September 3, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 131 Review: Nats Collapse Continues, Lose 8-5

THE FLOGGINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES

It wasn’t Joe Ross’ night, Tuesday in St. Louis. The young rookie just didn’t have his usual pinpoint command. In 2.2 IP, he walked six, struck out three, and gave up just one hit. It’s not the sort of line score that you hope for out of your recent slumpbuster. The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals battled it out to 5-5 after eight full.

That’s when the bullpen imploded, again, and the Cardinals stole an 8-5 decision over the Nats.

Ross got the top of the third inning off to a start, raking a single to right off Marco Gonzalez, making his first MLB Start. Jayson Werth followed with another single, and Anthony Rendon drove in the first run of the night with a double down the line. That’s likely where Mike Matheny should’ve gone out to calm his pitcher down, but he left him out to hang, instead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 130 Review: Dark Night in St. Louis

NATIONALS BLOW TWO LEADS, DROP OPENER TO CARDS 8-5

If there was a game as badly mismanaged as this one anywhere else in the majors, it would’ve cost the losing manager their job.

Sadly, no such luck on Monday night in St. Louis.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Pat Matheny managed just ever so slightly better than Matt Williams, and the Cardinals’ triumphed 8-5 after nine painful innings of baseball every Nationals fan cringed through.

Coupled with the New York Mets win over Philadelphia, the Nats fell to 6 1/2 games back in the division with 32 games to play. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 129 Review: Strasburg Pulled Early, Nats Beat Marlins

The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 7-4 on Sunday afternoon despite starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg being pulled after four innings pitched.

Strasburg threw 60 pitches and 43 strikes in four innings while giving up four runs and two home runs on seven hits while striking out three batters. According to the team after the game, Strasburg left with an upper back injury not considered to be serious. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 128 Review: Zimmermann, Zimmerman lead Nats over Marlins

THREE HOMERS POWER NATS, EAST LEAD AT 5 1/2

Jordan Zimmermann pitched seven solid innings, Ryan Zimmerman homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 5-1 at Nats Park.

Coupled with the New York Mets 3-1 loss to Boston, the Nats cut their deficit in the N.L. East to 5 1/2 games. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 126 Review: Nats Squeak by Padres, Injuries Arise

The Washington Nationals beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Thursday night in D.C. but suffered quite a blow in regards to injuries.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor and third baseman Yunel Escobar were down for the count by the end of the night but Washington still managed to sneak by the Padres.

Taylor ran into the outfield wall tracking down a fly ball and came up lame and needed help get off the field with a knee contusion. Escobar was hit by a pitch in his wrist — which drove in a run — and left the game.

Starting pitcher Joe Ross threw six innings of one-hit, one-run ball while walking two batters and striking out seven for the Nats. He threw 77 pitches and 48 strikes. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 124 Review: Opening Day Lineup At Long Last

IDEAL LINEUP FINALLY PLAYS, WINS

The Washington Nationals were so befouled by the injury bug this season it took four months and 123 games for them to field their ideal “opening day” lineup. When their starting nine took the field Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres, the Nationals put everything together for a 8-3 win.

Stephen Strasburg started Tuesday night, and from the end of the second through to the end of the sixth, retired 15 straight batters. He did surrender a two-run bomb to Jedd Gyorko, a no-doubt homer into the visiting bullpen in the second inning, but other than that, Strasburg was on his game against the Padres. Aside from the mistake to Gyorko, Strasburg struck out 7, and walked one in six full, giving up two earned runs on two hits.

The Nationals tied it up almost immediately, as Wilson Ramos hit his 11th homer of the year off James Shields in the bottom of the second with Yunel Escobar aboard. In the third, the Nationals would go ahead for the night on an Escobar double down the line, scoring Anthony Rendon, and add to the damage in the fifth with a Desmond double scoring Bryce Harper.

The Nationals caught a lucky break in the sixth to break the game wide open. With two outs, Anthony Rendon started the rally with an infield single that deflected off James Shields. Marc Rzepczynski took over for Shields at this point, as the deflection and 121 pitches on the day were too much to risk leaving Shields in to face the heart of the order.

This is where it all went to hell for San Diego. With the count at 2-1, Bryce Harper hit a 92mph sinker down the first base line, right to Padres’ first baseman Yonder Alonso, who stepped on the bag, and it should have ended the inning.

But it didn’t.

Harper tripped out of the swing, and home plate umpire David Rackley read it as a foul ball off Harper’s foot. He called it a foul ball, and Harper stepped back in. Padres skipper Pat Murphy took some umbrage at the situation, but due to the way that the replay rules are written, had no play he could challenge. Play continued. Harper drew a walk.

Escobar would walk right after Harper, and the bases were now loaded for Ryan Zimmerman. With a 2-0 count, Rzepczynski leaned on a 96mph fastball down the groove, which Zimmerman deposited in the right field bleachers, giving the Nationals an 8-2 lead on the umpires’ mistake.

Jedd Gyorko added a second home run off Casey Janssen in the seventh, which triggered a bit of a meltdown from Padres’ skipper Pat Murphy. Former Nationals’ prospect Derek Norris singled his way aboard, and that was all Murphy could take. He should have the winning run at the plate in Melvin Upton, but instead he’s down five. He expressed his deep and abiding frustration and his contention that Harper should have been out.

But he expressed that in a way that managers are not suffered to do so for long. Rackley ejected Murphy for his commentary before Murphy had even come to the top step of the dugout. Of course, Murphy ran out to vehemently express his disapproval of Rackley, Rackley’s mother, Rackley’s mother’s dog, and the neighbor’s goat, though it’s not immediately clear what the goat had to do with it, before being talked back into the visiting clubhouse.

Janssen would complete the seventh without further damage.

The bullpen had a bit of a scare in the eighth, sending Matt Thornton to the hill. The Padres (save for Jedd Gyorko) had more success against Thornton in a third of an inning than they had against anyone else all night. Singles from Yangervis Solarte and pinch hitter Clint Barmes chased Thornton from the game with one out in the seventh.

Blake Treinen mopped things up with a quick round-the-horn double play to end the threat in the eighth, and would retire the side in order in the ninth to end the Padres’ day.

For a moment, Nats fans across the country could take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy a fun night at the ballpark. This was the team that they had waited to see, one that could hit you just as hard in the eight slot (Ramos, 1-for-3, HR, BB) as it could in the six slot (Zimmerman, 1-for-5, HR, 4 RBI), or the three slot (Rendon, 2-for-5, 2 R, 2 H).

For one night this season, the Nationals looked as-advertised. With only 38 games to go, they’ll need to look it every one of those nights.

HERO: Ryan Zimmerman, for his grand slam in the sixth, and Stephen Strasburg for a shutdown performance.

GOAT: No official goat tonight, just old man fate for keeping this team starcrossed for four months.

NATS NOTES:

  • Zimmerman’s Grand Slam in the sixth was the Nationals’ second all year. It was Zimmerman’s first since 2013, and fifth in his career.
  • Per Nationals PR, the Nats are hitting .487 (19-for-39) with 20 RBI when batting with two outs since Saturday night.

NEXT UP: Nationals vs. Padres, 7:05pm Wednesday, Tyson Ross (8-9, 3.32) vs Gio Gonzalez (9-6, 3.98).

Washington Nationals Game 120 Review: Rockies top Nationals 3-2

WHERE HAS ALL THE OFFENSE GONE, LONG TIME PASSING

Max Scherzer and Yohan Flande went blow for blow on Thursday night in Denver, the Cy Young winner vs. the youngster with less than 100 innings pitched in the majors. Max Scherzer allowed three runs on 8 hits through 6+ IP, while Flande allowed two and drove in one. The Nationals had just four hits in Thursday’s matchup, and fell four games back of the Mets with 42 games to play.

Flande was just as impressive at the plate as he was on the mound, sparking the Rockies’ rally in the fifth, and driving in their second run in the sixth. He finished the night 3-for-3 against Scherzer, tied for second on the year for most hits against Scherzer. Odubel Herrera of the Phillies leads with four in 13 at-bats.

Though Scherzer only gave up a trio of runs, he was not his usual impressive self on Thursday night. Scherzer walked three, and had a number of pitches in the dirt as he worked to locate his slider. Largely dependent on his changeup for his out pitch, Scherzer was having to grind to work his way through the Rockies’ lineup. His final line of 6+ IP, 8H, 3 ER, 3 BB (1 IBB), and 7 K won’t make it to any highlight reels.

The Nationals struck back in the top of the seventh, with Ryan Zimmerman getting a walk, and Michael A. Taylor destroying a fastball down the groove into the center field stands to tie the game at two. Taylor’s 493-foot blast was the 11th of his rookie year, and the longest on record in the majors this year.

The home half of the seventh inning was a peculiar thing to take in. Max Scherzer, at 90 pitches or so, came out to take the rock in the bottom of the seventh. Jose Reyes singled to center to start the inning, and Matt Williams came to get his ace. Felipe Rivero came in to face Carlos Gonzalez, who beat the defense the other way to move Reyes to second. Blake Treinen got the call from the bullpen, and came in to strike out Nolan Arenado on a slider up in the zone. He wouldn’t get so lucky against lefty Ben Paulsen, who drove in Reyes on a bloop single to center, shallow enough and slow enough to score Reyes from second.

Why Williams wanted Treinen with the lefty matchup is unclear to me at press time, especially given that lefties hit .322/.398/.471 against him this year. Given that the bullpen has had a restful series in Colorado, Williams had a panoply of options, and it seems Treinen was an odd choice. The inning would conclude on a wild pitch to another lefty, Daniel Descalso, as Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t commit to running home, or get back to 3rd fast enough.

The ninth saw a leadoff single for Bryce Harper – only the Nationals’ fourth hit of the day – against John Axford. The cagey closer would drop a perfectly placed 3-2 curve on the corner to Yunel Escobar to rack the first out of the ninth. Ian Desmond swung right through a 2-2 slider to put the game on the line with two outs. Ryan Zimmerman forced a walk from Axford in a beautiful at-bat, putting Taylor at the plate for the big moment. He’d swing through a high fastball, and that would end the game.

The Mets were off Thursday, and the Nationals fell to four games back of the Division with 42 to play.

HERO: Michael A. Taylor for his tape-measure blast in the seventh to tie the game at two.

GOAT: Max Scherzer and Matt Williams, for equal parts bad bullpen management and a rough night – his third straight start – with control problems to boot.

NATS NOTES:

  • 493 feet is 9 feet longer than Giancarlo Stanton’s league-leading 484-foot homers for Miami.
  • If the Mets finished 21-21, the Nationals would need to finish 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.

NEXT UP: The Nationals return home to face the Brewers on Friday night. Gio Gonzalez (9-5, 3.86) vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-9, 3.61) at 7:05pm.

Washington Nationals Game 119 Review: Strasburg’s Solid in Colorado, Nats Squeak by Rockies

The Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 4-1 on Wednesday night thanks to a tie-breaking two-run triple hit by Jayson Werth in the eighth inning.

Colorado took an early 1-0 lead over the Nats in the second inning when first baseman Ben Paulsen scored on a wild pitch thrown by Washington starter Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg ended up with the win on Wednesday, tallying his seventh of the season. He threw 93 pitches and 68 strikes in seven innings while giving up two hits, one run, and striking out five batters. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 118 Review: Offense Awakes, Rockies Stunned, Nats Win 15-6

NATS SLIDE STOPS AT SIX, OFFENSE EXPLODES FOR 15 RUNS, 10 WALKS

With the season on the line, and a new batting order in place, the first ten minutes of Tuesday night’s game held a lot of hope for the Nationals. Bryce Harper drew a walk in the three slot, and Yunel Escobar crushed a homer to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

And then the Rockies came to the plate.

The Rockies scored three in the first, and added another in the seconds, on a pair of home runs off Jordan Zimmermann, and some horrific defensive miscues by Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

Carlos Gonzalez was the first to strike for Colorado, sending a 1-1 fastball high in the air over the fence in right field. Jose Reyes came in ahead of Gonzalez after a smooth single. The Rockies would add one more on some ham-handed defense by Ian Desmond. With Nolan Arenado at third, Nick Hundley hit a routine grounder right to Desmond, who couldn’t pick it cleanly, nor hold on to the ball

The Nationals fought back in the third, getting a Danny Espinosa double, and a Bryce Harper walk to put the tying run at first base with one out. Escobar singled up the middle, scoring the fleet-footed Espinosa, and Harper gunned it for third on the play. Ian Desmond followed with the world’s luckiest bunt single, badly misread by David Hale. Hale came charging in, but didn’t complete the charge to cover home as Nick Hundley fielded the ball. Harper spotted the miscue and snuck right down the third base line to score the tying run, knotting the score at 3.

In the fifth, newly-minted leadoff hitter Jayson Werth racked out a single on the sweet spot with two outs, and Espinosa knocked him right in on a double to the right field corner to take the lead. Next frame, the Nationals would strike on another gutsy baserunning play, this time by Ian Desmond. With Wilson Ramos batting, and Desmond at third, Hale threw a wild pitch that just got away from Hundley at the plate. Desmond broke as soon as the pitch looked wild and charged the plate well ahead of the relay back from Hundley, making it 6-4.

The Rockies tied it in the sixth on a monster shot from Jose Reyes, leading many to question why perhaps Zimmermann was still in the game. Clearly struggling after five innings, he had given up five runs, but there he was, batting for himself in the top of the sixth.

With the game tied, the Nationals had to make a push. The Mets had finished their victory over the Baltimore Orioles, and moved to a five-game lead over the NL East. And push they did. The Nats put up nine runs from the seventh onward, including four in the eighth and ninth. Bryce Harper drew his fourth walk of the night, Danny Espinosa drew up a 3-for-5 with 2 RBI, Jayson Werth went 2-for-5 in the leadoff slot, and Yunel Escobar racked up 4 RBI in a 3-for-4 with two walks.

The bullpen did a remarkable job of shutting down the Rockies, with Drew Storen throwing a scoreless eighth and Tanner Roark doing the same in the ninth to shut the Rockies down for good. Jordan Zimmermann did surrender six runs, including a pair of unearned runs thanks to bad defense, but the young pitcher looked gassed after five full, and why he was left in despite that remains a mystery. Thankfully for the Nationals, the Rockies had their own troubles Tuesday night.

HERO: Let’s give this one to Matt Williams, who shuffled the lineup to some actual success. Whether it was the movement, or some other psychosomatic change, let’s give this guy one. After all, if they lose the next two he might still be in the BLS report next month.

GOAT: Wilson Ramos puts up an 0-for-5 on the day and looked atrocious at the plate.

NATS NOTES:

  • Harper’s four walks are a career high
  • Escobar’s four RBI match a season high
  • The Nats’ 15 runs and 10 walks are both season highs

NEXT UP: Rematch! Nationals/Rockies return tomorrow night at 8:40pm. Strasburg vs De La Rosa.

While the division slips away, day dreaming about opening day

The Washington Nationals are hard to watch right now. They aren’t hitting nearly enough. The bullpen gives up runs on a nightly basis, failing to protect leads or allowing insurance runs to make comebacks impossible. Even the stalwart starting pitchers are struggling post- All-Star break. Defensive miscues abound, mental mistakes are staring to creep in and, all the while, the manager is starting to make panic moves like having a .300 hitter bunt a runner over to third with no outs in the first inning. It’s getting ugly.

So… let’s pause from this for a moment and distract ourselves, shall we? Regardless of how this season eventually shakes out, there will be big changes on the field. There may be big changes off the field as well, but that depends on the next six weeks of baseball and that’s what we’re trying to forget for a moment. [Read more…]

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