Posts Tagged ‘Tom Milone’

Tough 9th Cost Nats Win

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Kris Medlen showed why the Braves consider him their ace and stopper on Friday, as the young righty tamed the Washington Nationals, providing seven innings of five hit baseball — and setting up a thrilling last inning Atlanta win, 2-1. Atlanta’s victory came on a late throw to the plate that failed to get Andrelton Simmons, who scored the winning run.

“I’ve got a prayer, basically, with Andrelton Simmons at third,” Desmond said of the play following the loss. “Just tried to get it as quick as I could and get rid of it.  If I set, he’s already sliding in, celebrating. There was a probably 1-in-10 chance, and I didn’t get him.”

But it was Medlen who wowed the Nationals. The righty threw the game of his season, befuddling Nationals’ hitters and registering thirteen strikeouts. “It was just one of those nights where everything just kind of felt like it was working for me,” Medlen said. Medlen, who is 8-1 on the season, did not get the decision — but the game lowered his ERA to a snappy 1.62: best among Atlanta starters.

The loss hurt the Nationals, but they remain 7.5 games ahead of the Braves in the N.L. East. Certainly no one in the Nationals’ clubhouse is panicking. “This is playoff baseball,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “Every team we play for the rest of the way is in the hunt and hungry, so these are the types of games we’re going to play for the next six weeks.”


How The Nats Got Mark Buehrle Right — By Accident

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

When Davey Johnson looks out on the mound tonight in Miami, he’ll see a southpaw pitcher who was a Nationals might-have-been — and he’ll breath a sigh of relief. We forget: back in November of last year, Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo made it clear that then-White Sox starter Mark Buehrle was his number one free agent target — a lefty veteran that could shore up his team’s young pitching staff.

Rizzo made this clear to Buehrle himself, when he visited him at his home in St. Louis in November of last year. That meeting followed one with Buehrle’s agents, at CAA, just weeks before — a confab held to find out just how much the Chicago veteran would cost. Signing Buehrle seemed like a great idea: the Nationals staff was then comprised of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan and an untested Brad Peacock. It wasn’t nearly enough.

“Buehrle, a consistent and durable veteran who has thrown more than 200 innings for all 11 years of his career, spent entirely with the Chicago White Sox, perfectly fits Rizzo’s description of the kind of pitcher the Nationals hope to add to the top of their rotation this winter,” Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore said on the day of Rizzo’s visit to Buehrle.

By all accounts, that meeting went well. Buehrle was interested in the Nationals — and they were definitely interested in him. The only difficulty was that he was asking for a lot of money. He thought he was worth it: he was just 32, had notched a workmanlike 3.59 ERA with the Pale Hose in 2011 and had won his third consecutive Gold Glove.

The Nationals made a good offer but, as it turned out, it wasn’t good enough. Just two weeks after talking to Rizzo, Buehrle opted to sign with the Miami Marlins, who’d offered him more money, and a chance to pitch for Ozzie Guillen, his old manager in Chicago. “The Nationals’ best offer, made Wednesday morning, fell short of what the Marlins offered in duration and salary per season,” Kilgore explained on December 7 — and he went on to speculate that Rizzo & Company would focus on a secondary target: Roy Oswalt.


Has Billy Beane Lost His Touch?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Two weeks before the release of “Moneyball” last September, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane decided that he wouldn’t have anything to say about the film. That decision led to speculation that Beane was “uncomfortable being cast as a genius at a time when the standings tell such a different story.”

While Beane later disputed that theory (“Billy is not the kind of guy who is looking for fame,” A’s owner Lew Wolff explained), you can’t blame A’s fans for speculating: the 2011 version of Beane’s A’s were in the midst of a failed season, and would finish well back of both the Rangers and Angels in the American League West.

But what’s astonishing about the 2011 A’s is that they were actually typical of how Beane does business. He builds a team around young pitching, waits for it to mature, harvests the benefits in the form of temporary appearances in the playoffs and then — just when the players he’s developed are about to make big bucks — he trades them away and starts again. It’s a standard practice for many small market teams, but Beane has made it an artform.

Take the “2002” Oakland A’s — the “Moneyball” A’s. While the Brad Pitt film focused on Beane’s signing of players to replace departed free agents (primarily Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon), the team was built on a trio of young and talented hurlers: Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. With them (and okay, with Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford), the A’s nearly went to the post season and, with a little luck, might have ended up in yet another World Series. But when that didn’t happen, Beane does what he always does: he shipped out his young hurlers (Hudson was traded to the Braves, Mulder to the Cardinals and Zito was signed as a free agent by the Giants) and started over.

Starting over for Beane means developing new young pitching — not putting former catchers at first base. The newest trio of developing young arms was even better than the Hudson-Mulder-Zito crew. It took a while, but Beane eventually reconstructed a starting staff that was, again, the talk of the American League: Trevor Cahill (12-14 last year, 18-8 in 2010), Gio Gonzalez (16-12 last year, 15-9 in 2010) and Brett Anderson (injured this year, but 11-11 in 2009, at aged 21).

Surprisingly — and shockingly for many A’s fans — Beane decided this trio would not do it, and he shipped them out: landing a soft tossing lefty (Tom Milone) and Brad Peacock (a potential Brad Radke) along with two others from Washington, and an unknown outfielder (now at Triple-A in Sacramento) and two pitchers from Arizona. Very few pundits gave Beane the edge, and he may well have given up one of the very best young lefties in Gonzalez. To top it all off, Beane then shipped out All Star closer Andrew Bailey to Boston.

So what the hell happened? Bailey, an A.L. Rookie of the Year, said that he understood what Beane was trying to do. “That organization is heading down a different road where they’re trying to get younger and build for a future in San Jose,” he said. Well, maybe: but it’s hard to get younger than 24 (Cahill), or Gonzalez (26), and Bailey was hardly ancient (27). And Oakland fans were decidedly not impressed: the howls could have been heard in Nationals Park.


The Price For Gio

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

It’s probably just a coincidence, but on the day that Tom Boswell pummeled the Lerners and Mike Rizzo for refusing to spend money (or take chances), the team pulled off a major trade with the Oakland A’s. Maybe Mikey was feeling the heat. Maybe not. Either way, the deal brings uber-talented lefty Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals to head up what is now one of baseball’s best rotations, but ships out four talented prospects, including Brad Peacock, whose as close to a “can’t miss” as the Nationals have. So: was it worth it?

Amanda Comack over at the Washington Times says that Gonzalez “fits precisely what Washington wants,” and gives the team a top-of-the-rotation innings eater. Comack points out that Gonzalez’s numbers translate well into the National League, though he walks a lot of hitters (91, to lead the AL last year). John Heyman over at Baseball Insider gives the Nats an attaboy, saying the team improved its rotation to the point where it may be a contender. Keith Law, meanwhile, says he’s not that impressed with Gonzalez (you have to wonder why, but it’s Keith Law), while Buster “Blind Dog” Olney (who actually sometimes finds a bone) says that Gonzalez reminds him of Twinkies starter Brad Radke — which is to say that Buster doesn’t know what to think.

We prefer to issue our judgments over a glass of scotch, which is where (last night) we received this opinion from one of the team’s season ticket holders. “The price is high,” this fan said, “maybe too high.” The fan then pointed out that “Rizzo would not have done this had he landed [Mark] Buehrle.” True. Which is not only to point out that scotch is a powerful truth serum (not always a good thing, mind you), but to suggest that if Rizzo & Company had bid higher for the former Pale Hose veteran, the team would not only have a front-of-the-rotation arm that is (arguably) better than Gonzalez, but they would have been able to hang on to both Peacock and Milone — whose arms will now be tested in the cavernous confines of the Oakland Coliseum.

Sometimes the most obvious conclusions are the ones you stick with — that Boswell’s criticism remains on target precisely because when Rizzo couldn’t pony up the bucks for Buehrle he had no choice but to part with four prospects for a front line pitcher. Gonzalez is a great addition and we applaud it, but spending the money on Buehrle and hanging on to Peacock, Milone, Norris and Cole would have been the wiser move. Yeah. True. But we’ll take it and hope that the Lerners are so irritated by what Boswell wrote that they’ll be determined to prove him wrong.

Nats Triumph In 10, Storen Saves #39

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

“Tommy was real impressive,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said of Tom Milone after the Nats dealt the Phillies a 4-3 defeat in ten innings on Tuesday afternoon. “He showed me a lot.” Milone pitched a solid six innings of shutout ball against the Phillies, giving up just four hits and striking out two.

But Milone’s probable win was erased by the Philllies in the bottom of the seventh, when Doug Slaten and Tyler Clippard couldn’t hold the heavy hitting Phillies, who tied the game on a Nats’ killer Raul Ibanez home run. Ibanez’s soaring dinger came off Tyler Clippard with two on base, and erased the heroics of Roger Bernadina, who had put one into the right field seats in the top of the frame.

It wasn’t until the 10th inning that the Nationals could strike back: with two out, Michael Morse walked (and went to second on a passed ball), Danny Espinosa was intentionally walked and pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman singled to bring in Espinosa with the go-ahead run. Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the tenth (it was another nail biter) and recorded his 39th save.

First In War, First In Peace and . . .

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Ahead Of The Mets In The N.L. East: The Washington Nationals scrubbed the New York Madoffs at Citi Field this afternoon, 10-1 — thereby notching a four game sweep of their division rivals. The win featured a pitching gem from rookie September call-up Tom Milone, and a 5-6 day at the plate from shortstop Ian Desmond. This was the first sweep of a four game series by the Nationals since they swept the Braves in four games in 2009.

Milone’s first win of the year was well-deserved. The young lefty gave up just three hits in 5.2 innings, while striking out four. “I think he had everything working for him,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said after the victory. “He had them all messed up. They were talking to themselves. He jammed a lot of guys, who missed by a mile. It was a really fun game to watch. He was totally in command.”

Desmond, meanwhile, moved his batting average into the respectable range — an improvement of some thirty points since the All Star break. Desmond gives Davey Johnson credit for turning him around: the manager said that Desmond has enough power not to attempt to hit everything to right field, and now Desmond is pulling the ball more. “Everybody has been able to give me good advice,” Desmond said following his 5-6 outing. “I’ve been able to take the things that are successful and disregard the things that aren’t and go from there.”

The Nationals scored in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings, but they piled it on in the 9th, which began with yet another fielding error by David Wright (his 19th of the year) to lead off the inning. Danny Espinosa doubled, Chris Marrero followed with a sacrifice fly (that scored a run), Wilson Ramos scored Espinosa, Roger Bernadina singled, and Ian Desmond doubled — scoring two. In all, the Nationals scored four runs in the ninth.

Houston Throws It Away

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

The Washington Nationals won ugly on Friday night, but they won. With two on and one out in the eleventh inning, Jayson Werth hit a bounder to Astros’ third baseman Jimmy Paredes who, in an attempt to get a force out at second, threw the ball into left field. The muff scored Ryan Zimmerman with the walk-off run, giving the Nationals a badly needed, 4-3, bottom of the 11th inning walk off victory.

“Initially, I hit it and I knew there was a potential double play, so I was running hard out of the box,” Werth said following the victory. “I looked to see what happened at second when I didn’t see the ball. I thought it was going to be there. I kept looking, and I saw it go in the outfield. That was that.” The walk-off notched a win for Tyler Clippard — but the victory could have gone to the entire bullpen, which kept the Astros off the board from the 6th inning on.

The botched throw from Paredes lacked the deep-throated dramatics of the Nationals’ usual walk-off triumphs, but the win was welcome: the Nationals had struggled with putting runs on the board of late, and were attempting to recover from a late-game 7-4 pasting at the hands of the Dodgers on Thursday.

Even with the win, the Nationals were able to scatter only six hits off of five Houston pitchers. The lack of offense has been the most disheartening part of an up-and-down season. In the wake of the Houston win on Friday, Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson told the media the problem has kept him awake nights. “I’m used to a little more of a comfort zone,” Johnson said. “With all the young players … it’s been that kind of a struggle. Everybody’s trying to probably do a little too much.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The clubhouse is crowded with new arrivals, and three of them started the game on Friday. Steve Lombardozzi started at short, Chris Marrero was at first, and Tom Milone was on the mound. The early results are just starting to come in, but here’s what they say: Lombardozzi has not yet mastered major league pitching, Marrero has yet to hit the long ball, and Milone needs to work on getting through a line-up the second time . . .

For those who think that is too negative, there’s this — there doesn’t seem much doubt that Lombardozzi can hit, Marrero’s double last night to left-center was one of the hardest hit non-dinger slaps this year at Nationals’ Park and Milone is absolutely unintimidated by major league hitting . . .