrated and would tank: that players who finished with an attitude in Boston would bring that same attitude to Los Angeles. Well . . .

(more…)

Braves Rally Downs The Nats, 5-2

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Untitled

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.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 8.33.49 AM

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 . . .

(more…)

Nats Take The Miami Series, 6-4

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Untitled

Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs and four hits in six innings, but pitched well enough to allow Washington’s hitters to get to Miami’s rotation, and the Washington Nationals went on to down the Marlins 6-4 on Sunday. It was Strasburg’s seventh win of the year and vaulted the Nationals to a two of three game series win.

This was certainly not the young righty’s best outing of the year, as skipper Davey Johnson confirmed following the victory. “Stras should have been able to go further but he was a little out of sorts today,” he said. Strasburg apparently knew that, but worked through his issues.  “I knew if I kept the game close we could bust it open,” he confirmed.

Strasburg has been a puzzle all year, with few guessing that he would have only seven wins in early September. Even more puzzling however, the righty balked home two runs in the second inning. “Pretty embarrassed with the balks,” Strasburg said. “Seems like something new happens every time this year. Learn from it and try and do better with that next time.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 9.14.07 AM

Strasburg admitted that he was shifting from the stretch into a full wind-up with a man on third base, which broke a season-long habit of his. With Ramos flashing signs, Strasburg put his hand into his glove, realized that Ramos wasn’t finished, and pulled his hand out: a rare mental error for the otherwise focused righty.

The Nationals continue to swing the bat well, their only recent down game coming against Miami ace rookie Jose Fernandez in the first game of the series. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos were each 3-5 in the triumph (the catcher added a homer), with Jayson Werth (2-4 on the day) continuing his tough pursuit of the National League batting title.

(more…)

Tempers Flare, But Nats With Their Fourth Straight

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Untitled

An aching back, a sore right knee, a rain delay, a bout of the flue and a dugout confrontation were all part of Tuesday night’s storyline at Nationals Park, though Washington triumphed to win their fourth in a row, defeating the always interesting San Francisco Giants 4-2.

The irritable owner of the aching back was Gio Gonzalez, who worked four innings to hold the Giants at bay before being relieved in the wake of an hour-long rain delay. After Gio left the game, victim of both rain delay and balky back, the Nationals bullpen successfully carried the team the rest of the way.

The sore right knee, on the other hand, belonged to right fielder Jayson Werth (who aggravated the ache in sliding home with an extra Nationals’ run in the 8th inning), while a bout of the flu kept left field phenom Bryce Harper out of the starting line-up.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 1.54.56 PM

And the dugout confrontation? The flare-up took place in the bottom of the first inning between starters Gonzalez and Werth as the two came off the field and then again in the dugout as teammates scrambled to get between them. The argument came after the gimpy Werth couldn’t hold Giants’ second sacker Joaquin Arias to a single, after which Gonzalez was slow to cover first on an infield out.

“Oh, just a little camaraderie going on,” Manager Davey Johnson said of the Gonzalez-Werth spat. “Spirits are high. I like it. No big deal.” That may be true, but the exchange of pleasantries was nearly enough to overawe s scrappy and much-needed Nats’ win over a left coast team suffering through a lost season.

(more…)

Why The Nationals Need To Hire Matt Williams

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

mlb_g_washington-nationals_mb_576

The Nationals rally past the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Nationals Park infused the Anacostia Nine with a new sense that somehow (maybe), the one-game-at-a-time philosophy of the ballclub could somehow vault them back into contention — and into the post season.

That seems improbable. St Louis is two games up on the Reds in the Wild Card standings and sixteen games over .500. The Redlegs, meanwhile, are 4.5 games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last Wild Card slot, with the D-Backs (pretty typically) playing like a deflated balloon.

Maybe it would be better for the Nationals to set their sights on Atlanta, hoping that the Braves will swoon in the final two months, allowing the Nats to sprint into October. But just how likely is that? It’s not: the Braves have just completed a fourteen game winning streak (they lost on Saturday, 1-0 against the no account Miami Marlins), and at 25 games over .500 their collapse would have to be among the most monumental in baseball history.

So here it is, as plain as your 30-year-old step sister: the Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in baseball (you might want to read that out loud, just to get the flavor of it), and the Braves are running away in the National League East. I would rather slam my fingers with a hammer than see the Braves in the World Series, but there you have it.

It’s no wonder, then, that Washington’s baseball pundits are chewing over the lost 2013 season, the most important assessments all coming in the last week. Not surprisingly, these postmortems have coincided with speculation about who will take over for manager Davey Johnson, a sure sign that the one-game-at-a-time philosophy is no more than a verbal conceit.

(more…)