Results tagged ‘ Adam LaRoche ’

Soriano leads group of Nats’ All-Star snubs

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Rafael Soriano entered Sunday’s game against the Cubs with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, tossed six of his eight pitches for strikes and retired the side in order for his 21st save. It was a performance representative of the closer’s strong season, yet Soriano was not among the pitchers named to the National League All-Star team a couple of hours later.

Soriano headed the list of snubs for the Nats, who have only one guaranteed All-Star despite a 48-39 record that puts them a half-game behind the Braves in the NL East. While right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was selected for the second year in a row and infielder Anthony Rendon is one of five Final Vote candidates, Washington has at least a few other players who can argue reasonably for inclusion.

“I think there’s some guys that are deserving, Soriano being one of them,” Zimmermann said. “He’s having a great year. Hopefully we can get Rendon in there, too.”

In his second season with Washington, Soriano has converted 21 of 23 save opportunities and held the opposition scoreless in 32 of his 35 appearances. He boasts a 1.03 ERA and .154 opponents’ average in 35 innings, with 11 walks, 18 hits and only one home run allowed, along with 32 strikeouts.

Then there’s the set-up duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, which has been about as reliable getting leads to Soriano as he has been saving them. Storen allowed a run on Sunday, only his fourth in 27 innings this season, a 1.33 ERA to go along with a .204 opponents’ average. Clippard wiggled out of a jam in the eighth inning for his 29th scoreless appearance out of his past 30. He’s posted a 1.89 ERA, a .200 opponents’ average and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Clippard was asked if he was surprised the back end of the Nats’ bullpen came up empty in terms of All-Star nods.

“It’s a joke, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know who’s gonna make it. I’m sure there’s a lot of worthy guys out there, but what Soriano’s done this year, there’s no way he doesn’t make the All-Star team, in my opinion. That guy’s got under a 1.00 ERA and 21 saves, and it’s incredible that he didn’t make it.”

Beyond Rendon and the bullpen, first baseman Adam LaRoche has an argument for making his first Midsummer Classic in his 11-year career. After going 0-for-2 with a pair of walks on Sunday, LaRoche is hitting .294/.401/.482, which would give him the second-highest OPS of his career and the eighth-best in the NL this season.

However, LaRoche also missed 14 games with a quad strain, which has cut into his counting stats (12 home runs, 45 RBIs). That hurts in a crowded field of NL first basemen.

Of course, the Nats’ All-Star contingent still could grow, either through the Final Vote or the usual flood of replacements due to injury or other factors.

“I think there’s a couple other guys that are deserving to go,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Rendy’s in the running for it, so hopefully he gets it. But I think he’s been an All-Star. You could argue for Soriano. He’s been lights-out. You could argue for Adam. There’s two or three guys extra that I think should be acknowledged, especially because we’ve been playing good baseball as a team. We’re pretty much a first-place team, and we only have one guy, so I think that’s a little odd.”

Nats’ LaRoche was ready to pitch

MILWAUKEE — After the Nationals defeated the Brewers, 4-2, in a 16-inning marathon Tuesday night at Miller Park, Nationals manager Matt Williams said had the game remained tied going into the bottom of the 16th, first baseman Adam LaRoche would have made his Major League debut as a pitcher.

The last time LaRoche pitched in a professional game was in 2003, when he was with Double-A Greenville, a Braves affiliate.

“I was ready” LaRoche said. “It’s about the 10th time I’ve been like an out or two away from being the next pitcher. Right before that, we scored.”

LaRoche was pumped when he received that word late in the game he was going to pitch.

“I have to be little crafty now. I can’t blow them away like I used to,” he said.

 

Nats not expected to make major moves before deadline

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Earlier this week, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he did not anticipate making any trades or dramatic roster moves upon Bryce Harper’s return, which is expected sometime in July.

“These things usually have a way of taking care of themselves,” Rizzo said.

While the Nationals aren’t expected to make any significant moves, a baseball source said opposing teams are still inquiring about second baseman Danny Espinosa. But, as of now, the Nationals are not interested in trading him. The source said recently the Nationals still believe in Espinosa and predict he will be an All Star one day.

Espinosa is currently playing every day because of injuries to Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. It forced the team to switch Anthony Rendon from second base to third base and Espinosa from the bench to second base.

While Espinosa has been struggling at the plate, he continues to be a wizard with the glove. He has made only four errors in 66 games entering Friday’s action against the Braves. The Nationals are also looking at Espinosa as insurance in case something happened to shortstop Ian Desmond. The source pointed out there is no one on the Major League team or the Minor League system who could replace Desmond for a long period of time other than Espinosa.

While the Nationals are not looking to trade Ross Detwiler, the source said they would listen if there is any interest in the left-hander.

Detwiler hasn’t seen much action as a long reliever and is off to a start, allowing 16 earned runs in 29 innings. The source pointed out that Detwiler’s trade value is low because of the slow start and that he missed most of last season because of back issues.

If teams have interest in Detwiler, it would be as a starter. Detwiler best season came as a starter. In 2012, Detwiler was the fifth starter for Washington, winning 10 games with a respectable 3.40 ERA. Detwiler said recently he still sees himself as a starter.

“That’s where I’m most comfortable. You are able to get a routine down. You know when you are going to pitch,” Detwiler said. “I’m always a good routine person. It changed a little bit — how much you run, how much you lift. Through all that stuff between starts, that’s the biggest difference.”

It’s also looks like Adam LaRoche will be with the Nationals the entire season. There has been talk about putting Ryan Zimmerman at first base. But the source pointed out that LaRoche is not only having a productive season [.297, eight home runs and 35 RBIs entering Friday’s action], he is a good influence in the clubhouse.

LaRoche and the Nationals have a mutual option after this season, but there hasn’t been any talk about an extension, according to LaRoche.

 

Unfriendly foe: Braves continue to have Nats’ number

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Braves stumbled into D.C. on Thursday on a three-game losing streak, having dropped seven of their 11 games. They were 19-28 since April 29, and the Nationals had overtaken them for first place in the NL East by 1.5 games.

It didn’t matter.

The result of the opener of this four-game series was distressingly familiar for the Nats. They generated few baserunners, did little with the ones they had and watched the Braves scratch across a few runs in a 3-0 game.

Since the start of last season, the Nats are 7-19 against the Braves (a .269 winning percentage) and 116-91 (.560) against everyone else. While the Nats have struggled against a few other teams during that time — they’re 2-11 against the Cardinals — their issues with the Braves sting worse, considering their frequent confrontations and the implications in the division race.

“I don’t know what it is,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “You’ve got to think, losing that many games, it’s not all coincidence.”

A look at some of the Nats’ numbers over the past two years, first offensively:

  • Runs scored per game: 2.5 vs. Atlanta … 4.3 vs. all other teams
  • Batting average: .213 vs. Atlanta … .250 overall
  • On-base percentage: .278 vs. Atlanta … .314 overall
  • Slugging percentage: .307 vs. Atlanta … .393 overall
  • Strikeouts: 8.3 per game vs. Atlanta … 7.5 overall
  • Walks: 2.7 per game vs. Atlanta … 3.0 overall

Now, some pitching numbers

  • ERA: 3.58 vs. Atlanta …. 3.43 overall
  • Runs allowed per game: 4.2 vs. Atlanta … 3.7 vs. all other teams
  • Batting average against: .247 vs. Atlanta … .249 overall
  • 1.291 WHIP vs. Atlanta … 1.223 overall
  • 2.7 K-to-BB ratio vs. Atlanta … 3.1 overall

As those numbers show, the offense has been a significantly bigger culprit than the pitching against the Braves, just as it was on Thursday. Jordan Zimmermann pitched a solid seven innings but took a hard-luck loss, as the Nats managed only three hits and two walks against Gavin Floyd and three relievers.

In those 26 matchups over the past two years, the Nats have

  • Suffered two shutouts (0-2 record)
  • Scored one run six times (0-6)
  • Scored two runs eight times (2-6)
  • Scored three runs five times (2-3)
  • Scored four runs two times (1-1)
  • Scored more than four runs three times (2-1)

So when the Nats have managed to plate three runs or more, they’ve gone a respectable 5-5 against the Braves. The problem is, they’ve scored two runs or fewer 16 times and gone 2-14. Over that stretch, Braves starters own a 2.30 ERA.

Is there something about this matchup that causes it to consistently tip in Atlanta’s favor? Are the Braves in the Nats’ heads, or is this simply a quirk that will even out over more time?

Nats manager Matt Williams wasn’t here last season, when the Braves beat up on the Nats on their way to a division title, but he’s not putting too much stock in the recent results between the teams.

“I don’t have the history, so I don’t buy into that,” he said. “I think that if we execute and we do things properly, we’ve got a chance to win every day, regardless of who we play. Tonight they got us, and we’ll be ready to tomorrow. We can’t look any further than that. You can’t peek around the corner and you can’t look back.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Fister enjoying good stretch with all-around play

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — As a junior at Fresno State in 2005, Doug Fister not only pitched, but also started 26 games at first base.

Those days are long gone, but Fister’s inner infielder has never left him completely, and that showed during Thursday’s win over the Phillies.

Fister exhibited the all-around game that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo touted after he acquired him from the Tigers this winter. The right-hander threw seven solid innings to put his ERA at 2.23 over his past five starts, laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts at the plate and also made three difficult plays in the field.

With runners at first and third and one out in the first inning, Fister nearly helped complete an inning-ending double play. When first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded Ryan Howard’s ground ball and threw to second, Fister hustled to cover first, then used his entire 6-foot-8 frame to stretch for the return throw. He wound up catching the ball in a full split position, but the throw was a tiny bit too late.

“It kind of reverts back to playing first base in college,” Fister said. “Again, it’s part of being a pitcher. You’ve got to get over and cover, and it’s just something that comes natural to me, to get out there and stretch.”

Fister wasn’t too impressed with the play, even if it sparked some concern in others.

“I thought he blew out,” LaRoche said. “But he hopped up and was like, ‘No, I’m good,’ like nothing happened. I couldn’t do it.”

“That’s not comfortable,” manager Matt Williams said of watching the play.

For Fister or for him?

“For both,” Williams said. “He’s a good athlete though.

“He could play first base if he had to.”

In the third inning, Fister showed off another part of his skillset, one he said he hones by having someone smack fungos back at him to improve his reaction time.

Speedy leadoff man Ben Revere hit a ground ball to the third base side of the mound as Fister finished his delivery to the first base side. Fister was able to reach back and twist himself around to snare it and make the play. Then in the sixth, he pounced on Revere’s bunt to the first base side of the mound, scooped it up and tossed to first.

“For a guy that tall, he’s got great agility,” Williams said.

Fister would be a desirable pitcher if pitching were all he could do. But the six-year veteran has shown an ability to handle the bat, control the running game and field his position, and last year was a finalist for an American League Gold Glove Award.

“It’s something I take a lot of pride in and spend a lot of work on,” he said.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Extra Nats Notes from Pittsburgh

By Bill Ladson

* Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler has been having a hard time on the mound lately. In his last eight games, Detwiler has allowed 13 runs in 10 innings. His last appearance was in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Pirates. He entered the game in the eighth inning, allowing blooped double to Chris Stewart, which should have been caught, and an RBI single to Josh Harrison.

Nationals manager Matt Williams thought Detwiler had a better outing Thursday than he did in previous appearances.

“The double that hung up there a little while, it was placed perfectly. And then [there was] a ball hit off the end of the bat [for a single],” Williams said. “The results don’t say it. [Detwiler] worked quicker and he had good tempo tonight. But I think, overall, he pitched better tonight than he did in his last couple of outings.”

* Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche went 0-for-2 in his first rehab game for Class A Potomac on Thursday. He is expected to play another rehab game for Double A Harrisburg on Friday. LaRoche is currently on the 15-day disabled list because of a right quad strain. He could be back with the Major League club on Sunday against the Pirates or Monday against the Marlins.

* The Nationals have been having a tough time scoring runs, so one would think that manager Matt Williams would be aggressive on the bases on Thursday against the Pirates. In the seventh inning, after Nate McLouth reached base on a bunt single, Kevin Frandsen came to the plate. One would have thought that McLouth would have tried to steal second base. But McLouth stayed on first and Frandsen hit into a double play.

“[McLouth] has the green light,” Williams said. “Franny got to 1-1. If we get to a [ceratin] count, I could certainly put it on. [McLouth] has the green light [to steal] if he feels it. But we got a double play out of it.”

* Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is 46-for-116 [.397] with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs during his career against the Nationals . On Thursday, he drove in two of the three runs in a 3-1 victory over the Nationals.

In the third inning, McCutchen came to the plate and was hit by a pitch, scoring right-hander Edinson Volquez to make it a 1-0 game. Two innings later, Pirates retook the lead as McCutchen singled to center field, scoring Harrison.

In the ninth against closer Mark Melancon, the Nats put runners on first and second with two outs, but Anthony Rendon lined out to McCutchen, who made a sliding catch to end the game.

“[McCutchen] is the MVP for a lot of reasons,” Williams said. “He is a good player, a really good player. I don’t think he is going to go after that ball if he feels like he didn’t have a chance to catch it. It was a good play.”

Nationals notes, 5/16

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Here are some quick Nationals notes before the start of a three-game series against the Mets on Friday night. More to come soon on Nationals.com.

  • Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the disabled list since April 13 with a right thumb fracture, still has not been cleared to begin strengthening the thumb, according to manager Matt Williams. He will have another X-ray taken Monday, at the five-week mark since the injury. If doctors believe the fracture has healed, Zimmerman then will be cleared to work on regaining strength, at which point he could progress to throwing a ball and swinging a bat. However, Williams said there is no specific timetable for his return. The Nats will continue to proceed with caution, because if Zimmerman were to re-fracture the thumb, it would be another eight-week recovery from that point.
  • Left fielder Bryce Harper has had the stitches removed from his left thumb, which is now in a brace following surgery on a torn ligament. Williams said that Harper is scheduled to make another visit to Cleveland to visit a specialist next week.
  • Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, on the 60-day DL all season with a lumbar strain, was in the Nats’ clubhouse on Friday, two days after making his first Minor League rehab start, for Class A Advanced Potomac. Ohlendorf was shelled for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, but Williams said he was able to hit 90-94 mph with his fastball and had no physical issues. Ohlendorf will continue making rehab starts every five days, as the Nats want him to prepare as a starter.
  • With first baseman Adam LaRoche on the disabled list, Williams said Greg Dobbs could see some starts at first base after joining the club on Friday. Dobbs got 13 pinch-hit appearances but never played the field for the Marlins before his release, and after signing with the Nats, he spent a few days at extended Spring Training in Viera, Fla., getting his legs under him and collecting at-bats. Dobbs said he was happy to end up in Washington, as he had wanted to sign with the club as a free agent before the 2012 season, believing it was ready to win.

Defensive miscues haunting Nationals

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Nationals’ defense has been an issue all season, but the sloppiness seemed to rise to another level during Thursday night’s 8-0 loss to the Cardinals.

The Nats committed a season-high four errors that helped bring in two unearned runs, and that doesn’t even include some of their other miscues in the field. It was only the 12th game with at least four errors in the franchise’s 10-year Washington history, and the first since July 15, 2011, against the Braves.

“Those happen,” Nats manager Matt Williams said of the mistakes. “ It just seems like it’s happening an extraordinary amount to us.”

Williams isn’t imagining things. Washington now leads the Major Leagues with 20 errors on the season, including seven by shortstop Ian Desmond, who committed two on Thursday. By contrast, the Orioles have an MLB-low three errors, and several other teams remain in single digits.

Of course, errors don’t tell the whole story, but advanced metrics aren’t smiling on the Nats’ gloves either. Even before Thursday’s showing, they ranked 23rd in the Majors in FanGraphs’ defensive value and 26th in Baseball Prospectus’ defensive efficiency.

Friday might have been the low point — or at least the Nats will hope it was.

The Cardinals started a three-run first-inning when Desmond mishandled Matt Carpenter’s grounder and pitcher Taylor Jordan did the same on Kolten Wong’s. In the fourth, Desmond made a bad throw to first, and on the next play, umpires ruled that second baseman Danny Espinosa dropped Desmond’s flip while transferring to his throwing hand. In the sixth, Desmond failed to make a play on Adam Wainwright’s grounder into the hole, although that was ruled a hit. And finally, in the eighth, right fielder Jayson Werth lost Yadier Molina’s line drive in the lights as it sailed past him.

First baseman Adam LaRoche said he doesn’t see any trend in all the miscues.

“Some of it gets magnified, you kick a couple of balls,” he said. “Maybe we’re pressing a little. It’s the same way at the plate. Like tonight, nothing going on, guys trying a little too hard to expand the zone and you end up looking worse. It could be the same way defensively. We have a really good defensive club, is the thing. It’s not showing right now, but I have a feeling that by the end of the year those numbers are going to be our specialty. We are just too good defensively to make the kind of errors we are.”

Williams isn’t prescribing any radical fixes. The team will prepare the way it already was scheduled to on Friday, which means a full session of ground balls.

“We just keep grinding away at it,” he said.

Follow Andrew Simon @AndrewSimonMLB

A fast start for Adam LaRoche

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The 2014 season is still very young, but already, Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is bucking a trend that has left its mark on his career.

Whether it’s a meaningless statistical quirk or something deeper, LaRoche has rightfully earned the label of a slow starter over the years. As of last year, he sported the seventh-largest negative gap between his career OPS and April OPS, as well as the second-biggest between his career OPS and first-half OPS of any active player. At the time, mired in a rough start even by his standards, LaRoche couldn’t explain what was behind it.

“If I had the answer to that, I’d love to pass it on to some younger guys, but there’s just nothing there,” LaRoche said, near the end of an April that saw him hit .136/.213/.259.

To be clear, LaRoche has enjoyed strong Aprils before, such as in 2012, when he jumpstarted one of his best overall seasons by posting a .964 OPS in the opening month. And so far in 2014, he’s on that track again.

LaRoche went 3-for-3 and drew a walk in Tuesday night’s win over the Marlins, leaving him with a line of .348/.500/.652.

To be sure, it’s an extremely small sample size. But coming off a subpar 2013 and considering LaRoche’s historical struggles in the early going, it qualifies as a positive sign.

“I’ve seen Adam hit 30 [home runs] and drive in 100, and I know he’s capable of doing that,” manager Matt Williams said. “What’s encouraging to me is him hitting the ball the other way and taking the single when it’s given to him. What he’s done so far is he’s handled lefties pretty well and stayed on the baseball. We saw that a lot in Spring Training, too. It was a focus of his to stay on the baseball and hit it to the opposite gap, and he’s done that.”

LaRoche did put together a solid spring, hitting .283/.327/.522. He said that over the last couple of weeks of Grapefruit League play, he tweaked his swing slightly, working to shorten it and keep his front leg soft.

“It’s paying off now,” he said. “It feels good. Again, it’s hitting. It comes and goes, so you just ride it out.”

So far this season, LaRoche has homered twice, including a mammoth blast into the top deck at Nats Park on Saturday against the Braves.

He didn’t offer up anything that dramatic on Tuesday, but he reached safely in every plate appearance. LaRoche singled to left in the first inning, walked in the fourth, singled to center in the sixth and singled to right in the eighth against lefty reliever Mike Dunn.

He said his frequent use of the opposite field hasn’t been intentional, but it is a good sign.

“When I’m in position to hit and I’m not pulling off the ball, I’ll do that obviously more than not,” he said. “I’ll get in modes where it probably appears I’m pulling off of everything. It’s one of those things there where I get really hard on my front side, so without getting too technical, no, it’s an accident and I’m looking to drive the ball, but if the timing’s on and I’m in position, I’m still able to go that way.”

However it’s happened, the results have been stark. In seven games and 30 plate appearances, LaRoche has reached base safely 15 times. Last season, it took him 14 games and 53 plate appearances to get to the same point.

Tyler Moore ready to fight for job

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Describing last season as a “wakeup call,” Tyler Moore is preparing for Spring Training with the mindset that he will need to win a spot on the Nationals’ 25-man roster.

Moore, who turns 27 on Thursday, burst onto the scene with a strong rookie season in 2012 but struggled throughout much of ‘13, enduring a demotion to the Minor Leagues along the way. He figures to be a part of Washington’s bench again this year but isn’t taking that job for granted.

“I’m not given anything,” Moore said on Saturday at FanFest. “I definitely have to earn what I’m gonna get. I’m just looking forward to it, looking forward to competing.”

Moore knows that playing time could be scarce this season. Adam LaRoche remains as the starter at first base, and while the right-handed Moore could get some starts there against lefties, The Washington Post reported in December that the club plans to have third baseman Ryan Zimmerman work out at first this spring. If Zimmerman takes some starts at first, and with Scott Hairston providing an extra righty bat in the outfield, Moore likely would be relegated mostly to a pinch-hitting role.

That puts the onus on Moore to produce in more limited opportunities.

“I think last year maybe I was a little too lackadaisical in spring, and that’s what I want to kind of correct this year because I know I don’t have an everyday job, obviously,” Moore said. “I have to be ready to come in and hit when I have a chance, and when I have that chance, I have to take the best advantage of it.”

As a rookie, Moore hit .263/.327/.513 in 171 plate appearances, with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. But in ‘13, he posted a .222/.260/.347 line in 178 plate appearances, seeing his walks drop and his strikeouts rise while collecting four home runs and 21 RBIs.

Then-manager Davey Johnson talked frequently about how difficult it can be for a young player, used to being in the lineup every day in the Minors, to fill a bench role in the Majors. Although he enjoyed some success as a pinch-hitter in ‘12, Moore went 1-for-18 with 12 strikeouts last year.

“Physically, I definitely know how. Mentally it’s still a challenge,” Moore said of coming off the bench. “I think it’s still a challenge, even for the veteran guys, and it’s something you have to figure out every day and your own personal way to do things. The biggest thing for me is just to slow the game down and really just get locked in when I’m watching the game on the bench, to stay in the game and not lose myself.”

Moore spent about a month and a half at Triple-A Syracuse last summer, but when he returned, he was clicking. Making the most of some chances to start, Moore went 21-for-61 (.344) from Aug. 17 on, with four doubles, a homer and seven RBIs.

With that finish as a springboard, Moore intends to come to Nationals camp in Viera, Fla., with a sense of urgency as he looks to put 2013 behind him.

“It was tough. But at the same time, it was kind of a wakeup call, like, look, you can’t just roll in here [to the Majors] and think you’re gonna do good all the time,” Moore said. “This is a tough and humbling game, and it’s an eye-opener, makes you a little bit more hungry, because a lot of people are talking bad and you just want to prove them wrong, but at the same time you want to prove to yourself that you belong here and you want to stay.”

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