Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

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.

Smoltz’s take on Nats, Braves

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Former Major League pitcher John Smoltz, now an analyst for MLB Network, feels the current four-game series between the Nationals and Braves is more important for the Nationals because they need to psychologically show they can beat the Braves.

Entering Thursday’s game, the Braves had won five out of six games against the Nationals this season, but Smoltz pointed out that the Braves have not played good baseball lately. Atlanta won 16 of its first 24 games, but has gone 19-28 since then. It doesn’t help that the Braves have been inconsistent on offense. The Braves’ pitching staff was off to a great start, but it has struggled lately.

“You have two teams that are going in opposite directions,” Smoltz said.  “One [the Nationals] is trying to get healthy and the other team [Braves] is trying to get back to its winning ways. It’s been a rough stretch. It will be an interesting series, unless there is a sweep.”

Smoltz did not predict who will win the series, but he is impressed with the Nationals’ pitching staff. He said their pitching depth is so good that they can mix and match with any team. Smoltz also said the bullpen is underrated.

“[The bullpen] is probably the best in the National League collectively,” Smoltz said.

Smoltz believes the Nationals will be even better once their players are healthy. The biggest piece that is missing is outfielder Bryce Harper, who hasn’t played since April 25 because of torn ligaments in his right thumb. As of now,  Harper is expected to be back by July 1.

Smoltz pointed out the Nationals have been inconsistent scoring runs because key players such as Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos have been hurt at some point this season. Like Harper, Ramos is expected to be back with the team soon.

“Once they get healthy, they will score more runs than they have been scoring,” Smoltz said. “Left-handed, when you are missing LaRoche like you were and you are missing Harper. That’s a big left-handed weapon out of your lineup. The right-handed hitters have held their own, but they have to get some balance in their lineup.”

Nats’ Zimmermann named NL Player of the Week

Bill Ladson

SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was named the National League Player of the Week, Major League Baseball made the announcement this afternoon on MLB Network.

In earning his first NL Player of the Week honors, Zimmermann went 2-0, allowed just seven hits, walked one and struck out 16 batters. He held opposing batters to a .121 batting average and 71 percent of the 216 pitches he threw were strikes. Both of his starts turned into shutouts for the Nationals.

May was rough for Zimmermann, who had 5.06 ERA during the month. In his first start in June, he looked like the pitcher who won 19 games for Washington last year, allowing five hits in eight innings and striking out four. It helped that he threw his slider for strikes.

This past Sunday, Zimmermann had a arguably his best start of his career, pitching a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory over the Padres.

Zimmermann retired the first 16 hitters he faced and recorded seven strikeouts before Alexi Amarista singled to right field to record the Padres’ first hit. Zimmermann allowed two hits in the game and struck out a career-high 12 batters.

Zimmermann is the second pitcher in franchise history and the first since Jeff Fassero on June 29, 1996, to pitch a complete game shutout during which he allowed two or fewer hits and struck out 11 or more batters. Zimmermann is the first Major League pitcher to accomplish this feat since Shelby Miller did so against the Rockies on May 10 of last year after he allowed just one hit and struck out 13.

According to the Bill James Game Score, one metric for measuring dominant pitching mances, Zimmermann’s outing ranked as the best in Nationals (2005-present) history with a score of 95.

Zimmermann, who was named the NL Pitcher of the Month in July 2012, is the seventh Nationals player to win an NL POTW award, and earns the ninth such honor for the organization.

Zimmermann joins 3B Ryan Zimmerman (July 16-22, 2012; Aug. 15-21, 2011; July 30-Aug. 5, 2007), RHP Stephen Strasburg (June 7-13, 2010), OF Josh Willingham (July 27-Aug. 2, 2009), SS Cristian Guzman (Aug. 25-31, 2008), UTIL Willie Harris (July 17-20, 2008), and 1B Nick Johnson (May 31-June 6, 2005) as honorees.

Nats’ Williams happy for Ryan Ripken

By Bill Ladson

SAN DIEGO — The Nationals selected first baseman Ryan Ripken, son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., in the 15th round of the First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.

Manager Matt Williams, who played against Ripken Jr. in the 1990s, thought it was great that Ryan will get a chance to prove himself in the Nationals organization.

“There’s immense pressure on that young man,” Williams said about Ryan. “It’s too bad, but I think he will handle it real well. Dad, uncle, grandfather, great bloodlines, great work ethic. We’ll be happy to have him. If he can bring that work ethic to us, it will be nothing but a benefit.”

Nats’ Rendon listed day to day with thumb injury

By Bill Ladson
It was a weird 24th birthday for Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon during the team’s 6-0 victory over the Padres. In the first inning, Rendon put Washington on the board by hitting a two-run homer against right-hander Tyson Ross.

But Rendon would later leave the game in the top of the sixth inning because of a sore right thumb. He hurt it while making an error two innings earlier off the bat of Carlos Quentin. X-rays on Rendon’s thumb were negative. Rendon is listed as day to day.

“I feel all right. Pretty sore,” Rendon said.  “I really didn’t feel it. It just went straight to numbness.”

Rendon has been one of Washington’s hottest hitters, going 12-for 29 [.414] with four home runs and eight RBIs in his last seven games. The Nationals are 6-1 in those games.

 

 

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.”

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.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers