Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Twins’

Let’s Play The . . . Giants

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

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Somewhere here soon, and actually any minute now, Nats skipper Matt Williams will tell the Washington sports press that he doesn’t care whether the Nationals face the Pirates (and, well, perhaps the Cardinals) or the Giants in the playoffs — “they’re both good teams.” That’s fine for Matt, but the rest of us should have a decided preference: Let’s play the Giants.

It’s not that we don’t like the Pirates (we love them, and if the Nats weren’t in the playoffs . . .), it’s that of the two teams that the Nats are likely to face in the playoffs first round, the Giants are (arguably) the easier opponent. They’ve had an inconsistent September (swept by the Padres and dumped by the Dodgers) and, with the exception of Madison Bumgarner (and Jake Peavy) their pitching is a mess.

The Giants know it. Having backed into the playoffs, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is now juggling his starting staff to make certain San Francisco puts Bumgarner on the mound on Wild Card Wednesday, no matter who the Giants face. Which means that, if the Giants were to win, the Nationals would face either Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy or Tim Hudson in the first game of the N.L. Division series — while Bumgarner sits.

San Francisco will enter the playoffs with the worst pitching stats of any of the five N.L finishers, with a so-so team ERA (at 3.52), a habit of giving up big runs to small teams and a back of the rotation that has been absolutely shelled.

The Giants lost to the Padres 4-1 last night at home, but gave up eight runs to them on Thursday, in a game the franchise said it had to win. Earlier in the month, the McCoveys were outscored by the Friars in a three game set, 16-2.

But our argument doesn’t have as much to do with the Giants as it does with the Pirates. Pittsburgh is red hot (they’ve won nine of their last eleven), their line-up is that much more formidable and their starting rotation is tougher than San Francisco’s. Pittsburgh is the N.L.’s big secret: they can hit, they can pitch, they’re patient at the plate and they’re fast.

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Strasburg Sharp As Nats Sink Seattle

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

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When Stephen Strasburg is on there is simply no one better, and the Washington ace showed why on Saturday night, throwing 7.2 innings while striking out eight in leading the Nationals to a 3-1 victory against the Mariners in Seattle. Strasburg’s eight Ks set a franchise record for strikeouts in a year, surpassing that set by Gio Gonzalez two years ago.

The Strasburg victory was a vindication for the righty, who struggled in his last outing and has been viewed as inconsistent by many baseball analysts. He was anything but on Saturday, walking none and allowing a single earned run (on a Dustin Ackley home run), in notching his 11th victory of the season.

“Just the fact that he had two good ones and then a little bit of a clunker, and tonight to come back and answer, for him is important,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of Strasburg. “For him, it’s just that if he throws it where he wants to, he can be dominant out there.

“I had pretty good fastball command today and kind of set up my other pitches,” Strasburg said of his outing. “I wanted to go out and give everything I had until [Williams] took the ball out of my hand. I just stuck to the game plan. I just had to execute pitches. I made them hit my best stuff.”

The Nationals scored early off of Seattle starter Roenis Elias. The Nationals plated two runs in the first inning when Jayson Werth hit his fifteenth home run of the season, scoring Denard Span who had reached on an error. Washington added a third run on an Anthony Rendon double in the fifth, which scored Jose Loboton.

The 3-1 victory put the Nationals up by seven games in the National League East, as the Braves lost to the Marlins 4-0 in Atlanta. The Nationals have a shot at sweeping Seattle today, with Tanner Roark facing off against the Mariners Hisashi Iwakuma.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MASN on-field analyst Dan Kolko engaged in an interesting bit of speculation on Saturday, pointing out that if the Nationals had finished just a bit better back in 2008, Seattle would have drafted Stephen Strasburg first overall in 2009, with Dustin Ackley falling to the Nationals with the second overall pick . . .

Seattle thought that the North Carolina hitter was bound for stardom and he might well be, but it’s taken him some time to develop — so long, in fact, that many Mariners fans were will to label him as a “bust” at any point over the intervening years. But Ackley, after hitting just .215 up to July 1, has found his swing and is hitting .313 since . . .

Seattle partisans point to the addition of Robinson Cano as the reason for Seattle’s revival, but the club was 16-8 in August, when Ackley drove in 19 of his 55 RBIs. Ackley credits his turnaround to fixing a glitch in his swing . . .

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Werth, Nats Trounce The Phils — Head To The Break

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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Jayson Werth is the Nationals hottest hitter in July and he only got hotter on Sunday. Facing off against his old team, the Nationals right fielder showed why he’s “worth” every cent of the contract Washington gave him several years ago, going 2-3 and driving in four runs in the Nationals rout of the Phillies, 10-3.

In a season of injuries to its Opening Day line-up, Werth has been the team’s steadiest and most productive player. And he’s been particularly hot in July, just as the fight for the N.L. East crown has also started to heat up. Werth is 15-40 (.375) with six homers and 19 RBIs since the beginning of the month. Werth’s power and value were on full display in Philadelphia.

Washington’s offensive outburst on Sunday (ten runs, two doubles and two home runs), supported a strong outing from Nats starter Tanner Roark, who rebounded from his last two uneven starts. Roark held the Phillies to just four hits in seven complete innings of work.

“I’m pitching with confidence, and I really didn’t try to nibble,” Roark said of his performance on Sunday. “The changeup was working today. That helped me get out of a jam a couple of times. The changeup was the biggest thing as far as getting ahead.”

The victory kept the Nationals in first place in the N.L. East, with a 51-42 record. The Braves are at 52-43, while the Mets, Marlins and Phillies are at least seven games back. Struggling Philadelphia is in last place, a full ten games off the pace.

“Considering everything that is going on, we are OK,” Nats manager Matt Williams said following his team’s victory. “We are right in the thick of our division. We have a chance. That’s all we could ask for, considering what’s going on. I’m happy about it.”

The Nationals run scoring barrage on Sunday (Denard Span was 2-5, Anthony Rendon 3-5 and Ryan Zimmerman and Werth each hit home runs), put three runs on the board in the first frame, then followed it up with a 4-spot in the 6th. The team added a single run in the 8th and two more in the 9th.

Washington’s hitters took advantage of Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick, with the veteran throwing into the 6th inning, but giving up five runs on five hits. This was the second poor outing in a row against the Nationals for Kendrick, who lost to the Nats back on June 5. The struggling Kendrick took the loss and is now 4-9 on the year.

Phillies hitters were particularly ineffective against Roark, scoring a single run against him in the 6th. The Phillies put two runs on the board in the 9th inning against Washington reliever Aaron Barrett. Ross Detwiler put in another inning of stellar work, shutting the Phillies down in the 8th.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: A much deserving Tyler Clippard was named to the National League All Star team which will played in Minneapolis on Tuesday. This will be Clippard’s second appearance as an All Star. He was on the All Star game in 2011, and picked up the win for the National League . . .

“I’m honored to do it. I feel like the Nationals need some representation,” Clippard said. “Jordan wasn’t able to be there. I was afraid we might not have anybody in uniform, so I’m just happy to go out there and just represent our team and maybe get into a game and see what happens . . . ”

Our opinion is that the National League has the edge in the Home Run Derby competition. The A.L.’s Jose Bautista is a feared participant in these kinds of things, but Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton is our odds-on favorite to win it all. But we’ll watch the Twins Brian Dozier with particular interest, as he’s a relative unknown for both Nats and National League fans . . .

Yesterday, in Colorado, Dozier sent two blasts into the seats at Coors Field, as the Twins knocked down the Rockies, 13-5. Dozier had what has to be pretty close to a career day. He was 3-6 with four RBIs and two home runs, his 17th and 18th on the year . . .

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Nats Sweep The Mets, 7-2

Friday, September 13th, 2013

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Nationals newbie Tanner Roark threw six innings of six hit baseball while his teammates supported him with four home runs, and the Nationals downed the Mets in New York, 7-2, for a four game series sweep on Thursday. The win kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

The Nationals came into the game with nine home runs off of Mets pitching in the last three games, but exited it with thirteen. Ryan Zimmerman homered in the first inning (it was his 23rd), Adam Laroche hit his 20th in the second, Wilson Ramos added his 13th in the fifth and Anthony Rendon hit his seventh home run in the 9th.

“Oh man, it was a lot of fun. It’s a good way to finish up New York, sweeping the Mets,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said of the team’s sixth straight victory. “There were a lot of good things all around.” Washington’s long-ball offensive victimized Mets’ starter Aaron Harang and five New York relievers.

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This was Harang’s first start for the Mets after being signed as a free agent on September 1. But the veteran righty’s debut did not go as planned: he gave up four hits and three earned runs in six innings. He was responsible for serving up three of the Nats’ four home runs.

The Nationals-Mets match-up had gotten increasingly testy over four games, and threatened to turn ugly on Thursday after Mets’ reliever Frank Francisco plunked Jayson Werth on a 3-0 count in the 8th inning. Werth exchanged words with Francisco as he trotted to first base.

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Nats Can’t Solve Lannan

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

John Lannan tamed his former teammates on Monday night in Philadelphia, pitching his new team to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals by throwing eight innings of four hit baseball. For Lannan, the win might have marked the best outing of his career.

“You know, at this point I’m just looking for some consistency,” Lannan said of his outing. “It didn’t really matter who I was facing. I had to go out there and throw up some zeros and I really haven’t done that all year. It’s something to build off of.”

The game marked the return of Dan Haren to the Washington rotation, and the veteran righty got into immediate trouble. In the bottom of the first inning, Haren allowed three singles, a wild pitch and a walk, but then settled down to give the Nats five full innings of work.

“I was pleased with his command. I was pleased with his stuff,” manager Davey Johnson said of Haren. “He threw a lot of pitches, and that’s the reason I didn’t let him go back out there, but he threw the ball really good. I’m glad to have him back.”

The middle of the Nationals order continued to provide the team with its punch — as they had done in the previous two series. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each collected two hits, and Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche provided the teams’ RBIs.

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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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Nats Roll On 7 Runs, 14 Hits

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

It seems like forever, but the last time the Nationals won this big was against the Orioles, back on May 29. On Sunday, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, the Nationals finally broke their bats loose for a 7-0 pasting of the Minnesota Twins, the first time they’d scored that many runs since beating the O’s 9-3.

The seven run outburst backed yet another top-notch outing from Nats’ righty Jordan Zimmermann, who held the Twins to just two hits while pitching seven complete innings. Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno pitched the 8th and 9th innings in completing the shutout.

Zimmermann is now 9-3 with a 2.00 ERA on the season, but has been perfect at Nationals’ Park since losing to the Pirates at home in May of 2012. It is likely that Zimmermann might have been able to throw a complete game, but he ended the 7th inning having thrown 111 pitches, 77 of them for strikes.

The Nats outburst, meanwhile, was paced by two hits from newbie Jeff Kobernus, two hits from Jayson Werth and Adam Laroche, a 3-4 day from Ian Desmond — and three RBIs from new second sacker Anthony Rendon. The Nationals victimized Twins’ starter Scott Diamond, who wasn’t able to make it out of the 5th inning, when the Nationals put five runs on the board.

Diamond, a second year Twins’ southpaw gave up seven runs in all (with six of them earned) on ten hits. Diamond entered the game with his ERA at 4.82 on the season, but he left in the fifth inning with his ERA at 5.19.

The Nationals are now 30-31 on the season and have climbed back into second place in the National League East, the result of a 9-1 Philadelphia loss at the hands of the Brewers.