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.

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A winning streak then a headscratching loss highlights the Nats week

 

“Untuck Em!”

 

If you were to go into this week under .500,   in 3rd place in the division and not really clicking on any cylinders on the field THEN you go out and win 5 in a row, 7 of 8 but lose Saturday’s game, to only place 1 game behind the 1st place Atlanta Braves, most fans would take that right?  But when that one loss brings up all of the losing characteristics that have plagued the team this season such as ANOTHER throwing error by Ryan Zimmermann (which of course lead to the losing runs), Stephen Strasburg  collapsing after that said error (again), and just not enough offense to compete, you have a fan base thats slightly concerned.

The week started off with 2nd year power bat, Tyler Moore shaking off a poor start to his season with a 3 Run HR in the 8th inning as the Nats defeated the Pirates in Pittsburgh by the score of 6-2.  Danny Espinosa homered and drove in three runs and Gio Gonzalez (3-2) won for just the third time in seven starts after winning 21 games last season.  The team had a day off on Monday in preparation for a 2 game Interleague set vs Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers. Luckily for the Nats, they would not face the two best pitchers on their rotation in former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the undefeated Max Scherzer.  Tuesday’s game would be cancelled by rain which pushed the matchup of Jordan Zimmermann and Nats killer Anibal Sanchez ,  who was 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 19 starts against the Nationals while with the Marlins, to Wednesday.  Zimmermann continued his Cy Young pace after pitching 17 shutout innings in his prior two starts, the right-hander allowed one run in seven innings in a 3-1 win .  Bryce Harper connected with his team leading 10th HR of the season. In the finale on Thursday, Dan Haren nearly squandered a four-run lead as Washington’s three relievers had identical lines, each giving up a hit and striking out a batter in an inning in a 5-4 triumph, the teams 4th in a row.  Adam LaRoche seems to have worked his way out of his April slump with 2 hits for his 1st back to back multi-hit games of the year. LaRoche has eight hits in his last 14 at-bats, raising his average from .129 through May 1 to .196.  Rapael Soriano sewed up his 12th save in 13 chances.

A three game set vs the Chicago Cubs would bring back former Nats star Alfonso Soriano, who in his 1 season here in DC holds almost all single season batting records including HRs, Slugging Percentage and Extra Base Hits.  The one player on the roster that will probably be the guy to eventually bring down all of those records, Bryce Harper, did not play in Friday’s or Saturday’s game because of an ingrown toe nail (ouch!!!).  Also sitting out would be Jayson Werth, who has been hampered with a hamstring and would eventually be placed on the Disabled List on Saturday.  Neither of those players would be missed a bunch on Friday as Ian Desmond continued his torrid ways with 3 hits including a 2-run HR and a RBI double. Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki each drove in a pair of runs with a double, helping Washington beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 for its seventh victory in the past eight games.  Ross Detweiler wasnt his sharpest, but did enough to earn his second win of the season.
Saturday’s aformentioned game continued a bad streak (Strasburg’s losing streak, now at 5), ended the team’s 5 game streak (longest of the season) with a disheartening 8-2 loss.  Ian Desmond had 3 hits again as he has developed into one of the games best shortstops and a keeper for this franchise for years to come.  We are seeing a true leader blossoming on and off the field before our very eyes.

 

Player of the Week:

Ian Desmond – 8 hits in 5 games which included 2 doubles, 2 HRs and 6 RBI’s. He also added a Stolen Base as well.

 

Next Week’s Schedule:

The Nats embark on their 1st extended West Coast road trip as they land in Los Angeles on Monday for a 3 game set, then on to San Diego for 4 gamer which concludes on Sunday

 

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.

 

 

 

2013 Washington Nationals Season Preview

“The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.”  – Eminem

Werth’s 9th inning Walk-off in Game 4

This could be the mantra for this years Washington Nationals.  What a difference a year makes.  Going into last season, we all knew they were going to shut down Strasburg in September, a possible Bryce Harper call up in September and genuine hopes of competing for a Wild Card birth towards the end of the season.  What we did get was the best season anyone could have asked for….97 Wins and the best record in the sport, Gio Gonzales winning over 20 games and finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting, Davey Johnson winning Manager of the Year, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond with career seasons while winning Silver Slugger awards and the 1st NL East Division title in Team History.  The season ended in heartbreak with a Game 5 9th inning debacle of a loss that hopefully fuels this year’s team for the extended playoff run that most prognosticators envision.

General Manager Mike Rizzo has put together what renowed baseball writer Peter Gammons has called a “SuperPower for years to come” on the MLB Network, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine has the Nats as the World Series Champion in their respective Preseason predictions, and there is a fervor never seen in DC for this team and rightly so, the Nats are loaded in almost every aspect of the game.  One position of need Rizzo fixed in the offseason was acquiring a slick fielding leadoff guy to play CF, that man is Denard Span formerly of the Minnesota Twins.  His acquisition now moves Game 4 walkoff hero Jayson Werth down to the #2 spot in the batting order and moves 2012 Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper to RF which will alleviate some pressure off the 20 year old to learn a premium defensive position (although he did very well there last year obviously).  Ryan Zimmerman hopes to improve on his masterful 2nd half last year (aka After The Shot), along with All-Star SS Ian Desmond, with the improvement of defensive dynamo Danny Espinoza along with newly resigned Adam LaRoche, the infield may be the most balanced in all of the game.  The Catcher platoon of Kurt Suzuki and the return of Jesus Flores shores up the position.  The lineup 1-8 could have 5 or 6 guys that hit for 20+ HRs.   Harper is the crown jewel of the lineup and after having possibly the greatest individual season a teenager has ever had in the the game, HUGE numbers are being mentioned (like 30+ 100+ RBIs).  Im not thinking THAT big yet because this team is just so stacked, but if he was to have one of those type of season, do not be surprised.  Its a reason he was drafted #1 Overall and given the nickname “The Baseball Lebron”.  Just like Lebron has done in the NBA, he plays the game the right way and you may want to hate him, but once you watch him play the game with the wreckless abondon he shows every game, you cant help but cheer for the kid.

2013 = 1st Full Season of The Phenoms….World Series or Bust?

We know, we know….Strasburg was shut down and who knows what could have happened if he pitched in the playoffs…I know one thing, the guy who took his place in the rotation in the series vs the Cardinals, was BY FAR the best pitcher in the series.  That guy is Ross Detweiler, the player I expect to improve the most this season, which means the Nats again will have the best rotation in the sport.  The only reason Detweiler isnt the 4th starter after Edwin Jackson moved on in the offseason, is the acquisition of veteran Dan Haren to man that spot.  Haren along with Jordan Zimmerman, Gio and a FULL SEASON OF STRASBURG makes opposing managers quiver in their boots, as it should.  One portion of the roster that has perennially been the most solid has been the bullpen and this year shouldn’t be any different.  When you can toss out names such as Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and new closer Rafael Soriano to close out games, more times than not, this team is gonna win….and win big.

Last year, I expected the team to win 81-84 games, this season, I can easily see the team matching the 98 wins of last year, and even eclipsing that mark.  Health and expectations will be the key, last year, the Nats were the Hunters, this year, they are the Hunted….how will the veterans on the team lead this team full of kids….will Davey Johnson push the right buttons? Will Drew Storen forget about last season’s last game and remember the form he had in the month of September….I say YES to all of these questions and I predict a Divisional Crown and a trip to at least the National League Championship series…..and yes they will bring home the first Major Sports Championship in this city in over 22 years!

Natitude…….