Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

Nationals Swap Walters For Cleveland’s Cabrera

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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The Washington Nationals traded promising second base prospect Zach Walters to the Cleveland Indians for shortstop/second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera just one hour before the trade deadline on Thursday. The addition of Cabrera gives them a solid veteran presence in the middle of the infield and keeps Danny Espinosa as a reserve and late inning defensive replacement.

Cabrera is a two-time All Star and an eight year MLB veteran. His best year was in 2011, when he hit .273 with 25 home runs. It’s no secret that the Nationals needed to add a bigger bat to their line-up, particularly given Ryan Zimmerman’s injury problems. Cabrera is hitting .246 with nine home runs for the Indians this year.

“I like that he is battle tested,” Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo said of the thinking behind the trade. “He has been in the playoffs before. He has been through pennant races. He is a terrific two-way player. He is a great defensive middle infielder. He has been a terrific shortstop defensively. He played second base earlier in his career and played that outstanding. He is very balanced from both sides of the plate. He is a big league hitter. We did a lot of work on his makeup and character. He fits in our clubhouse.”

Cabrera was surprised by the trade and obviously upset at the prospect of leaving Cleveland. His voice trembled as he talked to reporters. “That’s the business,” Cabrera told reporters. “It surprised me a little bit, but there is nothing I could do. I knew this was going to be possible. Today when I got here, I didn’t even know it was happening.”

The attraction for Nationals Manager Matt Williams is that he can bat Cabrera in the second slot behind Denard Span, while moving Anthony Rendon down in the order. Like Espinosa, Cabrera is a switch hitter, an added attraction to the Nationals on-field brain trust. And while Cabrera has been Cleveland’s regular shortstop, he actually has better defensive numbers at second base.

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Nats Collapse In The 9th, Lose In Miami

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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In what had to be considered the most important game of the year for the Marlins, the Miami Nine scored four runs in the 9th inning on Monday night, and walked off with a stunning 7-6 win against the Nationals. The Nationals entered the 9th with what seemed a sure-thing victory, but Miami capitalized on a poor outing from Nats closer Rafael Soriano to win the game.

Soriano began the catastrophic 9th by walking Casey McGehee, the Marlins’ lead-off hitter, then gave up a double to Garrett Jones. A Marcell Ozuna single then scored McGehee and Miami was suddenly in the game with no one out. Jones then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adeiny Hechavarria then laced a triple, after Soriano gave up a wild pitch.

Even then, the Nats were still in the game, though Miami had tied it at six. But after closer Soriano hit Donovan Solano with a pitch, Nats manager Matt Williams pulled Soriano in favor of lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins struck out Christian Yelich before giving up the game winning single to Jeff Baker.

The game was an absolute heart breaker for Nationals fans, who’d seen their team take two of three from Cincinnati and play well on the road. Before Monday night, it even looked as if the Nationals might put some distance between themselves and the second place Atlanta Braves, who scraped by the Padres, 2-0.

The loss came at the expense of Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, who’d pitched one of his best games of the year. Zimmermann threw seven complete innings while giving up just four hits and striking out six. The young righty ace of the Nationals staff had a fastball that Miami’s hitters couldn’t seem to touch.

“He was really good tonight. He was down in the zone, he had a great slider,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of Zimmermann’s outing. “Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. Tonight, he proved that he is back on it.”

Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen came in in relief of Zimmermann, and while lefty Detwiler gave up a single run on two hits, the Nationals were still in line for the victory — with their top closer (“the best closer in the game,” as the Washington Post described him today) coming into the game.

“Bad day for me,” Soriano said of his performance in the ninth inning. “Every pitch that I threw, I had no command. Everything that I tried to throw didn’t work.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Marlins are trying to decide whether to be buyers or sellers, with the decision hinging on how they would do against the Nationals. Their stunning win tonight will undoubtedly help them to make the decision, though they remain under .500 by a single game and six games back in the standings . . .

It’s easy to see what the Marlins need: all you need do is take a look at their line-up. The Marlins can hit; they are an on-base team that registers just a tick above the Nationals in runs scored. That’s not true for their pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the National League with a 3.92 ERA . . .

The problem is that pitching isn’t that easy to find and Miami would probably hesitate to give up a top prospect for either a rental or a high-priced starter. Nor are the Marlins willing to part with any of their bullpen pieces, though they’ve reportedly received calls on fireballer Steve Cishek, who wracked up five saves in Miami’s just-completed 6-1 road trip . . .

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Will Mike Rizzo “Pull The Trigger” At The Deadline?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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Yesterday Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson wrote that Washington had inquired about the availability of Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, but were “rebuffed.” The report sent tremors through Nats-Land, as it seemed to confirm that Mike Rizzo & Co. were interested in an upgrade at the hot corner, and searching for more power for the Nats line-up.

There are any number of reasons for the Nats search, all of them obvious. Regular third sacker Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list, and the Nationals are apparently uncomfortable with shifting their regular second baseman, Anthony Rendon to third to take his place. Then there’s Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa has often been a punching bag for Nats fans, who are skeptical of his abilities at the plate. This didn’t seem to matter to the Nats front office, who always had faith in Espinosa. But now, with the Ladson report, it seems the Nationals have finally conceded that an infield of Rendon-Desmond-Espinosa and LaRoche just isn’t enough to carry them into the post-season.

Then too, the Nationals need power — and a player like Beltre, with 14 home runs this year (and four Gold Gloves) would mark a significant upgrade for the Nationals line-up. And the Nationals have a lot to give — including some young arms that would fit in well with the eviscerated Rangers rotation.

The Nationals are backed up on the mound and could deal some of their young pitchers, including Blake Treinen, a ready-for-the-show righty currently at Syracuse, as well as Taylor Jordan, who has appeared as a sometimes starter for the Nationals in the past. Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo would be loathe to part with any pitching prospects, of course, but to get someone like Beltre he’d almost have to.

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Fister-Latos Face Off After Gio-Cueto Duel

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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In what is being called a game of “missed opportunities,” the Washington Nationals fell to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, despite getting a strong outing from Nats lefty Gio Gonzalez. The 1-0 Cincinnati victory ended the Redlegs’ seven game losing streak, as Johnny Cueto turned in a solid and badly needed seven inning performance.

The final lines for the two starters were nearly identical. Both Cincinnati’s Cueto and Washington’s Gonzalez threw seven innings of four hit baseball. The lone Cincinnati run came in the bottom of the 5th inning, as a Brayan Pena single scored Chris Heisey who had reached on a lead off double.

Cueto’s outing was just the tonic Cincinnati needed in ending its losing streak. “He always asks for one run,” Redlegs’ catcher Brayan Pena said after the win. “That’s what he preaches. He has confidence in himself and believes in what he does. He always gives us a chance to be in the game.”

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But Gio Gonzalez was just as good, matching Cueto pitch for pitch. “It’s working quick and try to pound the strike zone,” Gonzalez said of his outing. “Not trying to baby your pitches and just try to go out there and do your best, throw strikes.”

Washington had several chances to tie the game, or even win it, but squandered their opportunities. Perhaps the best opportunity came in the 7th, when Bryce Harper walked and Wilson Ramos reached on an infield single. But an overly aggressive Harper overran second base and was tagged out.

It was Harper’s second base runnings mistake of the game.

Nats manager Matt Williams, who prizes aggressive base running, shrugged off his left fielder’s base running gaffes — noting that the Nationals need to take advantage of what scoring chances they have, especially in close one-run games.

“It’s part of our DNA: We’re going to be aggressive,” Williams said after the loss. “So sometimes it works. We talked about it not too long ago, how good it was. Sometimes it bites you. We can’t change the way we play. It’s aggressive by nature, it’s the way we want to go about it, and we don’t want to change that.”

The Nationals are set to face-off against the Redlegs in Cincinnati in the third game of the three game set on Sunday. The match-up will feature Washington’s Doug Fister facing off against Cincinnati’s Mat Latos.

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Nats Notes: Guess What’s Missing?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals returned from the All Star break to win their series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies — and are now on top of the Natoinal League East by the smallest margin in any division in baseball. The Milwaukee and Colorado series give Nats fans a glimpse of what’s to come in the second half of the season. And that mostly means one thing: hitting.

MASN commentators F.P. Santangelo and Ray Knight often remark how deep the Nats’ lineup is, and it’s true. The Nats line-up is deep. When the Washington Nine are healthy, anyone can hit and one or even two players who are slumping get picked up by their teammates.

But in terms of swinging the bat, the Nats are doing just alright. They knocked 35 hits for 15 runs (including five doubles and two homers) against the Brew Crew and 36 hits for 18 runs (6 doubles, a triple, and two homers) against the Coors. That’s okay, if something less than downright good.

The downside of those numbers, as it’s been all season, is how the Nationals hit with runners in scoring position (the all important RISP): 8-30 against Milwaukee and 8-44 against Colorado. In other words, the Nats were able to cash in with runners in scoring position at about the same rate against the first place team in the NL Central and the last place team in the NL West.

So, guess what’s missing?

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Desmond Is 5-5 In Nats 7-2 Win

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

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Ian Desmond was 5-5 with two RBIs, Doug Fister threw 5.2 innings of solid baseball and reliever Aaron Barrett snuffed out a dangerous Rockies’ rally, as Washington went on to beat Colorado at Coors Field, 7-2. The victory, coupled with a Braves’ loss, put the Nationals in first place in the N.L. East.

Desmond’s night was the talk of the Nationals clubhouse following the victory. While the Washington shortstop has hit for power all season, he’s struggled to raise his batting average. But his 5-5 night against the Rockies raised his 2014 batting average to .253, a distinct improvement from his anemic April and May.

“I just thought he stayed middle of the diamond and didn’t overswing,” Nats manager Matt Williams concluded. “He hit a couple of balls back through the middle, one the other way. When he’s swinging it and going good, that’s what you’ll see.”

“I just look for the ball and swing as hard as I can,” Desmond said after the Washington victory. That may be, but whatever the shortstop is doing, it seems to be working. Desmond hit his 17th home run of the season in the top of the 4th inning to spark Washington’s offense.

The Washington win gave starter Doug Fister is 9th victory of the year, as the right hander suffocated Colorado’s bat-heavy line-up into the sixth inning. But the turning point in the game came when reliever Aaron Barrett was called on to douse a Colorado rally with two outs in the 6th. Barrett struck out Brandon Barnes with the bases loaded to end the threat.

The Washington win was also spurred by Colorado’s sloppy play. Two throwing errors by Colorado starter Franklin Morales in the 4th inning sparked a big inning for the Nationals. Morales threw wide to first on a Doug Fister sacrifice bunt, then overthrew first on a pickoff attempt. The second error cost Colorado a run, as it scored Danny Espinosa from third.

For the second night in a row the Nationals broke out their bats. In addition to Desmond’s impressive five hit performance, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa (who started at second base) were 2-4. Espinosa was particularly impressive, with a triple and a long fourth inning double that scored Wilson Ramos.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: This is turning into an ugly, ugly year for the Colorado Rockies. Their loss to the Nationals on Monday night was their sixth in a row and the team now finds itself mired in last place in the National League West . . .

It’s easy to identify the Rockies’ failings — lots of injuries and lack of pitching. But that’s only a part of the story. The front office is in chaos, the owner seems to mistrust the team’s head of baseball operations and it’s not clear what the General Manager is doing . . .

Fox Sports reports that team owner Dick Monfort said in a recent radio interview that he blames Bill Geivett, who is the senior vice president of major-league operations, for the Rockies rough year. Geivett has put his office in the clubhouse, putting pressure on manager Walt Weiss — and making Geivett a kind of deputy manager, or perhaps advisor-in-chief . . .

The Geivett move has touched off a kind of civil war inside the Rockies organization, with players befuddled by the teams plans — and wondering if there are any . . .

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Nats Crush The Crew, 8-3

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

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The Nationals came ready to play against Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night, scoring five runs in the bottom of the 1st inning and then going on to crush the crew, 8-3. The Nationals victory gave Washington starter Tanner Roark his team leading ninth win on the season.

The five run first inning was the difference in the game, as the Nationals batted around. Denard Span started the Nats assault with a single. Then, after Garza struck out Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth doubled, Adam LaRoche walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled to bring in the first two Nationals’ runs.

But the Nats weren’t done: Garza walked left fielder Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond reached first on a muffed infield single that scored LaRoche. Desmond’s single was mishandled by Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura, but scored a single as Desmond couldn’t be caught in his sprint to first. A Wilson Ramos single to center then scored two more runs.

“You want to be aggressive,” manager Matt Williams said of his team’s five run first. “We have an opportunity for a crooked number there. I think the big at-bat was Wilson Ramos. He got behind [in the count], got to two strikes. He hit a slider. That’s a big cushion and it extended the inning.”

The five runs were all that Tanner Roark would need in shutting down the potent Milwaukee offense. The Nats young righty threw seven innings of six hit baseball in holding the Crew to just one run. “The biggest thing for me is that we are playing good team ball and scoring runs early. It helps a lot,” Roark said of his victory. “It gives me confidence and I pitch with no fear.”

The Brewers view of their loss was that the Nationals were lucky: “The Nationals blooped, bounced, dribbled and flicked Garza from the game after 42 pitches, five runs and five well-placed hits,” Milwaukee’s website related. The Nationals didn’t disagree, while noting they were due for some luck.

“We need some luck every now and then, too,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We just kind of hit the ball where they weren’t. We got some timely hits like we didn’t yesterday. We got a good lead to start the game.”

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The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: There might have been three dozen or so Brewers fans in attendance at Saturday night’s game, but that’s about all. 1-2-9, a standard home for some out-of-towners (particularly when the Cubs are visiting) was denuded of all Brewers jerseys, with boos greeting the plate appearance of Ryan Braun . . .

“I don’t normally like booing anything having to do with baseball, even when I hate the other team,” a regular said, “and I don’t mind giving credit when it’s due. That’s just being a good sport. But I can’t stand Braun.” Many others agreed, and joined in the chorus. “He should have just taken his medicine and told the truth. It was the lie that turned fans against him,” another Nats fan noted . . .

There was only one voice of dissent, given by a fan in a nearby row who greeted the anti-Braun sentiment with a shrug. “The guy knows how to hit,” he said, “which makes you wonder why he thought he needed to juice in the first place.” That sentiment was unscored when Braun put a 91-mph Jerry Blevins fastball into the left field seats in the 8th . . .

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