October 31, 2014

Washington Nationals exersize option on Span; decline LaRoche and Soriano

According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals exercised their $9 million team option on Denard Span on Thursday, ensuring the team’s leadoff hitter and Gold Glove caliber center fielder will remain on the roster for at least the next year.

Span, who will be 31 on opening day, hit .302/.355/.416 last season, leading the Nats in hits and setting team marks for hits and multi-hit games. He was 31-for-38 in stolen base attempts and hit five home runs to boot.

Bringing Span back reduced the Nats decisions on potential free agents down to five (ages on opening day).

Adam LaRoche (35, .259/.362/.455, 26/92): LaRoche had a mutual option for ’15 of $15 million with a $2 million buyout, but declined the option. With Ryan Zimmerman’s limitations in the field, it would be very surprising if the Nats re-upped with LaRoche.

Rafael Soriano (35, 4-1, 32 svs, 3.19/1.129): The veteran reliever looked like the Nats’ All-Star rep at the break, but was atrocious in the second half before going lights-out in the playoffs in a very limited role. Team option for $14 million was declined and considering the way things ended, very unlikely he re-signs in DC.

Asdrubal Cabrera (29, .229/.312/.389, 5/21 in 49 games for Nats): Cabrera became free agent at conclusion of World Series. Was excellent defensively and had a couple of offensive highlights, but his age and already diminished results suggest Nats will let him walk.

Scott Hairston (34, .208/.253/.299, 1/8): Hairston has outlived his usefulness as a Major League Player. That might sound harsh, but it happens to everyone. Was once known as a “lefty-killer” (even if it wasn’t entirely true, but his .293 OBP against lefties this season seal his fate.

Nate Schierholtz (31, .195/.243/.309, 1/4): The “other” Nate, Schierholtz was a waiver wire pickup midseason when Nate McLouth went down for the season to injury. Schierholtz was even worse than McLouth at the plate overall, though did chip in in the playoffs. With another $5 regrettably due McLouth, Schierholtz rides off into the sunset.

Washington Nationals Game 1 Pregame: Manager Matt Williams meets the press

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams met with gathered media ahead of Game 1 of the NLDS Friday morning. The skipper talked about the roster construction for the first round, Ryan Zimmerman’s availability and his bullpen.

Earlier in the day, the Nats announced their playoff roster. Zimmerman was indeed included, which meant someone had to be left off. The odd man out was outfielder Scott Hairston, who was on the roster all season long. Nate Schierholtz, a left-handed hitting outfielder with some speed who was a waiver claim late in the season, retained his spot.

Williams conceded that Zimmerman would come off the bench as a right-handed pinch-hitter, a move most assumed as his playing time down the stretch was managed heavily by the Nats first-year manager. Zimmerman obviously has not fully recovered yet from the torn hamstring that cost him over 50 games this season.

Zimmerman played only sparingly in the field upon being activated from the disabled list, and when he did was shaky, at best. Since the Face of the Franchise will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the most part, that meant Hairston, who’s also primarily a right-handed pinch-hitter, became superfluous.

That situation played out in the bullpen as well. Ross Detwiler, who started the pivotal Game 4 in the 2012 NLDS, was left off the roster as well, in favor of Rafael Soriano, the demoted closer. Williams referred to Detwiler as the “third lefty” and said he preferred to carry just two: Matt Thornton and Jerry Blevins. Blevins was much maligned early in the season — though not nearly as much as Soriano was late — but the veteran recovered in the last month of the season to dominate down the stretch.

Soriano took the opposite tack. The veteran righty was dominant in the first half of the season and really could have represented the Nats in the All-Star game. But as good as he was early, he was that bad in the second half, running up a 6.23 ERA since the midsummer classic. His inclusion on the roster is curious, but Williams said he likes the luxury of having three 40-saves relievers in his bullpen, saying that his confidence in Soriano “never waivered.”

The last nugget of information to come out of the press conference was that Tanner Roark, who started 31 games with a 15-10 record, 2.85 ERA and 1.092 WHIP, was moving to the bullpen with the shortened playoff starting rotation. Though Williams didn’t mention him by name, Gio Gonzalez thus retains his spot in the rotation, unless the Nats decide to come back with Strasburg in Game 4 on one day short rest — a situation that would probably only arise if the Nats trailed in the series.

The Nats Game 2 starter, Jordan Zimmermann, also spoke with the media Friday. He said most of the players in the clubhouse are trying to go about their business as normal, but acknowledged that the playoffs brings a different edge and it helps the team went through it two years ago.

“We didn’t really know anything coming in two years ago,” Zimmermann said. “Jayson [Werth] is the only guy who said ‘It will be crazy, something you guys never experienced.’ You know, after going out there [in 2012], and experience it one time, I think we are all more prepared now and kind of know what to expect.”

Washington Nationals Game 155 Review: Strasburg shuts down Marlins

Behind seven stellar innings from ace Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 on Sunday.

It wasn’t without some tense moments though, as deposed closer Rafael Soriano gave up a run in the ninth inning before finally securing the last out of the game. Soriano was pressed into the closer’s role on Sunday as Drew Storen was unavailable due to pitching so frequently this week.

Before then, it was a two-run rally for the Nats in the fifth — and Strasburg. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 149 Review: NL East within Reach after Nats Top Braves

STRASBURG, RAMOS HELP NATS LOWER MAGIC NUMBER TO TWO

With their Magic Number now down to two games, the Washington Nationals could win their second NL East division title in three years Tuesday night should they continue to dominate against the Atlanta Braves.

Following a 4-2 win over their rivals Monday night, helped by a solid performance from Stephen Strasburg (W, 12-11), the Nats could very likely celebrate their 2014 playoff berth at Turner Field.

Despite reporting neck stiffness, Strasburg was sharp against a Braves team he frequently struggles to beat. Through 7.0 innings pitched, the Nationals right-hander allowed five total hits, no runs and no walks and struck out seven batters.

His one trouble spot came in the fifth inning when, after Jason Heyward led off with a single to right, Strasburg committed a throwing error in his attempt to pick off Heyward. Instead, Heyward made it all the way to third base on the error.

Fortunately for the Nats, Strasburg came up with three big outs to work out of the inning unscathed. After striking out Chris Johnson, Strasburg forced Christian Bethancourt to ground out to third, before B.J. Upton struck out to end the inning.

Before that point, the Nats had helped themselves to a two-run lead over Atlanta starter Ervin Santana (L, 14-9, thanks to a one-run double by Denard Span in the third and a lead-off solo shot by Wilson Ramos in the fifth. Ramos’ homer marked his 11th of the season.

With Luis Avilan on the mound in relief for Atlanta, Strasburg helped himself to another insurance run in the seventh inning.

After Nate Schierholtz drew a lead-off walk, Ramos lined out to center before Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to left. Then, Strasburg singled to center to plate Cabrera. The Nats threatened to tack on more runs as Span took first on a hit-by-pitch, but reliever Juan Jaime successfully struck out Anthony Rendon to end the inning.

The Nats earned one more run in the top of the eighth after Jayson Werth led off with a walk and came home by way of an Ian Desmond force out and Schierholtz RBI single.

After Craig Stammen delivered a solid eighth inning of relief, Rafael Soriano seemed to pine for his closer role. Having lost the job a few weeks ago, Soriano appeared in a would-be non-save situation in the ninth, only to immediately allow a double by Andrelton Simmons and a two-out, RBI double by Justin Upton.

Soriano got Heyward to fly out to left, but walked Chris Johnson, allowing the tying run to step to the plate.

Not surprisingly, Nationals manager Matt Williams opted to pitch Drew Storen for the save situation. Storen allowed an RBI single to Bethancourt, but successfully forced B.J. Upton ground out to end the game.

 

THE GOOD: Stephen Strasburg has without a doubt struggled against the Atlanta Braves this season, but he showed no signs of bad habits when he struck out seven and allowed no runs and no walks through seven innings pitched. Additionally, the Nats – who were out-hit nine to six by the Braves – did enough with relatively little, going 3-for-8 with RISP and stranding just six base runners all night.

Thanks to their collective efforts, the Nats will have cause to celebrate if they can secure a win against Atlanta Tuesday night.

THE BAD: Rafael Soriano nearly undid eight solid innings of work for the Nationals’ pitching staff. In just 0.2 innings pitched, he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk.

THE UGLY: Stephen Strasburg’s pickoff attempt in the fifth inning was a far cry from pretty. Fortunately, Strasburg was in the zone through his entire outing, and pitched out of the jam without allowing a run to score.

THE STATS: 4 R, 1 HR, 6 H, 4 BB, 9 K, 3-for-8 RISP, 6 LOB

Washington Nationals Game 147 Review: Nats Rain Runs in Win Over Mets

HARPER HOMERS AS NATS BLOWOUT METS

As a steady rain fell over Citi Field on Saturday night, the Washington Nationals poured runs on the New York Mets the whole night through, winning the third of a four-game series, 10-3.

The Nats reduced their “magic number” to clinch the division to six games over the Braves, and can eliminate them as early as Tuesday.

In the top of the second inning, Bryce Harper (3-for-4, 2 RBI) put the Nationals on the board with a towering home run that came back to earth half way up the upper deck in right field. Ian Desmond (3-for-4, 3 RBI) who walked to reach base, scored on the play as well to give the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 144 Review: Nats Lose As Braves Strike Late

NATS CAN’T OVERCOME ATLANTA’S LATE SURGE AGAINST BULLPEN

Looking for a sweep, the Washington Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves in a Wednesday afternoon contest at Nationals Park, 6-2.

In the first two games of the Nats three-game series with the Braves, Washington used some early offense to boost them to victory. On Wednesday afternoon, Braves’ starter Aaron Harang kept Washington’s offense in check while Atlanta slowly built a lead in the latter innings of the contest. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 139 Review: Nats Waste Five-Run Lead, Fall to Phils in 11

Washington Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano did little to ensure his job security Friday night.

In a game in which the Nats led by as many as five runs over the Philadelphia Phillies, the 34-year-old right-hander took the mound in the ninth with three runs padding the Nats’ pathway to a win.

Instead, Soriano allowed a lead-off single to Domonic Brown and a two-run homer off the bat of Carlos Ruiz, pulling the Phillies within a run as they trailed 7-6.

Just an out later, Philadelphia came up with that run, by way of a Ben Revere solo shot to right.

The blown save marks Soriano’s seventh of the season.

Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard did his part to keep a Curly W within reach, but Craig Stammen had no such luck thanks to two costly mistakes by Nats’ fielders.

The eleventh inning started off with a fielding error by Bryce Harper that allowed Brown to reach second base. Brown advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Ruiz and came home on a fielder’s choice by Maikel Franco. On the play, covering first base, Tyler Moore committed a throwing error that allowed Franco to advance to second. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 138 Review: LaRoche saves game and wins it — twice — in 14 innings

Adam LaRoche didn’t start this game, but he saved it — then ended it. TWICE.

LaRoche’s homer in the ninth inning tied the game to force extra innings, then a two-run single in the 12th gave the Washington Nationals another lead that went awry. Finally, in the 14th, his ground ball fielder’s choice brought home Ian Demsond and gave the Nats a tense, hard-fought win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5 in five hours and 34 minutes.

With the Atlanta Braves win over Philadelphia, the Nats lead in the N.L. East held at seven games. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 134 Review: Strasburg Tosses Gem in Nats Win

WERTH HOMERS, STRASBURG STRONG AS NATS DEFEAT MARINERS

On Saturday night at Safeco Field, the Washington Nationals didn’t need six homers like they did Friday night to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 3-1.

Instead of an offensive onslaught, it was the steady arm — at least on this night — of ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg that led the Nationals to victory. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 128 Review: Nats Blow Past Giants, Win Series

BEHIND A SIX-RUN SIXTH, NATIONALS TAKE 2-OF-3 FROM SAN FRANCISCO

In front of 35,000-plus at Nationals Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball, the Washington Nationals defeated the San Francisco Giants by a score of 14-6 to end their 10-game homestand. [Read more...]

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