Posts Tagged ‘Ronnie Belliard’

Rockies Even Series; Trolleys Stun Redbirds

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Colorado Rockies held off the rallying Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday to take the second game in their five game series, 5-4. The key for the Purples was an unlikely two run homer off the bat of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who hadn’t had a four base knock since May. Torrealba’s knock was complemented by solid pitching from Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook and bullpen aces Jose Contreras, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales and all-world closer Huston Street (above). The Heltons, who won during the regular season by counting on the bats of an unlikely mix of new heroes, depended on the bat of yet another unknown newcomer: in this case it was left fielder Carlos “Cargo” Gonzalez. Gonzalez — a former Showboat prospect and a throw-in in the off season Oakland-Colorado Matt Holliday-for-Huston Street trade — spent much of the last two seasons in triple-A, while Denver’s front office waited for him to pan out. Gonzalez got his chance this year, after a series of injuries made room for him in the Colorado outfield. On Thursday, the fleet Venezuelan went 3-5 to spark the otherwise sleepy Rockies’ line up.

When the Oakland A’s got Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in the Huston Street trade back in November of 2008, they thought their search for a big bat was over: the Stillwater, Oklahoma native was a three time all star and three time silver slugger and he’d been named the 2007 World Series MVP. But Holliday didn’t seem to fit in in Oakland (he hit an otherwise anemic .286 with 11 home runs in 93 games), and on July 24, 2009 Oakland A’s guru Billy Beane swapped him to St. Louis for three top prospects: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. In St. Louis, Holliday tore the cover off the ball — hitting .353 with 13 home runs in just 63 games, and propelling the Redbirds into the post season. He was just what Tony La Russa ordered.

Holliday’s post season experience gave St. Louis the confidence they needed against L.A. With Albert Pujols and Holliday in the middle of their order and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright their big guns as starters, St. Louis was set to head into L.A. to face Joe Torre’s big bats. L.A. took the first game, with a surprisingly shaky outing by Carpenter. But St. Louis came back to dominate the second game: and it looked like the Redbirds were set to even the series at one game apiece. But with two outs in the ninth ining and St. Louis leading, the otherwise sure-handed Holliday dropped a sinking liner off the bat of first sacker James Loney to give the Dodgers new life. Casey Blake then walked and former Nats Ronnie Belliard singled home the tying run, before Mark Loretta’s short centerfield single provided the 3-2 walk off win. “It’s tough to swallow,” Holliday said after the game. “Obviously, I feel terrible. But I just missed the ball. It hit my stomach. I think I can catch a ball hit right at me.” The Trolleys now lead the series, 2-0.

Nats End Skid, Tame Wallbangers

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Craig Stammen pitched 6.1 innings and the Nats rapped out ten hits — including three home runs — to take the third game of the four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on Sunday, 8-3. Stammen was not brilliant, but in firm control of the strike zone, moving his fastball in and out against a baffled Milwaukee line-up. Stammen, who has had several good outings of late, threw 97 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. Stammen consistently moved players off the plate by throwing his fastball inside on hitters. “My No. 1 goal is to pitch six or seven innings and throw a quality start,” he said after the game. “But it was really important today to save the bullpen, give some of the guys a couple of days of rest and pitch late into the game so we could win.” Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard pitched in relief and were able to close out the game.

Craig Stammen Three

As was the case in the previous two contests, the Nats’ bats came alive, but this time the effort was in a winning cause. And the wallbangers in this case were not from Milwaukee. Home runs by Cristian Guzman (number 6), Adam Dunn (his 33rd) and Ryan Zimmerman (his 26th) paced the ballclub. The club was even able to pull off a suicide squeeze, with Nyjer Morgan laying down a perfect bunt in the second inning to score a sprinting Mike Morse. “It was one of those plays where we had to get that run in and put a little more pressure on them,” Morgan said. “We got it down and executed the play. I was trying not to show the bunt too early. It worked out in our favor.” Morse started in right field, his first major league start for the club since coming over from the Mariners.

Some People Call It A Kaiser Blade, I Call It A Sling Blade: Ronnie Belliard has been hitting the ball well lately, stroking a grand slam homer in a losing cause to the Brewers on Saturday. He’s raised his batting average by twenty points in the last week and had a key hit on Sunday. So, despite our constant criticism of Ronnnneeeeee here at CFG, we’re all happy for him. In fact, we’re so fracking ecstatic we’re wetting our pants. A young guy who can hit .300 and field his position? Who won’t get picked off first? Who won’t boot a ball at a key point in the game? Fogeddaboudit  . . . we want Ronnie. That said, don’t ya think it’s a little much when Bob Carpenter described Ronnie as “a really good hitter” during the Sunday broadcast? 

The game of the week took place after the Nats-Brewers match-up today, but before the Red Sox battled the Yankees in Boston. Out in Colorado, the Rockies faced off against the Giants in a tussle of NL West contenders vying for a wild card spot. And, at least at first, it seemed a cinch that the McCoveys would stifle the Rockies’ bats. Tim Lincecum was dominant: he pitched seven innings of three hit ball and struck out seven. He had a no hitter through five. He was overpowering. In comparison, Ubaldo Jimenez looked merely average — giving up two runs to Frisco in the top of the second. But in the seventh, Lincecum left a change-up out over the plate and Rockies’ Seth Smith put it in the seats. The Rockies went on to win the game, 4-2, saddling Lincecum (now 12-4) with the loss. Jimenez, whose win might well have put a very large post hole in the “let’s give Lincecum another Cy Young” bandwagon, is now 12-9 with a 3.36 ERA. Coors Field was filled to capacity (47,704). The Rockies are now three up on the Giants in the wild card race, and only 3.5 back of the fading Trolleys, who lost to the North Side Drama Queens. This was one hell of a game.

Would you like some Coors Light with that Whine? The announcers on FSN Rocky Mountain were going on a bit today about how “those guys out on the east coast” (I’m not kidding) are ignoring just how good the pitching is out in the west, and how good the Rockies and Giants are. Yeah, there’s a little of that. I’ve even mentioned it here in the well-read and highly influential pages of CFG. But you know, they went on and on. And on. And on. It would help, of course, if major league baseball didn’t schedule the Giants-Rockies dust-up for a mid-afternoon in August. But, really, who knew? Then too, it’s hard to see how ESPN could have guessed that, during the third week of August, the most important game being played in baseball would be between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies. Then too, the comment is just not accurate: it’s not as if Tim Lincecum hasn’t been celebrated.  Yeah, sure. We oughta pay a little more attention to the Rockies. But ignored? Give me a break.

Our Of Thin Air

Nats Nipped In Slugfest

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

The Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals banged out a total of 21 runs with 26 hits on Saturday, but the Nats ended up on the losing end of one of the team’s more depressing slugfests. Worse yet, Washington ace John Lannan was forced out of the game in the second frame, with Milwaukee leading 6-0. The D.C. bullpen proved no better, though Washington hitters tied the game at 8 in the bottom of the fourth. Every Washington reliever, with the exception of Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal gave up at least one hit and one run. The Nationals are now 17-19 under interim skipper Jim Riggleman, who was tossed in the third frame for arguing balls and strikes. Strangely, particularly for a game like this, Washington’s biggest bats were silent — Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes were a combined 0-11. The highlight of the game was a Ronnie Belliard grand slam in the third off of Brewers’ starter Mike Burns. Belliard accounted for four RBIs.

Lopez is hitting .315 for the Crew

Lopez is hitting .315 for the Crew

Milwaukee second baseman and former Nats, Felipe Lopez — who had harsh words to say about the Nats after being released by the team last year — was 4-6 with two RBIs. Lopez, who came to Milwaukee from Arizona, raised his season BA to .315. MASN announcer Bob Carpenter commented on Lopez that “when he’s motivated” he plays well, another way of saying that Lopez looked terrible in Washington last year, when his play around second was indifferent and his poor at-bats (.234 and two home runs in exactly 100 games) made him expendable. Lopez looked like a player transformed on Saturday — and he continues to hit well for Milwaukee. Lopez is now with his sixth major league team, having begun his career with Toronto in 2001.

Mock Tames Reds

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

In the immediate aftermath of one of this season’s more-than-typical collapses — in which nothing worked — the Washington Nationals rebounded for a 2-0 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds, in which everything worked. Garrett Mock, on the heels of a steady start against the Showboats (which he won 5-2) pitched a six inning gem and the Nats took the second game of the four game set against the Redlegs 2-0. Mock got into trouble in the sixth inning, when he loaded the bases, but he was able to pitch out of the jam. Other than that, Cincy’s bats remained silent and Mock remained steady; he threw 101 pitches, 59 of them for strikes.

After a shaky outing on Thursday, the Nats’ bullpen was superb, with Jorge Sosa, Sean Burnett, Jason Bergman and Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal blanking Dusty Baker’s pitching-light Red Stockings through three perfect innings. MacDougal sailed through the ninth, recording his twelfth save. The game could not have been scripted any better: the starting pitching was strong, the relievers looked untouchable and (while the Nats were not overpowering at the plate) the Anacostia nine got hits when they needed them — on improbable solo shots from Wil Nieves and Ronnie Belliard.

Garrett Mock

Down On Half Street: The clock is ticking on the deadline for signing first overall pitching messiah Stephen Strasburg. Bill Ladson and the Washington Times are reporting that the Nats met with Strasburg last week in Southern California. Ladson reports that team officials came away from their meeting impressed by the young righthander. If he is signed, Strasburg may be called to the big club in September . . . It seems notionally true, particularly in the wake of Jordan Zimmermann’s impending Tommy John surgery, that the Nats may need Strasburg more than ever. But that knife (so to speak) cuts both ways. The Nats are in a need of a young starter — true — but Zimmermann’s injury points up the fragility of young arms, particularly as the Nats were careful not to overpitch J.Z., setting strict limits on his pitch and game numbers . . .

As Ladson points out, David Clyde and Ben McDonald are the only other two pitchers in MLB history to be drafted #1 and pitch in the majors in the same year. Clyde was rushed into the Rangers’ rotation (as a way of bringing fans to the park) and didn’t pan out, while McDonald battled arm problems during a curtailed career . . . Scott Boras is apparently telling reporters that Strasburg deserves the same level contract (about $50 million) as Daisuke Matsuzaka. If true, Boras may want to rethink his peroration: Dice-K is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA and is battling “shoulder fatigue. He is probably out for the season . . . Everyone is remaining silent on the Nats’ chances and most particularly Strasburg’s agent; but that’s not unusual for Scott Boras, who usually negotiates to the last second . . .

Gutted

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Washington Nationals defeated the Florida Marlins 6-4 Tuesday night at Nationals Park. Adam Dunn hit the big blow in the six run eighth inning. The win was the Nats third in a row. Florida’s right-handed ace, Josh Johnson, dominated the Nats for seven innings, but the Nats’ half of the eighth opened with three straight hits. Willie Harris, Alberto Gonzalez and Wil Nieves led off the eighth with three straight singles. Pinch hitter Ronnie Belliard followed with a double, driving in two. Nyjer Morgan followed with a grounder to the right side, which scored Nieves. Cristian Guzman followed with a single that scored Nieves to tie the game. That’s when Dunn stepped to the plate and stroked an opposite field ball into the left field stands. Mike MacDougal closed out the game.

AD's two run HR wins it for Nats (AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

AD's two run HR wins it for Nats (AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Down On Half Street:Droog” D. Willy writes that he is blown away by Nats’ relief star Tyler Clippard. Clippard is emerging as the Nat’s stopper out of the bullpen. In Pittsburgh on Monday, Clippard worked out of a no-outs bases loaded jam, then turned in another two innings of no-hit two strikeout ball to give the Nats enough to sink the Ahoys, 8-4 . . . the Nats win tonight is not only their third in a row, each of them have been come-from behind wins . . . How good is the Nats bullpen? The change-over from the beginning of the season seems complete, and the results show it. The biggest change has come recently, with the addition of Sean Burnett and the new confidence shown by Logan Kensing.  Dave Sheinin writes: “The Nationals’ bullpen is a combined 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA and a .224 opponents’ batting average since the all-star break . . .”

Tomorrow afternoon NL East Chatter will feature CFG’s take on the trade deadline, the outlook for our Anacostia Boys, and what scares us about the Marlins. It took a couple of hours of thinking to find an answer that last question . . . Ryan Zimmerman sat out Tuesday’s game with a sore left shoulder, the result of being HBP by Jolly Roger pitcher Charlie Morton on Monday. Zim says he’ll be back, perhaps as early as tomorrow. That’s okay, if he doesn’t play third we can always use Belliard over there . . .  

Austin Kearns is headed to the DL with a sore right thumb. That’s too bad, we’ll miss his defense in right field. The Nats have called up Jorge Padilla from Syracuse to take his place. Originally a third round draft pick of the Phillies in 1998, Padilla is a veteran of the minor leagues, having ping-ponged his way from low single-A to Syracuse, while at the same time changing organizations. He was with the Phillies, Mets and Royals before coming to the Nats, in early 2008 . . . Our friend at Curse of Bonds writes to say that he believes that “Chester Cheese” (a Pierogi), could outrace any “racing president” — with the possible exception of Teddy. I will leave that to the experts over at Let Teddy Win . . . In the wake of our article on all of those moving parts the Neal “The Deal” Huntington has shipped away from the steel city, the disenchantment has only grown worse in the land of Lastings Milledge. This from Curse of Bonds:

tradeemalltour

Nats Sink Pirates

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Collin Balester pitched five-and-two-thirds innings of five hit ball and Josh Willingham homered and doubled, as the Nats took the third game of a four game set in Pittsburgh by a score of 5-3. The game gave Jim Riggleman a chance to try out a new infield set, playing Ronnie Belliard at first in place of the traded Nick Johnson. The eleven year veteran responded by going 2-4. Prior to the game, Riggleman had told Belliard he would be playing because he always hit well against Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm. Nats fans can expect to see more of Belliard at first, even though he has only played 46 of his 1278 games at the position. On Saturday, Riggleman featured a new Nats’ outfield, switching Willingham back to left, his regular position, and putting recently recalled Elijah Dukes in right. Dukes was in right again on Sunday. Since returning from Syracuse, Dukes is 1-7. While Willingham was the hero of the Sunday match-up, Balester’s solid outing solidified his place in the rotation — at least for the time being. Balester threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes. He walked two and struck out three.

Josh Willingham celebrates with teammate Ryan Zimmerman after hitting a two-run homer of Paul Maholm in Pittsburgh(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Willingham hits a two-run homer in Pittsburgh (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

What The Hell Is A Pierogi? Okay, for those of you who are wondering, a Pierogi is a dish of slavic origin consisting of boiled dough stuffed with various ingredients. You would know that if you were from Bulgaria, I assume, or Serbia, but for all the rest of us the PNC Park “Great Pierogi Race” is confusing. We all know who Tom and George and Abe and Teddy are, but a pierogi? The Curse of Bonds — a Pittsburgh Pirates blog — suggests that the PNC Park “Great Pierogi Race” is not so great, though it’s immensely popular. His reasoning is that a lot of Pirates’ fans leave the game right after the race because they really come to PNC to see the pierogies, and not the team. Besides, he says, by the time of the race the Pirates are already losing.

For those of you who are wondering, eastern Pennsylvania was the chosen destination (think about that for a minute) for eastern Europeans in the late 19th century. They brought their traditions with them — including their little sacks of dough filled with . . . whatever. There are four kinds of pierogies in the PNC race: green-hatted Jalapeño Hannah, Cheese Chester (in yellow), Sauerkraut Saul (in red) and Oliver Onion, in purple. Potato Pete, a once popular pierogi, is now out of the race. The Pierogies (the plural of pierogi is not pierogae) come into the game from right field and race to the visiting dugout. At the end of the year the wins and losses are tallied and a champion is declared.

Pirates fans might love the pierogies, but Pirates bloggers are much more concerned about the avalanche of trades launched by Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington over the last two years. Surprisingly, considering the depth of talent that Huntington has unloaded, Matt Bandi of “Pittsburgh Lumber” likes the deals: “I am champing at the bit to start looking at the potential 2011 and 2012 teams,” he says. But Jake over at Bucco Blog is despondent. His take on the Huntington and the Pirates reflects the impatient fanbase — which is tired of the front offices’ endless rebuilding efforts. He has a point. The Pirates haven’t won anything of consequence since 1992, the last time they were in the NLCS. Over the last two years, the Pirates have dealt the following players: Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, John Grabow and Tom Gorzalanny, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, Ian Snell, Adam LaRouche, Damaso Marte, Ronny Paulino, and Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez — among others. That’s an entire outfield, one of the best double play combinations in baseball, a starting catcher, four solid relievers, a major league starter and a first baseman.

Yikes.

Pirates GM Neal “the deal” Huntington has taken a lot of heat for the trades, and for continuing the Pittsburgh tradition of tearing down without really allowing the team to mature. The average age of those traded is 28 — just when major leaguers are starting to get their spurs. Huntington’s defense, issued after the Wilson and Sanchez “twin killings,” is that Pirates’ fans don’t want to come out to cheer for one or two good players. They want a good team. Most recently, Huntington has not taken the criticism well — he has sounded dismissive, defensive and angry. That’s probably understandable: he’s under a lot of pressure to produce. And he knows it. “We are making these difficult and unpopular decisions because we are trying to create a winner,” he said. “We don’t feel like we’ve broken up the 1927 Yankees.”

Yeah, right. And Jason Bay isn’t Babe Ruth. But the Red Sox will take him anyway.

Jason Bay