October 30, 2014

About Alyssa Wolice

Alyssa Wolice is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals and Wizards. As a former production assistant, she covered the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, D.C. United and local collegiate teams. You can follow Alyssa on Twitter @awolice.

Washington Nationals Game 158 Review: National League Crown in Sight as Gio, Nats Top Mets

Near the top of a long list of indicators the Washington Nationals want to see as the gear up for the postseason is the return of the Gio Gonzalez of old.

And, on Thursday night, the Nats saw just that as Gonzalez delivered his greatest outing of the season to help the Nats to a 3-0 win over the New York Mets in game two of a split doubleheader at Nationals Park.

Gonzalez (W, 10-10) threw 70 of 103 total pitches for strikes, allowing just one hit and two walks through seven innings pitched while fanning a career-high 12. His fastball reportedly reached 94 MPH, and his entire arsenal worked as the Mets struggled to make contact. In fact, Gonzalez struck out six consecutive batters beginning with Lucas Duda to start the top of the second and ending with starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to close out the third.

The Nats’ offense was slow to awaken against Wheeler (L, 11-11), but in the fourth, they made do with back-to-back singles by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. Nate Schierholtz drew a walk to load the bases before Tyler Moore grounded into a force out that plated Werth to make it 1-0 Nats.

Then, Scott Hairston walked and Mets catcher Anthony Recker came up with a passed ball as Ramos came home to make it 2-0.

With two outs and the bases loaded once more, Wheeler hit Anthony Rendon with a pitch to hand the Nats a 3-0 lead.

The inning would turn out to be Wheeler’s ugliest of the night, and the Mets’ relief tossed three innings of scoreless baseball, but Gonzalez and the Washington bullpen never let up.

Lefthander Matt Thornton allowed no runs on two hits in the eighth, and Drew Storen tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the Nationals’ victory.

 

THE GOOD: For most of the season, the Nats have seemingly waited for Gio Gonzalez to perform like Gio Gonzalez again. And, as of late, he has done exactly that – with Thursday night’s outing amounting to his best performance yet. On the heels of Gonzalez’s phenomenal delivery, the Nats’ magic number for the best record in the National League is just one.

THE BAD: The Nats went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine base runners.

THE STATS: 3 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 10 K, 1-for-11 RISP, 9 LOB

 

Washington Nationals Game 156 Review: Nats Top Mets, Inch Closer to Securing NL’s Top Spot

Tanner Roark secured his 15th win of the season as the Washington Nationals edged the New York Mets 4-2 Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

The righthander helped the Nats work towards securing the best record in the National League, a spot which would land the team home-field advantage for every round of the MLB playoffs except the World Series.

Both the Mets’ and Nats’ bats were slow to awaken, as the game went scoreless through four innings.

Denard Span singled in the first and, with two outs, Adam LaRoche drew a walk, but Mets starter Bartolo Colon regained control in time to pitch out of the inning unscathed.

In the fifth inning, the Mets actually struck first.

Wilmer Flores doubled and, with one out, scored on a ground-rule double by Kirk Nieuwenhuis before Roark retired Ruben Tejada and Colon in order.

Perhaps the one-run lead led Colon to relax, or maybe it simply energized the Nats to come back with a vengeance. Either way, the Nats’ offense suddenly sprung to life after Kevin Frandsen led off with a single and took second on Roark’s sacrifice bunt. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 152 Review: Five-Run Fourth Helps Nats Top Marlins

The Washington Nationals posted five runs – all with two outs – in a fourth inning rout to help pave the way for a 6-2 win over the Miami Marlins Thursday.

Starter Gio Gonzalez earned his ninth win of the season after allowing two runs on six hits through seven innings pitched. Oddly enough, though his counterpart, Brad Hand, lasted just five innings, he tossed three perfect innings until the Nats’ bats awakened in the fourth.

Before that point, the Marlins had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second after Gonzalez gave up a single to Jeff Baker and an RBI double to Reed Johnson. Gonzalez struck out Adeiny Hechavarria before forcing both Jarod Saltalamacchia and Enrique Hernandez to line out.

In the top of the fourth, the Nats showcased their ability to keep pressure on their opponents.

Anthony Rendon hit a one-out single before stealing second base with two outs. The stolen bag paid off as Rendon came home on a double by Wilson Ramos. Ramos came home on a single from Ian Desmond, and Bryce Harper kept the inning alive with a single to give Washington runners at the corners.

Asdrubal Cabrera singled in Desmond, advancing Harper to third. Both Harper and Cabrera came home on a single by Kevin Frandsen and a throwing error by Johnson in right.

When all was said and done, Gonzalez returned to the mound with a 5-1 lead over Miami.

In the fifth, that lead expanded to 6-1 after Rendon singled and scored on a double by Jayson Werth.

Miami earned back a run in the bottom of the sixth after a double and stolen base by Christian Yelich, and an RBI single off the bat of Baker.

The Nats went on to hold off the Marlins’ offense while Craig Stammen and Rafael Soriano each provided an inning of hitless relief to end the game.

With the win, the Nationals have improved to an NL-best 88-64 record, two games ahead of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

 

THE GOOD: With the except of just a couple potential trouble-spots, Gio Gonzalez came up with a solid outing against the Miami Marlins. With debate circulating about what type of role Gonzalez may carry into the playoffs, it was nice to see the South Florida native showcase his strengths.

The Nats seemingly took manager Matt Williams’ advice to never ease pressure off an opponent. They tallied four two-out RBI and went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

While Nationals manager Matt Williams undoubtedly made a clever call in opting to pull the closer role from Rafael Soriano, you can’t help but applaud a decent outing by the on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again closer.

THE BAD: Denard Span went 0-for-5 with a strike out.

THE STATS: 6 R, 11 H, 10 K, 4-for-9 with RISP, 5 LOB

 

Washington Nationals Game 150 Review: Nats Clinch NL East with Commanding Win over Braves

EARN SECOND DIVISION CROWN IN THREE YEARS

For the second time in three years, the Washington Nationals are kings of the National League East and, come October, there will be baseball in the nation’s capital.

With a 3-0 win over the second-place division rival Atlanta Braves, the Nats clinched their spot atop an NL East that struggled to play catch-up through the bulk of the 2014 season.

As if to demonstrate how far the Nationals have progressed since April, the very team that struggled to top Atlanta even once through the first half of the season shut out the Braves to secure their ticket to October.

Even more, the starter who so many claimed would come back down to earth following the 2013 season, recorded his 14th win of 2014 after allowing just five hits over seven innings pitched. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 149 Review: NL East within Reach after Nats Top Braves

STRASBURG, RAMOS HELP NATS LOWER MAGIC NUMBER TO TWO

With their Magic Number now down to two games, the Washington Nationals could win their second NL East division title in three years Tuesday night should they continue to dominate against the Atlanta Braves.

Following a 4-2 win over their rivals Monday night, helped by a solid performance from Stephen Strasburg (W, 12-11), the Nats could very likely celebrate their 2014 playoff berth at Turner Field.

Despite reporting neck stiffness, Strasburg was sharp against a Braves team he frequently struggles to beat. Through 7.0 innings pitched, the Nationals right-hander allowed five total hits, no runs and no walks and struck out seven batters.

His one trouble spot came in the fifth inning when, after Jason Heyward led off with a single to right, Strasburg committed a throwing error in his attempt to pick off Heyward. Instead, Heyward made it all the way to third base on the error.

Fortunately for the Nats, Strasburg came up with three big outs to work out of the inning unscathed. After striking out Chris Johnson, Strasburg forced Christian Bethancourt to ground out to third, before B.J. Upton struck out to end the inning.

Before that point, the Nats had helped themselves to a two-run lead over Atlanta starter Ervin Santana (L, 14-9, thanks to a one-run double by Denard Span in the third and a lead-off solo shot by Wilson Ramos in the fifth. Ramos’ homer marked his 11th of the season.

With Luis Avilan on the mound in relief for Atlanta, Strasburg helped himself to another insurance run in the seventh inning.

After Nate Schierholtz drew a lead-off walk, Ramos lined out to center before Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to left. Then, Strasburg singled to center to plate Cabrera. The Nats threatened to tack on more runs as Span took first on a hit-by-pitch, but reliever Juan Jaime successfully struck out Anthony Rendon to end the inning.

The Nats earned one more run in the top of the eighth after Jayson Werth led off with a walk and came home by way of an Ian Desmond force out and Schierholtz RBI single.

After Craig Stammen delivered a solid eighth inning of relief, Rafael Soriano seemed to pine for his closer role. Having lost the job a few weeks ago, Soriano appeared in a would-be non-save situation in the ninth, only to immediately allow a double by Andrelton Simmons and a two-out, RBI double by Justin Upton.

Soriano got Heyward to fly out to left, but walked Chris Johnson, allowing the tying run to step to the plate.

Not surprisingly, Nationals manager Matt Williams opted to pitch Drew Storen for the save situation. Storen allowed an RBI single to Bethancourt, but successfully forced B.J. Upton ground out to end the game.

 

THE GOOD: Stephen Strasburg has without a doubt struggled against the Atlanta Braves this season, but he showed no signs of bad habits when he struck out seven and allowed no runs and no walks through seven innings pitched. Additionally, the Nats – who were out-hit nine to six by the Braves – did enough with relatively little, going 3-for-8 with RISP and stranding just six base runners all night.

Thanks to their collective efforts, the Nats will have cause to celebrate if they can secure a win against Atlanta Tuesday night.

THE BAD: Rafael Soriano nearly undid eight solid innings of work for the Nationals’ pitching staff. In just 0.2 innings pitched, he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk.

THE UGLY: Stephen Strasburg’s pickoff attempt in the fifth inning was a far cry from pretty. Fortunately, Strasburg was in the zone through his entire outing, and pitched out of the jam without allowing a run to score.

THE STATS: 4 R, 1 HR, 6 H, 4 BB, 9 K, 3-for-8 RISP, 6 LOB

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Fister Dominates as Nats Top Braves

WASHINGTON LOWERS MAGIC NUMBER TO 12 GAMES

Starter Doug Fister held the Atlanta Braves to just two hits and three walks over seven innings pitched as the Washington Nationals celebrated a 2-1 win Monday night and an eight game lead over the rest of the NL East.

Relying heavily on his fast ball, Fister (W, 13-6) shut down a sleepy Atlanta offense.

The Nats, on the other hand, posted a run early when, with two outs and two on in the bottom of the first, Ian Desmond hit the third single of the inning to plate Anthony Rendon.

It was the only run Washington managed to tally until the seventh inning, but in that time, the Braves hardly threatened.  Fister tossed three 1-2-3 innings, and his only two hits allowed – both singles – came in the first and second innings, respectively.

In the meantime, the Nats could have tacked on additional runs off Mike Minor (L, 6-10) in the third inning had it not been for Atlanta catcher Gerald Laird.

After Rendon drew a one-out walk, Laird fired to second baseman Tommy La Stella to nab him in his attempt to steal second. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 141: LaRoche Helps Nats Sneak Past Phillies with 3-2 Win

First baseman Adam LaRoche went 2-for-4 with two home runs to help the Washington Nationals to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday afternoon.

In addition to LaRoche’s two runs scored, Ian Desmond crossed the plate once to account for the third run on a day in which both starting pitchers came through with decent outings.

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (W, 8-9) had the upper hand throughout the game, however. Through six innings pitched, he allowed just two runs – one earned – over five hits and three strikeouts. For Philly, Cole Hamels dealt three earned runs over seven hits, three walks and seven strikeouts through 6.1 innings.

Philadelphia came up with the unearned run early when, with two outs and Grady Sizemore on first, Marlon Byrd singled up the middle. On the play, Denard Span committed a throwing error, which allowed Sizemore to score and brought Byrd to third. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 139 Review: Nats Waste Five-Run Lead, Fall to Phils in 11

Washington Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano did little to ensure his job security Friday night.

In a game in which the Nats led by as many as five runs over the Philadelphia Phillies, the 34-year-old right-hander took the mound in the ninth with three runs padding the Nats’ pathway to a win.

Instead, Soriano allowed a lead-off single to Domonic Brown and a two-run homer off the bat of Carlos Ruiz, pulling the Phillies within a run as they trailed 7-6.

Just an out later, Philadelphia came up with that run, by way of a Ben Revere solo shot to right.

The blown save marks Soriano’s seventh of the season.

Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard did his part to keep a Curly W within reach, but Craig Stammen had no such luck thanks to two costly mistakes by Nats’ fielders.

The eleventh inning started off with a fielding error by Bryce Harper that allowed Brown to reach second base. Brown advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Ruiz and came home on a fielder’s choice by Maikel Franco. On the play, covering first base, Tyler Moore committed a throwing error that allowed Franco to advance to second. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 125 Review: Nats Walk off Yet Again to Extend Win Streak to Nine

ANTHONY RENDON’S PINCH-HIT SINGLE HELPS NATS EDGE DIAMONDBACKS

For the fourth time in five games, the Washington Nationals won in walk-off fashion – this time, to record a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

Anthony Rendon started the day on the bench, but with one out and two on – and the game on the line – Nationals manager Matt Williams opted to insert Rendon into the order. And, in return, the Nats earned their ninth consecutive “Curly W,” improving their record to a National League-best 72-53 and extending their lead over the Atlanta Braves to seven games in the NL East.

Starter Tanner Roark was sharp as he allowed no runs on five hits and one walk through seven innings pitched.

The Nats provided Roark with a 1-0 lead in the second inning when, with runners on first and third, Wilson Ramos hit into an RBI fielder’s choice off the Diamondbacks’ Trevor Cahill. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 124 Review: Nats Shut Down Diamondbacks to Extend Win Streak to Eight

With their current win streak numbering eight games, the Washington Nationals would likely invite the Arizona Diamondbacks to stay in town if given the option.

Tuesday night brought their largest margin of victory of the Arizona squad thus far as Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera together batted in seven of the Nats’ runs en route to an 8-1 win.

The heavy hitting likely helped starter Stephen Strasburg (W, 10-10) find his comfort zone as he allowed just one earned run – a homer by David Peralta – on three hits and one walk through 8.0 innings pitched. He also threw 61 of 95 pitches for strikes, and struck out four batters.

Arizona pitching didn’t fare so well.

Starter Chase Anderson (L, 7-5) lasted just two innings, during which he gave up six runs on six hits and three walks. Perhaps surprisingly yet, all six of Anderson’s runs allowed occurred in the third inning – before an out was recorded.

It was actually the Diamondbacks who struck first – the only time in which they posted a run on the board.

After Strasburg retired the first two batters of the game, Peralta worked him to a 2-2 count on five pitches before powering a four-seam fastball over the right-center field wall.

Following two fairly quiet innings, the Nats answered. Oh, did they. [Read more...]

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