Posts Tagged ‘Matt Holliday’

Nats Take The Miami Series, Head Home

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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The hobbled Washington Nationals escaped Miami with a 6-3 win on Wednesday night, taking two games of three from their division rivals. The Nationals were powered by sloppy Marlins fielding, a three run home run off of Miami starter Jose Fernandez by Jayson Werth in the top of the 6th (which tied the game at 3) and a pinch hit home run from rookie Zach Walters.

The errors from Miami and the two Nats home runs were the difference in the game, besting Miami ace Fernandez. In the 6th, the usually sure-handed Jerrod Saltalamacchia allowed Jose Lobaton to scamper to third on a throwing error and the Miami catcher then dropped a pop foul off the bat of Anthony Rendon.

“We’re in a funk out there, for whatever reason,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said after the loss. “We just have got to keep throwing these guys out there and get them going. Another pinch-hit home run. Stuff like that just can’t happen late in the game. We’ve given up a lot of big hits late in the game. Those are crushers. We’ve got to find a way to make an adjustment.”

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The Nationals were shut down by Fernandez, who owns a snappy 2.66 ERA on the season — and who only gave up a four hits in seven innings last night. “He’s an animal,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Fernandez. “He’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.”

The Nationals’ runs in the 6th inning were all unearned, leaving Fernandez the victim of his teammates poor play. After the Fernandez departure, the Nationals put three runs on the board off of two Miami relievers: Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos.

After being swept in Atlanta, the Nationals needed the Miami salvage operation, and they got it. The team put up nine runs on sixteen hits in the first game of the series, and last night were able to get a solid starting performance from righty Tanner Roark, who pitched into the 7th inning while notching five strikeouts.

Roark was at his best in the 5th, when he ended a Miami rally that had Marcell Ozuna on third with one out. Roark struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones flied out to left to end the threat. “It was a big momentum swing,” said Roark of his clutch pitching. “I felt like we had a good weight off our shoulders and my shoulders as well.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: No one likes to hear this, but it’s true. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the standard of success in the American League is the New York Yankees; it’s impossible to read anything about baseball without reading about them. But that’s also true for the St. Louis Cardinals, the N.L. version of the Bombers. For good reason . . .

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Nats Face Elimination After 8-0 Blowout

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Over the last eighteen innings, the Nationals have been outscored 20-4 by the St. Louis Cardinals and their pitching has cratered. The latest evidence of the Nationals’ postseason futility came on Wednesday when, with red towels waving all over Nationals Park, the Cardinals overwhelmed the hometowners, 8-0.

The latest victim of the Cardinals’ onslaught was Edwin Jackson, though it’s impossible to pin the second Nats’ loss in this five game playoff series on a single pitcher. The Nationals now face an ignominious elimination at the hands of one of the best hitting teams in baseball, hoping to salvage a single elimination playoff game with a win on Thursday.

As always, and even in the face of this adversity, Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson remained optimistic. He was buoyed by the sold out crowd, fanatical fans that have become the hallmark of the upstart franchise. “We’re not out of this, by a long shot,” he said. “Shoot, I’ve had my back to worse walls than this.”

But optimistic or not, there’s little doubt that, at least so far, the Cardinals are feasting on Nationals’ pitching. The Redbirds slammed out fourteen hits against five Washington pitchers, all of whom were ineffective — with the exception of closer Drew Storen. It all began with starter Edwin Jackson who gave up four earned runs in five innings.

A raucous crowd, watching the first playoff game in Nationals’ history, could not keep the Cardinals off the board, even in the first inning — when an Allen Craig double scored Matt Holliday. Shortstop Peter Kozma followed in the second inning with a home run that scored David Freese and Daniel Descalso. Suddenly it was 4-0.

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Nats Bludgeon The Cubs, Get The Sweep

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Prior to Thursday night, Washington righty Jordan Zimmermann was saddled with three poor outings and, in those appearances, had accumulated an ERA of over 6.00. But against the Cubs on Thursday, the “Ace of Auburndale” fought back from a shaky first two innings to tame Chicago’s Little Bears, throwing seven solid innings and giving up just two runs.

But the big story of Thursday was, once again, Washington’s ability to put runs on the board. The Nationals stroked out twelve hits — including home runs from Kurt Suzuki and Adam LaRoche — and bludgeoned the North Siders 9-2. The lopsided win marked a four game sweep of Chicago, and was Washington’s fifth win in a row.

“It was a great series. It’s nice to see a bunch of runs scored on our end,” Washington first sacker Adam LaRoche said after the victory. “Hopefully, we’ll keep that going.” LaRoche was one of the biggest reasons that Washington dominated the Cubs through four games: he was 9-15 in the series, with five home runs and eight RBIs.

As interesting, at least for Nationals fans, were two bench clearing confrontations — in the fifth and sixth innings. In the bottom of the fifth, with the Nats up 7-2, Cubs’ bench coach Jamie Quirk took exception to Jayson Werth’s swinging strike on a 3-0 count and began shouting obscenities at Nationals third base Bo Porter. Porter walked to the lip of the Cubs dugout to respond.

The Quirk-Porter confrontation emptied both benches, but with little shoving or pushing. Quirk was tossed by the umps. “Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities to the third-base coach,” home-plate umpire Jerry Layne said. “That was the ejection for the coach.”

The second confrontation came in the sixth innings, when Bryce Harper was nearly hit by Cubs reliever Lendy Castillo. Harper thought Castillo had purposely thrown at him, and was restrained by Cubs’ catcher Steve Clevenger. In the ensuing scrum, Clevenger took a swipe at Michael Morse and the situation nearly got out of hand.

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Washington Rocky In Colorado

Friday, August 5th, 2011

The Washington Nine are notoriously mediocre on the road — and the road includes places like Colorado where, on Thursday, the Nationals’ bats once again proved vulnerable to good (but not great) pitching. The Colorado Rockies, suffering through their own sub-.500 season, beat the Nationals easily, 6-3, extending the team’s road woes this year. The Nationals have lost ten of their last 13 on the road.

The Nats first inning was promising, with Rick Ankiel, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse reaching base — but the team was unable to capitalize (scoring just one). It would be another eight innings before the Nationals threatened, sending six hitters to the plate before succumbing. So which is it: did the Nationals have a poor game at the plate — or was Rockies’ starter Esmil Rogers so good that the Nats Nine just couldn’t touch him?

The explanation, courtesy of Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson, is that while Rogers was good, he was nothing special. The problem is the hitting: “We had the right guys up there,” Johnson said. “We just didn’t make it happen. We picked it up in the ninth inning, but it was a little too late.”

If there was a piece of good news that Nats’ fans could take from the loss, it was that long reliever Ross Detwiler proved “serviceable” (Davey Johnson’s term) in his first start in since forever, throwing five complete innings while giving up five hits. But the Rockies got to Detwiler for one in the fourth, and then one more in fifth, before piling in on Ryan Mattheus in the eighth.

The Rockies’ eighth included a walk (to Todd Helton), a Troy Tulowitzki double, an intentional walk, a single, a hit by pitch and another walk. This was hardly Murderers’ Row, but it meant that the Nats would have to climb back into the game from a 6-1 deficit. Despite scoring two in the ninth (Ramos singled, Ankiel singled — and Ryan Zimmerman doubled), the deficit proved just too big to overcome.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Rockies are eight games under .500, and you have to wonder why. There are teams in baseball who’d kill to have the middle of their line-up: Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. But, while that daunting roster is what the Arizona Diamondbacks faced on April 1, it’s not what the Nationals faced yesterday . . .

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Uggla Powers Braves — And Billy Beane’s Lousy Swaps

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Chien-Ming Wang still isn’t ready for prime time. The former Yankee and new Nationals’ righthander struggled through five innings against the Braves yesterday, giving up seven hits and two runs through five innings — and the Nationals fell to Atlanta in the final game of their three game set, 6-4.

While Wang recovered from a shaky first inning (in which he gave up two runs), he had trouble in the fifth, which proved the key to the game. Wang threw wildly on a Brandon Beachy bleeder for a two base error, Jose “George” Constanza followed with a single and, after a force play and an out at the plate, Dan Uggla plated the two stranded runners (and himself) with a three run homer.

The Nats fought back, rapping out a four run sixth inning, with a walk by Danny Espinos, singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, a Beachy wild pitch and a Jayson Werth home run. But four runs weren’t enough to secure the victory. Despite the loss, pitching coach Steve McCatty was upbeat on Wang. “He had better sink,” McCatty said after the game. “The offspeed pitches were a little flat. He got hurt on that. If he makes a play in the fifth inning — no damage.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Jason Marquis debuted for the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, and it didn’t go well. The former Nats’ righty gave up ten hits and seven runs over four innings, as the Snakes fell to the McCoveys, 8-1. Marquis wasn’t the only thing traded to Arizona; so too was the explanation for why he does poorly: his sinker wasn’t sinking . . .

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Beltran Bombs Nats

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Carlos Beltran’s two home runs and a misplayed fly ball tamed the Washington Nationals in New York on Saturday, 8-4. The loss spoiled a fine first-outing for lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who could not make it through the sixth inning. While Beltran’s home runs were important, they were not the difference in the game. In fact, even with Beltran providing a spark, the contest might well have gone the other way: after Gorzelanny walked David Wright to start the bottom of the 6th, Jerry Hairston, Jr. misplayed a Beltran fly ball that would have kept Wright at first with one out. Ike Davis followed and tripled to right-center. The Nats could not catch the Mets thereafter, with double-plus bad rookie reliever Brian Broderick entering the game and allowing the Mets another two runs.

This is one the Nats could have won. Beltran’s first dinger followed an inside fastball that should have been called a strike. Beltran put the next pitch into the left field seats, angering Gorzelanny, who questioned the call. And if Hairston had snagged Beltran’s fly in the 6th, Gorzelanny might have been able to preserve the victory. Hairston said that he thought center fielder Rick Ankiel was coming in behind him to take the fly: “At the last second, I felt something that he may go after it. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. I just missed it. Flat out. I just put us behind the eight ball tonight.” If there was good news from the loss, it was that Gorzelanny pitched well, establishing himself as a solid starter. The third game in the series will pit the Nats against the Mets at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon.

Pass The Warm Milk: Washington insomniacs should do what we do — after watching the scintillating Nats, switch over on “MLB Extra Innings” to a Cardinals west coast game, where play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin and color commentator Al Hrabosky are baseball’s version of Ambien. Last night, in what had to be one of the most exciting games of the young season (a 3-2 San Francisco win on a walk-off double in the bottom of the 9th), Dopey and Sleepy could hardly contain their excitement: “That’s a bloop to right field,” McLaughlin said, describing a Mark DeRosa hit in the bottom of the fifth. “Yeah, but it’s a lucky hit,” Hrabosky added. A run scored, but you would have never known it: the two announcers were silent for the next 60 seconds. “Okay, next up,” McLaughlin said.

In truth, watching “Fox Sports Midwest” (which becomes “FS Cardinals” during St. Louis broadcasts), provides a kind of discipline for fans: the lack of on-screen stats, or even information on who’s at the plate, keeps you on your toes. Last night, if you weren’t keeping score you wouldn’t have had a clue, and you wouldn’t have been alone. “Who’s this?” Hrabosky asked, at one point. “Rasmus,” McLaughlin answered. Tick. Tick. Tick. “Oh yeah, listen this guy’s got a lot of tools,” Hrabosky answered. Compared to FS Whatever, MASN is a dream — with all kinds of useful information, including a font that tells you who’s actually at the plate. The pinnacle of last night’s in-booth commentary came when McLaughlin and Hrabosky wrestled with a “fan question.” So, what’s a waiver wire? “It’s when a team no longer wants a player and other teams get to see whether they want him,” Hrabosky answered. “But there are lots of waiver wires,” McLaughlin added. “Oh sure,” Hrabosky said.

Whew.

Thankfully, while McLaughlin and Hrabosky are verbally challenged, the Cards-Giants match-up was fascinating. While the Giants squeaked out a nail-biter, the contest should have made it clear to the Cardinal faithful that it’s going to be a long season. St. Louis is a team headed in the other direction: GM John Mozeliak used the off-season to plug holes, acquiring Ryan Theriot to play short, trading Brendan Ryan to Seattle, signing Lance Berkman to play right and bringing in Gerald Laird as a back-up behind the plate. This was heady activity, if not quite useful: the Cubs and Dodgers had problems trying to figure out whether Theriot should play second or short (Ryan is better defensively) and Berkman’s time in the outfield passed several years ago. What the Cardinals really needed was another pitcher, a fact made clear when Adam Wainwright went down in February with a rotting elbow.

Wainwright was only the beginning: hefty hitter Matt Holliday took a week to deal with a swollen appendix and oft-injured head case David Freese (car accident, surgery, DUI, deep bruise, lost weight, damaged tendons), is giving way to someone named Daniel Descalso at third. The Cardinals haven’t had a third baseman since Scotty Rolen did his Hatfield and McCoy routine with Tony La Russa, haven’t had a shortstop since Ozzie did back flips. In this sense, at least, watching the Cardinals is instructive for Nats fans, whose infield is better at all positions except for first, where it’s cheaper. Last night’s Cardinals line-up told the tale: with Descalso, Tyler Greene (subbing for Theriot), Skip Schumaker and Pujols around the horn, Yadier Molina behind the plate, and Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus and Lance Berkman in the outfield. That’s fourth place waiting to happen.

Angel’s Stun, Sweep Sox

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

That glazed and puzzled look that has appeared on the faces of so many other post season teams (the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, and the Chicago Cubs last year, to name just two) is now being worn by the Boston Red Sox. The A.L.’s wild card entry was stunned by a ninth inning rally in Boston on Saturday, and swept in three games by the Los Angeles Angels to be eliminated from the playoffs. The Bosox appeared headed for a sure win in their head-to-head match-up against the Belinskis, leading the Halos 6-3 heading into the 9th inning at Fenway Park — with their ace closer, Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. But with two outs, Papelbon’s down-and-out or up-and-in stuff failed him: Erick Aybar singled, Chone Figgins walked and Bobby Abreu doubled to tighten the contest. Even then, the Red Sox remained a simple grounder or fly ball away from victory. To set up a force out at every base, Papelbon walked Torii Hunter intentionally. That brought Vladimir Guerrero to the plate. On the very first pitch to one of baseball’s beset bad-ball hitters, Papelbon gave up a single to center. Guerrero’s hit, a leaning over-the-plate smack of a low and outside fastball, scored Figgins and Abreu and gave the Angels the 7-6 victory.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The elimination of the Redbirds and Bosox now sets the wheels in motion for the offseason in both Boston and St. Louis. There’s a lot to do. Fans of “the Nation” face some big questions: about the future of David Ortiz and the cost of Jason Bay. The team is hardly in need of a major overhaul, yet the horses that have consistently put it into the off season are aging or hobbled. The entire left side of the Boston infield is in question: Mike Lowell can’t play third forever and the team has no ready answer at shortstop. “Phtttt . . . c’mon” — fans of the Nation say: what about Jed Lowrie? Well, what about him? Maybe Baseball Reference is lying, but their stats show him hitting .147 in 32 games. Hell, there’s a shortstop in Washington who hits a damn sight better than that and he’s no damn good at all . . .   

The Redbirds are younger, but the questions might be more pertinent: whether to pony up the big bucks it will take to keep Matt Holliday in left and (just like the Red Sox) what to do at third. Mark DeRosa is a free agent and while he likes St. Louis he will test the free agent market. Then too, while shortstop seems set for the River City Nine, rookie phenom Brendan Ryan hit a scorching .083 in the playoffs and looked shaky in the field. Redbird fans have the same reaction to this negativity as their Bosox buddies: “Oh yeah, well what about Troy Glaus?” Okay, right. Troy Glaus: who left his right shoulder somewhere in Toronto and hasn’t been the same since. Maybe he’ll return to his 2008 form (.270, 27 home runs), but it’s a pretty big maybe. Then too, number three starter Joel Pineiro is a free agent and would be a number one starter on most major league teams: including the Nats (now there’s an idea). Oddly, whether Holliday or DeRosa or Pineiro decide to stay in St. Louis might hinge more on the fate of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan than on how much money Billy DeWitt puts on the table. LaRussa and Duncan’s contracts are up and both are rumored headed to Cincinnati, to team up with their old St. Louis G.M. pal Walt Jocketty . . .