May 29, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 31 Review: Bryce. Harper.

BRYCE HARPER WALKOFF LIFTS NATS ABOVE .500 FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS YEAR

The Washington Nationals blew a five-run lead and found themselves in a tie game in the ninth inning. No matter, though, as the hottest hitter in baseball was due up in the bottom half.

With one on and one out, Bryce Harper turned around a slider over 400 feet into the right center bleachers, lifted the Nats to an 8-6 win over the Atlanta Braves. With the win, the Nats move above .500 (16-15) for the first time this season. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 30 Review: Nats crumple Braves 9-2, return to .500

HARPER AND ESPINOSA COMBINE FOR FOUR HOMERS, GIO CRUISES THROUGH SEVEN

A day of rest will do any team good, but is that always true when a team is on a streak? The Washington Nationals came out of their Thursday off day right where they had left off on Wednesday, beating the Atlanta Braves in the series opener by a score of 9-2. Gio Gonzalez notched eight strikeouts and just one walk in seven innings of two-run ball for his third win of the 2015 campaign. Bryce Harper added a pair of homers — his fourth and fifth in the past two games — to cement the win for Gonzalez and the Nats.

Freddie Freeman of the Braves continued his reign of terror against the Nationals, going 2 for 4 with an RBI single in the third, and a double in the first that setup the only other Braves run. The Nationals will, at some point, figure out Freddie Freeman, but they just haven’t to date. His 10-for-17 season with three RBI against Washington is by far his best split.

Fortunately for Washington, the Braves only have just the one Freddie Freeman.

Jayson Werth struck back for the Nats in the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot halfway up the seats in left field, his first of the year. Werth has struggled with power so far this season, a part of his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery. Werth’s average is up .192, though, about 25 points higher than it was a week ago. Progress is slow, but as long as there’s progress, life is good for the Nats’ bearded left fielder.

Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa each had two home runs tonight against Braves pitching, combining for eight RBIs. The Braves could do no right on Friday when it came to either player.

Eric Stults could not resist a 1-2 fastball to Harper, and Harper sent it deep into the outfield seats to put the Nationals ahead in the sixth. That was all Stults could manage on the day, going six innings, striking out seven, but the three runs on two homers took their toll.

Danny Espinosa greeted Brandon Cunniff in the seventh inning and take his 94-mph offering deep into the visiting bullpen for his 3rd home run of the year. He repeated the performance against Trevor Cahill in eighth inning, part of a five-spot the Nationals put up that inning.

The most impressive shot of the night belonged to Harper in the eighth, a no-doubter off Braves’ rookie Williams Perez in his major league debut. Harper took his 92-mph first pitch and deposited deep into the lower deck in right center. Perez will look back on that and cringe, or he might say “the best hitter in the game bested me.” Either way, he’ll have something to remember.

Matt Grace and Blake Treinen combined for two scoreless inning, with Grace giving up just a single, and Treinen slicing and dicing the Braves in the ninth to finish the game.

HERO: Bryce Harper, for his fourth and fifth home runs in two games. The first yardshot put the Nationals ahead for good in the sixth, and the second one put the game far out of reach in the eighth. 10 RBIs in two games is pretty good. I guess. Maybe.

GOAT: No goats! Celebrate with these fainting goats.

NATS NOTES:

  • Running wild: Harper’s TOOTBLAN in the third inning was his 3rd of the year.
  • Everyone digs the longball: All the Nationals’ runs on Friday night came on the long-ball.
  • First time for everything: Harper is the first player in franchise history to hit five HR in two games.

NEXT UP: The Nationals and Braves play again at 4:05pm on Saturday, a rare start time, Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82) vs. Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

We’re going to jump right into The Last Time… today, because there’s no talking about this series without bringing up the last one. When all is said and done with the 2015 Nationals, the matchup with the Braves in Atlanta at the end of April — and specifically Dan Uggla’s go-ahead home run — could prove to be the turning point.

The back-to-back 13-run games for Washington (14-15) certainly spurred the Nationals (they’ve won seven of nine since), but it hasn’t sunk the Braves (14-14). They’ve gone 4-5 in that same span, but are still a half-game in front of the Nationals in the division.

In The Other Dugout

Before the last series with Atlanta we focused on Freddie Freeman’s offensive struggles. He seems to have figured things out at the plate since then:

Freeman’s batting average has jumped from .254 when the Nationals arrived in Atlanta on April 27 to .318 now, and he’s hitting at a .461 clip in those ten games.

Matchup To Watch

  • Eric Stults pitched the Braves to their one win in the three game series at the end of April, but Danny Espinosa went 2 for 3 in that game with a double. Espinosa is 5 for 9 overall with a homer against Stults, Friday night’s starter for Atlanta.
  • Julio Teheran, who starts for the Braves on Saturday, was spotted a 9-1 lead in his last start against the Braves before the Nationals came storming back. It shouldn’t be a surprise he gave up 10 hits — a lot of Nationals have good hitting numbers against him, led by Denard Span’s .400 average (12 for 30) and Bryce Harper’s .421 (8 for 19).

Probables

Friday, 7:05pm: Eric Stults (1-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

Saturday, 4:05pm: Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Alex Wood (1-2, 4.32 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15 ERA)

Nats Nightly: Nationals 13-4 over Braves to take 2 of 3 in Atlanta

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and Doghouse of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 13-4 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 23 Review: Nationals 13-run Torrent Sinks Braves

NATIONALS BATS HERALD SERIES VICTORY IN ATLANTA, RECORD OFFENSIVE OUTPUT IN 13-4 VICTORY

The Washington Nationals found their groove on Wednesday night behind the arm of Jordan Zimmermann and a surging offense that is finally living up to expectations. The Atlanta Braves fell 13-4 to the resurrected Nationals before a crowd only slightly more engaged than the one at Camden Yards today.

The Braves leapt out to an early lead in the bottom of the first on back to back hits by Freddie Freeman and A.J. Pierczynski. Jordan Zimmermann had a few rough spots in his day – and concerns about his velocity are certainly still apt – but he was largely able to work himself out of jams.

The Nationals put together a strong offensive presence on Wednesday night, with Bryce Harper notching a 2-for-4 night with a walk and an RBI, and he was joined by Wilson Ramos (3-4, RBI, R) and Danny Espinosa (4-5, 2 RBI, R). Jayson Werth got his first hit of the series, an RBI single, in the seventh for the Nationals. All night, the Nationals got hits when they needed them, a welcome trend that must continue if the Nationals want to make a run at the postseason.

If I’d have told my February self about the impact of Dan Uggla on the Nationals’ lineup, he’d laugh himself silly. The Nats signed Uggla in the off-season to a minor-league deal after the Braves released him, putting the Nationals on the hook for league minimum compensation. In this series, the Braves were given the unlikely pleasure of watching as the man they’re paying $13.5M — more than any of the Braves’ 25-man roster is making this year — beat them like rented mules.

Uggla’s line against the Braves this week was 5-11, with 8 RBI and 5 runs scored, and his 3-run game-winning homer to cap Tuesday night’s improbable comeback was a moment to remember. Uggla’s time with the Nats may be short – he’s believed to be the corresponding move when Rendon returns – but no one can say it wasn’t memorable.

Only Ian Desmond lacked a hit in Wednesday’s game, every other starter gathered at least one. Desmond’s slump – especially considering Espinosa’s surge – is concerning. He was hitless in the Braves series (0-13), and is 0-for-21 dating back five games.

HERO: Jordan Zimmermann had a bang-up night for the Nats, throwing 7 IP of 4-run ball, striking out seven. Turns out he can hit, too, and a 3-run single in the fourth inning put the Nats ahead for good.

GOAT: No goats tonight! Enjoy this creepy goat.

NATS NOTES:

  • The series victory against the Braves was their first since April 15th, when they took three of four from Philadelphia.
  • Uggla’s 8 RBI in the Braves series are just two short of his season total in 2014.
  • Bryce Harper is currently on pace for 155 walks in a season. There are four players – ever – who have done that.
  • Sammy Solis was available in the bullpen tonight, but has yet to make his Nationals debut.
  • 13 runs in back to back games is a franchise first, the Expos never accomplished that feat.

NEXT UP: Nats v. Mets series with huge divisional implications begins Thursday night. Strasburg (1-2, 4.88) vs. deGrom (2-2, 2.96) at 7:10pm

Washington Nationals Game 21 Review: Cole pounded, but Nats complete miracle comeback

UGGLA THREE-RUN HOMER IN 9TH INNING LIFTS NATS TO IMPROBABLE 13-12 WIN

With Max Scherzer’s regular spot in the rotation skipped due to his bruised thumb, the Washington Nationals called upon No. 2 pitching prospect A.J. Cole to temporarily fill his spot through the rotation, hoping the player making his MLB debut could play stopper of a six-game losing streak.

It didn’t happen.

Cole was pounded, allowing nine runs — though just four were earned due to yet another error  — and the Nats were in a 9-1 hole after two innings.

But they still play nine. And the Nats used all of them. Dan Uggla’s three-run home run in top of the ninth off Atlanta Braves closer Jason Grilli completed a stunning comeback, and the Nats snapped the losing streak in the most incredible of ways, winning 13-12 in front of a small and incredulous crowd at Turner Field. [Read more…]

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

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

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.
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