Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Unusual mound visit pays off for Williams, Nats

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — What’s in a mound visit?

Most of these meetings fall into a couple of categories. The pitching coach comes out to offer advice, talk strategy, give his pitcher a breather or perhaps stall for the bullpen. The manager tends to come out with his hook at the ready.

So when Nationals skipper Matt Williams hopped out of the dugout and made his way toward the hill with two outs in Monday’s seventh inning, it was reasonable to assume starter Doug Fister’s day was done. Clinging to a 1-0 lead over the Braves, he had two outs in the inning but had walked two, putting him at 101 pitches with Andrelton Simmons coming to the plate. The bullpen was active.

As it turned out, Williams had other plans.

“I wasn’t going to take him out,” Williams said. “I just wanted to go out there and let him know he had this guy.”

When Williams began his voyage to the mound, Fister had his back turned, so he couldn’t see if his manager had given the signal for a reliever.

But Williams hadn’t. As the entire Nats infield converged, Williams strode quickly to his destination, looked at his pitcher, had a brief exchange, then retreated. The whole visit lasted perhaps five seconds.

“I want to read him,” Williams said. “I want to make sure he’s feeling OK. And I asked him how he was, and he said he was good, so I turned around. I really had no plans on taking him out. But I want to read his eyes, too. He was intense and wanted that last hitter.”

Fister said that whenever his manager comes out, he hopes for a chance to continue. This time, he got it.

“We both have that sense about us that we kind of read personalities, and he looked at me on his way out there and asked me, ‘Hey, what do you got?’” Fister said. “And I said, ‘I want this guy.’ He was ready for that. He was ready for that answer.”

Certainly, the move could have backfired, in a close game against a team that has dominated their head-to-head matchups over the past two seasons. But Fister got ahead of Simmons 0-2, then induced a ground ball that shortstop Ian Desmond fielded and took to second for a force.

His manager’s faith had been rewarded, and the Nats hung on for a big victory.

“He came out there and gave me the option, and it’s greatly appreciated,” Fister said. “That’s the epitome of showing confidence. That’s what great managers do, show confidence in guys and trusting them, and that’s what he did tonight.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Nationals show concern for Floyd

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — On Thursday night, right-hander Gavin Floyd pitched six shutout innings and helped the Braves blank the Nationals, 3-0, at Nationals Park.

However, members of the Nationals were shocked to learn that Floyd had to leave the game in the seventh inning because of a fractured right elbow, an injury that could end his season. Floyd had recently recovered from Tommy John surgery.

“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “It’s a long road back. We hope everything is all right. You never want to see anyone leave the mound. Everybody competes, everybody wants to win, but you don’t want to see injuries either.”

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has been in Floyd’s shoes. Zimmermann, who had elbow reconstruction surgery in 2009, said he hopes Floyd can recover from this most recent setback.

“You never want another pitcher to get injured. I don’t know what happened. Obviously, it was bad enough to where he had to come out of the game. Hopefully, he will be all right,” Zimmermann said.

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.

Smoltz’s take on Nats, Braves

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Former Major League pitcher John Smoltz, now an analyst for MLB Network, feels the current four-game series between the Nationals and Braves is more important for the Nationals because they need to psychologically show they can beat the Braves.

Entering Thursday’s game, the Braves had won five out of six games against the Nationals this season, but Smoltz pointed out that the Braves have not played good baseball lately. Atlanta won 16 of its first 24 games, but has gone 19-28 since then. It doesn’t help that the Braves have been inconsistent on offense. The Braves’ pitching staff was off to a great start, but it has struggled lately.

“You have two teams that are going in opposite directions,” Smoltz said.  “One [the Nationals] is trying to get healthy and the other team [Braves] is trying to get back to its winning ways. It’s been a rough stretch. It will be an interesting series, unless there is a sweep.”

Smoltz did not predict who will win the series, but he is impressed with the Nationals’ pitching staff. He said their pitching depth is so good that they can mix and match with any team. Smoltz also said the bullpen is underrated.

“[The bullpen] is probably the best in the National League collectively,” Smoltz said.

Smoltz believes the Nationals will be even better once their players are healthy. The biggest piece that is missing is outfielder Bryce Harper, who hasn’t played since April 25 because of torn ligaments in his right thumb. As of now,  Harper is expected to be back by July 1.

Smoltz pointed out the Nationals have been inconsistent scoring runs because key players such as Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos have been hurt at some point this season. Like Harper, Ramos is expected to be back with the team soon.

“Once they get healthy, they will score more runs than they have been scoring,” Smoltz said. “Left-handed, when you are missing LaRoche like you were and you are missing Harper. That’s a big left-handed weapon out of your lineup. The right-handed hitters have held their own, but they have to get some balance in their lineup.”

Error taken away from Nats’ Desmond

WASHINGTON — After Tuesday’s game, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond had been charged with nine errors, which led the Major Leagues. However, an error was taken away from Desmond by Major League Baseball before Wednesday’s game against the Angels.
 
On April 11, Braves outfielder B.J. Upton came to the plate and hit a hard groundball to Desmond, who backhanded the ball but did not field it cleanly. Desmond was charged with an error on the play. Upton asked for a review on the play, and the call was overturned to a hit by Joe Torre, the leagues executive vice president of baseball operations, on Wednesday.  Desmond and Upton were not available for comment.
–Bill Ladson

Nats, Braves to play day/night doubleheader

Tonight’s Nationals-Braves game scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., has been postponed due to the tragic events that occurred earlier today.

The team will play a split doubleheader on Tuesday, with tonight’s make-up game beginning at 1:05 p.m. The second regularly scheduled game will begin at 7:05 p.m. All gates for the originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. game will open 1.5 hours after the last out of the 1:05 p.m. game or 6:00 p.m., whichever is later.* The two games against the Braves on September 17 will require separate admission.

Fans with game tickets to Monday’s postponed contest may use their original tickets for the 1:05 p.m. make-up game on September 17. Those unable to attend the 1:05 p.m. game on September 17 can exchange their tickets for any remaining home game during the 2013 regular season or any Value Game during the 2014 regular season. Exchanged tickets will be issued from available inventory in the closest pricing category of equal or lesser value to the original seats.

Season Plan Holders, whose Season Plan includes seats for tonight’s postponed game, will have their Card automatically activated for the September 17 contest at 1:05 p.m. Season Plan Holders who wish to transfer or forward seats for this make-up game should login to nationals.com/access to view their seats. Season Plan Holders who cannot attend the 1:05 p.m. game on September 17 may exchange their seats for any remaining home game during the 2013 regular season or any Value Game during the 2014 regular season at the Nationals Park Box Office.**

In the event that a seat for tonight’s game was forwarded from a Season Plan Holder Card to a print at home ticket, the print at home barcode will be active for the make-up game and will not return to the Card; as such, fans should retain their print at home tickets from tonight’s postponed game to gain entrance to the 1:05 p.m. contest on September 17.

Rival Q&A: Braves Center Fielder B.J. Upton

After eight years with the Rays, outfielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Braves this past offseason. So far, Upton is off to a slow start, going 3-for-29 with just an RBI entering Friday’s action. However, his teammate, brother Justin Upton, is red hot, hitting .353 with a league-leading six home runs.

MLB.com caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals.

MLB.com: How good are the Braves this year?

B.J. Upton: We can be very good. We have all the right pieces. We have the pitching, we have the bullpen. We have the lineup to do it. We have the bench players to do it. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The biggest thing for us: we are playing well, but we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet.

MLB.com: How do you explain the fast start? The Braves lost only one game.

Upton: I don’t know. We are getting timely hits. Our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames. We are just hitting the ball when we need to right now. Obviously, we would like to do it a little bit more consistently, but it’s still early. We have a lot of season left.

MLB.com: How good is it to see your brother, Justin, get off to a hot start?

Upton: It’s something that is pretty cool to watch. Obviously, what happened during the offseason and the rumors that were rumbling around, it could have affected him. [Those rumors] haven’t affected him. For the most part, he has been carrying us. He has been doing pretty well right now.

MLB.com: How much has your presence helped him?

Upton: I don’t know. I can’t say he wouldn’t be doing this without me here. I’ve seen him do it in the past. … He is a strong-minded guy, he works hard and he strives for perfection. Obviously, you are not going to be perfect in this game. If you expect that out of yourself, you are going to get the results that you want.

MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals? How much of a factor will they be in the National League East race?

Upton: They are a great team. Obviously, they showed it last year. They didn’t lose anybody and they have some guys back healthy. Like I said, they are a great ballclub and we know they are going to be around all season.

MLB.com: I know you are from Virginia. After you became a free agent, did you think about playing for the Nationals?

Upton: That was always a possibility. It didn’t work out that way. I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m looking forward to playing baseball with these guys.

MLB.com: Did you ever think about playing on the same big-league team as Ryan Zimmerman?

Upton: We would like to do it. But sometimes, things don’t work out. We are always going to support each other. Maybe not as much in the series when we play each other. But we are always going to support each other. I wish him the best. We’ve always been good friends. We get together during the offseason as much as we can. I know he comes to Florida every once in a while. We get out and have some dinner. I’m always supporting him and he is always supporting me.

MLB.com: You spent most of your career with the Rays. Do you miss them?

Upton: Obviously, being with them for 10 years, there are some things that I miss, but it’s baseball. Obviously, there are some guys who stay with one franchise their entire careers. But I think to be at one place for 10 years is pretty good. I will always have a place in my heart for them and I’m always rooting for those guys because they gave me an opportunity to be where I am today. I wish them nothing but the best.

MLB.com: What do you miss about the city of Tampa?

Upton: I still live there during the offseason. I can’t really say I miss it because I’m there all the time. When I’m not in Atlanta, I’ll be in Tampa. The people and the city of Tampa, it’s a great place to live. They are friendly people, it’s a great place to start a family. For me, I like to play golf. It’s a great place to play golf. It such a great place to be. The weather is beautiful all year round. I feel comfortable there. I lived there the last eight years. Obviously home is Virginia, but if there is a home away from home, Tampa is it. I plan on settling there.

Friday’s starting lineups for Braves, Nationals

Braves
Andrelton Simmons–SS
Jason Heyward–RF
Justin Upton — RF
Evan Gattis — 1B
B.J. Upton– CF
Dan Uggla–2B
Chris Johnson — 3B
Gerald Laird–C
Julio Teheran — P

Nationals
Denard Span–CF
Jayson Werth–RF
Bryce Harper–LF
Ryan Zimmerman– 3B
Adam LaRoche–1B
Ian Desmond–SS
Danny Espinosa– 2B,
Kurt Suzuki–C
Ross Detwiler— P

Saturday’s lineups for Nats, Braves

Nationals
Bernadina, lf
Espinosa, 2b
Zimmerman, 3b
Morse, 1b
Werth, rf
Ankiel, cf
Ramos, c
Desmond, ss
Lannan, lhp

Braves
Schafer, cf
Prado, 3b
McCann, c
Freeman, 1b
Uggla, 2b
Heyward, rf
Gonzalez, ss
Ramirez, lf
Hanson, rhp

Friday’s lineups for Nationals, Braves

Nationals
Bernadina, cf
Espinosa, 2b
Zimmerman, 3b
Morse, 1b
Nix, lf
Werth, rf
Ramos, c
Desmond, ss
Hernandez, rhp

Braves
Schafer, cf
Prado, 3b
Heyward, rf
Freeman, 1b
Uggla, 2b
Ross, c
McLouth, lf
Gonzalez, ss
Hudson, rhp

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