Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

Williams declines to responds to criticism

By Bill Ladson

ATLANTA — Over the last few days, Nationals manager Matt Williams has been criticized by the press for things like the way he communicates with his players and the way he handles the bullpen.

Asked to respond to the criticism that has been written about him recently, Williams said, “If we are going to talk about, it’s going take longer than a conference like this. I think you have to have all the facts and I mean all of them. That being said, I’ll hold my comments now because all of the facts are not out there. It doesn’t feel good. … It is what it is, and we will move on from today. I would say we have a few games to play. We need to play well. That’s what I’m concentrating on now, and we’ll deal with it at the appropriate time.”

With pope in town, Nats could use blessing

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Entering Tuesday’s action the Nationals were 6 ½ games behind the Mets in the National League East race with 13 games to go. With Pope Francis arriving in DC on Tuesday, Nationals manager Matt Williams was asked if he wanted the Pope to bless the Nationals. What was Williams’ response?

“I would like for us to win tonight’s game and we go from there,” Williams said.

Williams said he doesn’t expect Pope Francis to visit Nationals Park, “but he is the Pope, so you never know.” he said.

Moore trying to take advantage of playing time

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore doesn’t play often, but he took advantage of the playing time he received the last two games against the Marlins.

Starting because of the oblique injury to Ryan Zimmerman, Moore went 3-for-8, with two home runs and four RBIs.

“It’s great to help these guys a little bit, get a couple of knocks and kind of get things going,” Moore said.

Moore has been in and out of the Major Leagues the last three years. It’s one of the reasons he is out of Minor League options. When he is with the Major League team, playing time is scarce. Don’t look for Moore to complain about that, though.

“There are some things you can’t control,” Moore said. “One thing you can control is the attitude. You just try to come every day and be a light to this locker room, keep my mouth shut and just do my work. That’s what they need from a bench guy.”

Clint Robinson doesn’t mind facing aces

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — In the bottom of the second inning of Friday’s 5-4 win over the Marlins, the Nationals’ Clint Robinson walloped a Jose Fernandez fastball into the second deck of the right-field seats at Nats Park.

The solo shot continued an amazing trend for Robinson, who continually has risen to the challenge when facing the toughest competition this season. Entering 2015, the 30-year-old had tallied a total of 14 Major League plate appearances, three hits and no home runs, but after making the Nats’ roster as a longshot, check out his success against some of the top starting pitchers in the league:

  • Madison Bumgarner* (SF) …. 2-for-3, 2B
  • Gerrit Cole (PIT) ……………. 1-for-3, 2B
  • Jacob deGrom (NYM) ……… 1-for-5, RBI
  • Zack Greinke (LAD) ………… 3-for-6
  • Matt Harvey (NYM) ………… 3-for-8, 2B, BB, 3 RBI
  • Jose Fernandez (MIA) …….. 2-for-3, HR, RBI
  • Clayton Kershaw* (LAD) …… 1-for-3
  • Francisco Liriano* (PIT) ……. 1-for-2, 2B, BB
  • Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) …….1-for-3

*Left-handed pitcher (Robinson bats lefty)

Totals: 15-for-36 (.417) with 2 BB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Opponents have hit .241 against Cole, which ranked 48th in the Majors among starters with at least 45 innings, entering Friday. The other eight pitchers all had opponents averages of .227 or below, ranking in the top 21.

Obviously, Robinson’s numbers here are a small sample size, though they include most of his encounters with upper-level starters. But while it doesn’t mean that Robinson has some special talent for hitting aces, it’s still impressive what he has accomplished against them, given his limited big league experience.

“I do the same thing I do no matter who’s on the mound,” he said. “Most of the time those top-of-the rotation guys, they’re strike throwers, so that’s always good when you get them in the strike zone and do something with it. Just try to approach every at-bat the same, go up there and not do too much and let whatever happens once you hit the ball happen. There’s nothing really special about it.”

Nats manager Matt Williams pointed to Friday’s home run, which came on a 94-mph fastball, as an example of how Robinson has succeeded in those spots.

“I just think it’s a short swing,” Williams said. “So somebody like Jose, if he throws you a fastball, he’s going to provide all the power you need, and a short, level, compact swing will do the trick. He didn’t swing hard at that ball, and it went in the upper deck.”

And it’s not like Robinson has only hit against top-of-the-rotation starters. He’s been a surprisingly solid contributor for the Nats all season, especially since Ryan Zimmerman’s first disabled-list stint in June opened up some regular playing time.

While Robinson’s numbers as a pinch-hitter are modest, he is batting .299/.386/.457 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 64 starts.

Not bad for a 30-year-old rookie.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Werth: ‘It’s not over ‘til it’s over’

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — With 24 games to go in the regular season, the Nationals find themselves six games behind the Mets in the National League East race.

On Tuesday, Washington blew a six-run lead and lost a heartbreaker to New York, 8-7, and Jayson Werth realizes that time is running out. He knows his team has to win almost every game if it wants to win the division crown for the second year in a row.

“Well, it’s going to be tough,” Werth said. “We have to win tomorrow. I come from the school of never say die. It’s not over ‘til it’s over. We’re not out ‘til we’re out. But this one is tough to swallow.”

To keep that postseason dream alive, the Nationals must win Wednesday’s game against the Mets.

“I mean, you know the guys at this point really well,” Werth said. “You’ve spent a lot of time with them. It’s a resilient group, resilient bunch. Obviously this is a tough one. This is probably the toughest loss … I’m not going to say in my career, but it’s right up there. So we’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to fight back. It’s going to be a long, hard road for us. There’s a lot of games left in the season and like I said It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

Nats’ Scherzer has rough outing vs. Mets

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — After Monday’s 8-5 loss to the Mets, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer said he was going to have a sleepless night trying to figure out why he has allowed so many home runs lately.

“I think it’s frustrating because everybody thinks they could have done something better today. It starts with me,” Scherzer said. “I know I can pitch better. I give [the Mets] credit for what they were able to accomplish. I’m not taking anything away from them. … When I’m up, they were able to punish me. I accept that. I’m not here to shy away from that.”

The Mets were able to get to Scherzer early by taking a 3-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings. All three runs came on solo home runs by Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes. In fact, Scherzer has allowed 14 home runs and three homers in a game three times during the second half of the season.

Scherzer then was given a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning, thanks to the grand slam by Wilson Ramos and RBI double by Jayson Werth. But Scherzer couldn’t hold on to the lead.

Curtis Granderson had an RBI double an inning later to make it a one-run game in favor of the Nationals. After Cespedes led off the sixth inning with a double, Scherzer balked Cepedes to third and that allowed Travis d’Arnaud to tie the score with a sacrifice fly.

Scherzer acknowledged he was disappointed that he couldn’t hold on to the lead.

“I was making mistakes in the zone,” Scherzer said. “I’m leaving the ball thigh-high instead of getting the ball down in the knees. That’s something that has been systematic in the second half. That’s something I have to get better at. I have to get the ball down in the zone, getting it back at knee level. That’s what is going to keep me up late tonight. I have to figure out how to do that.”

Nats’ Zimmerman scratched with sore foot

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Nationals manager Matt Williams told team broadcaster Dave Jageler that first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was scratched from Sunday’s lineup against the Braves because of a sore left foot.

Zimmerman has been dealing with a sore foot since June. In fact, he spent almost a month on the disabled list because of plantar fasciitis.

Williams is hoping that Zimmerman can return to the lineup Monday afternoon against the Mets, who are in first place in the N.L. East by five games entering Sunday’s action.

Zimmerman has been the Nationals’ hottest hitter. Since August 23, Zimmerman is 20-for-51 [.392] with seven home runs, 25 RBIs.

With Zimmerman out of the lineup, Tyler Moore received the start at first base and is hitting eighth in the lineup.

Gio has quality outing against Braves

WASHINGTON — Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez had his best outing in over a month in an 8-2 victory over the Braves on Saturday night.

Gonzalez had a no-hitter until the sixth inning, when Nick Markakis singled to right-center field to start the inning. Gonzalez left the game after throwing 106 pitches in six innings. Thirty of those pitches came in his last inning, during which the Braves had the bases loaded with two outs, but Andrelton Simmons grounded into a force play to end the threat.

“I thought he commanded the strike zone well today,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “He threw some good breaking balls to strike guys out. … He managed pitched counts in innings two through four. He was able to get through six for us.”

As usual, Gonzalez gave credit to the people who played a role in his 10th victory of the season.

“Defense, offense and definitely our catcher. Wilson [Ramos] did a great job back there mixing it up, trying to pound the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just being on the same page with your catcher. It helps out a lot, especially with Willie just wanting to be aggressive today. You can hear him, he was telling me yesterday and he was telling me today, ‘Let’s go, let’s pound the strike zone.’

“Before the game I also told Cat [pitching coach Steve McCatty] I trust Willie’s game and I’m going to follow his program, and it worked. He knows what he’s doing back there, and he’s caught some great games.”

Turner, adjusting to new role, picks up first hit

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Trea Turner had some conflicting feelings after he crossed first base in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night at Nationals Park. The rookie infielder had just beaten out a slow ground ball to second base for what potentially was his Major League hit — pending the decision of the official scorer.

“I thought I was out. Then I was hoping they gave me an error a little bit, but then I was hoping for the hit,” he said. “Obviously, your first one, you want it to be special or legit, whatever you want to call it, a line drive somewhere, a base hit. I was hoping for both sides a little bit, but obviously it’s nice to get that out of the way … I’ll take it.”

After a long pause, the scorer made his decision: single. It may have been a generous call, given that Braves second baseman Jace Peterson double-clutched before throwing to first baseman Nick Swisher, who dropped the ball. But Turner, running at a blazing top speed of 21.187 mph, according to Statcast, forced the issue.  

And while the hit might not have been pretty, Turner wasn’t going to complain, almost two weeks after his debut, and in his 10th career at-bat. The ball sat in his locker, though Turner planned to give it to his parents for safe keeping.

“You take what’s given to you and can’t complain with any bloop hits, because you’re going to line out a lot,” Turner said. “That’s what I figured out in Triple-A a little bit. I think I started out 0-for-15 or 0-for-18 or something, hit a few line drives, hit a few soft ones and just had those fall in. So when you get a hit, you just take it.”

Indeed, Turner generally been a slow starter. He went 0-for-10 in his first three games for the Padres’ Double-A San Antonio affiliate to begin the year. After a brief stint at Double-A Harrisburg following his move to the Nats organization, he climbed to Triple-A Syracuse and went 0-for-17 over his first five games. He still ended up batting better than .300 at all three of those stops. 

Since getting called up on Aug. 21, Turner had been 0-for-9, though he arguably should have had an infield single in his debut on another close play at first. But this is a different challenge for the 22-year-old top prospect, not only because it’s the big leagues, but also because he is having to adjust to coming off the bench. All eight of his appearances have come as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or defensive replacement.

“I’ve been seeing it good, I just feel like I haven’t always been on time with the pitches and haven’t got in a rhythm like I would normally getting four or five at-bats every day,” Turner said. “So it’s tough, but you’ve got to battle.”

He’s been leaning on another rookie, albeit a much older one, in Clint Robinson. Like Turner, Robinson has been forced to adapt to a bench roles for much of this season, racking up 39 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

“He hangs out with me in the dugout a little bit and has been asking questions, kind of picking my brain a little bit about what I’ve learned this year,” Robinson said. “He knows I’m new to it just like he is. But I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. He’s going to be a good player for a long time.”

Nats gain ground on Mets

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — By defeating the Marlins, 5-1, on Saturday night, the Nationals are 5 1/2 games behind the Mets, who lost to the Red Sox, 3-1, earlier in the day. It was the first time in 11 days Washington gained ground on New York in the National League East race.

Some of the Nats are denying that they are not paying attention to what the Mets are doing. But first baseman/outfielder Clint Robinson has his eyes on the Mets.

“I don’t know about everybody else, but I do,” Robinson said. “That’s who were chasing in the playoff race. If I see that they lost and it’s a chance for us to gain a game, I want that as badly as I do any other win. We saw it and it was a good opportunity for us to gain a game.”

Manager Matt Williams said the Nationals understand they have to win games, but can’t control anything else.

“If we win, we have an opportunity to [gain ground],” Williams said. “If we don’t, then we don’t. Tomorrow is another opportunity. So if we can win that one, we can have that same chance tomorrow as well.”


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