Posts Tagged ‘Wil Nieves’

Adam Dunn: Giant Killer

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Adam Dunn #44 of the Washington Nationals is congratulated by teammate Cristian Guzman #15 after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on July 9, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Stephen Strasburg finally received the run support he needed, as Adam Dunn stroked two home runs and the Washington Nationals subdued the red hot San Francisco Giants 8-1 at Nationals Park. Dunn’s surge against the McCovey’s brought “the kid” his third win of the season — a workmanlike six inning three hit outing that solidified his status as “the next big thing” in Washington. While Strasburg’s solid outing dominated the morning after headlines, Dunn’s barrage vaulted the slugger into the home run lead in the National League, with 22. Dunn was 3-4 on the night, scored three and drove in three — one of his best games of the season.  “When I get the pitch that earlier in the year I’ve been fouling off, I’m getting the barrel to it,” Dunn said after the game. “I’ve hit a lot of mistakes — a lot of balls where the pitcher didn’t intend it to be. Usually you get one of those an at-bat, and you still have to capitalize on them. That’s kind of what’s happening right now.”

Dunn’s outing backed a stellar pitching performance from Strasburg, who scattered three hits and struck out eight — lowering his ERA to 2.32 on the season. If there was a negative from the game, it was that Strasburg and catcher Wil Nieves did not seem to be on the same page, at least early on. And a dugout look-in during the third inning seemed to confirm that view, with Nieves and Strasburg exchanging pleasantries about pitch selection. That Strasburg was frustrated by the decision making seemed to be confirmed in the way that Nats themselves described their respective roles — “catcher Wil Nieves was behind the plate making suggestions” — and by Strasburg’s post game focus on what he wanted to accomplish: “I think today was really the first time where I really went out there and wanted to call my own game and do what I wanted to throw on any count,” he said.

Despite the mini controversy (though you have to wonder: would the Nats describe Pudge Rodriguez’s sign flashing as “making suggestions?”), it was hard to argue with Strasburg’s success. “The Kid” threw 31 curveballs (the most of any of his starts), offered 13 change-ups, didn’t allow a hit on pitches on the inside half of the plate and held the Giants to 0-4 with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position. The only blemish on Strasburg’s night was an Andres Torres lead-off scorcher that ducked into the lower right field stands. Thereafter, Strasburg made the adjustment: shifting his focus from fastballs to curves and change-ups, and baffling San Francisco hitters. He walked only one batter and the Nats played solid behind him — giving up no errors. Strasburg seemed to own Pablo Sandoval, striking out the swing-for-the-fences behemoth three times.

Bruney Walk Sinks Nats In 10

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Nats’ reliever Brian Bruney walked home Cubs’ shortstop Ryan Theriot with the winning run in the bottom on the 10th inning on Monday night at Wrigley Field, leaving the Nats on the short end of a 4-3 contest. Bruney has had a tough go of it as a Nat: he has walked twelve hitters in 9.2 innings, while giving up seven hits. “It wasn’t my night,” Bruney said after the game. “The guys played good. I was only the one out there throwing that baseball when the run scored. I put this one on me. Unfortunately, this is not a good feeling to have in a locker room full of guys [playing hard] and you go out there and walk a guy to win the game. I’m obviously not happy with myself. We have to dig back in and grind for the next time.” If there was good news in the game, it is that the Nats were able to battle back from a 3-0 third inning deficit, with timely hitting from catcher Wil Nieves.

Neither starting pitcher was particularly sharp. Cubs’ starter Carlos Silva walked in a run in the fourth inning, while Nats’ starter John Lannan walked the pitcher (Silva), in the second, to force in a run. But Lannan settled down to pitch six complete innings, what counts as a quality start. “I fell apart in the second [inning] and that can’t happen,” Lannan later told reporters. “The goal is to finish the game strong. I’m sick of having those mediocre innings when things get away from me. I never walked three in a row and I walked the pitcher with the bases loaded. That’s disappointing. I’m just battling every game so far. I’m not going to force it, but I’m waiting for it to click and have a strong outing from start to finish.” Nieves said that Lannan has yet to find his sinker.

The game — played in frigid and windy conditions — featured the second relief appearance of former starter Carlos Zambrano, who pitched an inning and two-thirds. MASN commentator Rob Dibble speculated on Zambrano’s troubles, saying that the Cubs’ ace looked like he was pushing the ball, and that he might be in pain. Zambrano has battled shoulder problems on-and-off since 2005, but the Cubs say there’s nothing wrong with the righty’s arm. And Cubs GM Jim Hendry dismissed reports that Zambrano’s demotion to the bullpen was a tactic designed to pressure him to give up his no-trade clause.”It has nothing to with what he gets paid, there’s no agenda at all except he was the best fit at the time,” Hendry said. “And I think we know now that’s the truth. He’s capable of doing it, and that’s a good thing.”

Well, maybe. But it’s going to be tough for the Cubs to pay a tweeky inconsistent starter what they owe Zambrano, even if he turns out to be effective as a middle reliever. The Cubs are due to pay the righty $17.875 million in 2010 and 2011, $18 million in 2012 and the former ace has a $19.25 million player option in 2013. Zambrano’s name has come up in trade talks before: most recently in a much-speculated swap with the Yankess and, at the end of 2009, as a part of a trade with the crosstown White Sox for former Padre Jake Peavy. It seems unlikely that Zambrano’s troubles this April would make him as attractive for some teams as he was during the off-season, but there’s no doubt that if the Cubs actively asked around theyd’ find some takers. Zambrano, meanwhile, is under the impression that his stay in Chicago’s bullpen is temporary, pending the Cubs’ search for an 8th inning setup man. On Monday, Zambrano (6.85 ERA) said he was “okay” with his new role.

Sure.

Nieves, Clippard Rock Rockies

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Wil Nieves isn’t often the hero, but he was on Wednesday night against the Colorado Rockies. A Wil Nieves’ RBI double in the eighth inning ensured the Nationals a 6-4 victory over the always tough Colorado Rockies. With two runners on in the eighth, Nieves took a 1-0 pitch deep to left center, bringng the Nats back to one game over .500 early in the 2010 campaign. Nieves’ double came off of Rockies’ reliever Rafael Betancourt, breaking open the 4-4 game.”He just hung a slider up and away,” Nieves said. “I put a good swing on it and put it in the gap. I saw [center fielder] Dexter Fowler out there and he can run, but when I saw it drop, it was a huge double.” Nats’ starter John Lannan seemed to struggle in the early part of the game, but he kept his team close — scattering 11 hits over six innings before being relieved by Tyler Clippard, the Nats’ emerging middle relief expert.

Clippard was exceptional, throwing two innings of one-hit ball with three strikeouts. Only one Rockie was able to get to Clippard, with a measly single. “I have a good feel for my pitches right now,” Clippard said. “My whole career, I have always been successful against lefties and righties. For whatever reason, I have a good changeup and I will throw some pitches that will run in on your hands sometimes.” Clippard is now 3-0 on the season and sports a head-turning 0.77 ERA. While the 2010 season is still young, the Nats are playing well and the team’s scary middle-of-the-lineup is just now starting to hit.  Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham were a combined 6-11, with Dunn raising his average to just under the Mendoza line. Washington closer Matt Capps registered his sixth save in as many chances.

Those Are The Details And Now For The Headlines: All is not right down along Half Street — Ryan Zimmerman grabbed his hamstring in the 7th inning on Wednesday and may have to sit out Thursday’s game. Zimmerman, who says he is seeing the ball well and starting to hit his stride, says he believes the tightness in his hamstring is the result of a cramp — and unrelated to the soreness in his hamstring that he suffered last week. “It’s the last thing I want to happen,” he said . . . Jason Marquis is now on the disabled list. Marquis has struggled with the Nats and his injury may have something to do with that. He is reported to have bone chips in his elbow. Marquis is embarrassed by his recent outings, and he should be: Felipe Lopez has a better ERA.

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 . . .