August 18, 2018

Washington Nationals Game 101 Review: Nats lose 2-1 to Mets in 12 innings

WILMER FLORES HOMERS IN THE 12TH BEAT NATS

Wilmer Flores, who Thursday thought he’d been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, homered in the 12th inning off lefty reliever Felipe Rivero, sending the Washington Nationals to a bitter 2-1 defeat to the New York Mets, trimming the Nats lead in the N.L. East to two games.

Matt Harvey pitched 5 1/3 innings of perfect baseball on Friday night before a sellout crowd at Citi Field, as Gio Gonzalez struggled through 4 2/3. Harvey worked with a 1-0 lead from the fourth inning onward, working through the Nationals’ order with little difficulty.

Gonzalez struggled with his control tonight, walking four, but striking out six. Gonzalez pitched with runners aboard in the fourth and the fifth, loading the bases in the fourth before retiring the side, and giving up a single and a double in the fifth before being lifted for Tanner Roark with two outs in the fifth.

Roark pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief, getting the Nationals clear of the jam in fifth, and retiring the Mets in order in the sixth and seventh. His corner work was stellar on Friday night, and he struck out four batters out of seven.

The Nationals struggled mightily against Matt Harvey, with Harvey working 5 1/3 perfect innings before Jose Lobaton singled to right to break up the perfect game. Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth added two more hits in the sixth and seventh, but until the eighth, Matt Harvey was Superman.

Sadly for the Mets fans in attendance, Harvey was human in the eighth inning. With 100 pitches under his belt for the evening, Harvey hit pinch-hitter Clint Robinson with a 1-1 pitch in the dirt. Anthony Rendon singled up the middle to move pinch-runner Danny Espinosa to second base, bringing up Yunel Escobar. On a 98-mph fastball down the middle, Escobar drove the ball through the gap to score Espinosa and tie the game at one apiece. That would be all for Harvey, replaced by familiar reliever Tyler Clippard to face Jayson Werth.

In a simulated game at the end of the 2014 season, Tyler Clippard pitched to Jayson Werth on a wager. Werth ended up shelling out $100 when Clipp struck him out. It took 13 pitches tonight, but Clippard repeated his earlier performance. On a pitch on the lower left-hand corner, Werth left the bat on his shoulder, expecting to get the call for a walk. Instead, he owes Clippard another $100.

Aaron Barrett worked the eighth for the Nationals, giving up a single before retiring the side. The slider that Barrett was throwing was fearsome and fooled both Juan Uribe and Travis d’Arnaud for strikeouts.

Bryce Harper lead off the ninth against his former teammate with his 45-road-game on-base streak and 23-game on-base streak on the line, flew out to start the ninth inning. Clippard went on to walk Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to end his night after just the two outs. Jeurys Familia was successful at protecting the Mets’ tie, getting Michael A. Taylor to swing at a ball in the dirt, and then neutralized Jose Lobaton on a fly ball.

Barrett came back out to face the Mets in the ninth, and though he’s a high energy pitcher usually good only for one inning, he rocketed through the Mets order. Barrett retired Flores, Lagares and Campbell in order, getting two short pop-ups and a ground out to send the game into extra innings.

Familia pitched the tenth, and faced the minimum, getting three easy ground outs to retire the Nationals, and Felipe Rivero matched him in the bottom. Rivero worked through Kelly Johnson (flyout), Curtis Granderson (strikeout), and Ruben Tejada (soft grounder) and looked very impressive.

In the eleventh, the Mets turned to Hansel Robles for pitching duties. Jayson Werth grounded out, and then things turned ugly. On a pitch that was well out of the strikezone, home plate umpire Jerry Meals rung up Bryce Harper for the second out of the inning. Harper objected vehemently to the strike call, and said some uncharitable things. He was ejected. Keep in mind that, due to Tyler Moore pinch-hitting in the ninth, and Clint Robinson pinch-hitting in the eighth, the Nationals were entirely out of outfielders on the bench.

Jayson Werth moved over to right field, and Ryan Zimmerman ran out to left field. Dan Uggla slotted into Harper’s spot in the order, and took over at first base. This is not what you would call a defensive matchup in the Nationals’ favor. It didn’t factor into the eleventh inning, as Rivero retired the Mets in order.

Carlos Torres pitched the twelfth for the Mets, and retired the side on three strikeouts. At one point, final remaining position player Wilson Ramos warmed up and swung a bat in the on-deck circle, while pitchers Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimermann were both spotted stretching and preparing to pinch hit. They were not necessary in the twelfth. Or at all on Friday night.

Wilmer Flores lead off the bottom of the twelfth against Felipe Rivero and a fastball down broadway got driven into the Party Deck in left center, just 48 hours after he was in tears on the field over a potential trade. If anyone deserves a good day, it’s Flores, but it was tough to see the Nationals drop such a critical game.

For reasons not yet explained, Jonathan Papelbon, Matt Thornton, Drew Storen and Casey Janssen never entered the game, despite the high pressure situation and facing a divisional opponent only just a few games back. Lack of offense remains a frequent problem for the Nationals, and tonight’s onr-run effort was definitely indicative of a larger problem.

The Nationals’ lead in the NL East shrinks to two games.

HERO: Tanner Roark, for his relief work, and Yunel Escobar, for a clutch single in the eighth to tie the game when the Nationals needed it most.

GOAT: Bryce Harper, who argued yet another called third strike and found himself ejected, but this time when the club had no spare outfielder. Dumb move, Harper. Dumb move. Bad call, but dumb move.

NATS NOTES:

  • Mike Rizzo met with Drew Storen and his agent Brodie van Wagenen on Friday, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson
  • At 45 games, Harper’s on-base streak is second in franchise history, and the longest since the Nationals returned to Washington.

NEXT UP: Nationals vs Mets continues tomorrow night, Joe Ross (2-3, 3.03) vs Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.05) at 7:10pm at Citi Field.

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…]

OPINION: Nationals Have Options as Opening Day Approaches

The Nationals’ roster for Opening Day is starting to come into focus, and there are some surprises as compared with a month ago. With Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span expected to start their seasons in rehab assignments, the Nats find themselves looking at some additional bench slots, as players on the roster shift around to fill the gaps. Here’s a look at a few of the swaps fans will likely see come April 6th.

Michael Taylor has had quite a spring, including a pair of home runs against Justin Verlander, and is well-positioned to find himself both the CF for Opening Day and the lead off man for Matt Williams. The 24 year old rookie has plus speed and a solid glove, but will likely be back at Syracuse once Span returns barring a miracle. It will be worth it to catch the coming attractions while they’re here, Nats fans, Taylor may well be your Opening Day Center Fielder in 2016, as well.

Danny Espinosa will likely find himself at the hot corner until Anthony Rendon’s knee has fully recovered, which could be until May. Now righty-only, Espinosa has seen some good at-bats this spring against right-handed pitching but his whole season is predicated upon a return to the hitting of his rookie season. Many have praised his approach this spring, but it’s safe to say his career with the Nats hangs in the balance.

Tyler Moore will likely be your starting left fielder on April 6th, and the perennial bench favorite has earned the opportunity his spring with a slash line of .320/.327/.580. While no one will confuse Moore for Jayson Werth and his luxurious beard, that the Nationals can find replacements for three core bats speaks volumes about the depth of the roster right now. For that, Mike Rizzo should be applauded.

What this will do to the bench bats for Matt Williams, though, is a little less clear. I would argue that it is likely to be Kevin Frandsen, a rejuvenated Dan Uggla, the recently acquired Matt den Dekker, and Tony Gwynn Jr., who’s found his swing again. That is definitely not the bench anyone was predicting in February – rather, if you were, please drop me an email with proof and I’ll buy you a beer. It is entirely possible that recently acquired Reed Johnson might displace recently acquired den Dekker in the final roster spot, but I suspect we’ll see a fierce battle with the two of them each getting substantial playing time over the next five days.

This isn’t the Opening Day Roster that Mike Rizzo wanted to run out there; the injuries this spring could conceivably cost this team as many as 4-5 wins this season, though I suspect that’s a worst case estimate. Before you start, fair reader, don’t go blaming these events on a Sports Illustrated curse — curses are silly, and you’re better than that — but do look at the current roster options and rest a bit easier, Nats fans. There’s a lot of depth here, and the prognoses for May returns for Rendon, Werth and Span all bode well for the Nationals.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Will Dan Uggla make this team?

One of the more interesting (okay, perhaps only interesting) position battles this spring in the Washington Nationals camp centers around second base, considering the guy they traded for to play the spot, Yunel Escobar, hasn’t taken a swing in a game yet due to “general soreness” and back issues since he got here.

Considering the back issues were one of the lingering things that plagued him all season last year, it’s not a good start to his Nats career and could very well be an indication of the value the Nats are going to get for him.

The guys that have been playing the position while Escobar convalesces are incumbent Danny Espinosa, who’s attempting to turn himself into a right-handed only hitter, and Dan Uggla, who was last seen in the bigs hitting .149/.229/.213 last season between Atlanta and 12 appearances for San Francisco.

Uggla, now 35, doesn’t seem to be that worthy of a reclamation project — he hasn’t hit above .233 since 2010. But he did hit 22 homers as recently as 2013, and Nats GM Mike Rizzo loves the guy, so the Nats took a shot.

According to Uggla, he played through an undiagnosed oculomotor dysfunction as a result of getting hit in the head twice and is now fully healthy. His spring results thus far are encouraging: he’s hitting .333 with an OBP over .450 and hit his second homer Saturday against the Marlins.

The Nats are playing with found money with regards to Uggla, as the Braves are on the hook for his ridiculous salary. If he can prove useful again at the big league level, it’s a double-bonus.

The problem is that if Uggla isn’t playing every day, his value is limited. Uggla has only played second base his entire career. He’s not a good defender or runner, so if he’s relegated to the bench, it’s almost exclusively as a right-handed pinch-hitter, effectively limiting manager Matt Williams to a three-man bench. He could probably serve at first base in an emergency basis.

Escobar is right-handed. Tyler Moore is out of options. If they don’t trade him, he’s a right-handed pinch-hitter. Kevin Frandsen is a right-handed pinch-hitter. Espinosa is now a right-handed pinch-hitter. You get where I’m going with this.

Espinosa is not out of options. Perhaps the most sensible thing — if Uggla’s hitting seems sustainable — is to send Espinosa to Syracuse to concentrate on hitting right-handed, and go with a bench of Moore, Escobar, Frandsen and Tony Gwynn Jr, at least until Denard Span or Jayson Werth is healthy to play again.

Of course, all this is dependent on Anthony Rendon getting healthy and getting back in the lineup at third base. If he’s not ready to start the season on the active roster, all bets are off.

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 122 Review: Crazy play ends crazy game after 13 innings

“They had their chances. We had our chances. It was one of those games.” Nats manager Davey Johnson.

Dan Uggla fields the hard hit ball by Chad Tracy in the bottom of the 13th inning and could not make a clean play. Espinosa scores and Nats win – Atlanta Braves v. Washington Nationals, August 20, 2012, Nats win 5-4 in 13 innings. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals have won some games this year in some unique ways, but last night’s topped them all.

Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla cleanly fielded pinch-hitter Chad Tracy’s ground ball in the bottom of the 13th inning. Then, well, who knows? [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: