Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

Marlins Hook The Nats, 3-0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Henderson Alvarez pitched seven complete innings and Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and drove in two runs as the Miami Marlins shut out the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, 3-0. The victory was Miami’s sixth in a row and narrowed the gap separating them from first place in the National League East.

Alvarez showed why he’s one of Miami’s premier starters, particularly at home. Alvarez allowed just three hits while striking out four, outdueling Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg matched Alvarez’s numbers, also allowing just four hits. The Washington righty also struck out four Marlins.

The Nationals had plenty of scoring opportunities against Alvarez, but couldn’t find a way to get their runners across the plate. The Nats had the bases loaded in the second inning with no outs, but failed to score, and then had Anthony Rendon on third and Bryce Harper on first in the fifth but couldn’t push a run across.

Alvarez admitted that he struggled in the early going, before finding his command. “I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” Alvarez said of his performance. “When the bases loaded with nobody out, I started to find my control of my pitches and of the game.”

After showing a solid ability to push runners across the plate earlier in the current road trip, the Nationals reclaimed their inability to score with runners on base. Washington left 26 on base last night, threatening Miami’s lead in the last of the 9th, when they again failed to score with the bases loaded.

The game also marked a revival for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game at zero for his last nine at bats. But Stanton certainly looked good against the Nationals, lacing a double to left against Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th, scoring Jordany Valdespin.

“I haven’t felt good for a while now,” Stanton said after last night’s victory. “I did a little setup pregame. Hopefully I’m feeling better and more comfortable at the plate. Today was a good plus to that.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the hunt for starting pitchers, with both teams inquiring about Boston’s Jon Lester, who’s a free agent after the season. The Redbirds have kicked the tires on nearly everyone who’s even remotely available, according to baseball analysts . . .

The once-upon-a-time pitching rich Cardinals are mired right in the middle of the pack with their staff, at least statistically, with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia sidelined with arm issues. Wacha has a tweaky shoulder while Garcia is out for the duration with nerve problems in his pitching arm . . .

The loss of Wacha and Garcia have not sent the Cardinals into a tailspin, but St. Louis will need to bolster its pitching to have a shot at another world title. Everyone is in play: the Redbirds have scouted Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.j. Burnett of the Phillies, Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, in addition to Lester . . .

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Rockies Halt Streaking Nationals, 6-4

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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The Nationals four game winning streak was stopped by the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday, as a 9th inning Washington rally fell short and Colorado went on to win, 6-4. The hero for Colorado was starter Jorge De La Rosa (now an impressive 11-6 on the year), who threw into the 8th inning and struck out 11.

Matt Williams had nothing but praise for the Colorado right hander, whose performance helped to end the Rockies seven game skid. “He knows how to pitch here,” Williams said. “He has a surprising fastball when he needs it, but he relies on his changeup a lot. That’s a great strategy here.”

While De La Rosa pitched one of his best games of the year, the Rockies needed help from their bullpen, and a little luck, to take the victory. The Nats rallied to score two runs in the 9th inning and had the bases loaded when Colorado veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins fanned Washington shortstop Ian Desmond to end the threat, and the game.

The 9th inning was a key for the Nationals, who looked like they might actually catch and then pass Colorado. Hawkins registered two outs before allowing RBI singles to Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon to make it a 6-4 game. But the Nationals came up just short, providing Rockies’ fans with a too rare win at home . . .

“Got scary there at the end,” Colorado third sacker Nolan Arenado admitted. “We have a lot of confidence in Hawk. He’s done a great job this year putting people away.”

Despite the loss and failed rally, Washington scrapped out twelves hits on the Rockies, who are viewed as one of the best offensive teams in the game. Denard Span had a second solid game at the plate, going 4-5, while Danny Espinosa (now, with the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, a regular fixture at second base), weighed in with a double . . .

The Colorado win not only marked an end to Washington’s four game winning streak, it gave Stephen Strasburg his eighth loss on the year, against seven wins. Strasburg had trouble out of the gate, giving up three runs in the 1st inning on doubles from Josh Rutledge and Corey Dickerson, and singles to Ben Paulsen and Michael McHenry.

Strasburg was not satisfied with his performance, but gave himself points for hanging in in the tough Colorado environment. “Giving up three runs early, I could’ve easily shut it down,” Strasburg said after the loss. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it as close as possible. Give the guys a chance to come back — anything can happen here.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals will have the day off on Thursday, before facing the Redlegs in Cincinnati on Friday. The Reds vaulted themselves into contention in the N.L, Central before the All Star break, but nothing has gone well for them since then. The six game spiral now finds the Reds just a single game over .500 . . .

The Reds were swept by the Brewers in a three game set in Milwaukee, losing the last of three on Wednesday, 5-1. Not surprisingly, the Reds have been hit hard by injuries to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, which provided much of the Reds punch to a now suddenly anemic line-up . . .

“Offensively, we averaged two runs a game. That’s not going to cut it,” All Star third baseman Todd Frazier said after the Milwaukee loss on Wednesday. “We depend on our pitchers, and they’re pitching great. When we depend on them, we have to also produce . . .”

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The Eagle Has Landed: The Yankees Golden Boy Loses In Chicago

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

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Masahiro Tanaka’s former team in Japan, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, isn’t named for a city, but for an internet shopping company — Rakuten — “where shopping is entertainment.” It’s an odd concept: the team is a company team that plays in Sendai, and was formed as a result of a crisis in the NPB, the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

The NPB was in trouble after the 2004 season, with players grumbling about compensation and two of the league’s teams facing financial difficulties. The problem was solved after the Orix Blue Wave (our favorite here at CFG) and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged and the league added Rukuten, an expansion franchise that went almost nowhere until it got Tanaka.

Tanaka wasn’t an immediate star, but he eventually perfected his split finger fastball, notching 19 wins in 2011 and 24 wins last year — with no losses. As Tanaka got better, so too did Rakuten, capturing the Japan Series last year after posting an 82-59 season. Tanaka emerged as the league’s highest profile star, rocketing to that slot after the departure of the league’s previous celebrity arm, Yu Darvish.

This was the second golden age of Japanese baseball — an era that followed the triumphant career of Sadaharu Oh, the NPB’s earliest, greatest face. Oh was Japan’s Babe Ruth until Darvish and Tanaka started to pitch against each other, with Darvish compiling a breathtaking record with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

It’s no wonder the Japanese were upset at losing Tanaka. Not only was the righty an amazing 24-0 at Rakuten (where former major leaguer Kevin Youkilis is currently playing), he helped a team that had revived the league take a national championship. And for many Japanese, particularly after the retirement of Oh and the departure of Darvish, he was the face of Japanese baseball.

Now, it seems — and given the imminent retirement of Derek Jeter — he’s becoming the face of the New York Yankees. But on Tuesday, the Yankees new “Golden Eagle” came back to earth, losing his first game of the season in pinstripes to the Chicago Cubs 6-1.

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Despite the loss, Tanaka pitched well, scattering eight hits over six innings — a quality start and, very often, good enough for a win. But Tanaka took the loss when his teammates proved inept against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who shut down the Yankees line-up on four hits and six strikeouts.

The big blows in Tanaka’s loss were not, after all, big blows — the Cubs won on two sacrifice flies in the bottom of the 6th, an error from first sacker Mark Teixeira and a three RBI day from Mike Olt. The loss ended Tanaka’s MLB debut at eight games without a loss, leaving him 6-1 on the still young season.

The normally self-effacing Tanaka took the loss in stride, nearly apologizing for letting down the fans. “I’m a little bit disappointed because I think a lot of the fans were looking for me to keep on winning,” he said after the game. “Next time out, I’ll try to get a win again and get it going again.”

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi was much more analytical, saying that Tanaka’s splitter was not at its best. “If he has his good splitter tonight I think he gives a much better performance,” he said. It’s no secret that Tanaka has revived the Yankees, who were desperate for a front line pitcher after finishing 12 game behind the Red Sox last year — and he’s clearly put additional fans in the seats at Yankee stadium.

“Masahiro Tanaka is really, really, really good,” Hardball Talks Aaron Gleeman wrote last week. So far, Gleeman writes, Tanaka has compiled “the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever for a 25-year-old pitcher who qualified for the ERA title” — ahead of Walter Johnson, Johan Santana, Roger Clemens, Ben Sheets, Pedro Martinez and three others.

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Fister, Late HRs, Yield Arizona Series Win

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

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Ian Desmond hit a 9th inning single with the bases loaded, and Tyler Moore followed with another hit, as the Nationals pushed across four runs against Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler — and the Nationals went on to win the third game of their three game Diamondbacks series, 5-1.

The four run 9th inning unlocked a straight-up pitchers duel, which featured a solid outing from Nationals newcomer Doug Fister. Fister threw seven innings of five hit baseball, matching Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy who went eight innings while yielding just two hits.

“We needed this one,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after his team’s victory. “It salvages the road trip. It started off really bad and it’s nice to get this one and head home on a positive note.” The Nationals will get a day off before beginning a six game home stand against the Mets and Reds.

The Washington 9th inning started when Ziegler issued a walk to Denard Span, which was followed by a double to right off the bay of Anthony Rendon. Ziegler then intentionally walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. The next hitter, Desmond, then put Ziegler’s 84 mph sinker into left field, scoring Span and Rendon. Tyler Moore’s single then scored Desmond and Werth.

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Fister’s outing came as a relief for the Nationals, who view the righty (acquired in an off-season trade with the Detroit Tigers), as filling a missing piece in their rotation. After spending the start of the season nursing an injury, Fister’s first start in Oakland (where he gave up five earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work) was not auspicious. But the former Cat turned it around on Wednesday.

“He had good stuff,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Fister’s outing. “He was changing speeds. He’s got a really good sinker and he was throwing it to both sides of the plate. He started going to his offspeed stuff later in the game, and he just had us off balance. He threw a good game.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Mets seemed to have the Yankees number this week — until last night, when the pinstripers push their best pitcher to the mound. In their first two games of the Mets-Yankees subway series this week, the Mets pummeled the Gehrigs, plating 21 runs while notching 24 hits . . .

The Mets outburst was met with head-scratching bewilderment by the New York media, which focused more on Yankee lapses than the Mets’ brilliance. Perhaps that’s understandable: the Mets took all four games in the subway series last year, and the first two games in the 2014 campaign set the tone for Yankee mediocrity . . .

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Is There A “Nats Nation?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

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Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.

As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.

The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.

“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world. ┬áThe ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”

As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.

We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”

The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.

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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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