Posts Tagged ‘Roger Bernadina’

Nats Pound Philadelphia, 8-1

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Led by the defense of Ian Desmond (who also had a 4-5 night) and the hitting of Roger Bernadina, the Washington Nationals pounded out 12 hits and eight runs on Saturday, to defeat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The offensive outburst came at the expense of Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick, who had trouble making it out of the first inning. Desmond looked like “the wizard” at short, making barehanded plays behind Strasburg, Stammen and Slaten, while Bernadina slugged his eighth home run (putting the game out of reach) in the ninth. But the win was marred by an injury to starter Stephen Strasburg, who was forced to leave the game in the 5th after suffering a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm; it’s not known how serious the injury is — an MRI will be conducted to determine the damage on Sunday. The injury detracted from one of the team’s most solid performances against the Phillies, who trail the Atlanta Braves for the N.L. East lead.

Once again, as was apparent in Atlanta, the Nationals’ bullpen proved key in the Philadelphia victory. After Strasburg departed, Craig Stammen, Doug Slaten, Tyler Clippard and Miguel Batista combined to shut down the Phillies — throwing 4.2 innings while giving up just two hits and no runs. Tyler Clippard was particularly effective. After suffering a fall-off in his performance in late July, the righthander has lowered his ERA to 3.04, solidifying his reputation as one of the National League’s premier set-up men. Stammen also seems to have found his place: the former starter is now filling a first-out-of-the-bullpen role, being used by skipper Riggleman when someone in the rotation collapses. Washington’s bullpen is now ranked seventh in the majors, and fourth in the National League — and is one of the real success stories of the Nationals’ season.

Auctions and Auditions

Friday, August 6th, 2010

It is that time of year, when contending teams stock up for a final run to the flag and non-contenders send unsubtle signals to their players about their plans for the future. In Kansas City (for instance), the Royals designated Jose Guillen for assignment and signaled that they would be open to dealing him to a contending N.L. team, perhaps the San Francisco Giants. The message couldn’t be plainer: after their three year $36 million splurge on Guillen, the Royals are calling it quits on the outfielder, who’s on the brink of free agency. And if the Royals can’t find a taker? Well, Guillen is free to find work elsewhere. Guillen isn’t the only one on the hot seat. In Florida, Cody Ross is getting unmistakable signs that he’s not in the team’s future plans, while in Chicago, baseball yakkers say that Kosuke Fukudome is so unwanted that the Cubs will not only ship him out to a team that wants him, but will pay a large part of his remaining salary if only he will go elsewhere.

The Washington Nationals are sending signals of their own. On Thursday, the Nats placed Nyjer Morgan on the 15-day disabled list. The Nats’ center fielder wasn’t pleased: “”It [freaking] sucks,” Morgan said. “I feel fine. But, whatever.” Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman ignored the comment, putting his best this-is-really-terrible face on the move. “I hope it’s just two weeks,” he said. It seems likely that Morgan, despite his protest, gets it; he might “feel fine,” but the Nats don’t. By putting Roger Bernadina (.277, 8 HRs) in center and Michael Morse (.330, 7 HRs), in right, the Nats are auditioning their 2011 outfield: which would be younger and more potent– a good outfield, sans Morgan. The same kind of a signal was sent by Riggleman to Jason Marquis, who was recently reactivated and is set to pitch in Los Angeles on Sunday. After a season of elbow woes (and surgery to remove bone chips), Mike Rizzo & Company would love to include Marquis in their future plans. But whether Marquis is around for 2011 is an open question. He wants to contribute,” Riggleman said. “If he’s the real Jason Marquis, the guy who is sinking the ball and getting ground balls and attacking hitters, he can really help us and be a part of our future.” And if not?

After splitting their four game series with the woeful D-Backs in Phoenix, the Nats are 14.5 games back in the N.L. East. While there’s no chance that they’ll contend for a playoff spot, the rest of the season is hardly a wash: the team will spend the rest of the current campaign auctioning and auditioning — the Morgan-to-the-D.L. move is just the beginning. And based on what the Nats are doing now, you have to believe the future is bright. While the team cannot overtake the Chops or Ponies, the underfunded and disappointing Fish and the New York Palookas are within striking distance. If the Marlins (losers of four straight) have a plan (except for stockpiling young arms), we can’t find it, while the listless New York Tailspins are beset by “anxiety” and regularly “mailing it in.” For the first time in three years, the Nationals have nowhere near the same set of problems. The team has moved younger and better hitters (Bernadina and Morse) into key spots and are days away from a series of “you’re going to Hollywood” bookings that will start with Marquis and continue with appearances by Jordan Zimmermann (below), Yunesky Maya, Wilson Ramos and (even) Danny Espinosa. Which is not even to mention the continuing American Idol-like tour of “the kid” — who is now slated to start against the Marlins on Tuesday. The news is good for Nats fans: a team that was so filled with hope in April will be filled with even more hope come September.

Floyd Duels Strasburg, Masters Nats

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

You can see the effect that Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg is having on baseball: the Nationals are selling out the park, his presence increases road attendance by some 25 percent, the Anacostia Nine are gaining increased nationwide television attention, MLB Network and “Baseball Tonight” commentators are oohing and ahhing about his pitch selection and — oh yeah, opposing pitchers regularly throw way over their abilities when he’s the opponent. Case in point? Gavin Floyd, the otherwise substandard (2-7, 5.20 ERA) down-in-the-rotation starter for the A.L. South Siders, who matched St. Stephen in his recent Friday night outing, throwing baffling breaking balls and eyebrow level 95 mph heaters. The Express fanned ten (count ’em) black-and-whites over seven innings, but Floyd lasted another inning and mastered Washington’s new hitless non-wonders. In the end, while the MLB Network did “look ins” of the Orioles-Friars tilt (and cameras snaps pics of Barack Obama watching his team), the Nats dropped a beautifully played (and pitched) game: 2-1.

In the game’s disappointing wake (disappointing for Nats fans who root for the home team ever as much as for “the Acela”) the talk was of Strasburg’s use of the change-up — and Floyd’s wizardry: “I just try to focus on what I can do,” Floyd said modestly. “You can’t control or think about what [Strasburg’s] doing. You go out there and put up zeroes and give your team a chance to win.” Jim Riggleman, who is as concerned with wins and losses as he is with the development of the team’s “hope for the future” (a characteristic he shares with his youthful phenom, whose focus remains on helping the Nats win) gave Floyd his due, thereby qualifying for this week’s CFG award for understatement. “He [Floyd] was real tough,” Riggleman said. “He’s got a good arm. He was a real challenge and we couldn’t get much going against him.” That’s for sure.

While Floyd threw up-and-down and in-and-out (106 pitches, 70 strikes!), and St. Stephen matched him pitch-for-pitch (or was it the other way around?), the two Nats who seemed to get a bead on the ChiSox righty were Roger Bernadina and Adam Dunn, who battled Gavin through every at bat. But the Nats could never string together a rally that would give them a win. The difference in the game came in the 11th, when a diving Ryan Zimmerman lofted a ball just over the outstretched glove of Adam Dunn, plating Mark Kotsay from third with the winning run. The Nats went quietly in the bottom of the 11th.  “It was a tough play, tough game,” Zimmerman said. “Stras threw great. It was a good baseball game.” True enough. But another loss, alas, which brings the Nats solidly into last place in the NL East and looking desperately for a win to match the surging Phils, Braves and Mets.

Bullpen Sinks Pirates

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The Washington Nationals took the second in a three game set against the Pirates on Wednesday, though the 7-5 victory was much less cleanly played than the previous night’s 5-2 drubbing. Still, a victory is a victory, and the sloppily played triumph will enter the win column — and lift the Nats to within two games of .500 with one game left to play against the Stargells. The victory was also a vindication (of sorts), for Nats manager Jim Riggleman, who has praised rookie right fielder Roger Bernadina. Bernadina was 3-4 on the night and his speed on the base paths seemed to energize the Nats Nine. “He’s a very talented guy,” Riggleman told the Post back in May. “If you run him out there enough, he’s going to do some damage, because he’s just that good of a player.”

The Nationals were also sparked by a perfect bullpen, as Tyler Walker, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps combined to sink the Pirates through 4.1 innings of two hit, no-run ball. Tyler Walker’s outing was key, as the former journeyman Metropolitan, Giant and Phillie has struggled of late. “It was a bullpen shutout. That’s what we were looking for,” Walker said after the win. “We came in and picked up Johnny [Lannan]. He didn’t have his best stuff tonight. You come in and you want to pick him up. You want to help out your teammates. Tonight, I was able to get that job done. I had been struggling in that situation lately — [with] inherited runners. I was really trying to bear down and get us off the field, so we could get back to hitting.” Walker’s outing brought his ERA to back under four, while Storen (1.74) and Clippard (1.57) continued to impress.

Those Little Town Blues: Our friends over at The Real Dirty Mets Blog are getting fat and sassy, in the belief that the Mets are showing that they are some kind of team. (Haven’t they learned? C’mon guys — you’ll only be disappointed . . .) Most recently, “Mr. North Jersey” did some kind of throw down (is that what it’s called now?) in CFG after the Strasburg outing — to the effect that “don’t expect my Mets to go easy on you; we will be out for blood.” Well, let me tell you — we’re terrified. No really. We are. I mean, Strasburg, Lannan, Hernandez are pretty good, but there’s not a one of them as good as Oliver Perez . . .  Our constant desire to become an entry in The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary has led us far afield in the past. It didn’t seem that any Nats qualified as throwing, fielding or hitting in any particularly unique manner for us to even nominate a word or phrase. But now, with Stephen “they call me Mr.” Strasburg having plied his D.C. wares, we think we’ve come up with something. The heater that Strasburg threw against Andy LaRoche on Tuesday (his last K) seems to qualify. It was both unique and spectacularly Strasburg — ian. The Strasburg pitch was up-in-the-zone at 97-plus and absolutely unhittable. We’ll call it “a Porky Pig fastball” — and see if that catches on . . . No? . . .

“I mean, I don’t get it,” one of CFG’s droogs said last night. “The Ahoys? That’s what you call the Pirates?” Okay, we admit, it’s corny, but we’ll take reader nominations for nicknames and we’ll use them too. If they’re any good. We call the Mets “the Apples,” having dropped “the chokes” as being, well … offensive. But, while we call them “the apples” we don’t particularly like that nickname — or even “the Metropolitans.” It seems . . . ah . . . antiquated. So. Have you got something better? Well, send it in. And we’ll use it. But we’ll stick by “the Trolleys” (for the Dodgers) and McCoveys for the Giants and we’ll also stick with the Belinskys for the Angels (after legendary Halo pitcher Bo Belinsky) and, come to think of it, the uniquely descriptive “White Elephants” (c’mon, you know, for the Athletics) is an absolute keeper. But, admittedly, we’re having trouble coming up with a nickname for the Rockies. “The Heltons” is just too easy. And we’re having trouble labeling the Brewers. The “Brew Crew?” C’mon. I mean, who the hell cares? So nominations are open . . .

Guess who’s cashing in? Why, that would be the Topps baseball card company (well, they’re in business, so a little cash is probably not inappropriate), which has issued a limited edition set of cards of Stephen Strasburg, showing him pitching in Tuesday night’s debut. The limited edition has a very short print run, to ensure card value, and shows his first pitch. Right. That “other” card company — Bowman — will not be outdone. It has announced that it is producing a limited number of Bryce Harper cards. The Topps limited edition Strasburg card is pricey (and popular), although Topps has announced it will add a card to its 2010 660-card set (#661) for collectors who purchase a boxed set . . .

Strasburg card-0610.jpg

Walk Off “Hammers” O’s

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Josh Willingham’s walk off home run in the tenth inning gave the Nats the game, the set and the match against the Baltimore Orioles in a 4-3 victory at Nationals Park on Sunday. Willingham’s game winner came off of O’s reliever Cla Meredith, and gave the Nats bragging rights in the “Battle of the Beltways” inter-league series. Perhaps as important, the Nats played a nearly perfect, tight game that relied on defense and pitching — a decided change from Saturday’s messy win and a needed boost as the Nats now head west for an extended road trip. “When you get a game winning hit like that,” Willingham said after the win, “it’s why you play the game as a baseball player . . . it got up in the air and went out.”

Willingham’s game winning knock was not the only good news for the Nats. Starter John Lannan pitched well — holding the Orioles to one run on two hits over 5.1 innings. Lannan said that his arm felt good after the outing, with the pain he had suffered over the previous weeks an apparent thing of the past. “I’m feeling healthy, which is the main thing,” Lannan said. The game also seemed to confirm Jim Riggleman’s decision to provide Roger Bernadina with a more steady starting role in right field. After a slow start, Bernadina is hitting the ball well — and he’s a defensive asset in right field. “He’s just getting a little better each time,” Riggleman noted. “He’s really finding his way and getting a little more comfortable.” The Nats will start their road journey with a series against the San Francisco Giants,  before moving on to San Diego and Houston.

Those Little Town Blues

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Roger Bernadina conquered New York — slugging two home runs and executing a rally-killing circus catch in right field as the Washington Nationals took two of three from the Apples at Citi Field. The Nats 6-4 ninth inning victory left the Nationals in sole possession of second place in the NL East, with the Anacostia Nine posting a head-spinning 19-15 record, just 1.5 games behind the guaranteed-to-win-the-division Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets were left to lick their wounds after Tuesday’s victory, which not only came at their expense, but made them trailers to a Washington team that (shhhhhh … don’t say it) is now being talked of as a possible (shhhhh!) contender for a spot in the playoffs in September (now you’ve gone and done it, you idiot). Buster Olney commented openly on “Baseball Tonight” on Wednesday that if the Nats continue to play well, and if Stephen Strasburg is all that everyone thinks he is and (if, if, if if) someone like Chien-Ming Wang were to recover nicely from his shoulder problems — well, then, the Nats would be buyers and not sellers in July, and perfectly capable of adding another pitcher (like, say, Roy Oswalt) to an already formidable mix. And adding someone like Oswalt could make the difference between a nice finish to a good season, and a season in which the home towners play well into October.

Olney should know better. Not only is that a lot of ifs, but the baseball gods take painful retribution on those who think about October during a frigid May road trip. But that Roger Bernadina would be the hero of the Nats latest victory seemed to underscore the unlikely mix of solid pitching, improved defense and timely hitting that has made the Nats the head-shaking talk of baseball: the good-glove-light-bat Bernadina was hitting just .212 when he came to the plate on Wednesday, as skeptical Nats fans kept wondering what the front office was going to do about the “problem in right field.” But Jim Riggleman told reporters after the game that he has faith in Bernadina’s ability to shake a slow start and drive in runs: “He is just too good to be sticking [a hit] out there now and then,” Riggleman opined. “The coaches agreed. They all felt the same way that Roger is ready to break out. It’s one game. It’s not a breakout. It could be the start of something good. It couldn’t happen to a more wonderful kid. Again, we are lucky to have him.”

So? So while it’s still early, and while it’s difficult to believe the Nats will continue to find heroes to give them wins in unlikely places (heroes like the otherwise punchless Roger Bernadina), and while it’s absolutely nuts to tempt the baseball gods by talking about September in May, its hard to argue with what long-suffering Nats fans are seeing on the field: a team that is improved in every category and that is learning to win knock-em-down late inning games. And the rest of baseball is noticing.

Detwiler’s Curly W

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Ross Detwiler notched his first win of the season on Monday, with a 2-1 win over the Mets. The victory against the Chokes was a distinct improvement over the previous three games: the Nats’ starter was effective, the bullpen held the opposition to zero hits in three scoreless innings, and the Nats scored when they needed to. “It feels great,” Detwiler said of his victory. “It kind of feels like I got the pressure off myself to get that first victory. It’s one for the records.” The starter’s success came because he threw strikes: 65 of them in 99 pitches — with three strikeouts, nine groundouts and seven fly balls. Detwiler gave up seven hits and lowered his ERA to 5.35. Mike MacDougal, whose confidence took a hit during the series with the Braves, came on to pitch the ninth — and retired the side. Surprisingly, the Nats hitting was provided by three newcomers. Justin Maxwell went 2-4, Ian Desmond 2-3 and Mike Morse 3-4. Morse, who’s been hitting the hide off the ball, hit his third homer of the season in the sixth inning with no one on.

The Case For The Kids: Nats fans are getting a taste of what they’ll be seeing next year. Monday’s lineup included Justin Maxwell, Ian Desmond, Mike Morse and Alberto Gonzalez. While interim manager Jim Riggleman says that he will continue to play his veterans, the end of the season is turning into a kind of advanced spring training. The August 27 injury to Nyjer Morgan (and Cristian Guzman’s bum foot) has allowed Riggleman to test Mike Morse’s staying power in the bigs and so far he has to like what he’s seen. Chico Harlan quotes Riggleman as calling Morse “a professional hitter,” and the numbers bear him out: Morse is hitting .306 and seems to have shaken off the injury bug that has been such a big part of his career. Riggleman doesn’t quite know where to put Morse, but he started him in right field on Monday, in place of Elijah Dukes. Dukes has been hitting better since his mid-season return from the minors, but he’s the first to admit he has trouble hitting a curve. Then too, while Dukes’ on base numbers are getting better by the game, his power stroke has disappeared. That’s not true for Morse, who’s season total of three home runs was notched in the last three games.

The rise of Morse — and Justin Maxwell’s apparent new found ability to hit major league pitching — creates one of those happy, and rare, problems: a crowded outfield. Barring a trade (and given that Nyjer Morgan has centerfield locked up, with Willingham in left), the Nats are now set to go to Florida with at least four outfielders contending for the remaining outfield slot: Morse, Dukes, Maxwell and Roger Bernadina. While it’s too soon to tell (and a lot can happen in the off-season), if spring training were to start today, the competition for right field would likely come down to a tussle between Morse and Dukes. Dukes has helped his cause by being a good citizen and consistent nose-in-the-dirt player, but his BA continues to hover between .250 and .260. Right now, albeit in far fewer games, Morse is shaping up to be the better hitter.  

Of course, it’s possible that Riggleman (if he loses his “interim” tag) will write Morse’s name in at second base: but Alberto Gonzalez’s recent post-slump production (seven for 17 in the last five games and ten points on his BA over the last ten) and improved defense make him a contender for a starting spot up the middle. Gonzalez is no Chase Utley (who is), but there are plenty of teams out there who would love to have a second baseman who can hit .270. Over at Nationals Pride, Jeff wonders whether the Nats should sign free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. Maybe they should. But the Nats’ weakness up the middle is not at second (Gonzalez has — count ’em — one error at second in 51 games), it’s at short — and getting Hudson doesn’t solve that problem. I’ve never understood the knock on Gonzalez: he hits better than Kaz Matsui (a lot better), fields better than Felipe Lopez (remember him?) and doesn’t have a surgically repaired and naggingly bum left wrist, like Hudson. Putting Gonzalez permanently at second (just ignor what these guys have to say about him) makes for one less thing: and frees up money to sign a top flight starter (or even a couple) and a top notch closer (if they can find one). After all, it’s possible for a team to win, or even contend, with a steady-but-not-great second baseman, but it’s impossible for them to win without a starting staff or a bullpen. If 2009 showed the Nats anything, it showed them that.