August 2011

Nats introduce Purke

The Nationals introduced their third-round selection from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Matt Purke, this afternoon at Nationals Park. Purke, a left-handed pitcher out of TCU, will report to the Nationals’ Spring Training complex in Viera, Fla. to begin his professional career. Click below to listen to audio from his inaugural press conference.

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Nats look to take the rubber match with Reds

After a tough loss last night, the Nationals will look to take the series from Cincy in tonight’s rubber match. Jordan Zimmermann will try to continue his series of strong starts against the Reds and Bronson Arroyo.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

 

Reds:

Brandon Phillips – 2B

Dave Sappelt – LF

Joey Votto – 1B

Jay Bruce – RF

Miguel Cairo – 3B

Drew Stubbs – CF

Ryan Hanigan – C

Paul Janish – SS

Bronson Arroyo – P

 

Nationals:

Ian Desmond – SS

Rick Ankiel – CF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Jayson Werth – RF

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Jonny Gomes – LF

Jesus Flores – C

Jordan Zimmermann – P

 

*Despite injuring his left Achilles tendon in his last start, Arroyo is still slated to start tonight’s game after throwing a successful bullpen session.

 

*Ivan Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since early July, threw catch yesterday at Nationals Park and is looking to be activated before the roster expands next month.

 

*With last night’s two-for-four evening (including a rocket of a home run), Ryan Zimmerman has successfully reached base in 23 straight games.

Nats go for series-win against Reds

After a solid win over the Reds in which Chien-Ming Wang got his second victory of the year and Drew Storen picked up his 32nd save, the Nationals will look to take the series with a win tonight. Johnny Cueto and Ross Detwiler face off in tonight’s game.

Here are the lineups:

 Reds:

Brandon Phillips – 2B

Dave Sappelt – LF

Joey Votto – 1B

Jay Bruce – RF

Miguel Cairo – 3B

Drew Stubbs – CF

Ramon Hernandez – C

Paul Janish – SS

Johnny Cueto – P

 

Nationals:

Ian Desmond – SS

Rick Ankiel – CF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Jayson Werth – RF

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Jonny Gomes – LF

Wilson Ramos – C

Ross Detwiler – P

 

*Against the Reds, Rick Ankiel has seven doubles, six home runs and 21 RBI in his career.

 

*Ross Detwiler went six innings and allowed three earned runs with six strikeouts in his one previous start against the Reds.

 

*In a bit of good news for the entire baseball community, Juan Nicasio – who sustained a broken vertebra in his neck after being struck by an Ian Desmond line drive about two weeks ago – made an appearance at Coors Field last night and told the media he is looking forward to pitching again.

Nats kick off 10-game homestand

The well-rested Nationals will take on the Reds to kick off a 10-game homestand tonight. Chien-Ming Wang, coming off of a strong outing against the Cubs, will take on Mike League in tonight’s matchup.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

 

Reds:

Drew Stubbs-CF

Edgar Renteria-SS

Joey Votto-1B

Brandon Phillips-2B

Jay Bruce-RF

Ramon Hernandez-C

Yonder Alonso-LF

Todd Frazier-3B

Mike Leake-P

 

Nationals:

Rick Ankiel-CF

Danny Espinosa-2B

Ryan Zimmerman-3B

Michael Morse-1B

Jayson Werth-RF

Laynce Nix-LF

Ian Desmond-SS

Wilson Ramos-C

Chien-Ming Wang-P

 

*In case you missed it, the Nationals signed their top draft picks at the deadline last night; this includes first-round picks Anthony Rendon and Alex Meyer, sandwich-round selection Brian Goodwin, and third-rounder Matt Purke.

 

*Though he’s not in the lineup tonight, Jonny Gomes will face his former team for the first time this series, should he get in a game before Thursday’s finale.

 

*In five plate appearances against Leake, Zimmerman has two base hits and a walk. Werth has three hits, a walk and an RBI in seven plate appearances against Leake.

Nationals honor fallen heroes prior to Cincinnati Reds game

In recognition of the recent deadly attacks on service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Nationals paid tribute to the thousands of men and women who risk their lives every day for our nation prior to today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

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During batting practice, the Nationals honored fallen heroes by wearing military hats emblazoned with the insignias of all branches of the military during batting practice, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, military reserves and the Navy, including the elite SEAL division. For the game, the players and coaches donned their patriotic uniforms featuring the stars and stripes Curly “W.”

“The military is a very important part of the Nationals community,” said Israel Negron, Nationals Senior Director of Community Relations. “We wanted to recognize all of their efforts and show our sincere appreciation for their sacrifices.”

Earlier in the day, the Nationals partnered with Miller High Life and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to invite local military veterans out to Nationals Park as part of the “Give a Veteran a Piece of the High Life” program. Nationals pitchers Ryan Mattheus and Ross Detwiler were joined by Miller High Life deliveryman Windell Middlebrooks at the pregame event, which was attended by hundreds of local veterans and their families. 

Pregame ceremonies also featured select IAVA veterans who took part in the Ceremonial First Pitch, Line-Up Card delivery, Starting Nine and “Play Ball” Announcement. In addition, there was a special pregame performance of “America the Beautiful” followed by “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch.

Wang’s no-hit bid

After a couple of shaky starts that both resulted in losses, Chien-Ming Wang looked like the pitcher he was with the Yankees last night. After throwing just 81 pitches, he was done for the night in the seventh inning. The bullpen took over and locked it down in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Wang’s outing was highlighted by the fact that he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, where pinch hitter Tony Campana led off with an infield single. But the fact that the righty got that far into a game without allowing a hit was certainly thrilling for Nationals fans, who have yet to see a no-hitter since the Montreal Expos moved to DC.

The franchise had four no-no’s during its time in Canada, the most recent being a perfect game by Dennis Martinez on July 28, 1991. Worth noting about that game is that the catcher that day, Ron Hassey, had previously caught a perfect game for Len Barker of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981. Hassey is the only catcher in MLB history to have caught two perfect games.

But the city of Washington hasn’t seen a no-hitter in a lifetime. The last person to throw one for a Washington Ballclub was Bobby Burke, who threw his on August 8, 1931. Burke, a lefty, spent most of his career with the original Senators before going to play for the Phillies. He was with the Senators for their 1933 pennant victory.

Prior to that, you had the great Walter Johnson. His no-hitter on July 1, 1920 was the first in the history of that franchise and came on a narrow victory—1-0 over the Boston Red Sox. Johnson’s only base runner came on an error by Hall-of-Fame second baseman Bucky Harris in the seventh inning; Johnson did not allow any walks during that game.

After Johnson and Burke, there have not been any no-no’s in the Capital, as the expansion Senators did not throw one until they moved to Texas. However, within recent years, you’ve had a few pitchers flirt with making history.

In April of this year, Jordan Zimmermann took a perfect game into the sixth inning before Carlos Ruiz spoiled his chances with a home run. In 2010, Nats fans got the closest they’ve come to a no-hit victory when Scott Olsen took one into the eighth inning in a game against the Braves. Atlanta catcher David Ross hit a single past Ian Desmond to put the first hit on the board for the Braves. The only base runner prior to that was a walk to Melky Cabrera in the third.

Jason Bergmann got the closest to a no-hitter back when the Nationals were still playing at RFK Stadium. In 2007 he, like Olsen, took his bid against the Braves into the eighth inning before allowing a hit. He struck out 10 batters and allowed just one walk and two hits in his eight-plus innings pitched. The Nats won that game 2-1.

With Wang shaking the rust off of his pitching arm, as well as the much-anticipated return of Stephen Strasburg looming on the horizon, it’s quite possible that Nationals fans could see their squad get off the no-hitter schneid.

Strasburg Returns

Hagerstown, Md. was brimming over with anticipation by yesterday afternoon—and for good reason. The long-awaited return of the Nationals’ right-handed flame-thrower to professional baseball was finally about to happen. Stephen Strasburg was penciled in for the start against Greensboro.

The 2009 First-Year Player Draft’s No. 1 overall pick didn’t disappoint, either. Though he pitched just 1.2 innings and threw only 31 pitches, Strasburg tossed 25 of those for strikes. He had four strikeouts against the Grasshoppers. He also gave up three hits, including a solo home run to Greensboro catcher Jacob Realmuto.

The Suns would lose that first game of the doubleheader, 7-5, but the crowd of more than 6,000 at Municipal Stadium didn’t seem to mind. They hung on each of those 31 pitches, cheering for strikes and booing loudly at the umpiring crew when a ball was called.

The anxiousness of the crowd in Hagerstown was echoed by the pitching phenom, who admitted to having some butterflies before his start.

“I was super excited to get back out there. It’s been more than a year since I’ve gotten to go out there and pitch against another team,” Strasburg said in his post-game press conference yesterday. “As far as the jitters or the adrenaline or whatever you want to call it, it was definitely kicking in. It was something that the last time I experienced it was in my debut.”

Strasburg threw mostly fastballs yesterday, and said that he wanted to lay that down as the foundation for his approach on the mound. He hit as high as 97 on the radar gun and said that his pitching arm felt top-notch.

“I felt really strong out there. I think I’m right where I want to be, physically. The arm feels great. As far as the velocity and the command of my pitches, it was better than I thought it was going to be,” he said.

Strasburg is likely to make a few more rehabilitation starts within the Nationals’ Minor League system before potentially being called up in September to fill the spot in the rotation that will be vacated by Jordan Zimmermann after he hits his innings limit. Where Strasburg’s next start will take place has yet to be finalized, but regardless of the location, he’s excited about getting on the mound again.

“I know that I’m pitching in five days,” Strasburg said. “I don’t know where yet, but wherever it is, I’m looking forward to it.”

Washington Nationals Miracle Field opens in Montgomery County

With the help of the Washington Nationals, kids with special needs throughout the Washington Metropolitan area will now have a place to play baseball! On Monday, August 1, the ballclub celebrated the opening of the Washington Nationals Miracle Field in Montgomery County with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Nationals pitchers Sean Burnett and Jordan Zimmermann, manager Davey Johnson, third base coach Bo Porter and Principal Owners Mark D. Lerner and Judy L. Lerner were all in attendance to help open the field.

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The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation partnered with various civic and community organizations from Montgomery County to construct the Miracle Field, which was built to provide children with disabilities a place to play baseball safely. Located in South Germantown Recreation Park, the field is made up of a cushioned synthetic turf that allows children using wheelchairs and walkers to “run” the bases without fear of injury.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, more than 30 children were given their first opportunity to play on the field, a sight Nationals manager Davey Johnson was particularly thrilled to see.

“I’ve raised a few children who had special needs,” Johnson explained. “This warms my heart seeing these kids running around, having this facility to play on. I’m actually more proud to be a part of this than the World Championship teams I’ve been with.”

The Washington Nationals Miracle Field is the first of its kind in the D.C. region and in the state of Maryland, and it will serve as the new home for the Miracle League of Montgomery County. Currently, there are 240 Miracle League organizations across the country that provide opportunities for more than 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities.
 
“We’re serving a great need: to break down a lot of the barriers that are out there that separate kids who don’t have special needs with those who do,” Montgomery County councilmember Craig Rice said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids with special needs and developmental disabilities to get outside.”

Brian, a 17-year old who suffered a brain injury as a child and is now in a wheelchair, was one of the many Miracle League athletes in attendance at Monday’s event. His mother Debbie extolled the virtues of the new Miracle Field. 

“I think it’s very important,” she said. “There are a lot of recreational activities for children who do not have severe disabilities, but it’s very limited for children who can’t walk. This is amazing. It’s going to help a lot of the children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in team sports.”

Children with disabilities often struggle to participate in recreational activities because of physical barriers, but the new field will help minimize these obstacles and make playing baseball a possibility.

“This means so much to these kids because they get to be a part of something that they hadn’t been a part of before,” Councilmember Rice added. “They get to be outside, and play and enjoy a team sport. We know that builds character; that’s why we encourage sports as a part of our daily lives as kids grow. I think we need to continue to do that, especially for our children with special needs.”

The highlight of the day for all involved was seeing the pure joy that the new field provided to all of the children in attendance.

“It just touches your heart,” Johnson said. “You learn so much from these children. It’s just special; I can hardly put it in words. It’s just wonderful.”

Nats look to sweep Braves in Game 3

The Nationals took the series from Atlanta with last night’s 9-3 win over the Braves. Today, Chien-Ming Wang will look to lead DC to a sweep and notch his first win as a National.

Here are today’s lineups:

Braves:

Michael Bourn – CF

Martin Prado – 3B

Freddie Freeman – 1B

Dan Uggla – 2B

Eric Hinske – LF

Alex Gonzalez – SS

David Ross – C

Brandon Beachy – P

Constanza – RF

Nationals:

Rick Ankiel – CF

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Jayson Werth – RF

Laynce Nix – LF

Ian Desmond – SS

Jesus Flores – C

Chien-Ming Wang – P

*Zimmerman continued his hit streak last night, extending it to 11 straight games.

*Ankiel, who’s grand slam in last night’s game gave the Nationals the lead, has hit .310 with 10 RBI over his last 10 games.

2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics at Nationals Park

Last Saturday, the Nationals launched the 2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics, a series of monthly clinics held at Nationals Park as part of the team’s efforts to increase participation in youth baseball and softball programs in the National Capital region.

Approximately 150 youth baseball and softball athletes from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia as well as local military children will be invited to take part in the free clinics, which feature hands-on instruction from Nationals coaches. In addition to taking part in drills on the field, in the batting cages and in the bullpen, participants will also enjoy Q&A sessions with the coaches in the Nationals dugout.

Saturday’s clinic was made available to children ranging from ages 5 to 12 from Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County. Participants could also sign up for the clinic through Chevy Motors.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the children in attendance were ready and willing to learn from the pros. The kids began their morning under the direction of assistant trainer Mike McGowan, who taught them how to properly stretch their muscles and offered tips on injury prevention.

The children were then divided into groups and rotated between stations led by coaches Pat Corrales, Rick Eckstein, Steve McCatty and Bo Porter.

In the batting cages, Eckstein offered tips on how to properly get into a hitting position and taught the same drills he uses with the Nationals. He stressed that baseball is a hard game.

“Hitting is arguably one of the toughest skills to do in all of sports and failure comes with that,” he said. “It’s learning to handle that failure so you can be successful. You can’t put your head down, you can’t pout, you can’t throw your helmet around.”

Byron Thompson, the sports coordinator for Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County, was excited to bring kids from his jurisdiction out to Nationals Park.

“These clinics give our kids realistic goals that they can see, hear, touch and smell. They get to see what a Major League Baseball player, coach, stadium and experience is all about,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids, who get time to interact with some players and maybe learn something their coaches didn’t get a chance to talk about at their level.”

Once the clinic wrapped up, the kids were treated to lunch in the Family Picnic Area, followed by a visit from Nationals All-Star pitcher Tyler Clippard, who signed autographs and posed for photos with clinic participants.

“It’s important to get these kids out here, to teach them various skills and get them involved in the game of baseball,” Clippard said. “I started playing at a young age and that’s what happened to me. It’s a great social environment that encourages team building, and hopefully many of these kids will grow to love the game as a result of these clinics.”

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