Results tagged ‘ Defense ’
Below average defense was the No. 1. reason the Nationals finished in fifth place from 2008 to 2010.
This year appears to be a different story. After two games, the Nationals have yet to make an error and are making sparking plays.
Take Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Braves, as an example. In the third inning, second baseman Danny Espinosa made a sensational backhanded catch off the bat of Martin Prado for the first out of the inning. At first, it looked like Espinosa hurt his left wrist on the play, but he said he was OK.
In the ninth inning, Chipper Jones hit a liner right at reliever Sean Burnett, who made a sensational grab for the final out of the inning.
“I think the defense is great,” Espinosa said. “We have a lot of athleticism. We understand how important defense is. We work hard every day. It going to show. It has already and it will continue to show.”
Even Braves third baseman Chipper Jones took notice of the Nationals’ improved defense after Saturday’s game.
“We could have very easily had 15 or 16 hits today,” Jones said. “It just seemed like they had somebody making a great play on the other end of a line drive somewhere. There’s nothing you can do. You just tip your cap. They beat us today.”
The Nationals are one of the worst defensive teams in baseball this season, but they made two sparkling gems during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Marlins.
In the fifth inning, with runners on first and third, two outs and Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis on the mound, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison hit a shot up the middle that looked like a base hit. But second baseman Danny Espinosa made a great diving play and threw out Morrison for the final out of the inning.
“That was great play,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “The range to get it and then the arm to finish it off was tremendous. I don’t know what more you could do there.”
A natural shortstop, Espinosa sounded like a person who doesn’t need to make adjustments at second base. Espinosa didn’t start playing the position until after the All-Star break.
“I’m trying to feel more comfortable everyday over there to make my routine plays. It makes me feel better,” Espinosa said.
In the sixth inning, the Nationals were able to turn a great double play. With no outs and a runner on first, Dan Uggla hit what looked like a routine groundball to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who booted the ball, but manage to throw out Uggla at first base.
At the same time, Hanley Ramirez didn’t stop at second and decided to go to third. Luckily for the Nationals, shortstop Ian Desmond was covering third as first baseman Adam Dunn threw out Ramirez for the double play.
“I saw that he didn’t stop at second,” Desmond said about Ramirez. “I just knew to run to third. That’s the way they teach you to do it. I ran to third, hoping that Dunn was going to throw it and he did.”
The reason the Nationals won two games against the Yankees this week was because manager Manny Acta sacrificed hitting for defense.
For example, instead of playing Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes in the outfield on Thursday, Acta inserted Willie Harris and Austin Kearns into the lineup. Harris and Kearns made great plays to snuff out Yankee rallies.
Now that Washington is back at Nationals Park, Acta is unwilling to sacrifice offense for defense, so one can expect to see Dunn and Dukes back in the outfield. Acta pointed out that the team needs to score runs to win games.
“We haven’t been scoring runs as of late,” Acta said. “The offense hasn’t been the same offense that we had a month or so ago.”
The Nationals are trying their best to address the problems on defense. They are looking for a center fielder. Is Justin Maxwell the answer? He is great with the glove, but he needs to be more consistent with the bat.
The Nationals may need to look for a shortstop. Cristian Guzman has lost a lot of range at the position. It may be best to trade Guzman while his stock is high.
Dunn is a great hitter, but it appears he is a better first baseman than an outfielder. That’s why Washington needs to trade Nick Johnson for some prospects.
For different reasons, the Nationals are going to look for a second baseman this offseason. Members of the “Think Tank” don’t believe Anderson Hernandez is the answer at the position because of his bat.
If Orlando Hudson becomes a free agent after this season, look for the Nationals to go after him.