May 5, 2015

Washington Nationals Game 11 Review: Nats top Phils on strength of Harper and Espinosa homers.

The Washington Nationals made it three straight wins, picking up a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on an overcast and occasionally rainy Friday night in Washington. Max Scherzer made short work of the Philadelphia offense, and Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa each went yard as the Nats topped a divisional foe.

Max Scherzer took it to a depleted Philly lineup tonight, making quick work of their order. Through eight, Scherzer threw 100 pitches, scattered five hits, and struck out nine. The Phillies’ only run came in the third, as an Odubel Herrera double to right field became a triple as Harper tried to leap for it in vain. Herrera would come around on a grounder from Freddy Galvis on the next pitch. Had Harper played the ball off the carom, it’s entirely possible Herrera never would have scored.

Bryce Harper once again made waves in the first with a crushing blast. With Escobar (single) and Desmond (hit by pitch) aboard in the first, Harper would absolutely crush a ball to dead center field over the 400-foot sign. Danny Espinosa would join the party in the 4th with a blast to right center just next to where Harper hit his homer in the first.

The Nationals weren’t content at 4-1, and pressed hard into the Phillies’ bullpen in the seventh inning. Ian Desmond would get things going with an infield single (ruled an error) that he was able to beat out on the basepaths. With two out, the Phillies saw a chance to get Harper with a lefty, and brought in Jake Diekman. Harper, whose career approach against lefties would best be considered a struggle, showed some of the discipline and focus we’ve seen in his early season, and drew a critical walk. Ryan Zimmerman would lace one down the right field line to score both Desmond and Harper, and Wilson Ramos would drive a run in with a well-hit ball that just caught Chase Utley off-balance, and he’d throw it away to let Zimmerman score.

Yunel Escobar would leave the game after running out a grounder in the fourth. The ball was hit deep into the pocket at short, and Escobar was hustling up the line to beat the throw. As he reached the bag at first, he came up short, putting his hand along his inner thigh at the groin. After being attended to by trainers, he left the game. Dan Uggla took over at second, with Danny Espinosa moving to third.

The Nationals have moved to 5-6, just 2.5 games back of the division-leading Mets.

GOAT – Sorry, no goat tonight. While Ian Desmond’s 7th error was less than pleasing, his 3-for-4 night at the plate, reaching on an error and a hit-by-pitch, I can’t give him the goat for this one.

HERO – Let’s give this one to Ryan Zimmmerman for a combination of incredible defense and a 2-run double in the 7th to put this one away. His diving plays today saved runs for the Nats, and his late double put the game out of reach.

NATS NOTES

  • Felipe Rivero made his MLB debut for the Nats in the 9th, going 1 full, with a strikeout, and giving up three hits and a run.
  • Matt Williams’ 100th win was last night, and he was the fifth fastest to the century mark. Congratulations, Matt!
  • Depending on the results of Yunel Escobar’s examination, the Nats may need to call up another infielder tomorrow, and the only one on the 40-man roster is Wilmer Difo. Could it be Difomas? Difo Day? Difotacular? One of those. Could be.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: 4-run sixth help Nats top Cards

The Washington Nationals upped their Grapefruit League record to 3-0, using a four-run sixth inning to top the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 on Saturday in Viera.

Wilson Ramos led off the frame with a ground ball single and was replaced by pinch-runner Dan Butler. Michael Taylor followed with a line-drive single to left and Butler moved up 90 feet. After Cutter Dykstra was called out on strikes, Rafael Bautista’s line-drive single loaded the bases. Derrick Robinson struck out swinging, but Matt Skole followed with a single to center that plated Butler and Taylor, with Bautista going to third and Skole going to second on the throw.

Second base prospect Wilmer Difo then singled to right to score both Bautista and Skole.

The Nats picked up another run in the seventh when Dykstra’s triple scored Taylor, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

Stephen Strasburg started for the Nats and wasn’t particularly sharp. He went 1 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits and two walks, striking out two. No. 2 prospect A.J. Cole followed and went 2 1/3 innings, allowing two runs — one earned — on two hits.

NATS NOTES:

  • Ryan Zimmerman joined Difo as Nats with two hits. Zimmerman was 2 for 3 but did not factor in any scoring.
  • Anthony Rendon was 0 for 3 and still looking for his first hit of the spring.
  • Bryce Harper was 1 for 2 before giving way to Clint Robinson.
  • Jerry Blevins, Casey Janssen and Felipe Rivero all pitched scoreless innings in relief.
  • Danny Espinosa, Rendon and Difo all made errors.

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Catchers

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

Wilson Ramos

2014: 361 PAs, .267/.299/.399 with 11 HRs, 47 RBIs (0.9 WAR). 18 of 48 (38%) CS.

Ramos enters his mystical age-27 year hoping more for a full season of health as much as anything. The 88 games he played last year represented the second-most he’s played in his five-year big league career, which isn’t great. Still, his raw power is intriguing, even if it does come with a heavy ground ball skew. Ramos is solid throwing out would-be base stealers, but his reputation for having trouble fielding throws from the outfield is well-founded. Ramos is a good catcher, but his inability to stay healthy limits his utility and his opportunity to kick it up a notch is dwindling. Carpe diem.

Jose Lobaton
2014: 230 PAs, .234/.287/.304 with 2 HRs, 12 RBIs (0.5 WAR). 13 of 40 (33%) CS.

Lobaton, 31, posted his best season throwing out base runners and he’s praised for his pitch framing, which I suppose is all you can really ask for out of your backup catcher. The problem is Lobaton was pressed into more duty with yet another Wilson Ramos injury. Lobaton can’t really hit a lick, and if Ramos goes down for extended time this season, the Nats would have to consider trading for a starter, depending on the division standings and Ramos’ potential return. But if Ramos stays healthy, Lobaton is a perfectly suitable once-a-week catcher.

Sandy Leon
2014: 70 PAs, .156/.229/.219 with  1 HR, 3 RBIs. 5 of 8 (63%) CS.

The Nats cut ties with long-time third catcher Jhonatan Solano so 26-year-old Sandy Leon is up next. Leon hit .229/.321/.371 in 193 Triple-A plate appearances last season so he’s nobody’s idea of Johnny Bench. But he’s capable behind the plate and has a few years left in his legs so he’s entrenched at Syracuse until further notice. Not really a legitimate long-term big league option at this point in his career.

Dan Butler
2014: 20 PAs, .211/.250/.368, 2 RBIs. 0 of 3 CS.

Acquired in a trade for Daniel Rosenbaum after being DFA’d by Boston, Butler, 28, is organizational fodder. He’s hit .252/.347/.405 with 49 homers in 553 games over six minor league seasons. Butler always been old for his level throughout his MiLB career, perhaps inflating his power numbers. Not a prospect, but a Triple-A caddy.

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 3 Review: Fister, 3-run seventh give Nats another shot

Doug Fister pitched seven shutout innings, an uncharacteristic error led to a 3-run inning, and the Washington Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 to cut their deficit in the best of five series to two games to one on Monday at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The win snapped the Giants N.L. record 10-game postseason winning streak.

The pitching matchup came off as advertised. Fister took on 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner and both pitchers were sublime for most of the game.

In the top of the seventh, though, Ian Desmond reached Bumgarner for a single to lead off the frame. Bryce Harper then got himself into a 3-1 count, then spit on an 88-MPH slider for ball four.

Wilson Ramos was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but couldn’t get it done on the first two attempts. Usually, Ramos wouldn’t be asked to sacrifice, and he hadn’t successfully sacrificed since 2011, but with runs at a premium in this series, the Nats didn’t take the play off with two strikes.

Ramos was able to get a bunt down in fair territory with two strikes, and Bumgarner made the play. But instead of taking the easy out at first, he tried to cut down the lead runner, Desmond, at third. His throw was late — and wide of the bag.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval tried to reach for it and stay on the bag, but it sailed down the line, through the Giants bullpen, and into the right field corner. Desmond scored easily, and Harper followed him without a play, with Ramos ending up at second.

Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a clean single through the hole, and Ramos came chugging home with the Nats’ third run.

Bumgarner gave up three runs — two earned — on six hits and a walk, striking out six.

Fister gave up a single to Brandon Belt to lead off the home half of the seventh, but then retired three straight to get out of the inning and turned things over to the bullpen.

Fister gave up four hits and three walks in seven innings, striking out three.

Tyler Clippard tossed a perfect 12-pitch eighth inning.

Harper added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, homering off reliever Jean Machi.

Manager Matt Williams called upon Drew Storen in the ninth with a 4-0 lead. Storen, once again, had some trouble, as a single, double and sacrifice brought home a run. But he was able to get Travis Ishikawa to ground out to close the game and deliver a victory in Game 3.

The Nationals face the Giants again Tuesday at 9:05 pm Eastern, with Gio Gonzalez facing Ryan Vogelsong.

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 146 Review: Nats Fall Behind Early, Lose Late to Mets

NATS CAN’T COMPLETE COMEBACK, LOST TO METS

In front 25,000 at Citi Field on Friday night, the Washington Nationals fell to the New York Mets 4-3 in a comeback effort that fell just short of a winning mark.

The Mets got things started in the bottom of the first inning, taking advantage of a lead-off single and a hit and walked batter. With the bases loaded and just one out, Travis d’Arnaud doubled to clear the bases. On the play, Lucas Duda appeared to have been thrown out at home, but catcher Wilson Ramos (1-for-4, RBI) couldn’t hang on to the baseball. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 145 Review: Nats Strike Early, Hold Off Mets Late

LAROCHE, RENDON HOMER AS NATS DEFEAT METS

Opening up a three-game series against the New York Mets in Queens, New York, the Washington Nationals got on the scoreboard early and held off the Mets late to take Game 1 of the series, 6-2.

The Nationals got things going early offensively. With Anthony Rendon (3-for-5, 2 RBI) on base with a single, Adam LaRoche (2-for-5, 3 RBI) took a two-out 3-2 pitch off the right field foul pole to give the Nationals an 2-0 lead. For LaRoche, it was his 24th homer of the year and 28th all-time against the Mets, the most homers he’s hit against any team throughout his career. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 143 Review: Nationals Strike Early, Hold Off Braves Late

NATIONALS CUT MAGIC NUMBER TO 11 WITH WIN OVER BRAVES

After a dramatic win for the home team on Monday night, the Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their three-game series at Nationals Park.

Much like they did on Monday night in Game 1 of the series, the Washington Nationals got off to a hot start, lighting up the scoreboard early and giving their starter, Jordan Zimmermann, an early lead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Nationals Out-Duel Braves in Victory

DOUG FISTER PITCHES SEVEN STRONG AS NATS TOP BRAVES

In front of 25,000-plus fans filled with “Natitude,” the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 to reduce their magic number to 12.

The Nationals gave Doug Fister an early run, and in return he gave them a seven-inning gem that earned him his 13th win of the year. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 133 Recap: Nats Blast Past Mariners

SIX HOMER NIGHT POWERS NATIONALS TO VICTORY

In their first trip back to Seattle since 2008, the Washington Nationals – powered by six homers – defeated the Mariners 8-3 to improve to 10-0 overall since 2005 against the A.L. West ball club.

The Nationals entered the game on a three-game skid and facing one of the league’s best pitchers in Felix Hernandez. On this night, however, Washington had the upper hand. [Read more…]

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