June 2013

Highlights: 6.22.13

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6.22.13 – Rockies 7, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman accounted for Washington’s lone run, swatting a solo home run, his ninth of the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ross Ohlendorf allowed just a single run in 4.2 innings of relief, striking out four without a walk.

It Was Over When: Colorado followed its three-run first inning with another three-run frame in the fourth.

Stroke of Fortune

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Sometimes, just when it looks like everything is breaking against you, something that appears to be bad luck instead returns good fortune. In a game that appeared headed the direction that too many have already gone this season, where a couple bits of bad luck tilted a close game against them, the Nationals got just such a break Friday night.

Washington had precious few opportunities against Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood, who looked every part like the pitcher with a 2.33 ERA heading into his start, a number all the more impressive given half of his outings take place at Coors Field. The first of these chances followed a two-out Steve Lombardozzi walk in the second inning. Lombardozzi got a decent jump on Chatwood and appeared to have second base stolen with Kurt Suzuki at the plate, but was called out by second base umpire Rob Drake. Both Lombardozzi and Davey Johnson argued the play to no avail.

Colorado's forced pinch-hit opened the door for Desmond's game-winning home run.

Colorado’s forced pinch-hit opened the door for Desmond’s game-winning home run.

In the top of the fifth, Josh Rutledge hit the ball deep in the hole at shortstop, where Ian Desmond made a tremendous effort just to get to the ball, then had to throw across his body back towards first, his momentum carrying him towards the left field line. His throw arrived just as Rutledge was reaching first, but the runner was called safe. Thankfully, the Nationals would escape the inning with no damage.

In the sixth, following a leadoff single, D.J. LeMahieu took off for second, and it appeared that Kurt Suzuki’s throw might have him nabbed. But again, Drake signaled safe, another bang-bang play against the Nationals. Stephen Strasburg bore down to strike out Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario to once again avoid trouble, though.

One inning later, another seemingly unfortunate play actually helped set in motion the events that led to Washington’s eventual victory. With two outs in the top of the seventh, in a 1-1 tie, Rutledge – Strasburg’s personal tormenter for the evening – floated a double down the left field line into the corner, becoming the fifth runner in scoring position against the Nationals righty. The hit brought Chatwood’s spot to the plate, and in turn, forced Rockies manager Walt Weiss to pinch-hit for his starter in an attempt to take the lead. That ploy didn’t work, as Ryan Zimmerman chased down a Tyler Colvin pop-up to end the frame.

Furthermore, it resulted in Manuel Corpas enteringfrom the Colorado bullpen for the bottom of the seventh. He drew Desmond as his first assignment, and after missing with a pair of sliders, left a sinker up and out over the plate that Desmond crushed for his third home run in as many nights. The run provided the difference in the 2-1 victory, and marked the ninth of Desmond’s 12 homers that have given the Nationals the lead when they were hit.

That was just enough for Strasburg, who allowed only a single earned run for the sixth consecutive start, but had collected just two wins in the previous five. Instead, this was a win that harkened back to the early parts of last season, when Johnson’s mantra of great pitching, great defense and just enough timely hitting seemed to be enough to win most nights. Even when everything seemed to be breaking bad.

What to Watch for: 6.22.13

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Colorado Rockies (37-38) vs. Washington Nationals (37-36)

RHP Jhoulys Chacin (5-3, 4.26) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-8, 5.72)

The Nationals won their third straight game thanks to Ian Desmond’s seventh-inning, go-ahead jack, his third homer in as many contests. The win helped propel Washington to its sixth win in 10 games, and gave the Nats their first season series win over the Rockies since 2005. Today, Dan Haren takes the mound to try to give the Nationals their first four-game winning streak since winning five in a row between May 4-10.


1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina RF

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Solano C

9. Haren RHP


Remarkably, nine of Ian Desmond’s 12 home runs this season have been go-ahead blasts. Desmond currently leads all active MLB shortstops with 32 extra-base hits (18 doubles, 2 triples, 12 home runs). During Washington’s current three-game win streak, Desmond has posted the game-winning RBI in each contest, and he paces all MLB shortstops with nine game-winning RBI.


With 19 saves in hand, Rafael Soriano is one save shy of becoming the third Nationals closer to tally 20 saves before the end of June. At present, Matt Capps (20th save on June 9, 2010 vs. Pittsburgh) and Chad Cordero (June 14, 2005 at Los Angeles Angels) comprise this short list.


In 14 games and 43.0 innings dating to the June 8 series opener vs. Minnesota, Jim Lett’s bullpen is 4-3 with five holds, four saves (zero blown saves), 43 strikeouts and a 1.67 ERA (8 ER/43.0 IP). In that span, the bullpen has lowered its season ERA from 4.06 to 3.61. The bullpen has not allowed a home run at Nationals Park since Atlanta’s Ramiro Pena went deep in the 10th inning on April 12. Since that blast, Nationals relievers have worked 73.1 consecutive homerless innings in the District.

A Look Inside The Booth

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So, if you love baseball as much as we do, this is pretty awesome.

We often hear Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler’s radio highlights dubbed over our highlight clips, and are used to their familiar calls and catch phrases. But here’s a unique shot into the booth from Thursday night’s game, as Slowes calls Ian Desmond’s second-inning home run. We get to see the broadcaster in action, the visual documentation of the play on the monitor behind him as he watches it unfold on the field.

Our personal favorite part comes after the ball leaves Desmond’s bat. As soon as he realizes it’s gone, fellow radio man Dave Jageler points a jubilant finger to the sky in celebration (0:07). Also, in case you missed it, check out Jageler’s special yearbook video bonus feature, where he discusses “summoning” and much more.


What to Watch for: 6.21.13

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Colorado Rockies (37-37) vs. Washington Nationals (36-36)

 RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.33) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-6, 2.50) 

When the Nationals returned to The District yesterday, they brought their bats with them, scoring five runs on 11 hits behind Jordan Zimmermann, who turned in a dominant performance to earn his 10th win of the season. Tonight, in his first start at home since returning from the disabled list, Stephen Strasburg looks to hold the Rockies – who rank in the top five in Major League Baseball in runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage – in check to help Washington earn its third straight Curly W.


1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP


With last night’s 5-1 victory, Jordan Zimmermann earned his 10th win of the season, tying him for the Major League lead. The Nationals have not lost a game the last 11 times Zimmermann has started at home, since September 1, 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, Zimmermann has not lost at Nationals Park since May 17 of last year, a span of 19 straight starts.


Ian Desmond has not only gone yard in back-to-back games, but delivered the game-winning RBI in both as well. He now leads both the Nationals and all MLB shortstops with eight game-winning RBI. Desmond also leads all active MLB shortstops with 31 extra-base hits (18 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs). Only Troy Tulowitzki (32) has more, but he currently resides on Colorado’s Disabled List.


Adam LaRoche has hit safely in 16 straight games at Nationals Park, going 25-for-58 (.431) with five walks, two doubles, two triples, three homers, 16 runs scored and 13 RBI, compiling a 1.158 OPS. Meanwhile, Denard Span is batting .362 (17-for-47) with 5 doubles, 2 triples, seven runs scored and four RBI during his current 11-game home hitting streak.

Summoning With Dave Jageler

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The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the Dave Jageler Guest Commentary feature from the 2013 Nationals Yearbook. For the full interview, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2013 Nationals Yearbook at the the ballpark.

Highlights: 6.20.13

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6.20.13 – Nationals 5, Rockies 1

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann fanned a season-high nine batters over eight frames to earn his 10th win, tying him for the Major League lead.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Four Nationals pocketed multi-hit games, including Adam LaRoche, Steve Lombardozzi, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span.

It Was Over When: LaRoche tripled home a pair of runs in the fifth, opening up a four-run cushion.

Less Is More

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Most of the stories about Jordan Zimmermann’s most recent superb start will focus on his change-up, a favorite topic of the local writers here in Washington.

Explicitly, they will focus on one specific change-up, a particularly nasty, fading number that induced a flailing swing from one of the best hitters in baseball, the Rockies Carlos Gonzalez, to end the only real Colorado threat Thursday night. And that focus will be warranted. Check out the (0:50) mark of the video below to see for yourself.

But, there is a larger story here, a broader change in Zimmermann’s game. Never mind the fact that he shares the league lead in wins and complete games and ranks in the top five in innings pitched (107.2), ERA (2.26), WHIP (0.93), walks per nine innings (1.39) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.07).

No, the bigger issue at hand is the fact that the Wisconsin native is the league’s most efficient pitcher, needing just 13.52 pitches per inning. While that is not a statistic that is brought up as often as the ones preceding it, it is just as important. The fewer the pitches per inning, the deeper into the game a starter can work. That saves the bullpen’s arms and the defense’s legs, especially when one works as quickly between pitches as Zimmermann does. But just how good of a number is 13.52? Consider this: No Major League pitcher has finished a full season under 14 pitches per frame since Joel Pineiro in 2009 (13.85), and no pitcher has been more efficient since Greg Maddux – yes, that Greg Maddux – in his final season back in 2008.

Zimmermann's continued development is no mirage.

Zimmermann’s continued development is no mirage.

Maddux made an art form of his efficiency, leading the big leagues in every year of the last decade except 2005 (when he finished second) up to his retirement. The legend finished his illustrious run with 355 career victories, and will be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer this summer. Not a bad model to follow.

The results have led to Zimmermann averaging 7.17 innings per start, up from 6.11 last season. Meanwhile, his numbers have improved across the board from an already stellar season in 2012, except for a slightly lower strikeout rate. Zimmermann is just fine with that, knowing that quick, weak contact equals easy outs.

“I’ve been doing the same thing – throwing strikes,” the righty said of his success this season. “Obviously I want to be in the zone. (The hitters) know I’m in the zone, so they’re going to be hacking at the first pitch. As long as I make a quality pitch, it’s going to result in an out most of the time.”

Of course, when it comes to national publicity, Zimmermann can’t catch a break. “Oswalt fans 11 in debut, but Nats are victorious” blares the headline on MLB.com, without even a casual mention of the winning pitcher’s name. There is Oswalt’s strikeout total, but nothing of Jordan’s nine, a new season-high. The Rockies starter also allowed four runs in his five innings of work, Zimmermann ceding just a single, unearned tally against him in eight frames.

Maybe Zimmermann’s lack of notoriety for his accomplishments is an unintentional byproduct of his most improved skill. Perhaps he’s off the mound so quickly most innings that some writers fail to even notice how good he really is.

What to Watch for: 6.20.13

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Colorado Rockies (37-36) vs. Washington Nationals (35-36)

RHP Roy Oswalt (0-0, -.–) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-3, 2.44) 

Coming off a rousing, extra-inning win to close their recent nine-game road trip Wednesday night, the Nationals return home to face a familiar foe in Colorado, just one week after finishing a series against the Rockies in Denver. Washington took two of three in that matchup, but the club is just 4-12 against the Blake Street Bombers in 16 contests between the two at Nationals Park.


1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP


Jayson Werth’s RBI-single with two outs in the ninth inning sent Wednesday night’s game to extra innings and Ian Desmond’s first career grand slam ended it in the 11th as the Nationals rallied to top the Phillies, 6-2. Desmond’s slam rendered his seventh game-winning RBI, tying him for the Major League lead among shortstops in this category with Troy Tulowitzki.


Desmond’s 11th-inning grand slam was the first hit by a visiting player in extra innings in Philadelphia in over 73 years, since Reds right fielder Ival Goodman turned the trick, also in the 11th inning, on May 17, 1940 at Shibe Park.


In 12 games/40.0 innings dating to the June 8 series opener vs. Minnesota, Jim Lett’s bullpen is 4-3 with four holds, three saves (zero blown saves), 40 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA (8 ER/40.0 IP). In that span, the bullpen has lowered its season ERA from 4.06 to 3.67.

It’s Time to Vote Nats

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Did you know that Ian Desmond has played 52 straight games at arguably the game’s toughest position without making an error, and that he’s batting .344 with four homers in June?

How about the fact that Bryce Harper still leads the club with 12 homers, and that his .973 OPS would rank third among all qualifying players in the National League?

Are you aware that Adam LaRoche put together a career-high 16-game hitting streak in May, a month in which he batted .330 with seven homers and 19 RBI?

Did you realize that Ryan Zimmerman is in the top five in the National League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs and RBI, despite having played in just 57 games?

There are plenty of reasons to Vote Nats before the All-Star balloting is over. Your last day to vote in-park is June 25, and the last day to vote online is July 4. Vote early, vote often, and always Vote Nats.

Read more about this year’s candidates in this homestand’s Inside Pitch, available now at Nationals Park.



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