Posts Tagged ‘Nolan Reimold’

Strasburg Exits After Two, But Nats Win

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Washington starter Stephen Strasburg didn’t make it into the third inning in Atlanta on Friday night, complaining of a strained right oblique, but Craig Stammen came on to pitch four perfect innings, and the Nationals downed the Braves, 3-2.

The Strasburg injury is not thought to be serious and does not involve his elbow or shoulder. “It’s something where, the last few starts, I’d feel it warming up and I’d go out there and wouldn’t feel anything,” he said following the game. “Tonight it was more the reverse. I started to feel it a little more.”

The Nationals bullpen responded to the challenge by holding their division rivals to two hits and a single run in seven innings, with Stammen leading the way. Stammen was followed by Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, with Rafael Soriano coming on in the bottom of the 9th to notch his fifteenth save.

“He went out there and gave them four strong innings, mowed right through us, and we just weren’t able to get to him,” Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Stammen following the Atlanta loss. “But we got into the bullpen, so maybe that will help us out in the next two games.”

The Nationals swatted nine hits against the Braves, but the big contributor was center fielder Denard Span, whose two triples led the way. In both cases Span was able to score, the result of sacrifice flies from Steve Lombardozzi. Span was 3-4 on the night with Lombardozzi contributing two RBIs.

“It’s real big to get to third with no outs. It increases our chances of scoring runs,” said Span, who continues to be among Washington’s steadiest producers at the plate. “Lombo did a good job hitting behind me and getting me in and getting us on the board.”

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Titanic Struggles: Red Sox, Braves Sink Beneath The Waves

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

If you watched Tim Kurkjian last night on ESPN, then you know just how close he came to an on-air myocardial infarction. In the history of the game, he said, what viewers just saw was history — the best night of baseball ever of any regular season. The best, as he repeated, in 200,000 games. In fact, he’s right — it might well have been.

Unless, of course, you’re a fan of either the Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves. For both of those clubs, and their fans, the “night to remember” was a belly-up sinking that compared with the loss of the “unsinkable” Titanic: it just wasn’t supposed to happen. Fans will focus on the Red Sox, of course, but down in Atlanta the despair was as keenly felt. You only have so many shots at this, and this may be one of the Braves’ last.

“When you’re in a slump as a team, you find a bunch of different ways to lose,” third baseman Chipper Jones said after the Bravos dropped a nail biter to the Phillies. “Bats go silent. You get wild on the mound. You walk in runs. You find different ways to lose and we sure did over the past couple weeks.”

Okay. But still — the most improbable of improbables was not the Braves loss to Philadelphia (let alone the Redbirds whitewashing of the Astros), or even the fact that somehow the Tampa Bay Rays came back to take a 12 inning victory from the Yankees, but Baltimore’s epic ninth inning walk off victory against the Nation. “Now, there’s something you don’t see every day,” the unsinkable Molly Brown said as she saw the Titanic go down, stern first.

And that’s what we all said, last night, when Robert Andino put a Jonathan Papelbon offering just off the glove of Carl Crawford in left field to score Noland Reimold and give the Orioles (the Orioles!) a walk-off 4-3 win in Baltimore. There’s a reason why fans keep their mouths shut when they’re watching a no-hitter in the ninth, just as there’s a reason why you don’t pitch Tim Wakefield eight times in the middle of a divisional race just so he can get his 200th win. (What the hell were they thinking?)

Here’s some other things you don’t ever do, no matter what. You don’t calculate that you have an inside shot just because the Rays are playing the Yankees, you don’t headline that you have “the best team ever” at the beginning of a season, you don’t describe the Iraqi insurgents as “pushovers” — and you don’t call a ship unsinkable when it’s sitting in Belfast Harbor: you don’t flirt with icebergs.

So . . . so don’t rewrite the rules. They remain, the rules. You don’t tempt fate, which is what the Red Sox did all of September, and it’s what they did last night. It’s call hubris, and it’s been around since Homer. “I’m pretty shocked,” Red Sox arm John Lester said. “Not only with the Rays game, but in our game, we’ve got the best closer in baseball. That stuff doesn’t happen to him.” Oh, c’mon. Sure it does. This is baseball.

Nats Fall To Phillies: Again

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The Nats must have one of the toughest early schedules in the major leagues: Phillies, Mets, Phillies (that’s six games against the Phillies in the first month), then the Brewers, Rockies, Dodgers and Cubs. With the exception of the Mets — and a single end-of-month game against the Marlins — the Nats will face-off against a top team every single day until May. Of course (as some fans will note), when you finish with 103 losses, every team looks tough. Even so. There’s two ways to look at this: Nats fans can say it’s “not fair” (a phrase popularized by four-year-olds), or we can look at these games as tests of just how good the Nats are against the league’s best. In the case of the Phillies, at least, the results seem clear. It’s not simply that the Nats are not as good as the Phillies (that’s obvious), to complete with them the Nats will need more pitching — and lots of it.

The Nats fell to the Ponies in Philadelphia yesterday and played them even, until “the killer P’s” unloosed their hitters. For Jason Marquis, who must have come up short when the staff drew straws before heading north, the second outing against the Phillies was only marginally better than his first. Frankly, it’s doubtful that Livan, who dominated the Mets on Sunday, could have done much better. The line-up of Polanco, Utley, Howard, Werth and Ibanez constitutes a latter-day murders’ row of lumber that would be daunting for an elite team — let alone the Nats. Even so, as a guy like Jim Riggleman will tell you, a competitive squad should be expected to play the Phillies tough. But so far that hasn’t happened. The lesson seems to be that once you have your boot on their neck, you don’t dare give in. “They are a balanced lineup,” Nats reliever Walker said. “They have some free swingers and have guys that will grind it out. The balance is what gets you, because they are going to be consistent every day. You give them an inch, they are going to take a mile. You give them an extra out, that’s when they really gear up. They know they can break your back.”

Andy MacPhail’s renovation project in Baltimore is making progress, though the pieces he’s added over the winter (signing Garrett Atkins was a great idea) aren’t likely to make a difference for the Orioles in the standings. At least not this year. It doesn’t help that steady-as-she-goes second sacker Brian Roberts pulled an abdominal muscle last night — and will be out for the next fifteen days. But the Orioles are coming back, if slowly, in part because MacPhail has cobbled together one of the best outfields in baseball: Adam Jones might be the best centerfielder in the game, Nolan Reimold is a surprise addition in left and Nick Markakis is becoming an established star. Even Felix Pie (above), the Cubs cast-off (you could say the same about MacPhail, come to think of it), is starting to hit, though his dinger last night against the Tampa Bay Whatevers didn’t keep the Orioles from losing — or falling to1-6 on the season.

“Overall, our pitching is doing a great job,” Markakis said after last night’s tilt. Really? You could have fooled me.The starting four of Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen and Brian Matusz are just so-so, and closer Michael Gonzalez (brought in from the Braves as the real deal) looks terrified on the mound. The Orioles’ front office is hoping that semi-rookie Brian Matusz is the answer to the Orioles’ annual pitching woes, but he’s inexperienced. Matusz was an elite college pitcher (at the University of San Diego) with good velocity, and his trip through the minors was impressive. Signed by the Orioles in the same year that Washington failed to land Aaron Crow, Matusz is Baltimore’s  hope for the future, even if the future has yet to arrive. If there’s any good news at all, it’s not only that Matusz is unlikely to fail, but that rotation-mate Brad Bergesen has been a surprise. Drafted in the fourth round in 2004, Bergesen was 7-5 last year with a stellar 3.43 ERA. That’s two solid pitchers for the future. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the future will come only after Baltimore gets past a season with the savvy, but aging Millwood, and a bound-to-be-average Jeremy Guthrie.

None of this is cause to despair. While the future might take several years to arrive, Markakis, Jones, Reimold and Pie are fun to watch. If only they could pitch.

Cards Sweep Nats; Ronnie To L.A.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Garrett Mock and Adam Wainwright threw a classic pitchers’ duel at Busch Stadium on Sunday, but the Nats fell to the Redbirds, 2-1 to drop the third game of a three game set. Mock and Wainwright traded pitch-for-pitch through six complete, until Mock left a 3-2 pitch up in the strike zone against Albert Pujols, which turned out to be the difference in the game. Pujols stroked the mistake into centerfield, ending the deadlock and giving the Cards the win. Both bullpens closed out the game in near-perfection, as Nats’ bats could not provide an answer against a trio of Cards’ pitchers. The Nats accounted for only four hits in the game: one each by Willingham, Dukes, Orr and Bard. It was a tough series for D.C. hitters — but a particularly tough last game, as they faced one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, and arguably one of the contenders for the Cy Young Award. The masterful Wainwright had only one shaky inning and is now 16-7 on the year. 

Garrett Mock dueled Adam Wainwright in St. Louis (AP/Tom Gannam)

Garrett Mock dueled Adam Wainwright in St. Louis (AP/Tom Gannam)

Sunday’s game was one of the best of the year by Mock, who was spotting his breaking stuff nearly perfectly. But the pitch to Pujols, Mock said, will probably keep him awake: ”The pitch that’s going to cost me some sleep tonight is the one that he got a hit on that scored the second run,” Mock said. “I wasn’t trying to throw the ball there, obviously — not trying to throw the ball anywhere where he could hit it. I feel like I did do a good job of executing my pitches today, but that particular pitch, I’ve got to be better than that.” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had praise for Washington’s starter. ”I just called Jim Riggleman and said, ‘Whoever decided to put Mock in the rotation, it was a good decision,’” La Russa said. “Boy, he was very good.”

After the game, the franchise announced the departure of Ronnie Belliard for the sunny climes of L.A., where he will find service with the Trolleys. Ronnie’s gotta be as pleased as punch to be headed to a contender, after riding the pines for most of the season behind Anderson Hernandez, now riding the pines for the Chokes, and Adrian Gonzalez. Not surprisingly, Belliard was of two minds on the trade: “I’m happy because I’m going to L.A. and that team is in first place,” he said. “But I’m sad because I am going to leave a lot of friends. I’ve been here for the last three years and I made a lot of friends.” Belliard had been playing well since the All Star break, hitting .325 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. He’d been getting more playing time. The Nats received minor league righthander Luis Garcia and a player to be named in the swap.

Baltimore 

The Orioles might, truly, be one of the forgotten teams of baseball. Fated to play in the A.L. East, the little orange birds are mired in last place, 28 games behind the Yankees — and only eight wins better than the Nats. But there’s hope in Birdland, and not simply because the O’s have won six of their last 11. The team arguably now has one of the best outfields in all of baseball, a clear contender for the rookier of the year award, and perhaps one of the league’s premier young pitchers. All of this was on display on Sunday, when the O’s took on the Naps in Baltimore and coasted to an easy win behind the power arm of rookie Brian Matusz. All of 22, the former first round (fourth overall) pick in the 2008 draft, is the thinking man’s pitcher, who studies game-day videos of himself to determine how best to spot his killer curve, then adjusts his arm slot accordingly. Matusz threw 97 pitches yesterday, 67 of them for strikes. He held the Indians to four hits over seven innings.

Matusz isn’t a surprise: he’s a can’t miss pitcher who won’t miss. The surprise is Felix Pie — a former Cubbie who has now, shockingly, set down roots in left field after going through nearly three years of trying to figure out how to hit major league pitching. Pie has been on a tear, raising his average over the last two months to a respectable .272 and showing some power; he now has seven home runs (a laughable total, we suppose, except that the punch-and-judy Dominican wasn’t supposed to have any at all). Pie weighed in to help Matusz on Sunday, jacking a two run homer in the third. He’s hitting .383 since August 14.

Pie is a nice addition in the outfield, completing a trio that includes Adam Jones in center and Nick Markakis in right. If Jones was playing in New York or Boston, we venture to guess, people would be describing him for what he is: the best young outfielder in all of baseball. The Pie-Jones-Markakis trio has kicked Noland Reimold, a contender for rookie of the year, into the D.H. spot. Reimold’s hot bat has been a surprise for the MacPhail’s this year: the 25-year-old climbed his way, hand-over-hand through the Baltimore system, before the front office gave him a grudging look. He was a prospect that was once ranked near the bottom in the O’s system. But he’s produced and it looks like he’s in Baltimore to stay.

Okay: things aren’t all that great in Baltimore and the fans are restless. How can they be otherwise. The team is in last place. They’re certainly not going to win a pennant next year, or maybe even the year after. But the MacPhail plan is on track — and if the outfield of Pie, Jones and Markakis ever hit together, the Baltimore Orioles could become one of the most formidable teams in all of baseball and a challenger to “the nation” and the evil empire. With Matusz they have the beginnings of a young staff, the only other ingredient they need. And so, after an era of irrational interference from a know-it-all owner, the Orioles are finally on the right track. If they only had a little more pitching.

Felix Pie (left) is congratulate by Melvin Mora after homering against the Indians

Felix Pie (left) is congratulated by Melvin Mora after homering against the Indians