The Nationals

Fister Remains Dominant, Nats Beat Mets 7-1

The Washington Nationals showed the New York Mets what dominant pitching and a productive offense is capable of on Wednesday night when right-handed starting pitcher Doug Fister led the Nats to a 7-1 win over New York. Fister’s delayed start on the season may have slowed him up slightly in the beginning but he’s now 11-3 in 2014 with signs of slowing down.

Fister gave up six hits and struck out seven batters over seven and one-third innings pitched. He threw 101 pitches (69 strikes) and gave up one unearned run in the eighth inning after cruising through the rest of the game. Fister was so efficient on the mound that the game itself only lasted two hours and thirty one minutes. And these days, a sub-three hour game is rare, so that was a gem in and of itself as well.

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The Daily Feed

Nats Endure Lengthy Rain Delay, Shutout Dodgers 4-0

fisheye nats park
courtesy of philliefan99

A few hundred people bore witness as the midnight hour crept just passed 1 a.m. at Nationals Parks on Tuesday morning as the Nats beat the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0. Due to rain, the game fell subject to a 3 hour and 17 minute rain delay starting in the middle of the 4th inning. The total time of the delay even ended up being longer than the total amount of playing time it took the Nats to win it.

Both teams fielded some of their most reliable starting pitchers. Right-handed pitchers Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann each performed prior to the rain forcing them out of the game. In fact, the two-run shutout Washington carried into the bottom of the eighth with them was recorded within the first two home team at-bats of the long, long night.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Beat Cubs 7-3 on Friday Night

Nats vs. Marlins-0776
courtesy of MudflapDC

Despite giving up five doubles in six and two-thirds innings pitched, the Washington Nationals’ left-handed starter Ross Detwiler secured his second win of the season with a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.

Detwiler threw 90 pitches, 57 for strikes, and gave up eight hits, two runs, and struck out two batters.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Beat Cincinnati 6-3 For Their Third Consecutive Win

Phillies vs Nationals 8/1/12courtesy of Matthew Straubmuller

Right-handed starting pitcher Dan Haren threw his longest outing of the season Saturday afternoon leading the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The game was a much stronger outing than the last time he faced the Reds during the first week of the season. The Nats lost that match-up 15-0, but Haren’s start and Washington’s offense gave the Nats their third consecutive win.

Washington made right-handed pitcher Mike Leake work hard early. After a three up, three down first inning, seven of the Nats’ starting nine faced him in the second while scoring two runs to give Washington a 2-0 lead.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Bats Are Quiet Again, St. Louis Wins 2-0

pitcher of lightcourtesy of philliefan99

For the second time in that many days, the Nationals fell to St. Louis, losing 2-0 Tuesday night, on six strong innings of work from left-handed starting pitcher Ross Detwiler. Detwiler gave up two runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out two on 93 pitches (60 strikes).

Washington’s defense was the strongest positive worth noting in a game where their bats fell short. In the first five innings, the Nats turned four successful double plays to rob St. Louis of additional runs. But not even spectacular defense from shortstop Ian Desmond, second baseman Danny Espinosa, first baseman Adam LaRoche, catcher Kurt Suzuki, and Detwiler could win them the game. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Tim Hudson Dominates The Nats Lineup, Braves Win 3-1

DSC_5681
courtesy of MudflapDC

The Nationals lineup was no match for Atlanta’s right-handed starter Tim Hudson who secured his second win of the season with a 3-1 Braves victory in Washington. The afternoon’s loss was Washington’s second in two days versus Atlanta.

An early throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman in the third inning cost Washington two runs when left fielder Justin Upton stole second ahead of catcher Evan Gattis’ two-out two-run homer. It wasn’t Stephen Strasburg’s strongest outing either, which didn’t help the Nats. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Nats Defense Blinded By The Sun, Brewers Win 6-2

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Curlicew “W” in the outfield
courtesy of randomduck

Defensive miscues in the outfield due to a standard case of sun-in-the-eyes came back to to haunt the Nats. That coupled with relieve pitcher Ryan Mattheus’ performance in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon’ is what lost Washington the game 6-2 versus Milwaukee. While it wasn’t a particularly poor outing for Mattheus, the Brewers mounted a three-run rally in the seventh that the Nats couldn’t come back from.

The game’s starter, Chien-Ming Wang, had a better day on the mound than his line (and the game’s results) indicate. Wang pitched four innings, giving up eight hits and two earned runs while striking out two over 69 pitches (47 strikes). Manager Davey Johnson was happy with the starter’s performance going on to say that could even see Wang getting at least one more start this season. Though, that is still to be determined.

During the hours of 2 and 3 p.m. a blinding light called the sun peers over the stadium façade directly into the eyes of center and right field. This is something that rookie outfielder Bryce Harper is still getting used to – he had a couple gaffs in the field due to losing fly balls mid-air. He’s still learning out there, Johnson said, but Harper wasn’t alone in his struggles. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Edwin Jackson Dominates The Cardinals, Nats Win 8-1

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K-chart
courtesy of MudflapDC

Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson faced his former club, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, for the first time on Monday night since being traded to Washington. It wasn’t a complete game shut it but it was pretty close. Jackson threw eight innings in an 8-1 game that ended in the Nationals’ favor to start out this three-game series.

The Nats 1-2 punch at the top of Manager Davey Johnson’s lineup came out of the gate strong to start. Outfielder Jayson Werth drew a walk off Jaime Garcia followed by a two-run laser of a homerun hit to the right field bullpen by rookie outfielder Bryce Harper in the first inning.

Washington maintained their lead for the game’s entirety and continued tacking on runs as they went, including a Werth solo homerun in the fifth. The Nats took advantage of Garcia’s exit in the sixth and went on to score a total of four runs in the sixth and seventh: Danny Espinosa scored on a Werth ground out off reliever Fernando Salas and Michael Morse scored on a Jesus Flores single off reliever Lance Lynn. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Nats Beat Braves 5-4 in Thirteen Innings

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1st Place!
courtesy of oddlittlebird.

What started as Dan Uggla hesitating to make a routine play at second base turned into a 5-4 Nationals victory in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. It took four hours, twenty seven minutes, thirteen innings, and a fifty six minute rain delay, but Washington beat the Atlanta Braves and are now 30 games over .500.

Jordan Zimmermann started the night and went on to pitch five innings and 102 pitches (68 strikes) against Atlanta. The Nats offense started early behind Zimmermann with a four-hit, four-run rally in the first innings off of Braves veteran starter Tim Hudson. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Nats Fall 3-2 To Phillies

Photo courtesy of Matthew Straubmuller
Phillies vs Nationals 8/1/12
courtesy of Matthew Straubmuller

The Phillies beat Washington 3-2 Wednesday night due to a lack of run support. What Philadelphia did was take advantage of right-handed starter Edwin Jackson at the right times.

This was Jackson’s third career start against the Phillies, and while he has beaten them once before earlier this year, Wednesday was a different story. Jackson threw five and two-thirds innings and gave up eight hits, three earned runs, four walks (one intentional), three homeruns, and struck out six over 108 pitches (63 for strikes).

Wednesday wasn’t a complete failure though. Jackson managed to strikeout Ryan Howard in all four of his plate appearances. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the Phillies leadoff man and shortstop Jimmy Rollins from going long twice — once in the third inning to put his team on the board and once in the fifth to tie the game up. It was the eighth career multi-homerun game of his career. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Nats Survive The Heat, Beat Rockies 4-1

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Nats vs. Marlins-0776
courtesy of MudflapDC

An error-filled defense illustrated by the Colorado Rockies during the sixth inning of Saturday afternoon’s ball game is what led left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to his twelfth win of the season with the Washington Nationals. The 4-1 victory marks the team’s forty ninth win this year.

It was the second-consecutive 100-plus degree day at Nationals Park but Gonzalez lasted six innings against Colorado. He gave up three hits, one run, three walks, and struck out six over 102 pitches, 60 for strikes. It wasn’t his most efficient outing but Colorado’s defensive missteps coupled by a productive Nats offense helped procure the positive outcome. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Espinosa Comes Up Big, Nats Beat Rays 5-2

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Future All-Stars
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Left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez had a shaky start to Thursday night’s interleague game between his Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays.  Gonzalez faced seven batters in the second, allowing the Rays to take an early 1-0 lead, but the Nats came back from behind for a 5-2 victory.

Gonzalez had a lot of trouble, according to Manager Davey Johnson, due to “missing the plate” or at least that’s what home plate umpire Cory Blaser thought of his performance. He threw 98 pitches, 58 for strikes, over six innings and gave up seven hits, two runs, and two walks while striking out four and throwing one wild pitch. The minor setback was to no avail for Tampa Bay, though, because the Nats regained a temporary lead in the third inning before taking it all back in the sixth.

Second baseman and switch hitter Danny Espinosa went 2-for-4 and had a hand the two plays that put the Nats ahead to beat the Rays. Rookie left-handed starter Matt Moore gave the Nats some trouble but they still managed three hits and two runs off of him over five innings pitched. Moore’s struggles in the third came directly after Gio’s shaky second inning. That’s when Espinosa and outfielder Bryce Harper scored to take the Nats’ first lead of the night. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Features

Neutered Nats Flop Against Fish, Lose 3-0

Friday night was never going to be easy for the Washington Nationals. A letdown of some kind had to be expected after an emphatic four-game road sweep of the New York Mets earlier this week, and the red flags waved even more frantically when Davey Johnson announced that he was giving both Michael Morse and Jayson Werth a day off. (And he meant it; Alex Cora was first off the bench to pinch-hit.) And that was before anyone bothered to check the statistics and note that Florida had had the Indian sign over Washington this season, with an 8-4 head-to-head record entering this three-game weekend series, the next-to-last of the season between these two clubs.

But no one expected the Nats to go down as meekly as they did in the 3-0 loss. Javier Vazquez, a pitcher who has generally been mediocre to below-average since being traded by the Montreal Expos to the New York Yankees prior to the 2004 season (exceptional outliers in 2007 and 2009 notwithstanding), recorded his first complete game since September 25, 2009 (when his Braves defeated, yes, the Nationals), and he needed only 104 pitches to do it. True to form, there was nothing particularly special about what Vazquez was doing. He threw his fastball for strikes, got ahead in the count, and took advantage of a Nationals lineup that seemed completely uninterested in working the count. Of the 30 batters that Vazquez faced, 17 either took a first-pitch strike or swung at the first pitch.

The Nationals were compliant in their own demise as well, making two foolish mistakes on the basepaths. The first came in the second inning with the score still 1-0. After Rick Ankiel had singled to center with one out, Espinosa flicked a ball into left-center field. The ball was cut off quickly by center fielder Bryan Petersen, but Ankiel was still able to advance to third. However, Espinosa either underestimated Petersen’s arm or thought it was the right time to take the double play out of the equation. Regardless of his reasoning, he was easily cut down at second base for the second out of the inning. Chris Marrero flied out to right field to end the once-promising inning.

The other, less forgivable lapse came in the seventh inning, with the score 3-0 but Vazquez wobbling for the first time all night. Ryan Zimmerman and Laynce Nix singled to lead off the inning before Ankiel (fooled by a curveball) and Espinosa (unable to catch up to a fastball) struck out swinging. Then, with Marrero at the plate in search of a first home run of his term with the Nats, pinch-runner Brian Bixler was picked off of first, despite the fact that second base was already occupied by the less-than-speedy Zimmerman and it was unnecessary for Bixler to take undue risks on the basepaths with the tying run at the plate. The whole sequence summed up the lazy, haphazard approach the Nats offense brought to the ballpark last night.

Lannan wasn’t much better, though he managed to wring six innings and a quality start (in name only) out of his evening. He struggled to locate his fastball and changeup in the early going and gave up six of the eight hits recorded off him in the first three innings. The pitches that weren’t hit were taken outside of the strike zone, and this is what led to Florida’s first run of the game. Gaby Sanchez and Petersen worked one-out walks in the second inning and advanced to third and second on a wild pitch. Sanchez scored on John Buck’s single to center, and if Petersen hadn’t stopped between second and third base to make sure the ball would drop, he would have scored as well. As it was, Lannan got out of the inning with no further damage after Vazquez failed to get a squeeze bunt down and got Buck thrown out at second base and Emilio Bonifacio grounded into an inning-ending force play.

The Marlins added their other two runs in the third inning as Omar Infante and Mike Stanton opened the inning with back-to-back doubles before Stanton came home on Sanchez’s single to center. Again, the damage could have been worse, but Petersen went too far when turning first base after his two-out single and managed to get himself thrown out 7-6-3.

It was, in short, the type of game that was to be expected on a cool Friday night in September when both teams are eliminated from the playoff race (mathematically as well as realistically).  If there’s anything positive to be taken from it, it’s that Saturday’s game shouldn’t be nearly as somnolent. After all, Werth and Morse should be back, and some kid named Strasburg is on the mound.

Sports Fix, The Features

King Richard: Ankiel’s Slam Helps Nats Over Braves, 9-3

Photo courtesy of
‘HR!’
courtesy of ‘oddlittlebird.’

A night after hitting two solo home runs in a series opening 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, Rick Ankiel struck an even bigger blow. His grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning turned a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead, and the Washington Nationals went on to beat Atlanta 9-3 in front of 24,326 fans at Nationals Park Tuesday night.

The grand slam was Ankiel’s only hit of the night (he finished 1-for-5), but it was the perfect capstone to a torrid homestand for the veteran pitcher-turned-center fielder. Ankiel entered Tuesday’s game with a .421 on-base percentage in 19 plate appearances during the homestand, while his two Monday night home runs goosed his slugging percentage up to .750. In the short term, Ankiel’s hot streak has been a timely contribution to Washington’s firepower while others have struggled. Most notably, Danny Espinosa has fallen off sharply from the giddy heights of, say, mid-July. The rookie second baseman’s one-out double in the bottom of the third was his first extra-base hit since July 17 (which also, coincidentally, came against the Braves). Between the next day’s 0-for-4 performance against the Houston Astros and the start of Tuesday night’s game, Espinosa –who went 2-for-5 on Tuesday night– had reached base just nine times in 57 plate appearances on four singles, four walks, and once taking first after being hit by a pitch. That worked out to  a .161 on-base percentage, while striking out 17 times.

Jayson Werth, who also went 2-for-5 Tuesday night  has been hot as well (.440 on-base percentage and 1.011 OPS on the homestand entering the game), and it was he who scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Werth, showing the same aggressive baserunning that’s marked his game all season, led off the inning with a single to right and took off for second with Michael Morse at the plate. Morse struck out on a full count, but David Ross’ throw sailed into center field and Werth took third base before scoring on Ian Desmond’s sacrifice fly.

That lead only lasted until the top of the third inning, when John Lannan struggled for the only significant period in his 6.2 innings. Facing the bottom third of the Atlanta order, Lannan gave up singles to Ross and Jose Constanza. After Ross was retired on a failed sacrifice by starter Derek Lowe, Michael Bourn tied the game with a double down the right field line. Lowe himself came across when the next batter, Martin Prado, grounded out to Espinosa. The Braves increased their lead to 3-1 in the top of the fourth when Alex Gonzalez singled with one out, went to second on a single by Brooks Conrad, advanced to third on a deep fly ball by Ross, and scored when Constanzo drove a single over the leaping Ryan Zimmerman and into left field.

But in the fourth, it all fell apart for Lowe, who has been a consistent disappointment for Atlanta since signing a four-year, $60 million contract with the Braves after the 2008 season. On Tuesday night, his sinker wasn’t as effective as it should have been, and the Nats finally got the measure of him. After Jonny Gomes walked with one out, Desmond pulled a sinker into left field for a single. Wilson Ramos fouled off a changeup before lining a sinker the other way to load the bases. Lannan then chopped a ground ball to first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose throw home to force Gomes was much too high and forced Ross to come well in front of the plate to make the catch. Gomes finished the job by taking out Ross’ legs with his own. It was a violent, but legal, play by Gomes and it cut the margin to 3-2. Then Ankiel watched two cutters miss high and outside before driving a sinker into the storage area behind the center field wall. It happens that quickly sometimes.

Lowe made it out of the fourth without further damage to his ERA, but he only lasted two batters into the fifth. Left with no choice but to hope that his sinker would suddenly sink, Lowe kept throwing it, and the Nationals kept hitting. Specifically, Gomes lead off the fifth by tripling down the left field line and Desmond treated another thigh-high sinker with the contempt it deserved, lining it into the first row of the left field seats to make it 8-3.

Michael Morse rounded off the home run derby in style with a long home run into the first row of the right center field balcony off Christhian Martinez to provide the final margin of victory in the bottom of the sixth. But the story once again was Ankiel, who, while he is not likely to be back with the club in 2012, has given the club some very fine service in center field (a below-average bat, perhaps, but his defense has not been close to the disaster many feared it would be). On a team that is simultaneously building toward the future and struggling to put its offense together, performances like Ankiel’s on this homestand are so often the difference between winning and losing, progress and frustration.

Sports Fix, The Features

Rockies Hurt Lannan, Stifle Nats 3-2

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‘not too happy’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

If Thursday night’s 10-9 loss to the Chicago Cubs was a spectacular defeat for the Washington Nationals, Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies was more in keeping with past defeats this season, complete with offensive incompetence and a pinch of bad luck.

In this case, actually, the bad luck was a hammer blow in the form of a baseball off the bat of Ty Wigginton in the top of the fourth inning with Washington on top 1-0. John Lannan had started his outing crisply, and had made it through the first three innings without allowing a single baserunner. After Carlos Gonzalez struck out swinging at a two-seam fastball to lead off the fourth, however, things fell apart quickly for Lannan. Jonathan Herrera lined a four-seam fastball back up the middle for Colorado’s first hit (and base) of the night. Todd Helton pulled a two-seam fastball over the inner half of the plate into right field to put runners on first and second base. And then Wigginton lined another two-seamer straight at Lannan’s skull.

Replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball deflected off Lannan’s glove. What was more definitive was the ball striking Lannan in roughly the place where nose and left cheek come together. As the ball continued into center field and Herrera raced home to tie the game at 1-1, Lannan staggered to his knees for a few seconds before picking himself up and walking to the clubhouse under his own power, holding his cap to his face to staunch any bleeding. The official diagnosis was a nose contusion, and there remains a possibility that Lannan could make his next scheduled start after the All-Star Game.

Despite being allotted as much time as he needed to warm up, Ryan Mattheus seemed rattled by his early appearance in the game. He induced Mark Ellis to ground back to the mound, but double-clutched on the throw to second and only an apparently generous out call from Brian Knight gave the Nationals the second out of the inning. Mattheus was then called for a balk by home plate umpire Bob Davidson, which forced Helton home with the go-ahead run. That in turn was followed by an RBI single for rookie Cole Garner, which made the score 3-1 and was all the scoring Colorado would do or need.

The rest of the night was, for the most part, an exercise in futility by the Nats offense, beginning in the first inning, when they loaded the bases with nobody out against Jason Hammel on a Roger Bernadina double, a walk to Danny Espinosa and an infield single by Ryan Zimmerman. Hammel kept it together, allowing only a sacrifice fly by Michael Morse (which scored Bernadina to give Washington their early lead) before striking out Jayson Werth and inducing Rick Ankiel to pop out to second base. In the rest of his outing, Hammel faced 20 batters, and allowed just four of them to reach base (a walk to Espinosa in the third inning, a solo home run by Wilson Ramos that made the score 3-2 to Colorado, a two-out single to right by Werth in the sixth, and a single to right by Desmond in the bottom of the seventh that precipitated Hammel’s removal).

Hammel’s removal did not turn the tide in Washington’s favor. With newly-recalled Jesus Flores pinch-hitting in the seventh inning against Matt Reynolds, Desmond was picked off and caught trying to steal second. And the offensive ineptitude reached its climax in the 9th inning after a leadoff single by Morse. After Werth struck out flailing wildly at a pitch in the dirt, pinch-runner Brian Bixler, seeing the ball get away briefly from catcher Chris Iannetta decided to try to scamper over to second base. Iannetta recovered the ball in plenty of time to throw out Bixler, and Ankiel’s swinging strikeout ensured that the Nats would drop back to the .500 mark entering the final weekend of the season’s first half.

Fun & Games, Sports Fix, The Features

Werth’s Hustle Starts Holiday Party as Nats Beat Cubs 5-4 in 10


‘Jayson Werth, where is you’re head at?!?’
courtesy of ‘Tony DeFilippo’

Jayson Werth, the focus of so much agonized discussion among Washington Nationals fans over the last few weeks, didn’t get the big hit in this 4th of July thriller. But he did score the winning run, drove in two more, walked twice, and helped cut down a runner at the plate as the Nationals scrambled back to the .500 mark, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings in front of most of an announced crowd of 32,937 at Nationals Park.

Washington’s winning sequence was classic National League baseball. After Werth worked a walk off losing pitcher Marcos Mateo, he was bunted over to 2nd base by pinch-hitter Livan Hernandez. Hernandez was actually the second pitcher to pinch-hit in the game as Nationals manager Davey Johnson was forced to creatively manage his shortened bench in the absence of Michael Morse (hairline fracture of the forearm). After Mateo was forced to depart with an injury in favor of Carlos Marmol, Werth caught the Cubs infield defense napping and stole third without even drawing a throw. Finally, when Marmol’s 2-2 pitch slipped past Geovany Soto and bounced around the backstop, Werth raced home with the winning run.

It was the perfect end to an up-and-down day for the $126 million man. Werth’s broken-bat single in the bottom of the first drove home Danny Espinosa and made the score 2-0, Washington. But Werth was  also a supporting player in one of the worst defensive plays seen from the Nationals at any point in their history. Continue reading