Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

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.

Gio trying to ‘grind through’ recent problems

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — After enduring his second straight short and ineffective start on Saturday, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez didn’t directly answer questions regarding his health. Gonzalez had some trouble with shoulder tightness earlier in the season and was asked how he felt after giving up five runs in three innings to the Mets.

“It’s one of those things you’ve just got to grind through,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just trying to find out what it is, and hopefully something positive comes out of it.”

Asked again if he was dealing with anything health-wise, Gonzalez added, “Realistically, arm was dropping a lot. I guess we’ll see.”

The 28-year-old, who has made at least 32 starts in four straight seasons, came out of his April 23 start against the Angels after five innings due to shoulder tightness. He’s stayed on schedule since then, pitching four more times.

Over his last two outings, Gonzalez has allowed 12 earned runs on 16 hits over 7 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out eight. He’s thrown more than 23 pitches per inning and seen his ERA rise from 2.91 to 4.62.

Gonzalez said his arm slot has been off, with his pitches getting up in the strike zone. Manager Matt Williams has noticed that Gonzalez hasn’t been able to find consistency with his release point like he usually does as a game goes along.

However, Williams said he couldn’t attribute the issues to an injury, as Gonzalez hasn’t lost velocity. On Sunday, he threw his fastball at 90-94 mph.

“He’s had a little tight shoulder earlier this year but he’s continued to pitch and tells us he feels good, so I don’t know,” Williams said. “I don’t see that.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Nats trying to make Ross Detwiler fit in ‘pen

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — When the Nationals converted Ross Detwiler into a relief pitcher near the end of Spring Training, they didn’t intend to relegate him to mop-up duty.

“He provides something special out of the bullpen,” manager Matt Williams said at the time.

“He is going to be a major part of that out of our bullpen.”

More than a month into the season, it hasn’t turned out that way for the left-hander. Jerry Blevins is the ‘pen’s primary lefty, Craig Stammen is the primary long reliever, and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen set up closer Rafael Soriano. Detwiler’s job has not been so well defined.

But Friday might have brought a positive step. Leading 5-2, the Nats called upon Detwiler to pitch the sixth inning against three left-handed batters. He retired Curtis Granderson, gave up a single to Bobby Abreu, then induced a double-play grounder from Lucas Duda.

“We keep wanting that spot for him,” Williams said on Saturday.

“We’ve told him that we want to get him more opportunities. It hasn’t worked that way through the first 41 games, but I’d imagine that at some point during this season, it’ll work better that way. So it’s encouraging, yeah.”

At three runs, it was the smallest lead Detwiler has pitched with this season, as most of his appearances have come with the game pretty much decided one way or another.

Baseball-Reference.com calculates a statistic called “leverage index,” a measurement of the pressure a player faces during a game, depending on the score and situation. A number greater than 1.0 indicates above-average pressure, while a number less than 1.0 indicates below-average pressure. Detwiler’s season average of 0.47 is the ninth-lowest among all MLB pitchers with at least 10 appearances this season. His 0.87 score on Friday was his fourth-highest of the year.

“That’s the situation we want to put him in,” Williams said. “It doesn’t work out every day, but yeah. We want to do that. We’ve had the meeting with him and talked to him about it. I’ve personally talked to him about I want to get you more of those opportunities and I’ll do my best to get you in those situations, and last night was one of them. Maybe there’s another opportunity today.”

As Williams pointed out, one obstacle is that as a converted starter, it still takes Detwiler longer to warm up in the bullpen than the team’s other relievers. Therefore, in a quick-developing situation at a key point in the game, he might not be able to get loose fast enough to get an opportunity.

Detwiler also probably hasn’t pitched well enough to demand a greater role. He has a solid 3.79 ERA in 19 innings but has allowed 22 hits, a .297 opponents’ average and nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12).

Then again, if Detwiler finds a solid role and more consistent chances along with it, his performance could benefit.

“The issue is we want to give him more work so his mechanics are good and he feels good about throwing strikes,” Williams said. “It’s like a guy who plays off the bench — the more at-bats he gets, the better timing he gets. It’s the same with pitching.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

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.

Steven Souza Jr. returns to Nationals

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Before Triple-A Syracuse played at Indianapolis on Saturday, Steven Souza Jr. was informed he wouldn’t be in the lineup. Instead, he would be heading back to Washington.

The Nationals officially recalled Souza for his second big league stint on Sunday morning, when they placed Bryce Harper on the 15-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain. Souza was in the Washington clubhouse prior to Sunday afternoon’s game against the Padres.

The 25-year-old outfielder said he feels a little more more at ease this time after his first trip to the Majors, from April 12-18, while Denard Span was on the 7-day disabled list.

“It’s kind of those first-day jitters where you don’t even know anything. You don’t know to put butter on your toast or what,” Souza said. “[Now] it’s more of how are we going to win this game, how can I help this team win, how can I be a part of this and kind of focus on that.”

Ranked by MLB.com as the Nats’ No. 14 prospect, Souza made his Major League debut on April 13 at Atlanta and picked up his first career hit on April 15 in Miami, a single to center field off Marlins lefty Dan Jennings. In all, he played five games and went 1-for-4 with a walk before being optioned back to Syracuse.

Even with Harper out, Souza might not see the field much more this time around. Manager Matt Williams indicated that Nate McLouth will see most of the starts in left field against right-handed pitchers, with Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore serving as options against lefties.

The brief demotion to Syracuse did give Souza a chance to log some much-needed swings. In four games there, he went 5-for-11 with a double and three RBI. For the season, Souza is hitting .333/.463/.545 with two homers and 10 RBI in 41 Triple-A plate appearances.

“Those ABs were huge, just to get in the rhythm of playing every day and getting some consistent ABs,” Souza said.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

Tanner Roark’s amazing run continues

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Tanner Roark was a 25th-round Draft choice who bounced between starting and relieving while posting a 4.21 ERA in his first five Minor League seasons. He entered 2013 at 26 years old and as nobody’s idea of a hot prospect.

Yet somehow, Roark’s big league performance over the past two years has surpassed anything he ever did in the Minors. Sunday afternoon brought the most striking example, as the right-hander dominated the Padres during a three-hit shutout that stood as a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings. That dropped his career ERA to 1.98 through 86 1/3 innings.

A look at Roark by the numbers:

  • 8: Roark’s career-high strikeout total Saturday, including four in the span of five batters at one point.
  • 8 1/3: The most innings Roark had thrown in a professional game at any level before Saturday.
  • 105: Roark’s pitch count, the second-lowest by any pitcher in a shutout this season.
  • 14-to-3: Roark’s ratio of groundouts to flyouts. Entering Saturday, he had more flyouts this year.
  • 23: Batters out of 31 that saw a first-pitch strike from Roark.
  • 1: Earned runs allowed by Roark in 35 career innings at Nats Park, a 0.26 ERA.
  • 7: Number of career starts, out of 10, in which Roark has allowed two runs or fewer.
  • .189: Batting average of right-handed hitters against Roark in his career, with no home runs.
  • 3: Roark’s career high in walks. He had one on Saturday, throwing 69.5% strikes.

The soft-spoken native of Wilmington, Ill., isn’t one to spend too many words examining his own success. Asked after Saturday’s game if knew why his Major League performance has eclipsed his Minor League performance, he smiled and said, “You got me.”

Roark and manager Matt Williams both talked about the importance of Roark’s changeup on Saturday, especially against left-handed batters, who went 0-for-17 with one walk and six strikeouts against him. Roark called it his best pitch of the day, over his fastball, slider and curve.

“He’s aggressive,” Williams said. “He threw a lot of really good changeups today for strikes and that’s one of his weapons. He keeps lefties off balance with that. Comeback fastball into the lefties as well.”

That comeback, or two-seam, fastball is important as well. Roark said he’s talked with Livan Hernandez about the way Greg Maddux used to use that pitch to tail back over the inside corner against left-handed batters.

“You see guys jumping out the way because they think it’s going to hit them and it goes right across the plate,” Roark said. “It’s a very effective pitch. The biggest thing for me is I’ve got to stay on the pitch as long as I possibly can and not come out of it.”

How long Roark can stay on his current run of big league success remains to be seen — some regression is inevitable. But at the least, he seems to have solidified his place in a rotation spot he didn’t lock up until Doug Fister went on the disabled list at the end of Spring Training.

“When he takes the mound, it feels like he’s under control to all of us,” Williams said. “There’s definitely a trust factor there.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Thumb still swollen, Harper sits out (updated)

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — A day after coming out of the Nationals’ win over the Padres with a jammed left thumb, Bryce Harper was not in the club’s starting lineup for Saturday afternoon’s game. Kevin Frandsen started in left field in his place, but manager Matt Williams said Harper would be available off the bench “for sure.”

Harper suffered the injury diving headfirst into third base on a fourth-inning triple and came out an inning later. X-rays were negative, but Harper continued to experience swelling on Saturday, according to Williams. He is scheduled to see a hand specialist at some point during the day. [UPDATE: Williams said after the game that Harper saw the specialist during the game and is undergoing an MRI, with results likely available by Sunday. Harper probably will sit out Sunday's game as well, which would give him three straight days of rest, including Monday's off-day.]

“There’s some swelling there, so we just want to make sure we knock it out,” Williams said.

* In other news, Williams said pitcher Gio Gonzalez was doing “fine” after coming out of Wednesday’s start with tightness in his left shoulder. Gonzalez did some throwing on Thursday, took batting practice on Friday without problems and likely will throw a bullpen session on Sunday.

“We anticipate him being OK,” Williams said.

On Monday, the Nats get their first off-day in three weeks, and Williams will use it to give each member of the starting rotation an extra day of rest, instead of skipping someone.

* Right-hander Doug Fister (right lat strain) still is scheduled to make his first Minor League rehab start on Sunday at Class A Advanced Potomac.

* The hand specialist who saw Harper also examined catcher Wilson Ramos and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, recovering from a hamate fracture and a thumb fracture, respectively. Williams said Zimmerman still is “some time away” from be able to grip a ball.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

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

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