April 2, 2015

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Caps take care of business against Canes

ALEX OVECHKIN SCORES 50TH GOAL OF THE SEASON, TIES BONDRA FOR FRANCHISE LEADER

The Washington Capitals took care of business Tuesday night. They scored early, they responded to a couple of their opponent’s goals, and the best player in franchise history added to his accolades. At the finish, the Caps beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 before a not-quite capacity Verizon Center.

With the two points, the Caps pull within a point of both Pittsburgh and the Islanders, tied for second in the Metropolitan Division and both idle, while further distancing themselves from the now-remote possibility of missing the playoffs.

The Caps got things started early in the first. On a good cycle, Curtis Glencross and Tom Wilson kept the puck deep in the Carolina end and Mike Green snuck into the slot, took the pass from Wilson, and beat Cam Ward for his eighth goal of the season.

Then, the moment everyone was waiting for.

Midway through the frame, Evgeny Kuznetsov entered the offensive zone carrying the puck, drawing the defense to him. He backhanded it to Ovechkin on the left wing, and the Great Eight whipped it past Ward glove-side for his 50th of the season.

Ovechkin becomes the sixth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy (9), Wayne Gretzky (9), Marcel Dionne (6), Guy Lafleur (6) and Mario Lemieux (6), and with that goal he tied Peter Bondra for the Caps all-time leading goal scorer, with 472 career goals.

“Every year, it’s harder and harder,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a huge accomplishment with those names up there. It’s always nice. But every year, you don’t know what to expect from yourself, how you are going to play.”

“It was good,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “I mean I hadn’t been around anybody who’s ever scored 50 goals in this league, especially the way it’s so hard to score goals in this league. You know it’s a part of history, a guy who scores 50 in this league right now the way the goal scoring is. Teams check. The goaltenders are so good in the National Hockey League. To get 50, I mean I think I said yesterday, I think he’s like 20 percent than the people next to him.”

But nothing comes easy for this team.

Carolina halved the lead exactly five minutes into the second, as Alexander Semin beat Karl Alzner and Nathan Gerbe was able to take advantage and beat a defenseless Braden Holtby. Later, Tom Wilson got pick-pocketed in the offensive zone, sending the play the other way. Eventually, Chris Terry found Eric Staal completely alone on the doorstep, and Stall buried into the open net to tie the game at two.

The Caps recaptured the lead at 17:06 of the second. Jason Chimera made a really hifty backhanded pass to Brooks Laich, who was streaking through the slot. Laich deked, and slipped the puck past the fallen Ward.

Then, while P.A. announcer Wes Johnson was calling the goal, they scored again. Ovechkin slid it through the crease to Joel Ward, who got enough of the puck to get it past Ward to make it a two-goal game again.

With the assist, Ovechkin tied Michael Pivonka for No. 2 on the team’s all-time assist leader list.

All that was left was for an uneventful third period to play out, which it did.

The Caps resume play Thursday in Montreal.

Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin scores 50th goal of the season

TIES PETER BONDRA FOR FRANCHISE RECORD WITH 472

At 11:12 of the first period Tuesday night, Alex Ovechkin took a backhanded pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and whipped a shot past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, scoring his 50th goal of the season.

Ovechkin becomes the sixth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy (9), Wayne Gretzky (9), Marcel Dionne (6), Guy Lafleur (6) and Mario Lemieux (6).

Additionally, he tied Peter Bondra for the Caps all-time leading goal scorer, with 472 career goals.

Washington Nationals sign veteran OF Reed Johnson

The Washington Nationals signed veteran outfielder Reed Johnson to a minor league contract on Monday, just hours after the Miami Marlins released the left-handed hitter. In addition to the move they made earlier in the day, trading for left-handed hitting Matt den Dekker from the New York Mets, the Nats have bolstered their outfield depth just one week before opening day.

In fact, with den Dekker still having options, Johnson could push the 27-year old back to the minors.

Bringing in two left-handed hitting versatile outfielders could mean Nate McLouth is not progressing as the Nats would have hoped in return from shoulder surgery.

Johnson, 38, hit .235/.266/.348 with Miami last season in 201 plate appearances, playing all three outfield positions. He owns a lifetime .280/.336/.406 slash in 12 years of big league service. In 40 plate appearances this spring, he was hitting .205/.225/.231 for the Marlins.

With all the injuries the Nats have had this spring, the outfield will look quite different than planned on opening day. Denard Span and Jayson Werth will both likely start the season on the disabled list, leaving Michael Taylor and most logically Tyler Moore to join Bryce Harper in the opening day lineup. The backups could be Johnson and Tony Gwynn Jr,, with den Dekker heading to Syracuse.

Werth hit in a minor league game on Monday for the first time this spring, so if he starts on the D.L. his return would probably be not much longer than the prescribed 15 days. Span, on the other hand, has yet to resume baseball activities and will probably out until May.

Washington Nationals trade Jerry Blevins to Mets for Matt den Dekker

The Washington Nationals traded LHP Jerry Blevins to the New York Mets in exchange for OF Matt den Dekker.

From the press release:

den Dekker, 27, joins the Nationals after spending parts of the last two seasons with the Mets. In 80 career Major League games, den Dekker is a career .238 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and a .310 slugging percentage. He’s hit 12 doubles, one home run, stolen 11 bases and driven in 13 runs.

In 2014, over the course of 174 plate appearances with the Mets, den Dekker hit .250 with a .345 on-base percentage. During his time with Triple-A Las Vegas in 2014, den Dekker hit .334 with a .407 on-base percentage and a .540 slugging percentage.

A versatile player, den Dekker has experience at all three outfield positions in the Major Leagues but was primarily a center fielder during his Minor League career (446 games in center field).

A fifth-round selection of the Mets’ in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, den Dekker is batting .256 this spring with a .373 on-base percentage and a .512 slugging percentage. He’s hit four doubles, two triples and picked up seven RBI.

Blevins, 31, was acquired by the Nationals in Dec. 2013 from the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for OF Billy Burns. During his one season in Washington, the left-hander was 2-3 with a 4.87 ERA in 64 appearances (57.1 IP).

Obviously, the Nats felt like they needed more outfield depth with Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Nate McLouth all shelved by injury to start the season.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats pound four homers to beat Marlins

As opening day approaches, the regulars are starting to get more at bats and more innings in the field. On Sunday in Viera, Florida, the Washington Nationals fielded close to their opening day lineup and they mashed four home runs to top the Miami Marlins 11-7.

Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton all went deep for the Nats. Taylor went 3 for 3 with a walk, Harper was 2 for 3 with three RBIs. Ramos went 3 for 3 and Lobaton’s homer was a three-run shot.

The Nats pounded out 14 hits with four walks against three Marlins pitchers. They clubbed starter Tom Koehler for six runs and 10 hits in four innings.

On the other side, Doug Fister wasn’t particularly sharp either. He allowed six runs on eight hits and a walk over four innings. He gave up three homers on the day, to Marcel Ozuna, Jarrod Saltalamachia and Giancarlo Stanton.

On bit of pitching good news came late: Craig Stammen, who had been roughed up his last couple of times out, pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts.

Washington Capitals Game 76 Recap: Caps find big road win in New York

ALEX OVECHKIN SCORES 48 AND 49TH GOALS OF THE SEASON, INCHES CLOSER TO BONDRA’S TEAM RECORD

Jason Chimera had scored two goals in his past 23 games. On Sunday against the New York Rangers, he scored on two consecutive shifts in the third period to lift the Washington Capitals to a much-needed 5-2 road win over a team they could very well see in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.

Chimera would not have been able to play the hero on Sunday without the contributions of the team’s best player, Alex Ovechkin. The Great Eight scored goals in the first and second periods to almost single-handedly keep the Caps in the game through the first 40 minutes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats roughed up by Mets

The New York Mets victimized two different Washington Nationals starters on Saturday, roughing up Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark for nine runs combined to beat the Nats 10-2 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Strasburg got through the first three innings unscathed, then ran into trouble in the fourth. With one out, No. 8 hitter Ruben Tejada doubled to left. Strasburg struck out opposite starter Jacob deGrom, but then walked Juan Legares. On a 1-2 count, Curtis Granderson clubbed a three-run shot to right, his third of the spring.

David Wright then followed with his fourth of March, an opposite-field homer to right.

Strasburg’s final line: four innings, four earned runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

The Mets got two in the sixth. Jerry Blevins allowed a one-out double to lefty Lucas Duda and Roark was summonsed. He promptly gave up a single to Michael Cuddyer, which plated Duda. Wilmer Flores followed with a double to bring in pinch-runner Cesar Puello.

Roark’s forgettable outing continued in the seventh. Minor leaguer Johnny Monell homered to lead off but Roark looked to right things by retiring the next two batters. Unfortrunately, Dan Uggla’s error on Daniel Muno’s grounder opened the floodgates.

Duda homered with Muno aboard on a 2-2 pitch, and after Puello reached on an infield single, Roark’s day was over. Matt Reynolds greeted reliever Rafael Martin with a double to center to complete the four-run frame.

Meanwhile, the Nats offense was limited to a very long, very loud Bryce Harper home run in the sixth, and Clint RObinson’s RBI single in the ninth.

NATS NOTES:

  • In the battle for the final spots on the roster, Uggla was 0 for 3 with the big error, Robinson was 2 for 4 with an RBI and Ian Stewart was hitless in three at bats. Tyler Moore, who is out of options, went 1 for 4 with a run.
  • Danny Espinosa played shortstop on the road trip and was 1 for 3.
  • After their outings, both Blevins and Roark are sporting ERAs over 9.00.
  • Ryan Zimmerman is scheduled to take a few days off after banging his left shoulder diving for a ball on Friday. Manager Matt Williams told reporters in Florida that no tests were needed “as of right now”.
  • Williams also announced the rest of the Nats season-opening rotation. Max Scherzer, as previously announced, will start opening day, followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Zimmermann strong again, Nats tie Cards

RYAN ZIMMERMAN LEAVES GAME AFTER DIVE, AWKWARD LEAP

Jordan Zimmermann allowed one earned run on four hits over six innings in his next-to-last start of spring training and the Washington Nationals added another tie to the ledger with a 1-1 finish against the St. Louis Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

Following the game, Zimmermann told reporters in Florida “it’s not looking good” for the veteran righty to sign a contract extension before opening day, and he reiterated that he would not negotiate during the season, all but assuring that he will hit the open market as a free agent at the conclusion of the 2015 season. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Gio solid, bullpen not in loss to Mets

The New York Mets got one run in the sixth, two in the seventh, four more in the eighth and tacked one on in the ninth to turn a tight game into a laugher, beating the Washington Nationals 8-3 at windy Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

Gio Gonzalez started, and while the lefty walked three — including back-to-back free passes in the third — he didn’t allow a run and gave up just two hits, one an infield variety that he fielded and made a late throw. He struck out five in five innings of work.

That was the good. The rest? Not so much.

Tanner Roark, Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen — all relievers the team will rely upon heavily this season — were knocked around by a collection of mostly Mets backups.

Roark gave up two runs on two hits  in one inning of work, striking out two without a walk. Blevins surrendered consecutive homers to Matt Reynolds and Juan Lagares in the seventh. Stammen was touched for four runs on three hits — including a homer by Matt den Dekker — and a walk in 2/3 of an inning.

After two straight rough outings, Stammen’s spring ERA is 8.68.

The Nats picked up all their runs in the sixth inning. Michael Taylor doubled home Kila Kaiaihue, who walked,  and then scored on Clint Robinson’s double. Derrick Robinson pinch-ran for Clint and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single. Wilson Ramos followed with a single, but Ian Desmond struck out to end the rally.

NATS NOTES:

  • Spring Training numbers to be taken with a grain of salt: Roark’s ERA hit 9.00 and Blevins’ sits at 8.59 after today’s runs.
  • Yunel Escobar led off and played second. He went 1 for 3 in his third game of the spring.
  • Desmond choked down a throw, bouncing it to first. When Zimmerman couldn’t make the backhanded scoop, Desmond was charged with his second error of the spring. He double-clutched a ball on the transfer in the next inning, but got a force at second.
  • Tyler Moore, who can’t afford to take any play for granted in his battle for a roster spot, flat-out dropped a fly ball in left field in the first inning.
  • Bryce Harper did not play for the second straight day with a stomach virus.

 

Washington Capitals Game 74 Recap: Caps blow lead, win in OT

Matt Niskanen saved the Washington Capitals from adding insult to injury, scoring quickly in overtime to lift the Caps to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, to whom the home team surrendered the game-tying goal with an even 30 seconds left in regulation.

The Caps (40-24-10) pulled to within one point of Metropolitan Division third-place Pittsburgh, who fell to Carolina 5-2 and put themselves five point clear of eighth-place Ottawa, which also lost, 5-1, to the division-leading New York Rangers and Boston, 3-2 losers to Anaheim. [Read more…]

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