HAPPY 29th BIRTHDAY RYAN ZIMMERMAN!
Washington Nationals Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman was born on 09/28/1984 in Washington, North Carolina.
Happy Birthday #11!
HAPPY 29th BIRTHDAY RYAN ZIMMERMAN!
Washington Nationals Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman was born on 09/28/1984 in Washington, North Carolina.
Happy Birthday #11!
Now that the Washington Nationals have been eliminated from the playoff hunt, everyone, their brother, and their Uncle Junior is going to have opinions on what went wrong this season. It’s pretty simple to me. Heck, I outlined the reasons in my Aug. 7 column during the Braves sweep that unofficially ended the Nats season.
And no, the Nats struggles of the first two-thirds of the season have nothing to do with karma, the baseball gods, pressure to live up to expectations, the Nats decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg last season or the team signing Rafael Soriano.
Now that the Nats have played almost two months at the level everyone thought they would play all season, let’s take a look at what kept the Nats from doing so the first 115 games of the season.
1) Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos spent a significant portion of the year on the disabled list or futilely playing through injury.
No one likes to use injuries as excuses, but that’s a third of your everyday lineup on the shelf, forcing inadequate backups into way too many at bats (as we’ll outline below). Harper missed 40 games, Ramos 45 and Werth 30 – all before Aug. 9.
Up until Aug. 9, when the Braves completed that sweep, the Nats were at or very near the bottom in team batting average, on-base percentage and slugging and averaging just 3.7 runs per game, which would be next to last in the N.L. this season (ahead of only Miami) extrapolated for 162 games. That’s pretty much the Bermuda Triangle of offensive futility. Since that time, though, they’ve averaged exactly 5.0 runs per game, which would clearly lead the league. That pace might not be entirely sustainable, but it’s not far off of the true capability of this offense.
The Nats will finish the season sixth in the N.L. in runs per game, eighth in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging, even considering how atrocious they were for the first 115 games. The final 47 games of the season showed a remarkable turnaround in offensive performance, and it was primarily due to the team being healthy again and keeping their bench players on the bench.
2) The Nats wasted 150 at bats on Danny Espinosa.
We all knew Espinosa was hurt. During the winter meetings, the team announced Espinosa tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder last August (and played through it, including his dismal performance in the playoffs). Then, Espinosa broke his right wrist getting hit by a pitch in early April and either he hid it or the team allowed him to play through it until they could no longer take it.
Espinosa “hit” .158/.193/.272 in 44 games before being placed on the D.L. and was not much better in his exile in Triple-A. His poor health decisions, going back to when he originally injured the shoulder during last season’s pennant run, could end up costing the better part of three seasons instead of one — if not jeopardizing his entire career.
Combined with the other injuries, during May and into June the Nats essentially played with four pitcher’s spots in the batting order.
3) The strength in Ryan Zimmerman’s surgically repaired right shoulder did not return to him until August.
Up until that Braves series the first week of August, Zimmerman hit .269/.340/.427 with 12 homers in 115 games. Not terrible, but certainly not numbers fit for an All-Star in the prime of his career.
Zimmerman hit a home run that night on Aug. 9. In the 42 games since, all he’s done is hit .300/.367/.556 with 13 home runs and 23 RBIs, primarily out of the two-hole. It’s been a remarkable, and much welcomed, turnaround for the face of the franchise.
As for his fielding, it too is noticeably better in the last two months than it was the first four months of the season. It’s apparent that his shoulder is much stronger now that it was early in the season and hopefully Nats fans don’t have to worry about moving Zim to first any time soon.
4) It took Denard Span three months to adjust to the National League.
I normally scoff at notions such as this. In the “old days” there was a perceived difference between how pitchers pitched in the two leagues. I don’t think it was ever really as pronounced as some oldsters might lead you to believe, and I don’t think there’s any difference now, with as much team-hopping and interleague play that there is these days.
However, and this is a big however, this was the first time in his career Span was told “You are the man.” It’s the first time a team has told him that he would unequivocally play every day and lead off every day (not that he did). It was also the first time he had to bat behind the pitcher’s spot, so perhaps that went into his mindset as well.
Regardless, he did not get off to a good start. He was very patient, as his history suggested, and even more so very early on. That limited his aggressiveness and he found himself in plenty of bad hitter’s counts, which resulted in a LOT of grounders to second. He was also completely anemic to left-handed pitching – a trait he was not alone in with the Nats this season.
Davey Johnson moved Span to the seventh spot in the order for a couple of weeks in late-July and early August and he was just about at his lowest slash of the season (.259/.311/.357) on – you guessed it – the start of play on Aug. 9, when he was put back in the lead-off spot. From that point forward, Span hit .326/.366/.425. Coincidence the Nats played their best baseball when their lead-off hitter was playing his best? I don’t think so.
5) There was no viable left-handed relief presence (and other bullpen meltdowns).
Rizzo allowed Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez all to walk last off-season. Zach Duke made the team out of spring training as the sole left-handed reliever, and in a long-man role at that. The theory was that Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen were as tough, if not more so, on lefties as they were righties. Storen has limited lefties to a .242/.302/.355 slash in his career, marginally worse than he’s done against righties. Clippard is actually tougher on lefties (.181/.264/.315) that righties (.203/.293/.374), so the theory was good.
Except – Davey Johnson only uses Clippard in the eighth inning and Storen was a mess until he was demoted and came back with a revamped delivery, scrapping the slow, straight leg action for a more traditional kick which restored the tilt on his slider. The other problem was who was left to face lefties in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Duke was a disaster, Henry Rodriguez wild pitched his way out of town and Ryan Mattheus punched a locker.
The team had no other option. They called up Ian Krol, who mixed bouts of effectiveness and batting practice equally, and Xavier Cedeno and Fernando Abad, two players Houston let go this season. Both have done a decent enough job when called upon, but neither is a long-term option.
6) The bench, which performed admirably in 2012, was dismal in ’13.
Last season, when the Nats went through their injury phase, players such as Kurt Suzuki, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina and capably filled in for the injured starters, as we noted above. This year, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Suzuki showed some promise to return to his 15-homer seasons of his early career after coming over to the Nats mid-season last year. Five homers in 164 plate appearances gave hope. But he was abysmal at the plate in ’13 (.222/.283/.310) while playing full-time most of the first half while Ramos was out.
Lombardozzi has a level and he played to it this season. It’s just not very high, and certainly a drop-off from a healthy Harper or Espinosa, the two positions he’s filled in at the most. There’s just no way a contending team can give Lombardozzi 400 at bats an expect good things to happen.
Moore simply was overmatched and didn’t get regular enough at bats to get on track. He’s had a better approach since his return from the minors and may very well platoon with Adam LaRoche at first base next season. I’m not sold on Moore’s potential as an everyday player, but he could succeed in this role if he can keep himself fresh with semi-regular at bats.
You can almost understand the long leash with Bernadina this season. He was properly used last season (almost exclusively against RHPs) and gave the Nats his career year. Pressed into more general duty this season, he was exposed. Some also think he might have been hiding a nagging injury, carried over from the World Baseball Classic.
Chad Tracy, at 33, is at the end of the line. His overall numbers (.184/.221/.288) are pitcher-esque. He’s hitless for September in nine plate appearances and is 5-for-25 since Aug. 1.
Rizzo traded for Scott Hairston in early July to be the right-handed bat off the bench. He has a .683 OPS for the Nats in 57 plate appearances. Hairston has another year on his contract and is capable defensively, but he’s hit just .221/.267/.500 against lefties this season.
7) Dan Haren was the worst starting pitcher in baseball for the first three months of the season.
Haren was signed in the offseason for a not-so-meager $13 million. In the fifth spot in the rotation, the Nats only needed him to be a .500 pitcher for the team to have success. Unfortunately, for the first half of the season he was the worst starter in baseball. He was two different pitchers this season.
Before he went on the D.L. (it was either that or be released), Haren made 15 starts. The team went 4-11 in those starter. His record was 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA and his opposition slash was a dismal .306/.340/.548 against, with an NL leading 19 home runs allowed in 82.0 IP. Essentially, he made every hitter look like an All-Star.
When he returned, he was a different pitcher. He was able to get more separation between his four-seam and cutter and he was able to keep hitters off-balance again. In 14 post-D.L. starts, Haren has gone 5-5 (team record 7-8) with a 3.57 ERA and one save in that marathon game. Opponents have hit .234/.277/.365 against him, and he’s limited the homers to 9 in 80.2 IP.
So, attribute all the intangibles you want to why the Nats played poorly the first 115 games of the season. Call it karma, pressure or curse. But this team perfomed pretty much as expected the final 47 games of the season, and I have no reason to doubt they will next season as well.
ROOKIE MICHAEL WACHA PITCHES 8 2/3 NO HIT INNINGS
St. Louis Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha stood one out away from achieving baseball immortality having thrown 8 2/3 innings without allowing a single hit. All that stood in the way of history was Ryan Zimmerman.
Unfortunately for Wacha, Zimmerman bounced a high chopper up the middle which ticked off Wacha’s glove. Shortstop Pete Kozma fielded it barehanded and threw to first, but the rushed, off-balanced throw pulled Matt Adams off the bag and Zimmerman eluded the sweeping tag.
Just like that, a weak ground ball turned into a single, and Wacha’s attempt at history passed.
Unfortunately for the Nats, Jayson Werth — representing the tying run — grounded out to first against reliever Trevor Rosenthal, so the Cardinals escaped with a 2-0 win regardless.
The Cardinals, still in a battle for first place in the N.L. Central with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, picked up single runs in the third and fourth innings against Nats starter Gio Gonzalez (L, 11-8, 3.36, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 6 K).
In the third, Matt Carpenter hit a two-out double and came home on a single by Shane Robinson. The next inning, Adams singled to lead off and scored on Yadier Molina’s RBI double.
The rest was all Wacha. The 22-year-old rookie, who made his debut in May and was making his ninth start of the season, was superb. Working mostly with his fastball and changeup, Wacha kept the Nats hitters off balance all night and he struck out nine in total.
The Nats got one base runner in the fifth, when Adam LaRoche’s routine ground ball got through second baseman Carpenter, a second in the seventh when Zimmerman walked, and a third when LaRoche walked in the eighth. But Wilson Ramos grounded into a double play to erase LaRoche.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 1:45 pm ET. Jordan Zimmermann (19-8, 3.18) faces Shelby Miller (14-9, 3.12)
The Washington Nationals are all but written out of NL Wild Card contention, but if the stars over Cincinnati should align themselves just right over the next week, this team may very well finish out the season doing everything it can to make its way back into the hunt.
With the Reds holding onto a 4 ½ game lead for the second spot in the NL Wild Card, the Nats face a daunting elimination number of just seven – meaning that any combination of Reds’ wins and Nats’ losses amounting to seven in the next 11 games would cost D.C. a playoff spot.
Nevertheless, the latest victory penned by the Nats came Tuesday night, in Game 2 of a day-night doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The leader of the charge was none other than starter Tanner Roark, who, with his seventh win, brought his ERA to an astounding 1.08 after tossing seven shutout innings of two-hit ball.
Unlike the case of their blown lead – and subsequent rally – in Game 1 of the doubleheader, in Game 2, the Nats eased in front of Atlanta starter Freddy Garcia and never looked back. [Read more...]
On a crisp, cool night in the nation’s capital that had the look and feel of October baseball, the Washington Nationals topped the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 to extend their winning streak to seven games.
Perhaps more importantly, with the Cincinnati Reds’ loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nats narrowed their focus on an NL Wild Card slot by pulling within 4.5 games.
Things looked grim before the first pitch was thrown on Friday as would-be starter Stephen Strasburg was scratched due to forearm tightness. In his place, however, Ross Ohlendorf provided the Nats with a solid five innings.
The Phillies notched one on the scoreboard in the top of the first after Cesar Hernandez walked and Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back one-out singles to put Philadelphia up 1-0.
After Ohlendorf received a pep talk, he struck out Darin Ruf and Cody Asche to end the inning.
And, from there, the Phillies failed to tally a second run on the night.
In the meantime, Ian Desmond singled off starter Kyle Kendrick (L, 10-13) to tie the game in the bottom of the inning after Ryan Zimmerman singled and Jayson Werth walked.
Wilson Ramos put Washington on top in the second after leading off with a solo shot to left center.
And, Ryan Zimmerman repeated the feat in the bottom of the third with a lead-off solo shot in a similar spot to make it 3-1 Nationals.
By the time Ohlendorf stepped off the mound, he had achieved a final line of 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K on 59 of 88 pitches thrown for strikes.
Before Craig Stammen could take the mound in the sixth, the Nats tallied another run on a single from Zimmerman, a walk from Werth and back-to-back singles by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond to make it 4-1.
Cesar Jimenez took the mound in Kendrick’s relief to strike out Adam LaRoche before Luis Garcia relieved Jimenez. With Garcia’s first batter faced, Ramos chopped one back to the mound. The ball took an awkward hop and deflected off Garcia’s glove, allowing both Werth and Harper to score to bring the Nationals to a final score of 6-1 for the win.
THE GOOD: The Nationals’ 17-5 record since August 20th marks the best in the Majors in that time frame, according to ESPN. At long last, it seems their much-awaited comeback streak has arrived – but is it too late? With the Reds’ loss, an NL Wild Card slot no longer appears unattainable, but the Nats would have to do much more than fare well against Kyle Kendrick.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
THE STATS: 6 R, 11 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 4-for-9 with RISP, 8 LOB
NEXT GAME: Saturday, 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park – Cole Hamels (7-13, 3.45) vs. Gio Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31)
SPAN DOUBLES TO EXTEND STREAK TO 23 GAMES, SECOND LONGEST IN MAJORS THIS SEASON
Every single game matters for the Washington Nationals at this point as they valiantly try to keep their scant playoff hopes alive. In a Thursday matinee, the Nats beat the Mets 7-2, sweeping the four-game set. It was the Nats sixth win in a row overall, their longest winning streak of the season.
The Nats (77-69) out-homered the Mets in the series 13-0, the second-most homers the Nats have hit in any single series. They are now 5 1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the wild card standings with 16 games to play and one game yet in hand.
Tanner Roark, making his second start since his recall, gave the Nats six solid innings wrapped around an hour-long rain delay for his sixth win of the season against no losses. He allowed two earned runs on six hits and one walk, striking out three.
The Nats got started early in this one. After Denard Span struck out to lead off the game, Ryan Zimmerman delivered a bomb to straightaway center off the Mets’ recently acquired starter Aaron Harang for his 23rd of the season and his eighth home run in his last 10 games to put the Nats up 1-0.
The Mets got that run right back against Nats’ starter Tanner Roark. Eric Young, Jr. led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice by Juan Lagares. Daniel Murphy then doubled to bring home Young to tie the game at one.
Then the rains came.
An hour-plus rain delay ensued, and when play resumed, Harang came back in to pitch for the Mets. Maybe he wished he hadn’t.
The first batter back, Ian Desmond took one to the wall that was caught. The following batter, Adam LaRoche, then rocked one that appeared off the top of the wall and he cruised into second base with a double. But upon video review, the ball struck a railing above the home run line and bounced back into play off center fielder Young’s glove and the umpires ruled it a home run to make it 2-1 Nats.
The Mets tied it in the fourth. Lucas Duda led off with a single to right field. With one out, Mike Baxter singled to left to move Duda up one base. Catcher Anthony Recker followed with another single which plated Duda easily, but Harper threw out Baxter trying to advance to third on the play.
Wilson Ramos delivered the lead back to Washington in the fifth inning with a solo home run, his 13th of the season.
The Nats added insurances run in the seventh and eighth.
LaRoche led off the seventh with a double to center. After a pitching change, Ramos grounded out to the pitcher. But because Mets third baseman Josh Satin came in on the slow infield grounder, LaRoche snuck behind him and advanced to third. Anthony Rendon then lifted a fly ball to medium center field that plated LaRoche without a throw.
Span led off the eighth inning with a double to extend his hitting streak to 23 games and Zimmerman plated him with a double of his own to make it 5-2.
Reliever Frank Francisco then hit Jayson Werth with a 3-0 pitch. Bryce Harper’s grounder to the right side forced Werth at second but moved Zimmerman over to third and he scored on Ian Desmond’s grounder to short when Harper’s hard slide forced a bad throw by Ruben Tejada on the relay.
Anthony Rendon added to the hit parade in the ninth with a line drive home run to left field, his seventh of the season.
THE GOOD: Tanner Roark. The swingman put together another impressive starting performance, perhaps tossing his hat into the ring with the other candidates that could be considered for the fifth starter spot next season.
Also, props to reliever Xavier Cedeno, who struck out lefties Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda on six pitches in a scoreless eighth inning.
THE BAD: Jayson Werth. 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Average dips to .324 in his chase for the batting title.
THE UGLY: Frank Francisco. The pitch he hit Werth with was definitely intentional. There was simply no reason for Francisco to bean Werth there except being mad at himself for stinking up the joint. Mets television commenter and former MLB pitcher Ron Darling called Francisco “a fool.”
THE STATS: 8 hits, 1 BB, 11 Ks. 1-for-4 with RISP, 3 LOB. No errors, no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Friday at the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 pm. Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 2.96) faces Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51).
Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and Doghouse from Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 3-0 win over the New York Mets. Nats still five games back of the Reds in the loss column with 17 games to play.
Dan Haren gave up one hit in six innings and four relievers pitched the final three innings as the Washington Nationals (76-69) won their fifth in a row and seventh in their last eight games to move a season-high seven games over .500 with a 3-0 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field in Queens, NY.
Ryan Zimmerman led off the sixth inning with his 22nd home run of the season off Mets starter Zack Wheeler (L, 7-5, 3.22) to break a scoreless tie and Anthony Rendon’s two out, two-run double in the eighth provided all the necessary insurance.
Haren (W, 9-13, 5.02) rediscovered the magic he had during a string of starts he made immediately after returning from the disabled list mid-season. He walked one and struck out eight holding the Mets scoreless through six innings.
Xavier Cedeno retired both left-handed batters the faced in the seventh, and Drew Storen recorded the last out of that frame after allowing a single. Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect eighth inning for his league-leading 32nd save of the season, and Rafael Soriano earned his 41st save of the year to solidify the win.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. I’ve been as hard as anyone on the guy this season, but he’s been on absolute fire the past 10 days with his power, hitting his seventh home run in that timeframe. Props to Haren as well rebounding from three miserable starts to give the Nats a fighting chance in this one.
THE BAD: Wilson Ramos went 0-for-4 and stranded four runners.
THE UGLY: Home plate umpire James Hote. On four different occasions, Hoye granted time to a Mets batter while Haren was in the middle of his delivery. Also angered Storen on a pitch called a ball immediately preceding the base hit Storen allowed.
THE STATS: 11 hits, 1 BB, 9 Ks. 1-for-10 with RISP, 9 LOB. No errors, no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 1:10 pm against the Mets. Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.93) faces Aaron Harang (0-0), recently acquired after Seattle released him.
Stephen Strasburg provided the Washington Nationals with a decent six innings, but it was the Nats’ offense that fueled another victory over the Miami Marlins Sunday afternoon.
Wilson Ramos put the Nats on the board first with a homer to lead off the second inning against starter Jacob Turner.
Unfortunately for the Nats, Strasburg’s most troublesome inning came in the bottom half. Justin Ruggiano and Logan Morrison led off with back-to-back singles before Placido Polanco walked to load the bases.
With Adeiny Hechavarria batting, Ruggiano came home on a balk to tie the game. Then, Hechavarria grounded back to the mound to plate Morrison. [Read more...]
Ryan Zimmerman’s two home runs helped the Washington Nationals to a 9-2 win over the Miami Marlins but it was Tanner Roark’s command that paved the way for a much-needed win.
In his first Major League start, the 26-year-old right-hander tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and no walks on 46 of 71 pitches thrown for strikes. In fact, he didn’t give up the Marlins’ first hit until Chris Coghlan singled in the fourth inning.
The Nats quickly jumped in front against right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. Denard Span singled to lead off before Zimmerman launched the first of his two shots to make it 2-0 Washington before the first out was recorded.
In the top of the third, he repeated the feat to lead off, putting the Nats on top by three runs.
Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche followed up with back-to-back singles before Ian Desmond grounded into a force out that left Werth out at home. Then, Wilson Ramos singled home LaRoche and Desmond to power Washington to a 5-0 lead.
All remained quiet until the Nats tallied one more in the sixth off Sam Dyson by way of back-to-back singles from Tyler Moore and Anthony Rendon and a sacrifice fly by Denard Span to make it 6-0. [Read more...]
MSE FOUNDATION KICKS OFF HOLIDAY SEASON WITH WALMART SHOPPING EVENT WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monumental Sports & Entertainment … [Read More...]
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