August 2012

What to Watch for: 8/5

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Miami Marlins (49-59) vs. Washington Nationals (64-43)

RHP Ricky Nolasco (8-10, 4.90) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (11-5, 3.12)

The Nationals rallied from two runs down with a six-run, two-out rally in the eighth inning to take a 10-7 victory and a 2-1 series lead over the Marlins going into Sunday’s finale. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg – who is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in starts following those in which he has given up four or more runs – is coming off his worst start of the year, in which he yielded six tallies.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Werth RF

7. Espinosa SS

8. Flores C

9. Strasburg RHP

DEEP SIX

Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning to cap a six-run uprising in Washington’s 10-7, comeback victory over Miami on Saturday night at Nationals Park. The six runs matched the club’s season high for a single inning, matching the total scored in the 10th inning of the Nationals 8-2 win over the Mets at Citi Field on July 23, just 12 days earlier. 

STREAKS AND BOMBS

Michael Morse has hit safely in a career-high 13 straight games, going 18-for-54 (.333) with two walks, three doubles, three homers, nine runs scored and 10 RBI. Morse’s 13-game run is the second-longest current hitting streak in the National League (Miami’s Jose Reyes is riding a 23-game hitting streak). Morse is currently tied with Steve Lombardozzi, who recorded a 13-gamer from June 29-July 20, for the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.

Adam LaRoche leads all MLB first baggers with 23 homers (Albert Pujols ranks second with 22). Among Nationals (2005-present), LaRoche’s 23 home runs are already tied for third with Nick Johnson (2006) on the single-season list among left-handed hitters. Adam Dunn occupies the top two spots on that list, as he hit 38 long balls in both 2009 and ‘10.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

Following today’s series finale, the Nationals embark on a three-city, ten-game roadtrip that includes visits to Space City (Houston, four games), The Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, three) and the City by the Bay (San Francisco, three). At 33-21 (.611), Washington owns the best road winning percentage in MLB (Atlanta 2nd: .600). The Nationals have won eight of 11, twelve of 17, and nineteen of their last 27 road contests. Washington is 11-4-2 in series play on the road this season.

 

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A Night Full of Stars

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In a season full of moments that seem to compete against one another for space in our collective memories, Saturday night brought the latest installment of drama for the 2012 Nationals. Rallying from two runs down with a six-run, two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats sent their home park into perhaps the loudest frenzy of the season to date.

Danny Espinosa had the loudest hit – and reaction – of the night.

But it wasn’t just the six-run inning that caused the commotion, it was the way in which the runs were scored, and the events that set up the comeback in the first place. Steve Lombardozzi squirted a base hit past the pitcher and up the middle to score Adam LaRoche to cut the lead to one. Tyler Moore followed with a two-out knock the other way to plate Jayson Werth to tie the game. Then Danny Espinosa crushed the go-ahead, three-run shot over the bullpen in left before Bryce Harper hit the longest Nationals Park home run of his young career, an absolute rocket deep into the second deck down the right field line. The final three hits, including the two monstrous homers, all came not only with two outs in the inning, but also with two strikes on each batter.

The Nationals also made three errors on the night, contributing either directly or indirectly to four Marlins runs. Espinosa made two of them (and Lombardozzi the third), only adding that much more to the redemptive value of their clutch hits.

More than anything, though, Saturday night’s triumph was another complete team effort. A month from now, most people will only remember Espinosa and Harper going back-to-back to give the Nationals the lead, but there were a number of unsung heroes Saturday night. Here are our top five:

Ryan Mattheus earned the win Saturday night.

5. The Bullpen

The life of a reliever can seem like a thankless one. Even those who are lucky enough to have the most visibly defined roles – like closer Tyler Clippard and set-up man Sean Burnett – are expected to succeed every time out. But then there are those expected to pick up the slack in games like Saturday’s, to keep the team close when it is trailing in the late innings. After Jordan Zimmermann left the game, the trio of Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez and Ryan Mattheus combined for three innings of work, allowing just a single unearned run. All three are having very solid seasons for the Nats, and Mattheus was rewarded for the trio’s effort with his fourth win of the season, as he was the pitcher of record when the offense sparked the comeback.

4. Justin Maxwell

Some of you are probably wondering who this is, while others of you are scratching your heads, knowing that Maxwell hasn’t worn a Nationals jersey since the 2010 season. And while that is true, the Olney, Maryland native and former National has found a home for himself with the Houston Astros, who faced the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta last night. Maxwell opened the scoring in that game with a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Paul Maholm, Atlanta’s trade deadline pitching acquisition. After the Braves tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, Maxwell drilled an even longer home run off Maholm to open the seventh, and the Astros held on for the 3-2 victory. Coupled with the Nationals come-from-behind win, the Braves loss pushed Washington 3.0 games clear in the National League East.

3. Steve Lombardozzi

Lombardozzi’s two-out single up the middle in the eighth scored the first run of the six-run rally. While those who have watched the rookie all season have become accustomed to seeing him hit the ball right over the second base bag, we haven’t seen him do it nearly as often from the right side. A switch-hitter, Lombardozzi was batting just .200 (12-for-60) as a righty coming into that at-bat. But he delivered another clutch hit, as he has been wont to do this year. And despite a rare miscue, he also played some tremendous defense Saturday night, including this gem, which saved a run.

2. Tyler Moore

With the return of Werth, Moore has acknowledged that his role will be largely off the bench down the stretch for the Nats. Taking cues from Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa, he knows he’ll have to make the most of his spot starts and especially his pinch-hit opportunities, like the one he got Saturday night. After falling behind in the count, usually pull-happy Moore stayed back and sent a line drive to the opposite field, scoring – of all people – Werth to tie the game.

1. Adam LaRoche

By the time Espinosa and Harper went deep, it was easy to forget that LaRoche had already homered twice Saturday night. Even more impressively, he hit both against tough lefty Mark Buehrle, giving him nine home runs vs. left-handed pithing this year, a new career mark. LaRoche also reached on an error and scored the first run in the six-run eighth. In a resurgent year, the first baseman leads all National League first basemen with 23 home runs and 69 RBI.

Enjoy the highlights below as the Nats look to cap a winning homestand with a series victory over the Marlins Sunday afternoon.

What to Watch for: 8/4

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Miami Marlins (49-58) vs. Washington Nationals (63-43)

LHP Mark Buerhle (9-10, 3.60) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 2.28)

The Nationals and Marlins opened a four-game, three-day set by splitting a pair of games in a doubleheader on Friday. Miami’s win in the night cap gave them a 6-5 season edge over Washington, making them the only team in the NL East with a winning record against the first-place Nats, who are 27-17 overall within the division this year.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa SS

2. Harper RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Werth CF

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombardozzi 2B

9. Zimmermann RHP

SPLITSVILLE

Washington split a twinbill (W, 7-4/L, 2-5) with the Marlins yesterday at Nationals Park. The Nationals earned a split for the fourth consecutive doubleheader, dating to last season. In 18 innings of baseball – which spanned exactly six hours – the two clubs sent 153 batters to the plate who saw a total of 574 pitches and each club scored nine runs on the day.

MICHAEL MORSE(L)

Michael Morse has hit safely in a career-high 12 straight games, going 17-for-49 (.347) with three doubles, three homers, nine RBI, two walks and nine runs scored. Morse’s 12-game run is the second-longest current hitting streak in the NL (Miami’s Jose Reyes is riding a 22-game hitting streak). With a hit tonight, Morse would match Steve Lombardozzi, who recorded a 13-gamer from June 29-July 20, for the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.

VIEW FROM THE TOP

The Nationals’ .594 winning percentage ranks second in Major League Baseball (Cincinnati, .613) and currently renders a 2.0-game lead over the Braves in the NL East standings. The Nationals have either led the NL East or shared the top spot for 106 of the season’s 116 days. Only the Rangers (113) have enjoyed more days atop of their division this season.

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What to Watch for: 8/3 – Game 2

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The Nationals jumped on the Marlins early for seven runs through the game’s first four frames and held on late for a 7-4 victory. Lefty Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.27) opposes right-hander Josh Johnson (6-7, 4.04) in the nightcap.

NATIONALS GAME 2 LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Espinosa SS

7. Bernadina CF

8. Leon C

9. Gonzalez LHP

ADAMVP

Adam LaRoche extended his hitting streak to match a career-long at 11 games with an RBI-single in the first inning and finished the afternoon 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs scored and three RBI. LaRoche has batted .463 (19-for-41) with three walks, five home runs, seven runs scored and 12 RBI over that span.

JUST LANNAN BEING LANNAN

John Lannan, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse for doubleheader spot start for the second time in two weeks, turned in another solid performance to again earn the win. The lefty allowed three runs in 6.0 innings of work and is now 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA between in his two starts this year.

WALK THIS WAY

Nationals batters drew nine walks, including seven through the first four innings. Washington fell one base on balls shy of its season high, set all the way back on April 11 at Citi Field against the Mets.

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What to Watch for: 8/3

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Miami Marlins (48-57) vs. Washington Nationals (62-42)

Game 1: LHP Brad Hand (NR, -.–) vs. LHP John Lannan (1-0, 2.57)

Game 2: RHP Josh Johnson (6-7, 4.04) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.27)

The Nationals play their second doubleheader of the season tonight, coming off a 3-0 shutout victory over the Phillies on Thursday night. Ross Detwiler tossed 7.0 innings of three-hit ball in the victory, lowering his second-half ERA to 1.75.

NATIONALS GAME 1 LINEUP

1. Espinosa SS

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Werth CF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Moore LF

7. DeRosa RF

8. Flores C

9. Lannan LHP

LET’S BE KURT

The Nationals announced before the game that they have made a trade for with the Oakland Athletics for catcher Kurt Suzuki, sending minor league catcher David Freitas to Oakland. Suzuki is a .254 career hitter and led all American League catchers in fielding percentage (.996), caught stealings (23) and CS percentage (38.3) at the time of the deal.

JORDAN RULES IN JULY

Jordan Zimmermann went 4-0 with an ultra-stingy 0.97 ERA in six July starts and was named NL Pitcher of the Month for July. Rotation-mates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez earned the same citation in April and May, respectively. The Nationals became the first team with three different pitchers to earn NL Pitcher of the Month awards in the same season since 1979, when HOU had four turn the trick: Ken Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, J.R. Richard and Joe Niekro.

ADAM BOMBS

Adam LaRoche went deep in the 2nd inning off Cole Hamels to trigger Thursday’s 3-0 home win over the Phillies. In so doing, LaRoche reached the 20-homer plateau earlier (by date) than any Nationals outside of Alfonso Soriano (2006) and Adam Dunn (2009 and ‘10).

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Aces Wild

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You’ve heard all season about the aces of the Nationals pitching staff. The numbers posted have been gaudy, often pacing the rest of the National League. And while the offense has come on strong thanks to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman and the return of injured players (welcome back, Jayson Werth!), the pitching has continued to lead the way. In fact, three Nationals starters rank in the top 25 in the league in ERA since the All-Star break, including two in the top 11: Jordan Zimmermann (0.75, third), Ross Detwiler (1.75, 11th) and Edwin Jackson (2.92, 23rd).

What, you were expecting someone else?

The truth is, the “back end” of the rotation has outperformed the two All-Stars of the staff so far in the season’s second half. Even John Lannan – who has made only one start, but will make his second of the month in the doubleheader today – would rank tied for 17th at 2.57.

Ross Detwiler shut down the Phillies Thursday night.

Zimmermann was rewarded for his success, as he took home National League Pitcher of the Month honors for July. All he did was go 4-0 with an ERA under 1.00 over six starts, striking out 31 while walking just four. In so doing, he joined Stephen Strasburg (April) and Gio Gonzalez (May) as the first trio of teammates to win the award since the Astros had four pitchers – Ken Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, J.R. Richard and Joe Niekro – do so in 1979, 33 years ago.

Zimmermann was honored before Wednesday night’s game, when Detwiler took the hill opposite Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Detwiler stifled the Phillies, shutting them out on just three hits over seven strong innings, retiring the final 14 batters he faced. After the game, the lefty mused jokingly that he needed to beat Jackson to the punch in order to take down the award in August. Informed that he had a lower ERA than Strasburg and Gonzalez since his return to the rotation, Detwiler was quick to point out Zimmermann’s exploits.

“But Jordan’s still got me?” he asked. “I’ve got work to do.”

That’s the approach everyone in the rotation takes: go out there and try to one up the last guy. It has served them well so far, as Washington’s staff continues to lead the Major Leagues with a 3.26 ERA entering play on Friday.

What to Watch for: 8/2

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Philadelphia Phillies (47-57) vs. Washington Nationals (61-42)

LHP Cole Hamels (11-5, 3.31) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (5-4, 3.24)

The Nationals will look to beat Cole Hamels for the first time this season as they send Ross Detwiler to the hill in a battle of southpaws. Both pitchers are 1-1 in three starts since the All-Star break, but Detwiler’s 2.41 ERA (5 ER/18.2 IP) is more than a run and a half lower than Hamels’ 3.92 mark (9 ER/20.2 IP) in that span.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa SS

2. Harper RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Werth CF

7. Leon C

8. Lombardozzi 2B

9. Detwiler LHP

HIT STREAK HYSTERIA

Michael Morse has hit safely in 10 straight games, going 14-for-41 (.341) with two doubles, three home runs, nine RBI, two walks and eight runs scored. With a hit tonight, Morse would match the longest hitting streak of his career (11 games, May 22-June 2, 2011). Adam LaRoche, meanwhile, is riding a nine-game hitting streak.

WERTH THE WAIT

Prior to the game, outfielder Jayson Werth was reinstated and activated from the 60-day Disabled List. He returns to face Hamels and the Phillies in D.C., the same opposing pitcher, opponent and location of the game in which he sustained his injury (broken left wrist) back on May 6.

POWER PLANT

Despite Morse, Werth, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos missing significant time due to injuries, the Nationals have hit 113 homers in 103 games or 1.1 long balls per contest…in seven previous years in D.C., only once has Washington hit more than 1.0 home run per game: in ‘06 the Nationals blasted 164 long balls in 162 games (1.01 per game).

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Story of the Yearbook

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The calendar has flipped to August, and that means a few things for baseball fans. For starters, it means the season has hit the dog days, as we’ve passed the 100 game mark and are about to enter the stretch drive of the final third of the season. It also means that 2012 Nationals Yearbooks are now available at Nationals Park! With a feature on the skipper, Davey Johnson, photo spreads of all your favorite Nationals players, a team record book and more, it is the official publication of the most exciting season of Nats baseball yet. Pick yours up at the Team Store or at kiosks around the ballpark for $10. Here’s the cover, followed by a short excerpt from the feature, to give you a taste of what to expect:

Johnson understands the grueling grind of the six-month, 162-game season. The 69 year-old endured 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, but was limited under 130 games in five of those years due to injury. Now in his 16th year as a big league skipper, Johnson has easily surpassed his total number of games played with his number of games managed. He will pass the 2,200 mark in his first full season at the helm of the Nationals this year, one he hopes will yield the first winning season in club history. 

While much of that will hinge on the young, up-and-coming talent in the starting rotation and everyday lineup, Johnson knows how important his bench – and how he uses it – will be to the Nationals success.

 “Everybody in the world basically knows who the five starters are going to be and everyone in the world knows who the eight position players are going to be,” he states, matter-of-factly. “But how you can mesh them, to where 25 guys can fit as a cohesive unit, is really critical if you want to win a pennant.” 

To win a pennant. That’s a goal for every team, so Johnson doesn’t bother qualifying his hopes for this team, still looking for its first winning season, much less playoff appearance, by lowering his expectations. He has needed each of those 25 guys – and really, with the injuries the Nationals have suffered, a good number more – to accomplish a turnaround like the one Washington is hoping for in the District this year.

For the full article, pick up your 2012 Nationals Yearbook at the ballpark. Also, today is the last day to get Issue 2 of Nationals Magazine, featuring Bryce Harper on the cover, as well as features on Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. Issue 3 will debut for Friday’s doubleheader. Take a special sneak peek at the cover below…

So, to recap:

2012 Nationals Yearbook: Available now, in-park only. Cost: $10

Nationals Magazine, Issue 2 (Harper Cover): Last day available, in-park only. Cost: $5

Nationals Magazine, Issue 3 (Desmond Cover): Available beginning tomorrow, in-park only. Cost: $5

See you at the park!

What to Watch for: 8/1

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Philadelphia Phillies (46-57) vs. Washington Nationals (61-41)

RHP Vance Worley (5-6, 3.88) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (6-6, 3.52)

The Phillies traded a pair of outfielders before last night’s contest, but held onto starter Cliff Lee, who pitched out of jams early and shut out the Nationals over seven innings in an 8-0 final. Edwin Jackson carries a 12-inning scoreless streak into tonight’s game as he looks for his third straight quality start.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper RF

3. Tracy 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Espinosa SS

7. Bernadina CF

8. Flores C

9. Jackson RHP

Z-MAN FOR NL PLAYER OF THE MONTH FOR JULY

Ryan Zimmerman batted .366 with nine doubles, 10 homers, 24 RBI and a 1.186 OPS in July and would appear to be a leading candidate for NL Player of the Month voting. Ryan led the NL in runs (24), RBI (24), slugging percentage (.752) and extra-base hits (19) in July. His 1.186 July OPS was the second-highest ever registered by a National in any month with at least 75 plate appearances. Only Alfonso Soriano (1.249, July 2006) was more productive in a single month among Nationals hitters.

Z-MAN(N) FOR NL PITCHER OF THE MONTH FOR JULY

Jordan Zimmermann went 4-0 with an ultra-stingy 0.97 ERA in six July starts and should be a leading candidate for NL Pitcher of the Month. He led MLB his 0.97 ERA and ranked among the National League’s top three in baserunners allowed per 9.0 innings (first, 7.5), WHIP (first, 0.84), wins (tied for first, 4), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2nd, 7.8/1) and OPS against (2nd, .499).

KEEPING SCORE ON THE SEASON

The Nationals rank second in the National League and third in Major League Baseball in run differential at +74. MLB’s top 5: STL (+99), NYY (+77), Washington (+74), TEX (+73), and CIN (+65). Washington has allowed the fewest runs in MLB (366), meanwhile, the Nationals have dented home plate 440 times this season to rank eighth in the NL and 16th in MLB. In seven previous seasons in D.C., the Nationals have yet to post a positive run differential.

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