May 2011

LaRoche, Nix support Nats’ Eckstein

Entering Friday’s action against the Orioles, the Nationals have a .223 batting average, the worst in the Major Leagues.

After Washington’s 1-0 loss to the Mets on Thursday afternoon, general manager Mike Rizzo ordered hitting coach Rick Eckstein not to talk to the media to help explain what’s going wrong with the offense. Rizzo declined to say why he made directive.

But first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Laynce Nix said that Eckstein is not to blame for the season-long slump.

“It’s not easy for him at all. It might be harder on him than it is an individual hitter,” said LaRoche, who is hitting .172 for the season. “The entire team feels responsible. He has done everything he could possibility do to get guys on track. He spends more time watching video. He goes in the batter’s box to just to mimic player’s swings just to get a feeling in the batter’s box.”

Nix, who is the only position player who is hitting over .300 for the Nationals, said Eckstein is a positive person when he teaches the art of hitting.

“We are having a hard time putting hits together, getting guys on base or doing a lot of things right,” Nix said. “It’s pretty simple: We have to make our own breaks and not depend on luck. We feel for Eck and he feels a lot of heat, but we believe in him and he believes in us. Everybody is working hard. We will be out of this [slump] soon.”

Statement from Nats regarding passing of Harmon Killebrew

Nationals managing principal owner Theodore N. Lerner issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Harmon Killebrew at the age of 74:

“For baseball fans and Washingtonians there was a distinct sadness felt today with the passing of Harmon Killebrew. Our family and the Nationals organization were honored to host Harmon for a game last season at Nationals Park. We shall long treasure that evening and the gentlemanly impression left by Harmon.

“A Hall of Fame inductee in 1984, Harmon’s contributions to the game of baseball are bountiful and lasting. While Harmon was best known for his days with the Minnesota Twins, our organization takes great pride in baseball’s storied history in D.C. and Harmon plays a large role in that legacy. I will always remember his first 84 big league home runs came while playing for the Senators from 1954-60.

“It is the fond memories of Harmon and his days with Senators that added fuel to Washington’s desire to reclaim a Major League franchise. For this, Washingtonians will be forever grateful.”

Killebrew was a charter member of the Washington Nationals Ring of Honor at Nationals Park, which was unveiled on Aug. 10, 2010 to honor baseball Hall of Famers who are a proud part of Washington, DC’s baseball heritage.

Twitter Poll: The Nats’ MVP thus far?

On Sunday, I asked my Twitter followers the following question: After 40 games, who do you think is the MVP of the Nats? A) Drew Storen B) Tyler Clippard C) Jason Marquis Why?

As it turned out, Storen received most of the votes. Here is what the followers had to say.

@Sultan_of_Stat: Storen has been absolutely dominant. Marquis has been great but Storen is the guy so far.

@szul: A case could be made for all three, but it’s probably Storen. Lots of close games and he’s really picked it up.

@kennygartner: I’d like to vote for Laynce Nix. He stepped up and has been a leader on a weak offense

@Victor__Noel: @DrewStoren. Getting those last three outs provides a boost of confidence for the entire team.

@HendoDC: Storen has been dependable to an almost unreal degree, but you gotta watch his innings pitched.

@thebrowncoat: Hard not to pick Marquis with five wins, but Storen has been their best player.

@dan_offerdahl: Wilson Ramos, because without great defense and solid game calling, no pitcher looks good.

@dc_Roach: Marquis for MVP. Starting pitching wins games, and besides I’d have a hard time deciding between Storen and Peaches.

@Souldrummer25: I’ll never go to war with a reliever. Marquis is the early MVP by a landslide for me.

@JackToomey: Livan Hernandez

@slunk64518: Storen hasn’t blown a save yet and he has looked great so far.

@SallyRyland: Storen has been lights out especially in some tough spots.

@beidenmolinaro: Marquis has been amazing, but Storen is the absolute standout.

@ouij: I’m going with Storen. He has been lights out lately and it has done loads for his self-confidence. Just don’t call him the closer.

@Charlie_Slowes: There isn’t MVP. Pitching and improved defense has been it.

@SteveRep44: @Charlie_Slowes is right. There isn’t one.

@natsnq: I have to say Storen. After a shaky Spring Training, he has come out firing. Love Marquis, but we knew he was capable of this.

@GravyHoltkamp: Jason Marquis. I love pitchers who can also hit. I also loved when he came in as a pinch runner.

@ roycap1963: Marquis. Starting pitcher more important than relievers.

@jtshiffman: Marquis — by far. What I love about this poll is that they’re all pitchers. It says a lot about the Nats’ offense. It’s non-existent.

@KerryPribik: Storen. Consistently closes out games. He doesn’t implode with getting bases loaded and then losing the game.

@DCyetti:Marquis. He is the best hitter on the team!

@Section138: Brian Broderick. Without him, wouldn’t have seen Cole Kimball this quickly.

@Natss9: I would go with Marquis. He has been the most reliable starter out there! He been so solid with each start.

@Evolution33: I would vote Clippard if he came out to Peaches but he doesn’t so Storen

@tedakai: None of above. Alex Cora/Jerry Hairston Jr. for covering Ryan Zimmerman’s absence.

@IBALLZACH: Gotta go with Marquis, he’s been a real stabilizing presence in the rotation.

@deleowned: Write-in vote for Shark Bernadina. The leadoff spot was a black hole until he came up. Also covers more ground than anyone.

@fitdabattle: Storen has been perfect. He’s got my vote.

@skipalb: Marquis, but Storen is close.

@SodaPop6548: Hard to say, Marquis has been a solid starter, but Storen has been an unmovable object. I’ll go with Marquis, though.

@radbcc: Storen

@Liz_Walt: Storen

Nats, Pirates lineups

McCutchen – CF
Tabata – LF
Walker – 2B
Diaz – RF
Pearce – 1B
Wood – 3B
Snyder – C
Cedeno – SS
Maholm – P

Bernadina – CF
Desmond – SS
Werth – RF
Ramos – C
LaRoche – 1B
Morse – LF
Espinosa – 2B
Hairston – 3B
Lannan – P

LaRoche doing job on defense

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is off to a slow start with the bat, hitting .188 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. However, the offense hasn’t carried over into his defense, which the best the team has ever had at the position since it moved to Washington after the 2004 season.

In fact, his defense helped the Nationals in the late innings during their 8-4 victory over the Marlins at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon.

In the eighth inning, with Tyler Clippard on the mound, the Marlins had a runner on first, when Logan Morrison lined out to LaRoche, who doubled off Gaby Sanchez at first base to end the threat.

An inning later, with Brett Hayes on first, Chris Coghlan hit groundball to LaRoche, who had to go far to his right before making a strong throw to reliever Cole Kimball to get Coghlan for the second out of the inning.

“I’m one of those fellows that needs to do something productive. It’s not working at the plate right now,” LaRoche said. “Luckily, the defense has been there and I’ve been able to help these guys out a little bit.”

LaRoche is playing with a small tear in his left rotator cuff and insisted that the injury has nothing to do with his lack of hitting.

“It doesn’t hurt to swing. I feel it throwing a little bit. I can’t say [the injury is the reason for the lack of offense].”

Nats’ Hernandez reaches milestone

Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez reached a milestone in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Marlins at Nationals Park. He became the 108th big-league pitcher since 1900 to throw 3,000 innings.

The 3,000th inning came in the fourth inning when he induced Omar Infante to ground out to shortstop Alex Cora for the first out of the inning. Hernandez would go on to pitch seven innings and allow a run on six hits. The run came in the seventh inning, when Mike Stanton hit a home run.

Hernandez has accomplished a lot in those 3,000 innings. He has won 169 games, was a National League Championship Series and World Series MVP, while playing for seven organizations.

“It’s not easy to throw 3,000 innings,” Hernandez said. “I’m really happy with the job I have done all these years. Sometimes, people don’t give credit to the other people, who don’t throw hard enough. I can’t do anything about it. All my teammates, all my friends and other the guys from the other teams give me good credit and are happy for my career.”