Posts Tagged ‘Michael Morse’

. . . And Here Come The Giants

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres

The San Francisco Giants were our pick to win the National League West, and we had good reason to suppose so. The Giants had a snappy starting rotation, we thought that Tim Lincecum would recover some of the velocity on his fastball, and the team could hit — not least because they added Michael Morse to their mix.

For much of the season our prediction looked solid. The Giants appeared to be running away with the West, the Dodgers were struggling (and Clayton Kershaw was on the disabled list for a short time), and Morse was hitting the snot out of the ball, and still is.

But starting in late June and extending well into mid-August, the Giants were hit by a series of devastating injuries: Matt Cain went down for the season, Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez were hit with concussions, Marco Scutaro went down with a bad back and a stiff neck and the McCoverys spiraled out of first place.

But the real loss for the Giants came in late June when center fielder Angel Pagan was hit with a back injury that refused to heal. Pagan is San Francisco’s spark and had led the Giants in BA and OBP prior to sitting out an eight game streak in late June. Finally, realizing that he just wasn’t healing, the Giants took Pagan off the bench and put him on the disabled list.

The Giants went 19-26 without Pagan, though G.M. Brian Sabean did his best to back-and-fill off the Pagan injury. Sabean signed struggling second sacker Dan Uggla to a contract on July 25, then swapped two minor leaguers for Red Sox starter and veteran tosser Jake Peavy the next day.

Sabean’s moves haven’t worked out. Uggla went 0-11 with six strikeouts in two weeks of work for the Giants (who then outrighted him, putting him back on the street) and Peavy has been just so-so. The former San Diego righty began his time in San Francisco by going 0-3, though he’s recovered lately, authoring two key wins in his last two outings.

It hasn’t been enough. While the Giants have been able to patch together a workable starting rotation and supplemented it with a solid, very solid, bullpen, the Giants are just middling run scorers. The McCoveys offense is not only not as good as L.A.’s, it’s probably worse than Arizona’s, with a sorry .305 team OBP.

Yes, we know: the Giants have heavyweights Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Morse in their line-up. But the guy the Giants really have to have (they’re 21st in runs and 21st in BA) is Angel Pagan — who needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Pagan is the key, the one guy that makes it all work. Without him, they’re just not the same team.

Nats Can’t Sweep, Fall To Giants 7-1

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

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Veteran starter TIm Hudson comes as advertised. The Giants righty is the proud owner of the lowest ERA in the National League and now, after his team backed him in a 7-1 win against the Nationals, he’s also the proud owner of seven wins. Hudson was solid and steady in San Franciso on Thursday afternoon, tossing the Giants to their sole win in their series against Washington.

We might say that Hudson deserved the win, in large part because he pitched out of numerous Nationals scoring opportunities, including a near game-breaking two-on-and-no-outs top of the fifth. But Hudson always seemed to bear down when it counted the most — with a strike out and double play saving the Giants in the 5th.

The Nationals attack was hardly anemic, with seven hits in all. But Washington couldn’t match San Francisco’s run production. Former National Michael Morse, whose San Francisco revival has been the talk of Giants’ fans (his thirteen home runs puts him third in that category in the N.L.) was 3-4 and scored twice in the Nationals loss.

Washington trotted out rookie Blake Treinen to start the game, which must have been a relief for Giants hitters (who had faced Strasburg, Fister and Roark in three successive losses), but Treinen has a snappy 1.78 ERA (that’s before his loss today) and a late moving fastball. Treinen worked into the 5th, and pitched well, but was clearly struggling against the potent San Francisco line-up.

His relief replacement, Craig Stammen, failed to stem the Giants tide however; Stammen gave up four hits and two runs in a single inning, as well as a balk — unusual for him. Then the Giants unloaded on Stammen replacement Aaron Barrett for three runs, two of them in the 8th inning.

The lone Washington run came in the fourth inning: Adam LaRoche singled to center and then advanced to second on a passed ball. A Ryan Zimmerman single to right field scored LaRoche.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals now head to St. Louis where they will face the up-and-down Cardinals in a three game set. But for the Redbirds it’s been a frustrating season. Predicted to breeze to the N.L. Central title, the only breeze being felt in St. Louis has come from Cards bats — which are nowhere to be found . . .

St. Louis started the month in a funk, being blown out by the Giants, then losing three of four to the Kansas City Royals. The loss to the Giants, their reputed opponents in this year’s post-season, seemed to unnerve the Redbirds, who looked hardly in attendance against Kansas City . . .

St. Louis fans point to the Giants game as a kind of bellweather of the 2014 campaign. The Cardinals looked particularly ineffective at the plate against (guess who?) Tim Hudson. We’d say that pitching has been a nagging concern for St. Louis (Lance Lynn has been inconsistent and Adam Wainwright’s elbow is tweaky), but the Cardinals just haven’t been able to hit . . .

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Nats Ambush The Rangers, 9-2

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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The Washington Nationals ambushed the Texas Rangers on Friday night behind the pitching of Stephen Strasburg — and with the help of a three run home run by Ian Desmond. For one of the few times this season, the Nationals actually seemed to coast to a victory, with Texas playing catch-up to a suddenly potent Nationals line-up. The Nats notched 15 hits in the victory.

Strasburg provided yet another stellar outing, but this time his team supported him. The young righty threw a solid six innings while striking out nine. His only hiccup came in the second inning, when the Rangers put two runs on the board after an Adrian Beltre double and a Strasburg error off the bat of Texas catcher Leonys Martin. Roughned Odor and Colby Lewis then followed with successive singles.

The Nationals took the lead in the 4th inning when Ian Desmond put a Lewis offering into the right centerfield seats, which scored Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Reversing a recent trend, the Nationals were 4-12 with runners in scoring position — and broke open the game on a 3-5 night from both Jayson Werth and Denard Span.

“[The homer] was real big,” Washington’s Denard Span said of the Desmond blast. “We got behind early. The mood was like, ‘Here we go again.’ We have been falling behind lately. With this home run, it gave us some type of energy. After that, we just piled on.”

Strasburg has now had eight straight starts where he has pitched six innings or more — and he could have gone much longer tonight, but with runners on base in the bottom of the 6th, Nats’ skipper Matt Williams decided that he had to have Tyler Moore pinch hit for him. The decision paid off, as Moore hit a two run double that all but sealed the Texas loss.

“Early in the first inning, he had some power behind his fastball and threw his breaking ball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said in analyzing Strasburg’s outing. “Then we started swinging the bats better. The guy is a good pitcher. We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t get a base hit. He’s a quality pitcher.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: That terrible sound you here is the San Francisco Giants eating the St. Louis Cardinals. Or maybe it’s the sound of the Giants eating all of the National League. On Friday night, the Giants showed why they’re the class of the N.L., downing the Redbirds in a 9-4 ho-hummer at Busch Stadium . . .

In truth, the score doesn’t do the game, or the Giants, justice. The Giants are 36-19, have hit more home runs than anyone in the senior circuit except for Colorado and are second in team ERA to the Braves. Scared? The Giants aren’t scared of anyone, so on Friday — when the Cardinals rolled out Mr. Universe, Adam Wainwright — the McCovey’s touched him for seven runs in 4.1 innings . . .

And . . . and the Giants did this on the same day that they announced that their powerhouse ace, Matt Cain, would go on the 15 day disabled list. Cain was due to return for his next start, but the Giants will play it safe, saving their righty for a mid-summer run against their in-division rivals . . .

Which leads us to ask: who the hell are these guys? The Giants finished ten games under .500 last year, but they spent the off-season retooling and restocking. While their core talent (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt) remained the same, G.M. Brian Sabean signed big bat Michael Morse to a one year, $6 million deal . . .

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A’s Walk Off In The 10th

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals squandered a 3-1 lead in the 9th inning (as well as a brilliant start from righty Tanner Roark) and fell to the Oakland A’s in the 10th inning, 4-3.  It was the third walk-off win for the A’s this season, and the first time this season that Washington closer Rafael Soriano failed to close out a game.

The trouble for Washington started in the bottom of the 9th, when Soriano gave up a single to A’s catcher John Jaso, which was followed by Jed Lowrie double and a Josh Donaldson single. Jaso scored on Lowrie’s double, while Lowrie then scored on Donaldson’s single. The three successive hits tied the game at 3 apiece, sending the two teams into extra innings.

With Soriano looking on, the A’s then rallied against reliever Drew Storen in the bottom of the 10th to win the game. Jaso was again at the center of the fireworks, sending a Storen offering to the base of the wall in deep right field to score pinch runner Nick Punto.

The walk-off win was a particularly bitter pill for starter Tanner Roark, who boosted his team with 7.2 innings of two hit baseball against a potent A’s offense. “Me and Ramos were on the same page,” Roark said of his outing. “So when you get that rhythm and that tempo going and you don’t have to shake anything off, that’s perfect.”

The inability of the Nats to close out the game was baffling to Washington, and not least to Rafael Soriano — who had been perfect in 13 innings prior to Saturday. “Bad day. That’s all I can say,” Soriano said following the loss. “Very bad day, and I can’t be perfect every time, and it happened tonight.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Baseball analysts and predictors seem to have learned their lesson. After regularly saying the A’s are no better than a 2nd or 3rd place team in the always-interesting A.L. West, Oakland is now a prohibitive favorite to win the division this year. And there’s good reason for that . . .

It all starts with pitching, despite the fact that the White Elephants lost uber righty Jarrod Parker for the season to Tommy John surgery (this will be his second time) as well as up-and-comer A.J. Griffin. These aren’t footnotes: Parker and Griffin (along with Sonny Gray) were supposed to carry the team into the playoffs this year . . .

But the A’s haven’t skipped a beat. Journeyman Scott Kazmir has stepping into the breach, winning his first six starts for Oakland before losing to Seattle last week. The A’s also seem to have rehabilitated Drew Pomeranz, a reputed kick-around (Texas, Cleveland, Colorada) head case with a huge upside. Pomeranz has been put into the rotation after throwing 18 innings and accumulating a 1.45 ERA . . .

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“Just Brutal” — Morse Heads To Seattle

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The first blush of comments are in on the trade of Michael “A-ha” Morse to Seattle, and the reviews are mostly negative. That is to say: they’re mostly negative in Seattle. “Lookout Landing,” the high profile Mariners blog, calls the trade “just brutal,” while “Baseball Nation” gives the Nationals an “A,” leaving a gaping “no comment” for the forever struggling Navigators.

Washington Nationals fans undoubtedly have a different perspective. Gone is the big galoot with the eccentric warm-up swing, the “Take On Me” walk-up music — and all the good memories. Which includes a well-I’ll-be’damned 2011 season in which the former White Sox prospect lifted the D.C. Nine from cellar dwellers to “most talked about.”

Morse’s 2011 season is worth remembering — a .303 BA with 31 HRs. The season lifted Morse into the stratosphere, with descriptions of how a “late bloomer” can finally find his way into the game. That reputation was only sullied slightly by an injury marred 2012, in which (if truth be told), Morse never could find his stride.

“Quite simply, the Nationals dealt from a position of excess (Morse) to replenish their farm system (starting pitching),” the Washington Post’s Jame Wagner writes. That’s true, but the Morse swap also is a certain signal that Mike Rizzo’s four player shipment to the A’s during the last off-season (another “gone in 60s seconds” moment), might well have left the G.M. with an untidy feeling that perhaps the Nats had shipped out one prospect too many.

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Mattheus And Moore Snatch A Victory In St. Louis

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

The Washington Nationals fought back from a shaky Gio Gonzalez start, kept the game close, and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on an eighth inning Tyler Moore pinch hit single to defeat the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The victory gave the Nats a 3-2 win in their first game against the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.

The victory marked the first ever post-season triumph for the D.C. Nine, who seemed on their way to defeat until a St. Louis shortstop Peter Kozma’s fielding error put Michael Morse on first with the potential tying run in the 8th. Ian Desmond followed with a single to right, sending Morse to third.

Even then, Washington had difficulty scoring: Danny Espinosa (who’d struck out in his previous three at bats) laid down a bunt, sending Ian Desmond to second. But the Espinosa bunt accounted for the inning’s first out. Kurt Suzuki followed Espinosa and struck out swinging.

It was then that super-sub Tyler Moore came off the bench and worked his magic, sending a Mark Rzepczynski offering into right field to give the Nationals the lead. “He threw some pretty tough pitches to me,” Moore said after the win. “I fouled off a couple. I was just able to kind of stick it out there and put the barrel on one, and it flared out to right.”

The Cardinals then had two chances to tie or win the game, but the Nationals bullpen proved equal to the challenge. Tyler Clippard worked the bottom of the 8th inning, setting down the Cardinals in order after the lead-off hitter reached on a throwing error from Ryan Zimmerman.

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Nats Finish As The Best In Baseball

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

No one, but no one, would have thought this back in 2005 — when the Nationals arrived in Washington, D.C.. And only a handful (and maybe not even that) would have thought this at the beginning of this year.

But today the Washington Nationals closed out the 2012 campaign with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies to seal the best record in the major leagues. It’s now official: the Nationals are the best team in baseball. This was their 98th victory.

The Nationals are not only the best team in baseball, they’re the team to beat in the playoffs. Today showed why. The Phillies (who used to be called the reigning N.L. East Champs, until the Nats snatched the title away) were tamed handily by Edwin Jackson, who threw 6.2 convincing innings, giving up a single run with six strikeouts.

The Nationals played their subs, or at least many of them, but it didn’t matter. The D.C. Nine boasted home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Michael Morse, while Washington stroked eleven hits. Even Jonathan Papelbon, hoping to end his season on a high note, was victimized for two runs in the Nationals’ 8th.

Relievers Christian Garcia, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez finished off what Jackson started, blanking Phillie in just over two innings of work: they made it look easy. This was a historic season for the Nationals: they not only locked up the top seed in the post-season, their 98 wins were 18 more than last year — nearly unheard of in baseball.

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