April 23, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 126 Review: Hairston’s three-run homer helps salvage Nats’ win over Cubs

In nine innings of baseball Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals seemed to summarize the highs and lows of the entire 2013 season thus far in an 11-6 win over the Chicago Cubs that nearly didn’t happen.

Washington cruised into the fifth inning with a five-run lead over a team that could muster only a solo home run by Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the first until that point.

In the top of the second, Washington had quickly erased Rizzo’s solo shot. Kurt Suzuki batted in Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche with a sharper grounder that deflected off Rizzo’s hand at first. Then, starter Ross Ohlendorf added an RBI sacrifice bunt to make it 3-1 Nationals by the end of the second.

In the third, Jayson Werth, who continues to ride an astonishing hot streak, contributed a three-run shot to put Washington on top 6-1. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 125 Review: Another strong outing by Haren leads Nats past Cubs

Dan Haren allowed on run over six innings to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

An unlikely hero in the month of August, Haren (W, 8-11) improved his record for the month to 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts. The turnaround has brought his season ERA down to 4.64 with an 8-11 record.

The Nats were on the board early against starter Chris Rusin (L, 2-3) after Bryce Harper led off the first with a single and came home on a double by Ryan Zimmerman. In the bottom of the inning, Junior Lake reached base on a fielding error by Ian Desmond, but Haren retired the next three batters to quickly end the inning.

Washington threatened in the second after Tyler Moore singled and Anthony Rendon doubled, but Scott Hairston, Haren and Harper went down in order to hold the Nats lead to just 1-0.

The Cubs finally responded in the fourth before Washington could tack on another run. On a 2-2 count with two outs, Brian Bogusevic homered to right center to tie the game. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 124 Review: Nats trampled in loss to Cubs as NL Wild Card slips further from view

Jordan Zimmermann allowed eight runs over five innings as the Washington Nationals fell 11-1 to the struggling Chicago Cubs Monday night at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are 16 games below .500 and yet they completely dominated against the Nationals’ ace, knocking in three runs in the first inning alone. With the blowout, the Nats are no1 10 ½ games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second NL Wild Card slot with only 38 games left to play.

It all began with a double by Junior Lake in his first at-bat against the Nationals to lead off the bottom of the first. Lake took third on a sacrifice bunt by Darwin Barney and Dioner Navarro walked to put runners at the corners.

Then, Zimmermann (L, 14-7) allowed the first of three home runs the Cubs would go on to tally against him. On a 2-2 count, Nate Schierholtz launched one to right to put Chicago up 3-0 early.

Zimmermann pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, with each of the three outs recorded on ground balls. In turn, the top of the third marked the third consecutive inning in which the Nationals singled off starter Jeff Samardzija (W, 7-11), and only singled.

 But, yet again, the Cubs capitalized on their own suddenly hot hitting in the bottom of the inning. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals address bench need; More moves coming?

The Washington Nationals addressed a glaring need Monday, trading for OF Scott Hairston. Hairston historically has had success against left-handed pitching, a skill the Nats are in dire need of off the bench. Secondarily, Hairston is a capable defender at all three outfield positions – another need the Nats have had this season.

Hairston will presumably replace Tyler Moore, a first baseman by trade, as the fourth outfielder and primary right-handed bat off the bench. It’s a long time coming, as Moore has been terrible this season (.151/.283/.478) in 42 games and 113 plate appearances.

Moore projected as a fringe big league player during his minor league career, and his success last season (.263/.327/.513 with 10 homers in 171 PAs) led many to believe that he was going to outperform his projections and be a quality bat off the bench for the Nats this season. What has happened, though, is the league caught up with him and is now exposing every weakness the player exhibited in the minors.

Hairston’s not having a great season, himself. Hitting .172/.232/.434 with eight homers in 112 PAs, he’s in the first of a two-year deal the Cubs gave the 33-year-old this past off-season. Giving a player with Hairston’s age and pedigree a two-year deal is a topic for another day, but the Nats now control Hairston through next season regardless.

Hairston is a career .268/.318/.500 hitter against lefties. That’s not all that spectacular overall and before looking it up I expected those numbers to be much more impressive. We have to go back to 2009 to find a season Hairston OBPd higher than .325 against left-handed pitching. It’s entirely possible Hairston’s career is in the wind-down phase, but he’s capable of punishing a mistake, as his 20 homers in 398 PAs in 2012 is testament to.

The Nats bench was exposed this year as injuries mounted. Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina and Chad Tracy all have performed worse than last season as more was expected of them this season. With Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman spending time on the D.L., where Danny Espinosa should have been with them, the bench was pressed into more duty than expected and failed to live up to expectations.

Now that the Nats are finally healthy — and not surprisingly, hitting — manager Davey Johnson can go back to picking-and-choosing when to get at bats for his bench players, utilizing the numbers to get favorable matchups instead of having to rely on these lesser players in a full-time role.

There’s absolutely no shame in being a Major League bench player. Scott Hairston has made a career of it. But pressing bench players into an every day role is problematic, especially for a team that had expectations of contending for the World Series.

Washington Nationals acquire outfielder Scott Hairston

The Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Scott Hairston from the Chicago Cubs, according to an ESPNChicago report issued earlier today.

The Cubs will reportedly receive minor-league pitcher Ivan Pineyro in return for the 10-year veteran, who is batting just .163 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 111 plate appearances this season. The 33-year-old outfielder carries with him a career .244/.299/.447 and can hit well against southpaws. While his overall stat line falls short of impressive, the Nationals are in need of some potency off the bench and they, no doubt, have turned to Hairston to provide just that at little cost.

Hairston’s contract runs through 2014.

Pineyro, a 21-year-old right-hander in his third season with the Nationals’ farm system, recorded a 3.86 ERA in his two starts – 11.2 total innings pitched – with High-A Potomac. His combined Rookie, Short-Season, Low-A and High-A ERA is 3.17 in 204.1 total innings pitched in the Minors, dating back to 2011.

He was ranked the Nationals No. 27 prospect after the 2012 season.

Washington Nationals Game 37 Review: Suzuki’s error proves costly as Cubs top Nats 2-1

For the second day in a row, the Washington Nationals (20-17) were reminded of why, in baseball, it all comes down to the fundamentals.

With the Chicago Cubs (15-22) and Nats tied 1-1 in the ninth, Alfonso Soriano led off against Rafael Soriano with a single to left before pinch-hitter Julio Borbon followed up with a single of his own. With one out, the Cubs successfully ran the double steal with Wellington Castillo batting. Much to the Nats’ misfortune, however, Kurt Suzuki threw so far left of third base on the play that he bounced the ball into foul territory, allowing Alfonso Soriano to score the only go-ahead run the Cubs would need.
[Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 36 Review: Strasburg unravels after Zimmerman error in Nats’ loss to Cubs

The Washington Nationals (20-16) were reminded once more what a difference an error can make as they fell 8-2 to the Chicago Cubs (14-22) Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

Stephen Strasburg (L, 1-5) looked the best he’s been all season to start the game, retiring the first 11 batters he faced in a row before giving up a single to Anthony Rizzo in the fourth. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 35 Review: Desmond’s three RBIs leads Nats to victory

Ian Desmond plated three runs for the Washington Nationals (20-15) as they topped the Chicago Cubs (13-22), 7-3 to record their fifth straight win Friday night.

Desmond closed out the night just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and his three hits on the night helped awaken a sleepy Nats’ offense.

Left-hander Ross Detwiler (W, 2-3) looked sharp, allowing eight hits, two runs and no walks in 6.2 innings pitched. He tossed 57 of 90 pitches for strikes but, oddly enough, gave up six doubles on the night.  [Read more...]

PHOTOS: Cubs and Nats Fight Night (Win 85)

Brawl #2: Ian Desmond helping ump back up after accidentally knocking him down when Cubs Catcher Clevenger took a swing at Desmond (and was ejected); Rick Eckstein holding onto Sean Burnett; Ryan Zimmerman holding onto Bryce Harper; Davey Johnson reaching for Michael Morse – Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals, 9/6/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals defeated the Chicago Cubs 9-2 on Thursday, September 6, 2012 to complete the four game sweep.

In a nutshell: Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann returns to form, Bryce Harper continues to hustle and get dirty, Adam LaRoche hits his fifth home run in as many games, Kurt Suzuki has found his swing and hit another homer, there are two bench and bullpen clearing brawls, Davey Johnson is strong, and the Cubs learn not to mess with 3B Coach Bo Porter. Wilson Ramos also returned the dugout to support his teammates while on rehab.

You can read DSP’s game re-cap here.

Here are a few photos of Thursday’s game with descriptions under pictures. All photos were taken from the stands. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments! Thanks. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 137 Review: Nats sweep Cubs with 9-2 win; benches clear twice, three ejected

“If they’re getting mad at my guys in the fifth inning [for] swinging 3-0 or running, they better get used to it,” Nats manager Davey Johnson.

Cubs Catcher Steve Clevenger and homeplate ump Jerry Layne restrain Nats’ Bryce Harper after Lendy Castillo brushed him back in fifth inning. – Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals, 9/6/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals finished a four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 9-2 victory Thursday night. In those four games, the pennant-chasing Nats outscored the cellar-dwelling Cubs 31-9, including 14 home runs. It’s not surprising that the Cubs would be frustrated at their plight, losers of 86 games already this season.

That frustration boiled over in the fifth inning, when Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk had a heated discussion with Nats third base coach Bo Porter. Porter walked from the third base coaches box all the way over to the top step of the Cubs bench jawing with Quirk, who stayed in the dugout. The benches eventually emptied but tempers were held in check –for the time being – and Quirk was ejected from the game.

In the bottom of the inning, Cubs lefty reliever Lendy Castillo came way inside to leadoff batter Bryce Harper, prompting Harper to start yelling at the pitcher. The benches emptied again, and this time words turned into shoves as the players got tangled up between the pitcher’s mound and first base, with Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger initiating contact with Michael Morse and Ian Desmond in the middle of the fracas. In the end, Clevenger, Cubs reliever Manual Corpas and Nats reliever Michael Gonzalez were all ejected for their parts in escalating matters.

The original confrontation, according to Nats manager Davey Johnson, was Quirk complaining about Jayson Werth swinging away at a 3-0 pitch with a five-run lead. “Their bench coach [Quirk] was yelling all kinds of things. Swinging 3-0, blah blah blah. And really loud. It was totally uncalled for. It’s the fifth inning, we’re in a pennant race. We’re gonna swing 3-0. We ain’t stopping trying to score runs. And certainly a five-run lead at that time is nothing.”

“If they want to quit competing and forfeit, then fine. But we’re gonna keep competing.”

Crew chief, and home plate ump Jerry Layne told a pool reporter after the game, ”The obscenities that [Quirk] screamed out I just felt was inappropriate and that’s what caused everything.”

As for the game itself, it was another old-fashioned butt-whupping for the Cubs, who are trotting out rookies and journeymen as their season grinds to a close. Jordan Zimmermann was sharp, especially after the first two innings when the Cubs scored both their runs. Zimmermann (W, 10-8, 2.99) gave up five hits and a walk in seven innings, striking out nine in the process.

The hit parade continued as well. Kurt Suzuki hit a three-run homer in the second inning that practically sealed the Cubs fate right there, and Adam LaRoche went deep again, his fifth in five days and 29th of the season. Ryan Zimmerman added two hits and three RBIs.

The Nats (85-52) reduced their “magic number” for the division title to 18 with the win, but kept their division lead at 7 1/2 games as Atlanta defeated the Colorado Rockies 1-0 earlier in the day.

THE TAKEAWAY: You never really like to see the benches empty. There’s just too much chance for someone to do something stupid and hurt someone or someone get suspended in a pennant race. But these things can also be galvanizing, and the Nats showed that they had each others’ backs and are looking out for each other. Jayson Werth was the first one out of the Nats dugout to step in front of Harper when Castillo threw at him, quickly joined by Ryan Zimmerman.

Michael Gonzalez, one of the players ejected, on the Cubs throwing at Harper: “You come into our house and try to mess with our kid brother?” That sentiment was echoed around the Nats clubhouse Thursday night, as well as the nine-run lead they lost to Atlanta earlier this season. Davey Johnson has the Nats playing for every base, every run they can and it’s up to the opposition to stop them. If the other teams get bent out of shape because the Nats continue to play hard regardless of the score, Johnson doesn’t care.

PHOTO GALLERY: See our photo gallery, including the bench clearing brawls.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. After a couple of less-than-stellar outings recently, this performance was good to see once he settled down. He was able to generate missed swings, something that has been missing from his arsenal lately.

THE BAD: Werth went 0-for-4 and stranded four runners.

THE UGLY: The Cubs pitching staff. It didn’t matter who they put on the mound this week, they all got pounded. Too bad they have to leave town already.

THE STATS: 12 hits, 7 BBs, 6 Ks. 6-for-14 with RISP, 11 LOB, 1 GIDP. No errors, no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 against the Miami Marlins. Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 2.94) hosts Jacob Turner (0-2, 6.55).

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