December 9, 2019

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Strasburg sharp as Nats top Tigers

Stephen Strasburg looked to be in mid-season form and the Washington Nationals survived a blow-up by Jerry Blevins late in the game to beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 6-4 in Lakeland, Florida.

Strasburg was exceptionally sharp in his second official start of the spring — through he did make an appearance in a simulated game — baffling the Tigers hitters and broadcasters alike with his breaking stuff. Strasburg went four innings, striking out five and allowing just three hits and no walks. He threw 61 pitches, 44 for strikes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats tame Tigers 9-2

The Washington Nationals roughed up David Price for four runs in two innings and beat the Detroit Tigers 9-2 on Wednesday in Viera, Florida.

Jordan Zimmermann went 2 2/3 innings, throwing 33 of his 47 pitches for strikes. He gave up one earned run on two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four. [Read more…]

OPINION: Rizzo steals Fister from Tigers for spare parts

You don’t need me to tell you that the Washington Nationals flat-out stole Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers on Cyber Monday.

But I’m going to anyway.

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve no doubt by now read dozens of opinions that Mike Rizzo absolutely robbed his counterpart, Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski. Actually, most of the professional comments have been more of the bewildered sort than any other trade in recent memory.

Let’s not mince words here: The Nats acquired one of the top 25 pitchers in all of baseball, under contract for two more years at a reasonable rate, for a Quad-A middle infielder, a LOOGY with maturity issues, and a mid-level left-handed pitching prospect.

This gives the Nationals a starting rotation with four of the top 25 starters in the game.

Fister is one of the more underrated players in the game today. By all metrics, he ranks among the most durable, consistently excellent starters in the bigs. He’s a ground ball machine, and going to be playing the next several seasons with the best defense he’s had behind him. He doesn’t walk batters, and he very rarely gives up home runs.

There are two reasons he’s largely been ignored when the discussion of the best starters in the league comes up: his fastball sits around 89 MPH and he doesn’t put up gaudy strikeout totals. His career average of 6.3 per nine is rather pedestrian, but coupled with a career walk rate of 1.8, his K/BB rate of 3.46 is awesome.

Number one on Baseball-Reference’s “Similarity Score” for Fister, which compares players based on statistics accumulated and projected, is Jordan Zimmermann. Enough said.

But to get, you have to give. What did the Nats really give up?

Let’s discuss Robbie Ray, the only player the Nats gave up that might have a ceiling, first. The 6’2″, 170 22-year old just completed his 4th minor league season, split between A+ and AA. He posted a combined 11-5 with 3.36 ERA, 1.254 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. He pitches in the low 90s and can hit mid-90s when he dials it up. His command though is still a work in progress, as his BB/9 was 3.9.

He was ranked as the Nats’ third or fourth highest pitching prospect depending on who you like to listen to, but if he can’t develop his changeup in the next year or two he’s going to end up in the pen.

We had Ray as the Nats’ 12th overall prospect and the sixth pitcher behind Cole, Giolito, Karns, Solis and Purke.

Ray could develop into a quality MLB starting pitcher, a lefty to boot. He could end up a quality arm in a big league bullpen. He could be a LOOGY. He could get exposed at Triple-A, where he has yet to throw a pitch.

But we know that Doug Fister is a quality Major League starter.

What about the two roster players the Nats gave up?

I want to be kind here, as I know that Steve Lombardozzi has more than his share of fans in the D.C. area. But he’s exactly like his father with regards to his potential as a big leaguer: he’s already reached it. He is — at best — a utility middle infielder, and really nothing more than a backup second baseman. He barely has the arm strength to cover second at the big league level, let alone trying to make the long throw at short. It’s just not there, not to mention his lack of range.

At the plate, Lombo is a “Punch-and-Judy” slap hitter, devoid of any power whatsoever. He has no plate discipline, and can’t run. What gets him by is his unwavering work ethic and willingness to play anywhere the manager puts him, however out of position that might be. Shoot, he was the emergency catcher last season.

Ian Krol, the “player to be named later” in the Michael Morse trade last season from Oakland, has a decent power lefty arm, but should never be allowed to face a right-handed batter. He is the very definition of “replacement player”.

Lesser starting pitchers than Fister have been acquired via trade the past two seasons for far more quality than the Nats gave up in this deal. The Royals gave the Rays Wil Myers for James Shields, and Fister is every bit Shields’ equal, if not better.

Perhaps Dombrowski knows something about Fister health-wise we don’t. Maybe Fister spent his off-season kicking babies and throwing rocks at people at charity events. Who knows? But what we do know is that Fister is one of the top two dozen or so MLB starting pitchers, and he’ll be wearing a Curly W next season, making the Nats rotation one of the top-three in the league.

And all they gave up to get him was a backup middle infielder, a LOOGY and a marginal lefty starter prospect.

BREAKING: Nationals acquire Doug Fister from Detroit Tigers

The Washington Nationals have acquired right-handed pitcher Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol and left-handed prospect Robbie Ray.

Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 2013 for the defending AL Central Champions. He allowed just 0.6 home runs per nine innings pitched, which ranked second-best in the AL. The 29 year-old, 6-foot-8 Merced, Calif. native holds a five-year career 3.53 ERA and 44-50 win-loss record.

In eight career postseason appearances, including one World Series start, Fister has earned a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA.

The acquisition is – no doubt – a win for General Manager Mike Rizzo. Lombardozzi recorded a less-than-stellar slash line of .259/.278/.338, although his 13 pinch hits ranked second-most in baseball.

“This is an exciting day for the Washington Nationals,” Rizzo said in a press release. “We feel we’ve added a talented, young veteran to our starting pitching corps. Doug is battle-tested through playoff experiences, and the depth he brings to our staff is exceptional. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard.”

At 22 years-old, Krol showed some promise for the Nationals, who acquired him in a three-way deal that brought A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen into the Nationals’ organization and sent Michael Morse to Seattle. Krol’s record sells short the fact he did not allow a run in his first nine appearances in the Big Leagues. He earned a 2-1 record and a 3.95 ERA in a season which few would have predicted to see him take the mound.

Ray, also 22, was rated the fifth-best prospect in the Nats’ system by Baseball America. He earned a combined 3.36 ERA with Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Fister was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2006. He was acquired, along with David Pauley, by the Tigers on July 30, 2011, in exchange for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells.

By  trading Fister, the Tigers will reportedly save about $6 million. Fister was arbitration-eligible and projected to earn about $7 million.

Rumors had circulated in recent weeks that the Tigers were looking to free up room in their rotation to allow left-hander Drew Smyly to return to a starter role.

Washington Nationals Game 108 Review: Gonzalez allows 10 earned in Nats’ 11-1 loss to Tigers

Gio Gonzalez gave up the most earned runs he has ever allowed as a member of the Washington Nationals in the District’s 11-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers Wednesday afternoon.

To make matters worse, Bryce Harper left the game early – in the eighth inning – after wincing on a big swing earlier in the day.

For a brief moment in time, it looked as though the Nationals would enjoy reprieve from the Justin Verlander of old during the last of their meetings with the Tigers this season. On “Christmas in July” Day at Comerica, Verlander gifted the Nats an early run in the first via walks to both Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman, a single by Harper and a Jayson Werth sacrifice fly.

And then, in an instant, Washington’s holiday was over.

Adam LaRoche struck out on four pitches in the next at-bat before Ian Desmond grounded out on a 79 MPH curveball to end the inning.

Gonzalez held the Tigers scoreless in the bottom of the inning, despite giving up a ground-rule double to Torii Hunter with one out.

Anthony Rendon, Kurt Suzuki and Steve Lombardozzi went down in order in the top of the second, allowing Victor Martinez just a quick break before stepping into the batter’s box to spark the havoc that would rain down upon the Nats. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 107 Review: Strasburg, Nats toppled 5-1 on Alex Avila grand slam

The Washington Nationals fell 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night, not at the hands of the Tigers’ most likely suspects, but on a sixth-inning grand slam by catcher Alex Avila.

Entering into Tuesday night’s contest winless in his prior three starts, Stephen Strasburg had never before given up a home run with more than one runner on base. Astonishingly enough, Avila himself had recorded just one bases-loaded extra-base hit of his career before powering Strasburg’s 96 MPH fastball over the right-field wall.

Up until that point, the two teams went head-to-head in a classic interleague pitcher’s duel between Strasburg and Anibal Sanchez (W, 9-7). [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 34 Review: Nats get to Fister early, hold on to sweep Tigers

The Detroit Tigers are one of the top teams in the American League, and some folks tried to bill this early May matchup with the Washington Nationals as a World Series preview. It’s a little early in the season to try to sell that, but with the Nats starting to play well it was a big series nonetheless. The Nats scored their runs in the first few innings, then got great bullpen work from a trio of relievers to beat the Tigers Thursday 5-4, sweeping the two-game set from the A.L. Central powerhouse.

The win is the Nats fourth in a row and sixth in their last seven games and it leaves them 1 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East entering play in the evening games.

The Nats (19-15) jumped on Tigers starter Doug Fister early. Denard Span led off the bottom of the first with a double over the first base bag. He went to third on Roger Bernadina’s bunt base hit and scored on Bryce Harper’s fielder’s choice that erased Bernadina at second. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single, and Adam LaRoche did the same, plating Harper. Ian Desmond then single to center to bring home Zimmerman and give the Nats a 3-0 lead after one inning.

The Tigers got one back in the top of the second off Haren (W, 4-3, 5.17), when Fister muscled an 0-1 pitch to center for his third Major League hit of his career, scoring Jhonny Peralta from third.

The hit parade for the Nationals continued in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, Span reached when Fister clipped Span’s pant leg with an errant fastball. Bernadina fell behind 0-2 but worked the at bat for a walk. Harper struck out looking, but consecutive singles by Zimmerman and LaRoche again plated two more runs to stretch the Nats lead to 5-1 after two full.

Detroit used some small ball, then a blast to cut into the Nats lead in the sixth. With one out, Peralta drew a four-pitch walk. Haren got Alex Avila to line out to center, but on the next pitch, Omar infant reached on a perfectly placed bunt single. Matt Tuiasosopo pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot and drilled a three-run shot over the Tigers bullpen in left center to make it 5-4.

Haren’s final line (6.0 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR) ended up kinda messy after the homer, but he threw a good game up until that point.

The rest was up to the bullpen, and they got the job done, with Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano all pitching scoreless innings to keep the one-run lead intact. Soriano earned his 12th save of the season in 13 tries, getting Prince Fielder to fly to the track in center for the final out of the game.

THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. 3-for-4, RBI, run scored. He’s starting to heat up. Adam LaRoche went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

THE BAD: Danny Espinosa. 0-for-4, K.

THE UGLY: Tyler Moore. Pinch-hit for Bernadina against a lefty reliever and struck out on three pitches, all breaking balls.

THE STATS: 9 hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks. 5-for-12 with RISP, 7 LOB. No errors, no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Friday starts a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs, 7:05 pm from Nats Park. Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50) hosts Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09).

Washington Nationals Game 33 Review: Zimmermann leads Nats over Tigers, 3-1

The Washington Nationals have one of the most dominant starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. He just isn’t necessarily the first… or second guy most people would think of. But if Jordan Zimmermann continues to pitch the way he has through the first six weeks of the season, he’s going to have a lot of folks talking about him. His efficient seven innings led the Nats to their fourth win in five game with a 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers, before 34,893 at Nationals Park.

Zimmermann (6-1, 1.59) was masterful yet again. The stoic right-hander went seven innings, allowing just one run on seven hits and two walks, striking out seven in the process. Only a couple of high-pitch count innings against a good offensive ballclub early kept him from completing more than the seven innings he did finish.

The Tigers (19-12) broke Zimmermann’s scoreless innings streak at 20, when they scratched out a run against the Nats righty in the third inning. Torii Hunter doubled to left with two outs, and MLB’s RBI leader Miguel Cabrera dumped a single to left to bring Hunter in.

The Nats (18-15) answered back in the bottom of the inning. Denard Span tripled to right field. After Ian Desmond lined out to first, Bryce Harper lofted a fly ball to left that brought Span home safely.

An error by Hunter helped the Nats to their second run. Adam LaRoche (2-for-3, run) led off the fourth with a single to right. After Tyler Moore K’d, Danny Espinosa singled to center, moving LaRoche up one base. Kurt Suzuki flied out to Hunter in right field, but Hunter’s throwing error allowed LaRoche to chug home all the way from second on the play.

Harper clobbered a homer to right, his 10th of the season, in the fifth to extend the Nats lead to 3-1.

Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth inning, despite walking two, and Rafael Soriano threw a perfect ninth for his 11th save of the campaign.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. Early nomination for N.L. All-Star team.

THE BAD: Tyler Moore. 0-for-3 with two more strikeouts.

THE UGLY: Ryan Zimmerman. 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Doesn’t quite have his timing back yet.

THE STATS: 8 hits, no walks, 10 Ks. 1-for-5 with RISP, 4 LOB. E: LaRoche (2, fielding). DP: 2.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 4:05 pm against the Tigers. (Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01) hosts Doug Fister (4-0, 2.48).

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats fall to Tigers as Drew Smyly pitches gem

Drew Smyly gave his best crack at earning the Detroit Tigers’ fifth starter spot and Stephen Strasburg could not match his performance Friday as the Washington Nationals fell 4-3 at Space Coast Stadium.

Smyly retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a one-out, fourth inning single to Jayson Werth. Strasburg, on the other hand, recorded his third loss of the spring, allowing three runs on seven hits and one walk in 6.0 innings pitched. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Zimmermann retires 18 straight but Nats fall 5-1 to Tigers

When you compare Sunday’s combined pitching lines for the Washington Nationals with those from Monday’s matchup against the Detroit Tigers, at first glance, you might find it hard to determine which rotation recorded a win for “K Street.”

Washington came away with a 5-1 loss Monday at Space Coast Stadium, despite the fact that Jordan Zimmermann retired 18 batters in a row over six scoreless innings. He threw just 67 pitches in a day’s work, allowed only one hit – a leadoff single by Andy Dirks in the first inning – struck out one and walked no one. [Read more…]

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