September 5, 2015

For the Nats and Strasburg, at what point is enough, enough?

STRASBURG LEAVES START WITH “UPPER BACK” INJURY; ANOTHER SHUTDOWN LOOMS?

I was going to start this column by listing all the members of the Washington Nationals 40-man roster who spent time on the disabled list this season. But I stopped for fear I wouldn’t have room to actually make my point after that.

We’ve already seen plenty of “What wrong with the Nationals” or “Most disappointing team in the majors” pieces being written about the club, but the simple fact remains: The organization was able to field its projected starting lineup twice this season — all season — and not until late August when they were already 5 1/2 game out in the division. [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 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 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…]

Nats Nightly: Offense absent again in loss to Giants

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

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

Washington Nationals Game 114 Review: Bats quiet once again in San Fran

HARPER HAS TWO OF NATS’ FIVE HITS ON THE NIGHT

In the midst of a make-or-break 10-game west coast road trip, the Washington Nationals fell to 1-3 in the first four games as the offense struggled yet again, falling to the San Francisco Giants 3-1 at AT&T Park.

The Nats fell yet another game, 4 1/2 now, behind the division leading New York Mets, 12-3 winners over Colorado. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 109 Review: Strasburg dominant in return from D.L.

STRASBURG STRIKES OUT 12 IN FIRST START OFF DISABLED LIST

Stephen Strasburg was masterful in his first start back from being activated from the disabled list and the Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Saturday.

Strasburg made a triumphant return from the D.L. after missing a month with assortment of ailments, all stemming from the sprained ankle he sustained during spring training. His performance reminded all that when he’s healthy, he’s still capable of being special. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 71 Review: Strasburg gives Nats solid five innings in win over Braves

Stephen Strasburg pitched five shutout innings and the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Tuesday at Nationals Park.

Strasburg, making his first start since being activated from the disabled list with an assortment of ailments, hit 97-98 on the radar gun most of the night and allowed just four hits and one walk. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Minor League Report for June 17

Compiled from team press releases:

SYRACUSE (AAA International League): The Syracuse Chiefs won their fourth straight game en route to sweeping the Toledo Mud Hens, 13-5, on Wednesday afternoon at NBT Bank Stadium. Darin Mastroianni and Emmanuel Burriss each homered and had three hits. Burriss led the team with four runs batted in after a three-run home run in the seventh inning.

Syracuse (23-44) broke open the scoring in its first inning at the plate. Mastroianni and Burriss led off the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back singles. The number three hitter, Jason Martinson, caught Toledo’s infield off guard and laid down a bunt single to load the bases with none out. Chiefs newcomer and first baseman Kevin Keyes singled, driving in Mastroianni and Burriss, and giving the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. Third baseman Ricky Hague continued the hit parade for Syracuse, singling and scoring Martinson to improve the Chiefs’ lead to 3-0. In the very next at-bat, designated hitter Mark Minicozzi hit Syracuse’s sixth straight single and fourth straight run. Caleb Ramsey, the right fielder, collected the Chiefs’ seventh single in a row and drove in Hague to improve the Syracuse lead to 5-0. Syracuse scored all five runs in the inning on seven consecutive singles, all with none out.

The Chiefs continued to score in the bottom of the second inning off of Toledo starter Buck Farmer. After batting through the order in the bottom of the first, Mastroianni led off the second inning, but did more damage than a single. Mastroianni connected for just his second home run of the season, and extended the Chiefs’ lead to 6-0.

After not scoring since the Mastroianni solo home run in the bottom of the second, the Chiefs responded in the bottom of the sixth. Ramsey started the rally with a one-out triple to left-center field. He scored on the very next batter when Dan Butler doubled. Following a Josh Johnson strikeout, Mastroianni singled and drove in his second run of the day. During Burriss’ following at-bat, Mastroianni stole second and then came around to score on Burriss’ single. The Chiefs were still not done in the bottom of the sixth as Martinson singled and drove in Burriss, extending the Chiefs lead to 10-4.

The Chiefs added three more runs off the bat of Burriss in the bottom of the seventh. Ramsey led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to third when Johnson reached first on a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, Burriss connected on a 1-1 pitch and hit a line drive over the right-field wall to increase the lead to 13-4.

The Mud Hens got one run back in the top of the ninth from a Marte solo home run, but it was not enough, as the Chiefs won 13-5.

Syracuse will start a three-game series on Friday against Buffalo at 7:05 p.m. after taking a day off on Thursday. Friday’s game will be the first of 21 games between the Thruway rivals and will see right-hander A.J. Cole take the mound for the Chiefs against left-hander Matt Boyd for the Bisons.

HARRISBURG (AA Eastern): Stephen Strasburg allowed one earned run in five innings of work, but the Harrisburg Senators could not take advantage in a 4-3 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels Wednesday afternoon before 5,537 fans at Metro Bank Park. The loss drops the Senators back to 10 games under .500 at 27-37.

Strasburg allowed two runs overall, but just one was earned, while he walked none and struck out six in his rehab start with Harrisburg. Strasburg threw 71 pitches, 46 of which were strikes, in his five innings. Richmond’s Kelby Tomlinson hit an RBI double off Strasburg in the third inning and Mitch Delfino singled in a run in the fourth. Colin Bates relieved Strasburg and threw two innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits. Brian Dupra escaped a bases loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning thanks to a fantastic play by Matt Skole. Harrisburg’s third baseman made a diving stop, stepped on third base and then threw across the diamond for the third out of the inning. The Senators’ Sammy Solis pitched a scoreless ninth inning while working around a pair of singles.

Cutter Dykstra put the Senators on the board with a solo home run in the fourth inning – his first with the Senators in 2015. Harrisburg then cut Richmond’s lead to one in the seventh inning when Trea Turner dumped a single into center field to score Brian Jeroloman and Derrick Robinson. Turner also doubled in the ninth inning following a Jose Lozada single to put runners on second and third with two outs, but Skole grounded out to end the game.

Tuner was 3-for-5 in his second game as a Senator with his first two RBI. Jeroloman also was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Robinson reached twice with a pair of walks in the game and Dykstra added a single in the eighth inning to go along with his dinger.

The finale of the three-game series will start Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. with the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo making its first appearance of the season.

POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League): Potomac (30-36-Overall, 15-20-Road) let a 1-0 lead slip away in the bottom of the seventh inning leading to a 2-1 win for the Lynchburg Hillcats (32-34-Overall, 15-17-Home), who salvaged the finale of the three-game set at Calvin Falwell Field on Wednesday night.

RHP Lucas Giolito made his eighth start of the season and hurled four scoreless innings relinquishing five hits and no runs while walking four and striking out six and did not factor in the decision.

Potomac, in a scoreless ballgame through one inning took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second against Michael Peoples when C Spencer Kieboom led-off the frame with a double to the left-centerfield gap. Kieboom came to the plate when 3B Drew Ward traded places with Kieboom at second base after his RBI double to left field made it 1-0 Potomac.

The game remained 1-0 in favor of Potomac until the bottom of the seventh when Lynchburg claimed the lead for good. RHP Jake Johnasen replaced Giolito in the fifth inning and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings despite walking four ‘Cats and striking out two in his innings of work.

LHP Justin Thomas (0-4, 3.33) entered out of the bullpen in seventh and pitched two innings himself. He ran into trouble in the seventh when 1B Nellie Rodriguez singled to open the set. C Eric Hasse followed with a single of his own and Thomas, on a pick-off attempt threw the baseball down the right field line allowing both Rodriguez and Hasse to move up 90 feet. 3B Paul Hendrix then reached on an infield single that loaded the bases and the equalizer crossed the plate on a passed ball charged to Kieboom to tie the game at 1-1. LF Mike Papi then gave Lynchburg the lead with a single that brought home Hasse for a 2-1 Hillcats advantage. SS Ivan Castillo walked to reload the bases but the rally ended there and Lynchburg was forced to settle for a one-run lead heading to the eighth.

Thomas finished the ballgame pitching a scoreless bottom of the eighth but ultimately took the loss in two innings of work he gave up two runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts.

Despite Wilmington losing tonight as well, the loss was enough and Potomac became the second team behind the Winston-Salem Dash to officially be eliminated in the first-half Northern Division Title race.

Potomac heads home and opens up a four-game series to wrap up the first-half at home against the Carolina Mudcats at Pfitzner Stadium. Game One features RHP John Simms (3-5, 3.7.70) for Potomac against LHP Blair Walters (2-2, 2.89) for the Mudcats.  First pitch scheduled for 7:05 pm from Woodbridge, VA.

HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic): The Hagerstown Suns erupted for three runs in the top of the 11th inning to win their third straight South Atlantic League game, 4-1, Wednesday night at Kannapolis.

After failing to get a hit in the previous four innings, Hagerstown (32-32) got four in the 11th against losing pitcher David Trexler (0-2).  After Alec Keller singled, moved to second on Raudy Read‘s sacrifice bunt and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Jose Marmolejos, two more insurance runs came across as Grant DeBruin and Jeff Gardner hit back-to-back doubles.

In the bottom of the 11th, Jake Walsh earned his second save, setting the Intimidators down 1-2-3.  It was a night of stellar pitching for the Suns as starter Austen Williams didn’t allow an earned run in his six innings, lowering his ERA to 1.77.  Justin Amlung and Robert Orlan (2-0) then contributed two scoreless innings apiece. Orlan was particularly nasty in gaining the victory as he didn’t allow a baserunner, fanning five.

Hagerstown got its first run in the sixth inning, Read singling home Brennan Middleton who had reached on a single and advanced on a walk to D.K. Carey.

The Suns will try for a sweep of the three-game set Thursday night but will have to deal with one of the SAL’s top pitchers, Thad Lowry (7-2, 3.66). Hagerstown answers with SAL All-Star Drew Van Orden (3-1, 1.60).  First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

 

Strasburg fairly sharp in rehab start with Harrisburg

Washington Nationals rehabbing starter Stephen Strasburg was reasonably sharp in a five-inning appearance for AA-Harrisburg on Wednesday. The righty, troubled with ankle, neck and back problems — but reportedly no arm pain — allowed one earned run on four hits and no walks, striking out six. The important part is that he told reporters he felt fine after the appearance.

From the Senators’ press release:

Strasburg allowed two runs overall, but just one was earned, while he walked none and struck out six in his rehab start with Harrisburg. Strasburg threw 71 pitches, 46 of which were strikes, in his five innings. Richmond’s Kelby Tomlinson hit an RBI double off Strasburg in the third inning and Mitch Delfino singled in a run in the fourth.

According to The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga, Strasburg started 16 of 20 batters faced with a strike and the pitcher “looked comfortable”.

Manager Matt Williams, in his press conference before tonight’s matchup against Tampa Bay at Nats Park, said the team will evaluate how Strasburg feels in the next couple of days to determine if he’ll make another rehab start or rejoin the Nats.

Strasburg is an integral part of the Nats rotation and hopefully the week and a half off allowed his various ailments to recoup to allow him to throw with his normal mechanics.

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