July 2012

What to Watch For: 7/6

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Colorado Rockies (31-51) vs. Washington Nationals (48-32)

LHP Drew Pomeranz (0-3) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (9-3, 2.81)

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Strasburg RHP

BESTING SOME OF THE BEST

During its current four-game winning streak, Washington has scored 32 runs (8.0 per game) despite being opposed by Matt Cain (career 3.29 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (3.14), Tim Lincecum (3.23) and Tim Hudson (3.42), who rank 12th, 4th, 7th and 16th, respectively, in career ERA among active pitchers (min. 50 starts).

MIDDLE MEN

Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa sparked yesterday’s come-from-behind victory in the seventh inning when they clubbed back-to-back solo home runs. Something to note about the production of Washington’s middle infielders: The Nationals are tied for second in the Major League with Houston and Cleveland with 22 home runs from their middle infielders (Desmond 15, Espinosa 7)…only the Yankees (28) have more.

ALL-TIME TOP FIVE

In the first game of the final series before the All-Star Break, Stephen Strasburg takes to the hill against Drew Pomeranz. Both Strasburg (first overall, ‘09) and Pomeranz (fifth overall, ‘10) are former top-five selections in the First-Year Player Draft. Strasburg is coming off two consecutive losses while Pomeranz has yet to record a victory in six starts this season.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. ROCKIES LIVE -

Guest Post: Will Kubzansky

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Will Kubzansky is a sixth grader at The Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. He has been attending Nationals games since the team’s first season in the District back in 2005, and his work has been published in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Check out his blog here.

If you look in the Nats dugout every fifth day, you’ll notice something. Gio Gonzalez is smiling. And now I can truthfully say that it’s just like him to do that.

After writing an article for SI Kids about the Nationals and how this was going to be a big year for them, the team invited me to go on the field during batting practice on June 19.

When the field elevator went down, I still couldn’t believe it. Going through the umpire’s tunnel, I was so excited, my heart felt like it was going as fast as a Stephen Strasburg fastball.

Will Kubzansky with the Beast himself, Michael Morse.

Once we made it on to the field, the pitchers were taking batting practice. I think one thing you forget is that these guys are superstars in high school, so they can hit pretty well. Strasburg had at least four home runs, and all of them had power and control.

I called out to Gonzalez, and he told me he just couldn’t hit right now. I laughed, and told him that on the home opener he wasn’t having trouble. He said that he was fine then, but now he could barely slash it.

When Bryce Harper came out, he signed an autograph and said hi. He’s really nice and signed for a lot of people. What I find cool about that is with all the attention he gets, he still finds time for the fans.

I met both F.P. Santangelo and Johnny Holliday, who both advised me not to take their jobs. I told them I wasn’t planning on it.

All the pitchers seemed to be having a good time and laughing. This team was having a good time being in first place – it wasn’t all business – until game time.

Bryce Harper signs autographs during batting practice.

Jesus Flores also came over to sign some autographs, and so did Danny Espinosa. Both of them are really nice. As it turns out, my dad works two blocks away from where Espinosa lives, and they had a long chat about the neighborhood.

Mark DeRosa was really nice too, and told me that “These guys will come over if you just yell loud enough,” which made me laugh.

Steve Lombardozzi and Gonzalez promised they would come over, and when they did, I was really happy. These guys didn’t have to sign autographs, but they did, and I was glad they remembered the fans too.

What surprised me was that these guys were friends. It wasn’t like they had been all over the MLB, which some of them had – it looked like they had known each other since the first grade. Gio continued to ham it up once the Rays got on the field, pretending to bat with a glove. The Nats came back laughing and talking with each other.

These guys are normal people, they’re nice, and they enjoy what they’re doing – they’re just a whole lot better at baseball then the rest of us – and at the moment, the rest of the NL too. These guys have some serious Natitude!

Turning Back The Clock

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

*** UPDATE: Watch the video highlights at the end of the article ***

The Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants turned back the clock in more ways than one on Thursday evening at Nationals Park. Donning the 1924-style uniforms of the old Washington Senators and New York Giants, they celebrated old traditions like standing together on the field during the National Anthem, only organ music on the public address system, and a green, metallic looking scoreboard graphic made to replicate the classic manual boards of the sport’s cathedrals, like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

The Nationals line up for the National Anthem in 1924 Washington Senators uniforms.

The game itself turned out to be a throwback as well. Through the first six-and-a-half frames, the Giants rapped out 14 hits, but 11 of them singles and not a home run among them, their lead sitting at just 5-1 despite threatening nearly every inning. That’s when the Nationals finally made them pay for their inability to put the game away. Giants manager Bruce Bochy ran his ace, Matt Cain, back out for a seventh inning of work on a stiflingly hot night at Nationals Park, and the plan backfired. Ian Desmond powered an opposite field homer to right, and Danny Espinosa went back-to-back for the Nats, following with a shot of his own to center. The rally continued with two outs, as Bryce Harper overcame a tough call on a check swing to deliver a double that cut the margin to 5-4.

And with that, the crowd came alive. The buzz in the ballpark was different. Harper himself said after the game that when Desmond homered, Harper turned to Adam LaRoche and declared the Nationals would win the game. Following a scoreless eighth for both clubs and a dominant top of the ninth for Tyler Clippard, the Nats were left in the position of sending three rookies to face San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla needing one run to stay alive and two to win.

After falling behind 0-2, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore opened the frame with a bullet to the wall in left-center for a double. Steve Lombardozzi followed with a sacrifice bunt that Casilla could not come up with cleanly, and just like that there were runners at the corners with none out for Harper. After working the count to 3-1, the 19 year-old – who earlier in the day had finished behind Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the All-Star Game Final Vote – ripped a single through the hole on the right side, tying the game.

Nationals Park erupted. Three batters later, when Harper crossed home plate with the winning run after the Giants failed to convert the back end of a double play in a futile attempt to force extra innings, it erupted again. Single games are just that – only one contest of many in a season. But there are those, both wins and losses, that stand out above the rest. This was one of those wins, and everyone in attendance knew it.

It was only fitting that the Nationals won on a walk-off, just as the Senators did over the New York Giants in the dramatic 1924 World Series that the night was commemorating. Throughout the contest, there were recaps on the PA and videoboard between innings of each game, as the Senators fell behind three-games-to-two before coming back to win games six, seven, and the series in dramatic fashion.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Happy Fourth of July

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Greetings Nationals fans.

What a week for the ballclub.

In one week’s time, the offense seems to have clicked (thanks Coors Field for the spark!), we received thrilling news that we’ll have three All-Stars in Kansas City next week and we won a huge intradivision series down in Atlanta.

But perhaps most importantly, Ryan Zimmerman is again “right” offensively. I know Rick Eckstein, Davey and Ryan himself worked tirelessly to get him out of his funk. But the worm turned and he’s producing offense seemingly every night.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that you now see Michael Morse hitting the ball with authority. After almost two months without, we finally have our 3-4-5 hitters in place. The sky’s the limit.

The Nationals 2012 All-Stars (left to right): Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond and Gio Gonzalez.

As for next week’s All-Star Game, I really could not be happier for Ian, Gio, Stephen, their families and of course our fans.

With that said, take yourself back one calendar year. Ian was on the verge of emerging both offensively and defensively, but was not quite there yet. Gio was pitching well, at an All-Star level, but in the AL West with Oakland. And Stephen was on the verge of beginning his 6-start rehab stint in our minor-league system after having Tommy John surgery.

Nope, this All-Star trifecta was not on my radar. And I doubt it was on anyone else’s.

As for Bryce Harper’s bid for a spot on Tony La Russa’s All-Star roster, I say why not? What Bryce is doing at the age of 19 is remarkable. And to pair him with a talent like Mike Trout (age 20) on the AL  side would create great theatre that is likely to last in our memories a lot longer than the game’s final score.

Thank you for your efforts to send Bryce to Kansas City. Fans turned out in droves to vote for Bryce and the Orioles Jason Hammel as part of the Beltway Ballot at mlb.com and for #BryceIn12 on Twitter.

While I am always excited for the Mid-Summer Classic, this year more than ever the game’s results just might matter to us directly. Yet another consequence of being in a pennant race I suppose. This really is fun isn’t it?

Those were enormous wins the last two days over Lincecum, Bumgarner and the Giants to begin the big homestand to close out the season’s first half. The series against the Giants is of special interest as it pits the top two teams in the NL, at least in terms of winning percentage. The Giants are coming off a big week in which they overtook the Dodgers for the top spot in the NL West. Should be a great finale tonight.

I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July and I’ll see you at the ballpark.

What to Watch for: 7/5

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

San Francisco Giants (45-37) vs. Washington Nationals (47-32)

RHP Matt Cain (9-3, 2.53) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.30)

After the Nationals beat the Giants last night to earn another series victory, they look to put the finishing touch on a sweep the now second-place NL West team tonight. A win tonight will push the Nats to a season-best 16 games above .500.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Lombardozzi LF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Flores C

9. Detwiler LHP

BESTING SOME OF THE BEST

Wednesday’s 9-4 win was the Nationals third in as many games. During the three consecutive wins, Washington has scored 26 runs (8.7 per game) despite being opposed by Madison Bumgarner (career 3.14 ERA), Tim Lincecum (3.23) and Tim Hudson (3.42), who rank fourth, seventh and 16th, respectively, in career ERA among active pitchers.

DESMOND NOT SHORT ON POWER

Since debuting with Washington on September 10, 2009, Ian Desmond has blasted 36 homers to match the total hit by all other Nationals shortstops combined (Cristian Guzman 21, Felipe Lopez 8, Danny Espinosa 2, Alberto Gonzalez 2, Ronnie Belliard 1, Damian Jackson 1 and D’Angelo Jimenez 1) since the franchise’s 2005 arrival in The District. Ian’s 40 extra-base hits (24 doubles, 2 triples, career-high 14 homers) pace MLB shortstops (Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera ranks second with 31).

‘CATT’S MEOW

Steve McCatty’s staff leads MLB in fewest runs allowed (275), ERA (3.18), starters ERA (3.28), batting average against (.229), hits per 9.0 innings (7.62), WHIP (1.20), baserunners allowed per 9.0 innings (10.99), OPS against (.656), fielding-independent pitching (3.46) and swing-and-miss percentage (24.1).

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. GIANTS LIVE -

What to Watch for: 7/4

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

San Francisco Giants (45-36) vs. Washington Nationals (46-32)

LHP Madison Bumgarner (10-4, 2.85) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (4-4, 3.57)

After last night’s win over the Giants in a battle of first-place teams, the Nationals are back at it for a special holiday 11:05 a.m. start today. This is the first time since 1933 that the Nationals have had the best record in the National League on the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, the Giants hope to hold onto their precarious half-game lead in the NL West.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. Desmond SS

6. Moore 1B

7. DeRosa RF

8. Solano C

9. Jackson RHP

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP

Currently 14 games above .500, the Nationals (46-32) can match their apex of the 2012 season at 15 games above the break-even point with an Independence Day victory over the Giants. Washington peaked at 38-23 with a 6-2 victory on June 13 at TOR.

QUALITY VS. QUANTITY 

San Francisco starting LHP Madison Bumgarner (10-4) has six more wins than Washington starter RHP Edwin Jackson (4-4), yet Edwin owns a higher quality-start percentage (67% to 63%) in 2012. In 63 collective starting assignments as a staff, Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg (12), Gio Gonzalez (11), Jordan Zimmermann (14) and Edwin Jackson (10) have combined on 47 quality starts – most among any quartet in MLB this season – and an impressive 75% quality start percentage.

THE ‘PEN IS MIGHTIER 

Jim Lett’s seven-man bullpen contains five relievers currently sporting sub-2.00 ERAs: LHP Sean Burnett (1.52 ERA, 29.2 innings/35 games), RHP Tyler Clippard (1.83 ERA, 34.1 innings/35 games), LHP Michael Gonzalez (1.80 ERA, 10.0 innings/15 games), RHP Ryan Mattheus (1.95 ERA, 27.2 innings/27 games) and Craig Stammen (1.41 ERA, 44.2 innings/31 games). Collectively, the aforementioned bullpen quintet has posted a 1.66 ERA (27 ER/146.1 IP) and 8.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in 146.1 innings pitched this season.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. GIANTS LIVE -

Mike Rizzo Answers Your Questions

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Earlier during the day for #IYNT, we gave you the chance to ask Nationals GM Mike Rizzo questions about the team via Twitter. Here were his responses to some of your best queries.

From @EdZakreski:

What’s the long term plan for 1B and CF?

We have a lot of in-house possibilities at both positions. At first base, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero. In center field, Bryce Harper, Eury Perez, Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor.

From @MekaKimmerstein:

Which player the team could NOT make it w/o this yr! Thanks!! GO NATS!!

Besides front of the rotation starters, Ian Desmond is possibly the most indispensable starter on the field.

From: @JP00LE

Is he surprised to have his team leading the National League on July 3, 2012?

I wouldn’t use the word surprised. Pleased, especially with all the injuries that we’ve had.

Bryce Harper Answers Your Questions

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

With Bryce Harper in the thick of the Final Vote race to represent the National League in the 2012 All-Star Game, famous athletes and celebrities from around the District have been chiming in with their support. From John Wall to Luke Russert, from Braden Hotlby to James Brown, the show of solidarity around D.C. has been terrific. But Bryce still needs each and every one of you to vote, as many times as you can, if he’s going to make it. As a reward, he reached out to answer some of your questions on Twitter today.

From @Gmoney119:

Is he aware that all of the biggest athletes in town (Wizards, Caps, Redskins) have been lobbying 4 him to be an All-Star?

Bryce: Yeah I think it’s great how they decided to team up on that and express how they wanted people to vote for me for the All-Star Game. I really appreciate all the local players that have done it, and anytime they need anything from me, I’m here with open arms.

From @YoungAcks:

Bryce what’s your favorite OF position LF C or RF???

Bryce: I’d have to go with center field. Playing center field, you’re in charge, you’re running the outfield. It also really helps to have guys around me that have played that position. Any time I’m in the lineup, I think that’s the best spot.

From @jayraynet:

If you weren’t playing ball, what would you be doing?

Bryce: I’d probably be a firefighter. Ever since I was growing up, I wanted to be a firefighter or a baseball player. Going into the offseason, I’m going to get my EMT and do the firefighting thing so I have something to fall back on.

- VOTE BRYCE HARPER TO THE 2012 ALL-STAR GAME -

What to Watch for: 7/3

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

San Francisco Giants (45-35) vs. Washington Nationals (45-32)

RHP Tim Lincecum (3-8, 5.60) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-6, 2.77)

The Nationals are back home to face the Giants in the opener of a three-game set this evening at 6:35 p.m. This is the first time the teams will face off this season. Jordan Zimmermann, taking the mound tonight for Washington, looks to carry on his impressive ERA (2.77) and WHIP (1.15) into July.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi LF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Flores C

9. Zimmermann RHP

TWO OF THE BEST SQUARE OFF IN DC

The division-leading Nationals (NL East) and Giants (NL West) enter the series with the first and second-best winning percentages, respectively, in the National League. The Nationals posted a 5-5 on their just completed three-city, 10-game roadtrip while the Giants just finished a seven-game homestand with a 5-2 record, going 3-0 against the Dodgers and 2-2 against Cincinnati.

ZIMM LOOKS FOR HOME COOKIN’

Jordan Zimmermann takes to the hill tonight for the Nationals, looking to earn his second win in a row and first at home in 2012. In fact, Zimmermann has only one win (Aug. 18, 2011 vs. CIN) at Nationals Park since last year’s All-Star Break.

A FRANCHISE BEST

The Washington Nationals currently sport a run differential of +48 (316-268) over their opponents so far in 2012. That mark is the highest differential for the club in a single season in Nationals history (2005-Present).

#IYNT Is Here

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Welcome, tweeps. The Ignite Your NATITUDE Tweet-up is finally here. We know you still have plenty of questions about just how the day will go, so here’s an outline of everything you can expect.

10:30 a.m.: We’ll begin taking requests all day for #NatsDJ, allowing fans to pick the music that will play after gates open at the ballpark. All you have to do is send a tweet with the artist, song title and hashtag #NatsDJ, to submit your request.

Tip: You’ll have a much better chance of hearing your song if the lyrics are clean or if there is a readily downloadable radio version.

11:00 a.m.: With Bryce Harper in the Final Vote for the National League All-Star Team, we’re giving you – the fan – the chance to ask him anything you’d like! Just submit your question for Bryce using #IYNT and keep an eye out later today for his answers.

4:00 p.m.: Center Field Gates (along N Street) will open to the general public. If you have RSVP’d and are taking part in the Tweet-up, go immediately to the check-in table at the top of section 140 when you arrive. Remember, it pays to get here early, as the following groups will receive the corresponding giveaways:

-       First 10 to arrive and check in at section 140: Special pregame meet & greet with Nationals players

-       First 140 to arrive and check in at section 140: Limited Edition Ignite Your NATITUDE T-Shirt

-       First 450 to arrive and check in at section 140: Exclusive #IYNT commemorative poster, featuring some of your favorite tweeting Nationals players (including a couple of All-Stars!)

When you check in, you’ll also receive a nametag with your Twitter handle on it to help identify your fellow Nationals fans and get to know the group you tweet with during the games.

5:30 p.m.: Got a question for Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo? He’ll respond LIVE via @Nationals in the top of the 3rd inning! Ask away using #IYNT in your tweet and we’ll pick the best questions.

6:35 p.m.: First Pitch! But just because the game has begun, that’s hardly the end of the fun. Keep tabs on the game on the field and on Twitter, where we’ll have scavenger hunts for prizes and interactive features all night long.

Mid 4th: Stay tuned for the President’s Race. Enough said.

7th-Inning Stretch: We’ll see you back out in 140 with another special guest and another chance to win great prizes.

Remember to use #IYNT when you tweet, and we’ll pick the best tweet of the day to win 4 PNC Diamond Club seats to a future game! (rules) Not bad, right?

See you at the yard!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 549 other followers