Posts Tagged ‘Oakland A’s’

April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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Monday was home run day in Major League Baseball. In Miami, on their way to a 9-2 crushing of the wayward Miami Marlins (the fish have now lost eight in a row), Washington’s Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon hit dingers (it was Leon’s first ever), while the Marlins got their second run on a moon shot from Garrett Jones.

In Anaheim, where the A’s played the Belinskis, John Jaso’s pinch hit home run topped the Halos, but only after Albert Pujols put his 496th career round tripper into the Anaheim stratosphere. That was the second game of ESPN’s nightly offering, which led off with a head-shaking match-up between the Braves and Phillies.

The Braves-Phillies tilt was nearly unwatchable until the 8th inning, when Dominic Brown’s three run blast sent Philadelphia to what seemed an unlikely late-inning victory. That was not the story, as it turned out: Atlanta had scored its runs on back-to-back-to-back skyballs in the previous frame, courtesy of Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, then went on to beat the Ponies in the 9th, when Dan Uggla homered.

Even then (with Washington, Miami, Oakland, Anaheim, Atlanta and Philadelphia all going long), April’s most impressive home run derby took place in Cincinnati, where the stinking Reds and mighty Pirates put ten (count ‘em) ten balls over the fence. It was a sight to behold: Pittsburgh had three sets of back-to-back home runs, while Cincinnati hit four solo shots. Pittsburgh’s Gaby Sanchez hit two, as did Neil Walker.

Ironically, while home runs played vital roles in all of these match-ups, the Cincinnati derby (at the Great American Bandbox, so there’s that) counted for nothing, with the game suspended in the 7th inning due to rain. Don’t think it was impressive? Take a look at this:

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So? So what the hell is going on? Right here would be a good time for some statistical analysis, reputedly showing that April 14 was a “statistical anomaly” — an argument any old wag could make except that nearly every game in baesball (or so it seems) provides some kind of “statistical anomaly.”

Last year at about this time, baseball writers were going on about how 2013 was the “year of the pitcher” (when I was younger, the year of the pitcher was 1968). By June of last year, it was official, with analysts pointing out that over a period of five years the majors had seen 18 no hitters and six perfect games.

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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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“A Win Is A Win” — Nats Outlast The Cubs

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

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“A win is a win,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson explained on Thursday evening following Washington’s 13 inning 5-4 victory against the Cubs in Chicago. What Johnson meant to say was that it’s easier to overlook an embarrassment, so long as (in the end), your team puts one in the win column.

The embarrassment, and that’s what it was, came in the bottom of the 9th inning, when an otherwise brilliant start from Washington righty Stephen Strasburg was squandered when the young ace inexplicably gave up a game tying home run to Cubs third sacker Donnie Murphy.

Strasburg squatted on the pitchers’ mound as Murphy circled the bases, and continued to shake his head in the dugout after, disbelieving that what should have gone into the books as his seventh victory (and into the Nationals’ win column), turned out to be a no decision.

Strasburg’s 9th inning was a breathtaking collapse: “I had my way with him all day,” Strasburg said of Murphy’s at bat. “And then he runs into that curveball. Obviously it’s the location that was the problem. A curveball, once it leaves your hands you really have no control over it. It just didn’t have the same kind of bite as it had early on in the game.”

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But Strasburg wasn’t the sole author of the Nats’ collapse. A throwing error from Anthony Rendon (subbing at shortstop for Ian Desmond), put Chicago’s second run across the plate in the 9th, when a good throw might have ended the game. Rendon’s errant throw brought Murphy to the plate.

Rendon’s 9th inning slip came on a tough play, but the young infielder admitted that his misstep added to the Nationals’ 9th inning troubles.  “You feel terrible,” Rendon explained to reporters after the game. “Obviously I had a little slip over there, but that’s no excuse. I still should have made that play.”

But deflating as the 9th inning was, credit the Nationals (and their bullpen), for hanging in and eventually notching the victory. Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen kept the Cubs at bay over the next four innings, holding the North Siders hitless while striking out four.

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Nats’ Slide Now At Five

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Taylor Jordan showed once again that he belongs in the majors, throwing seven strong innings against a tough Pittsburgh line-up on Tuesday night — but his teammates couldn’t support his strong outing and the Nationals fell once again to the Pirates, 5-1. It was Washington’s fifth straight loss.

Jordan, a lanky righty who is filling in for the injured Ross Detwiler, scattered nine hits and struck out four before being relieved with two outs in the eighth inning. It was an impressive showing, but Pittsburgh starter Garret Cole was better, stifling Nationals hitters and notching an RBI at the plate.

“I feel for my guy because he should have only gave up one run,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said of Jordan. “We made the error that gave them two more runs. He had pitched so good in the seventh. I was going take him out for the left-hander. But I thought he deserved the chance to win that ballgame.”

Cole, on the other hand, gave up just two hits to the anemic Nats, including a home run to catcher Wilson Ramos. But the single run is all that Cole would allow. The 22-year-old Cole threw 92 pitches, 54 of them for strikes. He gave up just one walk, to Bryce Harper in the bottom of the first inning.

The Nationals have been outscored 26-11 over their five game losing spiral, with only Jayson Werth’s time at the plate worth mentioning. While the right fielder was 0-2 on Tuesday, he’s hit .353 over the last ten games and is the only Nat whose average is hovering at around .300.

Werth has also emerged as the ever-optimistic team leader. “I think at some point, the tide’s got to turn,” Werth said after Tuesday’s loss. “The luck’s got to swing in our favor. And hopefully when it does, we can grab hold of it and run with it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s always worth waiting for awhile to assess a trade, but in sending Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers, the Cubs have completed the rebuilding of their infield. The centerpiece of the Garza trade was Mike Olt, an MLB-ready third baseman (and outfielder) with oodles of power . . .

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Praising Arizona

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

We tend to forget, but it wasn’t so long ago that the Arizona Diamondbacks ruled the National League West. Back in 2011 (when the Nationals finished a single game under .500), the D-Backs won 94 games and finished eight games in front of the Giants. They seemed set for the future: an N.L. West powerhouse that could only get better.

But Arizona’s dominance was short-lived: they struggled mightily in 2012, and ended the season at .500, thirteen back of the eventual world champions. Most other G.M.s would have left well enough alone, hoping that the crew that had played so well in 2011 would regain its form in 2013. But not G.M. Kevin Towers: he spent the winter of 2012 retooling — eliciting howls from baseball pundits.

The first to go in the purge was outfielder Chris Young, dealt to Oakland in October for shortstops Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera. Towers then flipped Cabrera to Miami for closer Heath Bell and then, one month later, traded reliever Ryan Wheeler to Colorado for relief specialist Matt Reynolds.

So far this looked like going-through-the-motions. But then, Towers pulled off two swaps that staggered Arizona’s fanbase: in December he let three pitchers (including prospect Trevor Bauer), go to Cleveland for shortstop Didi Gregorius, lefty Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson.

Several weeks later, Towers moved Justin “boo’d by the fans” Upton (as well as Chris Johnson) to Atlanta in a blockbuster that brought in third sacker/outfielder Martin Prado, in addition to pitchers Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill and infielders Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury.

The trades received almost universally bad reviews. “If that sounds like a good deal to you,” Keith Law said in reaction to the Upton trade, “I have some beachfront property in Phoenix to sell you.” Less harsh, but as pointed, Rob Neyer said that Towers was “playing the long game, and doesn’t have any real intention of competing with the Giants and Dodgers in 2013.”

Well, not exactly. Seven months after Towers transformed the D-Backs line-up, Arizona is three games in front in the N.L. West, while the Giants and Dodgers are 3.5 and eight games back, respectively. As is now apparent, there was a method in Towers’ madness, which included trading away players who wanted to be elsewhere — and finding a shortstop.

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Sanchez, Chen — And The Day Of The Pitcher

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

On any other day Jordan Zimmermann’s one hit masterpiece of the Cincinnati Reds would have been the top story in baseball. But not yesterday. Instead, Zimmermann’s brilliant mastery of the Redlegs was quickly relegated to a distant second place — like a very pretty, but not beautiful, bridesmaid who stands at the alter waiting for someone to take notice.

Indeed, on a day of pitching brilliance, the Zimmermann outing placed a ho-hum second to Anibal Sanchez’s amazing performance in Detroit’s 10-0 pasting of the Braves. Sanchez’s outing made history, as the righty struck out 17 hitters in a single game, besting the 16 Ks registered by Detroit Hall of Famer Mickey Lolich.

There is little that Sanchez’s performance has in common with Zimmermann’s (Anibal threw Ks, Jordan threw grounders), except for this: Sanchez, like Zimmermann, is not the publicly acknowledged ace of his team’s staff — that would be Justin Verlander.

How good was Sanchez? The former Marlin (he was never better than 13-12 for them), struck out Dan Uggla four times, Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco three times each and struck out two batters in every inning except the fourth. Sanchez limited the Braves to five hits and no Detroit outfielder recorded a putout. And Sanchez didn’t even pitch the 9th.

But Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t the only bridesmaid on Friday night. Out in Oakland, Baltimore southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen two hit the White Elephants over eight innings to provide the Birds with their best pitching performance of the season. Prior to Chen, no Orioles pitcher had made it into the 8th inning — which should tell you something about the O’s starters.

On what might justifiably be called “the day of the pitcher,” Chen was just so-so, at least in comparison with Sanchez and Zimmermann. But Chen’s victory was a thing of beauty. He threw 12 fastballs in his first thirteen pitches, all of them four seamers and none of them faster than 92 mph. Chen is hittable, but no one seems able to hit him.

Least of all Oakland hitters: “He does a little something different each and every time,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Chen’s outing. “But at the end of the day, he’s got a fastball that gets on you a little quicker than you think. He gets a lot of popups and fly balls.”

Nats Squeeze By Chicago

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Adam LaRoche ended his standard early season drought with two home runs in consecutive at bats and the Nationals squeaked by the Chicago White Sox, 8-7 to bring their record to 5-2. LaRoche’s homers helped the Nationals stave off a surging Chicago line-up — and helped the team to survive some shaky bullpen outings.

LaRoche’s blasts came in the 6th inning with one on and in the 8th with no one on. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth also went deep for the home towners. “You get into the second week of the season, that’s never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit,” Laroche said following the win. “I felt great that first series at home, I just couldn’t get the ball to fall. To come back and get a couple [tonight] was nice.”

The home runs were needed: Chicago’s Paul Konerko blasted a three run home run in the 7th inning off of Tyler Clippard to bring the score within one. Washington came back to tack on a run in the bottom of the 7th, which was followed by LaRoche’s second home run — but Chicago added two more in the top of the 9th off of Rafael Soriano, who then closed out the game.

Both Chicago and Washington were hoping their starters would turn Tuesday’s game into a classic pitching match-up, but Jake Peavy gave up six runs on nine hits in 5.1 inning, while Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez surrendered four hits in five innings. That wasn’t so bad, but Washington’s bullpen gave up seven hits and four runs in the next four frames.

Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when the Nationals put four runs on the board — with home runs from Werth and LaRoche. “Obviously, the sixth inning got away from us,” Peavy said. “I didn’t have much there, and it was hot and humid, and I ran out of gas. I didn’t have much left with LaRoche, and he put a good swing on it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s deja vu all over again for the Los Angeles Angels, who are repeating their slow start from a year ago. The Angels dropped a slugfest at home last night, in their opener, against the forever surprising Oakland A’s. The Angels yielded a one run lead in the top of the 7th by giving up home runs to pinch hitter John Jaso and first sacker Brandon Moss. The A’s went on to dump the Halos 9-5 . . .

Nothing seems to be working for the Belinskys, and you can read the frustration in the face of Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia. Ace C.J. Wilson came out of the clubhouse and promptly gave up three runs in the top of the 1st, but it could have been a lot worse: Wilson left the inning with the bases loaded . . .

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