November 21, 2017

Washington Nationals extend qualifying offers to Desmond, Zimmermann

Shortstop Ian Desmond returned to the lineup - New York Mets v. Washington Nationals, August 17, 2012.  (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals began their player-focused portion of the offseason Friday, extending $15.8 million qualifying offers to shortstop Ian Desmond and starter Jordan Zimmermann, declining to make offers to center fielder Denard Span and starter Doug Fister.

Across the league, a record 20 potential free agents were tendered qualifying offers, including New York Mets playoff hero Daniel Murphy, former Nats starter Marco Estrada (Toronto) and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke.

Players have until Nov. 13 to accept the offer. In the three previous offseasons of the current collective bargaining agreement, none of the 34 qualifying offers was taken as free agents sought contracts with longer terms. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 155 Review: Nats Fall Apart in Finale Against the Phillies

As if being eliminated from the playoffs not even 24 hours earlier wasn’t enough, the Washington Nationals experienced a complete meltdown in the ninth inning of Sunday’s home game against the Philadelphia Phillies who beat the Nats 12-5.

To make matters worse, closer Jonathan Papelbon assaulted outfielder Bryce Harper in the dugout after Harper popped out to left field in the eighth inning. To add to the escalating in-game tension, Papelbon went back out to pitch the ninth and Harper was replaced by outfielder Matt den Dekker who switched from left to right field. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 150 Review: Orioles Hit Gonzalez, Nats Fall 6.5 Games Back


The Baltimore Orioles beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in D.C. on Tuesday night after starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez gave up all four of Baltimore’s runs.

Gonalzez pitched 4 2/3 innings while giving up six hits, four runs, walking two, and striking out six batters. He threw 82 pitches and 51 strikes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 146 Review: Nats Fall Short Against Marlins

The Miami Marlins beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Thursday night in Washington, D.C. Starting pitcher Tanner Roark lasted five innings against the Marlins while giving up six runs on eight hits — including two home runs — and striking out four batters. Roark threw 80 pitches and 54 strikes.

Miami dug into Roark right away starting with lead off man and second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon opened the game up with a single before third baseman Martin Prado went long with one out putting the Marlins up 2-0.

Washington tied it up at 2-2 in the second inning  when outfielder Jayson Werth scored on a two-run homer crushed by shortstop Ian Desmond off Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart. The Nats didn’t manage to get another run again until the sixth inning and it was already too late by that point.

The Marlins took a four-run lead in the fifth inning against Roark and the Nats on four hits. Shortstop Miguel Rojas led off the inning with a double before scoring on a sacrifice fly hit by Gordon making it a 3-2 ballgame. A pair of back-to-back singles hit by outfielder Christian Yelich and Prado followed by a three-run homer hit by first baseman Justin Bour was the game’s “decider” moment according to Washington’s Manager Matt Williams with the Marlins up 6-2.

The Nats had an opportunity in the eighth inning to tie up the game but only managed a pair of runs. Washington left the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate while falling to Miami 6-4. Third baseman Anthony Rendon led off the inning with a single off reliever Brian Ellington and moved to scoring position on a single hit by outfielder Bryce Harper off reliever Mike Dunn. A two-out , two-RBI single hit by Desmond off reliever Bryan Morris putting the Nats within reach of the Marlins but it wasn’t enough.

HERO: Desmond for presenting the Nats with a clutch offensive performance. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and a single. Washington only had six hits on Thursday. He had two of them.

GOAT: Roark didn’t get the job done. It’s that simple.

NATS NOTES: 

  • Closer Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable today due to falling ill. He had a fever.
  • The Nats bullpen held the Marlins for four innings tonight. Nobody scored against Doug Fister, Matt Grace, Rafael Martin, and Matt Thornton.

UP NEXT: Jose Fernandez (5-0, 2.06) and the Miami Marlins face Max Scherzer (12-11, 2.91) and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. at 7:05 p.m.

Washington Nationals Game 129 Review: Strasburg Pulled Early, Nats Beat Marlins

The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 7-4 on Sunday afternoon despite starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg being pulled after four innings pitched.

Strasburg threw 60 pitches and 43 strikes in four innings while giving up four runs and two home runs on seven hits while striking out three batters. According to the team after the game, Strasburg left with an upper back injury not considered to be serious. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 111 Review: Desmond powers Nats over Dodgers

DESMOND HOMERS TWICE TO BACK SOLID OUTING BY GONZALEZ

Desperately in need of starting a 10-game west coast road trip of on a successful note — and with pitchers of stronger pedigree looming — the Washington Nationals bats busted out against Los Angeles Dodgers starter Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez was solid over eight innings, and the Nats beat the Dodgers 8-3 at Chavez Ravine.

The Nats (58-53) remained a game and a half back of the New York Mets, 4-2 winners over Colorado earlier in the night. [Read more…]

Nats making tough — but correct — call on Ross over Fister

It’s about time.

All season long, the Washington Nationals have limped along without much of their batting order and, at times, part of their starting rotation. Finally, the regular lineup is mostly intact as they envisioned it in spring training. Excuses have been made for the underperforming because of so many players missing from the lineups.

But with Stephen Strasburg’s return on Saturday from the disabled list, the Nats were faced with a tough decision: stick with struggling veteran (and impending free agent) Doug Fister, or continue to ride the effective (but innings limited) rookie Joe Ross.

The decision is in.

After Thursday’s 8-3 win over Arizona — in which Ross pitched six one-run, no-walk innings — manager Matt Williams announced that Strasburg will start on Saturday in Fister’s regular spot in the rotation and that Fister will work out of the bullpen — for now.

In fact, Fister sat in the bullpen on Thursday and loosened up at one point, prompting all sorts of scuttlebutt on social media.

“It’s a difficult task when you’ve been a starter for so long,” Williams said of Fister moving to the bullpen. “But the opportunities will be long. That’s kind of where we see it. It’s never easy, but he’s willing to go out there and do what he can to help us win a ballgame.”

In seven starts, Ross is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 47/4 in 45 innings. Fister, on the other hand, is 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.419 WHIP. More troubling is his ground ball rate. Fister has always relied on his heavy sinker to generate ground balls. He has to. His fastball tops out in the mid-to-upper 80s and he can’t just blow hitters away.

For the past three seasons, his ground ball rate has gone down, to the point of now generating fewer ground balls than MLB average. His ground ball out to fly out ratio has, unsurprisingly, also gone down — precipitously, I might add. Along with the ground ball rate, his strikeout rate has dropped while his walk, home run and extra base hit rates have all gone up.

In the past three years, his line drive rate against has gone from 19 percent in ’13 to 23 percent last year to a whopping 32 percent this season, 11 percent higher than MLB average. That’s alarming.

If Fister isn’t injured, he is fast becoming obsolete and the Nats made a wise decision not re-signing him to a lucrative contract as he hits free agency this season.

It’s hard to imagine Fister going to the bullpen and “working things out.” If this was a mechanical issue, they’d have figured that out by now. It seems, more likely, that it’s a deterioration of skill. Time catches up with all ballplayers.

The Nats have to hope that they can milk enough innings down the stretch from Ross to make the playoffs, where they’ll shorten the rotation to four anyway.

But it’s more likely Fister — or another starter — will be needed in September. Hopefully by then, the offense will have come around and the walking wounded recuperated enough to contribute to a division-winning effort and mitigate the performance of the fifth starter.

So finally this season, the Nats have made a decision about playing time based on performance instead of tenure. Could another move come at shortstop? Or is it too late, anyway.

Washington Nationals Game 104 Review: Diamondbacks top Nats 6-4 despite late rally

NATIONALS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE WITH LIMP OFFENSE

The Washington Nationals succumbed to a dearth of offense Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing 6-4, despite a ninth inning rally. Zack Godley threw six innings of shutout baseball, giving up just three hits and walking a pair. The rookie was dominant against the Nats, throwing just 83 pitches, and striking out six. Doug Fister struggled with the long ball against the Diamondbacks, who hit three home runs off the sinkerballer. The Nationals made a valiant effort with the late rally, but were ultimately rebuffed and fell for the eighth time in 11 games. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 99 Review: Nats Squish Fish, Harper Homers Twice

HARPER HOMERS TWICE AS NATIONALS SURGE OVER MARLINS 7-2

Bryce Harper homered twice off Miami pitching, each time reaching the second deck at Marlins Park, as the Nationals experienced their first power surge in weeks. Michael A. Taylor added another long shot in the eighth. Doug Fister went six innings of sinker-ball excellence for the win, and Dylan Koehler was tagged for the loss. The Nationals will look for the series victory tomorrow with Max Scherzer on the mound.

The Marlins struck first on Wednesday night, a double off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki scoring Derek Dietrich, who was hit by a pitch. The Nationals responded in the top of the fourth with a Harper single, a Desmond triple, and a sacrifice fly from Michael A. Taylor. Taylor and Harper combined for six RBI on Wednesday night, going a collective 4-for-7 with three home runs.

Fister gave up a one-out single to Justin Bour ahead of an Ichiro Suzuki single up the middle. In trouble, Adeiny Hechavarria added to Fister’s woes with a single to left, scoring Bour. With a heads up play, Ian Desmond didn’t throw the cutoff home, but rather caught Ichiro in a rundown to end the inning.

With two outs in the fifth, the power explosion hit Miami. Singles from Yunel Escobar and Jayson Werth put Harper at the dish in a high leverage situation. He delivered. Harper hit a massive bomb to the second row of the upper deck in right field, easily a 450-foot shot.

Fister cruised through six innings, his sinker finally working. Fister got five ground ball outs on Wednesday, and four more strikouts, walking just one. Given his last starts where he struggled this was a substantial improvement.

The Nationals added a game to their lead in the NL East, as the Mets lost to the Padres.

HERO: Bryce Harper for his monster bombs at Marlins Park.

GOAT: No goats tonight! Here’s a cute ungulate.

NATS NOTES:

  • Every Nationals position player save Ryan Zimmerman had a hit tonight
  • The second of Harper’s home runs landed practically on the concourse in the upper deck.

NEXT UP: Rubber match is tomorrow, 12:10pm, Max Scherzer (10-8, 2.33) vs former National Dan Haren (7-6, 3.51)

Washington Nationals Game 94 Review: Fister is Shaky While Pittsburgh’s Offense Comes Alive

The Pittsburgh Pirates pounced all over starting pitcher Doug Fister on Thursday night at PNC Park beating the Washington Nationals 7-3.

Fister pitched five innings and gave up nine hits and four runs while walking one batter, striking out six, and giving up one home run. He threw 99 pitches and 65 strikes.

Pittsburgh scored first and early with one out in the bottom of the first inning when outfielder Andrew McCutchen went home on a triple hit by Starling Marte. The Pirates tacked on another run in the second inning with a solo home run hit by first baseman Pedro Alvarez, putting the Pirates up 2-0 over Washington.

The Nats eventually got on the board in the fifth inning when outfielder Clint Robinson reached home on a wild pitch thrown by Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano.

But Pittsburgh answered right back in the bottom half of the fifth inning with two more runs scored when Marte scored on a one-out double hit by third baseman Jung Ho Kang, making it a 4-1 ball game. Then, a pair of home runs — including a two-run shot by McCutchen in the seventh and a solo bomb off rookie reliever Abel De Los Santos in the eighth — widened the score gap to 7-1 before the Nats made a last-ditch effort to score more than one run.

Shortstop Ian Desmond came up big against Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero and hit his hundredth career home run – a two-run shot – bringing a Nats closer to beating the Pirates at 7-3 but that was it for Washington’s offense after the blip sign of offensive production.

THE HERO: Desmond. A career milestone moment in the bottom of the ninth is something worth special note and recognition.

THE GOAT: Fister. The Pirates hit him. And they hit him hard.

UP NEXT: Max Scherzer (10-8, 2.09) and the Washington Nationals face Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01) and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

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