July 2013

What to Watch for: 7.31.13

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Washington Nationals (52-55) vs. Detroit Tigers (60-45)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.97) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (10-8, 3.99)

Washington takes aim at a two-game split and a season series victory over the Tigers as the Nationals send Gio Gonzalez to the hill against Justin Verlander. The Nationals have a travel day Thursday before concluding their road trip with three games in Milwaukee over the weekend.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Harper LF

3. Zimmerman DH

4. Werth RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Rendon 3B

8. Suzuki C

9. Lombardozzi 2B

LHP Gonzalez

KINDRED SPIRITS

Not only did Verlander and Gonzalez finish second and third, respectively, in their league’s voting for the 2013 Cy Young Awards, both rank second in their league in wins since the beginning of last season. Gonzalez’s 28 victories rank trail only Lance Lynn’s 30 in the NL, while Verlander’s 27 rank 2nd behind teammate Max Scherzer’s 31 in the AL.

INTERLEAGUE INTRIGUE

Washington is 9-7 (.563) in interleague play this season (3-0 vs. White Sox, 2-1 vs. Tigers, 1-3 vs. Orioles, 2-1 vs. Twins, 1-2 vs. Indians). The Nationals need to win at least two of the four remaining interleague matchups (one at Detroit, three at Kansas City) this season to record a third consecutive winning mark against the AL (10-8 in 2012, 8-7 in ‘11). League-wide, the NL is 99-114 (.465) against the AL this season. The last time the Senior Circuit posted a winning interleague record was 2003 (137-115, .544).

DATE IN D.C. BASEBALL HISTORY

JULY 31, 2010 – Ryan Zimmerman clouts a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning off Philadelphia’s Brad Lidge for his seventh career walk-off home run, giving Washington a 7-5 home win over Phillies.

Highlights: 7.30.13

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7.30.13 – Tigers 5, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper led off the game with a triple and scored Washington’s lone run in the first inning.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez improved to 9-1 career versus the Nationals.

It Was Over When: Alex Avila broke a 1-1 tie with a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth against Stephen Strasburg.

Remembering Gavin Rupp

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The Nationals are saddened to hear that we lost one of our biggest fans, Gavin Rupp, to cancer earlier today. We hope that the Rupp family finds comfort in the many happy memories they shared with Gavin, including his time at Nationals Park where he became an inspiration to us all.

Rupp4

What to Watch for: 7.30.13

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Washington Nationals (52-54) vs. Detroit Tigers (59-45)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-8, 2.85) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 2.68)

The All-Star break provides a number of opportunities for players. The four days are a chance to catch your breath, lick your wounds, and get a mental restart for the stretch run. For managers though, it also provides a chance to reset the pitching rotation to best match up with opponents.

In Davey Johnson’s case, that meant he could line up Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez for this two-game set against Detroit, beginning Tuesday night in the Motor City. It also means Jordan Zimmermann will get to start back in his home state of Wisconsin on Friday night in Milwaukee, where he delivered six strong innings to earn his fourth win in a very strong month of August last season.

Of course, it also means the rotation will roll over once more, setting up the top three Washington starters to pitch during the Nationals upcoming August 5-7 home series with Atlanta. With a little tinkering, Johnson could work around the off days to do the same for the road series against the Braves, August 16-18 at Turner Field.

The ability to set up the top of the rotation is great, but it is made all the more important by the success of the rest of the starters, like the three huge starts delivered by Ross Ohlendorf, Dan Haren and Taylor Jordan over the weekend. After one of their toughest losses of the season in the opening game of the doubleheader with the Mets on Friday – and with All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey and Nats nemesis Dillon Gee on the horizon – Washington needed big performances from all three to have a successful weekend.

That’s exactly what they got. Ohlendorf, Haren and Jordan combined to deliver 20 innings over which each allowed just a single earned run (1.35 combined ERA) on 14 total hits and four walks while striking out 21 Mets batters. The offense did just enough to muster a win Friday night, with Ryan Zimmerman providing the ninth-inning heroics, then powered three home runs Saturday and came alive to set season highs in hits and runs on Sunday. That gave the Nationals three straight wins heading into their current Midwest road trip.

If the rotation can continue to feed off of itself and the lineup behind it finds its groove, the Nationals will be as well positioned as they could possibly hope for the upcoming division showdowns with Atlanta that may well determine the fate of the division.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Tracy DH

RHP Strasburg

BETTER AT-BATS = BETTER BALL

The Nationals won four of the final five games on their season-long 11-game homestand. They batted .302 (52-for-172) and plated 29 runs during the 4-1 surge since last Thursday, averaging 5.8 runs per game over that stretch.

WERTH THE WAIT

Jayson Werth is batting .331 (56-for-169) with 23 walks, seven doubles, 11 home runs, 30 runs scored, 32 RBI, and a .410 OBP in 48 games since returning from the disabled list (right hamstring) on June 4. During the month of July, Werth paces the National League in batting average (.376), OPS (1.103), on-base percentage (.455) and RBI (21). He also ranks among the Senior Circuit’s top five in home runs (tied-second, seven), slugging percentage (third, .647) and hits (tied-fifth, 32).

THREE GRAND

With Wilson Ramos’ bases-clearing blast in the third inning on Sunday, the Nationals have now blasted three grand slams in 2013. The club went 70 games before hitting a grand slam, with Ian Desmond providing the first of the year, in the 11th inning on June 19 in Philadelphia. Since then, Washington has collected three in 36 games, also including Ryan Zimmerman’s shot against San Diego on July 7 in The District.

A Show of Appreciation

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As a nod to the tremendous support the Nationals get from their fans each game, the club hosted its annual Season Plan Holder Appreciation Day on Saturday before an afternoon contest against the New York Mets. More than 4,800 full and partial Season Plan Holders took part in the event.

The interactive festivities included a Kids Carnival, an Ultimate Access Lounge, a Season Plan Holder Picnic Area and the opportunity to purchase exclusive game-worn items at the Nationals Authentics booth on the main concourse. Attendees could also participate in a Q & A on the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk hosted by Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler with General Manager Mike Rizzo and Director of Player Development Doug Harris. Each gave candid answers to questions regarding the 2013 season, the team and the Nationals farm system.

The main event was an on-field photo opportunity with Nationals players and coaches, in which fans lined the warning track for a chance to take a photo with their favorite Nationals personalities. Many players and coaches stopped for autographs or a handshake, with manager Davey Johnson the first to appear on the field and the last to leave.

The Nationals also hosted their annual toy drive with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and their Toys for Tots program. New toys and monetary donations were collected prior to Season Plan Holder Appreciation Day as well as Saturday afternoon’s Nationals-Mets game.

Check out the gallery below for photos from the event.

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Highlights: 7.28.13

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7.28.13 – Nationals 14, Mets 1

Stat of the Game: The Nationals set season highs in in runs (14) and hits (18) as Wilson Ramos blasted his first career grand slam and Denard Span homered for the second straight game.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Taylor Jordan struck out a career-high seven batters en route to his first Major League win.

It Was Over When: Ramos doubled the Nationals early lead with his third inning slam.

What to Watch for: 7.28.13

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New York Mets (46-55) vs. Washington Nationals (51-54)

RHP Carlos Torres (1-1, 0.94) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (0-3, 3.68)

Fear the goggles.

Tyler Clippard works in what can sometimes be a thankless role, almost always pitching the seventh or eighth inning in close ballgames. Occasionally, when the game is tied or if the Nationals are trailing, that puts him in a position to pick up a win; after all, he’s got six of them this year. But usually, the only time he ends up in the spotlight is if the other team scores a run. That hasn’t happened much lately, which is why Clippard’s tremendous season is largely flying under the radar.

His overall numbers speak for themselves: a 6-1 record, 1.74 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 46.1 innings pitched. But those marks have gotten better and better as the season has progressed. Since June 1, he’s allowed only one run in 23.2 innings, holding opponents to a .108 batting average. And in his last 15 appearances since June 26, Clippard has allowed just two hits and four walks over 15 scoreless frames, striking out 17.

Simply put, it’s hard to pitch any better than Clippard has the past two months. For the season, he’s picked up 19 holds and has not been dealt a single blown save all year. Every time Davey Johnson has handed Clippard the ball with a lead of three runs or less, he has handed it back with the lead intact.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Jordan RHP

DAN THE MAN

Dan Haren earned his fifth win – his first in 12 starts, or since May 9 vs. Detroit – by allowing just one run on three singles and a walk in 7.0 strong innings, striking out six. In four starts since his return from the disabled list, Haren owns a 3.13 ERA (8 ER/23.0 IP) and 26 strikeouts against just six walks.

POWER SURGE

Ian Desmond hit his team-leading 16th, Bryce Harper notched his 15th and Denard Span got on the board with his first home run of the season. Desmond and Span went back-to-back, marking the seventh time this season that Nationals players have homered in consecutive at-bats. Washington has hit 12 home runs in its last eight games at Nationals Park, representing its largest eight-game power output in The District this season.

THE SERIES

The Nationals have won the past two season series from the Mets, going 14-4 last season and 10-8 in 2011. Washington currently holds a 6-5 margin in this year’s matchup, including a 3-2 mark at Nationals Park.

Highlights: 7.27.13

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7.27.13 – Nationals 4, Mets 1

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren earned his first win in 12 starts thanks to a dominant performance, in which he allowed just three hits over seven frames.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Bryce Harper homered for the second time in three games, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBI.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano struck out Ike Davis to lock down his 26th save in 30 opportunities.

What to Watch for: 7.27.13

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New York Mets (46-54) vs. Washington Nationals (50-54)

RHP Dillon Gee (7-7, 4.07) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-11, 5.79)

Some time ago, Ryan Zimmerman earned the title of Mr. Walk-off. He seemed to play the leading role in every significant victory in Nationals history, displaying a unique flair for the dramatic. But it had been a while since Zimmerman’s last walk-off home run, which came back in the 2011 season. That drought ended with a bang on Friday night.

In classic Zimmerman style, he punished a high fastball from LaTroy Hawkins to the opposite field, clearing the out-of-town scoreboard to break a 1-1 tie and give the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets. Following Bryce Harper’s walk-off blast Thursday, Zimmerman’s long ball gave the Nationals walk-off homers on back-to-back days after not hitting any since Ian Desmond’s May 2, 2012 blast beat the Diamondbacks.

More impressively, Zimmerman has now hit nine game-winning home runs. Since his Nationals debut in 2005, that’s the most of any Major League player. It’s also the most by any player in history before his 30th birthday, surpassing Albert Pujols’ mark of eight. Oh, and Zimmerman won’t turn the big 3-0 until September 28. Next year.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Haren RHP

OOOOOHLENDORF

Ross Ohlendorf turned in his second excellent spot start of the 2013 season, allowing a single run over 7.0 innings of six-hit ball, walking two and striking out eight. In his two starts, he is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA (2 ER/13.0 IP) and has allowed just 12 baserunners while striking out 10.

BEING IAN

Ian Desmond has posted a NL-best .989 fielding percentage in 84 games at shortstop dating back to April 22. In that three-plus month span, only Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta (.994) has registered a better fielding percentage among big league shortstops.

THE SERIES

The Nationals are 11-2 in one-run games against the Mets since the beginning of 2011. Washington has claimed two straight season-series (14-4 in 2012, 10-8 in 2011) from New York. The Nationals also improved to 3-1 when facing Matt Harvey, despite the righty lowering his ERA to 1.00 (3 ER/27.0 IP) in four career starts against Washington.

Highlights: 7.26.13

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7.26.13 Game 1 – Mets 11, Nationals 0

Stat of the Game: Steve Lombardozzi collected his second straight multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Mattheus returned to the roster, making his first appearance since May 19.

It Was Over When: The Mets broke the game open with six runs in the ninth inning.

7.26.13 Game 2 – Nationals 2, Mets 1

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman blasted his ninth career walk-off home run, the most by anyone in the Major Leagues since his debut in 2005.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ross Ohlendorf allowed a single run on six hits over seven frames, striking out eight.

It Was Over When: Zimmerman’s shot carried the Nationals to their second walk-off win in as many days.

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