August 2012

What to Watch For: 8/18

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New York Mets (56-63) vs. Washington Nationals (74-45)

LHP Jon Niese (9-6, 3.67) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74)

The Nationals won their 11th game in 13 tries with a 6-4 triumph in Friday night’s series opener, riding a Michael Morse grand slam and Bryce Harper two-run homer to all six of their runs. Tonight, Edwin Jackson takes on the Mets with an extra day of rest as Washington hunts for its 75th win of the season.


1. Werth CF

2. Espinosa 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Jackson RHP


Ross Detwiler allowed 3 runs in 6.0 innings pitched as Washington won its fifth straight series opener. In so doing, Detwiler improved to 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) against the NL East this season.


The Nationals currently rank 2nd in MLB in run differential at +107. MLB’s top 3: St. Louis (+108), Washington (+107) and New York (AL) (+105). Washington has allowed the fewest runs (424) in MLB and has dented the plate 531 times this season (sixth in NL/13th in MLB).


Michael Morse is 17-for-54 (.315) with five doubles, four homers and 12 RBI during a current 13-game hitting streak. On August 10, Morse was the victim of a late scoring change levied by MLB that changed an August 2 single into an E-6, and thus, nullified what would now be a 24-game hitting streak. That hypothetical 24-gamer would be the 2nd-longest in Nationals (‘05-present) history.


What to Watch for: 8/17

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New York Mets (56-62) vs. Washington Nationals (73-45)

LHP Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18)

Following a stellar 8-2 road trip, the Nationals return home for six games against their NL East rival New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. The Nats will shuffle the rotation to send Ross Detwiler to the hill in the series opener against fellow southpaw Johan Santana. Washington will feature the quintet of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Ian Desmond in the lineup together for the first time all season.


1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP


At 41-23 (.641), Washington owns the best road winning percentage in MLB, taking 14 of their last 17 road contests. Washington is 14-4-2 in road series in 2012, including a 6-0-2 (win-loss-split) mark in road series play dating to June 25. With 41 wins outside of D.C. in the books, the Nationals have assured themselves of their first winning road record since landing in The District in 2005.


As well as the Nationals have played on the road (chronicled above), note that the Nationals have more home games remaining than any club in MLB. In fact, 27 of Washington’s final 44 contests (61%) will take place within the comfy confines of Nationals Park, more than any other team in baseball. The Nationals own a 32-22 mark at home, yielding a .593 winning percentage (4th in NL/6th in MLB).


The Nationals are an 12-4 thus far in August and are the only big league have played winning baseball every month this season: July (17-9), June (15-10), May (15-13) and April (14-8). Including September of ’11, Washington has posted five straight winning months.


The Road Warriors Return

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As we hit the home stretch of the regular season, there will be much use of the “C” word, as people refer to the various opportunities the Nationals could clinch: a potential playoff spot, possibly a division title, even home-field advantage. But on Wednesday, August 15, the Nationals already clinched something significant. By winning their 41st road game, they broke the previous franchise mark for victories away from Washington D.C. (40 in 2005), thereby guaranteeing themselves a winning road record in the 2012 season.

The return of Ian Desmond gives the Nats the healthiest lineup they’ve had all season.

To really appreciate how good the Nationals have been on the road this season, consider the following: at 41-23, their .640 road winning percentage is not simply the best in the league, it’s better than any other team’s home winning percentage. In other words, at this juncture in the season, Washington statistically stands a better chance to win on the road than any team that hosts them.

For some perspective, imagine this: the last team to accomplish this feat for a full season was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went an otherworldly 59-22 (.728) away from Safeco Field on their way to a 116-win season. Not even the 1998 Yankees, who went an astounding 52-29 (.642) away from New York in a 114-win campaign, finished the season with a better road record than the rest of baseball’s home marks. All three National League division winners (Braves: 56-25, Astros: 55-26, Padres: 54-27) were better at home that year.

All of this is even more encouraging knowing that they will see Ian Desmond – who has been sidelined with an oblique injury since shortly after the All-Star break – activated for Friday night’s series opener against the Mets. After he took his first full workout on Tuesday in San Francisco, Desmond decided to have a little fun with his manager, giving him a scare about the timetable for his return.

“I’m hurting,” he told Davey Johnson following his first session of hitting again at full strength. “My ears are hurting from the loud sounds coming off my bat.”

Steve Lombardozzi has stepped up in a big way, and earned himself a spot on the roster despite Desmond’s return.

And while Washington will not get catcher Wilson Ramos back until next season, with Desmond’s return they will field the healthiest version of their projected everyday lineup so far this season. Nationals fans have yet to see Desmond, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse all on the same field at the same time. It is conceivable that in spite of the club’s unprecedented success thus far in 2012, that the Nationals best baseball is yet to come.

If so, there is no better time for it than this week in Washington, where they will face the division rival Mets and Braves. While the Mets have dropped off the pace in the NL East race, they remain a dangerous club with tough pitching, including former Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana, who throws in the series opener on Friday. And we hardly need to tell you the importance of the Braves series, which will see two of the top three teams in the National League dueling it out for NL East supremacy and postseason positioning. As others have noted, it may be the most important series played in our Nation’s Capital in several generations. So it is comforting to know that the Nationals are not only playing some of their best baseball yet, but there are reinforcements on the way as well.

Homestand Preview: 8/17-22

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Nationals vs. New York Mets (08/17-19) 

Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves (08/20-22)

FRI, 8/17 vs. New York Mets – First Pitch 7:05 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 4:30 p.m.


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500


SAT, 8/18 vs. New York Mets – First Pitch 7:05 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 4:30 p.m. 


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500

  • NatsLive FREE Post-Game Concert – Third Eye Blind– Free Admission to Concert with Game Ticket
  • Peanut Free Baseball – 4th annual Peanut Free Baseball Day in the Nationals Park Party Suites! Party suites will be cleaned thoroughly the night before and the day of each event.
  • Harris Teeter Family Fun Pack – With the purchase of every Family Fun Pack ticket FOR Upper Right Field Terrace or Outfield Reserve you will receive 1 hot dog, 1 bag of chips, and choice of 1 Coca-Cola/Dasani beverage.
  • Senior Day – Calling all seniors! Come out and enjoy a weekday afternoon or weekend game at Nationals Park at discounted prices! Handicap seats and seats shielded from the sun are available.
  • Miller Lite Party Night


SUN, 8/19 vs. New York Mets – First Pitch 1:35 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 11:00 a.m. 


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500


MON, 8/20 vs. Atlanta Braves – First Pitch 7:05 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 4:30 p.m.


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500


TUES, 8/21 vs. Atlanta Braves – First Pitch 7:05 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 4:30 p.m.


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500 

  • Two for Tuesday – Fans can purchase two hot dogs for the price of one and two sodas for the price of one at all NatsDogs stands. Some restrictions apply. While supplies last.


WED, 8/22 vs. Atlanta Braves – First Pitch 7:05 p.m. – Center Field Gates Open 4:30 p.m.


RADIO: 106.7 The Fan, WHFS 1580, WFED 1500

Shark Week with Roger Bernadina

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As you may know, it is officially Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. With our very own Shark – outfielder Roger Bernadina – coming off a stellar road trip that saw him bat .533 (8-for-15) with a .611 on-base percentage, four runs scored, three RBI, two stolen bases and a pair of highlight reel catches, we figured it was the perfect time to sit down and get caught up.

What did you think when you were first approached with the nickname “The Shark?”

In the beginning, I thought it was funny. After a while I realized it was starting to get big. It’s fun, I like the nickname “Shark.” It’s great. The fans love it, I love it.

Have you ever watched Shark Week?

Yeah, I saw it on the Discovery Channel. Actually, I was watching it the other day.

It may be a coincidence, but you have to feel good about playing well during Shark Week.

Yeah, (the team) is all about it and I like it. It’s Shark Week and everyone’s talking about it. 

Speaking of, where does the game-saving catch you made in Houston rank in your career?

It’s probably one of the best catches I’ve made. To end the game? It’s always good to win a ballgame. It was definitely a big moment.

Had you ever made a big play for the last out before?

Yeah, that happened before. But in the Major Leagues, it’s different. It’s something you dream about as a kid, to make that kind of catch.

What’s your mentality, being ready to come off the bench at a moment’s notice (like Tuesday in San Francisco)?

Skip (Davey Johnson) gave me a heads up that I might be in there. You just go out there, trust your talent and focus for the game, and just go about your business. I don’t really think about it much.

Does your pinch-hitting experience help you get ready to step in when you need to?

Yes and no. My focus has been better. I watch video and stay to my plan and it’s worked. Coming off the bench is definitely different. Yeah, that’s actually helped a little bit. I’ve been using a shorter bat, too.

Mark DeRosa was the one who suggested you use the lighter bat. How did that conversation come about?

I was hitting in the cage when he came up and he said, “Bernie, that’s a heavy bat.” I said “No, it’s ok.” And he told me, “You’re so strong, you can use a lighter bat.” So I said, “Alright, why not?” That day I was in the cage, I started using the lighter bat, and I’ve been using it ever since.

How many years had you used the heavier bat?

I had used that weight since 2010. I mostly used it for the past few years. But ever since DeRo told me to use the lighter bat, I’ve been going with the other one.

Catch The Shark and the rest of the Nationals all week long as they take on the division-rival Mets August 17-19 and Braves in a huge matchup, August 20-22.

What to Watch For: 8/15

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Washington Nationals (72-45) vs. San Francisco Giants (64-53)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (13-5, 2.90) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (6-12, 5.35)

The Nationals and Giants are slated for a marquee rubber game on Wednesday afternoon after splitting the first two matchups. Hard-throwing righties Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum go head-to-head as Washington looks to close an impressive road trip on a winning note.


1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Werth RF

7. Espinosa SS

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP


The Nationals are 4-2 in rubber games this year, having won 8-4 on July 1 at Atlanta, 5-2 on June 21 vs. Tampa Bay, 2-1 May 3 vs. Arizona and 4-0 April 11 at New York (NL). However, Washington is 0-2 all-time in rubber games at AT&T Park (L, 1-3 in ‘11, L, 4-5 in ‘10). The Nationals have not lost a road series since the O’s took two-of-three at Oriole Park from June 22-24. Washington is 5-0-2 (win-loss-split) in seven road series since.


California native Stephen Strasburg will toe the rubber for the first time at AT&T Park later this afternoon. His only other career start against the Giants came on July 9, 2010 when he outpitched Matt Cain, working 6.0 strong innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out eight to earn the win. Strasburg is looking for his third win in a row after claiming victories over Miami on 8/5 and at Arizona on 8/10.


The Nationals rank 2nd in MLB with 31 home runs from their middle infielders (Ian Desmond 17, Danny Espinosa 12, Steve Lombardozzi 2). Only the Yankees (34) have more.


What to Watch For: 8/14

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Washington Nationals (72-44) vs. San Francisco Giants (63-53)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 2.35) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (12-7, 3.08)

The Nationals set an AT&T Park record by rapping out 21 hits in a 14-2 series-opening victory over the Giants on Monday night to move to 7-1 on their current 10-game road swing. Jordan Zimmermann squares off against Madison Bumgarner tonight in a matchup of two the brightest young pitchers in the National League.


1. Espinosa SS

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Werth RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Moore LF

7. Flores C

8. Lombardozzi 2B

9. Zimmermann RHP


After his offensive brethren put up eight earned runs in 2.2 innings against Ryan Vogelsong last night, Zimmermann now boasts a National League-leading 2.35 ERA. Tonight, he will look to win his second game in a row after fanning 11 against the Houston Astros last Thursday. Jordan is 3-0 in his last three starts against the Giants including a victory on July 3, when he spun 6.0 innings of one-run ball. 


In the first eight games of the Nats current 11-game road trip, Steve Lombardozzi is 13-for-36 (.361) with a double, triple, three walks and seven runs scored. He has hit safely in six of the eight tilts, including multi-hit efforts in four of the last five. Lombo has more hits on the road (46) than he does at Nationals Park this season (43).


The Nationals 5.5-game lead in the NL East matches the club’s largest in eight years in D.C. The 2005 Nationals held 5.5-game advantages at the completion of play on both July 2 and 3. Note that this is also the largest lead of the season for the Nationals, topping their previous 5.0 game advantage on June 13. In addition to the 5.5 game cushion, the Nationals have matched their zenith at 28 games above .500. The ‘33 AL Nationals (99-53) were the last DC-based club to climb as many as 28 games above the break-even mark.


Uncharted Waters

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It happens all the time in sports. There are certain players that simply seem to play their best against one particular team. Nationals fans can certainly attest to the head-scratching numbers put up by Andrew McCutchen or Hanley Ramirez against their team over the years. But through the first four of six matchups between the Nationals and San Francisco Giants this year, something truly inexplicable has happened. Washington has thoroughly dominated San Francisco, specifically their starting rotation, considered by many as the Giants most obvious strength.

Roger Bernadina had four hits and another great catch Monday night.

The Giants staff is a lot like the Nats – they don’t often have bad days, and even when they do, they manage to limit the damage. But for whatever reason, Washington has had San Francisco’s number this year. Ryan Vogelsong, who had not allowed more than four runs in a game all season, was tagged for nine (eight earned) in just 2.2 innings of work on Monday night. He had not thrown less than 6.0 innings in a start all year long, and was coming off a 7.0-inning, three-hit masterpiece in a win over the Cardinals. Even more ludicrous, he had allowed just 12 earned runs at home all season before last night’s romp.

Meanwhile, the next two starters in this series – Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum – each had their worst outings of the season when the teams met earlier this year in D.C. Bumgarner allowed seven earned in that series opener and Lincecum was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) as he did not escape the fourth inning. In fact, including the series finale in which they came back against Matt Cain and walked off in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats have outscored the Giants 38-14 over their four matchups this year.

There’s almost no rational way to explain it. Of course, the Nationals know they’ll have to be at their best again the next two days as they face Bumgarner and Lincecum. They will counter with new NL ERA leader Jordan Zimmermann (who took over the top spot after Vogelsong’s outing Monday night) and Stephen Strasburg, both coming off dominant performances against the Astros and Diamondbacks, respectively.

The Giants face NL ERA leader Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday.

That task must look even more daunting for the Giants when you consider the following: the Washington offense has scored more runs since the All-Star break than any team in baseball. On Monday night, the Nationals leap-frogged both the Cardinals and Yankees and now possess the game’s biggest run differential, having scored 108 times more than their opponents. They have won nine of their last 10 and 13 of 15 on the road, where they are 40-22, a full seven wins more than the next closest teams in the majors (Reds and Yankees, 33).

But the Nationals stand at a historic crossroads as they enter play on Tuesday. It marks the first time this season that they have been as many as 5.5 games ahead in the National League East. That separation also matches the most that the 2005 team ever approached, after a 5-4 win on July 3 at Wrigley Field left them at 50-31. Of course, we are five big weeks later in the season and this edition of the Nationals sits a full 28 games over .500 at 72-44.

Nevertheless, in a season full of milestones, this is one of the biggest yet, as ultimately, it is the only one that really matters when it comes to determining just how long the Nationals will be playing baseball this year. If they can continue to perform as they have against a playoff caliber team in the Giants, they may find themselves in truly uncharted territory.

What to Watch For: 8/13

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Washington Nationals (71-44) vs. San Francisco Giants (63-52)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (14-6, 3.32) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (10-5, 2.27)

The Nationals scored four times over the final three innings Sunday afternoon, but saw their eight-game winning streak snapped with a 7-4 loss to the Diamondbacks. Washington opens a key three-game set in the City by the Bay beginning tonight as Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong square off in the first of a series of great pitching matchups.


1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Werth CF

7. Espinosa SS

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP


The Nationals begin a three-game series tonight at AT&T Park in their lone visit to the Bay Area this year. This is Washington’s final stop on its three-city, 10-game road trip, on which the Nationals are 6-1 thus far, going 4-0 at Houston and taking two of three over the weekend at Arizona. Sunday’s 7-4 setback snapped Washington’s season-best eight-game winning streak. After three games through Wednesday afternoon, the Nationals will enjoy a day off on Thursday before beginning a critical six-game homestand that features three-game visits from the Mets and second-place Braves.


Starter Gio Gonzalez returns to the Bay Area for the first time since being acquired from the Oakland A’s during the off-season. Coming off a 9.0-innning complete game in Washington’s 4-3 win on Wednesday at Houston, Gonzalez is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since July 7, when he capped a four-game winning streak against Colorado. 


Michael Morse is 14-for-44 (.318) with four doubles, three homers and 17 RBI during a current 10-game hitting streak. On Friday, Morse was the victim of a late scoring change levied by MLB that changed an August 2 single into an E-6, and thus, nullified what would now be a 21-game hitting streak. That hypothetical 21-gamer would be the second longest in Nationals (‘05-present) history.


Giant Moments

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This is a story about a team led by a dominant starting rotation that took the National League by storm. It’s the tale of a team that found a new way to win games seemingly every night, and a bottomless supply of heroes to star in the leading role. Led by the midseason call-up of a bright young rookie who energized the team, they caught fire late in the year and the magic of their season reached a new level as summer turned to fall. This is a story about the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

Back in June, we compared the 2008 Rays season to the one the Nationals have put together this year. But the Giants run in 2010 shares many similarities as well. Any discussion of the strength of either of these clubs begins and ends with their starting pitching. And while Tim Lincecum and Stephen Strasburg are the well-known aces, the comparison runs much deeper.

Jordan Zimmermann has taken over Matt Cain’s title as the most underrated pitcher in the National League.

Matt Cain was long thought of as one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, a star hiding in plain sight. One possible explanation was his win-loss record, which always belied just how strong of a pitcher he had been. Even after making his first All-Star Game in 2009, he sported a career mark of just 44-51 heading into the 2010 campaign despite a 3.53 ERA. But the strong, quiet Cain has continued to be the hidden star of the staff, only busting onto the nationals stage with his perfect game earlier this year.

Cain’s consistency cannot help but conjure images in Nationals fans’ heads of Jordan Zimmermann. A similar pitcher with a similar style, Zimmermann pounds the strike zone just like Cain, and has become the most reliable force in a formidable rotation. The Wisconsin native enters this three-game matchup the owner of the second-best ERA in the National League, trailing only one other man: the Giants own Ryan Vogelsong.

There are also the two hard-throwing lefties with devastating breaking balls: Jonathan Sanchez and Gio Gonzalez. While Gio has had a more consistent career, Sanchez turned in a 13-9 record with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 2010, leading the league at just 6.6 hits allowed per nine innings. Gonzalez this year leads all Major Leaguers at just 6.8 hits per nine.

Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner, who was called up as a rookie in June that year, posted a 7-6 record with an even 3.00 ERA over 111.0 innings pitched in 18 starts. Fellow southpaw Ross Detwiler, in his first full-time starting role, has gone 6-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 116.0 innings, having made his 18th start on Sunday in Arizona.

Adam LaRoche has matched Aubrey Huff’s 2010 production and leadership for the Nats this season.

There was also a veteran first baseman by the name of Aubrey Huff who put the 2010 Giants on his back, quietly producing the best overall offensive season on the club. He bashed a team-high 26 home runs and drove in 86, also best on the club. His left-handed power bat, hitting between righties Buster Posey and Pat Burrell, kept opposing pitching staffs honest.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have Adam LaRoche who leads all NL first basemen with 23 home runs, while sharing the lead with 75 RBI. Both performances are well-known and well-loved by their respective fan bases, but are fairly under-the-radar nationally.

A big reason they are overlooked is the performance of each team’s dynamic rookies. With the hype that surrounded Bryce Harper’s debut, it is easy to forget just how loudly Giants fans were clamoring for Posey in 2010. After making a cameo as a September call-up in 2009, he began the year at Triple-A, and the fans in San Francisco grew more and more restless until his promotion in late May. His brought much more than just his bat to the team – much like Harper – injecting the club with a shot of adrenaline that pushed the club forward.

But while both teams’ pitching staffs stand out on the stat sheet and their marquee rookies are fan and media favorites, it is how they win games in late, dramatic fashion that makes them so much alike. It could be argued that the two dynamics are very much interrelated, that the ability for the starters to shut down opposing offenses often leads to close contests and late-game theatrics. But regardless of the reason, the results are undeniable.

San Francisco’s 2010 campaign was “There’s Magic Inside,” a proclamation that turned out to be prophetic as the Giants raced all the way to a world championship. The Nationals have yet to see how far their Natitude will carry them, but at 71-44, they own the best record in the Major Leagues entering a huge three-game showdown in the City by the Bay, beginning Monday night.