November 28, 2014

Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants Series Preview

The Washington Nationals have now won seven of their last nine games and it has some wondering if this once-struggling team has turned things around. Over the next seven games, we’ll find out. First up in this gauntlet stretch is a four-game series with the San Francisco Giants.

Teams 

Washington Nationals (32-29, 1st in NL East) vs San Francisco Giants (42-21, 1st in NL West)

Schedule

Game 1: Monday, June 9 @ 10:15 PM EST

Game 2: Tuesday, June 10 @ 10:15 PM EST

Game 3: Wednesday, June 11 @ 10:15 PM EST

Game 4: Thursday, June 12 @ 3:45 PM EST

Probable Pitchers (Season Stats; Career vs Opponent)

Game 1: Stephen Strasburg (5-4, 3.10; 2-0, 1.89) vs Ryan Vogelsong (4-2, 3.39; 1-1, 5.59)

Game 2: Doug Fister (4-1, 3.19; N/A) vs Madison Bumgarner (8-3, 2.68; 2-2, 2.61)

Game 3: Tanner Roark (4-4, 2.91; 1-0, 0.00) vs Matt Cain (1-3, 3.52; 5-4, 3.12)

Game 4: Blake Treinen (0-2, 1.78; N/A) vs Tim Hudson (6-2, 1.97; 16-5, 2.45)

Players to Watch

San Francisco:

  • Angel Pagan (CF): .323 BA, .373 OBP, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB
  • Michael Morse (LF): 13 HR, 42 RBI, .550 SLG
  • Hunter Pence (RF): .290 BA, .831 OPS, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB
  • Sergio Romo (Closer): 3.12 ERA, 20 SV, 21 K

Washington:

  • Jayson Werth (RF): .290 BA, .367 OBP, 67 H, 5 HR, 25 RBI
  • Ian Desmond (SS): 13 HR, 37 RBI, .439 SLG
  • Ryan Zimmerman (LF): .321 BA, .536 SLG, 2 HR, 9 RBI
  • Drew Storen (Relief Pitcher): 1.35 ERA, 21 K, 20 IP, 8 HLD

Notables on the Injury Report

Washington:

Gio Gonzalez is the most notable player on the injury report for the Nationals not named Bryce Harper. Gonzalez was, at one point, expected to return to Washington in time for their game on June 11. However, after a rough outing in his first rehab appearance and Blake Treinen scheduled to start, that’s not likely. Anthony Rendon (thumb) is currently listed as day-to-day and missed their last two games.

San Francisco:

Second baseman Marco Scutaro (back) and relief pitcher Santiago Casilla (hamstring) are the notable players on the injury report for the Giants. Neither player is expected to make an appearance in this series and Scutaro hasn’t played in a game all season long.

Series Notes

Expect pitching to rule this series as two of the best pitching staffs in baseball go head-to-head. The Nationals and Giants are in the top ten in MLB in ERA, quality starts, WHIP and batting average against. Two match ups to watch will be Doug Fister vs Madison Bumgarner and Blake Treinen vs Tim Hudson.

Speaking of Tim Hudson, he’s one of two familiar faces that Washington will come across in the next four games. Former fan favorite and current Giants’ slugger Michael Morse will be manning the outfield. Hudson has defeated the Nationals 16 times in his career with the Braves and Morse can hit baseballs really far.

The Nationals are on a hot streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents 53-16 in their last nine games. Against the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in the series following this one, they’ll get a tough test in where they actually are. Can keep the ball rolling?

Since moving to D.C. in 2005, the Nationals 28-29 against the Giants, including 12-16 on the road. In the last two years, the Nationals are 3-3 on the road and 8-4 overall against San Francisco.

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Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

FORMER NATS: Michael Morse in Mariners Commercial

The Seattle Mariners released their commercials today. Fans look forward to the entertaining videos each spring and always find new ways to make us laugh.

Former Washington Nationals Outfielder Michael Morse appears in the “Focused and Relaxed” commercial with Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager. Check out Beastmode.

Morse also appears in a few of the bloopers.

FORMER NATS: Michael Morse Returns to Seattle

Former Washington National and fan favorite, Michael Morse returned to Seattle for Mariners Fan Fest this weekend. We are only a few hours away from Seattle so made a last minute decision to drive over for fan fest when Morse was added to the schedule.

Morse signed autographs for 500 lucky fans on Saturday along with third baseman Kyle Seager and outfielder Michael Saunders. It was great to see the Beast settle back into his old stomping ground. Fans embraced him and welcomed him back with open arms.

One fan gave Morse a hard ticket from the 2005 game when Morse got his first MLB hit. A very nice gesture and Michael and his wife were very appreciative. We also saw a fan in line wearing a Nationals Morse jersey.

The trio were in a Q&A with fans later in the day and Morse was introduced to his signature tune, “Take On Me” by A-ha. It brought a smile to my face.

Seeing Morse’s smile (see photos below) was well worth the trip. We wish Morse the best of luck in Seattle!

Michael Morse, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders sign autographs for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 - Former National Michael Morse returns to the Seattle Mariners and welcomed back by fans (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders sign autographs for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 – Former National Michael Morse returns to the Seattle Mariners and welcomed back by fans (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former National Michael Morse signed his 2005 Mariners photo for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former National Michael Morse signed his 2005 Mariners photo for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders sign autographs for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 - Former National Michael Morse returns to the Seattle Mariners and welcomed back by fans (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders sign autographs for fans at Mariners FanFest at Safeco, 1/26/2013 – Former National Michael Morse returns to the Seattle Mariners and welcomed back by fans (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOS: Michael Morse, Thanks for the Memories

Washington Nationals fans are going to miss this smile. It is always hard to say goodbye to favorite players.

Thank you Michael Morse for your dedication, enthusiasm, hard work, position flexibility, your samurai cobra snake pose and matching bobblehead, swag, getting on Twitter, Beast Mode and a re-newed love of A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” We wish you the best of luck with your new (old) team in Seattle.

Here are a few of our favorite photos of Mr. Beast Mode. Thanks for the memories…..

Michael Morse's Curtain Call During Last Nats Home Game 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse’s Curtain Call During Last Nats Home Game 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse doing his samurai cobra snake pose - Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/21/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse doing his samurai cobra snake pose – Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/21/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse in Beast Mode (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse in Beast Mode (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run - Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run – Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse always tapped the top of helmet after a hit, 8/17/2011. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse always tapped the top of helmet after a hit, 8/17/2011. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Morse singled and started rally. He's communicating with the dugout here to keep rally going. Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/23/2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Morse singled and started rally. He’s communicating with the dugout here to keep rally going. Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/23/2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Fans love Beast Mode, 9/19/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Fans love Beast Mode, 9/19/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

1B Michael Morse gets the throw to SS Ian Desmond to get Justin Smoak out at 2B - Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/21/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

1B Michael Morse gets the throw to SS Ian Desmond to get Justin Smoak out at 2B – Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/21/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse had eye black everywhere - Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, Game One of Doubleheader on September 19, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse had eye black everywhere – Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, Game One of Doubleheader on September 19, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

"Batting Stance Guy" imitating Nats Michael Morse's "new" batting stance at ziMS 3rd Annual "A Night at the Park" at Nationals Park, June 14, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

“Batting Stance Guy” imitating Nats Michael Morse’s “new” batting stance at ziMS 3rd Annual “A Night at the Park” at Nationals Park, June 14, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse douses Bryce Harper after his first MLB walkoff! 6/5/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse douses Bryce Harper after his first MLB walkoff! 6/5/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

It was great to see Michael Morse in the dugout while he was on the DL, 4/17/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

It was great to see Michael Morse in the dugout while he was on the DL, 4/17/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nats fans showing their love for Michael Morse, 10/12/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nats fans showing their love for Michael Morse, 10/12/2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman congratulating Laynce Nix on walk-off win  - Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/23/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman congratulating Laynce Nix on walk-off win – Seattle Mariners v. Washington Nationals, 6/23/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, 6/19/2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse, 6/19/2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse - Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 1, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse – Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 1, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse at NatsFest, March 2011  (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse at NatsFest, March 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse and fiance Jessica at ziMS 3rd Annual "A Night at the Park" at Nationals Park, June 14, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse and wife Jessica at ziMS 3rd Annual “A Night at the Park” at Nationals Park, June 14, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse smiling on his Bobblehead Day - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, August 5, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse smiling on his Bobblehead Day – Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, August 5, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals fans learning the price of getting good

In the last two days, the Washington Nationals have relegated two fan favorites to lesser roles on the team and discarded two others. It’s part of the unfortunate part of the business. Fans get attached to certain players for their personality or willingness to engage fans, then see those heroes leave the organization unceremoniously when a better or different or cheaper option comes along.

This winter, it’s all about maximizing the roster for a legitimate World Series run, as it should be. That doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt when a fan favorite is pushed out of a job or off the team altogether.

The acquisition of closer Rafael Soriano Tuesday pushes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each up one inning in the pecking order, if not placing one or the other squarely on the trading block. On Wednesday, the other shoe from re-signing Adam LaRoche fell: the Nats traded Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team deal with the Oakland A’s in a trade that had most of the fan bases for each team complaining they didn’t get enough in the deal. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals trade Michael Morse in three-team deal

TEAM RECEIVES RHP A.J. COLE, RHP BLAKE TREINEN AND PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER FROM OAKLAND

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run - Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run – Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

It should come as no surprise that the Washington Nationals today traded OF/1B Michael Morse. The manner in which they did so — and return the received — is what makes the story that much more interesting.

Morse was send back to his original club, the Seattle Mariners, where he’ll be part of a logjam for playing time between left field, first base and designated hitter along with about 14 other players. The Mariners in turn sent catcher John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics and the A’s sent former Nats draft pick — and Baseball America’s No. 3 rated prospect for the A’s system — A.J. Cole, rigth-handed pitcher Blake Treinen and a player to be named later (most likely from this past season’s draft class) to the Nationals.

Morse, always a fan favorite, hit .291/.321/.470 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 430 plate appearances last season, as injuries limited him to 102 games. Now 31, he’s only had one season in the big leagues were he’s played more than 102 games. Morse’s power has never been in question, but his injury history and lack of defensive proficiency led the Nats to pursue a true center fielder this off-season. Once the Nats landed Denard Span — moving Bryce Harper to left field — the writing was on the wall for Morse to be moved.

Cole, 21, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 Amateur Draft by the Nats and quickly became one of their top prospects. He was ranked very high coming into the draft but was seen as next-to-impossible to sign as he had a strong commitment to the University of Miami. The Nats signed him right before the deadline for a reported record signing bonus for a fourth round player.

The 6’4″, 180 hard-throwing righty dominated batters in the South Atlantic League for Hagerstown in 2011, with 108 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 89 innings pitched. The Nats traded Cole, along with Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock to the A’s last off-season for All-Star starter Gio Gonzalez.

Cole started 2012 in High-A Stockton for the A’s and was pushed around. In his eight starts, he pitched to an 0-7 record and a 7.82 ERA, giving up a whopping 14.2 hits per nine innings. His strikeout rate was down just s tad, but his impeccable control never deserted him. He was demoted in mid-May to Low-A Burlington, where he dominated, going 6-3 with a 2.07 ERA with 102 Ks against a mere 19 walks.

The scouting report still stands on Cole. He has a big, heavy fastball at 94-95 MPH, a plus breaking pitch and a good feel for his changeup. He was considered to be one of the top five high school arms in his draft class and nothing he’s done as a pro, even his struggles in High-A last season, has changed scouts minds on him.

Treinen, 24, is another big bodied righty at 6’4″, 215. He spent last season at Stockton, where he went 7-7 in 24 appearances (15 starts) with 92 strikeouts and 23 walks in 103 innings. Treinen has been more hittable at each level of the minors as his career has progressed, as evidenced by the 10.1 hits per nine innings he gave up in 2012. Still, a player with a 4.00 K/BB ratio that throws 97 MPH is one that deserves more than just one look.

The player to be named later probably will come from Oakland’s 2012 draft class.

In trading Morse, GM Mike Rizzo took the opportunity to help restock the Nats farm system that has been depleted by the Gonzalez and Span trades. Getting a top-notch prospect like Cole in the deal, with another big arm to watch and a potential third player, seems like a coup. Morse is a defensive liability at this stage in his career, and combined with the fact that he has trouble avoiding injury, this return seems like the maximum that could have been expected for him. Sure, an MLB left-handed reliever would have been nice in the package, but Rizzo did a good job maximizing his assets in this deal, despite the nature of Morse’s relationship with the fans of D.C.

Rizzo gets his man at his terms: LaRoche re-signs for two years

REPORTED $24 MILLION GUARANTEE, MUTUAL OPTION FOR 2015

Adam LaRoche taking curtain call after hitting 100th RBI - Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Adam LaRoche taking curtain call after hitting 100th RBI – Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The biggest question this off-season for the Washington Nationals was: Who will play first base for the club in 2013 and perhaps beyond. Tuesday morning, we found out, as news spread quickly that the team re-signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract with $24 million guaranteed, according to at least one report, citing a sources with knowledge of the agreement. That source also described a mutual option for 2015 with a $2 million buyout that would pay the slugger and slick fielder another $15 million.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo, speaking with reporters via conference call said, “Adam was a huge part of our success last year…who is very well respected in our clubhouse.”

“We were in a pretty enviable position negoitiation-wise, which allowed us to be patient with Adam. I wanted to do what was right by him and were willing to wait as we really wanted him to be with the ballclub.”

“We were patient with Adam. In the end, both agreed this was the best place for Adam to be.”

LaRoche,  33, hit with .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs  with 100 RBI for in 2012. After missing most of 2011 with a torn labrum in his left  shoulder, LaRoche was essential in the middle of the Nats batting order, which at some points during the season missed Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Michael Morse . LaRoche produced his best season to date, winning both the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove at first base.

LaRoche and his representatives tried hard over the winter to secure a guaranteed three-year deal for a player that in all likelihood is signing his last big contract. But the new draft pick compensation rules limited the market for LaRoche, as a signing team would have surrendered their first round pick, while lesser free agents no longer required compensation. Other big-name free agents, such as Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse are finding the same problem this winter, that teams aren’t as willing to give up that first round pick as they might have been in years past.

Bringing LaRoche back creates quite the roster logjam, leading most to speculate about how Rizzo will shake up the roster. LaRoche at first base forces Michael Morse and Tyler Moore back into a crowded outfield, already staffed with Werth, Bryce Harper and recent addition Denard Span. Many pundits already assume Rizzo has a deal in the works to move Morse, and his reasonable $7 million salary (which expires at the end of 2013), most likely to an American League team that can utilize the slugger in his most natural position: Designated Hitter.

The Nats have a couple of areas they could use some depth when looking for a trade partner for Morse. Currently, they have one left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, Zach Duke, a player that spent much of 2012 in the minor leagues — though Duke does have plenty on MLB service and was very strong for the team in limited duty at the end of last season. They are also thin at the upper levels in the minors at starting pitching, with the system being depleted in the deals for Gio Gonzalez and Span.

This move solidifies the Nats roster heading into spring training, leaving very few position open for the taking barring injury. The everyday lineup is rock solid and the bench looks to be as well, with Moore joining Roger Bernadina as backup outfielders and Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy in the infield.

Washington Nationals Game 162 Review: Nats clinch MLB’s best record with 5-1 win over Phillies

Our long Nationals nightmare is over.

No, not the Washington Nationals clinching MLB’s best record, which they did with a 5-1 win over their bitter rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. No, not the idea that with the best record, and the N.L. winning the All-Star game, the Nationals would have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs regardless how far they advance.

No, it was none of those things actually baseball related: Teddy Roosevelt finally won the President’s Race.

In all seriousness, the Nats benefitted from 6 2/3 solid innings from Edwin Jackson and three home runs — one each from Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Michael Morse — to defeat the Phillies Wednesday afternoon, finishing the 2012 regular season with an MLB-best 98-64 record. The Nats will open post-season play in the League Division Series against the winner of the wild-card play-in game between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, to be played Friday evening.

Edwin Jackson earns his 10th win of the season on Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The biggest development might have been that manager Davey Johnson revealed after the game that he spent the last couple of innings in the clubhouse, receiving x-rays and treatment from team doctors after he experienced numbness in his left leg, due to nerve irritation in his back. Johnson said he was okay after the game and more concerned that he would take a misstep than anything else, and team doctors prescribed him anti-inflammatories and pain-killers.

Bench coach Randy Knorr handled managing duties for Johnson in the late innings.

As for the game action, the Phillies actually scored first, scratching a run in the top of the fourth against Jackson (W, 10-11, 4.03). Carlos Ruiz doubled to lead off the inning, took third on a ground out, and came home on rookie Darin Ruf’s sacrifice fly to center field. It’s all the Phillies would get off Jackson, as he was as effective today as he’s been all season. For the day, the soon-to-be free agent right-hander gave up just the one run on six hits and a walk, striking out six.

The Nationals got that run back — and more — in the bottom half of the inning against Phillies starter Cliff Lee (L, 6-9, 3.16). Zimmerman lead off the frame with his 25th home run of the season. Morse followed with a double into the left field corner and scored on Moore’s double right after him to take a 2-1 lead.

Washington bolstered that lead in the sixth, when Moore launched his 10th homer of the year 10 rows deep into the bleachers in straight-away left field. The Nats capped the scoring in the eighth inning, as Morse clubbed his 18th of the year to the stands in right center field. After the game, manager Davey Johnson said Morse actually tweaked his left hamstring jogging out the homer and required treatment, but that Morse should be fine for play Sunday.

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run – Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Christian Garcia, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez went 2 1/3 scoreless inning to finish up for Jackson.

THE TAKEAWAY: All week long, Davey has said he wasn’t concerned about securing the top spot in the division, but finishing ahead of the Reds means the Nats don’t have to fly all the way across country and face Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner on the road. Instead, they’ll get either the Cardinals or Braves No. 2 starter, as the two teams face each other Friday evening to decide who moves on to face the Nats.

THE GOOD: Edwin Jackson. Even though the Phillies were playing for nothing and fielding a lineup that didn’t include Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins, it was important for him to go out and give a good effort after being hit around his last start against the Cardinals.

THE BAD: Jesus Flores. He’s seen his playing time significantly diminish since the arrival of Kurt Suzuki, and in his first game in two weeks, the backup catcher went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to finish the season hitting .213.

THE UGLY: Seriously, there were about 10,000 ways the marketing folks could have come up to allow Teddy to finally win the President’s Race. They could have played it straight. They could have imported other real mascots to impede the other big-head presidents. Shoot, they could have just had him come out and run it all by himself. [Photo Gallery]

But instead, they had an imitation — and rather shabbily designed, at that — Philly Fanatic hop over the rail and tackle George, Abe and Tom was perhaps the ridiculously appropriate way to end the thing. Teddy crossed the line ahead of his competition before only to be disqualified, so it’s kinda lame that he got assistance in his first qualified win, but whatever. It’s over, a blogger needs a new gig, and we can all go on with the President’s just being mascots and not some call to arms.

THE STATS: 11 hits, 1 BB, 10 Ks. 1-for-10 with RISP, 7 LOB, no GIDP. No errors, no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Sunday, Game 1 of the N.L.D.S., location and time to be determined.

Ryan Zimmerman saluting fans after Bryce Harper replaced him as a pinch runner – Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP.

Washington Nationals Game 158 Review: Suzuki rescues Nats with 10th inning double for 6-4 win over Cardinals

Danny Espinosa leads the National League in strikeouts this season, and not by a particularly close margin. But with a runner on second and two outs in the top of the 10th inning, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny trusted a different, smaller set of statistics. Espinosa was 2-for-3 lifetime off Cards reliever Fernando Salas, with a home run and triple. So Matheny ordered Salas to intentionally walk the N.L. strikeout leader needing one out to keep it a tie game in extra innings.

Matheny chose wrong.

After a passed ball by Yadier Molina moved the runners up, Kurt Suzuki drilled a Salas fastball off the wall in left center, plating both runners, to give the Washington Nationals a 6-4 10-inning win to clinch at least a tie for the division title, reducing their “Magic Number” to win the division outright to one.

Espinosa entered that pivotal plate appearance with one hit and eight strikeouts in his last 16 trips to the plate and is 5-for-31 (.161) with 10 Ks in his last 10 games. But with the success Espinosa had against Salas in such a small sample size, Matheny decided going after Suzuki with forces at each infield base was a better option than Salas, who owns a 9.3 K/9 ratio, to try to strikeout the most-prone-to-strikeout batter in the league with a runner on second.

Instead, Suzuki is now 1-for-1 lifetime with a two-RBI double against the reliever.

Suzuki’s heroics were necessary in the first place as the Cards rallied for a run in the bottom of the ninth against Drew Storen. The Nats reliever allowed a couple of ground ball singles and a sacrifice fly to Jon Jay to tie the game up and force extras. That completed a four-run rally that was eight innings in the making.

The Nats got their first four runs in the top of the first on a grand slam by Michael Morse, his third home run in as many games. The clout to right center hit the top of the wall, bounded off a back wall, and came back into play, creating all sorts of confusion. After a video review, the umpires declared that it was a home run, and made all of the Nats return to the bases they occupied to recreate the play. Morse pantomimed his swing and the Nats trotted around the bases the second time for the four runs.

Jordan Zimmermann fairly cruised for the first six innings, allowing just four hits and a walk through six. But the Cardinals nickel-and-dimed him in the seventh for three runs on a series of bleeders and ground ball singles to draw within one. All told, Zimmermann had thrown a season-high 112 pitches, going 6 1/3 innings. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out five. Sean Burnett allowed an inherited runner to score, but stanched the bleeding, and Ryan Mattheus and Tyler Clippard delivered a one-run lead to Storen in the ninth.

Craig Stammen pitched a scoreless 10th inning, striking out Molina for the third out, for his first Major League save.

THE TAKEAWAY:

THE GOOD: The Nats had lots of opportunities to blow this one open, with nine at bats with runners in scoring position.

THE BAD: They never did break it open, which made things difficult in the late innings.

THE UGLY: Espinosa is in another deep funk. He seemed like he had things going well for a while, but the game two weeks have been brutal.

THE STATS: 13 hits, 3 BBs, 13 ks. 3-for-9 with RISP, 10 LOB, no GIDP. No errors, 3 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Sunday at 2: 15 pm against the Cardinals. Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28) tries to clinch the Nats first-ever N.L. East Championship in his hometown against Cardinals’ All-Star Lance Lynn (17-7, 3.69).

Washington Nationals Game 156 Review: On homers by Harper, Morse, Nats rock Phillies 7-3

Bryce Harper and Michael Morse put on a show for the paid crowd of 44,070 at Citizens Bank Park Thursday night as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-3.

Gio Gonzalez (W, 21-8, 2.89) proved why he’s been named a contender for this year’s Cy Young Award. He may not have posted perfect numbers against the Phillies, but he fought through jams and worked into a rhythm as the game progressed, allowing only six hits in three runs in six innings.

For the second night in a row, Harper put the Nats on the board first with a home run—this time, a solo shot to right center field off rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd (L, 2-2, 4.91). With the at-bat, Harper inched within three home runs of tying the all-time record for home runs by a teenager in a single season—24—set by Tony Conigliaro in 1964.

At the beginning of his stint, Gonzalez didn’t look much like a 20-game winner. After forcing Jimmy Rollins and Kevin Frandsen to ground out, he allowed Chase Utley to single and gave up back-to-back walks to Ryan Howard in John Mayberry. Phillies youngster Darin Ruf took advantage of Gonzalez’s struggle to find control and ripped a double to center, scoring Utley, Howard and Mayberry to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

At the top of the second, Michael Morse answered for the Nats with a towering home run to left, bringing the Nats within a run. Ian Desmond nearly kept the momentum going with a sharp liner up the third baseline, but Kevin Frandsen made a diving catch for the out instead.

Gonzalez pitched himself into a sticky situation again in the second, giving up back-to-back singles to Rollins and Frandsen with just one out. As would be the case the rest of the night, however, Gonzalez regained his command in time to force Utley to fly to right and Howard to ground to third to end the inning.

In the top of the fourth, the Nats proved they don’t always rely on the long ball. Ryan Zimmerman led off with a double into the right-field corner and Adam LaRoche battled back from an 0-2 count to line to center and advance Zimmerman to third. Zimmerman scored on a chopper by Morse to Rollins and the Nats tied the game, 3-3.

The same strategy worked for the Nats in the fifth as Espinosa walked and advanced on a bunt by Gonzalez. Amidst the typical chorus of boos in Philadelphia, Jayson Werth drew a walk and Harper’s single to shallow left drove in Espinosa to put the Nats back in the lead, 4-3.

It didn’t take long for Washington to tack on insurance runs. Adam LaRoche led off the inning by hammering a double off the center field wall. Morse “the Beast” followed up by rocketing a home run into the Nats’ bullpen, where Tom Gorzelanny made the perfect catch in his cap as the Nats high-fived one another.

In the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa singled and the Nats subbed in their designated runner, Eury Perez. Werth and Harper drew back-to-back walks and on Zimmerman’s strikeout, Perez came home on a pitch in the dirt to give the Nats their final score, 7-3.

Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen each looked sharp in their outings as the Nationals lowered their Magic Number for the NL East to just three.

THE TAKEAWAY: Gio Gonzalez proved why he is the most reliable pitcher in the Nats’ rotation. While Thursday night wasn’t his best outing, he proved he can fight through poor starts to find a rhythm and he battled back from behind in the count in high-pressure situations to keep the Phillies’ runs to a minimum.

THE GOOD: With October baseball just days away, Bryce Harper is still hot. He went 2-for-4 on the night with a home run (21), two RBI and one walk.

Michael Morse’s hand certainly seemed to be okay. His first-inning shot to left towered into the seats and his opposite-field home run in the sixth was measured at 451 feet, according to ESPN’s Hit Tracker.

THE BAD: While the Nats proved they could drive in runs through aggressive base running and infield choppers, they still managed to leave 14 on base and went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

THE UGLY: Gio Gonzalez appeared to misread a sign from catcher Kurt Suzuki. He lobbed one over the plate that caught Suzuki offguard and bounced out of the batter’s box. The officials scored it a passed ball, but it could have easily been scored a wild pitch, despite being called a strike.

STATISTICS: 9 hits, 4 BBs, 2-for-11 with RISP, 14 LOB.

NEXT GAME: Friday at 8:05 p.m. against the St. Louis Cardinals. Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.77) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-13, 4.02)

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