Posts Tagged ‘Mike Rizzo’

Mauled On The North Side

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

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Jordan Zimmermann stood at his locker after Monday night’s game 11-1 loss to the Cubs in Chicago and explained why he’d just pitched one of the worst games of his career. “I’m not hitting my spots right now,” he said in explaining his poor outing. “The fastball’s up. I’ve got to do a better job of locating.”

Zimmermann’s explanation was, if anything, an understatement. The Ace of Auburndale threw five complete innings and gave up eight earned runs, including three home runs — to right fielder Nate Schierholtz, catcher Dioner Navarro and journeyman third sacker Donnie Murphy.

Zimmermann’s poor showing was replicated, at least in part, by the Nationals’ bullpen, which proved incapable of keeping the North Siders in check. Chicago banged out nine hits in racking up eleven runs, with Schierholtz, who has resuscitated his career in Chicago, notching six RBIs.

Lefty Fernando Abad and rookie Ian Krol relieved Zimmermann, but Abad gave up two earned runs, while the Cubs got to Krol when Donnie Murphy homered to center in the eighth inning. “This is a ballpark where you leave the ball up out over the plate, bad things happen,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said after the game.

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The Chicago victory came in front of 31,290 Cubs fans, who have seen their favorites play poorly at home all year. The Cubs had been shut out in five of their last nine home outings. “The pitching, obviously, the hitting — everything clicked today,” manager Dale Sveum said after his team’s victory.

It was Zimmermann’s seventh loss of the year (against fourteen wins), and revived a Cubs squad that had been struggling both at the plate and on the mound. Zimmermann’s outing was a counterpoint to that provided by Chicago’s Jeff Samardzija, who threw a complete game, giving up six hits and striking out seven. Washington’s lone run came on a home run from Wilson Ramos.

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“They Outplayed Us” — Braves Sweep The Nationals

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

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The Nationals had an opportunity to end the Braves winning streak on Wednesday night, but the bullpen couldn’t keep Atlanta off the board in the eighth inning, and the Aarons went on to win the game and sweep the three game series against Washington by a score of 6-3.

“You just keep battling. Just one game can turn you around and get some momentum going,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said after the disheartening loss. “Things can change quick. They outplayed us, plain and simple.”

The Nationals set themselves up perfectly to gain ground against Atlanta, sending Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzelez and Jordan Zimmermann to the mound in successive games, but Strasburg and Gonzalez suffered from a lack of hitting support, while Zimmermann lasted only four innings.

“Every inning, the leadoff guy seemed like he was on,” Zimmermann said of his no-decision outing on Wednesday night. “Like I said, I had good stuff. I just fell behind or let them back in the count when I had them 0-2.”

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The Braves notched fifteen hits against the home towners in their Wednesday win, seven of them coming off of Zimmermann. But Washington’s starter at least limited Atlanta’s damage, which wasn’t true for the bullpen.

While newbie Tanner Roark proved effective, Fernando Abad, Ryan Mattheus and Ian Krol gave up five hits and three runs in the crucial seventh and eighth innings. Atlanta hitting feasted off the Washington bullpen: Justin Upton homered in the top of the 7th (his 21st), while Jason Heyward and Upton (again) victimized Washington in the 8th.

“This was a big series,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “We pushed the lead to three more games up on them. We came in here and we let them know we’re here to stay. They’re going to come back to our place next week and they’re going to be looking for payback. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

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An Embarrassment . . . And A Walk Off

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

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Ryan Zimmerman’s walk off home run in the 9th inning of the second game of a day-night doubleheader gave the Washington Nationals a desperately needed 2-1 victory over the New York Mets on Friday. The Zimmerman home run salvaged a day that saw the Nats fall to the Mets 11-0 in an embarrassing first game that saw the team collect just eight hits.

The 11-0 blow out marked the nadir of the Nationals season, as the Mets victimized four Nationals pitchers, including hard-luck ace Jordan Zimmermann, who gave up five runs in 6.2 innings of work.

The Mets sprayed thirteen hits in the afternoon game, scoring six runs in the top of the 9th inning and shredding the Nationals relief corps.

“It’s over,” Nats’s skipper Davey Johnson said of the blow out. “I hate to even be in here talking about it.” The Mets kept the Nationals off the board by playing off the arm of rookie Jenrry Mejia, a former top prospect whose young career has been interrupted by Tommy John surgery and elbow tendonitis.

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Starter Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, just couldn’t seem to get on track. The Ace of Auburndale gave up a home run to Daniel Murphy in the 1st inning and then another one to Murphy in the third. Murphy was 4-5 in the game and batted in five of the Mets eleven runs.

The Mets 9th inning barrage was a home town nightmare: a walk (to Omar Quintanilla), a double (off the bat of Juan Legares), a single (from Murphy), another single (from David Wright), a double (from Marlon Byrd), and a home run, off the bat of Ike Davis. The runs came off of relievers Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen, who was sent to Triple-A Syracuse at the end of the day.

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The Nationals needed to recover the confidence of their home town fans in the wake of their 11-0 thrashing, but they did so in fine style — and by relying on the arm of spot starter Ross Ohlendorf, who dueled Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey through seven complete inning of work in the D.C. nightcap.

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Getting Garza

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

If we didn’t know it before, it seems all-too-true now: the Nationals are in need of a starter, a veteran arm that will carry them over the hump and into October. The problem for the Nationals is that no one is waiting in the wings to take on that role — and those starters it was counting on are either headed to the D.L. (Ross Detwiler), or just coming off it (Dan Haren).

So it’s no surprise that the Nationals are now being prominently mentioned as possible suitors for the Cubs’ Matt Garza, the kind of still-young time-tested righty that skipper Davey Johnson could send out every fifth day without too many worries. The problem? The problem is that Garza won’t come cheap.

What the Cubs want, for sure, are prospects or (at the least) youngsters who are close to “sure things” as any team would want: what Chicago front office types describe as “highly skilled athletes who can make a difference at the big league level.” The Nats, as it turns out, have plenty of those.

Will they give them up? It’s all speculation at this point, but if we were the Cubs we’d ask for a package of prospects that includes a pitcher (always a requirement, it seems), a solid hitter and even a shortstop: particularly if the North Siders unload slow-to-mature Starlin Castro (though, clearly, Castro won’t be coming here).

Some names come to mind in any trade for another starter — Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi, pitchers Taylor Jordan, southpaw Matt Purke and Nathan Karns and (if Castro ends up elsewhere), shortstop Zach Walters or outfielder Brian Goodwin.

But there is a point at which Garza (or anyone else) would become too expensive. Then too, Garza has a disturbing injury history and he’ll be a free agent after the season.

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Ramos Returns, Leads The Nats

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Wilson Ramos hit a three run seventh inning home run in his return to the Nationals on Independence Day, lifting Washington to an 8-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. This was Ramos’ first day back after spending 44 days on the disabled list nursing a strained hamstring.

Ramos’ homer brought the crowd to their feet, clamoring for a “curtain call” for the player. “It was a great moment,” Ramos said of his homer. “I have to keep working. A lot’s happened in my career. A lot of bad moments, good moments. I have to learn from the bad moments and enjoy the good moments.”

The Ramos home run was a part of a 3-4, five RBI day for the Nats’ regular catcher — and helped to salvage another disappointing outing from reliever Drew Storen, who gave up three runs in the seventh inning, which allowed the Brewers to knot the game at 5-5.

The return of Ramos not only sparked the win, it seemed to spark the entire Nationals’ line-up, which banged out 11 hits, which included a 3-3 day from Jayson Werth and a 3-4 day from Ian Desmond. Before the game, Washington skipper Davey Johnson swapped Werth and Desmond in the batting order. The move, Johnson said wryly “seemed to work out. Once in a while, I have a great idea. They both had great ballgames.”

This was the second start for Taylor Jordan, who pitched much better than in his debut. Jordan threw into the sixth inning, giving up six hits while allowing two runs. The young righty, still nervous during his second outing, wasn’t masterful but he was effective: he threw 85 pitches, 60 of them for strikes.

But while Jordan threw well, the same cannot be said of reliever Drew Storen, whose 7th inning collapse cost the Nationals the lead — and very nearly the game. This was Storen’s second troublesome game in a row. Storen gave up two home runs and a single in his outing, and raised his ballooning ERA to 5.56 on the year.

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Take Two: Nats Rally In Nightcap

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The Nationals came from three runs down to take the second game of a day-night doubleheader, beating the Twins last night at Nationals Park, 5-4. It was the first time the team had rallied from three runs behind all season. After the victory, the Nationals headed to Colorado, where they will begin a three city nine game road trip.

“This was huge, we really needed this,” shortstop Ian Desmond said after the Nationals had swept the Sunday twin bill. After posting a 7-0 blowout on Sunday afternoon, the Nats continued to scorch Twins’ pitching with ten hits, scoring single runs in the first, third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

“It was a good feeling when you’re behind and you keep chipping away, you don’t give up. This was probably our best ballgame,” center fielder Denard Span told reporters after the win. “Normally early on in the season when we would get behind, we would just fold and give away at-bats. [Today] we just kept fighting and having good at-bats.”

The key to victory in the second game, however, was not simply the hitting, but the bullpen’s continued ability to keep their opponents out of the scoring column. After a rocky outing from Nathan Karns, Craig Stammen pitched two innings of hitless ball to allow the Nationals to get back in the game.

The offense responded by mounting a comeback that was sparked by a Denard Span triple in the 6th (which scored Anthony Rendon — tying the game), and by back-to-back doubles (from Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond) that put the Nationals on top to stay in the bottom of the 7th.

In this game, at least, the victory proceeded as the Nationals intended: with Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano pitching the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. Tyler Clippard got the win, Drew Storen notched his eighth hold and Rafael Soriano accounted for his sixteenth save.

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The World Series Or . . . Bust

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

It’s the World Series or bust, Davey Johnson told Nats’ fans during Spring Training, and our expectations soared. As well they might: the team had league’s best starting pitching, a potent and potentially powerful line-up of young bats (including Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper), and a young and solid bullpen — with a new closer.

Now (with one-third of the season in the books), the Nats are mired in third place in the National League East, the starting pitching is not what it should be (Stephen Strasburg is on the DL, Ross Detwiler is rehabbing, Dan Haren has been ineffective), Bryce Harper is visiting a specialist to look at his knee and the team’s bullpen is shakey, at best.

Clearly, a kind of turning point has been reached. This morning, the Washington Post weighed in with a front page team assessment, complemented by a Sports section Tracee Hamilton offering that concludes that the team “cant hit, pitch or field with anything approaching consistency.”

All true. But Nats’ fans can at least be thankful that all of this seems to have seeped into the consciousness of Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson, who’ve spent the last week (and more) retooling a punchless offense — and providing a new look to an embarrassingly so-so bullpen.

Hence: Danny Espinosa was sent to the disabled list (and, truth be said, to Triple-A), Anthony Rendon was brought in to play second base, and Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke were sent packing. That’s four big moves (and counting), including a roster-shifting one: it’s not often that a team changes their second baseman in mid-stride.

And then there’s the bullpen. Once upon a time, Davey Johnson said that while he was comfortable with a single lefty out of the pen, he might want to have more. He now has three (and potentially four), and none of them are named Zach Duke, who started the season with confidence that he could get the job done. He couldn’t.

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