May 7, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 9 Review: Bats Arise in 10-5 Victory over Boston

The Washington Nationals exploded for six runs in the third inning on Wednesday afternoon in the finale with the Boston Red Sox, on their way to a 10-5 final. The closing game of the six-game road trip was their first decisive win of the 2015 campaign. Gio Gonzalez pitched six strong innings in his first win, and Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore each smacked home runs. Rafael Martin make his MLB debut in relief and struck out five straight Red Sox, becoming the oldest player in history (30) to make his MLB debut in Fenway Park since 1947.

The third inning was the big story for the Nationals, as it was their first real offensive explosion of the nine-day-old season. Ian Desmond had a Green Monster shot to kickstart the offense. A single from Jayson Werth, his first of the year, led off the rally followed by a pair of walks to Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. The wheels had come off for Wade Miley at this point, but Boston Manager John Farrell left him in one batter too long. Wilson Ramos cleared the bases with a double to the left field corner as the finishing blow, making the score 6-2.

With Wade Miley gone, Anthony Varvaro came on to mop up the mess and only made it worse. Dan Uggla and Michael A. Taylor each added RBI doubles before Yunel Escobar grounded out to end the six-run third inning. The Nationals sent ten men to the plate, scored six runs, and gathered two walks to complete an offensive explosion that had been a long time coming. After the game, starter Gio Gonzalez said, “Let’s not kid ourselves, the offense was amazing.” Finally, the Nats offense had arrived.

Four Nationals amassed multi-hit games (Harper, Ramos, Taylor and Moore), with only one Escobar shut out of the hit parade, and only two shut out of the RBI column. The Nats’ twelve hits were a season-high mark for the struggling offense.

Gonzalez had a strong day, with 6IP, 4ER, 6K and just 2BB, netting his first win. Rafael Martin, in his MLB debut, struck out five in his two relief innings, allowing no runs on just one hit. The 30-year old has worked his way up from the Mexican leagues through Potomac, Harrisburg and Syracuse over the last six seasons, and today he was impressive.

Drew Storen notched an uneventful ninth inning at Fenway in his third outing of the year.

HERO: Let’s give this one to the battery of Wilson Ramos (2 for 5, 2R, 3RBI, 2H) and Rafael Martin (2IP, 5K, 1H).

GOAT: Yunel Escobar is the only player to have missed out on the offensive awakening, and his error in the second came back to haunt the Nats. Even so, Escobar’s day shouldn’t earn him a full goat award, so we’ll award him just a tiny goat. Like this one.

NATS NOTES

Martin was recalled from Syracuse as Xavier Cedeño was designated for assignment. He becomes the first Nationals pitcher to strike out five in a row in their major league debut since Stephen Strasburg in June of 2010, and the first major leaguer to do it since Jason Grimm in 2012.

The Nationals 5 for 11 with runners in scoring position is far and away their best of the year. Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Nationals were 11 for 56 with runners in scoring position, a .197 average. They finish at 16 for 67, a .239 average.

UP NEXT: The Nationals return home Thursday to face the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 pm. Doug Fister (0-1, 0.00) hosts Cole Hamels (0-1, 3.75).

OPINION: Nationals Have Options as Opening Day Approaches

The Nationals’ roster for Opening Day is starting to come into focus, and there are some surprises as compared with a month ago. With Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span expected to start their seasons in rehab assignments, the Nats find themselves looking at some additional bench slots, as players on the roster shift around to fill the gaps. Here’s a look at a few of the swaps fans will likely see come April 6th.

Michael Taylor has had quite a spring, including a pair of home runs against Justin Verlander, and is well-positioned to find himself both the CF for Opening Day and the lead off man for Matt Williams. The 24 year old rookie has plus speed and a solid glove, but will likely be back at Syracuse once Span returns barring a miracle. It will be worth it to catch the coming attractions while they’re here, Nats fans, Taylor may well be your Opening Day Center Fielder in 2016, as well.

Danny Espinosa will likely find himself at the hot corner until Anthony Rendon’s knee has fully recovered, which could be until May. Now righty-only, Espinosa has seen some good at-bats this spring against right-handed pitching but his whole season is predicated upon a return to the hitting of his rookie season. Many have praised his approach this spring, but it’s safe to say his career with the Nats hangs in the balance.

Tyler Moore will likely be your starting left fielder on April 6th, and the perennial bench favorite has earned the opportunity his spring with a slash line of .320/.327/.580. While no one will confuse Moore for Jayson Werth and his luxurious beard, that the Nationals can find replacements for three core bats speaks volumes about the depth of the roster right now. For that, Mike Rizzo should be applauded.

What this will do to the bench bats for Matt Williams, though, is a little less clear. I would argue that it is likely to be Kevin Frandsen, a rejuvenated Dan Uggla, the recently acquired Matt den Dekker, and Tony Gwynn Jr., who’s found his swing again. That is definitely not the bench anyone was predicting in February – rather, if you were, please drop me an email with proof and I’ll buy you a beer. It is entirely possible that recently acquired Reed Johnson might displace recently acquired den Dekker in the final roster spot, but I suspect we’ll see a fierce battle with the two of them each getting substantial playing time over the next five days.

This isn’t the Opening Day Roster that Mike Rizzo wanted to run out there; the injuries this spring could conceivably cost this team as many as 4-5 wins this season, though I suspect that’s a worst case estimate. Before you start, fair reader, don’t go blaming these events on a Sports Illustrated curse — curses are silly, and you’re better than that — but do look at the current roster options and rest a bit easier, Nats fans. There’s a lot of depth here, and the prognoses for May returns for Rendon, Werth and Span all bode well for the Nationals.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats 9, Braves 8

Tyler Moore continued his hot spring, going 2 for 3 with a triple and home run and five RBIs to pace the Washington Nationals over N.L. East foe Atlanta Braves 9-8 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Moore hit a two-run homer off Braves starter Alex Wood in the second inning with Dan Uggla (1 for 2, run, RBI) aboard. In the fifth, Moore tripled to center off former Nats farmhand Juan Jaime, plating Tony Gwynn Jr and Emmanuel Burris.

The Nats got their winning run in the seventh when Matt Skole scored on a wild pitch by Arodys Vizcaino.

Freddie Freeman homered for the Braves off Craig Stammen in the fifth.

Jordan Zimmermann started for the Nationals and pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed a bloop single and walked one with no strikeouts.

NATS NOTES:

  • Taylor Jordan followed Zimmermann in his first action since being shut down last season with elbow discomfort and subsequent bone chips surgery last October. He gave up three earned runs on four hits. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out one.
  • Stammen was hammered in his inning of work. The veteran reliever gave up a whopping five runs on eight hits.
  • NRI invitee Rich Hill struck out two in 1 1/3 innings.
  • Matt Grace, Even Meek and Manny Delcarmen all pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
  • In addition to Moore, Kevin Frandsen and Ian Desmond both had two-hit days. Skole was 1 for 2 with a double and two runs scored.
  • Sandy Leon was the DH and went 0 for 4.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats top Mets in Grapefruit opener

The Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in the Nats Grapefruit League opener on Thursday.

Max Scherzer made his Nats debut and pitched two innings, allowing a solo home run to John Mayberry Jr on a offspeed pitch, and an infield single. He struck out two and walked none, throwing 29 pitches, 20 for strikes.

Tanner Roark took over in the third an immediately ran into trouble. A one-out walk and fielder’s choice set up a two-run, two-out home run by Eric Campbell, a line drive shot to left. Kevin Frandsen mishandled a grounder to second by Kirk Niewenhuis and Mayberry followed with a clean single to left. Anthony Recker then delivered another single to bring in Niewenhuis.

The Nats cut into the lead in the bottom. Mike Carp was hit leading off and scored on Tyler Moore’s double to left. Moore moved up on Frandsen’s infield hit and scored on Denard Span’s grounder that was misplayed by Mets 2B Wilfredo Tovar.

Rafael Martin took over in the fourth and had a 1-2-3 inning, getting Matt den Dekker looking for the third out.

Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond both struck out against Gabriel Ynoa to start the fourth, but the Nats then loaded the bases with two outs as Mike Carp singled, Tyler Moore hit a ground rule double and Kevin Frandsen walked. Carp then scored on Derrick Robinson’s fielder’s choice.

In the seventh, free agent NRI Kila Ka’aihue homered off Cory Mazzoni with Robinson aboard to deliver the Nats their first win of the exhibition season.

Nats Notes:

  • NRI reliever Heath Bell struck out three but walked two in his scoreless inning of work.
  • Following Bell, Aaron Barrett, Xavier Cedeno, Eric Fornataro and Blake Treinen all pitched scoreless innings. Cedeno and Fornataro both gave up one hit and struck out one.
  • Clint Robinson took over in right for Bryce Harper in the fourth and went 2 for 3 with a run scored. He was the only hitter other than Moore with more than one hit.
  • New second baseman Yunel Escobar was supposed to make his Nats debut, but was scratched due to “overall soreness” from workouts adjusting to second base.
  • Second base prospect Wilmer Difo was 1 for 1 with a walk.

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Infielders

This week, District Sports Page will review the players currently on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster and their potential contributions to the Major League roster this season.

Monday: Catchers
Tuesday: Infielders
Wednesday: Outfielders
Thursday: Starters
Friday: Bullpen

FIRST BASE

Ryan Zimmerman
2014: 240 PAs, .280/.342/.449 with 5 HRs, 184 RBIs (0.4 WAR). .948 FD% at 3B.

We’ve seen this coming for several season. With the expiration of Adam LaRoche’s tenure with the club, the Face of the Franchise ™ moves across the diamond to first base on a permanent basis. Some would say ‘about time.’ Now 30, Zimmerman’s throwing problems at third base were well-documented and his time in the outfield last season can be described as non-harmful at best. He made some plays, but the spectacular nature of some only outlined his lack of mobility for the wide open pastures of left field. It’s a shame, really, because before he injured his shoulder diving head-first into second base he really was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. His bat will play at first, especially if he can get 500 plate appearances, but we’re all left wondering where he could have ranked on the all-time third base list if he could have stayed there.

Tyler Moore
2014: 100 PAs, .231/.300.385 with 4 HRs, 14 RBIs (0.4 WAR). .948 FD% at 1B.

Ah, Tyler Moore. Some saw his power numbers in the minors and salivated. Sure, he was old at every level and didn’t really have a position, but he kept hitting home runs — 31 two years running in Potomac and Harrisburg. Surely, the skill would translate as he ascended into the big leagues! Well, maybe, maybe not. Moore still has power, but more (Moore) often than not flails away at the better pitching in the big leagues. It’s a story told time and again about thick-bodied minor league sluggers without a natural position on the diamond (cough Steven Souza cough). Moore has hit 10 homers in both of the past two seasons at Syracuse and now represents little more than a bat off the bench and emergency starter. If Zimmerman can’t give them 500 plate appearances, the team could be in a little trouble.

SECOND BASE

Yunel Escobar
2014: 529 PAs, .258/.324/.340 with 7 HRs, 39 RBIs (-0.2 WAR) with TBY. .965 FD% at SS.

The Nats traded older prospect Steven Souza Jr Tyler Clippard for the much-traveled shortstop with the hopes of plugging him into the abyss at second base. Escobar was one of the worst fielding shortstops in all of baseball last season by any metric you’d like to use, so the move to second base should help him recover some value. GM Mike Rizzo said Escobar battled back and hamstring issues all season long which affected his fielding. While hamstrings heal, back issues are usually chronic in nature. All that aside, his bat is pretty meh, especially for a guy that stays in the lineup every day, apparently whether he’s healthy or injured. His last good year was in 2011 when he hit .290/.369/.413. But his average has been .253, .256, .258 in the three years since. It’s a shame Rizzo felt like he had to give up a prospect of value for this skill set.

Danny Espinosa
2014: 364 PAs, .219/.283/.351 with 8 HRs, 27 RBIs, 8 SB/1 CS (0.0 WAR). .990 FD% at 2B, .978 at SS.

The reason Rizzo felt like he had to trade for Escobar. Espinosa once tantalized with 20-20 capability with Gold Glove caliber defense. But after playing through shoulder and hand injuries, plus complete ineffectiveness from the left side, Espinosa is left trying to resurrect his career as a backup middle infielder. There’s a shred of hope that within his split against lefties last season (.301/.374/.485) there’s a serviceable right-handed hitter in there, as Rizzo said in the offseason Espinosa would abandon switch-hitting. But Espinosa hasn’t seen a breaking ball go away from him from a right-handed pitcher in 15 years, so it’ll be a fascinating transition should be become proficient at it. His defense is still very good at second and short, and at least we know he can still hit lefties, so there’s utility in that.

Wilmer Difo
2014 Low-A: 610 PAs, .315/.360/.470 with 14 HRs, 90 RBIs, 49 SB/9 CS.

Difo tore up the Sally last season at age 22 for Hagerstown. It came as a shock, since he’d hit a combined five home runs in his previous four minor league seasons and had hit above .265 once. He can run and is a decent fielder but has played all over the infield, so the Nats aren’t really sure where he’ll end up playing. Second base will probably be where he settles though, but he split duties just about down the middle between there and short last season. Difo’s eye-popping numbers from last year put him on the radar, now he’ll have to live up to his newly-minted “prospect” status. Double-A has a way of separating guys that had a good year in the Sally (a year old for the level) from true prospects.

THIRD BASE

Anthony Rendon
2014: 683 PAs, .287/.351/.473 with 21 HRs, 83 RBIs, 17 SB/3 CS (6.5 WAR). .958 FD% at 3B.

It’s hard to articulate how good a season Rendon had in 2014, and where his offensive game could still go. He was fifth in the N.L. in MVP balloting as a 24-year-old and won the Silver Slugger at third. He is, simply, one of the best offensive players in the league and a fine defender at two positions as well. The Nats have elected to keep him at third base, his natural position, choosing to acquire Yunel Escobar to play second base full-time. And oh yeah, still a couple of years yet before he hits “peak.”

SHORTSTOP

Ian Desmond
2014: 648 PAs, .255/.313/.430 with 24 HRs, 91 RBIs, 24 SB/5 CS (2.8 WAR). .963 FD% at SS.

Desmond turned in another 20-20 season, his third in a row and third consecutive Silver Slugger. The production isn’t the concern with Desmond, who’s turned himself into one of the most consistent offensive performers at shortstop in the Majors. The defense isn’t the problem either — though he made a few more errors last season, he makes up for that in range and arm. With Desmond, you know what you’re gonna get on the field. As everyone knows by now, though, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, was subject of trade rumors all winter long, and will probably test the open market once the season concludes. The Nats even took precaution against Desmond leaving by trading for not just one shortstop prospect, but two, over the winter. I’d say the Nats are preparing for the likelihood of Desmond playing elsewhere next season.

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for Week Ending June 15th

Another week of minor league baseball is in the books. Here are some names around the Washington Nationals’ organization that are making headlines. Notice that the Auburn Doubledays have begun their schedule. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 40 Review: Ninth Inning Drama Salvages Victory Over Diamondbacks

In an afternoon duel between two pitchers, the Washington Nationals needed a ninth inning rally to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, 5-1.

From the early going, runs were at a premium as we witnessed a duel in the desert on the mound. Both Washignton’s Doug Fister (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 100 PC) and Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 101 PC) brought their ace material to the diamond. It wasn’t until the third inning that either team’s offense started to make some noise.

[Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part I: The Infield

Ryan Zimmerman gets Matt Kemp out in top of 5th (third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to first baseman Adam LaRoche) - Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, Game One of Doubleheader on September 19, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Ryan Zimmerman is a key component to Nats playoff hopes. (stock photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page, Sept. 2012)

 

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

With no further adieu… [Read more…]

NATS: Happy Birthday, Tyler Moore

HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY TYLER MOORE!

Washington Nationals outfielder/first baseman was born on 01/30/1987 in Brandon, Mississippi.

Follow Tyler Moore on Twitter and wish #12 a Happy Birthday.

Nationals Tyler Moore during National Anthem in 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nationals Tyler Moore during National Anthem in 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals LF Tyler Moore at the plate and got to start in LF, May 20, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals LF Tyler Moore at the plate and got to start in LF, May 20, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Carlos Ruiz grounded out, Steve Lombardozzi to Tyler Moore for third out in third inning - Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals, July 31, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Carlos Ruiz grounded out, Steve Lombardozzi to Tyler Moore for third out in third inning – Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals, July 31, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

Washington Nationals Game 77 Review: Zimmermann dominates again in win over Arizona

What more can be said about Jordan Zimmermann that we have been saying all season long?

The stoic right-hander threw another gem, leading the Washington Nationals to their fifth win in seven games, a 3-2 decision over the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday evening, before 31,172 at Nationals Park. The win moved the Nats to within 5 1/2 games of division-leading Atlanta, pending the result of their game against Kansas City.

Zimmermann was, again, exceptional.  He raised his record to an N.L. best 11-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.28, limiting the D-backs to two runs on three hits and two walks over seven innings. After a somewhat shaky first inning, he gave up just one hit and one walk over his final six frames.

The Diamondbacks only damage of the night against Zimmermann came right in the first inning. With one out, Aaron Hill drew a walk after a 12-pitch at bat and scored when the next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, laced a double to right field, maybe taking a little advantage of Jayson Werth’s still-tender groin. Zimmermann got Miguel Montero to fly out, but Martin Prado singled to right to plate Goldschmidt.

The Nats (39-38) got one back in the bottom of the inning. Anthony Rendon (3-for-4, run) singled and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double to cut the lead to 2-1 after one inning.

Both starters settled in for several innings, but the Nats eventually got to D-back starter Wade Miley (7 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR). In the fourth, recently recalled Tyler Moore jumped on a fastball and lined shot to left center for his third home run of the season. Then in the fifth, Denard Span led off with a single, took second on a passed ball, and moved up to third on Rendon’s second hit of the night. Zimmerman hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but Span scored to give the Nats a 3-2 lead.

Tyler Clippard (H, 12) pitched a scoreless eighth inning with a strikeout and Rafael Soriano gave up a hit and a walk, but earned his 21st save of the season.

THE GOOD: Zimmermann, obviously. But Rendon’s three-hit night raises hit slash line to .354/.402.485.

THE BAD: Jayson Werth. 0-for-4, 2 Ks, 4 LOB and some very tentative defense in right field.

THE UGLY: We’ll give Ugly a pass for this evening.

THE STATS: 8 hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. 1-for-7 with RISP, 6 LOB. No errors, one DP.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 4:05 pm ET against Arizona. Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.40) hosts Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.19).

INJURY UPDATE: Bryce Harper made his second rehab appearance for the Potomac Nationals. He played five innings at DH and went 1-for-3 with a home run.

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