June 30, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 68 Review: Rookie Joe Ross Impresses in Win Over Pittsburgh

Rookie pitcher Joe Ross stepped up to help the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 on Friday night in front of a sold out crowd of 38,935 at Nationals Park while striking out eleven batters in his third Major League start. Ross was consistent through seven and one-third innings pitched. He threw 102 pitched and seventy three strikes while giving up one run on six hits, striking out eleven, and walking one batter. [Read more…]

REPORT: Werth out two-plus months with fractures in wrist

MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported earlier Thursday that a CT scan of Washington Nationals LF Jayson Werth’s injured left wrist revealed two fractures and that his source indicated Werth could miss until August with the recovery.

The team has not commented as of this posting time.

Werth injured the wrist on May 15 when he was hit by San Diego’s Odrisamer Despaigne. The original x-ray and MRI reportedly showed no structural damage, though Werth has experienced soreness and swelling ever since and has not been able to participate in any baseball related activities.

For now, the Nats should turn to Michael Taylor to get the bulk of at bats in left field. Taylor, 24, is hitting .219/.265/.370 in 102 plate appearances in two stints with the Nats this season. He has 3 homers, 13 RBIs and 4 SBs. He should be able to provide solid-to-plus defense in left field.

If Taylor’s bat doesn’t heat up after a month of playing time, the Nats may have to turn to the trade market to explore other options, depending on Werth’s prognosis. Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson have played left field this season, but both are inadequate fielders and contact-challenged at the plate. Both are better suited for pinch-hit duty rather than playing in the field every day.

One immediate outside option: the Orioles DFA’d Alajandro De Aza on Wednesday. The 31-year-old is a career .265/.328/.401 hitter, is a good defender and could come on the cheap.

Washington Nationals recall Wilmer Difo, place Werth on DL

The Washington Nationals placed OF Jayson Werth on the 15-day DL with a left wrist “contusion” and recalled 2B/SS Wilmer Difo from Double-A Harrisburg for his Major League debut, thus starting the clock on Difo’s MLB service time.

Difo is clearly one of the Nats best hitting prospects. He was a fairly unheard of minor league player until last season when he exploded for Low-A Hagerstown, hitting .315/.360/.470 with 14 home runs, tripling his three-year minor league career total in one season, and 49 stolen bases.

So far this year, the 23-year-old hit .320/.386/.533 in 83 plate appearances for High-A Potomac, earning him a promotion to Harrisburg, where he slashed .308./339/.500 in 56 plate appearances over 14 games.

Difo’s bona fides are solid. He more than held his own in spring training with the big league club and has passed every test the Nats have thrown at him thus far. Plus, he’s a switch-hitter, which helps in late-innings matchups.

It’s just curious that with Werth going down, he’s the choice for the promotion. Werth is exclusively and outfielder — the team’s starting left fielder. That job will go to Michael Taylor for the time being. Difo is exclusively an infielder — 282 games at short, 94 at second and 13 at third in his six minor league seasons.

The Nats passed on OF Matt den Dekker, who is on the 40-man roster, to recall Difo, who along with Dan Uggla are backup infielders for the Nats now. This means, the team’s current backup outfielders become Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson, neither of whom should keep a glove in their lockers.

I suppose the theory is that between Taylor, Denard Span and Bryce Harper, there’s no need to keep a defensive outfielder on the bench, as all three are more than capable and would never be replaced defensively. Moore or Robinson could complete a game in the case of an injury and a move could be made to recall den Dekker or someone else should another outfielder go on the DL.

Still, at 23 you’d think the Nats would want Difo playing everyday somewhere, not sitting on the bench at the Major League level, available for pinch-running and pinch-hitting.

As for Werth, x-rays and MRIs didn’t reveal any fractures in his surgically repaired left wrist, so he must be experiencing a lot of soreness in the wrist after getting hit the other day. Hopefully that’s the case and a couple of weeks off for Werth allows the soreness and swelling to dissipate and he can get back into the lineup.

 

Washington Nationals Game 35 Review: Taylor slam in ninth caps comeback win

GRAND SLAM BY MICHAEL TAYLOR IN NINTH INNING DELIVERS COME-FROM-BEHIND WIN

Trailing by one run entering the ninth inning, the Washington Nationals put together a four-run rally, capped by rookie Michael Taylor’s first career grand slam, and the Nats came back to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-6, taking two out of three in the desert to start the seven-game west coast road trip.

The Nats move to 19-16 on the season and are two games behind the New York Mets in the N.L. East.

The rally started with one out against Arizona closer Addison Reed. Denard Span singled to center and went to second on Yunel Escobar’s single. Jayson Werth then worked a walk, to bring up Taylor, who was inserted into the game in the seventh with Bryce Harper was ejected for arguing a dicey check-swing strikeout call.

Taylor took the first pitch in the dirt. Facing getting behind the hitter, Reed served up a center-cut fastball, and the rookie clobbered it to straight-away center field, while the fielders could do nothing but turn and watch it leave the park.

Entering their 10-game road trip, the Washington Nationals had won 10 of their previous 12 games to push their season record three games over .500. After a promising start Monday night in an 11-1 win, the Nats were pounded 14-4 Tuesday and the rubber match set up ominously until the final inning.

Gio Gonzalez pitched in and out of trouble seemingly in every inning, and his final numbers were nothing to write home about. He allowed five earned runs on nine hits and two walks, striking out just three.

The D-backs broke out first in the second inning. Nick Ahmed singled with Chris Owings on second base. Owings scored when Jose Lobaton couldn’t handle Werth’s throw from left.

Werth more than made up for his late throw in the next inning, clubbing a three-run homer to left center, scoring Span, who’d walked, and Escobar, who was hit by a pitch.

That 3-1 lead didn’t last long.

In the bottom of the frame, Ender Inciarte singled to lead off and took second when Mark Trumbo walked on four pitches. Paul Goldschmidt doubled to the deepest part of left center, plating Inciarte. A.J. Pollock grounded out, bringing home Trumbo, and Goldschmidt scored on Ian Desmond’s fielding error of Aaron Hill’s routine grounder.

Arizona picked up its fifth run in the fifth. Goldschmidt tripled, then scored on Pollock’s single.

Trailing 5-3 in the sixth, with two outs Danny Espinosa drew a walk. Manager Matt Williams called Gonzalez back from the on-deck circle and sent Tyler Moore up to pinch-hit. The slugger connected on an 0-1 fastball and it clanged off the left field foul pole, tying the game.

The fielding bug bit again in the eight. Desmond botched another ground ball, but Inciarte was thrown out stealing. Aaron Barrett came on and walked Trumbo, his first batter. After Goldschmidt struck out, Pollock singled and pinch-hitter Yasmany Tomas delivered a single up the middle, scoring Trumbo to give Arizona a one-run lead.

All of which set up the ninth-inning heroics.

After the grand slam, Drew Storen had a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down the save.

HERO: Michael Taylor. Closed Addison Reed was struggling, and he squared up the fastball for the game-winning grand slam.

GOAT: Reed. I mean, come on.

NATS NOTES:

  • Given the boot: In the seventh, Bryce Harper was called out on a very close check swing call by home plate umpire Rob Drake. Harper protested and was ejected. Williams came out to defend his star and was ejected along with Harper.
  • Tanner Roark gave up three hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, but managed to keep Arizona off the scoreboard.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 10:10 pm EST. Doug Fister (2-1, 2.87) faces Tyson Ross (1-3, 3.98).

Washington Nationals Game 32 Review: Nationals Sweep Braves on 5-4 victory

NATIONALS SCORE TWICE IN EIGHTH TO RALLY, SWEEP BRAVES

Jordan Zimmermann had a semi-rough outing, but the Washington Nationals offense bailed him out. A two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth lifted the Nats to a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, completing the three-game sweep of a division opponent.

The Nats have won four in a row and 8 of 10. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 27 Review: Late Offense Lifts Nats Over Fish, 6-4

BATS WAKE LATE, POWER NATS OVER FISH

The Miami Marlins went blow-for-blow with the Washington Nationals on Monday night for eight innings. It wouldn’t be enough. Despite a strong seven inning outing from Jordan Zimmermann, in which he surrendered just two runs, the Nats’ bats fell silent until late on the game. The Nationals staged a comeback on the bats of Ian Desmond, who crushed a ball into the center field batter’s eye to tie the game in the eighth, and Yunel Escobar, who went 5 for 5 and drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth.

All told, the Nats won 6-4, but it wasn’t decided until Tanner Roark — filling in for Drew Storen — punched out Giancarlo Stanton a runner on in the ninth.

What happens when two hot teams collide? After a 3-11 start, the Miami Marlins have gone 9-2, and their defensive lock on the infield was in full display Monday night against the surging Washington Nationals. The home team, on a 5-1 tear themselves, was just as ready to put on a defensive show themselves.

Adeiny Hechevarria for the Marlins and Denard Span for the Nationals each made highlight reel plays to rob their opponents of runs and perpetuate the pitchers’ duel.

Jordan Zimmermann was impressive on Monday night, working through six innings on just 65 pitches. The one run he did give up in the first was unearned, as Jayson Werth misread a bullet off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, which allowed Martin Prado to advance on his way around the basepaths.

Zimmermann’s only mistake of the night came in the seventh inning against Justin Bour, who took a 3-2 four-seamer just out of the park to left field, landing just past the flower beds atop the wall. His 7IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 4K, 0BB performance went just 81 pitches before he gave way to Clint Robinson as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Nationals staged an unlikely comeback. Robinson, batting for Zimmermann, drew a four-pitch walk with one out. Michael A. Taylor came on to pinch run for Robinson as Matt Williams opted for speed on the basepaths. It almost came back to bite him. Yunel Escobar singled to right, notching his fourth hit for the night, and on the hit-and-run, Taylor didn’t pick up third base coach Bob Hendley and missed an opportunity to score, and had to settle for third as Stanton booted the ball ten feet. It would’ve been a tight play had Taylor gone full bore from the get-go.

Jayson Werth, at the time 0-for-3 on the night, and with many wondering exactly what he was doing in the three hole for the Nationals, poked a timely single to right to score Taylor from third. Bryce Harper wasted an opportunity with runners at the corner on a pop-up to end the inning with the game just tied at two.

With Zimmermann gone, the Nationals turned to Blake Treinen in relief. Rolaids were in evidence all over Nationals Park as he came in. Almost immediately, he was in over his head.

A five-pitch walk to Dee Gordon, followed by a stolen base, put Treinen in a nearly untenable position. The Nats opted to give Stanton a free pass to setup the best force play, and that was it for Treinen. Matt Grace came in to face Jeff Baker, who promptly put the Marlins ahead 4-2 on a single down the right field line. The bullpen had collapsed a touch and all looked lost.

Neither Ian Desmond nor Yunel Escobar were ready to let things go quietly into the May evening. Ryan Zimmerman lead off the eighth with a full-count walk, Ian Desmond just crushed the ball into the batter’s eye in dead center, about 420 feet from home to tie the game at four.

The Nats weren’t done yet.

Tyler Moore, pinch-hitting for Grace, singled to right, and went first-to-third on a double from Denard Span, which set up the critical at-bat. Escobar was the only National who hit all night long, with five singles off Marlins pitching, and he took 1-1 slider to right field, which plated both Moore and Span.

That meant the Nats took a 6-4 lead into the ninth against the Marlins who’d nickeled and dimed them all night long. With Drew Storen unavailable, having pitched three games of the last four, Matt Williams turned to Tanner Roark, in his first ever save situation. He did not disappoint.

Roark quickly retired Reid Brignac on a brutal curve, a strikeout victim. Dee Gordon racked his first hit of the night on a single up the middle, and that setup the evening’s most dramatic moment. You can’t ignore Giancarlo Stanton when he’s anywhere but ninth in rolling order. You especially can’t ignore him when he’s in the on-deck circle.

A double play would avoid Stanton coming to the plate as the tying run — perhaps one of my own worst nightmares — but that did not come to pass. Martin Prado popped out, bringing Stanton to the dish to face Roark as the tying run. At first, it appeared that Roark would issue an unintentional intentional pass to Stanton, falling behind 3-0. But Roark dialed in a two-seamer for strike one, before fooling Stanton consecutive 87 mph sliders for his first ever save.

HERO: Yunel Escobar was on fire tonight, going 5-for-5, and his eighth inning single drove in two to put the Nats ahead for good. Ian Desmond, honorable mention for his two-run bomb in the eighth.

GOAT: Blake Treinen, for the walk to Dee Gordon, where they needed an out. Treinen has struggled in his eighth inning role, and the Nationals are going to need to streamline the roles in the bullpen.

NATS NOTES:

  • Anthony Rendon was in DC today to see the team doctor. He has been sidelined with left oblique tightness for the last few rehab starts, and it was announced after the game he would be shut down with a strain.
  • Casey Janssen will begin a rehab assignment later this week and could join the Nationals late next week.
  • Reed Johnson is possibly done with the season after undergoing foot surgery to repair a ruptured tendon.

NEXT UP: Nationals/Marlins continues Tuesday night at 7:05pm, Latos (0-3, 6.86) vs. Strasburg (2-2, 4.60)

Washington Nationals Game 13 Review: Strasburg crushes Phillies, Span returns.

In a baker’s dozen of games so far, the Washington Nationals have given their fans plenty of reasons to be concerned about their viability as a team able to go the distance this season. Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, showed no signs of concern whatsoever. Stephen Strasburg was as dominant as ever, and the top half of the lineup went 6 for 18 with four walks.

The Nationals looked closer to their ideal lineup on Sunday, starting Denard Span, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman, in that order, for the first time this season. In the fifth inning, the five of them created a two-out three-run rally that put the home squad on top for good on Sunday.

Denard Span, fresh off the disabled list after abdominal surgery in March, started things off with a two-out single, followed by and Ian Desmond double, scoring Span from first. Jayson Werth sent one back up the middle for a second single, scoring Desmond, followed by an intentional walk to Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman laced a double down the right field line to score Werth, and nearly score Harper. Bob Henley held back Harper to avoid a tight play at the plate, and that’s as far as he’d go, as Wilson Ramos would ground out to Freddy Galvis.

Stephen Strasburg went 7.1 IP, giving up a run on five hits, just two walks and seven strikeouts for his first win of the year. Through 4 2/3 innings, the Phillies were hitless against Strasburg, and his changeup and curve were being used to devastating effect. Matt Thornton got let Strasburg off the hook in the eighth, and Drew Storen assembled a five-batter ninth to finish it out.

The Nats face a tough foe in the Cardinals starting on Tuesday, but could return to .500 with a win on Tuesday.

HERO: No one is happier to have Denard Span back than Ryan Zimmerman. Zim got the two-run double in the fifth to put the game out of reach for the Phillies.

GOAT: Today’s game had no goat. Here’s a goat gif.

NATS NOTES:

Ian Desmond continues his offensive reign of terror. Since Friday night, he is 8 for 13 (3 for 4, 3 for 5, 2 for 4) with four runs scored.

Drew Storen notched his fourth save on Sunday, but gave up two hits and made things a little more exciting than Nats fans might have liked. Thankfully, longstanding Nats fans were brought up on Chad Cordero cardiac saves.

UP NEXT: The Nationals are off on Monday. Tuesday, the Cardinals come to town for a three-game set. Lance Lynn (1-1 1.64) vs Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.11) at 7:05pm.

Washington Nationals Game 7 Review: Nats Drop 9-4 Laugher to Boston

While most Washington Nationals fans were probably saying “Mookie who?” before today’s game began, they definitely know who Mookie Betts is now. The young Boston Red Sox outfielder single-handedly outplayed the entire Nationals lineup in Monday afternoon’s 9-4 laugher, stealing a home run from Bryce Harper with an athletic leap, taking advantage of yet another defensive miscue and stealing a pair of bases on a single pitch, and then putting the nail in the coffin for the Nats with a three-run homer over the Green Monster.

With all the trappings of Opening Day in one of baseball’s most hallowed cathedrals, the Nationals struggled to acquit themselves as one of baseball’s most favored teams. Despite being the odds-on favorite for the World Series, the Nationals appeared to be lost in the field and at the plate Monday, and no one showed it worse than Jordan Zimmermann. The hurler struggled mightily with control, racking up 2-0 and 3-0 counts like so many broken peanut shells in the aisles, at one point in the third hitting back to back batters with away pitches.

By the end of the third inning, the Nationals found themselves in an 8-0 hole. For a Nationals team that could only manage seven runs against the Phillies for their entire three-game series, an eight-run lead might as well have been a hundred runs. Still, the news wasn’t all bad in Boston: the offense did equal their season-high four runs, nearly getting six, had Mookie Betts not robbed Harper in the first.

At times, the Nats’ defense looked lost in the field. Outfield communication was not a strength today, as Jayson Werth in his return from shoulder surgery misplayed a ball in the first, and Michael A. Taylor watched two very catchable balls drop in the afternoon sun. These are the sort of plays that one might have seen in AA or A ballgames, but not at the major league level.

Things settled down after the disastrous first trimester of the ballgame, and the Nats offense found its stride: Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa each pounded a home-run, and Clint Robinson narrowly missed one for his first career triple. It wasn’t nearly enough though, as Boston starter Rick Porcello skated to a win with eight innings of solid work, striking out six and walking one for his first win of the year.

The Nationals have much to fix after just a week of the season in the books. Defensive miscues have ruled the day, the bats have yet to put up dominant numbers, and while starting pitching has been largely quite good, the bullpen has been a danger zone for the club. Today’s game was, in many senses, a microcosm of the frustrating 2-5 start.

HERO: Let’s give this one to Tanner Roark, who relieved Zimmermann in the third and shut down the Boston offense for 3 2/3 innings, surrendering just a solo home run to David Ortiz.

GOAT: Michael A. Taylor, Jordan Zimmermann. The young center fielder needs to adapt to big league communication, as he was behind a pair of terrible plays in the outfield that left that lead to several runs coming in. And Zimmermann, quite simply, had one of his worst days command-wise as a big leaguer.

NATS NOTES:

  • Back in time: Jayson Werth returned to the Nats lineup today, returning from shoulder surgery in the off-season. He finished his day 0 for 3, with one miscue in the outfield on a line-drive, but no one suggested that left field at Fenway is a great place to play.
  • The old lefthander: Danny Espinosa’s yard shot in the eighth came from the left side of the plate, his second extra base hit of the year from that side.
  • Sign of the times: The four runs the Nationals scored against Rick Porcello are the most they’ve picked up off any one pitcher.
  • Tough all around: Xavier Cedeño  had another rough inning, giving up a pair of walks and throwing a pair of wild pitches in the eighth.

NEXT GAME: At Boston at 6:10pm. Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 5.06 in ’15) vs. Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.00 in ’15)

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 Preview: The Outfielders

This week, District Sports Page will review the players currently on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster and their potential contributions to the Major League roster this season.

Monday: Catchers
Tuesday: Infielders
Wednesday: Outfielders
Thursday: Starters
Friday: Bullpen [Read more…]

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