SYRACUSE CHIEFS - AAA
In their opening game of the season, the Chiefs scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Lehigh Ironpigs 8-7. The Chiefs' ninth inning rally began with a one-out solo home run from Roger Bernadina to tie the game. After a Kevin Mench single (after which he advanced to second on a fielding error), an intentional walk by Josh Whitesell, and a walk by Eric Bruntlett, shortstop Pete Orr hit a single to centerfield to drive in Mench for the winning run. Orr, who also stole a base, was 3-4 on the day with a double. Second baseman Seth Bynum chipped in three RBIs, including a two-run homer. Bernadina and pitcher J.D. Martin also tallied two hits apiece, with Martin also throwing 6.2 innings while surrendering just two runs on one hit. Reliever Joel Peralta was credited with the win after pitching a one-run ninth.
HARRISBURG SENATORS - AA
The Washington Nationals (1-2) head north to Citi Field to take on the New York Mets (1-2) in a three game series. While both clubs enter Friday's matchup with a 1-2 record, the Nationals enter the contest with a one-game winning streak where the Mets try to end a two game skid.
For two teams that ended 2009 on a disappointing note, a strong start is unquestionably important. The Mets have failed to make the playoffs for three straight seasons, despite the benefit of a well put together roster. It is important for them to take control of this series to avoid the negativity that has doomed them in past seasons. The Nationals on the other hand have had several bad starts in a row and can't afford to let a newfound optimism in Washington slip away with a poor early season performance.
Both teams will have their limitations entering this early series. The Mets are missing star centerfielder Carlos Beltran and will be without the services of their starting shortstop Jose Reyes for at least the first game. The Nationals on the other hand hope to have a back of the rotation featuring Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Detwiler by the end of the season. However they will be forced to face a strong Mets team in this series with Livan Hernandez and Garret Mock starting in two games.
METS LAST SERIES
The Mets won the first game of their opening series against the Florida Marlins before dropping the last two. The three games saw a Mets 7-1 blowout on opening day, a 6-7 extra-inning heartbreaker, and 1-3 defeat. Despite the two losses the Mets have to be pleased with the performances of their starting pitching, an area of their team that had been a question mark entering 2010. Santana only allowed one earned run in six innings while Niese allowed three in six and Maine allowed four.
The Mets sole victory saw everything click on full-cylinder for the boys from queens. Star third baseman David Wright hit a homer in his first at-bat after suffering a confusing power drought last season, helping assure Mets fans that hopefully that was a thing of the past. New free-agent acquisition Jason Bay went 2-4 with a run, and even Gary Matthews Jr. , who many considered a mistake to acquire, went 2-3 with a double and two runs on the day.
Who's Hot: Jeff Francour - 4/10, 2 2B, 3 RBI
Who's Not: Luis Castillo - 1/10, 1 R
Mike Pelfrey (0-0 -.-ERA) vs. Garret Mock (0-0, -.-ERA)
Oliver Perez (0-0, -.-ERA) vs. John Lannan (0-1, 12.27 ERA)
Johan Santana (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Livan Hernandez (0-0, -.-ERA)
AVOID TOUGH SITUATIONS
The biggest difference between the Mets blowout win and their two close losses was the performance of their two biggest hitters, Jason Bay and David Wright (as seen above). In the win the two combined to go 3-7 with a homer, a triple, two RBI and a run. Quite simply, the Nationals have to force the other Mets to beat them, and without Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and with a recuperating Jose Reyes, that shouldn't be that difficult of a task.
The Mets are stuck with the likes of Alex Cora, Luis Castillo, Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews and Rod Barajas to fill out their line up. Those should be manageable batters even for the back of the Nationals rotation. Quite simply, the Nationals need to not put themselves in situations where they are forced to pitch to Bay and Wright, and take down the lesser threats in the line up.
REYES TO RETURN
Once considered the future of the franchise, super athletic, and super fast shortstop Jose Reyes was limited to only 36 games played last season due to injuries. A mysterious thyroid condition left Reyes out of the line-up for most of spring training and as a result he has been rehabilitating in extended camp.
When healthy Reyes is one of the most valuable players in the big leagues, posting a WAR of five or greater for three straight seasons from 2006-2008. Reyes unique combination of speed, bat control, and above average defense make him a force to be reckoned with in the National League East.
Reyes is scheduled to make his return to the Mets Saturday and is likely to start the game at shortstop. If he truly is healthy he could be a headache for a Nationals team that alternates between an inexperienced shortstop and one with no arm, and a pitching staff that has a history of grooving fastballs.
Tired of playing catch-up to the Phillies, the Nationals pounced out early in tonight's 6-5 win over the reigning back-to-back National League Champs.
Nyjer Morgan got things started with his legs, leading off the home half of the first inning with a triple. Cristian Guzman, getting his first start at shortstop, hit him in with a single. A pair of sacrifices then put the Nationals up 3-0 entering the second. The lead wouldn't hold, however, as Nats number three starter Craig Stammen surrendered four runs in five innings of work.
The game entered the seventh with the two teams tied at five, but Nats third-basemen Ryan Zimmerman got the game winning hit with his second double of the evening, driving in Alberto Gonzalez to take the 6-5 lead. Tyler Clippard, Brian Bruney and Matt Capps combined to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings to close out the game, giving the Nationals their first victory of the 2010 season.
SERIES ROUND UP
The Nationals avoided the sweep by earning the one-run victory tonight. The two lopsided losses were a result of the Nationals inability to contain the top-half of the Phillies dangerous line up.
The Top Half Hit:
Rollins: .455 Polanco: .500 Utley: .417 Howard: .400 Werth: .308
Most of the damage from the top-half of the Phillies line-up came at the hand of the Nationals starting rotation who combined for 12.2 innings, 24 hits, and 15 earned runs. Not a good performance for a group that was considered much improved upon the 2009 staff. Bullpen acquisitions Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, and Tyler Walker on the other hand were very efficient, allowing no earned runs in six innings of work.
Down at Amazin' Avenue you can find some head scratching quotes from Mets GM Omar Minaya. Mostly in response to questions regarding roster decisions and the team philosophy, Omar always seems to give the media something to play with.
For the Mets, it has gotten to the point that matter what happens this year, there will always be an unnecessary non-baseball related story floating around the clubhouse. Whether it be Omar contradicting himself, or Tony Bernazard challenging his players to a fight, the people in Mets world always feel it necessary to have something to criticize if the team runs into some trouble. To Omar's credit, if it weren't for him the Mets could quite possibly be in an even worse situation than they are now. Minaya was responsible for bringing in names like Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, ushering in the new Mets era we know today, but ever since coming within 1 win of a World Series birth in 2006, Minaya has lost the once nearly immortal status with questionable decisions and unusual run ins with the media.
Fish Stripes breaks down Cameron Maybin's recent defensive struggles at Citi Field and what the future has in store for the young player.
The Washington Nationals biggest free-agent acquisition of 2010 got off to a rocky start as Jason Marquis earned a loss in his first start of the season tonight. Marquis allowed eight hits and six earned runs in four innings, while walking three and only striking out two.
The Nationals were able to bounce back after giving up an early two run deficit when 25-year-old Ian Desmond hit a solo homer in the bottom of the third to put the Nats down by one. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn then walked to set up Josh Willingham's RBI double to tie it at 2-2 going into the fourth. The Wheels fell off in the fifth, however, as Jason Marquis could not record an out and the club allowed three earned runs off of a Chase Utley single and a Ryan Howard bomb. The Nationals ultimately fell 8-4.
The game saw a minor injury as right-fielder Mike Morse went down with a strained calf in the seventh inning. As a result Cristian Guzman saw his first action in the outfield, with little excitement. At the plate Guzman hit a triple and scored a run. One of the Willie(y)'s will fill in tomorrow as the Nats take on the Phils and try to fight off the opening series sweep.
(WPA Charts from Fangraphs.com, the BEST stat site on the net)
As you can see after Willingham hit his RBI single the Nats had their highest chance of winning, 55 %, that they did the entire night. Even entering the fifth they had a 50% chance of earning the victory but as you can see their chances fell off the map when Ryan Howard hit his home run.
The Nationals most valuable players according to win probability (the players who gave the Nationals the biggest probability of winning based on their situational performance) were Josh Willingham and Ian Desmond. Willingham posted a Win Probability Added (WPA) of .164 by going 3-4 with an RBI and a walk. Desmond posted a .142 WPA going 2-5 with a homer and 2 RBI. Desmond also struck out three times on the night.
The Nationals least valuable players according to win probability were Jason Marquis and Mike Morse. Marquis posted a -.432 WPA with his aforementioned poor start. His untimely walks did him no favors, nor did his wild pitch. Morse went 0-3 with two strikeouts as the starting right-fielder posting a -.138 WPA.
Among the pitchers, only Tyler Walker was able to escape the night with a positive WPA with a .059 mark. Walker entered the game in the fifth with the Phillies rallying but was able to strikeout three in two scoreless innings of work from the pen. Walker was considered one of the last players to make the roster this spring as he and Jesse English were both brought on as bullpen hands until Livan Hernandez could be activated for his start. Walker made a strong bid to be kept on the roster tonight.
Getting Through The Top Four: The Phillies top four hitters Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard combined to go 7-16 with seven runs, four RBI, and three walks. In Mondays game the same four combined to go 8-18 with five runs, nine RBI, and five walks.
Playing For Contact: Ian Desmond is 2-7 early this season. While his two hits have been for extra bases, all of Desmond's five outs have come by strikeout. Desmond improved in his second game driving in two of the Nationals four runs, but an early strikeout rate of 78% is something to watch out for. Desmond also committed another error in the field today, making it his second straight game at short-stop with an E-6.
Wear On The Bullpen: With Lannan's poor outing that saw him only pitch 3.2 innings on Monday, and Marquis' poor outing tonight that saw him only pitch four, the Nats bullpen has now tossed 10.1 innings in three days. This is the opposite of what Mike Rizzo wanted when he went after Jason Marquis as a work-horse with a track-record. A major problem last season was that the young starting pitching was not putting in enough innings and as a result the bullpen was gaining too much wear-and-tear to be effective as the season went on. The Nationals will play again tomorrow at 4:35 and the club will count on Craig Stammen at least getting to the sixth inning.
With the young season only two days old and only one of 162 games played, speculation abounds on the future of Nationals' manager Jim Riggleman. Despite the fact that he is entering his first full season as the official manager of the team - rather than merely serving on an interim basis - the structure of Riggleman's contract suggests that the team may be looking to head in another direction in the near future. While the terms of the contract say that the Riggleman will manage the Nationals through the 2011 season (with a team option for 2012) the contract also contains a clause allowing the Nationals to buy out the remaining years with a $100,000 payment at the end of the year. Riggleman, slated to make $600,000 this year, would thus be paid a total of $700,000, a relatively modest sum for a major league manager.
The Nationals have myriad reasons to consider this option. First of all, Riggleman has not exactly had a decorated managerial career. Though often thrust into less than ideal situations (having taken over the 1992 Padres, 2008 Mariners, and the 2009 Nationals in mid-season), Riggleman has a career record of 555-695, good for a .444 winning percentage. Secondly, and closely related to the first point, is the future projection of this team and franchise. If the Nationals think that the team will be ready to compete sooner rather than later, it is only logical to bring in an elite manager to give them the best leadership available.
On the other hand, there is ample rationale for retaining Riggleman. While it is nice to look on the bright side of things, the Nationals do not appear to be a contender in the immediate future. The organization is excited
Jason Marquis, the Nationals biggest free-agent splash in 2010, is set to take the mound tonight in his first-ever start for the club. Marquis, 31, signed a two-year $15 million contract this winter giving the Nationals the veteran starter and workhorse that they've been missing the last several years. Aside from his strong sinker, Marquis brings an excellent bat, a good glove, and a tradition of winning to Nationals Park.
While his career numbers may seem average, posting a 4.48 ERA and 4.82 FIP over 10 major league seasons, Marquis journey to the Majors was quite accomplished.
It all started for Jason in Staten Island, New York, where he was born and raised in a conservative Jewish household. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Marquis' parents were living the American dream in New York, his dad owning a check cashing business in Brooklyn, and his mom working for the New York City Board of Education. At the age of 12 Marquis took his South Shore Little League team to the Little League World Series. On his 13th birthday Marquis pitched against team Ohio striking out 11 with no walks and only three hits. Due to tournament rules, Marquis was not eligible to pitch in the US Final vs. California, and his club lost with the righty playing at his second position, shortstop.
The South Shore team beat out team Canada for third place in the World, as Marquis tossed a no-hitter against the neighbors to the north. To this day he is one of the few players in major league history to play in both the Little League World Series and a Major League World Series.