Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

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.

Source: Nats have interest in Cotts

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – Although the non-waiver trade deadline has past, the Nationals are still looking to improve their bullpen. According to a baseball source, the Nationals have interest in Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts. But, so far, the Rangers don’t like what teams have been offering for Cotts.

Cotts is a pitcher who can get all hitters out. Entering Monday’s action, left-handed hitters have a .265 batting average against Cotts, while right-handed hitters are hitting .246 against the left-hander. Cotts has appeared in 52 games for Rangers this season and has a respectable 3.38 ERA.

The Nationals have been looking for a left-handed reliever since before the non-waiver trade deadline. They had interest in left-hander Andrew Miller, but the Red Sox traded him to the Orioles for left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Currently, the Nationals have two lefties in their bullpen. Jerry Blevins has been hit hard since June 14. He has allowed 13 runs in 14 2/3 innings. Ross Detwiler doesn’t have the experience of being a late-inning lefty, although manager Matt Williams said recently that Detwiler will be used in important situations.

Trying to trade for a player after the non-waiver deadline is nothing new for the Nationals. On Aug. 3, 2012, the Nationals acquired catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Athletics for Minor League catcher David Freitas. At the time, the Nationals were unhappy with Jesus Flores’ game calling behind the plate.

For Nats GM Rizzo, ‘there are no small trades’

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — A little more than a year after the D-backs selected him in the ninth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Zach Walters was shipped to the Nationals at the ‘11 Trade Deadline for veteran pitcher Jason Marquis.

Three years of development later, Walters turned out to be the piece Nats general manager Mike Rizzo needed to acquire infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians ahead of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET Deadline. The move signaled how every deal — even those considered to be minor — can send ripples well out into the future.

“If there’s one thing we’ve shown here, it’s that there are no small trades,” Rizzo said. “All the trades are important to us. They can be characterized at the time you make them as a small deal, but sometimes the small deals turn into gold.”

Walters, then 21, had only 166 Class A games under his belt when Washington acquired him. In his new organization, he worked his way up the ladder, getting brief tastes of the Majors each of the past two seasons. This year, at 24, he was tearing up International League pitching at Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .300/.358/.608 with 38 extra-base hits, including 15 homers, while playing four different positions.

“He’s played well coming up in our Minor League system,” Rizzo said. “Our developers did a great job with him. We [traded for] him as a young A-ball player that was really kind of unproven, but our scouts recognized something in him.”

But Walters is not the only example Rizzo can point to of a “minor” trade paying significant dividends.

At the 2010 deadline, Rizzo shipped veteran infielder Christian Guzman to the Rangers for a pair of prospects, including right-hander Tanner Roark. It took Roark some time to blossom, but after a strong debut in ‘13, he’s posted a 2.74 ERA in 21 starts this season.

Including Cabrera, the Nats will have a 25-man roster that includes 10 players acquired via trade. They range from blockbusters like the Doug Fister deal this past winter to swaps that only became huge later, like a December 2007 exchange of young pitchers that netted the Nats Tyler Clippard, a staple of their bullpen for the past six years.

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.

Soriano leads group of Nats’ All-Star snubs

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Rafael Soriano entered Sunday’s game against the Cubs with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, tossed six of his eight pitches for strikes and retired the side in order for his 21st save. It was a performance representative of the closer’s strong season, yet Soriano was not among the pitchers named to the National League All-Star team a couple of hours later.

Soriano headed the list of snubs for the Nats, who have only one guaranteed All-Star despite a 48-39 record that puts them a half-game behind the Braves in the NL East. While right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was selected for the second year in a row and infielder Anthony Rendon is one of five Final Vote candidates, Washington has at least a few other players who can argue reasonably for inclusion.

“I think there’s some guys that are deserving, Soriano being one of them,” Zimmermann said. “He’s having a great year. Hopefully we can get Rendon in there, too.”

In his second season with Washington, Soriano has converted 21 of 23 save opportunities and held the opposition scoreless in 32 of his 35 appearances. He boasts a 1.03 ERA and .154 opponents’ average in 35 innings, with 11 walks, 18 hits and only one home run allowed, along with 32 strikeouts.

Then there’s the set-up duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, which has been about as reliable getting leads to Soriano as he has been saving them. Storen allowed a run on Sunday, only his fourth in 27 innings this season, a 1.33 ERA to go along with a .204 opponents’ average. Clippard wiggled out of a jam in the eighth inning for his 29th scoreless appearance out of his past 30. He’s posted a 1.89 ERA, a .200 opponents’ average and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Clippard was asked if he was surprised the back end of the Nats’ bullpen came up empty in terms of All-Star nods.

“It’s a joke, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know who’s gonna make it. I’m sure there’s a lot of worthy guys out there, but what Soriano’s done this year, there’s no way he doesn’t make the All-Star team, in my opinion. That guy’s got under a 1.00 ERA and 21 saves, and it’s incredible that he didn’t make it.”

Beyond Rendon and the bullpen, first baseman Adam LaRoche has an argument for making his first Midsummer Classic in his 11-year career. After going 0-for-2 with a pair of walks on Sunday, LaRoche is hitting .294/.401/.482, which would give him the second-highest OPS of his career and the eighth-best in the NL this season.

However, LaRoche also missed 14 games with a quad strain, which has cut into his counting stats (12 home runs, 45 RBIs). That hurts in a crowded field of NL first basemen.

Of course, the Nats’ All-Star contingent still could grow, either through the Final Vote or the usual flood of replacements due to injury or other factors.

“I think there’s a couple other guys that are deserving to go,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Rendy’s in the running for it, so hopefully he gets it. But I think he’s been an All-Star. You could argue for Soriano. He’s been lights-out. You could argue for Adam. There’s two or three guys extra that I think should be acknowledged, especially because we’ve been playing good baseball as a team. We’re pretty much a first-place team, and we only have one guy, so I think that’s a little odd.”

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.

Nationals sign four more international prospects

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Nationals announced four international free agent signings on Saturday, bringing their total to nine since Wednesday, the start of the 2014-15 international signing period.

On Saturday, the Nats inked Venezeulan right-handed pitchers Tomas Alastre, Pedro Avila and Christian Flores, as well as Panamanian left-hander Gilberto Chu. Avila is 17 years old, while the other three are 16.

According to the club, Alastre recently converted to the mound from shortstop, while Avila is “durable and competitive.” Chu already offers a three-pitch mix, and Flores was described as “projectable … with an athletic body and good arm action.”

Washington opened up the signing period on Wednesday by agreeing to deals with five prospects.

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.”

Ian Desmond punishes intentional walks

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Rockies faced a difficult choice in the sixth inning of Monday’s game at Nationals Park, as Bryce Harper trode to the plate with runners at second and third and one out in a 2-2 game. They could have right-hander Rob Scahill pitch to Harper, or walk him intentionally to load the bases in order to go after Ian Desmond in hopes of inducing an inning-ending double play.

Colorado manager Walt Weiss picked Option B, setting up Desmond to punish yet another free pass. And when Scahill looped a first-pitch curveball over the plate, Desmond blistered a shot down the left-field line for a go-ahead, bases-clearing double.

The hit made Desmond 11-for-16 (.647) with 16 RBI in his career when the previous batter is walked intentionally, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s certainly a small sample, but an impressive one nonetheless.

“I just try to do the same thing I do every other time,” Desmond said. “And it’s just a good situation to hit in — bases loaded, less than two outs — that’s what you’re looking for.”

Indeed, Desmond has feasted in those spots as well.

With the bases full this season, he has gone 6-for-6 with a double, a home run and 14 RBI. In 61 career plate appearances in those situations, he has posted a line of .444/.377/.611, with three doubles, two home runs and 54 RBI, including seven sacrifice flies. Among active players with at least 50 bases-loaded plate appearances, Desmond’s batting average ranks first.

Always an aggressive hitter, Desmond certainly has been a free swinger with the bases packed, never drawing a walk. In his six chances this season, he has seen a total of 14 pitches.

But Desmond said that regardless of the situation, he doesn’t walk up to the plate with any additional motivation to do damage.

“If you need any extra boost at this level, you’re not where you’re supposed to be,” he said. “None of us are up there hoping for an extra boost or an extra edge or anything like that. I’m trying to do my best when there’s nobody on or when the bases loaded, or intentional walk or not.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Nats’ Harper back in lineup

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — The Nationals activated outfielder Bryce Harper from the 15-day disabled list ahead of Monday night’s game against the Rockies. He will be in the lineup playing left field and hitting sixth.

“I’m excited. I come in here and I’m able to get back out there for a team that is in contention,” Harper said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m excited to be back.”

Harper hasn’t played a Major League game since April 25, when he tore an ulnar collateral ligament in the left thumb while sliding headfirst into third base against the Padres. A little over two months later, Harper said he is not going to change his running style. He plans to slide into the bases headfirst and feet first.

“Sliding headfirst is what I’m comfortable doing. I’m going to keep doing it,” Harper said.

Before he was activated, Harper played five Minor League games this past week and went a combined 9-for-14 [.643] with four home runs and 10 RBIs for Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. His best game was on Saturday, when he hit three home runs for Harrisburg. Harper had the day off Sunday.

“I felt good at the plate,” Harper said. “That’s the only thing I really cared about. I cared less about being on base or in the outfield or anything like that. It’s always a process. With my swing, I felt pretty good. It was where I needed to be. I’m very excited to come back and hopefully help this team win.”

With Harper coming back to the Major Leagues, it means that Ryan Zimmerman will go from left field to third base, while third baseman Anthony Rendon will return to second base. Danny Espinosa will return to the bench.

Harper said Zimmerman should stay in left, while Rendon should stay at third.

“Rendon is a great third baseman and should be playing third and we have one of the best [defensive] second baseman in Danny Espinosa,” Harper said. “Of course you want the best hitting lineup in there. I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team.”

It will be interesting to see how this new arrangement works out, as Zimmerman, who has won a Gold Glove at third, said recently that he is more comfortable in left field and that Rendon is the best man to play third base. Rendon has been playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third.

“Going out to left field gave us the best chance to win. It’s a good problem to have. Too many good players and not enough spots,” Zimmerman said recently. “I’ll see what happens. I’m pretty comfortable in left and I think Anthony is a hell of a third baseman. I think there is no doubt right now he is better over there than me. But you have to have your best players in the lineup somehow. Whatever [manager] Matt [Williams] needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

As one source said, “the team needs to get better offensively.”

Harper improves a lineup that has been sputtering since he went on the disabled list. During Harper’s absence, the Nationals hit .237 with a .304 on-base percentage. The team also went 30-27 during his absence.

Harper is expected to balance a lineup that was mostly right-handed. Harper and Adam LaRoche and Denard Span are expected to be the left-handed hitters in the lineup.

“Just his mere presence in the lineup is going to be huge,” an American League scout said about Harper’s return. “I think [the Nationals] will become even better because you have to respect Harper’s bat. [When] you have Wilson Ramos [behind the plate], the Nationals should be clicking on all cylinders.”

One baseball source also said that some of the starting players will rotate on occasion. Not only will Zimmerman play third base, he will continue to see playing time in left field and at first base. Harper could see time in all three outfield spots, while Span and Jayson Werth could get days off.

With Harper back on the team, the Nationals optioned Xavier Cedeno to Triple A Syracuse.

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