Sports Fix, The Features

Nats Fall To Fish As Zimmermann Can’t Right The Ship

Photo courtesy of
‘not too happy’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

The Washington Nationals are last in the National League East for the first time since June 14. They descended to this low point after losing 11-2 to the Florida Marlins Tuesday night in front of 24,650 on a relatively pleasant night (in meteorological terms, anyway) at Nationals Park. The loss is the seventh the Nats have suffered in their ten games since the All-Star break and this particular performance should choke out whatever life was left in any hope that Washington could make a surprise run up the National League Wild Card standings. It is true that the Nationals only have the sixth-worst record in the National League and are still only four games under .500 (49-53 after Tuesday night), but if their recent run of form is any guide, the relatively fertile period of mid-June has turned out to be a mirage and the club is regressing dangerously.

The tone for the evening was set by starter Jordan Zimmermann, who gave up a triple to the second batter of the game, Omar Infante. The Florida second baseman went on to score on an RBI groundout by Greg Dobbs, the first of five runs that Dobbs would drive in over the course of the evening. Zimmermann has been very, very good throughout this season for the Nationals, but he was off tonight, particularly in the first five innings. He was leaving far too many of his pitches up in the strike zone, and the Marlins treated his offerings with the contempt they deserved, banging out seven hits in the first five innings, with four going for extra bases. Even more disconcerting were the two hit batsmen on Zimmermann’s record, as many as he’d hit all season entering Tuesday night. Arguably the biggest moment in the game came with two out in the third inning, when Zimmermann hit Hanley Ramirez with an 0-1 fastball with the score already 2-0 in Florida’s favor after Zimmermann had coaxed a 4-6-3 double play out of Dobbs, with Emilio Bonifacio crossing the plate in the process. Two pitches to Logan Morrison later, the Nationals were behind 4-0 and Morrison was circling the bases after depositing his 16th home run of the season into the Nationals bullpen.

In fairness to Zimmermann, he has now pitched 126.2 innings this season, by far the most in his major league career, and with his much-noted 160-inning limit fast-approaching, it would not be in the least surprising to either see more outings like this one or to see him handled much more gently and with a much shorter leash.

The Nationals offense, true to usual form, was about as exciting to watch as molasses. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Features

Nats Break Even, Beat Rockies 2-0

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‘First Pitch: Rockies v. Nationals — Nationals Park (DC) July 10, 2011’
courtesy of ‘Ron Cogswell’

In the long-term plans of the Washington Nationals, Jordan Zimmermann will be a No. 2 guy, a complementary left hook to the right-hand lead represented by a healthy Stephen Strasburg. But with Strasburg on the shelf until at least September, Zimmermann became the de facto No. 1 starter entering the 2011 season despite the fact that he would be pitching under a 160-inning limit.

After a very strong 6.1-inning performance in Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 win over the Colorado Rockies, which sent the Nationals into the All-Star Break with a record of 46-46 and halted a particularly morale-sapping three-game losing streak, Zimmermann has pitched 115 of his allotted 160 innings. He extended his streak of pitching six innings or more in his starts to 13 and dropped his ERA from 2.82 to 2.66. He was, in short, exactly the man the Nats needed. His slider and curveball were particularly effective on this day, exploding down and away from Colorado’s right-handed hitters and, more often than not, finding the outside corner of home plate umpire Brian Knight’s strike zone.

Zimmermann’s (and Washington’s) win didn’t come easily, as the Nationals offense continued to struggle. This time, it was Jhoulys Chacin who caused the trouble as he retired the first 11 Nationals he faced before giving up a two-out single to Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the fourth inning. That was Washington’s last hit before Ian Desmond led off the bottom of the sixth with a laser that deflected off the glove of third baseman Ian Stewart and reached shortstop Troy Tulowitzki far to late for Colorado’s All-Star to do anything about it. Zimmermann, proving himself doubly indispensible, laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt and Roger Bernadina did the rest, driving in the only run the Nats would need with a shattered-bat single to right field. Rick Ankiel, who had entered the game in the eight inning as a defensive replacement, provided the icing in the bottom of that inning with a solo home run into the first row of the right field seats off left-hander Matt Reynolds. It was Ankiel’s first home run off a left-handed pitcher since 2008.

Other members of the Nats were not so lucky. Jayson Werth, for one, went 0-for-3 at the plate to drop his average to .215 entering the All-Star Break. The big-money right fielder was greeted with applause by most of the 21,186 at Nationals Park when he was announced for his first at-bat in the bottom of the second inning. The fans held their collective tongues when Werth flied out to center field and left field in his first two at-bats (both times on first-pitch swings), but could restrain themselves no longer when he lifted a meager foul pop-up in the bottom of the seventh inning with Michael Morse standing on second base after a one-out double. At that point, the boos hailed down on Werth all the way back to the dugout.

As the season winds to its conclusion, and as the Nationals (likely) continue to drift around the fringes of the National League wild card race, Werth’s ongoing offensive struggles will continue to be the story, at least until he snaps out of it. But unlike on Saturday night, when Werth grounded into a game-ending double play with the tying run at third base, his struggles were only a footnote to Zimmermann’s great performance. It’s doubtful Werth will take any consolation from this as he prepares for his three days off, but at this point, he’ll take any consolation he can get.

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

Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Nats shut-out by Lee, drop series to Philly in 4-0 loss

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courtesy of ‘MissChatter’

Cliff Lee, much like Roy Halladay on Wednesday, was a force of nature that the Nationals just couldn’t contend with. Lee racked up 12 strikeouts in a complete game shutout of the Nationals to close out the opening series against the Phillies in front of 24,875 mostly Philadelphia fans on a perfect April evening.  The Nationals had two strong chances against Lee, but managed to make a hash of both of them.  Sadly, this was their night to waste a great start by Jordan Zimmermann, who was perfect through five, and went 7+ and allowed just 1 earned run, striking out 4 and walking none.

Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Nationals lose laugher to Braves 11-2

Photo courtesy of
‘scooting through’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

April baseball can be a peculiar thing. The Nationals today displayed that peculiarity in all of its ugliness before a crowd of 22,210, surrendering 11 runs to the Braves,

Despite a month of Spring Training ball, both the Braves and Nationals made some ugly miscues in the field this afternoon.  In the bottom of the first, Braves’ veteran Chipper Jones crossed in front of Jayson Werth on the basepath, inciting a collision that threw Werth off his balance and cost him a few steps. He turned 3rd and headed for home to be thrown out, but awarded the run on obstruction.

Twice the Nationals’ outfielders ran into trouble with balls in the right-center gap, with Werth and Ankiel having some miscommunication over who was playing lead.  The biggest defensive trouble came from Danny Espinosa today, whose efforts in the fifth formally cost him an error and the Nationals a run, but that was just one of four plays on the day that hurt the Nationals in the field.

Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Stephen Strasburg Goes Back To The 15-Day Disabled List

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Max Cook’

Strasburg is currently experiencing pain in his forearm and flexor muscle, which differs from the shoulder inflamation he experienced earlier this season. Rizzo assures that these types of issues previously arose during Strasburg’s career at San Diego State.

The first time around, Strasburg had a dry MRI which showed some red lights that have the Nats paying attention. The Nats have decided to have Strasburg go in for a second MRI called an Arthogram to find out what the problem is and get the full story on his arm.

Strasburg showed up to the park today wanting to throw the ball around but the Nats choose to err on the side of safety and had him sit this one out.

“I think he’s anxious to find out what’s going on,” Rizzo said. “He felt good today. His elbow felt good. He’s anxious. He wants a resolution to find out what’s going on. [He’s] a little anxious, a little emotional, that would be fair to say.

Rizzo expects results within a 24 hour time frame after the MRI takes place. In the mean time, RHP Jordan Zimmermann will make his 2010 debut with the Nationals in Washinton on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

News, The Daily Feed

The Zimmermen

Photo courtesy of
‘ready to slide’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

Congratulations to the Nationals for locking up Ryan Zimmerman for 5 years at $45M. Zim’s been the face of the club since he was brought up almost immediately after being drafted in 2006, and it’s nice to see him get the contract that he deserves.

Tonight will mark the first MLB start for Jordan Zimmermann, who will be filling the fifth starter slot for the Nationals. Frankly, he couldn’t be much worse than anyone else who’s started for the Nats this season, as their 1-10 record indicates. He was part of a big shuffle of personnel yesterday that sent 40% of the Nats bullpen down to AAA after blowing leads in three straight games against the Marlins this weekend. It looks dicey for the Nats, but we’ll see.