Entering last night's game Livan Hernandez had not allowed a run in 16 innings and Ubaldo Jimenez had not allowed a hit in nine. Neither streak lasted very long, but both pitchers battled late into the game giving fans an exciting pitchers duel that found the Rockies on top 2-0.
The Nationals got their first hit out of the way with Willie Harris's double in the first inning, ending Jimenez's hit streak, but Washington couldn't convert it into a run. The Rockies answered back breaking Hernandez's streak in the top of the second as red-hot Miguel Olivo hit a two-out solo home run to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead.
With a late-inning rally the Nationals were able to pull past the Rockies last night to win 6-4 and improve their season record to 8-7.
The Nationals dug themselves an early hole as starting pitcher John Lannan struggled early. The Rockies led off the game with two hits before getting a sacrifice fly from Jason Giambi (.000 WPA) to make it 1-0. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki then grounded into a fielders choice to drive in another run (.017 WPA). Brad Hawpe decided to add insult to injury in the third with a one-out solo home run (0.86) to bring the score to 3-0 and give the Nationals a game low 22.9 win expectancy.
Then the top of the Nationals order got their second chance. With Morgan and Zimmerman on base, Adam Dunn doubled (.175 WPA) to right to score them both. The next at bat, Josh Willingham drove in Dunn on a single (.095 WPA) tying the game at 3-
Chipper Jones is the only switch hitter in the history of the game to have a career average above .300 and over 300 career home runs. With those type of numbers he has to be included in the discussion for being one of the top five switch hitters of all time, a group that includes names like Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Pete Rose. Jones' struggles batting lefty certainly do not make him a liability in the Braves lineup, with one of the sweetest swings in baseball from the left side, he is still always a threat to make an impact. As a natural righty, it comes as no surprise that his left side was the first to go, and with more attention being drawn to his age and injuries, one has to wonder if Chipper will join manager Bobby Cox in walking away from the game.
Kendrick was phenomenal in his most recent outing tossing 8 innings of shutout ball. Unfortionatly for him, a miracle 9th and 10th innings by the Braves gave Atlanta the win and Kendrick a no decision. If this game proves anything, it's that
Adam Kilgore tweeted today that an MRI revealed that Nationals starting pitcher Jason Marquis has loose bodies in his throwing elbow. While he will get a second opinion tomorrow, it is likely that he will miss time. The local beat reporters have suggested that Luis Atilano will earn the start in Marquis place on Friday. Atliano is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts this season with Syracuse.
"For the clubs biggest winter investment, something has to be wrong. Marquis threw 28 pitches this afternoon, reaching a maximum speed of only 89.2 MPH. His bread-and-butter pitch, his sinker, was only averaging 87.95 MPH on the day, and his fastball was only averaging 85.9 MPH. It appears his release point has slightly raised while his velocity has dropped. The result? Clearly Marquis is having trouble getting batters out...But still at the age of 31 his sudden poor play isn't likely do to an early decline, however it leaves some to speculate, does Jason Marquis have some sort of lurking arm injury?"
The second opinion tomorrow will reveal how bad this injury is, but it's very possible when it's all said and done this could be a huge setback for the right-hander and for the franchise.
Washington Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg pitched five strong innings today allowing only one hit. The righty struck out six and walked only one batter. So far on the season for AA-Harrisburg he has pitched 12.1 innings, allowed one earned on seven hits and three walks...he has also struck out 17 batters.
"He's doing the things he needs to do to progress to the next level. You can see from the stretch he's gathering himself a little more, and not losing any velocity, which is something we were worried about. He's about 1.24, 1.25 [seconds to home plate], which is where we want him to be. He also handles the bat. Offensively, he knows what he's doing.... The stuff is solid, and the little nuances he's getting a feel for. The changeup has come a long way, even since spring training. That's a real weapon for him now."
Analysis: He should be up in Syracuse soon. It's becoming evident to just about everyone that he is only in the minors for financial reasons. Hopefully when he finally does make it to Washington they will still be somewhere near .500 and he can help them compete. If he can't be in the majors right now, Strasburg needs to be pitching in AAA, not AA. He isn't gaining anything by pitching against players who are slightly above college level talent.
After 12 games, the Syracuse Chiefs find themselves atop the International League North Division with a record of 8-4. A number of players have stood out for the Chiefs in this young season. The offense has been paced so far by second baseman Chase Lambin, who has hit a scorching .367 with a .441 on-base percentage and .567 slugging percentage in nine games. Just behind him are Kevin Mench (.351/.435/.459) and Roger Bernadina (.333/.375/.500). On the mound, starters J.D. Martin and Luis Atilano have been very impressive. In three outings, Martin is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA, while Atilano is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his two starts. If these two continue to post numbers like this, it remains entirely possible that they are called upon to plug the gaps in the Nationals' underperforming rotation.
Well that one got out of hand fast...Just as the Nationals did the game following Livan Hernandez's stellar four hit shutout, Washington allowed 10 earned runs early Tuesday night to the Rockies following Craig Stammen's eight inning performance on Monday.
Olsen's start was disappointing to say the least. The left-hander had a solid outing in his first start against the Phillies, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing only five hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts. For a guy who was disappointingly left off the opening day roster, it was good to see him assert himself after only a few weeks in the minors. Yesterday, however, we saw significant regression from a pitcher who has seemingly only regressed since his strong rookie campaign for Florida in 2006.
In the past Olsen's success has lived and died on his slider. In 2006 and 2008 when he had above average seasons the pitch has ranked a 12.1 and a 13.2 respectively on FanGraphs pitch type value scale. In 2009 it was only average and he struggled to get batters out with his well below average fastball. In his first start against Philadelphia on Apr. 15 he threw the slider 20 times for 15 strikes, including 5 swinging strikes, making it easily his most effective pitch on the night. Last night however in Olsen's short start he threw 17 fastballs, 27 change ups, and not one slider according to PitchFX. Not...one.
What can we make of that? Apart from his curious pitch selection his release point also seemingly dropped and he threw way more two-seam fastballs than four-seam fastballs. Regardless, the catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, was the same, the opposing line-up was less potent, and this time he was at home. So where did the slider go?
Olsen struggled early and often in the 10-4 loss. In just two innings on the mound he allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. After a quick first inning where he retired the side in order, he allowed two in a shakey second before failing to record an out in the third before getting yanked. The Nationals attempted to mount a comeback in the fifth and sixth innings but even with a two-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman and two runs singled in by Desmond and Guzman were only able to raise their win expectancy to 2.6%. The Nationals simply build too big a hole for themselves, and despite extending their streak of scoring at least four runs in 10-straight-games.
The Nationals were able to stop the bleeding after the third, not allowing a single run in the final six innings. Jesse English, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard each pitched a scoreless frame combining to strike out four and allow only two hits.
At the plate Cristian Guzman had himself a great night going 4-5 with a run and an RBI. Zimmerman followed closely behind going 3-5 with a two-run homer, and Ivan Rodriguez and Justin Maxwell both had two hits each.
To help us better know our current opponent the Colorado Rockies, I sat down to talk to David Martin from Rockies Review, one of the best Rockies blogs on the net. Here is what he had to say.
TNB: Tell us a little bit about the no hitter last week and what went through your mind as you watched it?
Rockies Review: For anyone who has been a long-term Rockies fan, the emotions were incredible. It was another confirmation that the club's "build from within" mentality is paying off in a huge way. There were some tough years for Rockies fans, for those fans who made it through those years seeing the team accomplish something like a no-hitter is an amazing feeling of vindication.
TNB: What has Todd Helton meant to the Rockies franchise, and to you as a fan, throughout his career?
RR: Todd Helton is the Rockies franchise. He is everything that sports fans today want in their hero. In the middle of the rebuilding process, he could have easily told the club that he wanted out. There were plenty of clubs that would have loved a 1st baseman who has a career average above .325, but he stayed. He said that he loved the fans, and loved Colorado and did not want to go anywhere. He is not a guy who likes the spotlight, but still does things that many athletes only do when the cameras are on. I talked to a college student in St. Louis, who was in the hospital five years ago with cancer. Helton came and visited her, never telling her who she was, only asking questions about her. She didn't find out that he was a baseball player until she turned the game on later that night and saw him on TV. There is no ego with Helton. His leadership sets the tone for the Rockies. Many players have said that his "team first" mentality is a huge reason why the Rockies have such a tight-knit clubhouse that plays well together.
TNB: Do you think the Rockies will make the playoffs again this season?
RR: I think that the Rockies have the most talented team that they have ever fielded. However, winning in the National League West is no easy task. While the Dodgers didn't do much to better themselves in the offseason, they still have a powerful lineup and two great starting pitchers. The Giants have a starting rotation that is as good as anyones in the league. If the Rockies can do the little things right like playing good defense and attacking the strike zone on the mound, they have a good chance to win their first ever National League West title.
TNB: Tell us about a Rockies prospect we will see coming up this season.
RR: The Rockies have several prospects in their system that are worth watching. Jhoulys Chacin (pronounced JOE-lease Shasheen) made one start for the Rockies last season after being promoted from Double-A. He has the stuff to be a front-line starter in the big leagues. His slider is as good as anyones in the league. To be effective, the 23 year-old needs to be able to command his fastball so that he can set up his slider.
TNB: What does Jim Tracy bring to the table that Clint Hurdle didn't?
RR: I loved Clint Hurdle. I think he was the perfect fit for the Rockies when they were young and finding their way. However, as a hitting coach for most of his professional coaching career, I don't think that he understood how to manage pitchers. Guys in the bullpen never had set roles and starters were essentially pulled after 100 pitches, regardless of the situation in the game. On the offensive side, Hurdle was too discipline oriented. Slumping hitters would often take seats on the bench, not because a day off would help them, but because they were being punished. It got a little ridiculous in the end. Jim Tracy brings stability and allows players to know where they stand. I think he brings a calming nature to the clubhouse.
TNB: The Rockies are known for having some great commercials, what's your favorite?
RR: The Rockies marketing department is phenomenal. Their commercials never get old, even after150 games on TV per year. There have been several commercials that I really like, I think the Twitter commercial with Todd Helton and Dexter Fowler might be my favorite...that or 2009's "product endorsement" commercial featuring Ubaldo Jimenez saying "If Ubaldo...try Hair Be There."