September 2010

It is a FREE ticket Fiesta at Nats Park

ford fiesta.jpgTonight is a big deal at Nationals Park. It is the final home game of the season and that means one thing–party. The Nats are having a party–or you can call it a Fiesta–at Nationals Park and it is your last chance to watch the Nats at home in 2010. It’s FREE too.

The Nats have teamed up with Ford so you don’t need to buy a ticket. All you have to do is test drive a Ford Fiesta at the Corner of First and N Street next to Nationals Park today and you’ll get two FREE tickets above the home or visitors’ dugout for tonight’s game. Yes, all you have to do is drive a car to get great tickets–it is as simple as drinking water to get hydrated.

The test drives begins at 4:30 p.m. It has never been easier to get tickets. If you already have tickets for the game, test drive a Ford Fiesta and you will be entered to win 2011 Opening Day tickets against the Braves on March 31.

Here is a random fact: the Fiesta gets 40 miles per gallon–that’s better than 21 hybrids currently on the market. In baseball terms, you can drive around the warning track 160 times or round the bases 587 times and use just a gallon of gas. Think about that for a second… we round the bases just once and we are out of gas.

Stephen Strasburg speaks and he is ‘bored’

The man that was nicknamed “Jesus” is alive and well, and really bored but being bored is the key to a successful recovery. (You can listen to the entire interview here:
Strasburg Conference Call.mp3.)


“What they tell me is that the more boring it is, the better,” Strasburg said. “The first few months it’s all about just letting the new ligament heal and naturally recover. But at the same time, I’m eating healthy. I’m trying to do some sort of workout every single day, whether it’s core or just going on the elliptical. I’m doing everything in my power to get stronger while this thing heals.”


In his first interview since having season ending Tommy John surgery on September 3, Stephen Strasburg answered questions–mostly about rehab and the surgery–for about 11 minutes during a conference call with the local media. He sounded confident, positive he would return at 100 percent. It was a different tone than most of the interviews he has done. He has always down played his ability, often saying he was just “another guy in the clubhouse” but he sounded different today.


The most telling part of the interview was when he was asked, “Does the way the season ended overshadow what you’re able to accomplish… what you’re able to do?”


“You guys can decide that, but I’m chalking it up as a great season,” Strasburg said. “It’s unfortunate for this to happen, but I got up there and I stirred up the baseball world well enough to have more people becoming Nats fans, and I know they’re going to be there when I come back in a year. So I’m not too worried about it. I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to get back out there and show everybody what I have to bring to the table.”


Of course, Strasburg always knew how good he was and what he meant to the Nationals but he would never say it publicly. He kept to himself, walked with his head down and was as reserved as Drew Storen is socially connected. So to hear him say he had a “great season” and “stirred up the baseball world” almost felt like he was giving a half time speech to a bunch of high school football players–an impressive feat for a person who has never been known for reflecting on the past or talking about himself.


He has always said the right things, downplaying the hype when it was at an all-time high and always focusing on each start. He is still saying the right things and is focused on each day, but he no longer needs to down play the hype. He may even try to increase the hype but he probably won’t need to–he is still Stephen Strasburg.


“I miss my teammates, obviously,” Strasburg said. “Playing in the Big Leagues, it’s a whirlwind experience. But at the same time, when you’re sitting back at home, letting your body recover and catching up on your studies, it’s a little bit slower paced. I’m having some baseball withdrawals, that’s for sure. But I have a great support system and they’ll really help me through it.”


That’s right. He is working on getting closer to his degree and it’s not too far away, but the top priority is his rehab.


“They have my rehab plan all mapped out all the way up until when I throw your first professional pitch again,” Strasburg said. “So it’s kind of just going on what they’re telling me. If I’m doing well, everything could get sped up. I might have to take a couple steps back. You never know. There is a target date, but right now it’s way too early. We’re going to hopefully start the actual rehab process soon and see where that goes.”


Do you literally have that date marked on the calendar?


“Definitely not,” said Strasburg who isn’t even sure what he is doing tonight. “That’s a year from now. A lot of things can happen, so I’m just going to take it day-by-day.”


Maybe it is the same Strasburg.

Nats help “Get The Ball Rolling”

Ryan Zimmerman and company at the Capital.JPGOn Tuesday afternoon, Washington Nationals Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner  joined Coca-Cola as well as the owners and players from the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Redskins and Wizards to announce the launch of a new initiative called “Live Positively: Get the Ball Rolling” at the U.S. Capitol.

The program aims to educate children in the Washington, DC area about the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition. It will give local youth the opportunity to interact, play and learn about eating right and staying active through a series of workshops hosted by the professional sports teams and local nutrition experts during the month of October.

 “It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional ballplayer or a third-grader attending elementary school down the road,” Zimmerman told local reporters. “We all need daily exercise and balanced nutrition.”

Ryan Zimmerman and company at the Capital 2.JPGIn addition to Lerner and Zimmerman, Capitals Center Nicklas Backstrom, Redskins Tight End Chris Cooley, Wizards Forward Josh Howard and Mystics Forward/Center Crystal Langhorne were on hand to make the announcement on Capitol Hill. Redskins Owner Dan Synder
along with Mystics, Wizards and Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis were also in attendance.

According to Lerner, the Nationals have a responsibility to promote a healthy lifestyle to fans of all ages throughout the DC community. 

“My family and I have made it a priority through the years to encourage our players and coaches to help inspire kids to lead active and healthy lifestyles through the sport of baseball,” Lerner said.

“Get the Ball Rolling” was launched to coincide with National Childhood Obesity Month and will ultimately spread to other cities across the country. On October 8, the Nationals will kick off the initiative’s first event–a youth clinic for local middle school students at Nationals Park. Each Washington sports team will then follow suit by hosting team clinics of their own throughout October.


The penultimate home game is upon us

If Matt Capps was still here, we would be playing the “Final Countdown.” Since he is not, well, we will be wondering what if there was a song named “The Penultimate Countdown.” As you know it is the penultimate home game at Nationals Park. I don’t know what it is about the word penultimate… but it’s great. At what point did someone get tired of saying “next to last” and started using penultimate–it is efficacy in its purest form. According to, it was around in 1677 and it comes from the earlier noun penultima, “the next to the last syllable of a word or verse,” and from the adjective penultimus.


Last night’s game–or the game before the penultimate game–will eventually be a footnote in the Nationals’ 162 games season but the game will likely be used as a reference point when the team makes it to the playoffs–it may seem like a distant thought right now but it will eventually happen. When that day comes, they will reminisce about how it once was and how drastically it has changed.


I can just imagine the conversation that may (but probably won’t) take place as the players pour celebratory champagne on each other while looking back at how far they have come from their early days in DC, celebrating as if Santa Claus just brought them a bike when they were five.


“Remember when the Phillies clinched the division at Nationals Park back in 2010?”


“When they celebrated on our field and in our ballpark.”


“Not today, baby,” he said as he downs a bottle of champagne.


“How things change.”


That is then but right now the Nats will try to rebound tonight after being shut out by Roy Halladay and the Phillies as they clinched the division in an 8-0 win. It was a forgettable game in many ways for the Nationals.


“Kind of embarrassing,” rookie shortstop Ian Desmond said, “when everyone in the stadium is clapping against you when you’re at home.”


The Phillies are where the Nationals want to be. It is where every team wants to be. The Phillies will send Roy Oswalt to the mound. He is 7-0 with a 1.40 ERA (70.2 IP/ 11ER) with 65 strikeouts since the Nats handed him the loss in his first start in a Phillies uniform on July 30.


“You work your whole year to get to that next level,” Nyjer Morgan said. “The other team gives you motivation so you can try to succeed and get to that level where those guys are at. We just got to put the pieces together.”


“They’ve got a special thing going,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “They play great baseball. They’re prepared. They pitch. They work hard. They’re professional. For years, to win the division you had to go through Atlanta. Now you have to go through Philadelphia.”


Maybe someday people will say it goes through NatsTown. Crazier things have happened.


Speaking of crazy things: it’s a little crazy to think that Ryan Zimmerman turned 26 today. He just seems a lot older. Happy Birthday!


Phillies (94-63):

1.    Jimmy Rollins – SS

2.    Raul Ibanez – LF

3.    Chase Utley – 2B

4.    Ryan Howard – 1B

5.    Ben Francisco – CF

6.    Domonic Brown – RF

7.    Greg Dobbs – 3B

8.    Brian Schneider – C

9.    Roy Oswalt – SP (13-13, 2.80 ERA)

  Nationals (67-90):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Roger Bernadina – LF  

3.      Ian Desmond – SS

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – 3B

9.      Jason Marquis – SP (2-9, 7.18 ERA)


Moore and Milone earn top Minor League honors

The Nats named Tyler Moore as their Minor League Player of the Year and left-hander Tom Milone as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


Moore hit .269 with 43 doubles, 31 home runs, 111 RBI and 78 runs scored in 129 games with Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League.  He led the CL in nearly every offensive category, including doubles, home runs, RBI, extra-base hits (77), total bases (277) and slugging percentage (.552).  Moore’s 77 extra-base hits were tied for second-most in Minor League baseball.


The 23-year-old is the first Minor Leaguer in Washington Nationals history (2005-present) to record at least 30 homers and 100 RBI in the same season.  He is the first franchise farmhand to reach the 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau since Andy Tracy (37 HR, 128 RBI) accomplished the feat in 1999.


For his efforts, the right-handed hitting slugger was named 2010 Carolina League MVP and earned post-season All-Star honors.  Moore also claimed CL Batter of the Week honors four times during a six-week stretch from July 12-August 22.  He was selected by Washington in the 16th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.


Milone, Washington’s 10th-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 27 starts with Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League.  With 155 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 158.0 innings pitched, the southpaw posted an impressive 6.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 8.83 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.  The 23-year-old allowed two earned runs or less in 19 of 27 (70%) starting assignments and surrendered three earned runs or less in 23 of those 27 (87%) outings.


Milone’s 155 strikeouts paced the Eastern League, ranked second in Double-A and finished fourth among left-handers in minor league baseball.  The University of Southern California product ranked among EL leaders in ERA (second), WHIP (second, 1.16) and wins (tied for second).  He was selected as a mid-season Eastern League All-Star.  Milone’s 24 wins over the past two seasons (2009-10) are tops among organizational pitchers during that period.


Moore and Milone will be honored for their accomplishments during an on-field ceremony prior to Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. contest against Philadelphia.

Happy Birthday John Lannan

There could be showers on the way–most likely rains showers and possibly champagne showers. The tarp has been off the infield for a while but it is still in the outfield. The Nats didn’t take outdoor batting practice either. The Nats have zero control of the rain showers and can only do so much for preventing the Phillies from celebrating the NL East title at Nationals Park. The Phillies magic number is 1, meaning it will take a magical event for the Phillies to not celebrate at Nats Park. Even if the Nats sweep the series, it won’t prevent the Phillies from clinching unless the Braves sweep the Marlins in Atlanta. It seems inevitable that the champagne will be off the ice one of these next three days.

It is hard to believe just 25 weeks ago, John Lannan and Roy Halladay toed the rubber to begin the 2010 season at Nationals Park. Ryan Zimmerman hit a RBI double in the first inning but that was all the offense they could muster in the 11-1 loss. Halladay hasn’t allowed a run against the Nationals since the first inning on Opening Day. It sounds more impressive than it actually is but it is a stretch that has lasted 13.0 innings. Lannan and Halladay take the mound again tonight.

A win for Halladay would give him a Major League-best 21 wins and could sway a few votes his way in a very tight NL Cy Young race. He is also pitching on five days rest which is only notable since he is 8-2 with a 1.59 ERA in 11 starts when he gets five days of rest. A win for Lannan will tie his career high of nine, but more importantly would continue his impressive surge since he was called up from Double-A Harrisburg. The shaggy-haired southpaw is 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA (62.2 IP/ 22ER) in 10 starts. Not that Lannan needs any additional motivation but it is his birthday, 26th birthday at that. There isn’t anything significant about turning 26 but it will be a memorable night with a win against the Phillies. He pitched on his birthday two years ago–a loss against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. If he gets the win today, he will become the second Nationals starter to pocket a win on his birthday this season. Can you name the first pitcher?

*Jim Lett’s legion of bullpen arms ranks third in MLB since the All-Star break with a 2.95 ERA. Only postseason contenders San Diego (2.75) and Atlanta (2.78) have fared better. Oh it gets better, Washington’s 2.07 bullpen ERA in September ranks second in MLB behind only San Francisco (1.29).


Phillies (93-63):

1.    Shane Victorino – CF

2.    Placido Polanco – 3B

3.    Chase Utley – 2B

4.    Ryan Howard – 1B

5.    Jayson Werth – RF

6.    Raul Ibanez – LF

7.    Carlos Ruiz – C

8.    Wilson Valdez – SS

9.    Roy Halladay – SP (20-10, 2.53 ERA)

 Nationals (67-89):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

3.      Ian Desmond – SS

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

7.      Wilson Ramos – C

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – 3B

9.      John Lannan – SP (8-7, 4.58 ERA)

Inside Pitch Live with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann spent some time prior to Saturday’s game in the PNC Diamond Club, fielding questions from fans and moderator Dave Jageler for the last installment of Inside Pitch Live:

092510 jordan zimm.jpgYour first Major League win was against the Braves. Then you earned your first win coming back from surgery last night against the Braves. Are you going to remember this one for awhile?

Yea, definitely. It’s been a long time. I found out last night that my last win was June 25 of last year, so it was good to get the first one coming back here.

And you were facing a team fighting for a playoff spot and a pitcher whom the Nationals have not beaten since 2006. What was working for you last night?

I felt great all night long. I got ahead with the fastball all night long and the curveball was really good. I got ahead of the hitters, and that’s the biggest thing for me. When I can do that, I’m pretty successful.

You had Tommy John surgery last August and it took about one year to get back to the Majors. Do you feel you’re at 100 percent yet? Does it depend on the day?

It’s kind of a roller coaster ride when you have Tommy John. Last night I was on top of the roller coaster. But you’re going to have days where the command is not quite there and last night it was as good as it can get. I’m pretty close right now.

Did you get a boost or added confidence by looking at the All-Star Game roster this year and seeing several pitchers who have recovered from Tommy John surgery?

I knew if I did all the work and stayed on top of things that I’d come back successful. [Tim] Hudson had the surgery and Billy Wagner had the surgery. You see those guys coming in last night–Hudson had a rough outing but Wagner came in and struck out three guys. There are a lot of guys out there who’ve had it. I just told myself if I do all the work, I can be one of those guys.

Back in the day that was a career-ending injury. How do you make that adjustment mentally, knowing that you’re going to be down for awhile, but the chances are pretty good that you’re going to be back at 100 percent eventually?

The first time I found out it was pretty rough for the first couple of weeks there. I’m sure Stephen [Strasburg] is going through the same thing. I talked to Burnett and J.D. Martin and they said just do your work and you’re going to come back stronger than ever.

Have you talked to Stephen Strasburg at all and given him any advice on recovering from the surgery?

I talked to him before the surgery and I just told him, “Do your work and the stuff they give you to do, do extra. Go over the top with everything. You’re going to be fine.” Then I texted him after he had the surgery and he said everything went well and he’s feeling good. So I’ve talked to him a couple of times.

What’s the timetable? You can’t throw a baseball for four months, right? What do you do in that time?

A lot of range of motion stuff. Try to get your arm straight. A lot of strengthening. The first four months were pretty rough. Once you get through that and you can actually pick up a baseball and throw again, the time really flies.

No golf for you though. I know that was a downer.

I couldn’t golf, but it’s hard to golf in the winter time up in Wisconsin anyways.

What’s it like to play against one of your favorite teams in the Braves?

It’s great. It’s great to get out there and hopefully get a win. It’s nice to go out there and try to have a good outing every time, and if I get the win, I get the win. But I want to keep the team in as long as possible and hopefully we can get some runs.

You also did it at the plate last night. Tim Hudson–it’s a good swing you put on him.

Yeah. I got up there and [Braves catcher] McCann asked me how I was doing. I said, “Good. You throw me a sinker and I’ll hit a ground ball and everyone’s going to be happy.” So I kind of talked him in to throwing me a fast ball.

You’ve got a good swing. In college you did some [designating hitting]. You’re not an automatic out.

It was rough last year. I started out 0-for-20. Taking a year and a half off after college, it took awhile to get the swing back.

At what age should kids start throwing curveballs?

I’d have to say probably 15, 16. Hold off as long as possible. A curveball’s pretty hard on the elbow, so if you can get by with a fastball and a changeup, hold off as long as possible.

What are your plans in the offseason?

I’m going to go back to Wisconsin and take a month off or so and just relax, then start working out again and get ready for Spring Training.

Nationals Employees Work to Bring Fans Back

While the Washington Nationals’ efforts on the field are clear for every fan to see, there are hundreds of dedicated employees working behind the scenes help turn a fun day at the ballpark into a memorable experience for fans of all ages. 

These unsung heroes of Nationals Park are usually the first people fans encounter when they arrive.  They are the parking attendants, the ticket takers, the ushers, the concession stands’ staff and the many others who often don’t receive enough credit for their contributions. But that all changed this month.

Throughout September, the Washington Nationals set out to find extraordinary workers with the “Bring ’em Back!” customer service initiative, which honors those who best represent the team’s commitment to customer service.

Whether it’s a simple warm greeting or polite gesture, these staff members are dedicated to making Nationals fans feel special while they’re here at the ballpark. In fact, they are often the reason fans decide to come back.

 “I go out of my way for the fans, to take care of everyone and make sure they return,” Usher Yvette Hines said.

All month long, Nationals game day and front office staff members were given the opportunity to  nominate the workers they believed should be recognized for their hard work during the long baseball season.

In a special ceremony held before Friday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, 50 winners were announced and each received a Nationals away on-field jacket as well as a $50 dollar gift card to the Great American Restaurant Group.

“You are the best of the best,” Nationals President Stan Kasten said while thanking the winners. “I want to tell you how proud I am of the job that you do.”

The winners were grateful to be recognized by the team. Usher Deborah Hines said of the ceremony, “It makes me feel so honored that someone appreciates the work that I do.”

While the Nationals players typically receive the most attention from Washington fans, the team wanted to make sure that their game day workers were given some special treatment as well. After all, they are the ones who help ensure that every game is a great experience for the fans, regardless of the final score. 

“I take my job very seriously,” Usher Paullett McNair said. “I love the fans and what I do.  This is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Connect Four

The Nats won’t make it to the playoffs but they could alter the playoff picture this weekend. The Braves were just swept by the Phillies–essentially eliminating their chances to win the division but they do hold a half game lead on the Padres in the Wild Card race. The Nats are winners of three straight and will gun for their fourth consecutive victory in the series opener. This season, the Nationals have won three games in a row on eight occasions, including three times since the All-Star break. But it is interesting to note that in subsequent contests with a four-game winning streak on the line, Washington is 0-7 this season.

 * Tonight’s matchup features two starting pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery within the past two seasons in Tim Hudson, who underwent the knife in mid-2008, and Jordan Zimmermann, who will log his sixth start since his return from the procedure tonight.

 * In his final nine games as a Major League manager, Bobby Cox is just one win away from 2,500 managerial victories.

 * Despite missing power hitters three and four (Dunn and Zimmerman) in the lineup due to injury last night, the Nationals blasted three long balls (Morse, Espinosa, Bernadina) and possible played their best defensive game all season en route to a 7-2 victory and the series win over the Astros. Morse also hit the game-winning double and is batting .366 (30-for-82) with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 14 RBI in his last 24 games.

 * The Royals are the only other club who have not won as many as four straight in 2010.


Braves (86-67):

1.    Omar Infante – 2B

2.    Jason Heyward – RF

3.    Martin Prado – 3B

4.    Brian McCann – C

5.    Derrek Lee – 1B

6.    Nate McLouth – CF

7.    Alex Gonzalez – SS

8.    Matt Diaz – LF

9.    Tim Hudson – SP (16-8, 2.61 ERA)

Nationals (65-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Roger Bernadina – CF

3.      Ian Desmond – SS

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Willie Harris – LF  

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – 3B

9.      Jordan Zimmermann – SP (0-2, 6.75 ERA)

Breaking the Curse de Lance

That late Hall of Fame Umpire Jocko Conlan occasionally told a story about the difficulty of making the right call on the field.

According to the wise tale, his story went something like this:

“The count was one ball and one strike on the batter. The next pitch comes in, appears to shave the corner of the plate, and the umpire shouts ‘Two!’ The batter says, ‘Two, what?’

“The umpire says, ‘Too close to call.'”

It isn’t breaking news when umpires miss calls. It is an exercise in the human element of baseball–for better or worse. Umpires are human and they can’t help it that they are perfectly imperfect.

Most of the time, the erred call is forgotten just as quickly as the game but it is tough to forget the beginning of the “The Curse de Lance.” On Tuesday, June 1 Lance Berkman (then a member of the Houston Astros) checked his swing on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the Nats, but it was called a ball. Berkman got another shot–in a way he hit the Nats right in the heart on the proceeding pitch. He laced a single to left that drove in two runs to give the Astros an 8-7 victory over the Nats. A check swing isn’t an exact science, but video replay clearly revealed that it was a strike.

“For me, a check swing is one of those calls in the game that there’s very little consistency on it,” Manager Jim Riggleman said at the time. “Nobody really knows what it is, what it isn’t. If you check swing, to me, that means the pitcher beat the hitter. You know? If there’s a gray, it should be a strike. There’s a way to take a strike, and it’s not in the form of a check swing. It works that way for both clubs.”

The Astros’ victory–which should have been a loss–was the turning point in their season and for the Nats, it was the end of the season. The Astros are 56-45 since June 1 and they were 17-34 before they were given an early Christmas present, courtesy of Umpire Gary Darling-Claus.

We don’t know what the future would have brought had the check swing been a called third strike but we like to think it would be completely different based off of nothing more than a gut feeling–the same process which was used in determining that Berkman didn’t fully swing. We know what happened when it was called a ball though and it wasn’t pretty.

On June 1, the Nats were in the midst of a 10 game road trip and the victory would have given them a 27-26 record with two games left in Houston. But they lost and then lost the last two games in Houston to fall to 3-7 on the road trip. It was impossible to know at the time but, in retrospect, their season was unofficially over–no thanks to Sir Lance Berkman. Since June 1, the Nats are 38-62.

But there is hope. The curse could have possibly been reversed. The same team that cursed the Nats came to the Nation’s Capital  for a four-game set on Monday and the tides turned on Tuesday when Pudge Rodriguez hit a game-tying two-run homer to spark a seven-run 8th inning to send the Nats to a 8-4 win over the Astros.

The Nats scored seven runs in the 8th, all with two outs–an impressive feat for a team that is batting .235 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Washington’s seven-run 8th inning matched its largest single-inning output in a home game since the Nationals came to town in 2005. The Nationals had another come-from-behind victory last night when Danny Espinosa hit a two run please-please-get-over-the-fence home run to win 4-3 in the seventh. He also broke out of his 5-for-51 slump. A win today and a series victory would officially end the curse.

It might seem counterintuitive to blame Mr. Berkman for the Nats woes–it would seem most logical to blame the Nats themselves–but as long as the Cubs blame Steve Bartman, we will continue to blame Berkman.