Posts Tagged ‘Mike Rizzo’
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.
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 “can’t 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.
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
With one-third of the season now in the books, the Nationals on Tuesday made the decisions that many of their fans wanted, and many had predicted, sending relievers Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to the minors — and Danny Espinosa to the disabled list.
To fill their spots on the national league roster, the team recalled Anthony Rendon from Triple-A and brought reliever Ian Krol up from Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals also activated Jayson Werth, whose bat they desperately need.
Espinosa is expected to rehab (both his shoulder and his wrist), before returning to the club. “He is a tough guy. He reminds me of myself,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He is playing with a bad shoulder, he is playing with a broken wrist. He needs the rest.”
But General Manager Mike Rizzo made it clear that it’s unlikely Nats fans will see Espinosa anytime soon. “We finally put Danny on the disabled list to clean up all the wrist questions that we had, and for him to rehab and then go down to the Minor Leagues, with a healthy wrist, go down there and work on the mental side of hitting,” he said.
Injury or not, the message is that Espinosa has played himself out of a job, and this morning’s Bleacher Report said that it’s time for Washington to “see what Rendon can do” at second base — adding that the Nats don’t have “a second baseeman on the stat list this season (Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi) hitting above .231.”
An uncertain coda might well have followed these moves, as Washington continues its struggles. But just hours after announcing the team shake-up, the Nats responded by notching their first walk-off win of the year, a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over division rivals New York.
While the Washington victory didn’t result in a win for starter Jordan Zimmermann, it lifted the Nationals one game over .500 and made a hero of Steve Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Adam LaRoche, after the Nationals loaded the bases on Mets’ reliever Bobby Parnell.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
And so it’s official: after nearly fifty games the Nationals are playing .500 ball, have proven incapable of winning the big games, are mired in a team-wide batting slump, seem disoriented and demoralized, are losing games they should win — and are nowhere near the elite team they were projected to be at the season’s start.
Or, as Adam Kilgore put it at Nationals Journal this morning: “The Nationals 4-2, 10-inning loss included many hallmarks of their 3-6 road swing. A dearth of offense. Spotty relief pitching. Finding a way to lose.” Finding a way to lose?
The most recent example came on Tuesday night in San Francisco, when the Nationals dropped a 4-2 decision on a walk-off two run Pablo Sandoval blast on a pitch by Triple-A call-up Yunesky Maya. The loss dropped the Nationals to 3-6 on their ten game West Coast road trip and squandered a near-brilliant outing from righty workhorse Stephen Strasburg.
In Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo we trust (and absolutely), but this time there’s blame enough to go around. With the Nationals leading 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, and closer Rafael Soriano on the mound, Gregor Blanco hit a liner to right field that should have been caught by Bryce Harper for the final out. It wasn’t — and Andres Torres scored the tying run.
But Harper was playing in and towards the line, when he should have been playing back and in the gap, to guard against precisely the kind of over-the-head liner that Blanco smacked. That’s the way the Giants play it. That Harper shied away from the ball (the result of hitting the wall in Los Angeles, it was suggested) is nonsense: he was out of position.
This is hardly a radical point-of-view: it was hinted at by F.P. Santangelo — MASN’s color commenter who was covering the game — both at the time of the hit, and in his post-game comments. Harper, meanwhile, reacted like any good team player, even if he’s wrong. “I put that whole loss on me,” he said. “Really sucks.”
Then there’s Yunesky Maya. “Wise old” Davey Johnson is rightly praised for managing his bullpen just so (and, it is said, even brilliantly), and determining the exact pitcher-to-hitter match-ups. Maya is a righty and would be facing righties, so perhaps that is why Johnson decided to bring him in to pitch to the Giants in the 10th. But . . . Yunesky Maya?
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Winning, of course, is the ultimate test of a franchise. “Can they get it done?” is the question all fans, scribes and baseball insiders ask when evaluating a team. Do they have what it takes to be the last team standing at the end of a 162-game campaign and a grueling post season schedule?
The answer to the question is easy to discern after the fact. But before the games are played one has to search for the intangibles in a franchise that go along with the talent, grit and luck that are essential for winning.
It’s too early to tell, of course, whether the Nats can be closers – - although I like their chances (and so, apparently, does Sports Illustrated). But how they are going about their task, not only on the field but in the front office, says a lot about how the franchise conducts itself in pursuit of its goal.
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.
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
When baseball commentator Ken Rosenthal heard that the Nationals had signed righty Dan Haren to a one year $13 million contract, he shook his head in admiration: “This is a team building for the World Series,” he said on MLB Network, “and the signing of Haren shows that.”
Indeed. And Washington fans have every right to celebrate Haren’s arrival. After all, what’s not to like? The 32-year-old veteran has a track record of success (119-97 in ten years in the majors), racks up innings (238.1 in 2011), is a “gamer” — having thrown for both winners (Anaheim’s Belinskys) and losers (the up-and-down Snakes) and has shown remarkable consistency: never dipping below a .500 win/loss record in each of the last eight seasons.
But then there’s this: at the same moment that Danny and the Halos were tanking in the A.L West back in September, Haren was struggling through the worst season of his career, posting careers worsts in WHIP, H/9, HR/9, tying his second worst K/9 and throwing “only” 176 innings, his worst mark since becoming a starter in 2005.
What’s not to like? Well, plenty as it turns out. For while Haren was once among baseball’s elite fireballers, his fastball hasn’t topped out at an unspectacular 92-93 mph for the last two years and his back and hip problems were so bad that the mighty Cubs called off a proposed swap back in November that would have brought him to Chicago in exchange for Carlos Marmol.
Of course — and perhaps in spite of all of it — the signing of Haren brings a definite upside for the Nats, despite his poor year. The righty rebounded after the All Star break (a 3.58 ERA in thirteen starts), and pitched better even with his injury than Washington’s fourth starter, Edwin Jackson.