September 16, 2014

Washington Nationals Games 61 & 62 Review: Nats sweep doubleheader from Twins to get back to .500

In the regularly scheduled 1:35 game Sunday, the Washington Nationals tied their season benchmark for runs in a inning. In the nightcap, a rescheduled affair prompted by the rainout Friday night, the Nats came from behind by three runs to win a game for the first time all season. The result: a sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the day/night doubleheader, which pulls the Nats back up to the .500 mark at 31-31.

The early game was all about two big innings… and Jordan Zimmermann. The leader of the 2013 staff did it again, pacing the Nats with seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball. Rookie Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno – lefties both — kept the Twins off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the shutout.

The late game was a case of chipping away at a deficit, one run at a time, until the Nats overcame the hole they’d dug themselves, with four different players driving in runs and four different players scoring runs. Then a parade of relievers shut the door and kept it that way until the Twins’ last out was exhausted.

In the early game, the Nats exploded for their seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings off Twins starter Scott Diamond. Consecutive singles by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche set the table for Ian Desmond in the fourth. Desmond singled to center and third base coach Trent Jewett sent Werth, who was cut down at the plate on a great throw by center fielder Clete Thomas. But Anthony Rendon followed with a smash off shortstop Pedro Florimon’s glove, and LaRoche and Desmond both came around to make it 2-0.

In the next inning, Diamond intentionally walked Werth to load the bases after Jeff Kobernus walked and Ryan Zimmerman doubled. LaRoche made him pay, with a single to the left side which plated Kobernus. A visit by the Twins pitching coach did no help, as Desmond followed with a two-run single three pitches later. Rendon put the cap on the inning, doubling off reliever Ryan Pressly to drive in LaRoche and Desmond.

The rest was up to Zimmermann, who was equal to the task yet again.

In the nightcap, Nathan Karns was not very good and put the Nats in a hole early, allowing four earned runs in the first three innings, on five hits and two walks. Washington got a run in the third on three consecutive singles by Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. But an Adam LaRoche strikeout and Ian Desmond double play ground ball halted the threat there.

Two innings later, LaRoche came though, with a two-out RBI sacrifice fly, which brought home Denard Span to cut the lead to one and moved Bernadina to third. Again, the rally stalled at just one run as Desmond was called out on strikes.

The Nats tied the game finally in the sixth. Anthony Rendon singled off shortstop Pedro Florimon’s glove and scored on Span’s two-out triple. Bernadina walked to give Zimmerman a chance to take the lead, but the Nats No. 3 hitter struck out looking to end the frame.

The very next inning, though, back-to-back doubles by LaRoche and Desmond did the trick, putting the Nats up 5-4.

The entire bullpen were the heroes in the second game. It started with Craig Stammen, who came on for Karns in the fourth and blanked the Twins for two innings. Erik Davis, Fernando Abad, Tyler Clippard (W, 5-1), Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano (S, 16) all did their jobs to earn the Nats 31st win of the season.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmerman. We’re out of superlatives for the stoic righty. Two hits, two walks and 8 Ks over seven shutout innings for his ninth win of the season.

In the early game, Desmond went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Rendon went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs. In the evening game, Roger Bernadina went 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored. Nice game for The Shark.

THE BAD: Kurt Suzuki went 0-for-3 with 4 LOB in the first game.

THE UGLY: Karns. He left everything up in the evening game and paid for it. With Detwiler coming back this week, Karns will probably find himself back in Syracuse for more seasoning.

THE STATS: First Game: 14 hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks. 5-for-10 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Rendon (4, fielding), Zimmerman (11, throw).

Second Game: 10 hits, 4 BBs, 7 Ks. 3-for-14 with RISP, 9 LOB. E: Rendon (5, fielding); one DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 8:40 ET in Colorado against the Rockies. Dan Haren (4-7, 5.45) faces Jhoulys Chacin (3-3, 4.59).

NATS NOTES: Before the games, the Nats recalled 1B Chris Marrero from AAA-Syracuse. The right-handed hitter was hitting .306/.355/.502 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 55 games for the Chiefs. After the games, the team sent 1B/OF Tyler Moore to Syracuse. Moore has struggled all season and the team hopes that he’ll find his swing playing every day in the minors.

Washington Nationals trade for Denard Span

NATIONALS SURRENDER 2011 FIRST ROUND PICK ALEX MEYER IN DEAL

The Washington Nationals Thursday acquired the “dynamic” center fielder GM Mike Rizzo has coveted really since he was appointed GM of the team.

In a trade with the Minnesota Twins, the Nats receive Denard Span, 29 in February, a left-handed hitting centerfielder with terrific defensive instincts. The Nats sent Alex Meyer, the No. 23 overall pick in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft.

Span is a career .284/.357/.389 hitter over five seasons (589 games) with the Twins. He actually has better numbers against left-handed pitchers than righties, hitting .293/.374/.398 in 344 games. For his career, he’s stolen bases at a 76.2 percent clip (90-for-118).

Span missed 92 games in 2011 with concussion symptoms, but returned healthy in 2012 to play 128 games, hitting .283/.342/.395 in 568 at bats. Span is under contract through 2014 on a five-year, $16.5 MM contract he signed with the Twins, with a team option for 2015.

In a conference call with reporters, Rizzo extolled the virtues of Span’s defensive capabilities.

With Span in center field, Bryce Harper will move to a corner outfield slot with Jayson Werth in the other position. That leaves the Nats in a quandary with what to do with Michael Morse. The slugger is under contract for another season, but it seems the only position he would qualify for now is at first base, where Adam LaRoche excelled last season for the club. LaRoche is a free agent this off-season, and while the Nats have had discussions with LaRoche, the player and his representatives are exploring their options.

What is crystal clear is that the team cannot keep both Morse and LaRoche on the roster.

Meyer, 22, was one of the Nationals’ top pitching prospects. The 6-foot-9 right-hander went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 2012 with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. Many industry scouts think Meyer’s lack of a MLB-quality third pitch, plus the added burdens of his size and repeatability issues, have Meyer destined for a big league career in the bullpen, but there’s no doubt he has an MLB-quality arm.

Alex Meyer - Winston-Salem Dash v. Potomac Nationals, 8/12/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Meyer – Winston-Salem Dash v. Potomac Nationals, 8/12/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

FORMER NATS: Josh Willingham Wins First Silver Slugger Award

CONGRATULATIONS HAMMER!

Former Washington Nationals Outfielder Josh Willingham gets his very first Silver Slugger Award with the Minnesota Twins!

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