Posts Tagged ‘Oakland A’s’

Nats Outhit The Crew, But Fall 4-2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals proved that Milwaukee Brewers righty Kyle Lohse is very hittable, spraying ten hits in seven innings against him at Nationals Park on Friday night. But it was Lohse who had the last word, working out of threat after threat in delivering the Brewers a surprising 4-2 victory.

All of Lohse’s acrobatics came with two outs, as Washington failed to move runners off the bases — a habit that has victimized the D.C. Nine all season.

In all, Lohse pitched out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings. Of course, the Nationals could rightly claim that it was their lack of hitting with runners on base (and not Lohse’s pitching) that was the problem: The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.

Lohse was able to joke about his on-base troubles, and his win, after the victory. “I think it was five out of seven innings that got led off with a hit,” he told reporters in the Brewers’ clubhouse. “I was thinking about starting off innings out of the stretch, but I didn’t want to let everybody know I was aware of it.”

The Nationals were hardly anemic at the plate. Denard Span was 3-4 on the night, Ryan Zimmerman was 2-4 (and stroked his 19th double) and Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

Lohse faced off against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in seven innings while striking out nine. But unlike Lohse, Strasburg was victimized by two round trippers (off the bats of second sacker Scooter Gennett and outfielder Khris Davis) and a Brewers’ offense that capitalized on their scoring opportunities.

“With Stras as a fastball pitcher, they are a home run-hitting club. That’s going to happen sometimes,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams noted following the loss. “If you are going to hit a home run, you want it to be a solo home run.”

But the difference in the game was not the long ball, but a bloop single off the bat of Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third inning. With Gennett and Ryan Braun on base, Ramirez hit a blooper just inside the right field line that scored both runners. The hit was the difference in the game.

The good news for the Nationals was that Bryce Harper seems to be on track after being sidelined for a good portion of the season, and struggling at the plate since his return. Armed with a new and more upright batting stance, the Nationals young left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, his third of the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals were losing at home against Milwaukee, Atlanta was winning at home against Philadelphia. The Braves 6-4 victory was their third in a row and put them a single game ahead of Washington in the National League East . . .

The Bravos celebrated the All Star break by making an uncomfortable roster move, releasing second sacker Dan Uggla who had struggled at the plate during the 2013 campaign, then repeated that performance again this year. Uggla has hit just .175 since the beginning of last season and without the power that greeted his arrival in Atlanta in the 2010 off season . . .

You really have to wonder what happened to Uggla’s power stroke. While the former Marlin could never hit for average, his penchant for hitting high and long drives into the upper deck made him a nemesis in the N.L. East. Uggla hit thirty or more home runs five seasons in a row, including 36 in 2011 . . .

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Rollins Rolls The Nats, 6-2

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

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The Philadelphia Phillies are hot. Coming off a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies pitched and homered their way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Nationals in Philadelphia on Friday night, with righty A.J. Burnett and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins leading the way.

The Philadelphia win came against D.C. ace and All Star Jordan Zimmermann, who had difficulty with his command early in the game and was forced to leave it due to a biceps cramp in the 4th inning. While Zimmermann’s bicep injury probably isn’t serious, it will keep him out of the All Star game.

“It was getting a little tight in the last inning, and every pitch, it was getting tighter and tighter,” Zimmermann said of his decision to leave the game. “It was cramping up. I didn’t want to push it too far and have something worse happen. I figured it would be best if I came out.

Prior to his departure from the game, Zimmermann gave up an unusual four runs on six hits, which included a third inning two run home run off the bat of Rollins. Rollins stroked another round tripper in the bottom of the 7th inning against Washington reliever Craig Stammen.

While Philadelphia was scoring runs on Zimmermann and battling hard against the usually steady Stammen (who gave up two runs on four hits in just 3.1 innings of work), A.J. Burnett was working his veteran magic on the mound. Burnett threw 7.2 innings, holding the Nationals to just five hits while striking out six.

“Burnett has been tough on us. He beat us twice here, but we got him at home,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia veteran. “The ball moves. He is pretty good. He has an idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to attack hitters. He had [all his pitches] working tonight . . . ”

The only good piece of news for the Nationals (outside of the report that Zimmermann’s injury is not thought to be serious) is that Bryce Harper connected for a round tripper — his second on the year — after a long drought. Harper’s homer came in the 7th with no one on. Ryan Zimmerman added to the Nats total in the 8th with a double that scored Jayson Werth.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: They’re starting to pack them in at Safeco Field in Seattle, and for good reason. The Mariners are seven games over .500 on the year and climbing steadily upwards towards the dominating Oakland A’s in the American League West . . .

Perhaps the most important game the Griffeys have played this year took place on Friday night, with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez facing off against Oakland newbie Jeff Samardzija. Hernandez came into the game sporting a snappy 2.11 ERA, while Samardzija was making his second appearance for the White Elephants after his trade from Chicago . . .

The result was a dramatic pitchers’ duel that saw Samardzija pitch a complete game — and lose. The former Notre Dame righty threw brilliantly, giving up only five hits and three runs, but Hernandez was just that much better. King Felix dominated the Oakland line-up, striking out nine A’s, making way for closer Fernando Rodney in the 9th . . .

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13 Runs, 19 Hits — Plus Gio

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

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Saturday’s whipping of Chicago was an offensive outburst like no other, as the Washington Nationals sprayed 19 hits (including eight doubles) and scored six times in the 3rd and four times in the 7th, victimizing the suddenly pitching poor Cubbies, 13-0.

The offensive onslaught was supported by an outstanding outing from lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who held the Cubs scoreless in eight complete innings. Gonzalez allowed just four hits in his outing, while striking out seven, notching his sixth win on the 2014 campaign.

“He stifled our offense,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the trouble his line-up had against Gonzalez. “He locates his fastball, works it to both sides of the plate. And his breaking ball is really good. … It’s got sharp, late break, good tilt. He can use it effectively against both lefties and righties.”

Every Nationals in Saturday’s line-up had a hit, including Gonzalez. Anthony Rendon was 3-4 (with three doubles), Jayson Werth was 3-4 (with two doubles), Ryan Zimmerman was 4-5 with three RBIs and Gonzalez stroked a 7th inning single that advance Wilson Ramos (who’d led off the inning — with a double).

“Obviously, this isn’t going to happen every day, but with the type of at-bats we put together today, even when the game is out of hand, it’s good to see every one grinding it out, even when it doesn’t matter,” third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, who is now hitting.272, said of the Nationals’ offensive outburst. “Everyone finished the game strong.”

The Nationals batted around in the third inning and scored six runs, eight Nationals batted in the 6th inning (while scoring “only” two runs) and nine Washington hitters came to the plate in the 7th inning, scoring four runs. The game marked the highest run and hit total for the home towners this season.

While Washington chased Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva after two innings, it was reliever Chris Rusin who was the designated goat for the North Siders. Rusin gave up nine hits and five runs in just 3.2 innings of work. Rusin’s shaky work raised his ERA from 1.80 to 6.23 on the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s all about tunnels in Chicago. Both major dailies, the staid and standard Chicago Tribune and the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, headlined Theo Epstein’s comment that yesterday’s swap of 40 percent of the Cubs rotation to Oakland now allows the North Siders to see “light at the end of the tunnel . . .”

We might expect Cubs fans to be skeptical, particularly after yesterday’s 13-0 drubbing of their beloveds at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but Epstein was all smiles during a press conference in which he announced the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. “We certainly hope we’ve improved our future,” Epstein said . . .

Epstein also said that the trade had nothing to do with Starlin Castro, who must be wondering what the Cubs are going to do with the (at least two) premium minor league shortstops (Javier Baez and Addison Russell — winging his way east to Chicago from the A’s), who are poised to challenge for his slot . . .

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Cubs Swap Samardzija, Hammel

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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It was a bad day for the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, as the Oakland Athletics pulled the trigger on a trade that strengthens their shaky but tough pitching staff — and makes them the odds-on favorite to not only seize the American League West division championship, but to play deep into October.

Just hours after taming a potent Washington Nationals line-up in a 7-2 Independence Day victory, Jason Hammel was shipped out to Oakland along with tough Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija. The two will buttress an Oakland starting rotation that has had trouble competing with the likes of the Detroit Tigers, which just swept the A’s in three straight.

In exchange, the Cubs received Addison Russell (one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects), pitcher Dan Straily (who will report to Triple-A Iowa) and developing outfielder Billy McKinney.

It is not clear why the Cubs decided to complete the swap with the A’s as opposed to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were rumored among the front runners (with the Baltimore Orioles) in the race to get Samardzija. It was also thought that the Cubs would trade their two pitchers in separate deals, instead as a part of a package.

Then too, the Cubs already have a top flight shortstop in Starlin Castro and a shortstop waiting in the wings in Javier Baez, though as MLB Trade Rumors noted, “But [Cubs] president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future.”

For the Cubs, Russell has to be viewed as the key to the deal. It seems likely to us that when Billy Beane offered him to G.M. Jed Hoyer, the Cubs simply couldn’t pass him up. Russell is a solid hitter who grades out at 15-20-plus homers in the majors and a good glove. He’s as close as it’s possible to get to a “can’t miss” minor league middle infielder.

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Nats Ambush The Rangers, 9-2

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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The Washington Nationals ambushed the Texas Rangers on Friday night behind the pitching of Stephen Strasburg — and with the help of a three run home run by Ian Desmond. For one of the few times this season, the Nationals actually seemed to coast to a victory, with Texas playing catch-up to a suddenly potent Nationals line-up. The Nats notched 15 hits in the victory.

Strasburg provided yet another stellar outing, but this time his team supported him. The young righty threw a solid six innings while striking out nine. His only hiccup came in the second inning, when the Rangers put two runs on the board after an Adrian Beltre double and a Strasburg error off the bat of Texas catcher Leonys Martin. Roughned Odor and Colby Lewis then followed with successive singles.

The Nationals took the lead in the 4th inning when Ian Desmond put a Lewis offering into the right centerfield seats, which scored Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Reversing a recent trend, the Nationals were 4-12 with runners in scoring position — and broke open the game on a 3-5 night from both Jayson Werth and Denard Span.

“[The homer] was real big,” Washington’s Denard Span said of the Desmond blast. “We got behind early. The mood was like, ‘Here we go again.’ We have been falling behind lately. With this home run, it gave us some type of energy. After that, we just piled on.”

Strasburg has now had eight straight starts where he has pitched six innings or more — and he could have gone much longer tonight, but with runners on base in the bottom of the 6th, Nats’ skipper Matt Williams decided that he had to have Tyler Moore pinch hit for him. The decision paid off, as Moore hit a two run double that all but sealed the Texas loss.

“Early in the first inning, he had some power behind his fastball and threw his breaking ball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said in analyzing Strasburg’s outing. “Then we started swinging the bats better. The guy is a good pitcher. We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t get a base hit. He’s a quality pitcher.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: That terrible sound you here is the San Francisco Giants eating the St. Louis Cardinals. Or maybe it’s the sound of the Giants eating all of the National League. On Friday night, the Giants showed why they’re the class of the N.L., downing the Redbirds in a 9-4 ho-hummer at Busch Stadium . . .

In truth, the score doesn’t do the game, or the Giants, justice. The Giants are 36-19, have hit more home runs than anyone in the senior circuit except for Colorado and are second in team ERA to the Braves. Scared? The Giants aren’t scared of anyone, so on Friday — when the Cardinals rolled out Mr. Universe, Adam Wainwright — the McCovey’s touched him for seven runs in 4.1 innings . . .

And . . . and the Giants did this on the same day that they announced that their powerhouse ace, Matt Cain, would go on the 15 day disabled list. Cain was due to return for his next start, but the Giants will play it safe, saving their righty for a mid-summer run against their in-division rivals . . .

Which leads us to ask: who the hell are these guys? The Giants finished ten games under .500 last year, but they spent the off-season retooling and restocking. While their core talent (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt) remained the same, G.M. Brian Sabean signed big bat Michael Morse to a one year, $6 million deal . . .

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Span Sparks Nats, D.C. Burns Cincy

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

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Nationals center fielder Denard Span was 5-5 with two runs, two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base, as Washington downed the Cincinnati Reds and vaunted ace righty Johnny Cueto 9-4 on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. It was Span’s best game of the year, and Cueto’s worst outing.

The Reds, a normally solid defensive team, committed four errors in the loss — in large part because of Span’s constant and disruptive threat. If that wasn’t bad enough (at least from Cincinnati’s point of view), Washington righty Doug Fister outpitched the normally unflappable Cueto. The righty threw seven innings of six hit baseball while striking out five.

Washington eclipsed Cincinnati’s early 1-0 lead in the third inning, scoring two runs on two Reds’ defensive lapse. Todd Frazier couldn’t handle a Doug Fister grounder and third sacker Ramon Santiago threw wide of first on Span’s bunt single. Santiago’s error put Span on third, where he was promptly driven in by an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly.

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But Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when Span singled to right, stole second and then moved to third on a throwing error from Cincy backstop Brayan Pena. Washington then piled on. Cueto hit Tyler Moore, gave up a single to Jayson Werth and then hit Kevin Frandsen. Danny Espinosa singled off of reliever Sean Marshall, Jose Lobaton followed with another single — and Span finished off the Reds with a double.

The Nationals didn’t score again for the rest of the game, but they didn’t need to: Washington had put seven runs on the board in the 6th and, considering Washington’s bullpen strength, it seemed unlikely the Reds would match the Nats offensive output. For Washington the story was Span (and suddenly solid starter Doug Fister), but for Cincinnati it was the unexpected collapse of their starting ace.

“We didn’t play a great defensive game; [Cueto] hit two batters and he wasn’t just the ground-ball machine/strikeout machine that he’s been to this point,” Reds manager Bryan Price said after the Reds’ loss. “It’s just the law of averages caught up with us today, no doubt about it.”

Ironically, Span’s 5-5 heroics came just hours after Nationals’ manager Matt Williams said he was sticking with his center fielder in the lead off spot, despite criticisms that the lead-off lefty had not produced in the top spot. Prior to Tuesday’s performance, Span’s OBP as the team’s lead off hitter was a meager .287.

“He’s a very important part of our team,” Williams told Washington Post reporter James Wagner. “If he doesn’t get any hits, he’s saves us runs in the outfield and that’s production in and of itself.” Span did more than that on Tuesday, raising his average to .263 and getting on base every time he came to the plate.

The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Gone were the Cincinnati fans that were so prominent in the section on Monday, but they were replaced by an odd assortment of out of towners for Tuesday’s blow-out of the Reds. The visitors included a middle aged married couple from San Francisco, who were visiting relatives and (as one of them noted) “wanted to see what this ballpark was like . . .”

The woman and her husband were Giants fans, and oddly dismissive of the Nationals. “We don’t have fireworks,” a regular explained to them, “because people in the neighborhood complained.” The woman smiled, though indulgently. “Well, you probably don’t have much to celebrate. I mean, you use fireworks for victories, right?” She smiled, knowing she was surrounded by a group of Nationals regulars . . .

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Nats Notes: The Positives In The Arizona Series

Friday, May 16th, 2014

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It wasn’t the absolute best, but the Washington Nationals’ series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a much needed positive end to a rough road trip to the Left Coast. The Nats’ bats couldn’t come alive against D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo in Game Two, but that’s hardly a knock against the home towners. Arroyo went the distance and chopped and chipped his stuff so well that it at times the horsehide seemed to move in slow motion. Nats hitters just couldn’t seem to focus.

Jordan Zimmermann again illustrated that he doesn’t do well with extra rest, giving up five earned runs in 5.2 innings in Game 1. And Stras was good, but not good enough to best Arroyo. But the good news for Nats Nation is that new acquisition Doug Fister shook off his (very) lackluster start in Oakland and pitched like the guy the Nats thought they were getting — he threw six strikeouts and induced ten groundball outs in his start against the Snakes.

One might be tempted to say that Fister’s start wasn’t a great test (need we point out: his semi-gem was against the second-worst team in the league), but bear in mind that Arizona is currently fourth in the National League in team batting average. That’s not nothing.

The fielding in this series was . . . fine. Four double plays in three games, but Ian Desmond racked up two more errors at shortstop. Rightfielder Jayson Werth did get an outfield assist and . . . and . . .  and nothing else really notable happened.

The Nationals’ lineup capitalizde where it could. Ian Desmond was a standout (finally), racking up four hits and four RBIs in the series. It looks like he’s taken some of the oomf out of his swing, giving it 75 percent instead of 135 percent, and that’s working well. Finally, finally — he isn’t overswinging. (Hey, maybe he’s been reading CFG.)

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