Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Strasburg’

Span’s 9th Inning Sacrifice Gives Nats The Win

Monday, April 21st, 2014

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Denard Span’s walk off sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Danny Espinosa with the winning run as the Nationals defeated the Cardinals at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory assured a series split between the two teams, who are predicted to meet in the off-season, and allowed the Nats to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East.

The bases were loaded when Span stepped to the plate in the 9th, with the Cardinals playing five infielders to prevent the winning run. “I counted: one, two, three, four, five,” Span said of his clutch at bat. “Right there I told myself a groundball probably not going to do it. Try to get the ball in the air somehow.”

The Washington victory was another come-from-behind win, with the Nationals scoring two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game. The 7th inning rally featured classic station-to-station scoring from a team that has too often relied on the long ball — with singles from Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.

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The Cardinals scored their runs against Washington ace Stephan Strasburg, who pitched six complete inning of five hit baseball, but failed to get the decision. Strasburg threw 90 pitches, 63 of them for strikes, before yielding to Washington’s suddenly effective relief corps. Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Rafael Soriano kept the Cards off the scoreboard, with Soriano notching the win.

The Washington win was particularly gratifying because it came off one of the best bullpens in baseball and included a return to the lineup of Bryce Harper, who was benched on Saturday for failing to hustle. Harper met with Washington skipper Matt Williams prior to Sunday’s game to talk of the incident. “[Williams] just said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ That’s the three words he said. He was every enthusiastic,” Harper said of their pre-game talk.

While Span was the hero of Sunday’s game, the key to the Nats resurgence was Danny Espinosa, who was 3-4 and got key hits during the 7th inning rally and then again in the 9th — scoring the Nationals’ winning run. “His approach is good, his intensity is good, his attitude’s fantastic, and he loves to play,” Williams said of Espinosa’s reemergence.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Nearly every year the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are picked to win the American League West, and nearly every year they disappoint. That was particularly true for 2012, when the Angels signed free agent Albert Pujols, and then against last year, when they signed slugger Josh Hamilton . . .

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The Good News From Opening Day

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Among this season’s changes to Centerfield Gate is that we have decided to use our posters real names. In addition, as our readers will see in the weeks ahead, we have several new features — including “Nationals Scorebook” in which we will post (on Facebook) key details and the actual scoring of select games.

And we have new contributors. CFG’s newest writer is Jason Knobloch, a veteran Nats’ watcher. This is his first post-game commentary, but certainly not his last:

The Nationals 9-7 win in New York carried with it plenty of good news for Nationals’ fans — poised prematurely (it would seem) to celebrate what could be a banner season. F.P Santangelo called it right: the Nats needed to get past Mets’ starter Dillon Gee and into New York’s bullpen. That said, until the very end of the game the Anacostia Nine didn’t have enough quality at-bats, and Gee lasted long than he should have.

The Nationals bullpen gave up two home runs and three RBIs, but it was still outstanding. Drew Storen looked particularly impressive (and like his old self — some of which we saw at the end of last year) and Aaron Barrett had a quality major league debut. He’s a keeper: two strikeouts. And despite the struggles of Jeremy Blevins, it’s worth noting that he set down three swing-throughs.

Stephen Strasburg kept the Nationals in the game (the job, ultimately, of any good starter) — but this was hardly his best outing. Stras has added a fifth pitch, a slider, and it was outstanding and certainly well beyond what a new pitch might look like this early in the season.

With Strasburg’s curve and change-up, the slider will be yet another pitch that will add punctuation to the ace’s real weapon, and overpowering fastball. That’s quite an arsenal, particularly when the right’s velocity returns (it won’t take long) to what it should be.

Danny Espinosa provided real value in his first game back in the majors from late season (2013) Triple A. His at-bat as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning kept the team alive and (batting from the left side) the former starting second sacker looked more relaxed that he did last year.

And there’s this: if’s Zim’s shoulder gets tweaky again or if he’s moved to first, its likely that Matt Williams can have confidence in who he slots in to second and third, a point bolstered by Anthony Rendon’s performance late in the game: a three run shot that (as it turns out) the Nationals needed.

Ray Knight got it right (as usual) during Nats Xtra — the Nationals of last season, and especially the Nats of early last season, would probably not have won this game. That doesn’t mean the team is assured of any early run away from the rest of the division, but it’s a good sign.

 

 

 

 

 

The Nats Head Home After An 86-76 Season

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals finished their season in Arizona with a loss to the Diamondbacks, 3-2. In many ways the loss was representative of what the team had done all season: entering the eighth inning with a one run lead, the Nationals’ bullpen gave up two runs to an Arizona team they’d beaten handily in the previous two outings.

While the game was the last in a season that saw the Nats drop out of contention for the N.L. East title back in June and July, the team came back in September with a run at the Wild Card. The key to the Nationals resurgence was a revived offense and pitching contributions from unlikely rookies, including Tanner Roark, who held the D-Backs to just three hits in seven innings on Sunday.

“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen,” Roark said after his performance on Sunday. “Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.” Roark has been outstanding since arriving in the majors in early August: he finished at 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.

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The final game of the season also marked Davey Johnson’s last game as the Nats’ manager. “Time to go home,” Johnson said after the game. “Put me out to pasture.” The Nationals praised their 70-year-old skipper, with Tyler Clippard noting that a good manager “builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing.”

Johnson was philosophical about what is apparently the end of his career, choosing to bypass comments on the Nationals’ season. “I felt really lucky to have had the big league experiences I’ve had as a player and as a manager,” he told the press after the Arizona loss. “When you love a game as much as I love this game and like the competition, you just enjoy it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: An 86-76 record would have sparked celebrations in Washington just a few years ago, but the Nationals (picked by many as the premier team in the National League) must be disappointed. Even so, there is good reason for celebrating a season that saw the Nationals finish ten games out of the hunt in the N.L. East . . .

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Nats Fall In St. Louis, Eliminated From The Postseason

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

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Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright subdued Washington’s line-up and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals, 4-3 at Busch Stadium. The loss eliminated the Nationals from the post-season: they are six games out of the last Wild Card slot with five games to play.

The key to the St. Louis win was Beltran’s fifth inning home run (his 24th on the year) that scored John Jay, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting the Cardinals ahead 4-2. Washington could only muster a single run the rest of the way. “It doesn’t feel too good,” manager Davey Johnson said of the loss. “We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.

The Nationals put on a run in September, going 16-6 on the month and winning a key day-night double header against the Atlanta Braves on September 17 that vaulted that team back into contention for a playoff spot in the National League. But the Cardinals has always played Washington tough, and that was true on Monday night.

Washington starter Tanner Roark notched his first loss of the season after an impressive 7-0 run, but the Cardinals heavy hitting line-up victimized him for nine hits in just five innings. “I was getting behind hitters a lot,” Roark said after the loss. “When you do that with a good team, they are going to hit your mistakes when you get them back in the count. They are going to battle like they did tonight.”

Washington’s scoring came early, on a home run from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span and gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. St. Louis clawed back, despite an additional run put on the board from the Nationals in the 8th inning: a fielder’s choice on a Ryan Zimmerman grounder the scored Anthony Rendon.

But three runs are rarely enough to defeat the Cardinals, who score just under five runs every game. Then too, Adam Wainwright got stronger on the mound as the game went on: Wainwright’s night ended after the 7th, with five strike outs while scattering five hits. The St. Louis victory was Wainwright’s 18th win on the year.

The Nationals stared into the night after a three-up-three-down ninth inning, stunned that their run for the postseason was over. The clubhouse was reportedly silent after the loss, as the team took stock of its “World Series or bust” season. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “So I feel bad for everybody.”

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Mea Culpa: We take no special pride in getting things right and, like everyone else who writes about baseball, we get plenty wrong. We said at the beginning of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were overrated and would tank: that players who finished with an attitude in Boston would bring that same attitude to Los Angeles. Well . . .

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Two “Must Wins” Yield A Single Victory

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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The Nationals split a “must win” day-night doubleheader with the Miami Marlins in their last home games of 2013, which all but knocked them out of the running for the last Wild Card spot in the National League. While not mathematically eliminated from the post season, the Nationals now trail Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by five games with six to play.

Trailing by 4-2 with just six outs to go in their first game against Miami, the Nationals could not mount a comeback, despite the urgings of a crowd of 35,000-plus. The Nationals, behind starter Dan Haren, were victimized by Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s most potent long ball hitter (who hit his 24th on the season), and 21-year-old rookie Christian Yelich, who hit his fourth.

Managing the Nationals in his last home game, skipper Davey Johnson provided a blunt assessment after the Marlins 4-2 afternoon victory. “This one hurt,” he said. Third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, while not conceding the end of the season, was just as blunt:  “I’m not good at math, but I’m good enough to know that losing makes it tougher,” he said.

The team honored Johnson before the opening of the first game, including scoreboard tributes from Nationals’ players. Johnson, who steers clear of such emotional tributes was, nevertheless, gracious in his post-game comments. “The players coming out and guys talking about me, that was moving. I feel for them greatly,” he said. “To get something like that coming back makes you happy and sad at the same time.”

Haren, on the other hand, focused on the Nats’ future, hinting that he’d like to be a part of it. “I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them,” he said in post-game comments, “but I think the most important thing is to keep this group together. This could be a building block.”

Haren, who was lifted after the 6th inning of the first game after giving up three runs on eight hits, finished the season with nine wins and 14 losses and a 4.87 ERA. His problem all season has been giving up the long ball to opposition hitters, a problem on full display on Sunday. Haren has given up 28 home runs this season, second worst in the league.

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The Nationals bounced back from their afternoon loss with an exciting win in the nightcap, mounting a ninth inning surge that culminated in a walk-off ground ball off the bat of Wilson Ramos that was misplayed by Marlins’ third baseman Chris Coghlan. The grounder scored pinch runner Eury Perez from third, giving the Nationals a 5-4 victory.

The walk-off finished off a back-and-forth game that saw the Marlins knot up the game at four with a single run in the top of the 8th inning. But the Nationals responded in the ninth with a lead-off double from Jayson Werth, who was then brought into the dugout by Johnson to a standing ovation from Nationals’ fans.

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Nats Take The Miami Series, 6-4

Monday, September 9th, 2013

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Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs and four hits in six innings, but pitched well enough to allow Washington’s hitters to get to Miami’s rotation, and the Washington Nationals went on to down the Marlins 6-4 on Sunday. It was Strasburg’s seventh win of the year and vaulted the Nationals to a two of three game series win.

This was certainly not the young righty’s best outing of the year, as skipper Davey Johnson confirmed following the victory. “Stras should have been able to go further but he was a little out of sorts today,” he said. Strasburg apparently knew that, but worked through his issues.  “I knew if I kept the game close we could bust it open,” he confirmed.

Strasburg has been a puzzle all year, with few guessing that he would have only seven wins in early September. Even more puzzling however, the righty balked home two runs in the second inning. “Pretty embarrassed with the balks,” Strasburg said. “Seems like something new happens every time this year. Learn from it and try and do better with that next time.”

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Strasburg admitted that he was shifting from the stretch into a full wind-up with a man on third base, which broke a season-long habit of his. With Ramos flashing signs, Strasburg put his hand into his glove, realized that Ramos wasn’t finished, and pulled his hand out: a rare mental error for the otherwise focused righty.

The Nationals continue to swing the bat well, their only recent down game coming against Miami ace rookie Jose Fernandez in the first game of the series. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos were each 3-5 in the triumph (the catcher added a homer), with Jayson Werth (2-4 on the day) continuing his tough pursuit of the National League batting title.

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Nats Unseat The Monarchs

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

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Playing in the Negro League uniforms of the Homestead Grays, the Washington Nationals continued their winning ways on Saturday in Kansas City, thumping the Royals (decked out as the Monarchs), 7-2. It was the fifth win in a row for the Nats and starter Jordan Zimmermann’s fifteenth victory of the season.

Zimmermann was, arguably, the game’s star: he scattered eight hits over 7.2 innings, holding the Royals to two earned runs while striking out seven and walking one. Zimmermann’s K.C. win was a make-good for his last outing, when he gave up eight earned in just five innings of work.

“Against the Cubs, I was nibbling a little bit and throwing too many offspeed pitches and that’s not the way I pitch,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “[The Royals] knew that and they were super aggressive and I was able to mix the changeup around the fourth inning on. I got some quick outs and I was able to stay in the game a little longer.”

The Nationals are suddenly surging: they have won 11 of their last fifteen games, including five in a row. All five of those wins have come on the road. “We have been grinding all year long,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We are putting good at-bats together, we are seeing the ball well, pitching well and playing good defense.”

Part of the reason for the recent surge is the rebirth of Washington’s hitting game. The Nats have gone from fourteenth to tenth in the National League in runs scored just in the last week, while raising their team BA to .247 on the year.

The Nationals new offensive prowess was on display on Saturday, with Ian Desmond notching his 18th home run of the year in the 6th. Bryce Harper has also been hitting the ball well. He was 2-4 last night and has raised his 2013 BA eleven points in the last ten games. Harper is now hitting .272 on the year.

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