Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Nats struggling in extra innings

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Ever since beating the Mets in 10 innings on Opening Day, extra frames have brought the Nationals nothing but pain this season.

After falling to the Braves in 13 innings on Friday, the Nats have lost their last seven contests that have required extras. That 1-7 mark (a .125 winning percentage) is the worst in the Majors, ahead of the Dodgers (3-8, .273) and Cubs (3-6, .333). Meanwhile, the rest of the teams in the National League East are a combined 19-20 in extras, so Washington’s troubles have made a significant difference in the division standings.

“I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for that,” manager Matt Williams said when asked if he had a theory. “I’d be interested to know though how many times we’ve come back to make it extra innings. … I would imagine the majority of those are come-from-behind tying-the-game situations like we had last night, and there’s something to be said for that.”

Indeed, the Nats trailed at some point during six of those seven losses, and in four of them, they were the team that knotted the score last to keep the game going. That includes Friday’s loss to Atlanta, in which Anthony Rendon hit a two-out, two-run homer off closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, but the Braves scored two against Jerry Blevins in the 13th.

“The stats are the stats,” Williams said. “The fact is we’re 1-7. I don’t think of it that way. If in fact we’ve come back in those games and been down four runs and come back and tied it up, then I’m happy about that part of it, not that we didn’t end up winning those games. A team can simply say, ‘It’s not our day,’ and give up, but our guys don’t do that.”

Regardless, the results have been grisly once the ninth inning has passed. Here are the Nats’ stats from the 10th forward:

Offense: 6 runs, 12-for-65 (.185), .257 OBP, .292 SLG, 4 2B, HR, 7 BB, 20 K

  • .549 OPS ranks 28th in MLB

Pitching: 18 IP, 22 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 11 BB, 20 K, 2 HR, 7.00 ERA

  • .831 OPS against ranks 24th in MLB

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Williams: Zimmerman doing “a fine job” in LF

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — In the eighth inning of the Nationals’ loss to the Braves on Thursday night, Atlanta’s Jason Heyward lofted a shallow fly to left field with Freddie Freeman on third base and no outs. Under most circumstances, there would have been no doubt that the less-than-fleet-footed Freeman would hold on the play.

But with Ryan Zimmerman and his troublesome right shoulder still relatively untested in the outfield, it was reasonable to wonder whether the Braves would take their chances.

Zimmerman caught the ball, perhaps about 100 feet past the infield dirt. Freeman tagged and took a few steps toward home but quickly stopped and retreated. Zimmerman’s toss fluttered in and one-hopped his cutoff man.

Is Nats manager Matt Williams surprised opponents haven’t forced the issue more against Zimmerman, set to make his 16th start in left field on Friday?

“Every team has tape, so they can go look at what he’s doing, but you’re not just gonna run just to run, because he has the ability to throw you out,” Williams said. “The fact that he’s out there and playing well helps in that regard. So you can just continue to run, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be safe. Every team has to look at what their potential for scoring runs are in that inning, how many outs there are, who’s coming up, all those things that you would do normally.”

Williams said he believes Zimmerman has “done a fine job” in left this season, after spending basically his entire professional career at third. He pointed out not only the prevented sacrifice fly, but also a play in the seventh inning, when Zimmerman cut off a Tommy La Stella liner in the left-center gap and got the back in quickly enough to hold La Stella to a single.

Zimmerman hasn’t faced a lot of difficult plays in left so far. He’s shown his athleticism, such as on the diving catch he made to rob the Giants’ Brandon Crawford in San Francisco last week. He’s also shown his inexperience, such as in Thursday’s second inning, when a broken-bat bloop from Heyward seemed to fool Zimmerman just long enough to drop a few feet in front of him for a hit.

Certainly, the throwing issues that frequently plagued Zimmerman at third over the past two seasons have not made nearly as big of an impact with him in left. Those situations come up less often, and when they do, Williams believes “it’s a completely different throw.”

“It’s a bigger target, certainly, a bigger range of target,” he said. “The second baseman or the third baseman or the catcher doesn’t necessarily have to stand on the base, so that comes into effect. It’s a little different throwing motion, too. He’s on top of the ball a little bit more in the outfield than he would be in the infield.”

All of this may or may not still be relevant when Bryce Harper comes off the disabled list, which the Nats hope will happen at the beginning of July. Williams has indicated that he intends to mix and match his lineup at that point, which could have Zimmerman bouncing between left field, third base and even first base.

For now, Zimmerman is “starting the progression” toward getting ready for the hot corner, according to Williams. He’s currently working out there every other day and will continue building up as the Nats go on a road trip next week.

“It’s a question that has to be answered,” Williams said of the lineup decisions, “and we’ll answer it when the time comes.”

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.

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.

Williams, Lobaton saddened by Zimmer’s passing

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – Nationals manager Matt Williams and catcher Jose Lobaton were saddened by the death of Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, who passed away Wednesday. Zimmer was in the game for 65 years, with roles that included being a player, coach and manager.

Zimmer is best remembered for being the bench coach of those Yankees teams that won four World Series titles in five years from 1996 to 2000.

Zimmer was a coach with the Giants when Williams made his Major League debut with them in 1987. The last time Williams saw Zimmer was last year.

“It’s a sad day for everybody that knows Don and his family,” Williams said. “He taught me a lot about baseball, and he’s taught a lot of people about baseball. Fantastic ambassador, great coach, manager, and we all mourn the loss of him. … Great memories, provided many, many baseball players and fans and organizations with great memories.”

Lobaton met Zimmer a year after the Rays selected him off waivers from the Padres in 2009. During Spring Training, Zimmer gave Lobaton words of encouragement, telling him he would be in the big leagues one day. Lobaton reached the Majors by 2011.

“I’m really sad because I [know] him — great person,” Lobaton said. “We talked a lot. He was one of the guys who would tell me all the time to be patient in baseball. [He would say,] ‘You know what’s going to happen. You are going down. Keep working.’ He would talk to me all the time. … I know all the baseball players know him and everybody is going to be praying for him.”

Williams impressed with Espinosa

By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — The Nationals collected 15 hits in a 9-2 victory over the Rangers, but Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa went 0-for -3 in the contest. But talk to manager Matt Williams, and Espinosa had impressive at-bats.

In the third inning, Espinosa hit the ball hard, but grounded out to second base. After he was walked intentionally an inning later, Espinosa flied out to center field in the sixth before grounding out to third baseman Adrian Beltre in the eighth.

“Although he didn’t get any hits tonight, he saw the ball really good tonight. He was right on everything. That’s a good sign, too,” Williams said. “He has been making some adjustments and he is working extremely hard the last three days to make those adjustments. I think the fruits of that labor showed up a little bit.”

Espinosa acknowledged that he is trying to shorten his swing from the left side of the plate. Espinosa hasn’t had a hit since May 20th. But Espinosa felt comfortable in the batter’s box Friday.

“I always try to shorten my swing as much as I could,” Espinosa said. “When you close your front side, your swing gets longer, you are fighting with your body, but it felt good today.”

Nats’ Ramos gets five-ball walk

By Bill Ladson

In the sixth inning of Friday’s 9-2 victory, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos reached base on a five-ball walk. The rules state that a player can reach base on a four-ball walk. It seems almost everyone lost track of the count, except Ramos.

According to Ramos, when the count reached 3-2, Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez asked home plate umpire Scott Barry what the count was and Barry replied, “2-2.”  Ramos thought for sure the count was 3-2 and Barry repeated the count as 2-2. Even the Nationals’ scoreboard said the count was 3-2. Barry then put his hands up and reiterated that the count was 2-2.  Barry was not available for comment.

“In my mind, I was thinking it was 3-2,” Ramos said. “That’s OK. I received the walk any way.”

Even Nationals manager Matt Williams thought Ramos had walked a pitch earlier, but didn’t argue the count with Barry.

“You always say, ‘Were we right on the count,’ so we looked at each other and went, ‘Huh, I thought that was ball four.’ We have a lot going on over there, talking a lot about different situations, so we missed that one.”

During Ramos’ first at-bat in Saturday’s game, will the umpires make up for Friday and give Ramos a three-ball walk?

“I don’t think they are going to give that one to us,” Williams said. “I’ll ask him when I go up there [Saturday]. We’ll see.”

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.”

A big day for Denard Span

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — A few hours after Nationals manager Matt Williams said he would stick with the scuffling Denard Span as his leadoff hitter, Span rewarded that faith with one of the best games of his career on Tuesday.

Span went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs, a stolen base and two runs scored in a 9-4 win over the Reds. In the process, he lifted his batting average from .239 to .263 and his on-base percentage from .287 to .308.

It was the sixth five-hit game in Nationals history (since 2005) and first since Ian Desmond on Sept. 15, 2011. It also was the seventh five-hit game in the Major Leagues this season and the third of Span’s career — but first since 2009, his first full big league season.

“Those are special,” Williams said of the performance. “Those don’t happen very often, so good for him.”

And good for the Nats, who improved to 13-5 this season when Span reaches base safely at least twice. But that hasn’t happened often enough for Washington, which entered Tuesday last in the Majors in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, with Span occupying that position in 35 of 44 games.

It’s Span’s second straight season getting off to a slow start. Last year, he hit .258 with a .310 on-base percentage through Aug. 16 before hitting .338 with a .375 OBP the rest of the year to finish within striking distance of his career numbers.

Tuesday showed Span’s full arsenal of offensive skills when he’s clicking. He opened the bottom of the first inning by taking Johnny Cueto the other way for a single on a rare first-pitch swing. In the third, he dropped a bunt toward third base, with his speed helping force a bad throw that scored a run and put Span at third. In the sixth, he singled and stole a base in his first at-bat and ripped a two-run double in his second — the latter hit off lefty Sean Marshall (Span came in hitting .190 against southpaws). Finally, in the eighth, he enjoyed a bit of luck that he might have been due for, hitting a blooper to shallow center field that eluded the Reds’ defense for a double.

Despite all of that, Span said he was already trying to put the game behind him.

“It was just one day. Had a good day. Today was my day,” Span said. “Saw the ball good, and I’ve got to do it again tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about. Whether I go 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, my mindset the next day is yesterday is yesterday and I’ve got to do it again.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

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