Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Earlier this week, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he did not anticipate making any trades or dramatic roster moves upon Bryce Harper’s return, which is expected sometime in July.
“These things usually have a way of taking care of themselves,” Rizzo said.
While the Nationals aren’t expected to make any significant moves, a baseball source said opposing teams are still inquiring about second baseman Danny Espinosa. But, as of now, the Nationals are not interested in trading him. The source said recently the Nationals still believe in Espinosa and predict he will be an All Star one day.
Espinosa is currently playing every day because of injuries to Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. It forced the team to switch Anthony Rendon from second base to third base and Espinosa from the bench to second base.
While Espinosa has been struggling at the plate, he continues to be a wizard with the glove. He has made only four errors in 66 games entering Friday’s action against the Braves. The Nationals are also looking at Espinosa as insurance in case something happened to shortstop Ian Desmond. The source pointed out there is no one on the Major League team or the Minor League system who could replace Desmond for a long period of time other than Espinosa.
While the Nationals are not looking to trade Ross Detwiler, the source said they would listen if there is any interest in the left-hander.
Detwiler hasn’t seen much action as a long reliever and is off to a start, allowing 16 earned runs in 29 innings. The source pointed out that Detwiler’s trade value is low because of the slow start and that he missed most of last season because of back issues.
If teams have interest in Detwiler, it would be as a starter. Detwiler best season came as a starter. In 2012, Detwiler was the fifth starter for Washington, winning 10 games with a respectable 3.40 ERA. Detwiler said recently he still sees himself as a starter.
“That’s where I’m most comfortable. You are able to get a routine down. You know when you are going to pitch,” Detwiler said. “I’m always a good routine person. It changed a little bit — how much you run, how much you lift. Through all that stuff between starts, that’s the biggest difference.”
It’s also looks like Adam LaRoche will be with the Nationals the entire season. There has been talk about putting Ryan Zimmerman at first base. But the source pointed out that LaRoche is not only having a productive season [.297, eight home runs and 35 RBIs entering Friday’s action], he is a good influence in the clubhouse.
LaRoche and the Nationals have a mutual option after this season, but there hasn’t been any talk about an extension, according to LaRoche.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.