Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

Nats Down The Halos In A Walk Off

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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In a season of improbable come-from-behind wins, the Nationals come from behind 5-4 walk off victory over the Los Angeles Angels has to count as the most improbable of all. Down by a score of 4-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Nats rallied to shock the Angels, sealing a triumph that salvaged a victory in a difficult three game series.

The Nats march to victory, in frigid Nationals Park, began when the normally light hitting Jose Lobaton (.239 on the year) homered off of Angels’ reliever Ernesto Frieri to left field, bringing the Nationals to within two. Zach Walters then struck out swinging, but Denard Span kept the Nationals in the game with a single to center.

With only two outs to get, Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia stuck with Frieri, hoping he could work the same magic with Anthony Rendon that he had with Walters. But with Span dancing off first, Frieri walked Rendon, with Jayson Werth coming to the plate. Werth, with a reputation as a clutch hitter, tied the game — stroking a double to left on a 3-0 count, with Span and Rendon scampering home.

“I can’t imagine anybody thinking that J-Dub’s going to swing,” Adam LaRoche said of his teammates clutch double. “Surprised all of us.”

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The Nationals might have settled for extra innings, particularly considering their game-long futility at being unable to score runs off of Angels’ pitching. That’s certainly what Scioscia hoped — bringing in reliever Fernando Salas to keep the game at four apiece. But Adam LaRoche, who’d already had a good night against Halo arms, won the game — scoring Werth with the winning run with a single to left center.

“He left a fastball up over the plate,” first sacker Adam LaRoche said of his game winning single off of Salas. “In that situation, just trying to hit something hard.”

The Nationals triumphant last inning made goats of the Angels bullpen, denied L.A. a much needed series sweep, and sent the Belinskys record back to below .500. The narrative was quite different for the Nationals, who’ve been struggling in the field and needed a lift. “The spark we needed,” Werth said of the victory.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from New York’s tilt with Boston after throwing just 1.2 innings on Thursday night — for using pine tar (which was smeared on his neck) on the ball. This morning the baseball press hooted derisively . . .

“It’s like a small-time crook robbing the neighborhood convenience store one day, getting away with it, and returning the next week to rob the same joint again,” USA Today said. Jon Heyman described Pineda as “the pine tar pinhead.” But the best comment came from former K.C. great George Brett: “you gotta hide the pine tar better than that,” he said . . .

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The “Anaheim Clipper” Chases “The Rajah”

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run on Tuesday night — so let the comparisons begin. Pujols is almost certainly the best right-handed hitter of his generation and perhaps the best right-handed hitter since Henry Aaron and Willie Mays played the game, back in the 60s and 70s.

In fact, he’s probably better. Pujols has hit more than 30 home runs and batted in over 100 runs in ten straight seasons (his first ten in the majors), a feat unequaled by either Aaron or Mays, and he’s on a path to eclipse their career BAs. It’s not even close. Mays hit .302 for his career and Aaron is at .305. So far, Pujols career batting average stands at .321.

Of course, both Aaron and Mays were victimized by poor seasons late in their careers, as the two stars played into their forties. Pujols is 34, and may well hit that plateau. Pujols also has enough power to eclipse both Aaron and Mays in total home runs, but while he might catch Mays (with 660), it seems unlikely he’ll catch Aaron (with 755).

Pujols is a better RBI man than either Aaron or Mays and (if he stays healthy) will eclipse their RBI numbers in the next five to seven years. His OBP, at least so far, is more than thirty points higher. He will come close to equaling them in hits. Aaron won one MVP award, while Willie Mays won two. Pujols has won three . . . so far.

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That said, a case can be made that Pujols is better at the plate than either of them. But is he better than Rogers Hornsby? Hornsby is one of the greatest to ever play the game (certainly in the top five) and holds pride of place for dominating the game as a St. Louis Cardinal. In truth, his legacy as the game’s best right-handed hitter (ever) seems secure — even from Pujols.

Hornsby won seven batting titles (Pujols has won one) and hit over .400 three times (in 1922, 1924 and 1925). Hornsby’s career BA is breathtaking (at .358) and while he didn’t hit the long ball nearly as consistently as Pujols (or Aaron or Mays), he led his league in home runs twice. He led the N.L. in OBP, Slugging and OPS six years in a row. Which is astounding.

That is to say: “The Rajah’s” place as the greatest right-handed hitter in the history of the game is secure, and probably forever. But Pujols could, arguably, end his career as the greatest first baseman to play the game, eclipsing the career of Yankee Lou Gehrig. Their numbers are almost eerily similar.

Gehrig hit for both power and average, was a terrific RBI man, and was voted MVP twice. While Pujols’ power numbers are better, even now, Gehrig took more walks, had fewer strikeouts and nudges out Pujols for getting on base. Who was the better overall hitter? Pujols is probably better, but it’s close — itchy close.

Baseball knows what it has in Pujols, but it’s still an effort to get your mind around the fact that when you see Albert Pujols emerge from the dugout, you’re watching one of the best hitters to ever play the game. He’s not “the Rajah” (no one is “the Rajah”), but he’s better than Aaron or Mays — and he’s the only first baseman in history to equal the output of “the Yankee Clipper.”

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Nats Take The Miami Series, Head Home

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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The hobbled Washington Nationals escaped Miami with a 6-3 win on Wednesday night, taking two games of three from their division rivals. The Nationals were powered by sloppy Marlins fielding, a three run home run off of Miami starter Jose Fernandez by Jayson Werth in the top of the 6th (which tied the game at 3) and a pinch hit home run from rookie Zach Walters.

The errors from Miami and the two Nats home runs were the difference in the game, besting Miami ace Fernandez. In the 6th, the usually sure-handed Jerrod Saltalamacchia allowed Jose Lobaton to scamper to third on a throwing error and the Miami catcher then dropped a pop foul off the bat of Anthony Rendon.

“We’re in a funk out there, for whatever reason,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said after the loss. “We just have got to keep throwing these guys out there and get them going. Another pinch-hit home run. Stuff like that just can’t happen late in the game. We’ve given up a lot of big hits late in the game. Those are crushers. We’ve got to find a way to make an adjustment.”

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The Nationals were shut down by Fernandez, who owns a snappy 2.66 ERA on the season — and who only gave up a four hits in seven innings last night. “He’s an animal,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Fernandez. “He’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.”

The Nationals’ runs in the 6th inning were all unearned, leaving Fernandez the victim of his teammates poor play. After the Fernandez departure, the Nationals put three runs on the board off of two Miami relievers: Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos.

After being swept in Atlanta, the Nationals needed the Miami salvage operation, and they got it. The team put up nine runs on sixteen hits in the first game of the series, and last night were able to get a solid starting performance from righty Tanner Roark, who pitched into the 7th inning while notching five strikeouts.

Roark was at his best in the 5th, when he ended a Miami rally that had Marcell Ozuna on third with one out. Roark struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones flied out to left to end the threat. “It was a big momentum swing,” said Roark of his clutch pitching. “I felt like we had a good weight off our shoulders and my shoulders as well.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: No one likes to hear this, but it’s true. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the standard of success in the American League is the New York Yankees; it’s impossible to read anything about baseball without reading about them. But that’s also true for the St. Louis Cardinals, the N.L. version of the Bombers. For good reason . . .

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Nats Fall In Home Opener, 2-1

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

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A sellout crowd of over 42,000 rabid Nationals’ fans watched as Washington dropped its home opener to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1 on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. The game was marred by a controversy involving a replay and three questionable Nationals’ base running gaffes.

The controversy erupted in the bottom of the 5th inning, when Washington’s Ian Desmond hit a ball down the left field line that skittered to the base of the outfield wall. Atlanta left fielder Justin Upton threw up his hands, claiming the ball had become lodged under the tarp as Desmond circled the bases.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that Upton threw up his hands (here is the video of the play) to indicate his inability to get to the ball, then picked it up and winged it back into the infield — but too late to nab Desmond. As the crowd chanted “home run, home run,” the umpires decided to review the play and, after consulting with replay officials in New York, awarded Desmond second base on a ground rule double. The decision took a Washington run off the board.

“One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure that we get the calls right. I have a question with that one, though, because of what happened after the fact,” Washington manager Matt Williams said after the game. “The fact that when he had to, he reached down and threw it in.”

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The reversal of the Desmond home run kept the Nationals from tying the Braves, who went on to score the winning run on a Chris Johnson sacrifice fly in the top of the 8th. The Nationals were also victimized by over-aggressiveness on the bases: Bryce Harper was caught between first and second and tagged out in the bottom of the second, Adam LaRoche was sent home and tagged out at the plate in the 4th and Desmond was caught between second and third after his ground rule double in the 5th.

Williams, who has said he will bring a more aggressive approach to the team, admitted that Desmond was probably over-anxious when he broke for third and was caught stealing in the 5th. “We want to take advantage of it when it’s there for us, but we also want to make sure that we are sure in that situation, so it was little overaggressive,” he confirmed.

Despite the loss, the Nationals continued to show that they have a more potent offense this year than last, outhitting the Braves 8-6. The team also got a solid start from Jordan Zimmermann, who threw five solid innings of four hit ball. The only Zimmermann hiccup was a home run off of the bat of Evan Gattis, subduing the sell-out crowd.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about the Yankees’ Thursday tilt against the Astros in Houston, excepting for the 26,000-plus Houston fans who came to the ballpark expecting to see former free agent and Yankee newbie Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. Instead, he was on the bench because (as Yankee manager Joe Girardi noted) “he needed a rest . . .”

The decision brought derisive comments from baseball analysts, who questioned whether signing a player like Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and then sitting him makes any sense. Ever. Don’t teams sign players in order to play them? MLB Radio’s Jim Bowden, the former Nationals’ G.M., hooted the Ellsbury decision during his Sirius XM talk show yesterday . . .

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Nats Bats, Gio Mash The Apples

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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Washington stroked thirteen hits, including four from Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez notched his first win of the season as the Nationals downed the Mets at Citi Field, 5-1. Gio Gonzalez also contributed a home run, his third of his career, in the top of the 5th inning.

Manager Matt Williams worried about a letdown after the Nationals took the opener on Tuesday, but the home towners seemed primed from their opening win. “They were ready to go today,” Williams said after the victory, “which was great.” The victory came off of Mets starter, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who gave up nine hits and three runs in six innings.

Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez, on the other hand, looked in mid-season form. Battling against an ump with a low strike zone (and showing frustration with some of the calls), Gonzalez successfully eluded some tough innings, helped by some slick fielding — which included a Bryce Harper throw from left field that nabbed a spring Ruben Tejada in the bottom of the 6th.

“The things he can do with that arm are pretty special,” Ian Desmond said of the Harper throw. “Your instincts tell you what a normal outfielder can do, not one with a Bazooka.”

Washington youngster Tanner Roark will wrap up the New York series for the Nationals at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon — after which the Nationals will play their home opener on Friday versus Atlanta.

 

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Let us now praise Kyle Farnsworth. Nats’ fans are familiar with the big (6-4, 230 pounds) righty, who broke into the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 1999 and has since served stints with Pittsburgh, Kansas City, the Yanks, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and (as we saw last night) the New York Stinking Mets . . .

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Nats Fall In St. Louis, Eliminated From The Postseason

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

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Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright subdued Washington’s line-up and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals, 4-3 at Busch Stadium. The loss eliminated the Nationals from the post-season: they are six games out of the last Wild Card slot with five games to play.

The key to the St. Louis win was Beltran’s fifth inning home run (his 24th on the year) that scored John Jay, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting the Cardinals ahead 4-2. Washington could only muster a single run the rest of the way. “It doesn’t feel too good,” manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.

The Nationals put on a run in September, going 16-6 on the month and winning a key day-night double header against the Atlanta Braves on September 17 that vaulted that team back into contention for a playoff spot in the National League. But the Cardinals has always played Washington tough, and that was true on Monday night.

Washington starter Tanner Roark notched his first loss of the season after an impressive 7-0 run, but the Cardinals heavy hitting line-up victimized him for nine hits in just five innings. “I was getting behind hitters a lot,” Roark said after the loss. “When you do that with a good team, they are going to hit your mistakes when you get them back in the count. They are going to battle like they did tonight.”

Washington’s scoring came early, on a home run from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span and gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. St. Louis clawed back, despite an additional run put on the board from the Nationals in the 8th inning: a fielder’s choice on a Ryan Zimmerman grounder the scored Anthony Rendon.

But three runs are rarely enough to defeat the Cardinals, who score just under five runs every game. Then too, Adam Wainwright got stronger on the mound as the game went on: Wainwright’s night ended after the 7th, with five strike outs while scattering five hits. The St. Louis victory was Wainwright’s 18th win on the year.

The Nationals stared into the night after a three-up-three-down ninth inning, stunned that their run for the postseason was over. The clubhouse was reportedly silent after the loss, as the team took stock of its “World Series or bust” season. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “So I feel bad for everybody.”

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Mea Culpa: We take no special pride in getting things right and, like everyone else who writes about baseball, we get plenty wrong. We said at the beginning of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were overrated and would tank: that players who finished with an attitude in Boston would bring that same attitude to Los Angeles. Well . . .

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Harper, Roark Lead Nationals Rally

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

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At the end of the third inning in Kansas City on Friday, starter Gio Gonzalez replayed the body language used by Stephen Strasburg when he pitched against the Cubs in Chicago: he found himself on the bench and shaking his head. The difference between Gio and Stras, however, was that Gonzalez lasted just 3.1 innings.

Gonzalez had one of his worst outings of the year, pitching to just one out in the fourth, before being yanked. Yet, at the end of the game, the Nationals found themselves 11-10 victors in a back-and-forth contest that saw the home towners score a breathtaking seven runs in the fourth inning.

As it turned out, the Nationals needed every run they could get and, at the end of the game, wished they had more.

“You are going to have games where you are going to be iffy,” Gonzalez said after the improbable Nationals triumph. “You are going to be all over the place. Today was a perfect example. Fastball was flat and I couldn’t find the strike zone. When you fall behind on a good hitting team, they are going to do some damage.”

What was true for Gonzalez was true for veteran Kansas City starter Bruce Chen, who entered the 3rd with a 6-0 lead, and departed in the fourth behind 8-6. The Nationals onslaught in the fourth inning came courtesy of three singles, a sacrifice fly, a walk, a bases clearing double, another walk and a home run.

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The bases clearing double came off the bat of Bryce Harper, who served up a shot to the base of the right center field wall, while the home run was the work of hotter-then-a-skillet Jayson Werth — and it landed behind the seats in the Kauffman Stadium’s pool in deep center field.

It was then, in the wake of Gonzalez’s struggles, that new found wonderboy Tanner Roark entered the game. He was nothing less than brilliant and, along with a Bryce Harper diving catch with one out in the 9th inning, saved the game for the Nationals.

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