September 17, 2014

Nats Nightly: Nationals swept by Athletics, lose 9-1 in finale

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 9-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics, completing the A’s sweep.

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Washington Nationals Game 37 Review: A’s complete sweep with Gio meltdown

Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez hoped to play stopper and make a better impression upon his first trip back to Oakland since being traded to the Nats two offseasons ago.

It didn’t happen that way.

Gonzalez was beaten up by relentless Oakland offense, there was a dramatic dugout shouting match, and the Nats were swept by the A’s after a 9-1 loss before a festive Mother’s Day crown at O.co Coliseum.

Gonzalez got two quick outs in the first inning, but things went south fast. He walked No. 3 hitter Josh Donaldson, then Yoenis Cespedes hit a routine grounder to short. For some reason, Ian Desmond was hesitant on the play, and his throw to first was late and both runners were safe.

Gonzalez then went 3-0 to catcher Derek Norris — one of the players that was traded to the A’s to acquire Gonzales — and Norris clobbered the grooved fastball to the stands in left for a three-run homer.

It didn’t stop there.

Alberto Callaspo singled to the hole at short, then Brandon Moss followed with a single to send Callaspo to third. Nick Punto then lined a single to right field to plate Callaspo, and the A’s led 4-0 after one inning.

The barrage continued in the second inning. Craig Gentry led off with a soft single to left and stole second. Jed Lowrie flew out to deep right and Gentry took third. After Donaldson grounded out, Cespedes lofted a sky high pop up right out in front of home plate, but no one took control of the play and the ball fell cleanly, then trickled foul.

Cespedes then walked, bringing up Norris once again. As with his first at bat, Gonzalez ran the count to 3-0 and fed Norris a grooved fastball, which he then again clobbered to the left field bleachers for his second three-run home run of the day.

After the inning, television cameras picked up Gonzalez having e meltdown in the dugout, slamming his glove and hat in frustration. Off-camera, someone must have said something, as the normally affable Gonzalez started screaming at a teammate, having to be restrained by pitching coach Steve McCatty and third base coach Bob Henley.

Gonzalez pitched two more innings without incident. He finished the day throwing 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven earned runs on nine hits and three walks.

The A’s added two more in the seventh against Jerry Blevins.

Nats Nightly: Nationals blow late lead, lose to Athletics in 10th inning

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 10th inning loss to the Oakland A’s.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Nats acquire LH reliever Jerry Blevins from A’s

The Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made another checkmark on his offseason shopping list, acquiring left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins from the Oakland A’s in exchange for speedy outfielder Billy Burns, recently named the Nats minor league hitter of the year in the minors.

From the press release:

Blevins, 30, has spent parts of the last seven seasons in the Athletics’ bullpen, where he’s worked to a career 3.30 ERA while averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Working against both left-handed batters and right-handers, Blevins has thrown back-to-back 60-plus inning seasons (60 IP in 2013, 65.1 IP in 2012).

In 2013, Blevins held opponents to a .218 batting average against while possessing a 5.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio against left-handed batters in particular. Blevins also held opponents to just a .202 batting average in games away from the O.co Coliseum.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jerry Blevins to our bullpen,” Rizzo said. “We look forward to him bolstering our depth in that unit.”

Burns, 24, was selected by the Nationals in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft out of Mercer University. A speedy outfielder, Burns stole a career-high 74 bases in 2013, between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

With the addition of Blevins, the Nationals’ 40-man roster is full.

Burns came to be a fan favorite in Potomac this past season for his work on the bases and speed in the outfield. While an interesting prospect, his physical strength will be challenged as he moves up the organizational ladder.

Blevins was a leader in the A’s bullpen and he’s not necessarily just a LOOGY as he was actually more effective against righties last season (.190/.267/.314) than lefties (.253/.299/.442). Last season, Blevins posted the lowest walk rate of his career (2.6/9) while posting a 5-0 record and 3.15 ERA and 1.067 WHIP in 60 innings, striking out 7.8/9.

Nats acquire pitcher Dakota Bacus from A’s to complete Suzuki deal

The Washington Nationals announced on Friday the mysterious “pitching prospect” the team acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki — Dakota Bacus, a 22-year-old, 6’2″, 200 right-handed pitcher from Terre Haute, Indiana.

Bacus was a ninth round pick in the 2012 draft for the A’s out of Indiana State University. This season, in 26 games (16 starts) for Low-A Beloit (Midwestern League), Bacus was 9-5,  3.56 with a 1.335 WHIP in 121 1/3 innings pitched. He struck out 6.7 per nine innings while walking 2.3 per nine.

Last season, in 18 appearances (one start) for the A’s Arizona Rookie League team, Bacus went 3-0 with seven saves, a 1.20 ERA and 0.567 WHIP, while striking out 10.5 per nine innings and walking 1.5 per nine in 30 innings pitched.

Bacus was considered old for the rookie league that he dominated last season, and he’s seen a corresponding down-tick in his stats this season. He’s been converted into a reliever already in low A, which doesn’t bode all that well for his long-term viability as a “prospect.” He has decent velocity on his sinking fastball (90-93), but his secondary offerings are fringe-avergae at best at this point in his development.

This seems to be a case where “something is better than nothing,” as the Nats were not going to pick up Suzuki’s $8.5 million option for next season and the veteran catcher would have left the organiztion as a free agent at the end of the season. With the A’s desperate for big league catching (both co-starters John Jaso and Derek Norris are on the D.L.), Natstown was hopeful that the player returned for Suzuki would have had a more promising pedigree.

Nationals trade Suzuki back to Oakland

Kurt Suzuki expressed his dislike with the 1B ump's call in 1st inning (Allen Craig reaches on a missed catch error by first baseman Chad Tracy) -  St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, 9/02/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Kurt Suzuki in action in September 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

According to this Washington Times article, the Washington Nationals have traded catcher Kurt Suzuki to the team they acquired him from, the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for an unnamed prospect.

In 78 games this season, Suzuki hit .223/.284/.311 with just three home runs and has been a man missing in action since Wilson Ramos’ return from the disabled list.

The A’s, in post-season contention, have dealt with a string of injuries to their catching corps. Starter John Jaso has been out over a month with concussion symptoms and Derek Norris injured his toe the other day and is destined for the disabled list.

The Nats will need to activate a catcher to back up Ramos and the most likely candidate is Jhonatan Solano.

Suzuki had a team option for next season, but at $8.5 million, the Nats were not likely to pick up that option. It remains to be seen the player the Nats will receive for Suzuki, but if they knew they would let him walk, at least they were able to get a return for him.

This also might signal the team’s acceptance that the Nats aren’t going to contend for postseason play this season. Manager Davey Johnson has been working Tyler Moore and a few others into the lineup on a platoon basis lately, so the team is entering the evaluation phase for next season it appears.

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.

NATS: Happy Birthday, Kurt Suzuki

HAPPY 29th BIRTHDAY KURT SUZUKI!

Washington Nationals Catcher Kurt Suzuki was born on 10/04/1983 in Walluku, Hawaii.

Kurt Suzuki joined the Washington Nationals in August, joining former Oakland Athletics teammate LHP Gio Gonzalez. The two were reunited and have been a dynamic duo. With Wilson Ramos out for the season, Suzuki was added for this defense, not his bat. After working with Nats hitting coach Rick Eckstein, Suzuki’s batting average keeps rising and his bat has became an asset and almost like a secret weapon.

Nats fans have embraced Suzuki and hope to see his success continue into the post-season.

Follow Kurt Suzuki on Twitter (@KurtSuzuki) and be sure to wish #24 a Happy 29th Birthday.

Kurt Suzuki expressed his dislike with the 1B ump’s call in 1st inning (Allen Craig reaches on a missed catch error by first baseman Chad Tracy) – St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, 9/02/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Bryan Anderson flies into a double play, right fielder Bryce Harper to catcher Kurt Suzuki. Allen Craig out at home on the throw in 4th inning. – St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, 9/02/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Kurt Suzuki is player of the game – Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals, 9/6/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

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