Joe is sick for this episode, but we still give you almost an hour of Nats talk. We talk about Harper and Zimmerman's walkoffs, a nice series against the Mets, and some nice storylines from the last week. Enjoy.
Joe is sick for this episode, but we still give you almost an hour of Nats talk. We talk about Harper and Zimmerman's walkoffs, a nice series against the Mets, and some nice storylines from the last week. Enjoy.
Three games ago, Dan Haren declared the Washington Nationals (52-54) had reached rock bottom of their shaky season after getting pounded by the New York Mets (46-55) in an 11-0 defeat.
From rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up, and the Nationals proved this on Sunday by giving the Mets a taste of their own medicine with a series-winning 14-1 victory. Since that atrociously low point, the Nationals are 3-0.
Sunday’s win was far from the dreary, offense-deficient performances that had become standard at Nationals Park since the All-Star break. The Nats were incredibly successful with runners in scoring position, and their 9-for-12 mark for the day drastically departed from a period when they went 7-for-81 with RISP. Wilson Ramos contributed to that offensive breakout with his first career grand slam, and Taylor Jordan reaped the benefits by receiving his first MLB win.
Every starting Nationals hitter but Adam LaRoche – who hasn’t has a hit since his triple last Thursday and is 13-for-80 this month – collected at least one hit and either scored or batted in a run.
Ian Desmond and Denard Span both went 4-for-4, and Span hit his second home run of the season and the series. Jayson Werth drove in his NL-leading 21st run of the July. Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-2 in his first two at-bats, though he was only thrown one pitch in each, something Davey Johnson said he had never seen before in his career with the Nationals.
The offense scored their 14 runs on 18 hits – both season highs – but the biggest hit of the game came in the third inning, when Ramos crushed a no-doubt home run off Mets starter Carlos Torres for a grand slam.
The five-run third inning knocked Torres from the game after allowing a total of eight earned runs, but no Mets pitcher could fool the Nats, who seemed set on breaking out of their offensive funk and earning the win for Jordan.
In his previous five starts with the Nationals, Jordan had been denied adequate run support, despite his putting in solid work. On Sunday, Jordan again put in a strong bid for a win, allowing only one earned run through six innings, but this time he was finally rewarded for his performance with a W.
Jordan pitched a perfect game across the first three innings, before Eric Young interrupted with a lead-off single in the fourth. Jordan would allow just four more hits and one walk on his way to victory. His seven strikeouts were the most he had punched out in an outing this season.
Johnson was in high spirits after the win, and was pleased with the accomplishments of both Jordan and his hitters that allowed the final score to be so lopsided.
“I asked for a laugher on my radio show today, and that’s what we got,” Johnson said. “I like it.”
The uptick in hitting comes at an opportune time. The Nationals have won four of their last five games, and the buzzword “momentum” has begun floating around the clubhouse again, as they prepare to play five games in nine days against first place teams, including their rival Atlanta Braves.
“We’re right where we need to be,” Johnson said.
The Nationals can only hope their prime positioning hasn’t happened too late.no comments
In the midst of a frustratingly unsuccessful season that has left him hearing more “boo’s” than “Drew’s” from Nats fans, Drew Storen of the Washington Nationals has been optioned to the minor leagues.
Storen saved 43 games in 2011, and pitched for a 2.37 ERA in 2012. But in 2013, the pitcher who was once one of the most successful and highly touted relievers in the Nationals bullpen finds himself with a 5.40 ERA, five blown saves in seven opportunities, and a ticket to Triple-A Syracuse in his hand instead of a major-league baseball.
After the second game of the Nationals double-header with the New York Mets, manager Davey Johnson announced that Storen would be sent down to make room on the roster for Ryan Mattheus.
Though Storen would have preferred to continue to work on his struggles at the major-league level, Johnson thought it would benefit him more to go to the minors where he will be able to regain confidence and command of the baseball before returning to the Nationals pitcher arsenal.
“He wants to work it out here and I understand that,” Johnson said. “But he just needs to get right mentally and mechanically because I need him. It’s that simple. I don’t need him where he’s at, where he kind of at times fights the situation. He’s too important to this ball club going forward. He needs to just get right, and get back. … He’s a big weapon, and if he can get squared away I’ll get him back.”
Johnson pondered whether Storen’s demotion from closer after the off-season acquisition of Rafael Soriano affected his mentality so much that it impeded his ability to be effective on the mound. But Johnson flatly said that no matter what Storen’s mental concerns were, he needed to be able to “push all that aside and go down there and do what he’s capable of doing.”
Tyler Clippard had an emotional conversation with the media following the announcement of Storen’s being optioned, as his friend and former roommate was unavailable to be interviewed. In his candid comments, Clippard said that he felt the acquisition of Soriano did affect Storen’s confidence, and he chastised the Nationals organization for their handling of the situation.
“I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented,” Clippard said, according to the MLB blog, The Rocket. “You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game that he’s not the guy for the job. He’s only human, you know? I mean, it’s going to get to anybody.”
The “one game” Clippard was referring to was Game 5 of the NLDS when Storen blew the game for the Nationals, eliminating them from the postseason. Though the Nationals voiced support for Storen after the heart-breaking incident, their hiring of veteran closer Soriano sent a different message, and Storen hasn’t thrown like the same pitcher since.
Clippard said the organization treated Storen’s situation “very poorly,” and that the news of Storen’s final demotion made Friday a “tough day.” However, he did agree that a trip to the minors would be beneficial for his teammate.
“It’s not necessarily turning the page on him because I think he needs to go down and regroup, and get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself,” Clippard said. “So I think it’s going to help him.”
Johnson echoed the best wishes for Storen, saying that this first encounter with adversity for the 25-year-old pitcher should not hinder his ability to make a major-league return.
“He’s never had to deal with failure, and this is kind of a sharp lesson up here dealing with failure,” Johnson said. “We could have done different things with different players, but I think this is going to be best served for him to go down there and get it right, and I’ll get him back.
“This is what’s best for him. He probably will have a hard time coming to grips with that but it is the best thing for him.”
Storen, who has shown to be a likeable guy off the field, has a wide fan base that will certainly be hoping this time away from the big leagues will in fact be the best thing for his career. In the meantime, all those fans can do is wait for Storen to come to overcome the first big obstacle of his career.
It was shaping up to be a pretty embarrassing day.
The Washington Nationals (50-54) had scored only one run over almost 18 innings of a double-header against the unimposing New York Mets (50-54), and were facing the possibility of falling to a tie for fourth place in the National League East.
But then Ryan Zimmerman saved the day.
Reminding Washington why they call him “Mr. Walk-off,” Zimmerman parked his ninth career walk-off home run in the centerfield bleachers to win the game for the Nationals, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth.
The win was the Nationals’ second walk-off in as many days, and it avoided wasting a sparkling outing by Ross Ohlendorf who went toe-to-toe with Mets’ ace Matt Harvey.
In Ohlendorf’s last two years as a pitcher, he posted ERAs of 7.77 and 8.15. But on Friday, he kept pace with All-Star Harvey, and lowered his 2013 ERA to 1.87 while allowing his team to walk away with the win. The lone run he allowed came on a pair of doubles by Josh Satin and John Buck in the fourth inning.
Manager Davey Johnson called Ohlendorf’s seven-inning, five-hit outing “exceptional.”
“He pitched his heart out,” Johnson said. “He threw the ball good in spring, but nothing like he’s throwing it now.”
His performance stood up well against Harvey’s, who needed just 99 pitches to shut down the Nationals lineup through eight innings. The only run he gave up was on an error by Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy.
Harvey surrendered five hits, and over half of them were to Jayson Werth, who went 3-for-3 and was the only National besides Zimmerman with multiple hits.
Twice, Werth led off an inning with a single, and all three times he reached base the Nationals failed to capitalize. They couldn’t even use Werth’s presence on base to make Harvey sweat a bit. After Werth’s leadoff single in the seventh, Harvey needed just two pitches to end the inning.
But though the Nationals sustained their distressing success rate with runners in scoring position – going 0-for-8 for the day – Zimmerman’s homer made their failure moot.
At 28 years old, Zimmerman’s nine walk-off home runs are more than any player has hit before turning 30 in MLB history. As owner of a record such as that, and considering it had been 47 at-bats since Zimmerman’s last extra-base hit, it is fair to apply a commonly uttered baseball expression to his situation: He was due.
With a Philadelphia Phillies loss, the National were propelled back up to second place in the NL East. Could it be that, like Zimmerman, the Nats are also due for a prolonged string of celebratory moments?
Though many Washington Nationals’ (49-54) players had hoped Thursday’s walk-off would be a vehicle toward more victories, their 11-0 loss to the New York Mets (46-53) on Friday afternoon more closely resembled a vehicle stuck speeding in reverse.
The Nats offense was again rendered impotent as they stranded seven teammates on base and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
The 2012 NL East Champions were shut out by 23-year-old Jenrry Mejia in his first start back from Tommy John surgery and just the seventh of his career. Mejia lowered his career ERA from 4.91 to 4.35 after his seven-hit, seven-strikeout, seven-inning performance.
The offense made some noise in the first and third innings when Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman twice reached on back-to-back singles. But twice Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth stranded them.
Results like that from the heart of the order are precisely why the Nationals have struggled so hard to win ballgames, and their inability to bring home runners in scoring position continues to tell their disappointment-filled story.
Jordan Zimmermann had an atypical outing, earning the loss after a performance that significantly differed from the numbers the Nationals have begun to expect from him.
Through 20 starts this season, Zimmermann has averaged 6.7 innings, 94.2 pitches, 4.8 strikeouts, one walk, and 0.6 home runs per start. However, in six and two-thirds innings on Friday, Zimmermann threw 118 pitches, struck out eight, walked three and gave up two home runs.
He started the game strong by getting all three outs in the first inning on strikeouts, though he made a 400-foot mistake to Daniel Murphy, allowing the Mets to get on the board first with his seventh home run of the year.
Zimmermann got five consecutive outs, three of them on strikeouts, before giving up a double to Juan Lagares followed by yet another home run to Murphy.
Murphy’s 4-for-5, five RBI-day accounted for nearly all the offense for both teams until the ninth inning when a tough game turned wretched for the Nationals.
Ryan Mattheus made his first appearance since May 19, when he broke his pitching hand by punching a locker. Mattheus pitched a scoreless eighth, but couldn’t escape the ninth and was pulled in favor of Drew Storen, who Davey Johnson had originally said would be unavailable because he was suffering flu-like symptoms.
Storen entered the game with one out and two men on base. Four pitches later, there were no men on base, still only one out, and the score was 11-0.
An RBI-single to David Wright, an RBI-double to Marlon Byrd and a three-run home run to Ike Davis were more than enough to inspire loud boos from the crowd and fuming statements on Twitter.
Both of Storen’s parents chimed in on Twitter about their displeasure with their son being put in the game. His mother, @PamStoren, tweeted, “Are you kidding me?” when Storen ran on the field. His father, @mpos, followed with, “102 degree temperature, sicker than a dog...Let's make him wear it!”
In his post-game press conference, Johnson said Storen had been feeling a little better, and that he had no choice but to use him to avoid injuring Mattheus, who had thrown 43 pitches.
Regardless of who or what was to blame, Mattheus’ and Storen’s performances cemented a hideous defeat that brought the Nationals record since the All-Star break to 1-7.
They will get another opportunity to right the ship today, but against Mets ace Matt Harvey that won’t be an easy task.
With a halt finally put to their six-game downward spiral, the Washington Nationals (49-53) will face the New York Mets (45-53) fresh off their first win in 11 days.
Though the National are just 1-6 since the All-Star break, compared to the Mets’ 4-3 record, their walk-off victory on Thursday is bound to leave some residual excitement on the field as Washington was reminded was winning felt like. The Nationals will try to carry that energy into the first game of their day-night double-header to open the series.
The Mets and the Nats had nearly polar opposite expectations of them going into this season, yet somehow they are meeting with nearly identical records and only two games separating them in the National League East standings. This series will be decisive, if only for cosmetic purposes, as a good showing by either team will push the other firmly into fourth place.
For the Nationals, sitting in fourth place in a division they were picked to dominate would be quite the embarrassment.
Two Aces, One Day
Friday’s double-header will showcase the teams’ best two pitchers, though Jordan Zimmermann will pitch the day game and Matt Harvey will pitch at night.
Nationals hitters have a .143/.192/.265 slash line against Harvey in two games this season, and Harvey has a 1.29 ERA against them with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched. Harvey’s 2.08 night ERA (10 starts) is slightly better than his 2.39 day ERA (10 starts).
Against the Mets, Zimmermann carries a 1.38 ERA with eight strikeouts in 13 innings, and has held them to a .133/.216/.289 slash line his two starts against them this season.
Zimmermann has had much more success at night this year, pitching for a 2.64 ERA that stands in contrast to his 4.62 daytime ERA. However, his five day starts make up a small sample size compared to 15 starts at night.
Coming off one of the worst outings of his career, Zimmermann is bound to be anxious to return to his former dominance, regardless of how brightly the sun is shining.
Zimmermann has been getting the second-most run support of any Nationals starter – 4.40 runs per start. With any luck for Zimmermann, the Nats will continue that trend of support on Friday after just breaking out of a 14-game sequence during which they averaged only 2.9 runs per game. The nine runs the Nationals scored on Thursday marked the most they scored since July 7, when they beat the San Diego Padres 11-7.
In The Zone
Jayson Werth (RF) .300 AVG, .417 OBP, 1.050 SLG, 5 HR, 8 RBI (last six games)
Marlon Byrd (RF) .348 AVG, .400 OBP, .696 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI (last six games)
Daniel Murphy (2B) .333 AVG, .391 OBP, .476 SLG, 4 RBI, 1 SB (last six games)
Eric Young (RF) .091 AVG, .200 OBP, .091 SLG, 5 SO, 4 SB (last six games)
Omar Quintanilla (SS) .111 AVG, .238 OBP, .111 SLG, 4 SO (last six games)
7/26, Jordan Zimmermann (12-5, 3.01 ERA, .232 BAA, 96 SO) vs. Jenrry Mejia (0-0)
7/26, Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03 ERA, .198 BAA, 21 SO) vs. Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23 ERA, .192 BAA, 157 SO)
7/27, Dan Haren (4-11, 5.79 ERA, .297 BAA, 87 SO) vs. Dillon Gee (7-7, 4.07 ERA, .277 BAA, 92 SO)
7/28, Taylor Jordan (0-3, 3.68 ERA, .308 BAA, 14 SO) vs. Carlos Torres (1-1, 0.94 ERA, .234 BAA, 26 SO)
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. On Thursday afternoon, the Washington Nationals (49-53) started the game with lucky, and ended it with good as Bryce Harper hit his first walk-off home run to give the Nationals a 9-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates (60-40).
With their first win in 11 days, the Nationals avoided a four-game sweep and ended a six-game losing streak.
The struggling Nationals offense started catching lucky breaks right from the beginning of the game, as Harper was hit by a pitch to lead off the first inning. Steve Lombardozzi – who was a star of the day with two inning-ending diving catches and a double in the fifth inning – followed with a perfect bunt single to advance Harper.
The luck kicked in when Harper was caught in a run down after making too wide a turn around second base, but third baseman Pedro Alvarez dropped the throw, allowing Harper to score.
Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Denard Span all singled, the Pirates committed two more errors, and when the dust settled, the Nationals held a 4-0 lead, their first lead in five days.
Thanks to a solid, though not the prettiest, pitching performance from Gio Gonzalez, the Nats held that lead for much of the game.
Over five and two-thirds innings, Gonzalez gave up eight hits and walked four in the process of giving up three earned runs. He struck out a career-high 11 batters for the third time this season and the fifth time in his career.
Gonzalez’s pitch count was high from the get-go, and a shortened outing from their starter is not exactly what the Nationals needed on the day before a double header when their bullpen has been “in shambles,” as manager Davey Johnson described it a few days ago.
The bullpen nearly lived up to Johnson’s description, as the team watched a four-run lead evaporate in the ninth inning.
After Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard each pitched scoreless innings, Clippard on six pitches, Rafael Soriano came in to close the game out in a non-save situation.
Soriano gave up back-to-back walks, then a double to Jordy Mercer to cut the Nats lead to three runs. He struck out Andrew McCutchen, but proceeded to give up an RBI-single to Russell Martin.
Bench coach Randy Knorr was calling the shots in the ninth inning because Johnson had been ejected in the fifth for the first time this season after arguing what appeared to be an erroneous strike zone. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was also ejected, during the seventh inning.
Knorr decided to take the ball from his $28 million, 12-year veteran, and put it in the hands of rookie Ian Krol.
“In the past I’ve seen [Soriano] pitch, and when it’s not a save opportunity he doesn’t have the same effect when he’s pitching,” Knorr said. “He wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate, a couple lefties were coming up, and I like the way Krol throws the ball. I figure if you don’t want to be in that mode to shut the game down, I’ll bring somebody else in.”
The bold move to go with somebody else ended favorably for Knorr and the Nationals.
Though Krol blew the save by allowing his runners inherited from Soriano to score on a Josh Harrison single, he stayed in line for the win by getting two strikeouts to end the inning.
Enter: Harper. In a do or die moment for the Nationals, with two outs and Kurt Suzuki on base, Harper hit a game winning home run to left-center field.
“You could just feel it in the dugout,” Krol said. “You know something special is going to happen when you put him in that kind of situation.”
Harper’s ability to rise to the occasion, as he is prone to doing in similarly big moments, saved the Nationals from what had the potential to be a completely demoralizing loss.
“That would have been tough to overcome,” Knorr said. “To tell you how it feels, just walk into the clubhouse right now. You’d have thought we won the World Series or something.”
The Nationals were certainly in need of a pick-me-up after their recent string of losses accented by frustratingly deplorable play. With any luck, the Nationals can take motivation from this win into their coming series with the Mets as they look to avoid being demoted into fourth place in the NL East.no comments
Pitching is only half the game of baseball.
So even after a near-perfect pitching performance from Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals (48-53) were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates (60-39) because their offense yet again failed to participate in the game.
The 4-2 loss extended the Nationals’ losing streak to six games, and their 0-for-3 effort with runners in scoring position elevated that stat to 6-for-81. Their 2-11 losing skid will undoubtedly continue until the offense can bring up those abysmal numbers.
Strasburg was the highlight of the game, pitching a stunning eight innings on 118 pitches, and striking out a season-high 12 batters.
Besides the second inning – when he gave up his only two hits of the night – and the fifth inning – when Anthony Rendon allowed Clint Barnes to reach on an error – Strasburg faced the minimum in each inning. He struck out the side for good measure in the eighth just before he exited the game.
Strasburg gave up one earned run on a one-pitch mistake to Pedro Alvarez, which gave him his 26th home run of the season, and was enough to put Strasburg on the line for the loss.
Strasburg did his part in trying to disrupt the losing slide, but as has become a trend when he is on the mound, the run support never came. Nats hitters didn’t hit through the first five and two-thirds innings of the game.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano had his no-hit bid finally interrupted in the sixth inning, when Rendon pushed an infield single past a diving Alvarez at third base, who couldn’t hang on to the ball to make a play.
Liriano gave up two of the Nationals five hits for the night, and struck out eight.
As if the do-nothing offense wasn’t enough to mar a sparkling night by Strasburg, the Nationals bullpen did their best to cement his loss.
Drew Storen came in for the ninth and gave up one run on a single and a double to start the inning. He intentionally walked Alvarez before Fernando Abad came in and allowed both his inherited base runners to score.
Their mistakes loomed large in the bottom half of the ninth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single, and Jayson Werth followed with his fifth home run in four days.
What would have been a walk-off win would have to develop into a small-ball rally, as Wilson Ramos hit a one-out single to keep the Nationals hopes alive. But just three pitches later, Denard Span grounded into a game-ending double play, though it appeared on replay that Ramos avoided second baseman Neil Walker’s tag.
Manager Davey Johnson argued the call, but umpire Laz Diaz’s ruling stood, and the Nationals were officially without a win in the last 11 days.
Wins won’t be forthcoming if the Nationals don’t stop relying on the long ball for the entirety of their offense. With Werth’s home run in the ninth, eight of the Nats’ last 10 runs all came on Werth home runs. The other two runs were solo home runs by Adam LaRoche and Ramos.
Leaving their whole offense up to one swing and one player is an absurd philosophy for winning ball games, and is one that is certainly not working for the Nationals as they continue blindly searching for their first victory since the All-Star break.