Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bourn’

Harper’s Return, Werth’s 5 RBIs Spark Nats

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The return of Bryce Harper was the talk of Washington, and baseball, on Monday night — and the Nationals’ left fielder rose to the occasion with a home run in his first post-D.L. at bat to spark Washington’s 10-5 pasting of the Brew Crew at Nationals Park.

Harper’s bomb off of Brewer starter Yovani Gallardo was just over the fence into the left field bullpen and spurred a curtain call from the Nationals’ faithful. “I felt like I was back on Opening Day. I felt really good,” Harper said. “Gallardo’s a great pitcher, and I was trying to get something I could drive, and I got a pitch I could handle a little bit and put it where I wanted to.”

But while Harper’s return helped to spark the Nationals victory, it was Jayson Werth’s five RBIs that provided the difference in the win. In addition to the five runs batted in, Werth was 2-5 and scored a run, raising his average to .275 and making mincemeat of four Milwaukee pitchers.

For Werth, the victory against Milwaukee served as a portent of things to come. “Well, with everybody healthy, look at our lineup: It’s balanced, it’s right-left-right all the way down,” he said after the win. “You put [Anthony] Rendon down in the seventh hole, and it’s a tough, balanced lineup. I mean, it really is. We’ll see, but I like our lineup like that.”

Washington’s thirteen hits supported an otherwise good, but not great, performance from Jordan Zimmermann, who picked up his National League leading 12th win. Even so, Milwaukee victimized Zimmermann for four runs on nine hits over six innings.

“I thought I did pretty well in the beginning innings, then I got a few hits and had to run around the bases a little bit, and it took a little bit out of me,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “But I thought I pitched pretty well. I made some pitches that they got some hits off of, and I left a few up.”


Indians Win It In The 9th

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

There’s no question, this is a teeth-gnashing time for Nationals’ fans. One day the team looks lousy, the next their pitchers are throwing a shutout — and just when you are convinced the Anacostia Nine are about to break out of their funk, they sink back into it.

So it was on Friday night, in the wake of Washington’s two-of-three series victory in Colorado. With Gio Gonzalez coming to the mound (even if he was facing Justin Masterson), there was every expectation the Nats would come away with a victory, edging them closer to Atlanta in the National League East.

And Gio performed, giving up just three hits in seven innings. But the Nationals’ bats went silent yet again, and Washington fell to Cleveland by a score of 2-1 when Drew “Ticket” Stubbs beat a throw to the plate in the 9th inning. The Nationals collected a total of two hits on the evening.

“It’s getting old,” Adam LaRoche said following the game. “Give [Masterson] credit. He had good stuff, but still — you have nine big league hitters in there. I think we can get more than a couple of hits. I don’t know. There were a lot of pitches, chasing some pitches. I don’t know the answer.”

Gonzalez deserved better: he threw 127 pitches, 73 of them for strikes, gave up three hits and struck out eight. While Gonzalez walked four, it was one of his more effective outings of the year. Former Boston produce Masterson was as good, and even a little better. Masterson completed seven and struck out ten, while giving up just two hits.


With Span In Center, Nats Are Set For Opening Day

Friday, March 29th, 2013

The “new look” Nats? Well, okay — maybe not quite. The team that the Nationals will put on the field on Monday during their home opener versus the Miamis looks a lot like last year’s team. Except  . . . except that speedster Denard Span, late of the Twins, will now be in the lead-off spot, which gives the Nationals the on-base guy they’ve been looking for for a number of years.

Span, it seems, was always the guy that Mike Rizzo wanted; but not a guy that the Twins wanted to part with. Back in 2011, Rizzo nosed around for Span, but the cost was too high: the Twins wanted either Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard. Rizzo said “no.”

But this winter, Rizzo was able to swap up-and-comer Alex Meyer for Span: a heavy price, to be sure, but one Rizzo was willing to pay. Meyer was, and is, a top prospect and, with the Twins rebuilding their starting rotation the trade worked out for both teams. In truth, the trade was absolutely essential for the Nationals — who’ve lacked an on-base guy in the top spot for three years. None of the experiments (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth — and others) worked out.

But it’s not just Span’s on-base talent that the Nationals acquired. The former 2002 first round pick is a good first-to-third guy and a plus centerfielder. With savvy Jayson Werth in right and Bryce Harper in left, the Nationals outfield is better defensively than it was last year — much better.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed. “If there was a glaring weakness on last year’s team, it was the need for a traditional center fielder and a leadoff hitter,” Chris Cwik over at Rotographs argues. “Denard Span should fill both of those roles. He’s not a power guy, but he has shown the ability to hit for a relatively high average, takes a fair share of walks and steals about 25 bases. He’s also joining a much better lineup, so there’s at least a reason to believe he could turn into a run-scoring machine this year.”

The trade for Span allowed the Nationals to restock their farm system by trading Michael Morse to Seattle (from whence he came), and hang on to both Storen and Clippard. The big secret about Span is that while he’s not a long ball hitter, the alleys in Nationals Park are built for him. He led the A.L. in triples in 2009 (with 10) and hit the same number in 2010.

While Span’s triples production has fallen off over the last two years, he’s healthy now — which means that Nationals Faithful will be able to see the 28-year-old end up on third in the top of the first at least a few times. Then too, Span knows how to take a walk, a now common necessity for winning teams.

Span is nearly a dead-lock cinch to put up OBP somewhere north of .335 — he was at .357 last year. As important, we have to believe, is that Span comes to Washington with the same price tag that he wore in Minnesota. Span will earn $11.25 million this year and in 2014, with a $9 million option for 2015. That’s a lot cheaper than what it would have cost the Nationals for Michael Bourn — which is $47. 5 over the next four years.

By today’s standards, Span is a “deal” — his numbers compare well with Bourn, with a nearly identical OBP. Bourn’s upside is that he steals more bases and covers about the same amount of turf in the field. But who’s complaining? The addition of Span means that the Nats open with a line-up that is as tough as any the National League — and an outfield that might be the best defensively in all of baseball.

The Nationals Are Swept In Atlanta

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The Nationals missed their chance to nearly cinch the National League East flag against the Braves this week, dropping a three game series in Atlanta — the latest disappointment coming in a 5-1 Sunday night pasting that saw Gio Gonzalez notch his eighth loss on the year.

The Atlanta three game victory against the D.C. Nine avenged an earlier May sweep by the Nationals and kept the Braves in the race. The Chops are now 5.5 games behind the Nationals, and while they remain long-shots to win the division race, their three game set gives them a psychological edge should they meet their rivals from D.C. in the post-season.

Sunday night’s game was one of those rare poor outings for Gonzalez. He threw too many pitches over too few innings, walking an unusually high four batters in five innings. Gonzalez threw 100 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. Gonzalez admitted that he couldn’t find the strike zone in the first two innings.

“I think that’s where my biggest mistake today was — I wasn’t being as aggressive in the first three innings,” Gonzalez said following the loss. “Then the next two, it was exactly what I should’ve been doing off the bat.”

“Obviously Gio had a little problem locating the strike zone,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said. “He had a whole bunch of pitches but I wanted to give him every chance to win 20.”


Braves Take The Last Of Three, 5-1

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

On a night in which the Nationals took time to honor the career of Atlanta third sacker Chipper Jones, righty hurler Kris Medlen proved too much for the hometown nine, shutting out the Nationals through seven innings and coming away with a 5-1 victory. The win allowed the Braves to exit Washington with a single win in their three game series.

Medlen, a tenth round pick in the 2006 player draft, showed why the Braves think he will be a key part of their rotation during the last weeks of the season. “He has a great curveball, he spotted his fastball, he has a great changeup,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said following the loss. “No one really saw him that good. It just reaffirmed what I said earlier: he is one heck of a young pitcher.”

Ross Detwiler is also “one heck of a young pitcher,” but he wasn’t on on Wednesday night, giving up seven hits in 5.1 innings, including a 5th inning Martin Prado double over the head of center fielder Bryce Harper that scored two. “I didn’t have good command of the breaking stuff,” Detwiler explained. “Overall, I didn’t give our team an opportunity to win. That’s what it boils down to.”

The game was still within reach in the 9th inning, but with reliever Tom Gorzelanny on the mound, the Nationals came apart. The inning started when third sacker Ryan Zimmerman “air mailed” a grounder from Jones over the head of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Freddie Freeman followed with a double and David Ross scored Jones on a sacrifice fly. But the Bravos weren’t finished.

The inning continued on a single from Michael Bourn (who the Nationals had set down throughout the series), then took second on a Gorzelanny wild pitch. With Paul Janish at the plate, Bourn took third, but a bad throw to Zimmerman from catcher Kurt Suzuki allowed him to score. The three runs put the game out of reach for the Nationals.

The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Just over 29,000 fans packed the ballpark, with the section alive with regulars. Soon enough the talk in the section turned to the jabs delivered by baseball pundits on Monday’s game — in which only 21,000 fans had showed. There was more than just a touch of anger at the local baseball media . . .


Gio Notches CG, Nats Pounce On Astros, 4-3

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Nationals’ southpaw Gio Gonzalez threw a seven strikeout nine inning complete game, and gained his 14th win of the 2012 campaign in leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-3 win over the Astros on Wednesday. The win was the Nationals fifth win in a row, and third successive over the Houston Nine.

Gonzalez also helped his own cause with a second inning two run home run, after Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch, putting a runner on first. It was the lefty’s first home run of his career. But the story was Gio’s gem: Gonzalez threw 117 pitches, 74 of them for strikes — while pitching around nine Houston hits.

“It was impressive,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said following the win. “Gio couldn’t have been any better. He pitched an outstanding ballgame. We hug a lot. I’m going to hug him more. My whole bullpen should hug him. What a great effort.”

Gonzalez was thrilled by both his complete game and his home run. “It means a lot. It’s the first time in my career going nine innings like that,” Gonzalez said after the game. “In a different league, also getting a home run, today is just one of those where you smile about it. But tomorrow is a new day.”

But the game was not without its moments of drama: home plate umpire Angel Hernandez squeezed an angry Bryce Harper on a number of strike calls, though Harper barely kept his temper; and Gonzalez had to pitch around a Houston mini-rally in the ninth inning to keep his win. Following the win, and on the advice of Jayson Werth, Harper did not speak to the press about his troubles with Hernandez.


Nats In Talks With Twins On Denard Span

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The Nationals search for a centerfielder and lead-off hitter is heating up, according to Ken Rosenthal, who says that Washington’s front office is interested in acquiring outfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. Rosenthal adds that closer “[Drew] Storen may be in play.” This is not the first time that the Nationals have talked to the Twins about Span: Rosenthal made a similar report earlier this month, though apparently without mentioning the price.

So what are the chances of a Storen-for-Span swap? In our estimation, exactly “zero.” G.M. Mike Rizzo has made it clear that Storen and Tyler Clippard are untouchable. Even so, speculation abounds. The Twins are retooling in the midst of a difficult campaign, one that saw the team battling nagging injuries to their stars. They need younger players and they desperately need relievers. But, honestly, the Twinkies will take help wherever they can get it, even at shortstop.

Which is why the inclusion of Drew Storen in a straight-up trade for Span seems like wishful thinking for Twins’ fans. It just isn’t going to happen. Storen is an important piece for the Nationals, and it’s hard to believe that after all the work in developing him, G.M. Mike Rizzo would swap him now. And how exactly do you replace Drew Storen?

Acquiring Span, however, might well be a coup for the light-hitting Nats. He’s a first rate on-base man, an exciting player and a good defensive outfielder. Span is young and fast and he’s under contract until 2014. The question that needs to be answered is whether Span has fully recovered from a June 3 collision with K.C. catcher Brayan Pena. Span has been unavailable to the Twins since, though he’s currently on a rehab assignment in Triple-A.

The Nationals search for an outfield bat has been serious: B.J. Upton is obviously on the team’s radar screen, as is Halo outfielder Peter Bourjos and Houston speedster Michael Bourn. Span might be cheaper than any of those three, particularly considering his long stay on the disabled list.

The move for Span has to be “deja vu all over again” for the Twins, who last talked with Washington last year when they were searching for a closer. The result was Mike Rizzo’s acquisition of youngster Wilson Ramos for closer Matt Capps. The trade was essential then for the Twins, but the development of Ramos has made Rizzo look like Nicolas Cage from “Gone In Sixty Seconds.”