Results tagged ‘ Steve Lombardozzi ’

Harper’s big bunt: Nats surprise, reap benefits

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper owns one of baseball’s most violent and dangerous swings, so when he walks to the plate in a crucial situation with a runner in scoring position, he is expected to use it.

The Nationals defied those expectations during a key moment in Saturday night’s 8-5 comeback win against the Phillies.

It was Harper’s run-scoring bunt in the seventh inning that tied the game and set up Jayson Werth’s dramatic go-ahead home run one batter later. Asked to grade the bunt after the game, Werth gave it an “S for surprising,” and it certainly was that.

The Nationals entered the seventh training, 4-3. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replaced starting pitcher Cliff Lee with another left-hander, Jake Diekman, and Nats skipper Davey Johnson sent up pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi.

Lombardozzi got things started with a walk, moved to second on Denard Span’s sacrifice and then boldly stole third to move 90 feet from tying the game with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate.

“Well, [Diekman’s] real slow to the plate,” Johnson said. “He’s like 1.6, 1.7 [seconds]. That’s what you do. But [Lombardozzi’s] a smart baserunner. He had a good jump and he got in pretty easy.”

Zimmerman walked to put runners on the corners for Harper. On one hand, the 20-year-old is one of Washington’s deadliest hitters, not your usual candidate for a bunt. In his career, Harper had never driven home a run with a bunt, and he had used them for five sacrifices and one hit.

But a couple of factors, other than the element of surprise, made the bunt a more appealing proposition. For one thing, Harper hasn’t been the same offensive threat he was early in the year, entering Saturday hitting .225 with a .734 OPS since April 28. He went into that at-bat hitting .174 against lefties, with 26 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances. And lefties are 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 Ks against Diekman this year.

Johnson called for the bunt, later saying his reasoning was simply to, “get a run in.” Third base coach Trent Jewett passed Harper the signal to safety squeeze, meaning he only tries to bunt on a strike, and Lombardozzi only breaks for home if Harper gets it down.

Harper took a slider just inside for ball one. He later said Jewett took the bunt off on the 1-0 pitch, a slider down and away that Harper swung through. Jewett signaled for it again on the next pitch, and Harper hung with a slider up and inside. He got it in the air, but in the right spot, the ball shooting toward second base and reaching Chase Utley on one hop. With no play at home, and no chance for a double play, Utley took the force at second, and the game was tied.

“I mean, he hung a slider, so it kind of caught me off-guard a little bit,” Harper said. “I think if it was a fastball, it would’ve gone straight into the ground, because he has pretty good two-seam action on his fastball. The slider, I tried to hit it into right field, it looked like. Thankfully it fell in front of Utley and we got that run.”

Of getting called on to squeeze in that spot, Harper said, “I love it. I think it’s great.” It may have been a surprising call, but it worked.

“The last thing you want to do right there is hit into a double play,” Werth said. “Sometimes, first and third with one out and the game on the line like that, a bunt’s a good play if it works out. But a guy like Bryce, you want to see Bryce swing the bat. But when the guy he’s facing is a nasty lefty, Charlie Manuel would always talk about being creative in the moment. Bryce was definitely creative in the moment right there.”

A big day for Steve Lombardozzi

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

As the Nationals returned from the All-Star break and the losses began to pile up, Steve Lombardozzi waited patiently for his opportunity to make an impact. On Thursday, he got it.

The 24-year-old spelled Anthony Rendon at second base in the Nationals’ series-finale against the Pirates and went 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored, and one RBI. He also made a few big defensive plays, leaving his imprint in every aspect of Washington’s 9-7 walk-off win.

“That’s why I play this game,” he said. “I want to get in there and give this team a boost, get some energy and try and give us a spark. And I was able to do that today. It was a fun win, and a big one.”

Since the day that he first joined the Nationals in September 2011, Lombardozzi has more or less been a bench player. He has played three positions this season and pinch-hit 34 times. And after filling in for an injured Danny Espinosa in May, he hasn’t had consistent playing time all season.

“You want to help, so I cheer from the bench when I’m not playing,” Lombardozzi said, “but it’s good to get in there and pick these guys up a bit and get them going.”

Lombardozzi’s bunt single in the first inning helped the Nationals get on the board early, and his ground-rule double to left field in the eighth inning scored Roger Bernadina, the first of three much-needed insurance runs.

“Lombo’s unbelievable,” Bryce Harper, who won the game with a two-run homer in the ninth, said. “He’s an unbelievable player, he has been since the first time I met him in the fall league. He can play second base like no other and he can swing it. He’s a .300 hitter and I really believe he’s going to help us down the stretch. He’s a great ballplayer.”

Lombardozzi wasn’t sure that he would even be playing in Thursday’s game until a few hours before first pitch. Ian Desmond missed Wednesday’s game with a blister on his hand, and when he was a late addition to the lineup on Thursday, Lombardozzi thought he would go back to the bench. Instead, manager Davey Johnson decided to rest Rendon and give Lombardozzi a rare day of multiple at-bats.

“It’s a whole different ball game when you get a start, know you’re going to get 3, 4, 5 at-bats,” Lombardozzi said. “So it’s a completely different mindset, and again it’s fun to get out there and compete.”

Nats’ Johnson plans to make changes to lineup

After watching his team get swept by the Cardinals, Nationals manager Davey  Johnson announced that infielder Steve Lombardozzi will start at third base against the Reds on Thursday.

The Nationals are looking for someone who can spark the offense at the top of the lineup. Lombardozzi will most likely hit second, which means Anthony Rendon will sit on the bench and Jayson Werth will move down in the order and hit fifth.

During the three-game series against the Cardinals, the Nationals scored three runs on 17 hits. Washington is now on a six-game losing streak at home.

“I’m going to have to juggle it up and do a few things tomorrow. Change the mind set,” Johnson said. ‘I’m going to get Lombo in the lineup, get him hitting in the top of the order. Move Werth around. He said some things to me after the ballgame. So just shake some things up a little bit. Little different roles.”

Lombarzozzi has been productive coming off the bench this season, going 10-for-29 [.333]  with three RBIs. When second baseman Danny Espinosa was out of the lineup because of a hand injury last week, Lombardozzi went 7-for-21 (.333) with three RBIs.

“Lombo is a great player. He has a little bit of stability. He is not a guy that goes out of his comfort zone,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He is a very disciplined player. His routine as far as at-bat to at-bat and defensively, he is that sound [player] that we need.”

Werth, was hitting second, agreed with Johnson about putting Lombardozzi near the top of the order.

“He could help jump-start the offense. That’s fine,” Werth said. “I don’t care where I hit. We need to do something to switch it up and get the offense going. We are not manufacturing runs, not getting timely hits. Like I said, things are not going our way. Hopefully, that will help.”

Rendon has struggled since he was promoted to the big leagues on Sunday.  After four games, he is 2-for-15 with an RBI. Rendon replaced Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury.

“Zimmerman is a big part of our lineup. He is right there in the middle. He could hit three or four either way,” Werth said. “That is a guy you are going to miss no matter what. Even without him, our lineup is pretty tough. We have to get by without him for now. It doesn’t seem like he’s too bad, so he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, guys are going to have to step up.”

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