September 2012

Game 159: Nationals at Cardinals

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

The Nationals’ magic number is down to one after last night’s 6-4 win over the Cardinals in 10 innings, and they arrived to Busch Stadium this morning with a chance to officially clinch the National League East title. Another victory over St. Louis would set off Washington’s celebration, as would a loss by the Braves against the Mets.

Here are today’s lineups…

Nationals (96-62)
Werth RF
Harper CF
Zimmerman 3B
LaRoche 1B
Morse LF
Desmond SS
Espinosa 2B
Suzuki C
Detwiler LHP

Cardinals (85-73)
Jay CF
Beltran RF
Holliday LF
Craig 1B
Molina C
Freese 3B
Descalso 2B
Kozma SS
Lynn RHP

Game 158: Nationals at Cardinals

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

Even after being handed their most lopsided loss of the season last night, the Nationals can still clinch the National League East title tonight. Their magic number as of this moment is two, down one from yesterday afternoon thanks to Lucas Duda’s three-run homer that pushed the Mets past the Braves.

To break out the champagne tonight, Washington must beat St. Louis and hope the Mets once again beat the Braves.

“It’s possible that Atlanta could lose and we could win, and we could clinch it. That’s always a good feeling,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Saturday afternoon. “Probably do a little more scoreboard-watching than usual, but it’s real easy to scoreboard-watch now. … All you’ve got to do is glance up there.”

One thing to note about that: New York and Atlanta are scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. ET first pitch, and this game is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET. If the Nationals win and the Braves and Mets get locked up in a long game, the Nats could have somewhat of a delayed celebration — win, head back into the clubhouse, watch the game on TV and then, if the result swings their way, start popping champagne bottles.

Something else to keep an eye on: The Nationals can officially lock down home-field advantage in the NLDS tonight with a win and a Giants loss. San Francisco plays in San Diego at 8:35 p.m. ET. Of course, home-field advantage isn’t even a great term for it in the NLDS — the Nats’ opponent would host the first two games of the series before playoff baseball finally, technically, returned to Washington, D.C.

But for any of that stuff to matter later tonight, obviously the Nationals would have to beat the Cardinals with these lineups taking the field…

Cardinals (85-72)
Jay CF
Carpenter 3B
Holliday LF
Craig 1B
Molina C
Beltran RF
Schumaker 2B
Kozma SS
Lohse RHP

Nationals (95-62)
Werth RF
Harper CF
Zimmerman 3B
LaRoche 1B
Morse LF
Desmond SS
Espinosa 2B
Suzuki C
Zimmermann RHP

Game 157 lineups: Nationals at Cardinals

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

Cardinals (84-72)
Jay CF
Carpenter 3B
Holliday LF
Craig 1B
Molina C
Beltran RF
Descalso 2B
Kozma SS
Wainwright RHP

Nationals (95-61)
Werth RF
Harper CF
Zimmerman 3B
LaRoche 1B
Morse LF
Desmond SS
Espinosa 2B
Suzuki C
Jackson RHP

Nats’ Stammen willing to start — if needed

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said there is a possibility that reliever Craig Stammen could start Sunday’s game against the Brewers, and Stammen said he willing to take the ball if needed.

Stammen hasn’t started a game since late last year when he was pitching for Triple A Syracuse. When he was returned to the big leagues last September, Stammen worked out of the bullpen and allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings.

The Nationals need a starter because Johnson doesn’t want to use Jordan Zimmermann on short rest. Zimmermann pitched the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday.

“I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. That’s what I am and what I have to do. If he asked me to start, I definitely take the ball,” Stammen said. “I’ve done it before so it’s not like it’s the first time  I’ve started a game. But it’s been a while. So I guess It will be a little exciting for me. It will be fun.”

Stammen has been a valuable reliever for Washington this season. He has appeared in 53 games and has a 2.39 ERA. Johnson has used Stammen in every situation as a reliever except for closing games.

“It has been a good season thus far,” Stammen said. “We really didn’t know coming in how it was going to go. I pitched as well as I could have pitched last September. It kind of carried over this season – a lot of confidence. It has gone well.

“I like pitching as much as possible and Davey has put me in good spots for me to succeed. I’ve done as well as I good. I try to help this bullpen as much as possible.”

Johnson not concerned about Braves sweeping Nats

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he was not concerned about the Braves sweeping the Nationals this past weekend. The skipper doesn’t expect any negative carryover into the three-game series against the Dodgers.

“[The Braves] pitched three good ballgames against us. Some of the guys were swinging the bats pretty good. It’s not like we got shellacked,” Johnson said. “A couple of my guys have been under the weather. I like where we are at. I don’t want to change positions with them. We have our own destiny in our own hands. We have been pretty consistent, pretty resilient all year. I think the Braves needed it more. It might have been more emphasis on their side.”

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Nationals were five games ahead of the Braves in the National League East. The magic number for the Nationals to win the N.L. East is 11. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three.

Tickets for potential Wild Card, NLDS games at Nats Park will go on sale

The Nationals announced today that tickets for potential Wild Card and National League Division Series games at Nationals Park will go on sale to the general public Friday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

A maximum of four tickets for each game may be purchased online at nationals.com/postseason or by calling 888.632.NATS(6287) on a first come, first served basis.

In addition, the Nationals Park Box Office will sell a limited number of Standing Room Only tickets the day of each postseason game, subject to availability. In the event the Nationals qualify, National League Championship Series and World Series single game tickets will go on sale in the coming weeks, based on availability.

Season ticket holders and Nationals Insiders received information regarding their opportunity to purchase single game postseason tickets earlier this month. Fans only have a few more days to place a deposit on 2013 full season ticket plans and receive 2012 postseason ticket purchase priority before tickets go on sale to the general public.

The Nationals could secure a postseason berth as early as this week, when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series at Nationals Park. Washington’s magic number to clinch a Wild Card spot is currently at three, while its magic number to clinch the National League East is 11. This year marks the first time a Washington baseball team has been in a position to qualify for the postseason since 1933, when the Washington Senators reached the World Series against the New York Giants.

Game 146: Nationals at Braves

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

The Nationals will wrap up their six-game road trip tonight in Atlanta under the lights and national stage of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, looking to avoid a sweep that would knock their National League East lead down to 5 1/2 games.

Even with a loss, the Nats would still have a substantial lead, but there’s still some importance to winning this one, as Adam LaRoche noted after last night’s 5-4 loss.

“You don’t want to get swept anywhere, especially against the team behind you, so it’s a big game,” LaRoche said. “I think they’re all pretty big from here on out. But we’ve got a chance to really gain some ground against these guys. Had two close ones, lost ‘em. Come out tomorrow, hopefully take one.”

And, as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “At the very least, if we don’t catch them because they’ve got a good club, you can hang your hats on, we may meet them after the play-in game. It’s always good to play good with your opponent the last time you’ve seen them.”

-In other news, there’s no guarantee that Michael Morse (left wrist) will be ready to play Tuesday against the Dodgers. He didn’t take batting practice again today, and Davey Johnson said Morse will have to do that before he can play. Or, as Johnson said, “I’m not countin’ on nothing. I’m not taking anything for granted. Hope everything gets better.”

-Check out today’s notebook for more on this, but Johnson said there’s “no question about it” that he’ll try to talk both the Nationals brass and LaRoche into picking up the first baseman’s mutual contract option for next year. LaRoche hit his 30th homer of the season last night and has helped bring balance to a lineup that was predominantly right-handed a year ago.

“We need him back more than we need me back,” Johnson quipped.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (89-56)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Tyler Moore LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Gio Gonzalez LHP

Braves (83-63)
Michael Bourn CF
Reed Johnson LF
Jason Heyward RF
Chipper Jones 3B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Ross C
Andrelton Simmons SS
Mike Minor LHP

Game 145: Nationals at Braves

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

Just a reminder that today’s game is a 4:05 p.m. first pitch on FOX. The Nats and Braves will have the national spotlight on them quite a bit these next two days, with a FOX game today and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball tomorrow night. With all that going on, you could find three separate cameras set up in the visiting dugout at Turner Field, yet none of them by the local MASN crew, which has the next two days off.

Anyway, before we get to the lineups, here’s what was happening at Turner Field before the game…

-Michael Morse is still not playing, but that was expected, as yesterday’s notebook said he figured to miss the whole series here. The doctors have told the Nats that Morse can’t injure his left wrist any more by playing, and it’s simply a matter of pain tolerance. As it stands now, Morse is still too sore to play.

-Steve Lombardozzi is starting in left field tonight against Braves righty Tommy Hanson because, as manager Davey Johnson said in a relaxed pregame briefing with the writers, “Lombo’s got 50 percent of his home runs off this guy.” Can’t argue with the facts: Lombardozzi hit one of his two homers this season off Hanson. Tyler Moore will get the start tomorrow.

-The majority of today’s talk with Johnson focused on hitting, more specifically what the Nats needed to improve and have improved this season — approach, mechanics and nearly everything else about the art of hitting a baseball with a bat. Well, Johnson made it sound simple, at least.

“It is,” Johnson said. “It’s hard because people listen to all these gurus that don’t know **** about it, and then they get off track.”

Anyway, about those lineups…

Nationals (89-55)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Jesus Flores C
Steve Lombardozzi LF
Edwin Jackson RHP

Braves (82-63)
Michael Bourn CF
Martin Prado 2B
Jason Heyward RF
Brian McCann C
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
Juan Francisco 3B
Andrelton Simmons SS
Tommy Hanson RHP

Game 144: Nationals at Braves

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

A few quick notes from Atlanta before the 7:35 p.m. first pitch…

-The full lineups are below, but you’ll notice Michael Morse (left wrist) isn’t in there for the Nats. He didn’t take BP with the team today and said it’ll be a wait-and-see thing tomorrow — he’ll come in, get evaluated, go through treatment and see how he feels. He didn’t sound too optimistic about returning this series, and neither did manager Davey Johnson.

“I kind of knew it was being real optimistic that he could’ve been available today,” Johnson said. “I think it’s more likely next Tuesday, and he’s still bothered by it.

“He’s got to come through a full workout before I even want to take a chance on him. I don’t want to make it worse. And we’ve got three guys chomping at the bit who’d like some playing time while he’s out — [Steve] Lombardozzi, [Roger] Bernadina and Tyler Moore. We’re all right.”

One other thing, which Johnson downplayed, in addition to Morse’s qualified backups: The Nats have a substantial lead over the Braves and are potentially a day away from clinching a playoff spot, so why bother rushing him back if he won’t be fully healthy?

-Speaking of that playoff spot, the math works out to the point where the Nationals could officially punch their playoff ticket tomorrow, guaranteeing themselves at least a Wild Card spot even if they lost the rest of the way. If you’d have said back in February that Washington would be making postseason plans on Sept. 15, surely you would’ve imagined that day being one to celebrate, right? Not so much.

Sharing a sentiment felt pretty strongly around baseball, Johnson said clinching a spot in the one-game Wild Card play-in would hardly be an occasion to break out the champagne.

“It’s not a big moment. It’s a nice moment, but it’s not a big moment,” Johnson said. ” The additional Wild Card, to me, just put more of a burden on the manager because nobody wants that one. The one-game playoff to get in — the other format, if you were the Wild Card, you’re in the playoffs. So, clinching a one-game playoff doesn’t have any appeal at all to me.”

As for tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (89-54)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Roger Bernadina LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Ross Detwiler LHP

Braves (81-63)
Reed Johnson CF
Martin Prado LF
Jason Heyward RF
Chipper Jones 3B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Ross C
Andrelton Simmons SS
Kris Medlen RHP

Nationals name 3B Skole, RHP Karns as Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — Before opening a four-game series with the Cubs on Monday, the Nationals announced third baseman Matthew Skole as their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander Nathan Karns their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Skole batted .292 with 27 home runs and 104 RBI in 118 games for Single-A Hagerstown and Advanced-A Potomac. Those 27 home runs led the South Atlantic  League, were most among Nationals prospects and third among all of Class-A Minor League Baseball. A native of Woodstock, Georgia, Skole was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech.

Karns, 24, was 11-4 on the year, posting an organizational-best 2.17 ERA (28 earned runs in 116 innings pitched) in 24 games with Hagerstown and Potomac. A 6-foot-5, 230-pound pitcher, Karns’ 11 wins were second most among Nats farmhands. A native of Arlington, Texas, Karns was selected in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas Tech University.

Both players will be honored for their accomplishments throughout the 2012 season during an on-field ceremony prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Marlins.

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