April 28, 2015

Nats Nightly: Nationals drop 6th straight with 4-error effort

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and Doghouse of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 4-error loss to the Atlanta Braves

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Washington Nationals Game 20 Review: Everything is Awful

Nothing is going the Nationals way right now. Not a blessed thing.

Monday night, the Washington Nationals gave up runs early and often to the struggling Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in an 8-4 loss, their sixth in a row. Doug Fister continued his struggles with sinker location, walking a pair in the first, and giving up a double and a sacrifice fly to stake the Braves to a 1-0 lead right off the bat. He struggled with velocity and placement most of the evening, bringing into question his health.

The Nationals battled back in the third, with a leadoff ground rule double from Danny Espinosa from the right side of the plate to the right-center stands. Ryan Zimmerman followed up with a double to the left field wall to score Espinosa, but that would be all the offense could muster as they struggled against a Braves lineup that has given anemic a new definition this season.

Doug Fister left his sinker up a bit in the fourth inning and the Braves jumped all over it. Alberto Callaspo and Kelly Johnson each had line drive singles to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Jace Peterson hit a fly ball to center field, letting both runners tag, and Callaspo score, but Denard Span gunned down Johnson to wrap up the double play and let Fister off the hook. The Nationals trailed 2-1 after four.

Fister did it again in the sixth and it lead to his ouster. Kelly Johnson smacked a two run homer that Bryce Harper had to watch into the stands. Fister did himself no favors in the field tonight, twice botching pickoffs and allowing runners to advance two bags. In the sixth, Jace Peterson took advantage of one such miscue, and then scored on Eric Young Jr. bunt to make it 5-1.

The Nats were hurting in the field as well as at the plate, and the Braves compounded that in the fifth on a slide that sent Yunel Escobar’s glove into the Braves’ stands. Fister threw over to Ryan Zimmerman at first to try to catch Andrelton Simmons on the move, only the throw got away and Simmons bolted for third. Escobar had him dead to rights, only Simmons raised his cleat and got Escobar square in the glove. The glove was sent flying, and Escobar came right out of the game with an unspecified hand injury.

After the game it was revealed Escobar got spiked and was cut. Reports said he would miss a game or two but it was nothing serious.

Rafael Martin settled that particular score in relief in the seventh, putting a fastball into Simmons’ ribs to lead off the inning. Martin, however, missed the part of the lecture that says if you’re going to give a runner a free base, you’d best make sure he doesn’t advance past it. Instead, Ian Desmond botched a routine double-play ball and the Braves managed to get a pair off Martin to bury the DC squad for good.

There were no highlights in tonight’s game worth mentioning for the Nationals, save for the broadcasting crew’s ability to valiantly resist torrents of profanity at regular intervals.

HERO: There were no heroes tonight. Sorry. None. If there were any heroes, they might have been Dan Uggla, with a two-run little league homer. But there weren’t any heroes tonight.

GOAT: Doug Fister gets a goat for the pair of throwing errors and high sinkers exploited for run after run. Ian Desmond gets a goat for his 9th error of the year. Rafael Martin gets a goat for his plunking of Andrelton Simmons that lead to a run. So. Many. Goats. This many goats:

NATS NOTES:

  • Anthony Rendon was scratched from a rehab start tonight in Harrisburg due to fatigue, according to reports from the Washington Post.
  • After eight games of clean play, Ian Desmond’s ninth error of the season was charged in the seventh inning.
  • Fister’s line of 5.2IP, 10H, 5R, 2BB, 3K is a particularly… depressing line for one of the Nats’ heralded five.
  • In a rare bright spot, Harper still leads the big leagues with 19 walks, adding two to his total tonight.
  • After the game, the Nats announced that No. 2 prospect A.J. Cole will be recalled to make Max Scherzer’s regularly scheduled start on Tuesday.

UP NEXT: A.J. Cole (MLB debut) vs. Julio Teheran (2-1, 4.64) at 7:05pm tomorrow night. Pray for rain.

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

by John Sucich, DSP contributor

The Braves came out of the gates strong in 2015, starting the season 5-0. They’ve only gone 4-9 since, including 3-6 on a nine-game road trip that concluded with a 5-4 loss in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Braves (9-9) welcome the Nationals (7-12) to Turner Field as they open up a 10-game homestand.

The Nationals have played the role of accommodating guests thus far in April. They come off a three-game sweep by the Marlins in Miami, dropping them to 2-7 on the road to open the year. The Nationals have lost five games in a row overall.

Anthony Rendon’s return can’t come soon enough for the Nationals, who scored a total of four runs in the three games against the Marlins. And the news gets worse before it gets better: though there has been no official decision made yet, the Nationals say Max Scherzer will probably miss his scheduled Tuesday start in Atlanta.

The Last Time…

This is the first time the Nationals are meeting the Braves in 2015. Atlanta is one of the few teams who had a winning record against Washington in 2014. The Nationals were 8-11 versus the Braves last year, going 3-6 in Atlanta.

In the Other Dugout

The Braves have had their share of offensive struggles to start 2015. While outfielder Nick Markakis has been a nice addition and they’ve gotten better-than-expected production from catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the team won’t go far without a productive season from first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman has hit four home runs in 18 games, but he’s hitting only .235, with 18 strikeouts in 68 at-bats. He’s hit Nationals pitchers hard in the past (.323 average, 6 homers, 22 RBI), so this could be a telling series for how 2015 will shake out for Freeman.

Matchups To Watch

  • Bryce Harper is 7-for-16 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs against Tuesday night’s Braves starter, Julio Teheran.
  • Wednesday would be a good time for Anthony Rendon to make his return — he’s 8 for 13 with a homer against Alex Wood.

Probables

(Bearing in mind Max Scherzer is likely to be pushed back until he recovers from his thumb injury)

Monday, 7:00pm: Doug Fister (1-0, 2.37 ERA) vs. Eric Stults (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
Tuesday, 7:10pm: Max Scherzer (1-2, 1.26 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (2-1, 4.64 ERA)
Wednesday, 7:10pm: Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 5.23 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (1-0, 3.00 ERA)

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats split split-squad games; Strasburg to miss start

STEPHEN STRASBURG SPRAINS ANKLE IN CONDITIONING DRILLS, WILL MISS START

The Atlanta Braves scored three runs in the fourth inning and two more in the seventh, enough to beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 at the Disney Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Most of the Nats regulars stayed back in Viera to host the Marlins. Dan Uggla homered and Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run over five innings to lead the Nats to a 4-2 win.

After the home game, manager Matt Williams announced that Stephen Strasburg sprained his left ankle during conditioning drills and will miss his next scheduled start, against the Tigers. A.J. Cole will be brought over from the minor league side to replace him. Williams indicated the sprain was not serious and Strasburg was seen walking through the clubhouse without a noticeable limp.

In the home game, Uggla — in his continuing bid to win playing time at second base and resurrect his career — went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and upped his spring training average to .333.

Zimmermann gave up eight hits and struck out four during his mound work, but the interesting part of his day came in a verbal exchange with opposing pitcher Henderson Alvarez. Zimmermann was grazed on the elbow in an early at bat. Later, he went down and in to Alvarez when the Marlins starter was trying to sacrifice. The two exchanged words as Alvarez headed to the dugout.

There was no altercation and cooler heads prevailed.

In the road game, the Braves got to Evan Meek in the fourth for three earned runs on four hits and a walk, though Meek did strike out two. Taylor Jordan pitched three strong innings to start, allowing just one hit and one walk, striking out one. Blake Treinen and Casey Janssen both three perfect innings of relief.

The Nats scored twice in the third. Jordan led off with a single and went to second on a Michael Taylor (2 for 3, double) line drive single to left. A wild pitch by Eric Stultz moved both runners up and Kevin Frandsen’s ground out brought in Jordan. Taylor scored on Mike Carp’s single to left, but Carp was thrown out in a rundown.

NATS NOTES:

  • Craig Stammen, Rich Hill and Aaron Barrett all pitched scoreless innings of relief in the home game.
  • Wilson Ramos was 1 for 3 with a two-run single in the home game immediately before Uggla’s homer.
  • Bryce Harper (0 for 2, walk, run) and Tony Gwynn Jr (1 for 4) both had outfield assists.
  • Gwynn and Ian Desmond (1 for 3) both stole bases.
  • Tyler Moore was 0 for 3 in the road game and struck out twice.

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 vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After taking 3-of-4 from the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals now head south to Atlanta for their final series of the season with the Atlanta Braves.

Teams

Washington Nationals (85-63, 1st in NL East) vs Atlanta Braves (75-74, 2nd in NL East) [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 144 Review: Nats Lose As Braves Strike Late

NATS CAN’T OVERCOME ATLANTA’S LATE SURGE AGAINST BULLPEN

Looking for a sweep, the Washington Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves in a Wednesday afternoon contest at Nationals Park, 6-2.

In the first two games of the Nats three-game series with the Braves, Washington used some early offense to boost them to victory. On Wednesday afternoon, Braves’ starter Aaron Harang kept Washington’s offense in check while Atlanta slowly built a lead in the latter innings of the contest. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 143 Review: Nationals Strike Early, Hold Off Braves Late

NATIONALS CUT MAGIC NUMBER TO 11 WITH WIN OVER BRAVES

After a dramatic win for the home team on Monday night, the Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their three-game series at Nationals Park.

Much like they did on Monday night in Game 1 of the series, the Washington Nationals got off to a hot start, lighting up the scoreboard early and giving their starter, Jordan Zimmermann, an early lead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Nationals Out-Duel Braves in Victory

DOUG FISTER PITCHES SEVEN STRONG AS NATS TOP BRAVES

In front of 25,000-plus fans filled with “Natitude,” the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 to reduce their magic number to 12.

The Nationals gave Doug Fister an early run, and in return he gave them a seven-inning gem that earned him his 13th win of the year. [Read more…]

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