April 19, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 16 Review: Nats Held to Two Hits in Wainwright’s Complete-Game Shutout

On nights when the Washington Nationals find their groove, their offense has the power to stun opposing pitchers.

Thursday was not one of those nights.

The Washington Nationals started their 11-game home stretch with a downright frustrating 8-0 loss to Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

From start to finish Wainwright (W, 3-1) was stellar on the mound, holding the Nats to just two hits through nine innings to record his seventh career shutout. And, from the batter’s box, he wasn’t so bad either – adding a double and a single to the Cardinals’ 14 total hits.

To make matters worse, the Nats tallied a whopping four errors on the night – two of which came from shortstop Ian Desmond, who now boasts seven errors on the season. Through 16 games, Washington has 20 total errors.

Desmond’s first error helped the Cardinals run with an early lead. The very first batter of the game – Matt Carpenter – reached first base safely after Desmond failed to field the routine drive.

But, Nats’ starter Taylor Jordan (L, 0-2) certainly committed his share of gaffes. He allowed a single to Kolten Wong and a quick double to Matt Holliday, which brought home Carpenter. Matt Adams’ grounder plated Kolten, and Yadier Molina singled in Holliday to give St. Louis an all-too-easy three-run lead.

After the first, however, Jordan regained at least brief control. Unfortunately, he lacked offense to back him up.

In fact, the bottom of the first marked the first of six total innings in which the Nats’ batters would retire in order.

The second inning proved the only time Washington threatened. Adam LaRoche led off with a walk before Desmond sought some redemption by way of a single up the middle. But, Danny Espinosa and Nate McLouth had no success in the box, and Wainwright intentionally walked Jose Lobaton to strike out Jordan in the nine-spot.

In the fourth, the Cardinals tacked on an insurance run. After Jhonny Peralta doubled with one out, Jon Jay reached on a throwing error by none other than Desmond. And, things went from bad to worse as Wainwright reached on a force attempt, which featured a miss catch error by Espinosa. The play allowed Peralta to score, but Jordan was able to prevent additional runs from crossing home plate.

In the sixth, however, Jordan simply lost control over his pitches. After striking out Peralta, he hit Jay with a runaway fastball before allowing Wainwright to single. By the time Jordan walked Carpenter to load the bases, the Nats had seen enough.

Unfortunately, reliever Blake Treinen had no added luck.

He struck out Wong on a 96-MPH fastball, but allowed Holliday to single in Jay, before Adams singled in both Wainwright and Carpenter.

Despite the sloppy inning and an added run in the seventh, Nationals manager Matt Williams seemingly allowed Treinen to sweat it out until the ninth.

When it came time for Jerry Blevins to take the mound, the Nats were down eight runs and had officially tallied twice as many errors as hits, thanks to a fielding error by Jayson Werth in the top of the eighth. Werth appeared to have lost a line drive by Molina in the lights as he charged forward with no hope of coming close to catching the ball.

The Nats will will want to turn their luck around tonight with left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50) taking on Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (2-0, 1.89).

Last season, the Nats went 0-6 against St. Louis.

 

 

Washington Wizards Game 82 Recap: Wizards Rout Celtics to Clinch No. 5 Seed in East

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption "Headed back DC! Let's get it!!"

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption “Headed back DC! Let’s get it!!”

Bradley Beal scored 27 points and all five of the Washington Wizards’ starters reached double-digit scoring as the Wiz Kids topped the Boston Celtics 118-102 at TD Garden Wednesday night.

With the win, the Wizards finish the regular season six games above .500 and secure the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed. Washington will take on the Chicago Bulls in their first playoff appearance since 2008.

At the end of the first quarter, it was clear Washington was going to run with the lead. John Wall tallied 13 of the Wizards’ 38 points in the first 12 minutes of play, and the team played like a cohesive unit counting down the days to the postseason.

The Celtics nearly matched the Wizards’ efforts in the second quarter as Chris Johnson and Jeff Green helped the team to a quick 11-3 run. With roughly six minutes left in the half, Nene and Beal hit a three each to keep the Celtics at bay and Washington took advantage of free baskets to end the half up 68-56.

The third proved a slower quarter for both teams. Washington went nearly two and a half minutes before sinking a basket and, in that time frame, Boston pulled within four points.

But, at last, it was the Wizards’ night to celebrate the end of the regular season, knowing there is still basketball left to be played.

In the final five minutes of play, Washington went on an offensive drive, shutting down the Celtics to regain a 16-point lead to end of the quarter.

Beal had a field day in the fourth, posting 12 points to help the Wizards write off the season with a 118-102 win.

The Wizards will first face the No. 4 Chicago Bulls (44-34) on the road on Easter Sunday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Game two will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

And, the Washington Wizards will return home Friday, April 28, to take on the Bulls in an ESPN primetime game at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Game four is slated for Sunday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m.

If necessary, game five will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 29; game six will take place in Washington on Thursday, May 1, and Game seven will send the two teams back to Chicago for a sudden-death matchup on Saturday, May 3.

Washington Nationals Game 15 Review: Werth Homer Lifts Nats in Win Vs. Fernandez, Marlins

The Washington Nationals took advantage of costly errors by the Miami Marlins to emerge the victor of a 6-3 finish Wednesday night.

Miami ace Jose Fernandez held the Nats to four hits and 10 strikeouts through seven, but he was dealt a tough break by the Marlins’ defense, namely catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

With Washington trailing 3-0, Jose Lobaton led off the sixth with a double to deep right. Then, on a would-be routine grounder off the bat of Tanner Roark, Saltalamacchia committed a throwing error allowing Roark to reach first and Lobaton to advance to third. After Nate McLouth struck out swinging and Anthony Rendon popped out to second, Fernandez merely needed to retire Werth to get out of the jam.

Luckily for the Nats, however, Werth was prepared to seize the moment. His three-run shot to right center marked his third homer of the season and tied the game, tarnishing Fernandez’s otherwise solid performance with three unearned runs.

Fernandez would go on to earn a final line of 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 10 K and 1 HR, tossing 65 of 97 pitches for strikes.

Nats starter Tanner Roark, in turn, walked away with a no decision after throwing 98 total pitches over 6.1 innings, in which he allowed three runs on seven hits, two walks, five strike outs and one home run.

In the eighth, with Mike Dunn in to relieve Fernandez, Zach Walters broke the 3-3 tie in the Nationals’ favor with his second career homer – and his second long ball in as many nights. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 81 Recap: Wiz Scorch Undermanned Heat

While the Miami Heat opted to sit LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Washington Wizards seized the opportunity, recording one of their strongest offensive performances of the year in their 114-93 win Monday night at the Verizon Center.

The Heat essentially forfeited the top seed and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Indiana Pacers by sitting their star players, but Washington had no reservations about controlling the pace of the game.

“We’ve seen enough of these games where they haven’t played some of their guys and we lost,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “Anytime you can get out and play… I thought the way we did from an offensive standpoint, moving forward, can’t hurt you.”

Washington led by as many as 36 points and shot 59 percent from the field. Trevor Ariza seemed to bounce back from his recent bout with the flu, leading the Wizards’ scoring with 25 points on the night.  Nene and Al Harrington added 18 and 16 respectively, while Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat rounded out the double-digit club. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 13 Review: Rendon, Leon Lead Nats Past Marlins

The power the Washington Nationals lacked Sunday against the Atlanta Braves returned, swing after swing, in the team’s 9-2 win over the Miami Marlins Monday.

Anthony Rendon and Sandy Leon each homered and combined for a total five RBIs to fuel the Nats’ offense against a Marlins squad that has now lost eight straight.

In a seemingly no-pressure situation, Jordan Zimmermann looked sharp, striking out seven and allowing two runs on six hits and one walk. And, he too, built on the Nats’ momentum at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two singles and a sacrifice bunt.

Left-hander Brad Hand (L, 0-1) lost control of the game quickly. In the first, Jayson Werth doubled with two outs and came home on a triple from Bryce Harper that put Washington on top 1-0 before the Fish came to bat.

In the second inning, Tyler Moore’s inexplicable luck in Miami produced once again as the outfielder led off the inning with a homer to right.

Danny Espinosa followed up with a double before advancing to third on a single by Leon. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 6 Review: Jordan Solid as Nats Top Braves to Avoid Sweep

DESMOND HOMER LIFTS NATS, BLEVINS RECORDS FIRST WIN AS A NATIONAL

With Bryce Harper out of the lineup Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals tallied just four hits to top the Atlanta Braves 2-1 by the skin of their teeth.

Taylor Jordan (ND, 1.42 ERA) allowed one run, six hits and two walks over 6.1 innings pitched, but he kept the Nats in contention despite their slow-to-produce offense.

Manager Matt Williams gave Bryce Harper the day off after the 21-year-old outfielder went 0-for-4 Saturday in the Nats’ 6-2 loss to the Braves. Harper, who is 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts, has shown visible frustration over the past few days, throwing down his helmet and stomping back to the dugout in dismay.

The Nats also sat Ryan Zimmerman for the start of Sunday’s matchup due to shoulder soreness, but he pinch-hit for reliever Tyler Clippard in the eighth, alleviating some fears for now.

Testing yet another new lineup, the Nats took an early lead in the first off left-hander Alex Wood (L, 1-1).

Leading off for the first time in his MLB career, Anthony Rendon reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a single by Kevin Frandsen. Jayson Werth hit an infield single, allowing Rendon to come home on a throwing error by second baseman Dan Uggla. To bring the Nationals to a halt, however, Wood retired the next three batters.

In fact, Washington failed to send another runner to base until Sandy Leon reached first on an error by Chris Johnson in the fifth.

Before that point, Jordan found himself in a bit of a jam in the fourth after walking Johnson and Justin Upton with one out. The situation went from bad to worse on a throwing error by Danny Espinosa, which allowed Dan Uggla to reach first to load the bases. But, Jordan pitched himself out of the inning, retiring Gerald Laird and Andrelton Simmons to end the inning.

And, in the top of the sixth, the Braves seemed to figure out Jordan’s repertoire. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 75 Recap: Wiz Dominate Celtics to Secure Playoff Berth

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

For the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards are playoff-bound.

Long before time ran out on the Wizards’ 118-92 win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, the truth set in: Washington will be treated to extra basketball this spring, and Wall will, at long last, make his postseason debut.

“It’s great, it’s everything I’ve been waiting for as a point guard and trying to learn how to lead in this league and become a better player but also I think the fans deserve it,” Wall said. “The tough time they went through of them booing us and us feeling bad when we’re not playing good or playing the right way and having the right people around the organization. Those guys in the front office and the coaching staff are doing a great job of building us as players and trusting in their system and going out there and playing as a group and one whole team… It means a lot.”

Wall posted 13 points and 10 assists in Wednesday’s contest as the Wizards worked their way to a 62.5 field goal percentage – their highest in a game since 2001.

And, though the road to the top of the Eastern Conference was paved nicely for Washington this season, for many in the District who have stuck through the Wiz Kids’ past few seasons, the reality of a playoff berth takes some getting used to.

“I’m just as thrilled too,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “This is an opportunity for me as a head coach, this is my first time and I’m looking forward to it. But we have seven games. We kept saying, let’s get ourselves in… [I say all the time that] I’m worried about how we’re playing and the process we’re going about, more than getting a win here and there, and wins and losses take care of themselves. [Wednesday's win] is a perfect example of that. This is the most we have swung that ball side to side for 48 minutes in a long time and it gets you 29 assists. We have to play that way. We got stagnant in Charlotte the other night in the third quarter where the ball never moved.

“You’re going to have lapses,” he continued. “There are good lapses and bad lapses. You miss open shots, you miss a couple of free throws here and there, and the other team goes on a run. I didn’t think we had a bad lapse today where one guy came down nine times and dribbled the ball and took a shot. Or we threw one pass and took a shot, unless it was a wide open shot. I know these guys were itching for this, and I know they peeked in the video room at half time to check on the New York score and they were up 35. I told them we have to go out and do it ourselves.”

And so, they did.

Marvin Gortat led Washington’s scoring effort with 22 points, but all five of the Wizards’ starters reached double-digit points before day’s end.

“I think we just played the right way,” Gortat said. “I just think we played the right way, we were swinging the ball perfectly. We had an in-and-out game. We ran different stuff and each one of us contributed to that win. It was a great night.”

From the opposite side of the court, Jared Sullinger did his best to prevent the Celtics from dropping their sixth straight game, adding 25 points to their total. But, Boston failed to ever take the lead and posted dismal numbers across the board.

In fact, less than five minutes into the game, the Celtics trailed by 15 points. Their late turnovers proved costly and, on the whole, their three-point strategy just did not work – they shot 3 for 24 from behind the arc. In fact, they struggled to find the net from all areas of the court, as they shot just 39.5 percent from the field on the night.

And still, several of the Celtics paused to recognize the fact that the night marked a moment Wall has long awaited.

“I wish him well,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said after the game. “It’ll be fun, exciting. Every game is on T.V. Guys love to play on T.V., I know I do. It’ll be fun. I’m sure he’s been waiting for this opportunity, I think he’s been like four or five years. For such a young guy to have so much pressure on him, having a franchise on his back, and he’s finally able to get to the playoffs, I’m sure it’s kind of like a burden lifted off of him. I’m sure he doesn’t want to settle there. I’m sure he wants to win, but you just have to take it one series at a time.”

Yet, as the Wizards may look to cruise through the remaining regular-season matchups, perhaps none can breathe quite the same sigh of relief as Wittman himself who, in little more than two years with the Wizards, assumed responsibility of fulfilling the do-or-die mantra.

“I think we stuck together,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys that the front office put together and we stuck together. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries here and there, but ever since the last couple of years we built it. Now we have the pieces together and now we’re in the playoffs.”

Washington Wizards Game 73 Recap: With playoff berth in sight, Wiz edge past Hawks

With their first playoff berth since 2008 in sight, the Washington Wizards held on to top the Atlanta Hawks 101-97 Saturday night.

A Sunday win by the Golden State Warriors over the New York Knicks could seal the deal for the Washington team which continues to insist their focus has been on winning the games at hand. But, the Wiz Kids, without a doubt, will keep their eyes peeled for what happens at Oracle Arena.

“We’re just trying to play basketball the right way like we did the last three games and find a way to win,” guard John Wall said after Saturday’s game. “We had a bad stretch in that west coast trip and came back and lost games and then we got back on the right track and we are just trying to stay that way. We knew these two games were pretty big for us and the game on Monday is even bigger against Charlotte that’s coming to try to get our sixth spot.”

“I just want to finish the season strong, make sure that we’re going to secure a good spot and then we’re going to think about playoffs,” added center Marcin Gortat.

Still, in the here and now, the Wizards will have to figure out how to hold onto games without losing momentum in the final minutes of play. In Saturday’s win, Washington led by 10 points with just 2:38 remaining in the game before the Hawks scored eight straight points to make it 99-97 Wizards.

Luckily for Washington, Drew Gooden made two free throws with seven seconds remaining, to bring the Wizards to their 101-97 final.

As Gortat eloquently stated after the game: “”We call this fatigue and [being]  too relaxed. I’m glad we won that game. Otherwise, I’d probably shoot myself at home.”

Wall was the star of the game with 25 points and seven rebounds, and Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza added 14 and 13 points, respectively. Washington also enjoyed a huge advantage off the boards, thanks in part to Gortat’s 11 rebounds. The Wizards recorded 44 rebounds, to just top  the Hawks’ 40, but, in the second half, Washington outrebounded Atlanta 26-17.

An added element to the game was the fact that the two teams had to overcome slippery conditions, resulting from Saturday afternoon’s Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center. The matchup between the Caps and Boston Bruins pushed back the Wizards’ start time by an hour, and yet players from both Washington and Atlanta commented that the floor was slippery and could have caused player injury.

“Everywhere was slippery and to be honest we were scared to make a move,” Wall said. “The situation with Trevor [Ariza] I mean he could have torn a groin or anything. So at certain times you’d see certain guys just start to fall and slide and it was getting worse and worse so I don’t know, they didn’t fall the first half but we did the second half.”

Washington Wizards Game 70 Recap: Wiz commit 24 turnovers in loss to Nuggets

As Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said following Sunday’s 105-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Wiz have given games away.

And, at some point before Washington’s 24th turnover, it became clear Sunday’s game was practically gift-wrapped for the 32-38 Nuggets.

Forward Kenneth Faried led Denver’s push with 20 points and eight rebounds and Randy Foye added another 17 points. To add salt to the wounds, former Wizard Jan Vesely tallied 10 points before leaving in the third quarter with a bruised rib cage.

On Washington’s side, Bradley Beal posted 21 points, but he could do little to offset John Wall’s eight turnovers.

After leading by as many as 14 points with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter, the Wizards began their skid.

Denver out-shot Washington 26-20 in the second quarter, which allowed the Nuggets to creep in front.

Beal and Marcin Gortat combined for 11 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to regain a temporary lead, but the Nuggets were too quick to the bucket.

The Nuggets trailed by a point with 8:40 remaining in the game before embarking on a 9-1 run.

And, though the Wizards outscored the Nuggets in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late. To seal the deal, the Nuggets hit seven of eight free throws in the final minute of play.

With the loss, the Wizards rounded out their four-game road trip with a 1-3 record.

Washington Wizards Game 68 Recap: Wizards drop second straight with loss to Trail Blazers

John Wall tallied 24 points and 14 assists, but the Washington Wizards fell 116-103 to a Portland Trail Blazers team still without LaMarcus Aldridge.

If the Wizards want to fight for a playoff spot – their first since 2008 – they’re going to have to put games like Thursday night’s loss behind them. With two more road Western Conference games remaining in this stretch, Washington is currently sixth in the East.

Still, many of the playing habits coach Randy Wittman has tried to break returned, as Washington seemingly ran out of gas in the second quarter, allowing Portland an 8-0 run.

They never quite regained momentum, either.

In the third quarter, the Blazers outshot Washington 33-22, thanks in part to six made threes. By the end of the night, Portland made 14 of 35 three-point attempts and shot 50.6 percent from the field. Even more, both Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard topped the 20-point mark with 28 and 23, respectively.

The Wizards couldn’t quite pull it together in the fourth quarter to put up much of a fight. For a while, they seemed to test the three-point strategy effectively as Drew Gooden, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza each sank long jumpers in the span of two minutes. But, Washington’s defense could not slow Matthews and Lillard, who continued to work their way over the 20-point threshold until the final 2:30 of the game.

Perhaps the most telling example of Washington’s up-and-down performance as of late was the fact that Wall himself provided some Jekyll-and-Hyde action. The Wizards’ point guard scored 13 points in the first quarter, zero in the second, 11 in the third and zero in the fourth.

Washington will look to recover some ground Friday night as the team takes on the (22-45) Los Angeles Lakers, who have now dropped three straight contests.

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