Swept by Cards, Nats turn it around in rematch vs Reds

Denard Span with the huge catch in Saturday’s victory

 

As the new week started, The Nats, coming off a 2-0 Loss to lose the series vs the Mets, welcomed the team who defeated them in the National League Divisional Series last season, the St. Louis Cardinals.  A three game series where you would have wanted this team to show some growth, seemed to press at every at-bat and wasted some solid pitching efforts by the starters because the bats just cant seem to get going.  In Game 1, Dan Haren pitched 6 innings giving up 3 runs, not great but obviously enough to win, but not this game as the Cards won 3-2.  It was the teams’ 4 consecutive home defeat.

In Game 2, Adam Wainright was just outstanding, showing everybody why he one of the truly great pitchers in the sport, out-dueling Ross Detweiler (who was outstanding himself, only giving up 2 runs in the 4th) with 8.1 innings of shut out baseball striking out 9 Nationals batters in a 2-0 victory for the Cards.  This was also the Nats 6 consecutive home loss.  The Twitterverse is now losing its mind because this just doesnt look like the team the fans all expected but we all have to remember its not a marathon, not a sprint.  In the series finale, Stephen Strasburg toed the rubber looking to stop a couple of streaks, his personal 3 game losing streak, the team’s 3 gamer, and the 6 game home streak.  He was unable to deliver as after a shaky 1st inning, because the bats decided not to show up again, he was on the unfortunately on the losing end of his 4th straight start by the score of 4-2. A 2nd 3 game sweep at home in a row was not what was expected, but again this is a long season and there is always a new series right around the corner, and that means a 4 game series rematch against the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the Nats 2 out of 3 just 2 weeks ago at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati .

 

With no day off to wallow in self pity, Gio Gonzalez went out and pitched a masterpiece. In possibly the best pitched game in his career, Gonzales pitched 8 innings giving up only an opposite field Home Run to former MVP Joey Votto as the Nats started off the series in fine fashion defeating the Reds 8-1.   The bats woke up as Denard Span and Danny Espinoza both had 3 RBI games and Bryce Harper hit his 8th Home Run of the season.  With that Home Run, Harper set a new club record with 8 HRs in the Month of April.  He continues to show that he may not just be the best player on the Nationals roster, but right now, playing better baseball than virtually anyone in the sport.

In Game 2, in a pitching duel for the ages, Jordan Zimmermann equaled Gio’s previous start with the number of hits given up (1) yet didnt give up a run and finished off his 2nd complete game of the season besting the Reds, Homer Bailey 1-0.  Jayson Werth drove in the only run of the game in the 4th inning driving in, you guessed it, Bryce Harper who had smoked his 1st triple of the season in the previous at bat.  Zimmermann’s ERA lowered to a solid 2.00 for the season as he improved to 4-1 on the season.  In Saturday’s matchup, Dan Haren finally pitched a performance worthy of a victory, Denard Span made 2 of the best defensive plays of the season to save atleast 3 runs in the process, and Bryce Harper extended his record month with his 9th HR and his 18th RBI in the process (another team record) as the Nats won their 3rd straight 6-3.  Span also had 2 hits on the day and Rafael Soriano pitched the 9th inning for his 7th save in 8 opportunties this season.

 

Player of the Week: Jordan Zimmermann

In 2 starts (1-1), he pitched a total of 14 innings giving up only 2 runs on 3 hits and only 1 walk.  He has been the most consistent pitcher this season.

 

Next Week:

A trip to Atlanta on Monday to hopefully avenge the 3 game sweep of a week ago and our 1st trip to beautiful PNC Park to face budding star Andrew McClutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Another week of mixed results for the Nats

Bryce admiring one of his two HRs on Saturday

 

Going into their 1st extended road trip of the season and second divisional matchup vs the Miami Marlins, the Nationals wanted to go to Florida and wipe the nasty taste of the sweep, at home no less vs the extremely hot Atlanta Braves, out of their mouths.  Playing arguably the worst team in the sport should alleviate those pains.  In the 1st game of the series, Jordan Zimmermann pitched the 1st complete game of the season, Ryan Zimmerman hit his 4th HR of the season with 4 RBIs to boot , and 2nd year stud Tyler Moore added his 1st 3 RBI’s of the season in a 10-3 whitewashing.  Zimmermann was outstanding giving up only 6 hits with 6 K’s and only 1 walk.  Having our starting pitchers last longer into games is a key that has been dissected through the media, especially with the way Manager Davey Johnson has managed Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit last season.  Also, the bullpen just hasnt been as sharp as we’ve become accustomed to so I’m sure Nats fans everywhere were pretty ecstatic about those guys having a day off.  In the 2nd game, Dan Haren continued his early season headscratcher with another awful start, which initially was going well with 3 shut out innings but Ryan Zimmerman’s 4th throwing error of the season in the 4th inning just led to the Marlins Adeiny Hechavarria hitting a 3-run HR in the 4th inning to totally rattle Haren and lead the way to a 8-2 win for the Marlins.  In the rubber match, Ross Detweiler again showed that he has been the best pitcher on the staff this early season with his 3rd consecutive quality start yet only his 1st victory as the flu-ridden Bryce Harper went 4-5 and Kurt Suzuki continued to hit the ball with authority while taking over the full time Catching duties while Wilson Ramos is on the Disabled List in a 6-1 win.  After a much needed day off on Thursday, it was on to the Big Apple to battle the New York Mets at CitiField, where the Nats have unexpectedly have won 7 consecutive games as the road team.

Friday’s game featured 2 of the Majors top young (and hyped) hurlers in a much-anticipated duel in Stephen Strasburg and Mets rookie Matt Harvey, who has similar breathtaking stuff as his counterpart for the evening.  Harvey lived up to all the billing with a 1 run/7 IP masterful performance with a plethora of high rising fastballs and clutch pitching location.  Strasburg wasn’t awful but he wasnt typical Stras giving up 4 runs (2 Earned because of Ian Desmond’s 6th error) in only 6 innings as the good guys fell 7-1. Saturday’s Nationally Televised game saw Bryce Harper hit two tape measure HR’s, the 2nd a solo blast in the 8th which held up as the winning run as the Nats won 7-6.  Starter Gio Gonzalez was cruising thru 3 innings but in the 4th, his problem with giving up free passes which has plagued him throughout his career, bit him hard as he gave up 3 walks and 4 runs.  A 3 run shot by Adam LaRoche momentarily gave the Nats the lead which Tyler Clippard and Raphael Soriano held up not without some trepidation.

Player of the Week : Bryce Harper

Even being out with the flu for a game, Harper still managed 7 hits (2 HRs) and 4 RBIs while raising his Batting Avg to a robust .371.

 

Next Week:

The Nats return home to face the team who defeated us in the NLDS last season, the St Louis Cardinals for a 3 game set then a 4 game set vs the Reds.

Nats sweep White Sox sandwiched between disheartening defeats

  Image

 

  This week, our Washington Nationals didnt bring their best vs the best, and were defeated in ways that have raised serious questions if they can truly compete vs the best of the best.In Sunday’s rubber match vs Cincinnati, Reds ace Johnny Cueto out-dueled Stephen Strasburg giving up only a 3-run HR to Kurt Suzuki to defeat the Good Guys by the score of 6-3.  The Reds come to Washington for their only visit and last meetings between the teams for the season on April 25-28 for a 4 game set.  Hopefully we will see them down the road in October.

   After the Cincinnati series, they welcomed the Chicago White Sox for the 1st Inter-league match-up of the season. This series had a little nostalgia for fans as former slugger and fan favorite Adam “The Big Donkey” Dunn returned for the 1st time since leaving the team as a Free Agent after the 2010 season signing a 4 year 55 Million dollar deal to become their Designated Hitter.  Dunn received a solid ovation when he entered the 2nd game of the series.  The bats came alive in this 3 game series as the lineup had 39 hits among the 3 games and eventually swept all 3 games to remain undefeated at home.  In the 1st game, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth all homered as they held on to a 8-7 win.  Gio Gonzales wasnt his sharpest, Craig Stammen eventually was the pitcher of record and notched his 2nd win of the early season from the bullpen.  Raphael Soriano was shaky yet still was able to notch his 3rd save.  In the 2nd game, Jordan Zimmermann scattered 7 hits and 2 runs over 7 innings and Bryce Harper unloaded on his 4th HR of the season, a 420 moonshot into the 2nd deck in Right Field as the Nats won 5-2.  Ian Desmond had 3 hits and Soriano saved his 4th game (2nd in a row).  Game 3 had a moment I thought I would never see, the intentinal walking of Bryce Harper to get to Ryan Zimmerman.  The fact that White Sox Manager Robin Ventura thinks so much of Bryce Harper to give him a free pass to have his pitcher face one of the most professional hitters in all of baseball shows you how locked in Harper has been so far this season.  Bryce’s development may overshadow anything that’s going on right now with the ballclub.  Being slighted the way he was, it was only right that Zimmerman put the game on ice with a 2 run double after the intentional walk as they completed the 3 game sweep, 7-4.  Dan Haren had a much better 2nd start (albeit he gave up 10 hits in only 5 innings) and Soriano shut the door on his 5th save and 3 in 3 consecutive games.

 

This weekend series vs the Atlanta Braves is an early season barometer of whats to come vs a great ballclub that we have to see 19 times this season.  Game 1 reminded all Nats fans that there indeed are come concerns about our team.  After wasting a sterling effort by starter Ross Detweiler (1 run in 7 innings), our vaunted bullpen wasted and blew the game (albeit helped by an AWFUL throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman) in extras by the score of 6-4.  Also wasted was Bryce Harper’s team leading 5th HR, an opposite field blast and another solid performance by leadoff guy Denard Span, who has been as advertised as the place-setter for the lineup, with an OBP (On Base Percentage) of .476%. 

The Bullpen has not been a strength so far this season.  Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Raphael Soriano have not been sharp, and because this team has been so solid in the pen for the last 4 years or so, watching the pen blow leads the way they have these 2 weeks is a slight concern. The other factor that needs to be addressed is the defense.  In 11 games so far this season, the Nats have committed 10 errors, totally unacceptable rate if you want to have the opportunity to compete in October.  Saturday’s match-up was played under perfect conditions and only the 5th sellout crowd in team history as veteran Tim Hudson out dueled Stephen Strasburg mostly because of, you guessed it, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman with 2 outs in  3rd inning pulling Adam LaRoche off of 1st base and allowing Braves rookie Evan Gattis to approach the plate and just destroy a high fastball from Strasburg to give the Braves a 2-0 lead which held up the rest of the game in a 3-1 victory for Atlanta.  The final game of the series is Sunday.

 

Player of the Week: Denard Span

 

Image

As I stated earlier, Denard Span has so far exceeded expectations with an OPS of .467 , seemingly making every catch in CF seem very ordinary and being the most consistent player on the roster not named Bryce Harper.  Kudos for General Manager Mike Rizzo for the pickup in the off-season.

Next Week:

A 6 Game road trip, with a 3 game series in Miami to face the Marlins again and 3 more games in New York for our 1st trip of the season to Citi Field to face the Mets.

 

Nats start 2013 Season off with a bang…

Bryce Harper with the Curtain Call after his 2nd HR on Opening Day

…or should I say a “broom” as the Good Guys swept the previously pesky Miami Marlins 3 straight games at Nationals Park.  During the 3 games, the Nats outscored the Marlins 11-1 with 3 solid starts from the top of the rotation in Stephen Strasburg (7 shutout innings), Gio Gonzalez (6 shutout innings), and Jordan Zimmermann (1 Unearned Run in 6 innings).  Newly acquired closer Raphael Soriano notched 2 saves while Bryce Harper lead the team with hits in all 3 games including a 2 HR game on Opening Day in front of the 2nd largest crowd in Park History (45,274 which is the highest ever for a regular season game).  In the briskly cold 2nd game, Gio Gonzalez brought the crowd to their feet with only his 2nd career HR in the 5th inning to cap off his 1st start of the season and in Game 3, Jayson Werth hit a towering blast in the 7th inning to basically put away the game and the series. The 3 starters ended the series giving up ZERO earned runs for an ERA of, get this…..0.00.  The Marlins basically had a fire sale of all of their premium talent this off-season, yet and still, this is still a Major League ball club and the good/great teams take full advantage of the bottom feeders so to see the team do just that, especially when this team had problems last season closing out teams when they had the chance to sweep the series, is a very good sign.

Werth admires his HR in Saturday’s game…his 2nd of the young season

On to Cincinnati and the very HR friendly Great American Ballpark to battle the former NL MVP Joey Votto and the defending NL Central Champion Reds.  The Friday’s game was one to forget.  Dan Haren made his Nationals debut and wasn’t very sharp as he and the other relievers gave up 6 HR’s as the Reds demolished The Good Guys 15-0. The score was the most lopsided defeat in team history.  Saturday’s game could be considered alot of things.  Gut Check. Instant Classic. Heart Attack. Dagger…take your pick as Ian Desmond atoned for his 2 costly errors on the defensive end to hit the go ahead HR in the 11th inning,  Wilson Ramos followed Desmond’s blast with a homer himself (His 2nd of the game and 1st HRs since he suffered a devastating ACL injury last year in that very same park). Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth also blasted HRs respectively as the Nats overcame losing a 5-0 lead and blown save by Rafael Soriano and won 7-6.  The Reds are a great team, we should expect to see plenty of this team throughout the 2013 campaign.

Player of the Week:  Bryce Harper, who slugged 3 HRs and hit at a .381 clip and played with the wreckless abandon we all love.  Made a poor decision in the field during Saturday’s game by not throwing to the 2nd baseman and trying to show off his arm and threw the ball behind the catcher which allowed 2 runners to advance.

Next Week: Interleague play kicks off as old friend Adam Dunn and the Chicago White Sox come to town for 3 games starting Tuesday then divisional foe Atlanta for 3 more games thru the weekend.