After 4 game losing streak, questions arise for Nationals, Matt Williams

I figured the Nationals would start the season off slowly but even its ardent pessimists probably didnt expect a 7-11 record after three weeks into the regular season with a current 4 game losing streak.  The starters are not going to pitch lights out every game and the bullpen has been awful, so the bats just have to wake up and do their share.

Sunday vs Philadelphia

Stephen Strasburg only 1 run in 7 1/3 innings ,truck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits in his best start of the season as the Nationals took three of four from the Phillies for their first series win of the season.  Denard Span made his season debut a little earlier than anticipated as the fans greeted him to a well deserved standing ovation.  He finished 1-4 for the day with 1 RBI and Drew Storen worked the ninth inning for his fourth save of the season.

Tuesday – Thursday vs St Louis

In Tuesday’s opener of a three game set vs arch nemesis St Louis, offseason acquisition Yunel Escobar saved with a walk off homer with 2 outs in the 10th inning to defeat the Cardinals in dramatic fashion by the score of 2-1.  Aaron Barrett (2-0) earned the victory pitching the 10th inning after Drew Storen blew his first save of the season.  Gio Gonzales scattered 8 hits over 6 but did not give up a run in his 3rd start of the season.  The win improved the team’s overall record to.500 for the first time this season.

In Game 2, Doug Fister was roughed up early serving up 5 runs in the first three innings but was bailed out by a 5 run bottom of the third highlighted by the aforementioned Yunel Escobar’s 3 run double but it was not enough as the bats were silenced from that point on as Nats killer Kolten Wong drove in the tying run in the 8th inning off Blake Treien (0-2) to end the game with up with 3 RBI’s and a 7-5 victory.

In the matinee rubber match on Thursday, Cards pitcher Michael Wacha outduelde Max Scherzer, Matt Adams singled in the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning and the Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 4-1.  6 hits was all the lineup could muster against the young Wacha as he only allowed 1 run over 6 strong innings.  The Cardinals continued their overall mastery over the Nationals with no end in sight.

Friday – Sunday at Miami

In the Nationals 1st trip to Miami this season, the team seemed to bring ever inevitable problem on the team flight as the team lost all three and were swept by the young Marlins.  In Game 1, the young bullpen could not extend the game as Aaron Barrett gave up an inherited run on a single by Martin Prado as the Marlins won game one by a 3-2 score.  Again the Nats could only muster 6 hits with 2 of those hits and the only RBI by Bryce Harper.

In Game 2, Stephen Strasburg could not exercise his Marlins Park demons as he gave up 4 runs and 8 hits through 6 innings in a 8-0 thrashing by the hands of Giancarlo Stanton, who homered in the 8th, and the Marlins.  So far in the early season, opponents are batting .317 against Strasburg, and his ERA rose to 4.88. He has a 5.65 ERA in eight career starts at Marlins Park.

Sunday’s finale was more of the same as defensive miscues (a botched rundown) and cold offense (4 hits) lead to a 6-2 loss. The defending NL East champion Nationals (7-12) lost their fifth game in a row — their longest skid since July 2013 — and fell behind Miami into fourth place in the division.  Gio Gonzalez (1-2) allowed 10 hits and six runs in five innings, hiking his ERA to 5.01. The left-hander had won his past five starts against Miami, his hometown team.

SWEET VICTORY TUESDAY!!!!

Look…I’m making this blog posting at 11:45pm after one of the most thrilling nights of my sporting fandom.  I know these games didn’t win any titles etc but all my DC Sports fans know the demons these teams have to contend with.

Lets start off with our Wizards…supposedly the team that was going to lay down after stealing Game 1 at Toronto vs a team that for lack of better words, have had our number for 2 seasons.  At the outset it seemed the team was content with stealing the 1 game and coming back home tied at 1 in the series.  That was until Bradley Beal showed up and showed the fuck out!

20 huge points in the 1st half…ended with 28 (tied a career high), John Wall with possibly his best game as a pro as well with 26 and 17…and HUGE plays like this.

HUGE WIN….117-106….ON TO DC for Game 3 on Friday!

Meanwhile while this game was transpiring, The Caps were in a must win situation in Game 4 vs the Islanders.  Alex Ovechkin scored early and we gave up a fluke goal with 12 seconds left in the 1st period to tie the game at 1 which lasted through overtime until….

FUCK YEA!!!!!! Series tied at 2 comin home Thursday!!!!

no later than 5 minutes after that…..

http://m.nationals.mlb.com/wsh/video/v83465283/stlwsh-escobar-swats-a-walkoff-homer-in-the-10th

Man I’m goin to bed!!!!

When I say “The Wizards win in spite of our coaching.”….

This is EXACTLY what I mean.

Now…this 6 second clip could mean anything…..but just look at the circumstances on the bottom right corner.

This is GAME ONE OF THE NBA PLAYOFFS!!!!

ON THE ROAD!!!!

Your team just blew a double digit 4th quarter lead…they need a leader to be prepared and calm during the storm…yet we have…..Randy Wittman.

#GoWizards

Nats bats awaken, yet defensive miscues continue to haunt early season

Baseball is a marathon, so being overly critical after one or two weeks really isn’t fair.  Yet, for a team with postseason aspirations, if the defense does not improve, this team will have a hard time even making the playoffs.

Last Sunday vs Philly

After losing the first two games of this series, Washington pulled out a 4-3 win in 10 innings to deny the Phillies a sweep in the series.  Bryce Harper homered, Clint Robinson had 3 hits and Wilson Ramos had the go-ahead RBI in the 10th.  Max Scherzer wasn’t as sharp as he was in his 1st start of the season but he still left the game with the lead giving up one run in 6 innings with 6 strikeouts.  Drew Storen got into a little trouble but was able to get his second save in as many chances in the young season.

Monday – Wednesday at Boston

Opening Day at Fenway Park is always one of the most picturesque scenes in baseball and Monday was no different with an almost perfect scene for the crimes of Red Sox rookie Mookie Betts.  Betts robbed Bryce Harper of a homer, stole 2 bases on the same play as the Nats continued their shotty early season defense, and hit a 3 run homer as the Sox dominated in a 9-4 victory. The only solace of  the game was the return of Jayson Werth to the lineup.

Tuesday’s game looked as if it was a breakthrough fans have been clamoring for, but yet again, defensive miscues in the 7th inning, two errors by pitcher Blake Treinen on one play and another by Ian Desmond, virtually guaranteed their fifth loss in 6 games.  Stephen Strasburg gave up 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings but was off the hook for the loss because of a 6 run rally in the 5th inning which was by far the best inning of offense this season.  Michael Taylor had a bases clearing triple to lead the team with 3 RBIs in a losing effort.

In the last game of the series, the offense continued the momentum from the night before with a dominating performance the likes of what a title contender should produce plating 10 runs across and again avoiding a sweep by a 10-5 score.  Ian Desmond had a solo shot over the Green Monster and Wilson Ramos had a bases clearing double to support Gio Gonzalez (1-1), who gave up five runs — four earned– in 6 innings.

Thursday – Saturday vs Philadelphia

Back home after the week long road trip, the Nats welcomed the Phillies for their 1st visit to Nationals Park for the 2015 campaign.  In Friday’s tilt, Doug Fister pitched solidly into the 7th inning allowing 2 runs on just 4 hits as Home Runs by Michael Taylor and Yunel Escobar and a 2 run double by Ryan Zimmerman as the Nats won the match up 5-2.  Drew Storen pitched the 9th inning for his third save in as many chances.

Friday’s game was probably the most complete game of the season as Bryce Harper hit his 3rd home run to pace the offense and Max Scherzer was able to secure his 1st victory as a Nat in a 7-2 decisive win.  Scherzer has been as advertised through his first three starts since signing the seven year, 210 million dollar contract allowing only 2 earned runs and striking out 25 in 21 2/3 innings so far.  This win marked the first 3 game winning streak of the young season.

Ian Desmond’s physical issues in the field now seem to be a mental hurdle as he committed another error and dropping a ball while trying to complete a routine double play in the 3rd inning enabled the Phillies to score two unearned runs on starter Jordan Zimmermann (1-2) who was unable to overcome the gaffes as the Nationals fell 5-3 to end the winning streak.  This was Desmond’s 8th error in 12 games which, of course, leads the majors.  Bryce Harper absolutely crushed his 4th HR to dead center field estimated at 461 ft and the longest HR to dead center in Nats Park history.

Listless offense produces slow start for Nationals

Wilson Ramos smacks his 1st HR vs the Phillies on Saturday

Going into the 2015 campaign, one of the biggest issues for the Nationals would be timely hitting, especially with the injuries to a couple of key players.  In the first week of the season, the starting rotation has been as advertised sporting a robust 1.99 ERA, yet the Nationals sit at a slightly disappointing 1-4 record.  The lineup must improve immediately to give these pitchers the run support they deserve.  Right now there is very little wiggle room for mistakes because of the lack of a capable offense.

Opening Series vs New York Mets

Prized Free Agent Max Scherzer toted the rubber for his Nationals debut and was outstanding.  He took a no-hitter thru 6 innings but 2 errors by Ian Desmond proved costly as the Mets won the match-up 3-1.  Scherzer pitched 7 2/3 inning of 4 hit ball while all 3 runs were unearned.  The offense could only must a HR by Bryce Harper, his 3rd career HR on Opening Day.  In Game 2, Jordan Zimmermann’s 6 inning 1 run outing along with Ryan Zimmerman making plays in the field and at the plate with a 2-run HR which again would be all of the offense but this time it was enough to pull out a 2-1 victory.  The rubber match pitted Mets superstar pitcher Matt Harvey making his 1st start after Tommy John surgery vs Stephen Strasburg.  The Nationals lineup was no match for Harvey, who looked as great as he did pre-injury dominating with fastballs easily reaching 96 on the radar.  As for Strasburg, he wasn’t his sharpest but again the defense, notably Ian Desmond, did not give him any wiggle room in a 6-3 loss.

April 10th and 11th vs Philly

In their 1st road trip of the season, which will conclude with a trip to Boston this week, the Nats took their talents to Philadelphia to face the Phillies.  In game 1 Gio Gonzales pitched well thru 6 but fell apart in the 7th as his control problems reared its ugly head as he walked the bases loaded with only a 1-0 lead.  Taken out for Xavier Cedano, who immediately gave up a 2 run single as the Nats gave up 4 runs to complete the quick collapse to lose 4-1.  In game 2 Doug Fister allowed only 6 hits in 6 2/3 innings but a weak offense and the new, inexperienced bullpen gave up 2 runs in the 8th inning to tie the game.  In extras, the Phillies Odubel Herrera’s first major league hit proved to be the dagger as he doubled home the game winning run in a 3-2 win for the Phillies.

Next week the Nats make a rare trip to Fenway Park for a 3 game set and the Phillies make a return trip to Nats Park for a 4 game set starting next Thursday.

Losing a chance for immortality

I felt his agony LOL

Man…cheering for an undefeated team sure is stressful LOL.

Now, anyone who knows me personally knows I am a die-hard Kentucky fan, so this season has been extra special to say the least.  Having a chance to accomplish something that hasn’t been accomplished in almost 40 years by going a full season undefeated would have been legendary.  Alas, we were defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers, a team with the player of the year in Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker (future lottery pick) and the core of the same team that went to the Final Four just last year and played so well this season it too earned a #1 seed in the tourney.

Having said that, yes losing this game is a tough damn pill to swallow.  YET, this team defied the odds.  Just to get to the Final Four undefeated is a feat in itself.  Its a reason no team has accomplished that since the 91 UNLV Running Rebels.  I do NOT want to hear about “Oh well , this Kentucky team was flawed….oh the jig is up….I knew they were frauds” there is NO shame in losing in the Final Four, period. Don’t let Twitter skew you from that fact.  The goal was to win the title so not achieving that is a bitter disappointment, but my boys should be damn proud of the run they had.  This was  great theater for even the common fan.  Fans everywhere either wanted Kentucky to win for history, or lose because of Coach John Calipari.

Now, were there plays that could have changed the course of the game? Sure, and yes they pissed me off LOL….but the main reason Kentucky lost was the 4 minute lull in action where they had 4 point lead but didn’t put the foot on the gas and tried to “coast” instead of putting the foot to the pedal.  Those 3 possessions ended in three 35 second violations and a bad shot.  That stretch took them out of offensive rhythm and I believe cost them a chance for greatness.

Now, the world has to watch a damn Wisconsin/Duke final when we ALL wanted to see Kentucky smash Duke…and for that I am blown. LOL

Congrats to Wisconsin for helping create a helluva all time College Basketball moment and ruining my fun.

GO BADGERS!

2015 Washington Nationals Season Preview

Matt Scherzer (with jersey) along with Manager Matt Williams, his agent Scott Boras and GM Mike Rizzo (L-R)

“This is the year!”

“No way we can lose!”

“Too much pitching….our starting depth is crazy!”

“Its our time!”

Those are just some of the positive sentiments from Nationals supporters.

“We didn’t need another starter!”

“Too many injuries!”

“We still need some bats to come to play in October!”

“Our manager doesn’t adjust to the moment!”

Those are just some negative sentiments from Nationals supporters.

Pessimism aside, the 2015 version of the Nationals are pretty loaded, as has been the case the last three seasons.  Yet this season, most national pundits and outlets have the squad as the clear-cut National League East favorites for what would be a second straight divisional crown and three in four years. They are also slight favorites to pop the customary champagne bottles in late October and bring DC its first major sports world championship since the 1992 Redskins despite all of the roster turnover.

The cynic in all Nats fans can just look back at the last two postseason heartbreaks and realize that you can’t win a World Series on paper or in March. Just getting to the postseason is the 1st step.

Going into the 2014 offseason, a couple of roster moves were inevitable such as not resigning clubhouse leader first baseman and clubhouse leader Adam LaRoche and former closer/human pacemaker Rafael Soriano.  They will be replaced by 2 team stalwarts that have huge question marks in  third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is learning the position on the fly and  Drew Storen, the sixth year hurler who has shined at times but has been inconsistant and has had his fair share of disappointing postseason moments.

 

Gone also are second baseman Asdubral Cabrera, a midseason pickup who did a yeoman’s job as a trade rental and fan favorite set-up man Tyler Clippard.  Losing Clippard looks like basically a payroll issue.  One disadvantage of having young talent play so well is that you can’t fiscally pay everyone what they are truly worth. We will get back to this subject later.

“The Window of Winning” isn’t very big and General Manager Mike Rizzo knows that. Rizzo, who isn’t one to rest on his laurels, basically doubled down on what his universally recognized as the main strength of the ball club and made the biggest free agent splash in all of baseball in signing 2 time All Star pitcher Max Scherzer to a whopping 7 year $220 Million dollar deal to become another “ace” on a rotation full of aces with Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzales.  This rotation could be one for the record books, on paper its the best rotation in baseball and was considered such before signing Scherzer.  No one in the rotation had higher than a 3.57 ERA  and the staff as a whole lead the league with a combined 3.03 ERA.  Acquiring a top tier talent like Scherzer could lessen the blow of a weakened bullpen.  Adding former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen will take some pressure of some of the younger arms in the ‘pen and is expected to be the primary setup man for Storen.

Zimmerman moving to first base exclusively means that last year’s breakout star Anthony Rendon can play his natural postion of third base, full time.  Last year Rendon was a under-the-radar as a low key MVP candidate and when the season was finally over finished 5th in the voting. This season, he will not sneak up on anyone.  He starts off the season on the disabled list which is a huge blow to the lineup.  He will not be the only catalyst starting the season on the DL.  Center Fielder Denard Span will likely be out until mid-May and left fielder Jayson Werth will miss significant time early on as both recover from offseason surgeries.  The revamped bench along with trusted veterans like shortstop Ian Desmond must hold the fort down until Span and Werth recover and get into the normal rhythm and grind of the season.

Looking to break out and have healthy campaigns are fourth year star Bryce Harper and right fielder Wilson Ramos.  For the Nats to truly take the next step as a franchise, both guys need to have a healthy campaign and bring the pop to the lineup they are capable of.  Watching Harper’s postseason performance has fans salivating at what this 22 year old can accomplish on the field. You read that right,  he’s still only 22  and hasn’t faced a pitcher younger than him at any level. Let’s keep it real.  He and Rendon were the only Nats in last year’s NLDS that didn’t look scared of “the moment” or pressed at the plate.  He let the game come to him and let his talent shine through.  Hopefully those final four games can catapult him into super-stardom.

This season will also most likely be the final season for Desmond,  Zimmermann, Fister and possibly Span to lace em up for the home team.  Each player will enter free agency in 2016 with no shortage of suitors willing to spend top dollar for their talents.  With younger talent waiting in the wings in the minors, the team will probably let those guys go which will undoubtedly leave a void in 2016 that will be hard to replace. It’s one of the curses of being a really good team. Expect the team to lean on the All-World starting rotation while they recover from the injury bug. So if the team doesn’t have the record of you would expect from a juggernaut, don’t be alarmed. Reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams has his work cut out for him in season two.  He must improve his flexibility as a manager which may have cost them big time in his first postseason as a manager.  I’m sure he realizes his mistakes and that delivering winning baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. Nats fans should expect the team to still be able to put together a pretty awesome season, win another NL East title and go into the playoffs as the favorites to bring a World Series title to DC.