May 2013

Highlights: 5.16.13

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5.16.13 – Nationals 6, Padres 2

Stat of the Game: Stephen Strasburg logged a career-high 8.0 innings in his first-ever start in his hometown of San Diego. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Adam LaRoche extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games with a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

It Was Over When: Bryce Harper crushed an offering from Tyson Ross off the top of the batter’s eye in the eighth, providing the final margin.

What to Watch for: 5.16.13

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Washington Nationals (21-19) vs. San Diego Padres (18-21)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-5, 3.10) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (3-3, 5.15)

The Nationals head south for the second stop on their three-city California tour as the open a four-game, weekend set with the San Diego Padres Thursday night at Petco Park. Stephen Strasburg makes his first-ever Major League start in his hometown city, where he also attended college at San Diego State University.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Bernadina RF

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP

GOING STREAKING

Adam LaRoche enters tonight’s action riding a 12-game hit streak, marking his career long and the longest hit streak by a Nationals player this season. During the stretch, which began on May 2, LaRoche has gone 16-for-41 (.390) with two doubles, a homer, five RBI, seven walks and six runs scored, posting a .469 OBP & .982 OPS. His hit streak, which has raised his average 85 points, began after hitting just .129 (11-for-85) in his initial 25 games this season.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Washington is 16-2 when scoring first this season, compared to 5-17 when its opponent gets on the board first. The Nationals have been outscored 16-22 in the first frame this season, but have outscored their opponents 21-10 in the second inning.

RISP FACTOR

Washington’s offense has gone two consecutive contests without recording a knock with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-13 in those games. The Nationals have gone hitless in 14 straight at-bats with RISP, since Roger Bernadina’s sixth-inning single on Monday at Los Angeles. During the current five-game rough stretch (1-4 record), Washington has batted just .133 (6-for-45) with RISP.

Highlights: 5.15.13

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5.15.13 – Dodgers 3, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche homered for Washington’s lone run, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Craig Stammen allowed just two hits over 3.0 scoreless innings of relief, striking out three without a walk.

It Was Over When: The Dodgers added an insurance run in the eighth to provide the final margin of victory.

What to Watch for: 5.15.13

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Washington Nationals (21-18) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (16-22)

LHP Ross Detwiler (2-3, 2.53) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.59)

Washington looks for a winning series to open its 10-game, three-city California road trip as the Nationals send southpaw Ross Detwiler against the recently reinstated Zack Greinke. Greinke has been out for four weeks following a broken collar bone, and allowed eight runs (three earned) in just 4.1 innings of work in his lone rehab start at High-A last week.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Ramos C

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Berndina RF

9. Detwiler LHP

DON’T WALK

Washington’s pitching staff has logged 20.0 consecutive innings without issuing a walk, just 8.0 innings shy of matching the longest such streak in MLB this season. The Nationals (‘05-present) record for consecutive innings without granting a walk is 29.0, accomplished over parts of four games from September 16-20 during the 2011 campaign.

POWER OUTAGE

Nationals pitchers have thrown 47.0 consecutive innings without surrendering a home run, a stretch that has spanned five+ contests. On the flipside, Washington’s batters have been held inside the yard for three straight games and look to avoid their first four-game homer drought since the 2011 season (five games without a home run from September 12-16).

IRREGULARITY

Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Denard Span and Wilson Ramos have all missed time this season while dealing with injury or illness. Davey Johnson was last able to pen a lineup that included his standard starting eight (LaRoche 1B, Espinosa 2B, Desmond SS, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Span CF, Werth RF, Ramos/Suzuki C) on April 14. Washington is 6-4 this season when Johnson’s standard starting eight play together.

A Piece of Living History

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There are few living legends in the game whose presence looms as large as Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. The now 85-year-old has been the voice of the Dodgers for 64 years, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. He is a walking encyclopedia of baseball and cultural knowledge and always makes for a tremendously entertaining interview.

Scully sat down with Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes prior to Tuesday night’s game in Los Angeles. He told stories of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, his start in broadcasting in Washington D.C., and discussed Bryce Harper’s collision Monday night.

“The only good thing about it is it knocked his beard off,” Scully mused, as Harper had to shave in order to receive his stitches.

Scully went to the clubhouse before the game Tuesday to see Harper, who seemed caught off guard to see him in Davey Johnson’s office. As Harper shook Scully’s and offered a customary pleasantry, Scully retorted with, “Well, how are you young man?” in reference to the play the night before. The two went on to chat for several minutes as Johnson made his away around the clubhouse.

“He’s such a fine young man and an outstanding player,” said Scully of Harper. “It’s none of my business, but I hope he stays clean shaven.”

Listen to the full interview below. The Nationals wrap their three-game set in Los Angeles tonight.

What to Watch for: 5.14.13

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Washington Nationals (21-17) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-22)

RHP Dan Haren (4-3, 5.17) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.62)

The Nationals opened their 10-game California trip with a 6-2 victory on Monday night and hope to keep their winning ways going against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Dan Haren takes the mound for Washington riding a three-game winning streak over which he has fashioned a 3.15 ERA, striking out 12 and walking just two.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Desmond SS

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Moore RF

7. Ramos C

8. Perez CF

9. Haren RHP

BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S BEST

Nationals starting pitchers rank second in the Major League Baseball with a 3.19 ERA (83 ER/234.0 IP). Last season, Washington paced the National League in starters ERA at 3.40.

GOING STREAKING

Adam LaRoche enters tonight’s action riding a 10-game hit streak, one shy of his career-long of 11 (accomplished twice, last July 22-August 3, 2012). During the stretch, which began on May 2, LaRoche has gone 14-for-34 (.412) with two doubles, four RBI, six walks and five runs scored, posting a .488 OBP and a .958 OPS. LaRoche joins Ian Desmond (10 games, April 24-May 3) as the only Nationals to put together double-digit streaks this season.

NO DOUBLE DIPPING

With just 20 GIDPs, the Nationals have been the second-toughest club in the NL to double-up this season (NYM, 15 GDP). Denard Span, who has not grounded into a double play since September 24 last season, currently ranks third in the NL with 137 at-bats without a GIDP.

The Other Zimmerman(n)

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Ryan Zimmerman has long been the name best associated with the Washington Nationals. For years, he was easily the most recognizable player, his Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards helping him stand out as the clear-cut favorite to be recognized in a ballpark outside of Washington.

While he remains the most well-established and longest-tenured star on the club, with young stars like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg joining him in the forefront, Zimmerman can now lean on those around him to help carry the load, both on and off the field. And so, in typical Zimmerman fashion, his contributions on Monday night were overshadowed by other headlines, his three RBI and solid defense at third base pushed down the page.

This two-run double helped Zimmerman and the Nats break the game open early.

This two-run double helped Zimmerman and the Nats break the game open early.

Meanwhile, after a year of ceding various accolades to rotation-mates Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann’s eye-opening start to the 2013 campaign has suddenly thrust him into the spotlight.

Just how good has he been? Few pitchers would see their ERA rise after allowing just two runs over 7.2 innings of work, but that’s exactly what happened to Zimmermann on Monday night. His 1.69 ERA now sits just .25 behind NL-leader Matt Harvey of the Mets, fifth-best in the National League on the young season. His effort still earned him his league-high seventh win as well, but there’s another, more obscure category in which he also leads every pitcher in the sport.

Zimmermann’s 13.26 pitches per inning are the fewest of any starting pitcher in baseball. Couple that with his quick reset on the mound between deliveries, and he gives his defense the shortest amount of time possible standing out at their positions. The less time the Nationals spend on the field, the more they spend at the plate, putting additional pressure on the opposing pitcher.

Zimmermann kept his early season success rolling at Dodger Stadium Monday.

Zimmermann kept his early season success rolling at Dodger Stadium Monday.

Shorter innings also equal longer starts for the 26-year-old, who has worked at least seven innings in six of his eight starts. In comparison, he only lasted that late into a game nine times in 32 starts in 2012. A longer outing takes pressure off the bullpen, meaning fewer opportunities for the opposing offense to catch a reliever on a bad day or have the chance to exploit a matchup.

Though not obvious, flashy statistics, they create a recipe for success that, just like Zimmermann’s mid-90’s heater, can sneak past you before you have time to adjust. If the rest of Zimmermann’s season is anything like these first eight starts, he’ll have a chance to do what Strasburg and Gonzalez did last season: pitch in the Midsummer Classic in July.

Regardless of what accolades he receives, fans around the league ought to start learning the name of the Nationals newest superstar. The adjustment should be easy – just add another “N.”

Highlights: 5.13.13

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5.13.13 – Nationals 6, Dodgers 2

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann won his Major League leading seventh game of the season, allowing just two runs in 7.2 innings of work. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman plated three RBI, on a sac fly and a two-run double, to key the offense.

It Was Over When: Washington knocked out Los Angeles starter Josh Beckett after just three innings of work.

What to Watch for: 5.13.13

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Washington Nationals (20-17) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-21)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-1, 1.59) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (0-4, 5.13)

The Nationals open a three-game series and 10-game road trip with this evening’s tilt in Los Angeles. Washington sends six-game winner Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against a heretofore winless Josh Beckett in a matchup of right-handers.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Harper RF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

The Nationals open a 10-game road trip to the Golden State’s cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. The 10-game trek, which matches the longest road swing on the 2013 schedule, marks Washington’s lone visit this season to the Pacific Coast and the first action against the NL West this year. The Nationals went 17-13 against the NL West last season (8-8 at NL West ballparks), the club’s first single-season winning mark against the division since ’05 (16-14).

GOING STREAKING

Adam LaRoche enters tonight’s action riding a nine-game hit streak, looking to join Ian Desmond (10 games, April 24-May 3) as the only Nationals to put together double-digit streaks this season. During the stretch, which began on May 2, LaRoche has gone 13-for-29 (.448) with six walks, two doubles, two RBI and five runs scored, posting a .528 OBP & 1.045 OPS. His hit streak began after batting just .129 (11-for-85) in his initial 25 games this season. LaRoche’s career-long hitting streak is 11 games, accomplished twice (last, July 22-August 3, 2012).

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Washington is 15-2 when scoring first this season, compared to 5-15 when its opponent gets on the board first. The Nationals have been outscored 21-15 in the first frame this season, but have outscored their opponents 21-9 in the second inning.

Remembering Jackie

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After seeing the film “42,” Commissioner Bud Selig felt that it was very important for everyone, especially young people, to see the movie. So over the past few weeks, Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs teamed up to offer high school students a private screening and panel discussion with members of the baseball community about the impact of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on American history.

Last Friday, nearly 400 D.C. public high school students were treated to a special showing, followed by an open question and answer session with Nationals broadcaster Dave Jageler, EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, center fielder Denard Span, first base coach Tony Tarasco and Kendra Gaither from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Given the ability to ask nearly anything and everything, the students asked questions about the challenges of being a professional athlete, the impact of Jackie Robinson, and battling racial prejudice, both on and off the field.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

In one of the best questions of the day, Rizzo was asked if he thought he could have made a move as bold as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s in signing Robinson as the first African American player in the Major League Baseball.

“It’s difficult to put yourself in his shoes,” Rizzo admitted. “Not only was that a baseball decision, it was a social decision that sent ripples throughout the world.”

All the panel participants stressed the importance of remembering just how big of a story Robinson’s ascent to the Major Leagues was, and how his influence extended far beyond the playing field. After all, he made his debut in 1947, more than 16 full years prior to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” often thought of as the centerpiece of the American Civil Rights Movement.

“With the passage of time, there’s an opportunity for amnesia,” explained Gaither, whose work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation is an ongoing effort to fight such an occurrence. “A movie like this reminds us of what life was really like back then.”

For his part, Span expressed not only gratitude for the doors the previous generations opened that  allowed him to do what he does, but also pride in the opportunity to so publicly  celebrate Robinson’s legacy every April 15.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

“It’s a day that I look forward to every year,” he said of MLB’s league-wide day of recognition, on which all players wear the number 42. “We get a chance to honor a special individual.”

When asked if they thought they would have had the bravery to do what Robinson did, Span and Tarasco had slightly different takes. While the current player expressed hope that he could have done the same, Tarasco was more forthcoming.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Robinson’s success signified something greater to Tarasco. His biggest takeaway from the film was that the spirit of the team won out over individual prejudice, a sentiment that will never be forgotten and will never go out of style.

“It’s not about who’s right, it’s about what’s right.”

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