Posts Tagged ‘Wilson Ramos’

Rethinking The Braves “Ambush”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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As we said (and repeatedly) yesterday — after the Nationals were swept by the Atlanta Braves: “It’s still early.” Much has been said of the state of this I-95 rivalry. “They” have the Nats’ number. “They’re” inside the Nats’ heads. They’re Washington’s kryptonite. Maybe, but we’ll leave that particular analysis to the sports psychologists.

In looking back on the series, we here at CFG have come up with something else: in spite of having dropped five of six to the Bravos, there is no real overall difference in quality between Atlanta and the Nationals. For two of the three games in that Atlanta series, the Braves didn’t actually win — so much as the Nationals lost.

Consider: for the first two games, the Nationals outhit the Braves 25-22, while losing both contests by four fewer runs (13 to 9). The reason? Sloppy fielding and poor base running. The usually sure-handed Ian Desmond committed an unheard of three errors, exacerbated by one from Nate McLouth in a call that should have gone the other way. Bryce Harper was caught stealing, and both he and Zimmerman were picked off.

Game three of the series was a legitimate Bravos victory, to be sure, but that’s to be expected in any series against a quality team, which the Braves certainly are. The Braves outhit and outplayed the Nationals in that game, but that wasn’t true for the first game — or the second.

The Braves’ bullpen (with the possible exception of Craig Kimbrel), is not some unhittable juggernaut — as was clear last night in Philadelphia. The Nats chewed up starters Julio Teheran for 10 hits and 5 runs and Alex Wood for 6 hits and one run – and generated nine hits and three runs in the first two face-offs against relievers Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and Anthony Varvaro.

Early as the season is, there are still plenty of reasons for confidence. Harper has gotten comfortable at the plate again, banging out six hits over the course of the series. New acquisitions Kevin Frandsen and Nate McLouth and Nats veteran Danny Espinosa have shown themselves to be solid bench players.

The Nats are snake-bit against the Braves, for sure. Snake bit? That just means that, for whatever reason, they’ve played poorly against them. That won’t last. The next time the Nats face the Braves (a four game set in mid-June), Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, and Ryan Zimmerman should be off the disabled list — and the team will be out to prove that April was a fluke. And there will have been plenty of games (both easy and tough) for the boys in the field to learn each others ticks.

Then too, Nats manager Matt Williams may have even settled on a lineup by then.

Nats Notes For Game #4: Braves 2 Nationals 1

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

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It’s possible to spend hours discussing what happened on Opening Day, but it might be more useful to summarize it as follows: Ian Desmond’s 5th inning infield homer-not-a-homer Charlie Foxtrot, Bryce Harper’s timing issues at the plate (“he’s off a tick,” Matt Williams said following the loss), and “overaggressive” base running from Desmond, Adam LaRoche, and Harper. All this brought groans from Nats’ watchers, especially those who were privileged to see it from the stands . . .

Notwithstanding, while the regulars at the ballpark-on-the-Anacostia on Friday left disappointed by the loss, they left the game happy with the not-so-new-look Nationals — and the fact that winter, at long last, seemed to be over. And there probably won’t be much disagreement with our own take:

Jordan Zimmermann, on an off day recovering from the flu, is as good a starting pitcher as any team could hope for. He gave up one run, just like every other Nats starter so far this season, but he made it through the first two innings on 22 pitches. That’s an economy of effort that Steve McCatty would look for, though the long ball that “the Ace of Auburndale” gave up was prodigious . . .

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It sounded like a howitzer. “Holy shit,” the fan next to me said when the Gattis shot was three-quarters of the way to the left field bleachers  . . .

When healthy, Zimm typically goes seven innings, and the fact that he was able to go five and let Matt Williams avoid having the game pitched by a bullpen committee is a major advantage against a team like the Braves. Craig Stammen delivered two solid innings (the slider is his out pitch, and it’s working real well), Aaron Barrett was better than good, and then too Tyler Clippard — well, we’re still only at 98.7, which isn’t much of a fever . . .

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Nats Notes For Game #3: It’s A Sweep In New York

Friday, April 4th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals swept the opening three game series against the Mets in New York, putting up eight runs on thirteen hits and downing the Gothams 8-2. This is one of those things where the score showed the game to be closer than it really was. This was a romp.

A three game sweep is a terrific start for a long season, even if (once again), the Nationals first inning was a little rough, both on young righty Tanner Roark and on the Nats’ defense. But after the shaky first frame, the team settled down and put on an efficient performance.

And once again Nats relievers went to work: Ross Detwiler pitched two solid innings and Raphael Soriano closed the book. Detwiler may not be happy in his new role as a lefty long reliever, but that didn’t show on Thursday.

In their first starts of the year, super-subs Danny Espinosa and Sandy Leon played well. Espinosa turned a great double play in the 5th and had two quality at-bats; if Anthony Rendon weren’t hitting the cover off the ball (and he is) Espinosa would be making a strong case for being back in the line-up.

And Sandy Leon was steady behind the plate, caught a Lucas Duda popup in foul territory in the 3rd, and scored a run after being walked in the 5th.

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The first series of the season is too small a sample size to come to make any conclusions about the team’s prospects for the rest of the season, but the Nationals have sprung from the gate — and made a strong claim to being the N.L. team to beat.

Nats’ starters gave up runs in the first inning of each of the three games, putting the team in the hole early. But the team in the other dugout was the Mets, so each starter’s job was to hold the Madoff’s close until the offense could get going. And that’s what happened, with Washington starters keeping their pitch counts low. Then too, the team’s first inning woes are probably due to an excess of adrenaline, which is no cause for worry.

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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 Feast On The Fish

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

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Jordan Zimmerman was electric on Friday night, holding the Marlins to just two hits in throwing an 8-0 complete game shutout of Miami, his second complete game shutout of the year. The Ace of Auburndale now has 19 wins in the 2013 campaign as the Nationals attempt to catch Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card slot.

“It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever had up here,” Zimmermann said of his outing. “The bullpen before the game wasn’t that good, and I thought it might be a long game. But as soon as I stepped out there and the first inning went on, I knew I had some pretty good stuff.”

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were unable to gain on Cincinnati, who notched an improbable 10th inning come-from-behind 6-5 victory against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. “We’re not mathematically out of it yet,” Zimmermann said after pitching his gem. “So we’ve got to keep fighting until the end, and hopefully one of these other two teams tank.”

Zimmermann’s 19th win came with nine strikeouts and only one walk. He had a no hitter going into the sixth inning and threw 79 strikes on 107 pitches. Nats hitters, meanwhile, scorched Miami pitchers with eleven hits, scoring seven runs in the sixth inning: one of the few “laughers” the team has had this year.

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Denard Span began the Nationals’ sixth inning rally with a single to right, followed by a Ryan Zimmerman single and doubles from Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. The first out of the inning came on an Ian Desmond ground out, but Miami starter Jacob Turner then walked Adam LaRoche.

Replacing Turner with reliever Chris Hatcher, however, did not stem the Nationals’ tide. Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon victimized Hatcher with successive singles, adding two runs to the two that had already been scored. A Jordan Zimmermann bunt notched the second out of the inning, but then Denard Span followed with a bases clearing triple.

The Washington sixth continued the Nats’ hot hitting in September, with Span and Werth both scoring two RBIs on the night, with four hitters (Span, Desmond, Ramos and Rendon) each accounting for two hits. The Nationals have outscored Miami 11-2 in two games.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals’ 8-0 scrubbing of the Marlins on Friday night marked their fifteenth win of September against only four losses. But to get into the post-season Washington will not only have to win-out in their last eight games, they will have to depend on Cincinnati or Pittsburgh to go into a tailspin . . .

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Nats Stun The Braves: Twice

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals have made the improbable now possible, stunning the Atlanta Braves in a split doubleheader on Tuesday, winning a come-from-behind first game in the bottom of the 9th inning, 6-5, then coming back to tame Atlanta 4-0 in the nightcap. The twin wins kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

The Nationals seemed headed for defeat in the first game of the twin bill, trailing Atlanta by a score of 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. But the Nationals scored three runs on a walk to Adam LaRoche, a Wilson Ramos infield single, an Anthony Rendon walk, a fielder’s choice that scored LaRoche and a walk-off error from the usually sure-handed Andrelton Simmons.

The Simmons error came off the bat of Washington’s Denard Span, capping a three run rally that sparked a mass celebration by the Nationals. The rally marked a day in which the team and fans paid homage to those who had died at the nearby Navy Yard at the hands of a lone gunman on Monday. The Nats wore emblematic Navy hats as a tribute prior to the game.

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Atlanta had trailed 3-0 in the game, but a furious comeback from the Braves in the 8th inning gave Atlanta a one run lead, which they expanded by a run in the 9th inning. The 8th inning comeback victimized sure-armed reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a walk to Freedie Freeman, following by an Evan Gattis home run — his 20th of the year.

“He felt terrible,” Nationals starter Dan Haren said of Clippard following the victory. “He was yelling for 15 minutes straight, screaming in the locker room. How many times has the guy picked us up this year in huge games? Has so many holds. The guy pitches six out of seven days. The guy has been money all year.”

But Clippard’s frustration couldn’t match that felt by Atlanta fireballer Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most effective closer in the National League in 2013. Kimbrel had converted 37 straight save opportunities before Tuesday, but couldn’t survive the Simmons’ error.

“Any time I go out there and don’t do my job, it’s a tough one to swallow, because my job is to go out there and solidify what everybody else has done the entire game,” Kimbrel said following his blown save. “Everybody worked their butts off all game long. We battled back and took a lead.”

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Ramos, Zimmermann Lead The Nats

Monday, September 16th, 2013

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Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was 4-4 and drove in five runs, and righty starter Jordan Zimmermann notched his league-leading 18th win of the year, and the Nationals routed the Philadelphia Phillies 11-2 at Nationals Park on Sunday. The win, coupled with a Cincinnati loss in Milwaukee, brought the home towners within 4.5 games of the last Wild Card slot.

While the Nationals pounded out eighteen hits against a hapless Philadelphia pitching staff, Ramos was clearly the star of the show: the Nationals’ backstop singled in the bottom of the 1st (and plated Bryce Harper), singled again in the bottom of the 4th (scoring Harper again), homered to center in the 6th and singled in the 7th to score Zach Walters and Adam LaRoche.

Ramos has been a workhorse for the Nationals, appearing Sunday in his 23rd consecutive game. “He’s been hitting the heck out of the ball, catching good, throwing people out. He’s hard to take out of the lineup,” Washington skipper Davey Johnson said of his 26-year old catcher. “We’ve missed him for two years, so we’re going to ride him.”

But Ramos’ career day did little to overshadow the performance of righty Jordan Zimmermann, who’s been Washington’s staff ace for the 2013 campaign. Zimmermann turned in seven innings complete innings of seven hit baseball while striking out seven in taming the Philadelphia line-up.

“It feels good, but then again, I’ll trade all those wins in for a spot in the playoffs,” Zimmermann said after his victory. “That’s the only thing that matters right now. We’re playing good ball and scoring some runs, so it’s definitely fun.”

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It took the Nationals just over three hours to polish off Philadelphia, who sent five pitchers to the mound in an effort to short-circuit Washington’s attack. The Phillies have great hopes for starter Tyler Cloyd, a sleeper pick in the 18th round of the 2008 draft. But the Nats victimized Cloyd with ten hits and five runs in four innings.

“Any time you have a bad outing, no matter how many good ones you have, you’re always disappointed,” Cloyd said after the Phillies’ loss. “Obviously I’m more disappointed that I’m pitching bad and not giving the team a chance to win. I’ve got to figure it out somehow.

While Ramos led the Nationals attack, he had plenty of help. Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond had two hits each (with Span extending his hitting streak to 26 straight games), while Bryce Harper was 3-5 on the day and raised his 2013 batting average to .280. Harper was 6-12 in the Philadelphia series.

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