August 2012

Game 113: Nationals at D-backs

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

-It’s 112 degrees in Phoenix right now, but the good news is it only feels like 108.

(OK, the actual good news is that the roof is closed here at Chase Field.)

-In case you missed the news earlier, the Nationals no longer own the longest hitting streak in the Majors. Michael Morse started the day on an 18-game streak, but the league ruled Friday afternoon that the single he recorded on Aug. 2 against the Phillies was actually an error by Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

So instead of an 18-gamer, Morse entered Friday’s series opener against Arizona with a seven-game hitting streak. It’s no longer the longest such streak of his career, either. That’s back to 11 games, a mark he set last year.

-In other news, Bryce Harper is back in the lineup after sitting out Thursday’s series finale in Houston. You can read all about what he had to say yesterday here.

Here are the full lineups for tonight…

Nationals (69-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg RHP

D-backs (57-55)
Stephen Drew SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Jason Kubel LF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Chris Johnson 3B
Gerardo Parra CF
Trevor Cahill RHP

Game 112: Nationals at Astros

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Bryce Harper had a rough game Wednesday, and as manager Davey Johnson mentioned afterward, he’s out of the starting lineup today. He went 0-for-3 with two walks and struck out looking twice, showing some pretty obvious frustration after both calls by home-plate ump Angel Hernandez.

He’s batting .176/.276/.265 since the All-Star break, and Johnson decided it was time to give him a day off. After last night’s game, Johnson seemed more disappointed with Harper’s overthrow to third base as the Astros threatened in the ninth inning. Fortunately for the Nats, Gio Gonzalez did his job backing up Ryan Zimmerman and finished the game.

“That’s just a rookie mistake. I think maybe he took his bat with him into the outfield,” Johnson said last night. “You can’t allow the winning run to go to second. That’s 101 baseball. He knows it. He was just being a little overly aggressive … but that’s not a mistake you want to be making when you’re in a pennant race.”

Harper declined to comment last night, but here’s what Johnson had to say about his at-bats, particularly the two strikeouts. Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net, you can check out the strike zone plots of Harper’s at-bats in the fourth inning and sixth inning.

“There were some questionable pitches, but he’s pressing a little bit,” Johnson said. “We put him in some situations that he likes to be in, and he didn’t have good ABs, so we’ll let him step back a little bit.”

Check out the notebook on Nationals.com a little later for more on Harper.

For now, the series finale lineup against Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell…

Nationals (68-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Roger Bernadina CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Jordan Zimmermann RHP

-Adam Berry

Game 111: Nationals at Astros

Adam Berry, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson after two long nights at Minute Maid Park. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

-Don’t expect to see Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen tonight against the Astros. Manager Davey Johnson said he planned to rest both of his “closer types.” Clippard has worked five of the past six games, and Storen has pitched in four of the last five — and Johnson wanted to stay away from him the last two nights.

-You can, however, keep an eye out for Edwin Jackson. Today was his between-starts throw day, so he’ll join the bullpen in case the Nats need another arm. He’d get his scheduled work in and potentially help out a taxed relief corps.

“This is what we did in the day when we carried 10 pitchers,” Johnson said. “A lot of times you’d go to your starter on his throw day and try to get an inning or two out of him.”

-Jayson Werth was feeling good enough to start in right field tonight. Johnson was hopeful that he’d hold up through a full nine innings two nights after leaving the game early with sore legs.

-Elsewhere, Chien-Ming Wang was pulled off his Minor League rehab assignment with complaints of hip soreness. Wang pitched last night for Double-A Harrisburg, giving up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out four. So, he’s still on the disabled list, just no longer on rehab. Seems relevant to mention here: Active rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Here are tonight’s lineups.

Nationals (67-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Gio Gonzalez LHP

Astros (36-75)
Jose Altuve 2B
Matt Downs 3B
Steve Pearce 1B
Justin Maxwell RF
J.D. Martinez LF
Carlos Corporan C
Brandon Barnes CF
Marwin Gonzalez SS
Armando Galarraga RHP

The Shark’s latest catch

If you haven’t seen Roger Bernadina’s leaping catch that preserved the Nationals’ 3-2, 12-inning win over the Astros last night…

What was everyone at Minute Maid Park saying immediately after the Shark’s big grab?

Bernadina:
“He hit that ball good, and I went and tried to get it, and at that moment I felt like jumping, and it turned out well.”
“I didn’t hit [the wall] that hard. I was OK. I was fine, but in that moment, you don’t think about it. You just go for it. I’m good now.”

Ian Desmond, stepping into Bernadina’s interview:
“He’s the Shark! He always thinks he’s got a shot.”

Craig Stammen, who had the best view in the house:
“I was like, I think that’s short, so I was just screaming at him, ‘I don’t care if you go in the wall, you’ve got room! You’ve got room!’ And then he caught it, and I was like, ‘OK, is he dead or alive?’ He was alive!”
“It was crazy. I was trying to hide in that corner so I didn’t have to watch but I ended up getting the best view of it.”

Manager Davey Johnson:
“It was sensational. I thought the ball at first was going to go out. I need to watch it on replay. I saw him disappear from my angle. He disappeared and came out holding the glove high. I said, ‘Man, this is great. Let’s get out of here.’ Exciting ballgame.”

Danny Espinosa:
“That was an unbelievable catch. It saved the game. If he doesn’t catch it, we lose. To go the distance that he did and leap, that’s a tricky little corner right there against a flat wall. That was an unbelievable catch.”

Ross Detwiler:
“Off the bat, I couldn’t really gauge how far it was going to go. I couldn’t tell if he hit it too high or if he squared it up. I saw him go over there, and when he got to the spot, I knew he had it.”

Astros manager Brad Mills:
“He went flying into the screen. It seemed like the ball was hooking. If it could have been a foot to the left where it would have gone off the signage there, that would have been absolutely outstanding, too. That would have been great. [Carlos] Corporan could have scored on that.”

Brett Wallace:
“I thought I put that ball in the gap. I thought that ball might split them, but he made a great play. He’s a good center fielder. That’s what they do.”

-Adam Berry

Game 110: Nationals at Astros

This is Adam Berry, filling in for Bill Ladson at Minute Maid Park and throughout this road trip. For in-game updates and other notes, check Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

-After last night’s 5-4 win decided on this wild play, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said his bullpen should be in good shape — as good as one would expect after an 11-inning game where the starter pitched 5 1/3 innings, at least.

“It’s been in better shape,” Johnson said. “But nobody’s come to me and told me they couldn’t go.”

-Infielder Cesar Izturis joined the team today and ran the gauntlet of introductions and interviews and so on. He’s wearing No. 6 and will be available off the bench.

-Jayson Werth, who left last night’s game with some soreness in his legs, wasn’t in Tuesday’s lineup. He said he was feeling fine today — better than he did last night — and can play off the bench.

“I knew I was going to have to be careful with him coming back because he’s all-in,” Johnson said. “The way he plays, he’s all-in.”

Werth said a few times today that he didn’t feel like he could help the team given the way he felt after the sixth inning. Plus, he joked, his departure cleared the way for Roger Bernadina, who scored from first on the aforementioned wild play. Just the way they drew it up.

As for who is in the lineup tonight…

Nationals (66-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Roger Bernadina CF
Danny Espinosa SS
Jesus Flores C
Ross Detwiler LHP

Astros (36-74)
Jose Altuve 2B
Marwin Gonzalez SS
Ben Francisco LF
Justin Maxwell RF
Steve Pearce 1B
Matt Downs 3B
Brandon Barnes CF
Chris Snyder C
Jordan Lyles RHP

-Adam Berry

Q&A with Bryce Harper

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been in the big leagues a little over three months and played in an All-Star game and leads all National League rookies in runs scored with 58.

Harper, 19, now finds himself in a slump, going 28-for-124 [.226] in his last 31 games. MLB.com caught up with Harper to talk about his brief time in the big leagues.

MLB.com: You have been in the big leagues for over three months. What has the experience been like for you?

Harper: It has been a lot of fun. I just try to have fun every day and enjoy myself with this team.

MLB.com: You guys have been winning big time. Has that been a surprise to you?

Harper: I think so. We have a great team and organization. We have a great manager in Davey Johnson. Everybody around him has been doing a great job. It leads into us wanting to win and us wanting to win every single day for him, this organization, this town, this city. We have that attitude to win. That’s what we want to do.

MLB.com: How do you think you have done in the big leagues so far?

Harper: For the first year, I think I’ve done pretty well, but I’m never satisfied with the things I’ve done. You can always get better every day — get better in the outfielder, hitting, throwing, catching and everything like that. That’s the game of baseball. You can learn something new every day — mentally, physically and that’s what I try to do.

MLB.com: What do you need to do to get better?

Harper: Everything. Trying to go out there and have good at-bats. I want to see a lot of pitches, be as patient as I can and work on the mental side of baseball — not get too high, not get too low. I want to try and stay as even keel as I can. Just worry about everything I can control. That’s hustle, grind it out every day and play hard.

MLB.com: Is it more mental in the big leagues than you ever experienced in the past?

Harper: I guess so. I think you try to have fun and try to do the best that you can and not worry about things around you. …. First year in the big leagues, the biggest thing is, I try to enjoy myself, take it all in, hustle as best as you can that first year.

MLB.com: After missing more than three months of action because of a wrist injury, Jayson Werth is back on the team. You said many times that he was your mentor. How good is it to have him back?

Harper: It’s a lot of fun to have him back in the clubhouse and on the field. He is captain on this team. He is one of the guys you try to emulate and look after. You look at things that he does and work off that.

MLB.com: You have been in a slump lately. What are you doing to make things better at the plate?

Harper: I don’t think I’m in a slump. You just go there and have good ABs and not worry about anything else. We are winning. That’s the biggest thing. I’m not too worried about my numbers or anything like that. I could care less really. As long as we are winning, getting hits in good situations — try to get that runner from third or Ryan Zimmerman or somebody else driving them in — that’s the biggest thing.

MLB.com: What is the biggest thing you have to adjust to since you have in the big leagues?

Harper: Pitchers try to pitch me in different ways. I’m trying to learn what they are trying to do. I really try to get that one pitch in that one zone that I can drive. I’m trying to stay within myself, believe that I can do it and not worry about anything around me.

– Bill Ladson

Game 109: Nationals vs. Astros

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson at Minute Maid Park and throughout this 10-game road trip.

The Nationals claimed switch-hitting infielder Cesar Izturis off waivers Monday afternoon, put Mark DeRosa on the 15-day disabled list and designated left-handed pitcher Atahualpa Severino for assignment. Izturis is not expected to join the team until Tuesday, however, so the Nats will be playing with 24 men tonight.

It’d be generous to say the rebuilding Astros have struggled to win games lately. They’ve lost 20 of 23 since the All-Star break, and they’re 4-30 since June 28. But Nats manager Davey Johnson once again cautioned against taking an opponent lightly based on their record, especially while Washington is trying to build on its National League East lead over Atlanta.

“We’re in a pennant race. They know it,” Johnson said. “Automatically your concentration levels for everything come up. For a lot of them, especially the young guys, it’s a new experience. They’re always up. This time of year … I don’t need to give any motivational speeches or anything like that.”

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Nationals (65-43)
Danny Espinosa, SS
Bryce Harper, CF
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Michael Morse, LF
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
Edwin Jackson, RHP

Astros (36-73)
Jose Altuve, 2B
Marwin Gonzalez, SS
Brett Wallace, 1B
Justin Maxwell, RF
Scott Moore, 3B
J.D. Martinez, LF
Jordan Schafer, CF
Carlos Corporan, C
Dallas Keuchel, LHP

-Adam Berry

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