Results tagged ‘ Jayson Werth ’

With two strikes, Adam LaRoche remains a threat

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche stepped in against Mets right-hander Dillon Gee in the first inning of Thursday’s game in New York, took one curveball for a strike, then fouled off another.

That situation means danger for a hitter. Through Friday’s action, all Major Leaguers had combined to bat .165/.194/.240 after falling behind 0-2.

But Gee came back with a fastball up and away, and LaRoche smacked it over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer. It was the veteran’s 17th homer of the season, and as pointed out by Beyond the Box Score, it was his 11th in a two-strike count to tie him with the Astros’ Chris Carter for the Major League lead. Among all big leaguers with at least 10 big flies this year, LaRoche leads the way with 64.7 percent coming with two strikes.


“I don’t have an answer for that,” LaRoche said when informed of the stat. “I don’t know if maybe in those counts you’re not trying to do too much — you’re just trying to make solid contact and in turn end up putting a better swing on the ball.”

Of course, 2014 represents a small sample of LaRoche’s 11-year career, and plenty of fluctuations can occur in splits such as these.

LaRoche guessed that his recent two-strike power would be at odds with the rest of his career, and indeed, he hasn’t shown a consistent pattern in that regard. Of the 165 players to hit at least 100 homers since LaRoche’s rookie year of 2004, he ranks only 66th by hitting 30.8 percent of his long balls in two-strike counts (teammate Jayson Werth ranks third, at 41.1 percent).

Nats manager Matt Williams cited LaRoche’s experience and understanding of pitchers as reasons he might be more comfortable hitting in those situations, but LaRoche believes it’s something that “comes and goes” rather than improving over time.

“When you’re feeling good at the plate and when things are rolling, you really don’t care if there’s no strikes or two strikes,” he said. “It doesn’t bother you to work a count and potentially get to a two-strike count. And when you’re not feeling good, not seeing the ball well, you try to stay out of those two-strike counts.”

There is no doubt that the better the count, the better off a hitter is. For example, Major Leaguers have a .796 OPS after getting ahead 1-0 this year, compared with .593 after falling behind 0-1. They slug .262 with two strikes but .548 with none.

Furthermore, many hitters might shorten their swings when on the verge of a strikeout, in an effort to put the ball in play. But LaRoche theorized that in some cases that actually could help produce a home run.

“You’d think without two strikes, you’d have a little more powerful swing,” he said. “But again, baseball’s a lot like golf. The harder you try to swing, the ball doesn’t go as far. It’s kind of funny how that works. You think you’re putting a nice, easy swing on the ball, and then it just kind of jumps sometimes.”

Williams added that advantageous counts, such as 2-0 or 3-1, can lead a hitter to become anxious and swing too hard. But when LaRoche gets behind, as he did against Gee, “he simply puts the head of the bat on it.”

“He doesn’t panic when he gets to two strikes,” Williams said. “He’s done it a time or two.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Aggressive baserunning backfires on Werth, Nats

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Trailing the Mets 2-1 in the sixth inning on Tuesday night, the Nationals got a leadoff double from Jayson Werth before Adam LaRoche slapped a single to left field. Werth, getting the wave from third base coach Bob Henley, steamed around to try to score the tying run but was beaten by left fielder Eric Campbell’s nearly perfect one-hop throw.

In a game filled with missed opportunities, this was one that stood out. Instead of having runners at the corners with no outs, the Nats were left with a runner at first with one out. Two batters later, the inning was over, and Washington never scored another run.

So did Henley err by sending Werth in that situation? After the game, both Werth and manager Matt Williams defended the decision, for two main reasons.

1) The Mets’ defense was shifted against the left-handed LaRoche, putting three infielders to the right side of second base, with no shortstop in position to hold Werth close to the bag. Therefore, Werth was able to take a good lead, and was about halfway to third base when the ball reached the outfield grass.

“I thought Jayson had a good jump,” Williams said. “He knows they’re not playing behind him. He knows they’re swung over. The shortstop is to his left, and there’s nobody there.”

Plus, neither Henley nor Werth probably figured that Campbell — making his second Major League start in the outfield — would throw an on-target seed to the plate. But he did.

“It would take a perfect throw, and that’s what happened,” Werth said.

2) Back on July 20 at Nationals Park, the Nats took a walk-off victory against the Brewers when Henley waved around Anthony Rendon from first on Werth’s double down the left field line, prompting Werth to refer to the third base coach as “Old No Stop Sign Henley.”

From the first day of Spring Training, Williams has wanted a team that goes for it on the basepaths, and the approach has worked. The Nats entered Tuesday second in the Majors in FanGraphs’ baserunning metric and fifth in the one calculated by Baseball Prospectus.

“That’s the way we play,” Williams said. “We’re aggressive. We have been all year and we can’t stop now.”

Werth agreed that the club will “stay aggressive on the bases.”

“That’s part of our game,” he said. “That’s part of who we are. So sometimes it works out for us, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Henley helps ‘send’ Nats to walk-off win

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Third base coach is one of those mostly thankless jobs that tends to draws notice only in the form of blame when something goes wrong.

“That’s part of it,” the Nationals’ Bob Henley said. “I don’t worry about that.”

Henley’s willingness to take a risk helped the Nationals pull out a dramatic 5-4 over the Brewers on Sunday at Nationals Park, as he waved home Anthony Rendon for the walk-off run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Washington had Rendon — who offers decent if unspectacular speed — at first base with two outs when Jayson Werth ripped Rob Wooten’s pitch for a line drive down the left field line. Stationed past third base on contact, Henley began moving toward home plate, turning around and backpedaling so he could watch left fielder Khris Davis’ pursuit into the left field corner. Henley got perhaps a third of the way between the base and the plate, and by that time, the decision was completely in his hands.

“He’s the one watching the play,” Rendon said. “Once I turn and go to third base, the play’s behind me, so I have to trust him.”

All kinds of factors must be considered, including the game situation, the speed of the runner and the arm of the fielder.

When Davis reached the ball on the warning track, Rendon was about halfway to third. At that point, Henley said, he had made up his mind.

“With two outs, you know [Rendon’s] going to be running on contact, and as soon as it was hit, I was thinking about sending him,” Henley said. “As soon as it went to the wall, I knew I was. Great hitting, great baserunning — it really has nothing to do with me at all. I send everybody.”

“Old No Stop Sign Henley,” as Werth referred to him, began waving his arm — the universal third base coach signal for “Go” — when Davis double-clutched and Rendon got about 5-to-7 steps from the bag.

“We knew we were going to have a play at the plate, and either we were or we weren’t [going to score], but we were going to send him,” Henley said.

What could have and perhaps should have been a close play turned out to be no play at all. With Davis slow to get off a throw and then airmailing his cutoff man, the Brewers never even got the ball to the plate.

“We’ve got to try to win the game there,” manager Matt Williams said. “If ‘Hen’ stops him there, then we’re banking on another base hit. We’ve got to take a chance there.”

This time, the chance paid off, not that Henley wanted any credit for it.

“We’re trying to win ball games, and the boys did an unbelievable job to win,” he said. “I just try to stay out of their way.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Fully stocked Nats lineup doing damage

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Saturday was the Nationals’ fifth game since Bryce Harper’s return made their starting lineup whole again, and the offense broke out with a season-best performance in a 13-0 drubbing of the Cubs.

Matt Williams’ lineup card demonstrated the depth at his disposal, with the trio of Harper, Desmond and Ramos — capable of anchoring a batting order — filling the three slots ahead of pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The Cubs had to scramble for pitching after trading scheduled starter Jeff Samardzija on Friday night, and the Nats’ bats took advantage with season highs of 13 runs and 19 hits.

“It’s not easy to pitch to this lineup,” said Ramos, who went 2-for-5 with a double. “The leadoff guy, the eight guy, everybody can hit the ball well, so right now it’s hard for them to face us.”

Here’s a look at some numbers that stand out from the win:

  • At 13-0, this was the biggest shutout victory of the season by any team. In terms of Nationals history (since 2005), it was by far their biggest winning margin in a shutout. Previously, Washington’s biggest shutout victory was by 10 runs.
  • The Nats had scored in double digits only three previous times this season, with a high of 11. Two of those games came in April, and the last was May 31 against the Rangers.
  • Ten Nationals recorded at least one hit on Saturday, including all eight starting position players, pitcher Gio Gonzalez and substitute Kevin Frandsen. Seven players recorded an RBI.
  • The Nats’ eight doubles was a club record (since ’05). The last time it happened in franchise history was Sept. 18, 1998, when the Expos had eight against the Phillies. Two of the two-baggers in that contest came from third base coach Bob Henley and TV analyst F.P. Santangelo.
  • The Nats batted around twice and had another frame in which they sent eight hitters to the plate. The only time they went down in order was in the eighth.
  • Anthony Rendon stroked a career-high three doubles and has 21 for the season. In his last 31 games, he’s hitting .341/.396/.603.
  • In his last 16 games of June, Jayson Werth hit .145/.264/.177 with two extra-base hits (both doubles), four RBI and 16 strikeouts. In his first four games of July, he’s 9-for-14 with five doubles, two homers, eight RBI and two strikeouts.
  • Ryan Zimmerman went 4-for-5 on Saturday, his second four-hit game of the season, with the other coming April 3 against the Mets. Before this season, he had eight such games, but none since July 28, 2011. Zimmerman is batting .357 (15-for-42) with six doubles, a homer and eight RBI over his last 11 games.
  • Since coming off the DL for the second time this year, Ramos is 9-for-26 (.346) with a double and a home run.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Nats’ Werth getting back on track

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Entering Tuesday’s action against the Rockies, Nationals outfielder Jayson Weryth was in a 7-for-52 slump and saw his batting average dip to .266.

So after Monday night’s 7-3 victory over the Rockies, Werth and hitting coach Rick Schu looked over video tape to figure out what’s wrong with Werth at the plate. The two came to the conclusion that Werth needed stand more upright in order to see the ball better.

The new stance paid off for Werth on Tuesday night. He went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in a 7-1 victory over Colorado.

“I had a pretty good mindset going into the game,” Werth said. “We made a minor adjustment, just shortened things up,”

In the first inning, with runners on first and second and no outs, Werth doubled down the left-field line, scoring Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. A few minutes before the RBI double, Werth hit a ball hard that went foul, and he had a feeling that his swing was back on track.

“I barreled it — way foul. I don’t remember the last time I did that,” Werth said. “I felt pretty confident after that. I put together a pretty good game. Hopefully, that will be the one to keep me going.”

Three innings later, Werth knocked in his third run of the game, doubling to right-center field, scoring Rendon.

“I’ve been able to barrel those balls to right-center and sometimes hit home runs on pitches like that,” Werth said. “That was a little more telling than the first hit. I feel good. … It was nice to come through for the guys tonight.”

Williams: ‘Desmond and Werth need day off’

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – After Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Braves, Nationals manager Matt Williams acknowledged that shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Jayson Werth needed a day off during the team’s road trip, which starts Monday.

Both players are currently in slumps. During the four game series against Atlanta, Desmond went 2-for -16 [.125] with 10 strikeouts.  In the last two games combined, Desmond struck out six straight times.

“It’s a long road trip, a very tough couple of games against the Astros and all the expectations of this series [against the Braves]. Guys get mentally tired. So to answer your question, [Desmond] needs a day,” Williams said.

Werth is 4-for-37 in his last 10 games and has seen his batting average dip to .271. On June 12, Werth was at .296.

“We need to look long and hard about Jayson. We’ll spend a couple of hours on the plane talking about that one,” Williams said.

Nats notes from San Diego

By Bill Ladson

* Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was given a scheduled day off Friday against the Padres. According to manager Matt Williams, Werth needed the time off because he woke us Friday morning a little stiff. Werth has been an iron horse for the Nationals this year, playing in all 58 games prior to Friday’s action.

“We thought today would be a good day for him,” Williams said “We are not going to get another off day until we get home. Long road trip.”

In his Werth’s place, Nate McLouth received the start in right.

* Left fielder Ryan Zimmerman hasn’t missed a beat at the plate, going 4-for-11 [.364] with two RBIs since he was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Zimmerman said he is fortunate that he has been in the National League since 2005.

“I’ve been fortunate to be up here at a young age” Zimmerman said. “I’ve had a lot of at-bats, a lot of experience. I got to play a lot of games earlier in my career, so I kind of got to know my swing, know what kind of balls to handle.

“More importantly, you see a bunch of pitchers. There aren’t a lot of pitchers I haven’t faced. I think when you first come up, I think that’s the hardest part. You don’t know any guys. … I’ve been in this league a long time. I have a lot of experience.”

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

Nats Grapefruit League Notes, 3/1

By Andrew Simon

VIERA, Fla. — Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest between the Nationals and Braves at Space Coast Stadium featured two teams that figure to be fighting each other for the National League East title. But after a brisk first two innings from starters Jordan Zimmermann and Julio Teheran, the game devolved into a sloppy affair that lasted three hours, 59 minutes and featured 31 runs, 37 hits, 14 walks, six errors and numerous misplays.

For what it’s worth, the Nats outlasted the Braves, 16-15. Here are some notes and observations from a long and crazy day at the ballpark:

– Zimmermann was on point, throwing 15 of his 20 pitches for strikes and getting five ground balls in six batters during two scoreless innings. As mentioned in today’s notebook, Zimmermann mixed in some nice changeups, a part of his repertoire that that he has developed very gradually in recent years.

– Bryce Harper played his first game of the spring, going four innings in left field and taking three plate appearances. He lined out sharply to first base, walked twice and stole a base.

– The Nats went 3-for-3 on steals in the third inning, with Denard Span stealing one on his own before pulling off a double steal of third and second with Harper. New manager Matt Williams wants his players to run the bases more aggressively, and they appear to be doing that in the early going.

– Most of the Nats pitchers after Zimmermann had a tough time, but veteran righty Luis Ayala — competing for one the last two bullpen spots — stopped the bleeding. He came in to protect a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth and induced an inning-ending double play, then pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Ayala is a sinkerball artist who posted an excellent 59 percent groundball rate last season, mostly with Atlanta.

“He’s a guy that can have really quick innings,” Williams said. “An aggressive opposition, ball sinking down and in, a lot of ground balls. So that’s why we’re considering him and that’s why he’s here and it was a perfect situation today for him.”

– Michael Taylor, who is considered a strong defensive prospect in center field, had a rough day after entering the game in right. He made two errors on one play to allow Matt Lipka to circle the bases on a bloop hit down the line and later dropped a line drive into the right-center gap.

“We want to make sure he gets some reps out there,” Williams said. “Today’s a rough day for any right fielder, but he’ll get some more reps out there, too.”

Tomorrow: The Nats are back at Space Coast to take on the Marlins at 1:05 p.m. Doug Fister will start in his Washington debut, and fellow newcomer Jerry Blevins is scheduled to pitch as well. Jayson Werth is supposed to play for the first time this spring.

Looking ahead: Ross Detwiler will start against the Yankees on Monday in Tampa, and Stephen Strasburg will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista. That would leave Gio Gonzalez as the one expected member of the rotation yet to pitch.

Worth noting: Although he called Saturday’s defensive sloppiness an “aberration,” Williams said his club will address the issue in a previously scheduled situational defense practice on Sunday.

Worth quoting: While passing a group of reporters in a hallway shortly after the game, Nats coach Mark Weidemaier, who is in charge of the club’s defense, quipped, “Coached the [heck] out of ‘em today!”

Further reading: Today’s notebook on Nationals.com also includes info on how Danny Espinosa will split his time between second base and shortstop this spring, the approach Williams wants prospect Zach Walters to take at the plate, and lefty Tyler Robertson aiming for a bullpen job.

Follow me on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB

Aaron Boone’s take on Nats

Aaron Boone played one year for the Nationals, in 2008. However, he is best remembered for hitting the game-winning home run that helped Yankees win the 2003 American League pennant.

Now a baseball analyst for ESPN, Boone, 40, spoke with MLB.com on Friday about the 2013 Nationals and their chances of making the postseason.

MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals’ latest run?

Aaron Boone: I think it’s too little, too late, but stranger things have happened over the last couple of seasons. Obviously, they are going to try to continue it at a lights out level during the final month of the season.

Obviously, you have to go on a 20-5 run, but then they need help from other teams. Those things have happened over time. No question. But they are still well behind at this point.

MLB.com: How surprised were you that the Nationals were inconsistent for most of the season?

Boone: I was. I thought, provided their pitching stayed healthy, it would carry them and [they'd] be in a position to win the division or at least get a wild card. [The pitching] hasn’t been as overwhelming as we anticipated. The bullpen is very average – at best. I think what has hurt them this year is that the bench hasn’t been very good. It seems they don’t have anybody they can plug in or step in during the course of the season. That adds up.

MLB.com: The overall offense hasn’t been good for most of the season.

Boone: I still think this offense is solid all around, but when your starting nine aren’t completely healthy and you don’t have pieces to plug in — they haven’t had a guy off the bench that’s had a big year for them, a person they can plug in for a week or two. There has been a really big drop off that I’ve noticed. Outside of the main core guys, they’ve had some struggles.

MLB.com: Do you think the Nationals made a mistake by letting lefty relievers like Tom Gorzelanny go?

Boone: When I looked at this team in Spring Training, … everyone felt like, well, their starting pitching is so good and then with [Tyler]Clippard, [Drew] Storen and [Craig] Stammen and adding Soriano in the back end, [the Nationals] have guys who can neutralize the lefties – how Clippard has been over his career [against lefties]. They thought they could get away with it. … I think going in, it’s the one area I thought they would have a concern, but I thought the overall strength of the bullpen would be able to counter it. It is something that has bit them a little bit.

MLB.com: What do you think about the way Jayson Werth has carried the Nationals the last two months?

Boone: It has been really awesome. He has been a beast. This is what they’ve signed him to do. You have to tip your cap for what he has done and what he has been able to put together. Obviously, he is right in the middle of being on a nice little run and giving them a fighter’s chance down the stretch.

MLB.com: How are things going with you health-wise?

Boone: I’m doing really well. I’m enjoying my gig. It’s a lot of fun to be able to cover game that I love and have a small part in the sport. It has been a blessed transition for me.

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