Halfway through the year, an average team emerges….

Taylor Jordan in his Major League Debut

In whats becoming a truly lackluster and disappointing campaign, the Nationals have reached the halfway mark of the season at exactly .500 (40-40).  Through injuries, lack of clutch/situational hitting etc, the club just cant sustain a substantial winning streak to make a serious threat to the Atlanta Braves for 1st place in the division.  Luckily, the Braves after a great start, have been an average team itself so the deficit is a easily attainable 6.5 games with 80+ games to go till the Playoffs.  The team is playing better, but it still needs to do the small things that lead to big wins and long winning streaks.

In taking 2 of 3 from the potent Arizona Diamondbacks, the team showed its mettle yet blew an opportunity for a sweep in the last game.  In Game 1, Gio Gonzales after a rough sequence of starts with scant run support, was the beneficiary of a 5 run 3rd inning which included a 3 Run bomb by 1B Adam LaRoche, as the Nats won 7-5.  Jayson Werth, back in the lineup after leaving Sunday’s game with a groin strain, added a double, RBI-single and two walks for Washington.  Rafael Soriano allowed an RBI-single to Miguel Montero in the ninth and had the tying runs on base, but picked up his 20th save.  Jordan Zimmermann dominated after a shaky start and rookie Anthony Rendon had his third three-hit performance as the Nats won their 2nd consecutive game by a  3-2 count.  He allowed only 3 hits total extending his home winning streak to 13 games dating back to May 17, 2012 and it was Zimmermann’s league leading 11th win of the season.  In the finale, Stephen Strasburg gave up six hits while striking out four and walking two but garnered a No-Decision as the Nats eventually lost in the 11th inning by the score of 3-2.

In the 2nd trip to Citi Field to face the division-rival Mets, Mets Rookie Matt Harvey continued his dominance with 7 shut out innings of 3 hit ball but as soon as he departed, the bats erupted as Ryan Zimmerman lined a tying, three-run double in the eighth inning and Ian Desmond sliced a go-ahead double in the ninth, rallying the Nationals  6-4.  Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless 8th to record his 6th win of the season and Drew Storen notched his 2nd save of the season.  In Saturday’s matchup, Nat Killer Dillon Gee faced off against rookie Taylor Jordan, who made his Major League Debut.  Jordan pitched solidly but was undone by pure luck and shotty defense as Gee won his 6th game vs the Nats in his young career as Jordan’s first decision was a losing one by a 5-1 score.

 

Player of the Week:

Drew Storen – 3 apperances, 1 save, 4 Ks

 

Next Week’s Schedule

7 game homestand (4 vs Milwaukee and 3 vs San Diego)

Strasburg returns but problems still exist for Nats

Sunday June 16th @ Cleveland

On Father’s Day, the Nationals fans all received the best present we could ask for, the return of ace Stephen Strasburg to the rotation fresh off his stint on the Disabled List with a strained back.  Unfortunately, the offense continued to play as if it was on the disabled list itself as it wasted a rusty, yet solid pitching performance from Strasburg and 2 relievers, losing the game 2-0.  It may have been the worst, most un-clutch batting performance of the season where the team had numerous opportunities to not just score, but place knock in multiple runners but ended up only 2-11 with runners in scoring position with most of the situations with less than 2 outs, to no avail.

June 17th-19th  @ Philadelphia Phillies

In Game 1 of the 4 game set vs the rival Phillies, Chad Tracy blasted a 2-0ut 9th inning HR off closer Jonathan Papelbon to tie the festivites at 4-4 yet the bullpen couldnt close the game out and give the batters a chance to win as Dominic Brown’s Seeing-Eye single with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth sent the Phillies fans home happy with a 5-4 victory.  John Lannan, a former mainstay in the Nationals’ rotation, made his first start since April 17 after a nearly two-month stint on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his left knee. He allowed six hits and two runs in five innings, striking out four and walking one in his first start against his former club.

Cliff Lee continued his comeback season with 8 solid innings as the Nats suffered their third consecutive loss 4-2. Lee struck out nine in eight impressive innings while Ross Detwiler took the loss.  Solo HRs for Jayson Werth and Jeff Korbernus were the only scoring plays for the Nats.  In the series finale, Jayson Werth continued to show why he possibly may be the only clutch bat we can trust as his RBI single with 2 outs in the 9th tied the game and gave Papalbon his 2nd blown save in 3 games. Then in the 11th, Ian Desmond crushed a grand slam to put the game out of reach as the Nationals won 6-2. After giving up 2 early 1st inning runs, Gio Gonzales was outstanding the rest of the way going 7 innings and 4 relievers pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.

 

June 20th-23 vs Colorado Rockies

 

Coming off a uncharacteristic poor outing in his last start, Jordan Zimmermann pitched eight innings to win his 10th game, Adam LaRoche had three hits including a two-run triple and the Nationals spoiled Roy Oswalt‘s return to the majors with a 5-1 win over Colorado on Thursday night.  Ian Desmond homered for the second straight game and Denard Span and Steve Lombardozzi added a double and a single apiece for Washington, which began a stretch in which it will play 14 of its next 17 games at home.  In Friday’s game, Ian Desmond’s 7th inning HR was just enough to give Stephen Strasburg only his 4th win of the season and give the team its 3rd consecutive victory as the Nats won 2-1.  Reliever Drew Storen worked the eighth and Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 19th save as the Nationals moved one game above .500 at 37-36.  As soon as the team thinks it turns a corner, here comes Dan Haren on Saturday.  Before a late arriving crowd could sit down for the 12 noon early start, the team was down 3-0 with Haren serving up hittable pitches on a preverbial platter.  His record is now 4-9 , and allowed six runs and seven hits over 3 1-3 innings while  striking out five but allowed his 19th home run of the season. He had two wild pitches and hit a batter with a pitch while raising his ERA to 6.15.

 

Player of the Week:

Stephen Strasburg – 2 Starts, 12 innings pitched, only 2 ERs with a 1.50 ERA and 1 victory

 

 

Next Week’s Schedule

3 games @ home vs Arizona and a 3 game road trip to New York to face the Mets

After Doubleheader sweep, Nationals take baby steps forward

Ian Desmond with the Home Run trot….

 

Sometimes a small shakeup can ignite a team, sometimes it could decimate them. Right now, it seems that after only 1 short week, the Nationals are showing signs of life again.  Anthony Rendon, the 2011 1st rd draft pick, has come up to the majors and this time, he’s here to stay, especially after his exploits on Saturday night in Cleveland.  Drew Storen looks like he has finally put his mental demons away and Ian Desmond has taken on a leadership role on this team with his stellar play offensively and more importantly, defensively with 50 games in a row without an error at a premium position.

Sunday’s Doubleheader vs Minnesota

If the Nats truly wanted to turn this season around, this doubleheader was crucial for starting the process of obtaining that goal.  They accomplished that feat by winning game 1 7-0 as Jordan Zimmermann shellshocked the overmatched Twins lineup for his 9th win of the season.  The aforementioned Rendon did his part with two hits and three RBIs. Ian Desmond got three hits and two RBIs to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, and the Nationals were an uncharacteristic 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position.  In Game 2, the Nats came back from 3 runs down for the 1st time this season winning 5-4, Ian Desmond’s double in the 7th that scored Adam LaRoche proved to be the margin of victory as Rafael Soriano notched his 16th save of the season.

June 11th – 13th @ Colorado Rockies

Although the Nats lost Game 1 8-3, the game was winnable.  I say that because Dan Haren was outstanding in the 1st 4 innings then imploded in the 5th as he allowed six of his eight hits and 5 runs in the fifth. He lost for the fifth time in the past six outings. In Game 2  Ross Ohlendorf returned to the big leagues and  delivered quite a performance as he pitched six strong innings in his Washington debut as the Nationals won 5-1. Ian Desmond backed him with two hits and three RBIs for the for only the Nationals’ third win in their past 12 road games. Game 3 saw many weird twists and turns but luckily for Nats Nation, those twists favored us 2 balks in the 7th inning keyed a rally as Ian Desmond scored on said balk and in the 8th Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond again had key run scoring hits to lead the team to a 5-3 series winning victory.  Ross Detwiler pitched 5 innings in his 1st start in over a month and while giving up  a run in the 9th, Rafael Soriano did complete the save situation, his 17th of the season.

June 14th – 15th @ Cleveland Indians

Friday night’s 2-1 loss was reminiscent of a lot of the losses the Nationals have endured this season, not enough clutch ABs and not making the key plays when it mattered.  Gio Gonzales pitched well enough to win, 1 run in 7 innings should win you most games, but not this one.  The Indians won the game on a close play at the plate on a solid scoop and throw by Adam LaRoche that almost nailed runner Drew Stubbs at the plate.  One of those bang/bang plays that just didn’t go the Nats favor this time.  Saturday’s game may have been the coming out party for another Nats phenom and the end of the starting career for Danny Espinosa in the process, as Anthony Rendon hit a game winning HR in the top of the 9th after Nick Swisher’s costly error extended his at bat as the Nats won 7-6 after blowing a 5-0 lead in the process.  Home Runs by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond buoyed the Nats to the lead but Jordan Zimmermann uncharacteristically couldn’t hold the lead giving up 6 runs in 6 innings.  Pinch Hitter Chad Tracy blasted an 0-2 pitch to tie the game in 8th preceding Rendon’s 9th inning heroics.

 

Player of the Week

Ian Desmond – .500 Batting Average, 12 hits, 1 HR, 9 RBI’s with 4 runs scored

 

Next week’s schedule

a 3 game trip to Philadelphia and a return home for a 4 game set vs Colorado

Nats endure Injuries, Mother Nature and a Roster Shakeup

In a season that is slowly slipping away from its preseason goals and aspirations, Coach Davey Johnson and General Manager Mike Rizzo finally decided to shake up the roster in letting go a couple of the more disappointing pitchers in the bullpen and finally, to the excitement of many fans,  2B Danny Espinosa out of his misery by placing him on the Disabled List with a left wrist injury and lingering problems with the rotator cuff that he decided not to have surgery on last season.  He was given a cortisone shot for his wrist so maybe he could have a Ryan Zimmerman-esque improvement whenever he returns to the big club.  Also, Stephen Strasburg joined Bryce Harper on the disabled list with the strain in his lower back.  Hopefully they will both be back within the next 2 weeks or so.  Also release d were struggling relievers Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke.  Most Nats fans would exhale and say “FINALLY!” when speaking of the former.  Rodriguez has scintillating talent but it never translated into on the field success and I for one, am glad he has been showed his walking papers.

Tropical Storm Andrea wrecked  havoc on the schedule as well as 2 consecutive games were postponed (Wednesday vs the Mets and Thursday vs the Twins) so the team was only able to play 3 games this week.  In Tuesday’s Game 1 vs the Mets, The Nats completed a 2012-like 9th inning rally as Steve Lombardozi closed out the 3-2 win with a Sacrifice Fly.  Against Mets closer Bobby Purnell , Ryan Zimmerman led off with a double to right-center, barely beating the tag at second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and tied the game on Adam LaRoche’s single. Ian Desmond doubled and Roger Bernadina was intentionally walked to load the bases with none out for Lombardozzi. . Lombardozzi didn’t get much of the ball, but his flyout down the left-field line was more than sufficient to score LaRoche.  In Game 2, Dan Haren continued to live down his $13 million dollar offseason deal, as he was rocked for 3 HRs and 5 runs as the team was dominated 10-1.

After the 2 day mini vacation caused by Tropical Storm Andrea, The Twins came to town along with former Nat Josh Willingham.  Gio Gonzales pitched well enough to win but shotty defense in the 4th inning, the lack of timely at bats, and a taxed bullpen that consistantly walked the leadoff man in each late inning, which finally cost the team a victory as the Twins scored a run in the 11th for a 4-3 win.  Twins slugger Ryan Doumit smacked a single off Craig Stammen that scored Pinch Hitter Chris Hermann from 2nd base.

Player of the Week:

Denard Span – 6 hits , 1 double, 3 runs in 3 games this week.

Next week

a Sunday doubleheader vs the Twins and a road trip to Colorado for 3 games and Cleveland for another 3 game series.

As injuries mount, Nationals hover around .500 mark

Another wasted gem….

In Pro Sports, injuries are apart of the game. Teams must endure them as a badge of honor of sorts, if they cannot win through their particular Injury Phase, then most likely, the team will underachieve for the season. This is whats happening with the 2013 Nationals season after the 1st 2 months. Mediocre and uninspired play collectively from the lineup has put this team in a precarious position where they are just not getting clutch atbats and its costing them games in the standings to the suddenly hot-again Atlanta Braves. And the Nats arent just losing, they are losing in heartbreaking fashion whether its the one game the team breaks out of the season long slump at the plate, losing a pitchers duel to a journeyman, wasting great starts from one of your aces and lastly and probably the one thing we ALL as Nats fans can agree upon, finally ridding this team of the guy with the great stuff, but just cant put it together in Henry Rodriguez.

4 Game series vs Baltimore

In the 1st really meaningful Battle of the Beltway, The Nats and O’s met for a 4 game series with 2 games here at Nats Park and 2 at Camden Yards, truly a cool scheduling quirk that should mandatory in the season schedule every season. Both parks had great turnouts and the fans were truly into every game. In Game 1, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez had control issues from the start. After allowing only five earned runs and posting a 3-1 record in his previous four starts, Gonzalez gave up four runs and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings with four walks and three strikeouts as the O’s battered the Nats for 15 hits in a 6-2 win. In Game 2, Adam LaRoche homered twice and drove in four runs, and the Nationals barreled past the Baltimore Orioles 9-3. LaRoche, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina also went deep to support Nathan Karns, a rookie call-up who made a spot start but didnt make it out of the 5th inning. It eventually didn’t matter as the Nats scored the most runs as a team since April 15th. Game 3 meant a quick trip up I95 to Camden Yards for one of the most entertaining regular season games I can remember. Ryan Zimmermann single-handedly carried the offense early in the game with his 1st 3HR game of his stellar career. He did so in his 1st 3 AtBats within 5 innings, yet the Oriole bats awakened in the 7th inning with an onslaught that only a team with a Murderer’s Row of top quality batters could do. MVP Candidate Chris Davis went 4-4 with 2 HRs and Manny Machado continues to stake his claim as the best young infielder in the game today with the game winning double off Jordan Zimmermann in the game clinching 6 run 7th inning as the Birds won a classic 9-6. Zimmermann gave up seven runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. He came in with a 1.71 ERA and a streak of 15 straight starts allowing three runs or less. Finale, Journeyman pitcher Freddie Garcia totally shut down the Nats lineup (albeit without Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos who are all officially on the Disabled List) with eight innings of three-hit ball to get the best of Dan Haren in a duel of veteran right-handers as the Orioles beat the Nats 2-0 to take the series 3 games to 1.

3 Game series at Atlanta

In Game 1 of this huge series, Stephen Strasburg left Friday’s game with no definitive reason after pitching pretty well in the 2 innings he was on the mound. Because of that uncertainty, the Twitterverse went absolutely bonkers with theories and home diagnosis. Turns out after the MRI, the injury would be classified as strained Oblique muscle in his back, which could place another player on the disabled list. Meanwhile as our fans held their collective breath, versatile pitcher Craig Stammen was summonsed to pitch some long relief and he did just that with 4 perfect innings, and Denard Span tripled twice and scored two runs to help the Nationals snap a two-game skid with a 3-2 win. With this win, a series win which looked bleak at best when Strasburg left the game, seemed a real possibility with Gio Gonzales starting in Saturday’s game. He and veteran Tim Hudson put on a pitching clinic, both giving up only 1 run as the game entered the 9th inning. The Nationals had a chance to win the game but couldn’t score in the ninth after having runners on second and third with no outs against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. With the game tied 1-all, Ryan Zimmerman led off the ninth with a soft single that fell just beyond the reach of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was running toward the outfield. Zimmerman moved to third when Adam LaRoche followed with a double to center field. Kimbrel struck out Ian Desmond before Roger Bernadina hit a grounder to third baseman Chris Johnson, who threw out Zimmerman at the plate, and LaRoche advanced to third. Danny Espinosa popped out to left fielder Justin Upton to end the inning. In the Bottom of the 10th, Davey Johnson had to bring in Henry Rodriguez from the taxed bullpen and the results were obviously not good. After a 4-pitch walk to Evan Gattis, BJ Upton, who is mired in a season long slump with a batting average under .150) wins the game with a solid single scoring the run from 2nd base as the Nats lose a heartbreaker 2-1. I know Henry Rodriguez has great stuff, he routinely clocks 100+ on the radar gun but time and time again, he just doesnt have the mental fortitude to be trusted in games that really matter…its time to make a move and possible ship this guy out of town. Davey Johnson has shown that he’s very loyal and in this case, and possibly with Danny Espinosa, to a fault.

Player of the Week:

Ryan Zimmerman – 10 hits, 3 Home Runs, 5 Runs scored, 5 RBIs and a .357 average

Next Weeks Schedule:

6 Game homestand with 3 games vs the Minnesota Twins and 3 vs the NY Mets