Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Strasburg’

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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Nats End Philadelphia’s Streak, Win In 10

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

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Ryan Zimmerman’s 10th inning single lifted the Washington Nationals past the Phillies 5-3 at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. The win kept the Nationals in a virtual tie for first place in the N.L. East with the Atlanta Braves and ended Philadelphia’s five game winning streak.

Zimmerman’s clutch single came against Phillies’ southpaw reliever Jake Diekman with Denard Span and Jayson Werth on base. The Zimmerman single scored Span, while a wild pitch from Diekman scored Werth. The Washington win was preserved when closer Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the bottom of the frame. Soriano’s save was his 22nd on the season.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of Soriano. “He has taken the ball whenever we’ve asked him to — not only in save situations, but in tie games as well to get us an extra inning or an extra at-bat. He’s been great.”

Washington starter Stephen Strasburg was inconsistent in his outing against the Phillies, striking out the side in one inning (in the bottom of the 4th), while running into trouble in others (particularly in the 6th, where he gave up three singles and a walk). Strasburg ended up surrendering seven hits in 5.2 innings of work while striking out nine.

Despite Strasburg’s inconsistency (“he was a little off tonight,” Williams confirmed), his face off with Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels provided plenty of drama for the 32,000-plus Phillies fans in attendance. The two engaged in a head-to-head duel through six innings, with Hamels being lifted after seven complete. Hamels gave up four hits and struck out five.

The Philadelphia loss highlighted the problems faced by a veteran, but aging line-up. The Ashburns were 2-14 with runners in scoring position. “Strasburg had something to do with that,” Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg noted. “He had an outstanding power changeup, which was 89-90 mph. That’s what he went to with the men on base. But we scrapped hits and had hits in opportunities, and he pitched out of them.”

This series has marked yet another return to Citizens Bank of Jayson Werth, who is still greeted with a smattering of boos from Phillies fans. Before Zimmerman’s single, Werth was the big producer in the Nationals line-up. The Nationals right fielder accounted for three of Washington’s five runs, hitting his 11th home run into the seats in right center in the 6th.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Werth was nearly wistful in remembering his time in Philadelphia after Saturday’s game, saying that he enjoyed matching up against his old teammates and particularly Philadelphia lefty starter Cole Hamels . . .

“You play with somebody as long as I did and you play the type of games, meaningful games in October, win a World Series,” Werth said. “We’ll have a common bond our whole life. But it’s fun to compete against those guys. It’s like I know them inside and out, and they probably feel the same way. It’s challenging . . . ”

There have been two great eras in Phillies baseball. Back in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, the Phillies were among the class of the National League, finishing first in their division five times in eight years and winning the World Series in 1980 before losing it in 1983. 1980 marked their first World Series victory ever . . .

The second great era was inaugurated in 2007, when they began a run of five straight years as division champs. They won the series in 2008, but lost it the next year. That second era of greatness is now over, with the Phillies in last place in the N.L. East, two games behind the Mets . . .

It’s been hard for the Phillies to let go. They’ve retained their core up-the-middle combination of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley and signed Cole Hamels to a long-term contract, but now it appears that G.M. Ruben Amaro will begin the long awaited turnover of the team that (if truth be told) should have been taken apart two years ago . . .

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Baltimore Barrage Bombs The Nats In 11

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

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An old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that lasted through seven-plus innings pitting Chris Tillman against Stephen Strasburg gave way to an extra inning Baltimore barrage at Nationals Park on Monday night, with the Orioles coming away with an 11 inning 8-2 win in the first of a four game set of the Battle of the Beltways Series.

The Baltimore victory was triggered in the top of the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie game, when the Orioles sent nine batters to the plate against long reliever Craig Stammen. Over the next half inning (though not in this order), the Orioles scored six runs on two singles (from Nelson Cruz and Nick Hundley), a Nick Markakis double and home runs off the bats of Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado.

The big score in the 11th came off the bat of the otherwise slumping Chris Davis, who entered the game hitting under .200. “Stammen made some tough pitches, some close pitches,” Davis said after his 11th inning heroics. “I was just able to hang in there.” The Davis home run came on a 3-2 count when Stammen threw the power hitter a fastball that was high in the zone.

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“I really did not think he would be able to hit that pitch out,” Stammen said of the pitch to Davis. “He was right on it and he was looking for it. It was a little bit higher than I wanted.” The Davis round tripper seemed to tip the scales against the Nationals, as the Orioles showed why they’re one of the best hitting teams in the game.

In fact, however, the final score didn’t reflect what a tough, well-played and exciting pitchers’ duel the game was until it went into extra innings. Stephen Strasburg was nearly flawless in his start, throwing seven innings of four hit baseball while striking out nine. Baltimore starter Chris Tillman was nearly as good, matching Strasburg’s seven innings while striking out six.

The O’s and Nats both got on the scoreboard in the same way. Baltimore initial two runs came on a Nelson Cruz home run in the top of the 4th that scored Manny Machado, while the Nats first two runs came off the bat of Anthony Rendon who launched his 12th in the bottom of the 6th. Rendon’s round tripper scored Denard Span.

Manny Machado had a big night for the Orioles, going 5-6 with two RBIs. Nelson Cruz accounted for two more Baltimore runs in a 3-5 night. The big bat for Washington was Anthony Rendon, who was 2-5 and raised his season BA to .284.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Washington fans have plenty of reason to gripe about the final All Star selections, and gripe they have. A good case can be made that Rafael Soriano should have made the team as a closer ahead of Milwaukee head-case Francisco Rodriguez . . .

Soriano has better numbers than “K-Rod” and stacks up well against Aroldis Chapman, who made the team (in our opinion) more on the basis of his velocity than his 9th inning wizardry. If it were up to us (and of course, it isn’t), we would have removed K-Rod and Chapman and picked Soriano and savvy San Diego stalwart Huston Street . . .

Washington will be under-represented in Minneapolis, with one player on the roster. But the selection of Jordan Zimmerman was both right and obvious — he’s been Washington’s most consistent and feared starter, even given Stephen Strasburg’s latest snazzy numbers . . .

The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore made a strong case for Anthony Rendon being on the team over Matt Carpenter. Our view is that St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny can be justly accused of being a partisan, which we might come to expect from anyone in a Redbirds uniform. Cardinals fans have always struck us as believing that Busch Stadium is the world’s navel with the clydesdales the equivalent of the Bald Eagle . . .

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Strasburg, Werth Crush The Rox

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

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Nats ace Stephen Strasburg recouped from his last outing, when he gave up seven earned runs against the Brewers, by thrashing the Colorado Rockies in 7.2 dominant innings. Coupled with Jayson Werth’s stellar 2-3, three RBI night at the plate, the Nats forged a 7-1 laugher at Nationals Park.

Strasburg’s outing was among his best of the year. The righty threw into the eighth inning, giving up five hits while striking out eight and was only relieved after giving up a home run (to D.J. LeMahieu) and a walk (to Cory Dickerson) in the 8th inning. Long reliever Craig Stammen finished the game on the mound for the Nationals.

“I was able to command the fastball a little bit better,” Strasburg said after his strong performance. “They were fouling them off. I wouldn’t say they were great pitches. I was able to execute the pitch a little bit better. I had them put it in play and make weak contact.”

Rockies’ starter Christian Friedrich, meanwhile, was victimized by a line-up that hit him hard. But Colorado pitching, suspect all season, gave seven free passes on the night, which included Friedrich’s two walks to start the game. Washington scored three runs in the 1st and four runs in the fourth.

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Friedrich’s first two walks came back to haunt him. The Colorado youngster walked Denard Span and Anthony Rendon to start the game and they were driven home by a Jayson Werth double down the left field line that followed an Adam LaRoche single. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman accounted for the first inning’s third run.

The Nationals continued the onslaught in the fourth inning, starting with a Stephen Strasburg double after Wilson Ramos struck out. Chad Bettis came on in relief of Friedrich, after the embattled starter walked Denard Span. But Bettis couldn’t close the door: An Anthony Rendon double scored Strasburg and Span, while another Jayson Werth double scored Rendon.

The Nationals have now won four in a row and are seven games over .500, their best mark of the year. “For the better part of the last few weeks, just the way we are going about it, the pitching has been great, the defense has been good,” Jayson Werth acknowledged after the team win. “The offense is coming around. I like the way we are setting up here going into July.”

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The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: There were complaints about the game from season ticket holders on Tuesday night, but they had nothing to do with the Nationals. “The only reason I got Rockies tickets was to see Troy Tulowitzki play,” one of the section’s regular complained, “and wouldn’t you know it — they decided to rest him . . .”

The comment sparked a lively argument on Tulowitzki’s career, which has been marred by injuries. “He’s the best hitter in the National League,” one fan claimed, a statement that garnered broad agreement, along with one dissent. “[Giancarlo] Stanton is better, more power,” this fan said . . .

This year’s statistics show the two in a dead heat: Tulowitzki leads the league in batting average, but Stanton has three more home runs (21 for Stanton, 18 for Tulowitzki). But Tulowitzki leads everyone in OBP, Slugging and OPS. The numbers show that Tulo is having a monster year . . .

Nor surprisingly, the other main topic of discussion focused on remarks made by Bryce Harper about who should be starting for the Nationals — and where. The comments generated a lot of criticism from baseball analysts, who reflected that Harper would be better off playing the game, while leaving the job of filling out the line-up card to Matt Williams . . .

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Nats Rally, But Braves Win In 13

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

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Anthony Rendon’s dramatic 9th inning homer knotted a game at four apiece last night at Nationals Park, but Atlanta prevailed in a 13 inning strike out fest to win their second straight against their in-division rivals, 6-4. The Nats loss and Bravos win edged Atlanta into first place in the National League East.

Atlanta starter Mike Minor was the key for the Braves in the early going, throwing seven innings of seven hit baseball and holding the Nationals to just two runs. In what is becoming a season-long habit, the Nats left four runners in scoring position in four key innings, but couldn’t bring them home.

“He was keeping us off balance,” Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said of Minor’s outing. “He didn’t get into any patterns. I don’t remember a lot of hitters’ counts. He was getting those early strikes and he was playing around with the offspeed and mixing in some fastballs.”

The Nationals responded to the Braves challenge by sending their own ace to the mound, but while steady righty Stephen Strasburg struck out eight Atlanta hitters, he gave up four earned runs on nine hits through six innings.

The Nationals seemed destined for a loss until Rendon’s 9th inning heroics. After a Nate McLouth walk to lead off the inning against all-world closer Craig Kimbrel, the Atlanta fireballer set down Greg Dobbs and Denard Span. But Rendon, who followed Span to the plate, put a 98 mph Kimbrel fastball into the left field seats to tie the game.

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Rendon’s homer not only lifted the Nationals, it seemed a turning point in what has been Washington’s tradition against Atlanta. The Nationals are 7-20 against the Braves since the start of last season, one of those teams (along with St. Louis) that the team can’t seem to beat when they need to.

The score remained tied at four until the top of the 13th, when the Braves rallied for two runs against Nats reliever Jerry Blevins. Blevins started the inning by walking B.J. Upton, then gave up a single to the heavy hitting Freddie Freeman before giving up a run scoring line drive single to Evan Gattis. Atlanta plated another run on a fielder’s choice grounder from Andrelton Simmons.

Nats skipper Matt Williams remained his usual unflappable self after the defeat, shrugging off Washington’s inability to beat the Braves in big games. Williams focused on the positive — that the Nationals were able to get to Kimbrel.

“We came back against one of the best closers in the game to tie the game. We had an opportunity,” Williams told the D.C. sports press. “We lost it. I’m proud of them for fighting back, staying in it, getting ourselves an opportunity. He doesn’t give up many homers.”

The Nationals seemed over anxious at the plate on Friday, notching an astonishing 17 strikeouts in facing Braves pitching. Jayson Werth struck out four times. Perhaps the team, and Jayson, were over anxious after their anemic three hit performance on Thursday.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: While the Nationals and Braves were running up the Ks (33 in all on Friday), the rest of the league was racking up the homers . . .

After taking an eight run lead against the Blue Jays in Cincinnati (yes, it was 8-0 after two innings), Toronto rallied for three in the 3rd, two in the 6th, one in the 8th and (count ‘em) five in the 9th to down the Reds 14-9 . . .

Cincinnati is the closest thing to a stand-up comedy routine as there is in baseball, and Friday was a classic. The Reds haven’t hit all season, so their fans went nuts when their team scored eight in the bottom of the 2nd. But Toronto (who’s never finished, it seems), rallied on four home runs, two of them from Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Birds version of Babe Ruth . . .

Prior to their eight run outburst on Friday, the Redlegs were contemplating consigning their bats to a wood chipper. Maybe they should. The Reds are 12th in the league in runs scored and 10th in home runs, despite the presence of Joey Votto & Co. in their line-up. But Cincy rarely faces the likes of the Blue Jays, who hit home runs like we eat peanuts . . .

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A Lousy 7th Dooms The Nats

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

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A lead off home run from Matt Adams and a rare breakdown in the Nationals bullpen spelled the difference between victory and defeat on Saturday, as Washington dropped its second straight game to St. Louis, 4-1. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg paid the price for the team’s poor showing in the 7th inning, after throwing what looked to be his standard starting gem.

The 7th was the difference. After Matt Adams led off the inning with a home run, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead, St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay singled — which marked the end of Strasburg’s night after a solid 95 pitching outing. With reliever Jerry Blevins on the mound, Jose Lobaton allowed a passed ball and Blevins walked Matt Carpenter.

Even with men on first and second, Washington might well have survived the St. Louis surge. But usually lights-out reliever Drew Storen then hit second sacker Mark Ellis and (with the bases loaded), Storen walked Matt Holliday, which scored a  St. Louis run, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. An Allen Craig single then plated the third run of the inning, giving St. Louis the 4-1 victory.

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“The ball slipped out of his [Storen's] hand on a curveball and then he hit him and then he kind of got all over the place,” manager Matt Williams said of his reliever’s outing. “We got out of the inning, but the damage was done at that point. They’ve been good. The bullpen’s been very good. It’s going to have a hiccup every once in a while.”

While the 7th inning was the talk of both clubhouses after the Nationals defeat, Washington’s inability to hit St. Louis pitching was a major subtext of the series. The Nationals banged out a measly four hits against St. Louis pitching on Saturday and were unable to get to St. Louis starter Shelby Miller.

Miller, a first round pick of St. Louis in 2009 — the year that Strasburg was the MLB player draft’s first overall pick (and Storen was ninth) — struck out seven Nationals hitters in sealing the St. Louis win. “What can you say?” Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton acknowledged after the defeat. “They’ve been throwing good and today was one of those days.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Saturday was a tough day for the National League East. The Nationals, Braves, Mets and Marlins were all losers, with the Phillies the only team to come away with a win . . .

The Braves were defeated 11-6 in 13 innings in Atlanta, with the Halos scoring five runs in the top of the 13th inning on a bases loaded single from Kole Calhoun. The Braves deflating loss (after their 4-3 win against the Belinskys on Friday) kept the Nationals in a tie with Atlanta atop the division . . .

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Nats Sweep Philadelphia Behind Fister, LaRoche

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

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Righty starter Doug Fister and first sacker Adam LaRoche combined to lead the Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the reeling Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. The win marked a sweep of the Nats three game series with Philadelphia, and brought the team to within a glance of first place in the National League East.

This was Fister’s fifth quality outing in a row; the righty now boasts a 3-1 record to go along with his snappy 3.34 ERA. The Phillies looked lost against the righty, though they scored an early first inning run to take a 1-0 lead on their division rivals. Fister threw just 93 pitches, 63 of them for strikes.

Nationals hitters, meanwhile, gave Fister a lead to work with, victimizing hard luck Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick — who has had a down year. The difference in the game was a 5th inning home run off the bat of Adam LaRoche (his eighth of the year), which scored Jayson Werth.

Washington skipper Matt Williams decided to rest shortstop Ian Desmond in the match-up with the Phillies, which meant he penciled in an unusual line-up. The suddenly hot Danny Espinosa (4-2o in the three game series), played shortstop, Anthony Rendon shifted to second, while Kevin Frandsen filled in at third. Ryan Zimmerman once again started in left field.

The Nationals bullpen was, once again, lights out. Tyler Clippard pitched a one-two-three eighth inning, while Rafael Soriano untucked his jersey after notching his twelfth save. Nationals relievers thus reinforced their reputation as the best in the game.

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The sweep of the Phillies concluded a scheduled nine game homestand for Washington (the Nationals actually played eight, as their May 27 tilt with the Marlins was postponed), which started with two losses against Miami – the clear lowpoint in the Nationals’ season thus far.

But after the Miami disappointment the Nationals have righted their listing ship. The Nationals took two of three games from the Rangers before their Philadelphia sweep, with two of those games decisive triumphs in which the Nationals scored nine and then ten runs. “This is the team we expected to see when the season started,” MASN commenter Bob Carpenter noted during today’s game.

The difference between today and last week, when the Nationals were pummeled by the Marlins, couldn’t be more stark. Since the return of Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals have been hitting the ball and scoring runs — and have benefited from stellar outings from their pitching staff. That includes gems from Jordan Zimmerman (an eight inning outing on Tuesday) and Stephen Strasburg — who threw seven innings while notching 11 strikeouts last night.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals drew an impressive 33,016 for today’s late afternoon wrap-up game against the Ashburns. That’s an impressive number, particularly because the avalanche of Philadelphia fans that once filled the park is now a fading memory. The Phillies, perennially in the top five in N.L. attendance, are now having difficulty drawing fans. They are barely outdrawing the Nationals in attendance per game . . .

Attendance is often the best gauge for MLB business success, along with television revenue. No surprise: the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays remain in the bottom five, despite the exciting team that Miami has put on the field. Miami just concluded their sweep of the now hapless Rays in Tampa Bay, where the Rays drew an embarrassing 49,000 fans for the three game cross-state match-up . . .

We might say that the fans of the Rays are voting with their feet (as they clearly are in Philadelphia), but the team has always struggled to put customers in the seats. The Rays drew a paltry 1.5 million fans last year, when they finished at 92-71, good enough for a Wild Card birth . . .

The Tampa Bay attendance figures are likely to get worse. The Rays are now 23-37 and 13.5 games behind the Blue Jays in the A.L. East. On Tuesday they were shut out by Miami’s Henderson Alvarez, 1-0. Sure. Alvarez is a heckuva pitcher, but the Rays are a punchless bunch: 13th in the A.L. in batting average and dead last in runs scored . . .

Tampa Bay gets little help from their starters, with a rotation eviscerated by injuries. Jeremy Hellickson is now on the disabled list, Alex Cobb has been sidelined and uber thrower Matt Moore is out for the year after Tommy John surgery. With youngster-slugger Wil Myers (the ur-prospect swiped from K.C.), also ailing, Tampa Bay has to rely on a middle of the line-up of sluggers who aren’t slugging . . .

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