April 24, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 8 Review: Werth’s slam in eighth wins crazy game with Marlins, 10-7

Crazy game.

The Washington Nationals fell behind 5-0 after a stalwart starter got lit up. They clawed back to take the lead in the middle innings. A former 40-save closer gave up a mammoth homer in the seventh to fall behind again. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats hairy guru made the Miami Marlins pay for intentionally loading the bases.

Jayson Werth clubbed a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in left center for his first home run of the season, a grand slam that delivered the Nats a 10-7 win in one of the craziest games we’ll see all season long.

For starters it wasn’t Jordan Zimmermann’s night. The righty struggled with location and pitch count all night long. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Christian Yelich and walked second baseman Derek Dietrich. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a run-scoring single and Dietrich moved up to third. Garrett Jones brought Dietrich home with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0 before most folks had settled into their seats.

The second inning was worse. Adeiny Hechavarria lead off with a triple to the left center gap and scored on Yelich’s single. Dietrich then sent a ball that landed in the first row of bleachers above the out-of-town scoreboard in right center before falling back to the field of play. It was ruled a triple on the field, but after review Dietrich was sent home, correctly having been awarded his first home run of the season.

After singles by Jones and Casey McGehee, Zimmermann was done. He was yanked after 1 2/3 innings — his shortest stint as a big league starter. He allowed five runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks, striking out one.

Marlins’ starter Brad Hand cruised until the fourth inning. Adam LaRoche continued his hot streak, singling to lead off, and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single. After Ian Desmond struck out, Bryce Harper battled through a 10-pitch at bat, culminating in an absolute moonshot – three rows back in the upper tank in straight-away right field. It was Harper’s first home run of the year.

The Nats clawed their way back to one in the fifth. Anthony Rendon tripled to right field with one out and scored a batter later on Werth’s ground out. Washington completed the comeback in the next frame. Zimmerman doubled to the right field corner over Stanton’s head. The big right fielder bobbled the ball in the corner, allowing Zimmerman to move up to third. Ian Desmond’s swinging bunt brought Zimmerman home and all hands were safe.

Harper followed with a single the other way off lefty Dan Jennings to put runners at the corners, still with no outs. Jose Lobaton tapped a comebacker to Jennings, but the reliever fumbled the ball — Desmond scored to make it 6-5 and Lobaton rumbled safely to first on the E-1. Span singled to load the bass with one out, but Arquimedes Caminero came on to get Rendon and Werth to fly out to end the rally.

Drew Storen came on for the seventh and was rudely greeted, as Jerrod Saltalamacchia blasted a shot to dead center to tie it that was every bit as impressive as Harper’s was earlier.

But this game was far from over. The Marlins called upon Carlos Marmol for the eighth inning, and the Nats made them pay for that decision.

Pinch-hitter Nate McLouth was hit with a one-out fastball and went to third on Denard Span’s bunt single and error on the throw by Derek Dietrich, playing his first MLB game at third base. The Marlins walked Rendon intentionally to set up force plays everywhere with bases loaded, but Jayson Werth wouldn’t have any of it. Werth ripped a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen for his first homer of the season, a Grand Slam that gave the Nats a comfortable 10-7 lead.

It STILL wasn’t over. Rafael Soriano put two runners on in the ninth to make sure any fingernails left did not go unchewed, but struck out two to eventually nail down one of the nuttiest wins we’re going to witness in 2014.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats drop a pair in split-squad games with Braves and Astros

The Washington Nationals had a split-squad day on Wednesday, with half the team travelling to Lake Buena Vista to face the Braves and the rest in Kissimmee taking on the Astros. Unfortunately, the results were similar, as both home teams scored in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Nats.

The group in Disney fell to Atlanta 3-2. Veteran starter Chris Young, trying to resurrect his career, allowed tow earned runs on three hits and a walk, striking out three. He gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the first inning.

The Braves got the winning run in the ninth inning off minor league closer Robert Benincasa. Joe Leonard singles to start the inning, then pinch-runner Jose Peraza stole second and scored on a single by Elmer Reyes.

Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a triple, raising his spring average to .429.

In Kissimmee, the Astros got to lefty Xavier Cedeno for three runs on four hits in the ninth to send the Nats to a 10-9 loss. Cedeno struck out leadoff hitter Gregorio Petit and Jesus Guzman ground out. But Rene Garcia singled to right and Adron Chambers ran for him. Cedeno uncorked a wild pitch, sending Chambers to second. He scored on a Delino DeShields single. Marwin González followed with a double, plating DeShields. Gonzalez scored the winning run on a George Spring single.

Tanner Roark, battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, started. He allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, striking out three, in 3.1 IP. He gave up Jason Castro’s two-run homer in the third inning. Craig Stammen allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits in two innings, striking out four.

Will Rhymes went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, Nate McLouth homered and Mike Fontenot drove in three and scored twice.

 

 

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part V: The Bullpen

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard pitched 8th inning and earned 10th hold against Baltimore Orioles, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard in action of May 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

THE BULLPEN

Rafael Soriano, RHP: The saves were there last year, the elite skills were not. Soriano’s ERA and WHIP were their highest in any season he’s been a team’s top closer. On top of that, his K rate went down precipitously as he transitioned from a pitcher with a slider out pitch to a fastball pitcher, one who’s lost velocity each of the past four seasons. He lowered his walk rate, which obviously is good, but his hit rate jumped. His ground ball rate has dropped the past three seasons as his line drive and fly ball rates have risen, more evidence of him abandoning anything but the fastball. If the walk rate goes back to his normal seasonal allowance, he could be in a world of trouble. As it is, the velocity and strikeout rate drops are a big warning sign for a 34-year-old pitcher who hates not closing.

Tyler Clippard, RHP: Clippard turned in another exceptional season for the Nats with a 2.41 ERA and ridiculous 0.859 WHIP. All was bolstered by an incredibly unsustainable 4.7 H/9 rate and .172 BABiP, which completely mirrored his 2011 All-Star campaign. Those types of numbers are just unheard of, so he’s unlikely to repeat them, but he’s a funky pitcher. He succeeds with high fastballs and a changeup that almost impossible to identify out of his unusual and, frankly, weird delivery. The strikeout and ground ball rates were down just a tick but not alarmingly so. Clippard should be just fine in his established role. The big thing to worry about him is the price tag. He avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.88 million contract and he isn’t a free agent until after 2016, so the price tags is just going to keep going up. That’s a lot for a non-closer reliever — albeit one of the best in the game.

Drew Storen, RHP: Oh boy. Where do we start? Storen was fairly terrible in the first half, pitching to a 5.95 ERA, fueled by a .355 BABiP and outrageously high hit rate. The walks were fine, the Ks were fine, he was just simply unlucky as to balls finding their way into green space. He was sent to the minors on July 26 after wearing a the final inning of an 11-0 drubbing by the Mets on a day that he ran a 103 degree fever. When he came back Aug. 16, he was the same old Storen. Well, not really. He ditched the silly straight leg kick for a more conventional one that allowed him to have a more consistent delivery, but the results were more attributable to normalization. He held batters to a .200/.263/.214 line upon his return.

Jerry Blevins, LHP: Obtained from the A’s for Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns, Blevins is more than a typical lefty specialist — he actually owned better numbers against righties than lefties last season. Overall, a 3.15 ERA and 1.067 WHIP were solid. He has a four-pitch repertoire and faced four or more batters in more than half of his appearance last season. Blevins won’t overwhelm with his fastball, and his K rates will keep him in a set up or LOOGY role, but he knows how to pitch. Has improved his walk rate each of the past three seasons.

Xavier Cedeno, LHP: Want the good news? Cedeno enjoyed his career year last season at age 26, earning a 1.50 ERA and 1.000 WHIP for the Nats. He struck out 9 per nine innings and walked just 1.5. Want the bad news? He also suffered his worst season as a big leaguer last year, as he allowed 11 runs (eight earned) in 6.1 innings for Houston before they cut him in April. Am I being dramatic? You betcha. But Cedeno’s numbers for the Nats came in just 6.0 over 11 games. Against lefties, Cedeno provided a .231/.333/.269 slash. Against righties, that jumped to .391/.517/.522. Granted, we’re talking 29 and 31 plate appearances here. Call me skeptical, but I just don’t see Cedeno coming anywhere near approaching his numbers for the Nats last season again. He’s not a kid, and nothing in his history indicates this was anything more than a couple of good appearances in a row against limited competition.

Craig Stammen, RHP: Stammen could start for half the teams in baseball. His stuff is that good. All his peripherals continue to go in the right direction and his traditional numbers are solid across the board. Is this a pitcher that has found his spot? Or are the Nats hiding a gem, either intentionally or not. Either way, Stammen has proven to be an absolutely invaluable arm in the long role that he’s occupied the past two season for the team. His walk rate dropped by 0.7 this year over last — if that holds, he should earn higher leverage late innings if Clippard gets too expensive.

Ryan Mattheus, RHP: On the other hand… Mattheus was unlucky, sure. His BABiP of .405 screams it. But look at the rest. Rising walk rate. K rate less than 6 per nine. Lost velocity on his sinker. Punching a locker, breaking his hand and being completely and utterly lost once he returned. The hit rate is going to stabilize somewhat, but how much is luck and how much is just erosion of skill? He’s 30, not a youngster that needs to figure things out. He needs to prove health and competence or there are plenty of arms that will push him out of a job.

Josh Roenicke, RHP: Roenicke is famous for being the son of former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke and also being Ian Desmond’s brother-in-law. Roenicke the pitcher, however, is mediocre at best. He was brought in as an NRI and will provide depth in Syracuse most likely. He walks way too many (5.2 per nine in 62 IP last season) without the high K rate (just 6.5/9) that allows you live with it.

Erik Davis, RHP: Davis made his MLB debut last season at age 26, compiling a 1-0 record, 3.12 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in 8.2 innings, striking out 12 while walking just one. This was after going 3-7 with 15 saves, 3.10 ERA and 1.433 WHIP in AAA, so small sample caveats abound. Davis was slated to compete for a role in this year’s pen, but was placed on the 60-day D.L. with an ”elbow strain” on the same day the Nats traded for Jose Lobaton. It’s quite possible he never throws a pitch to Lobaton.

Christian Garcia, RHP: “If only Garcia could stay healthy…” Any Nats fan that knows more than just Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg will cite Garcia as their secret weapon. He’s got the stuff, he knows how to pitch, and he’s still young enough (27) that he could impact the MLB roster. Unfortunately, that part of staying healthy just keeps eluding Garcia. He’s already had two Tommy John’s while he was property of the Yankees and last season he was limited to 13.1 innings in the minors after suffering a torn wrist tendon, which triggered shoulder soreness and hamstring injuries. He owns four quality MLB pitches, he just needs to get on a mound to show them off. Problem is, he can’t.

Manny Delcarmen, RHP: Delcarmen, 32, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2010 with the Rockies. Why is he here? Well, he’s always had good stuff and has had several full seasons of downright goodness at the big league level. In 07-08 with the Red Sox he was a quality righty in their pen and some thought he had closer written all over him. Problem is, his walk rate was always high and got higher the older he got and his K rate plummeted after he hit 27. When he should have been in the peak of his career, he busted. Read into that however you want. Last year in AAA, he went 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 54 innings, so there might be something left. At the triple-A level, anyway.

Aaron Barrett, RHP: Barrett was drafted four times: by the Dodgers in the 44th round of the ’06 draft, by the Twins in the 20th round in ’08, by Texas in the 27th round in ’09 and finally by the Nats in the 9th round in 2010 after his eligibility ended for the University of Mississippi. Barrett, at age 25, dominated AA last year for Harrisburg, going 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 1.093 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 and outrageous 12.3 K/9. In fact, in 149.2 IP in his minor league career, Barrett owns a 12.0 K/9 rate. He does this all with an average fastball, but a slider that Baseball America deemed best in the Nats’ system. At 6’4″, 215 he has a big league build. He needs to pitch against players his own age this year but his arm is definitely intriguing.

Clay Hensley, RHP: Hensley is a slight (5’11″, 190) righty that for the past few seasons has been able to fool enough batters to keep getting chances in the big leagues. But at 33 now, he’s running out of gas. Last season for San Francisco in 50.2 IP he walked 5.3 per nine and his ERA (4.62) showed it. Coupled with a 5.19 ERA for Florida in ’12, Hensley’s hanging on to the end of his rope.

Nats Nightly: Stammen strong in three relief innings due to rain

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of SBNation’s Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins to win their seventh in their last eight games.

Washington Nationals Game 132 Review: Nats win battle of attrition over Marlins after rain delay

STAMMEN’S THREE STRONG INNINGS IN RELIEF OF STRASBURG KEY

What started out as a matchup of Stephen Strasburg against Henderson Alvarez turned into a battle of attrition in the bullpens thanks to a hour-plus rain delay in the bottom of the second inning. But the Washington Nationals were able to overtake the Miami Marlins, then hang on to squish the Fish 4-3, before 24,394 at a soggy Nationals Park.

The Nats rode effective pitching by Craig Stammen, a homer by Jayson Werth and a clutch hit by Ian Desmond to beat the Marlins for the second night in a row and secure their seventh win in eight games and eighth out of their last 11 to up their record to 67-65. Unfortunately, due to Cincinnati’s 10-0 beat-down of Adam Wainright and the Cardinals, the Nats didn’t make up any ground on the last Wild Card spot.

Stammen didn’t figure in the decision, but he did pitch three mostly terrific innings of work in relief of Strasburg (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K), who did not return after the rain delay. Stammen allowed one run — a solo home run — and five hits, striking out three without walking a batter.

The Nats jumped out on top in the second inning before the rains came. Desmond led off with a single off Alvarez’ leg and after two strikeouts came around to score on Steve Lombardozzi’s big two-out double.

When play resumed, the Nats doubled their lead in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman’s one-out single preceded Bryce Harper’s double to left on a 3-0 count that brought Zimmerman all the way around to score. Harper showed good judgment to hit the pitch where it was and drove the ball the opposite way to drive in the Nats’ second run.

Marlins’ catcher Jeff Mathis led off the fifth against Stammen with a solo hot, his fourth of the year, but Stammen escaped the frame without further damage, despite giving up a double with one out.

Ryan Mattheus replaced Stammen as the bridge to the back of the bullpen, but unfortunately for the young reliever, he just set that bridge ablaze. The first batter he faced, notorious Nats-killer Giancarlo Stanton, crushed a 3-2 slider that hung in the zone for a massive homer to straight-away center field to tie the game at two. Mattheus then allowed consecutive singles to Logan Morrison and Donovan Solano to put runners at the corners.

The Marlins helped out a little bit on the next play. Adeiny Hechavarria grounded to  third, and Zimmerman went home after Morrison foolishly broke for the plate. The ensuing rundown ended with Morrison out at third, but still with runners on the corners for Miami. Unfortunately, Mattheus couldn’t benefit from the break and allowed a single to Mathis that scored Solano to make it 3-2.

But the Nats tied it right back up in the bottom of the sixth, as Jayson Werth slammed an 0-1 fastball from Arquemedes Caminero to center for his 20th home run of the season to knot things at three apiece.

Washington took the lead for good in the seventh. Denard Span led off with a walk from lefty Mike Dunn (L, 3-4). Then Dunn tried to pick off Span at first and threw one away, allowing the Nats center fielder to move up a base. After striking out Harper, Dunn then intentionally walked Werth to face Desmond. Big mistake.

Desmond went up looking for something to work with on the first pitch, and handled Dunn’s 85-MPH slider for a line drive to left field that plated Span easily to make the score 4-3.

All that was left was for Tyler Clippard to pitch a perfect eighth inning, and Rafael Soriano to do the same in the ninth, to earn his 35th save and secure the victory for reliever Drew Storen (W, 4-2, 5.47), who worked around a hit and a walk in the seventh to get the win.

THE GOOD: Desmond. 3-for-4, run and RBI. Stud.

THE BAD: Adam LaRoche. 0-for-4, 2 Ks.

THE UGLY: Mattheus. He just hasn’t been the same pitcher since returning from the D.L. after breaking his hand punching his locker back in May. He’s a big part of this bullpen though so the Nats hope he can figure out why he’s been so ineffective, because apparently the short stint in Syracuse didn’t help any.

THE STATS: 10 hits, 5 BBs, 9 Ks. 1-for-12 with RISP, 10 LOB. E: Harper (5, fielding).

NEXT GAME: Thursday against the Marlins at 7:05 pm. Gio Gonzalez (7-6, 3.72) hosts Tom Kohler (3-8, 4.45)

Washington Nationals Game 130 Review: Nats’ seventh-inning comeback falls short in finale vs. Royals

Dan Haren recovered from a disastrous first inning, but the Washington Nationals’ seventh-inning comeback proved too little against the Kansas City Royals in what amounted to a 6-4 loss Sunday afternoon.

Just three pitches into Haren’s outing, Alex Gordon homered to right center to put the Royals up 1-0. From there, Emilio Bonifacio walked and came home on a single by Eric Hosmer. With Billy Butler batting, however, Nats catcher Wilson Ramos caught Hosmer in his attempt to steal second.

Butler went on to strike out looking at a 90 MPH fastball, but Haren was not yet ready to record a third out.

Instead, Mike Moustakas singled and Salvador Perez homered to left to give Kansas City a four-run lead into the second.

Through three innings, the Nats failed to come up with any answers against Royals’ righthander Ervin Santana. In the second, Adam LaRoche singled and, in the third, Anthony Rendon doubled before Denard Span singled, but all three innings resulted in nothing but zeroes for the visiting team looking to sweep. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Weekend Review: Nats drop series after HBP drama

The Washington Nationals, in dire need of a winning streak to spark any chance at catching Cincinnati for a wild card playoff spot, instead traded wins with the Atlanta Braves over the weekend to drop the series to the division front-runners. The Nats fell to 60-63 overall and 4-12 to the Braves this season. After play on Sunday, the Nationals trailed the Reds by 9 1/2 games for the final playoff spot with just 39 games to play.

SATURDAY: In a marathon, 15-inning affair, the Nats dropped the Braves 8-7, courtesy of Adam LaRoche’s 18th home run of the season leading off the 15th inning against the Braves’ Kris Medlin. Medlin (L, 10-11), who was slated to start Tuesday’s gave for Atlanta, was in his third inning of relief.

Both teams used nine pitchers and had to use a starter to pitch their final innings. For the Nats, Dan Haren came in to the bottom of the 15th and recorded the first save of his career, retiring the Braves allowing just one hit and striking out two.

The drama of extra innings would not have necessary were it not for the efforts of Rafael Soriano, who allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, letting the Braves tie it up to force extra time.

The game had a strange feel to it all night, as neither starter made it two innings. Braves starter Mike Minor was done after 1 2/3 after he allowed four earned runs on four hits and four walks to put the Braves in a hole early.

On the other side, Nats starter Stephen Strasburg was tossed two batter into the second inning, after throwing three wild pitches — the last two behind batter Andrelton Simmons. Were it any other game, Strasburg would have been allowed to work out whatever problems he was having with his control. But Strasburg plunked Braves outfielder Justin Upton on the behind with his first pitch after allowing a homer to Jason Heyward in the first inning and both benches were warned.

After the two pitches behind Simmons, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson took matters into his own hands and ejected Strasburg and manager Davey Johnson, as per the rule after benches have been warned. Both Strasburg and Johnson face fines and suspensions as well.

The Nats built a 6-2 lead in through the sixth inning and entered the bottom of the eighth with a 7-4 lead. But Freddie Freeman homered of Tyler Clippard in the eighth, and Heyward hit his second of the night, a two-run shot, off Soriano in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up.

There were heroes abound for the Nats bullpen though, as Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Ian Krol, Craig Stammen and Haren combined to throw 11 scoreless innings of relief. Stammen, who earned the win (6-5), struck out five in three hitless extra innings.

SUNDAY: The Nats went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners total, in a 2-1 loss to the Braves in the series finale. Despite putting two runners on with less than two outs in each of the first three innings, the Nats were never able to dent Julio Teheran’s ERA.

The offensive woes made a loser of Gio Gonzalez, who allowed two first inning runs before shutting the Braves down for the rest of his seven innings pitched. Gonzalez (L, 7-6), struck out nine in seven frames. He had his share of issues all day long, allowing five hits and four walks, but after Saturday’s marathon, the bullpen was fried and Gio was able to gut through 120 pitches, giving the Nats a chance to stay in the game.

Unfortunately, the hitters weren’t up to the task. The Nats got good days from Denard Span (3-for-5) Bryce Harper (2-for-4) and surprise starter Chad Tracy (2-for-4, subbing for Ryan Zimmerman who took a hard foul of fhis lower leg in the Saturday marathon). But they weren’t able to sustain an attack, as only one other hitter in the lineup was able to hit safely.

That one other hit belonged to Jayson Werth (19-for-39 in his last 10 games, .334/.407/.531 for the season), who drove in the Nats only run with a single in the seventh off reliever Scott Downs, which plated Anthony Rendon, who walked earlier in the inning.

Drew Storen pitched a perfect eighth inning, needing just five pitches to retire the side. Since returning from the minor leagues, Storen has pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out five.

Washington Nationals Game 55 Review: Strasburg leaves after two innings; Stammen leads Nats to win over Braves

The Washington Nationals entered play Friday 5 1/2 games behind their hosts, the Atlanta Braves, for first place in the N.L. East. The Nats trimmed that total by one, defeating the Braves 3-2. But the topic foremost in everyone’s minds was the status of starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who left the game after the second inning, reportedly suffering from discomfort in his lower back, first experienced during warm-ups for the game.

After the game, Davey Johnson said Strasburg suffered a strained oblique muscle in his lower back and would head back to D.C. to be examined by team doctors.

Strasburg looked to continue his recent run of dominance and cruised through the first inning without incident. In the second inning, Strasburg gave up a long home run to Braves 1B Freddie Freeman to lead off the inning. Strasburg got Evan Gattis swinging on a changeup, but appeared to wince and experience discomfort on the mound. His velocity noticeably dropped to Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, but Strasburg was able to retire both of them.

Strasburg trudged to the dugout, where he conferenced with pitching coach Steve McCatty and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. At that point, Strasburg was lifted from the game after 37 pitches, 23 for strikes.

Craig Stammen entered for the third innings and was simply dominant. The right-handed long-man pitched four perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts.

The Nats got on the board quickly against Braves starter Julio Teheran. Denard Span laced the second pitch of the game into right field for his fourth triple of the season. Steve Lombardozzi followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Span and give the Nats a 1-0 lead. They got back to it in the second. Roger Bernadina hit a one-out single to right, took third on Danny Espinosa’s single, and scored on a fielder’s choice of the bat of Kurt Suzuki.

Washington added their third run in the sixth inning in the same manner as in the first. Span led off the inning with another triple to right field, and Lombardozzi lofted a fly ball deep enough to score Span from third.

Atlanta cut the lead to one in the seventh inning off Tyler Clippard. Ramiro Pena led off with a smash to first. Adam LaRoche knocked it down, but his feed to Clippard covering was high and Pena reached on what was scored as an infield single — but should have been an out. Clippard struck out Justin Upton with a high fastball for the first out, but on the ninth pitch of the at bat to Freeman, including a wild pitch that allowed Pena to move up 90 feet, the first baseman singled to right field to bring in Pena to make it 3-2.

Clippard then hit Gattis and McCann to load the bases with one out, but rebounded to strike out Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson to leave them stranded.

Drew Storen pitched a scoreless eighth and Rafael Soriano tossed a perfect ninth to earn his __ save of the season.

THE GOOD: Craig Stammen. He was sublime, recording 12 straight out against the Braves. If the Nats need a fill-in starter anytime soon, Stammen firmly threw his hat into the ring.

THE BAD: The Nats scored all three of their runs as the result of someone making an out.

THE UGLY: Strasburg. Here’s hoping it’s just a little muscle tightness and the big guy will be ready to take his start in five days.

THE STATS: 9 hits, 1 BB, 10 Ks. 0-for-5 with RISP, 5 LOB. No errors, 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Saturday against the Braves at 7:15 pm. Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.90) faces Tim Hudson (4-4, 5.37).

 

Washington Nationals Game 45 Review: Nats manage just three hits in loss to Giants

The Washington Nationals are struggling offensively. They rank statistically near the bottom of the pack in the National League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. It doesn’t matter how well they pitch right now, you still have to score to win the game. The San Francisco Giants seemed to be the perfect panacea to the Nats hitting woes, having given up 52 runs in their last six games.

Unfortunately, it was the Giants that got well, shutting the Nats (23-22) out 8-0, punishing each and every reliever the Nats threw out there last night, as the long-men in the bullpen were tasked with pitching in Ross Detwiler’s normal rotation spot.

The Giants started the scoring in the second inning off Zach Duke (0-1, 8.84). Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt hit back-to-back one-out singles. Andres Torres lashed a double to left and Pence scampered home from second base. Brandon Crawford grounded to second for the second out of the game, but Belt came in to score to make it 2-0.

In the fourth, the Giants added to their lead. Belt led off with a single and went to second on Torres’ single. Crawford hit a comebacker that deflected off Duke’s wrist. Duke was able to corral it and get the middle runner, Torres, at second. Craig Stammen relieved, and Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong executed a safety squeeze, with Belt scoring from third. Angel Pagan followed with a double to right field, bringing home Crawford. Marco Scutaro delivered a single to center and Pagan scored, increasing the Giants lead to 5-0.

Belt got his third hit of the night in the fifth inning, a solo home run off Stammen, his sixth of the season. Later in the inning, though, Vogelsong swung through a pitch for a strike that actually hit him on the right hand, forcing him from the game. Later, the Giants announced Vogelsong suffered a fractured hand and would have surgery and miss extensive time.

The Giants (25-20) went back to work in the seventh inning against Henry Rodriguez. Hot Rod walked Hunter Pence on four pitches to start the inning. Belt singled; Pence moved to third. Torres grounded to first and Adam LaRoche was able to throw home and eventually got Pence. No matter. Rodriguez walked Crawford to load the bases. After Gregor Blanco popped up, the Giants got their clutch hit, with Pagan singling to center, which scored Belt and Torres for the final 8-0 margin.

THE GOOD: Nothing. There was no good to come of this. No hitter had more than one hit. All three pitchers gave up two or more runs. Just lousy baseball all around.

THE BAD: 17 hits allowed with 3 BBs (all courtesy of Hot Rod). Every Giants starter had a hit and six had multi-hit games, including Brandon Belt’s 4-for-5 game.

THE UGLY: The Giants had surrendered 52 runs in their last six games. The Nats mustered all of three singles and two walks.

THE STATS: 3 hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. 0-for-2 with RISP, 4 LOB. No errors, 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 10:15 pm ET against the Giants. Stephen Strasburg 92-5, 2.83) faces Matt Cain (3-2, 5.43).

NATS NOTES: After the game, the Nats revealed Ryan Mattheus broke his hand in Sunday’s game and would head to the DL. The team planned to recall RHP Yunesky Maya and LHP Fernando Abad from AAA Syracuse. OF Eury Perez will be sent down to make room on the roster.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Homers happen as Nats topple Marlins

The Washington Nationals have not hit a ton of home runs yet this spring. That’s not really a source of concern, as pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters for the first couple of weeks at Spring Training. Saturday, however, the Nats broke out their big sticks, hitting three homers in an 8-7 win over the Miami Marlins at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

Bryce Harper (2) and Ryan Zimmerman (1) went back-to-back in the fifth inning, while SS Zach Walters added his second of the spring in the eighth. Harper finished the day 2-for-3 with two runs and Zimmerman went 3-for-3 with two runs scored. The Nats pounded out 12 hits total against four Miami pitchers.

Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run single and Danny Espinosa had a run scoring single as well.

It was a tough day for pitchers overall, as some may be entering their “dead arm” period as they try to strengthen their bodies to be ready for opening day. Free agent signee Chris Young started for the Nats with Ross Detwiler away for the World Baseball Classic. Young went three innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks, striking out two.

Craig Stammen followed and was punished — allowing three earned runs on four hits and a walk, all in just two-thirds of an inning.

The Nats received credible relief after that, as Erik Davis provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings (1 hit, 1 K), and Ryan Perry had another good outing, throwing two scoreless frames and allowing just one hit. Fernando Abad was credited with the victory for his scoreless inning of work, and though he gave up a run on three hits, Jeremy Accardo “earned” his second spring save.

The Nats travel to Lakeland Sunday for a 1:05 tilt against the Detroit Tigers.

 

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