September 2013

What to Watch for: 9.29.13

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Washington Nationals (86-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-81)

RHP Tanner Roark (7-1, 1.74) vs. LHP Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63) 

The visiting clubhouse at Chase Field was light and boisterous on Sunday, the final day of the 2013 regular season. A half-dozen regular starters, none of whom were penciled into the lineup for the season finale, took in breakfast while they absorbed the first slate of NFL games on the RedZone channel. Hoots and hollers sprung up from the back rooms, where a season-long challenge was determined with a final weigh-in. And for the last time, Davey Johnson huddled with the media in his office, in uniform for one final game.

In typical Davey fashion, he refused to let the moment become too sentimental.

“It’s not like I’m dying tomorrow,” he quipped, after a particularly overwrought question about what it all meant.

He did allow himself a moment of reflection, though, about his five decades in the game.

“I feel melancholy, because this is a great group of guys, a great organization, and the city that made me love baseball, with the Senators,” he said. “My life has come full circle.”

Once a bat boy for the original Nationals, Johnson helped return baseball glory to Washington by guiding the 2012 club to the first postseason in The District since 1933. But despite repeated attempts to cajole his favorite moment from the past two-and-a-half seasons, Johnson played his cards close to the vest.

“Everywhere I go, my goal is always to make the team better,” he explained, saying that he would leave the decision on Washington’s next skipper to the man who appointed him, Mike Rizzo. “Well, the last manager he hired did a good job. I hope.”

Johnson will head back to D.C., then home to Florida, where he says his golf group is already set for Wednesday. He has joked since Spring Training about his impending vacation to Bora Bora, and reiterated that he has no desire to be a Major League manager next season. But the charm of the game still pulls at him.

“When you love the game as much as I love this game, with the competition, you just enjoy it,” he said.

Johnson will return as a senior advisor to Rizzo next season, but what about other opportunities the game might afford him?

“I never say never to anything, I’m always open for new challenges,” he said. “Heck, I’ve already got a job to manage in the Florida Collegiate Summer League next summer.”

And so, just like the season itself, while Davey’s career as manager of the Nationals comes to a close, it does not really end. After all, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in about 19 weeks.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Jeff Kobernus LF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Scott Hairston RF

4. Tyler Moore 1B

5. Zach Walters SS

6. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

7. Jhonatan Solano C

8. Eury Perez CF

9. Tanner Roark RHP

FINISHING STRONG

Dating to August 9, Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record (32-15, .680). Over the same span, Washington paces the National League in runs scored (235) and run differential (+70).

3B-SPAN

Denard Span enters the final day of the regular season leading MLB with a career-high 11 triples. No D.C.-based big leaguer has ever led MLB in triples, although 3B Howie Shanks (18 in 1921) and SS Joe Cassidy (19 in 1904) did tie for the MLB lead in three-baggers. In 2009 with the Twins, Span tied Jacoby Ellsbury for the AL lead with 10 triples.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are 105-94 on the road under Davey Johnson. The corresponding .528 road win percentage in that span ranks third in MLB behind only Texas (.562) and Los Angeles (NL) (.534).

Highlights: 9.28.13

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9.28.13: Nationals 2, Diamondbacks 0

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren was in command in his final start of the season, scattering four hits over seven scoreless frames.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Another former D-Back, Chad Tracy, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a solo shot, his first homer since June 17.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano got the final three outs to record his 43rd save, second-most in the National League.

What to Watch for: 9.28.13

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Washington Nationals (85-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-80)

RHP Dan Haren (9-14, 4.87) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-10, 4.64)

The Nationals hit two of the three longest home runs in baseball last night, as Wilson Ramos followed Jayson Werth’s three-run blast in the fifth inning (first, 448 feet) with one of his own in the eighth (third, 423 feet). Werth’s blast matched the longest of his career, also matching Ian Desmond’s August 14 drive off Tim Lincecum for the second-longest hit by a National this season. Desmond’s Kauffman Stadium blast 11 days later checks in as the longest by a Washington batter in 2013 at 455 feet.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Chad Tracy 1B

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Dan Haren RHP

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth is the only National Leaguer to rank in the top five in OPS (third, .935), slugging percentage (third, .535), batting average (fourth, .319) and on-base percentage (fifth, .400). At .935, Werth currently weighs in with the second-best OPS total in the Nationals nine-year history.

POWER SURGE

At the completion of play on September 1, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. Zimmerman has hit 11 long balls and is currently tied for fifth in the NL with a team-leading 26 homers. Zimmerman’s 11 homers this month are the most in Major League Baseball (Hunter Pence, 10) and have established a Nationals record for the month of September. The only National to hit more home runs in single month: Alfonso Soriano – 12 in May, 2006.

20 x 5

Thanks to Ryan Zimmerman (26), Jayson Werth (25), Ian Desmond (20), Bryce Harper (20), and Adam LaRoche (20), the Nationals are one of three teams with a quintet of 20-homer bats, joining Atlanta and Toronto.

Jersey Auction Raises Over $60,000

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When a senseless tragedy strikes, a stunned and saddened community is often left contemplating what they can do to help.  After the Navy Yard shooting on September 16, our thoughts quickly turned to the victims and their families.

We responded by offering one of the ballpark’s garages as a meeting place where employees at the Navy Yard reunited with loved ones. In addition, we made efforts to honor our neighbors and to provide a reprieve from the horrific event throughout the final homestand of the season.

The Nationals family includes our fans who, like us, were wondering how best to help. That’s when we decided that together we could make a difference by raising money for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and their Navy Yard Tragedy Family Support Fund.

TAPS is the 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for ANYONE who has suffered the loss of a military loved one. The organization provides comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer-based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources. As they did for the contract workers at the Pentagon who were affected by 9-11, TAPS has committed to doing the same for the families affected by the shooting at the Navy Yard.

In order to help us help our neighbors, the Nationals set up a weeklong online auction for the patriotic jerseys worn by the team during the first game of the September 17 doubleheader.

We knew our fans would step up to the plate, and step up you did. When the auction closed at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, more than $60,000 in bids had been placed for the autographed, game-worn patriotic jerseys. These funds will assist those who lost a loved one at the Navy Yard through support programs and casework assistance.

Thank you for your overwhelming response and show of support. We are so proud to have such wonderful fans as part of our Nationals family and we can’t thank you enough!

 

Highlights: 9.27.13

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9.27.13: Nationals 8, Diamondbacks 4

Stat of the Game: Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each blasted three-run home runs in the victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Stephen Strasburg worked 7.0 solid innings in his final start of the year to earn his ninth victory, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00 for the season.

It Was Over When: Ramos’ blast doubled Washington’s lead, providing the final margin.

What to Watch for: 9.27.13

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Washington Nationals (84-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-79)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28)

Washington opens its final series of the 2013 season Friday night in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. While the series does not have any postseason implications, the opening matchup will pit two of the brightest young pitchers in the National League against one another as Stephen Strasburg faces off against Patrick Corbin. These two met earlier this year with each allowing two runs over 7.0 innings of work in a game that was eventually won by Arizona, 3-2 in 11 innings.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Jeff Kobernus LF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper CF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore LF

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

EVEN STEPHEN

Stephen Strasburg will make his career-high 30th start of the season tonight. He will also add to his career-best innings total, which sits at 176.0 entering play. Strasburg has improved upon his ERA, and WHIP thus far this year, and he needs 10 more strikeouts to match his career high (197), set last season.

SHORT LIST

Jayson Werth (.316) appears likely to become the fifth qualified National to hit .300+ in a single season, joining Dmitri Young (.320, 2007), Cristian Guzman (.316, 2008), Ryan Zimmerman (.307, 2010) and Michael Morse (.303, 2011) on the short list.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are 103-94 on the road under Davey Johnson. The corresponding .523 road win percentage in that span ranks fourth in Major League Baseball behind only Texas (.562), Los Angeles NL (.534) and Detroit (.532).

What to Watch for: 9.25.13

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Washington Nationals (84-74) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (93-65)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (19-7, 3.18) vs. RHP Shelby Miller (14-9, 3.12)

The Nationals played a different kind of spoiler on Tuesday night in St. Louis.

While they hit a handful of balls hard against Cardinals hard-throwing righty Michael Wacha, they found themselves without a hit after 26 outs, just one away from being no-hit. And although the Montreal Expos had suffered such a fate four times in their existence, the franchise had not had a no-hitter thrown against it since moving to Washington in 2005.

Ryan Zimmerman made sure it stayed that way.

His chopper off home plate lofted over Wacha’s head, grazing the tip of his mitt as it bounded up the middle of the infield. Shortstop Pete Kozma charged the ball, made a barehand stab and threw to Matt Adams at first. The ball tailed, pulling Adams off the bag, and Zimmerman strode through the bag, evading the first baseman’s attempted swipe tag. Safe.

“I was just using my blazing speed to try to get there as fast as I could,” joked Zimmerman after the game, his comments thick with sarcastic self-deprecation. “That’s baseball. Baseball’s weird. We hit the ball on the screws the whole night and that’s the one that breaks it up.”

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

GOOD COMPANY

Jordan Zimmermann toes the rubber today in search of his 20th win, hoping to join Gio Gonzalez (21 wins in ‘12) on the short list of Nationals who have won 20 games. If Zimmermann pockets that 20th win, he’ll also move into a tie with Livan Hernandez (44) as the winningest pitcher in Nationals (‘05-present) history.

FOR WHAT IT’S WERTH

At .922, Jayson Werth currently weighs in with the third-best OPS total in the Nationals nine-year history. A closer look at the top 5 OPS campaigns turned in by Nationals:

PLAYER YEAR OPS
Nick Johnson 2006 .948
Adam Dunn 2009 .928
Jayson Werth 2013 .922
Alfonso Soriano 2006 .911
Michael Morse 2011 .910

AUCTION BENEFITTING VICTIMS OF WASHINGTON NAVY YARD SHOOTINGS

The Nationals are auctioning off game-worn, autographed patriotic jerseys in honor of the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shootings. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which has committed to provide support and care for the families of the victims who died in our neighborhood’s tragedy. Please visit nationals.com/auction before the auction ends at 8:00pm ET on Thursday, September 26.

What to Watch for 9.24.13

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Washington Nationals (84-73) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (92-65)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21)

The Nationals can damage the Cardinals chances of clinching the NL Central with wins in either or both of their final two games in St. Louis. The Pirates and Reds both currently trail the Red Birds by two games in the tightly contested division. Davey Johnson will stick with his everyday lineup on Tuesday night, despite being eliminated from postseason play on Monday.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (30-13, .698). Since that point, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (224) and run differential (+70). The Nationals have won 9 of 10 series since taking three of four at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

PRODIGIOUS POWER

At the completion of play on September 1, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. In the 21 games since, Zimmerman has hit 11 long balls and is currently tied for fifth in the NL with a team-best 26 homers. Zimmerman’s 11 homers this month are the most in MLB and have established a Nationals record for the month of September. The only National to hit more home runs in any single month was Alfonso Soriano, who slugged 12 in May, 2006.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are currently 37-39 (.487) on the road this season and must win at least four of the season’s final five contests to register a second consecutive winning record on the road. Washington led MLB with a .593 road winning percentage last season (48-33). The Nationals are 103-92 (.528) on the road under Davey Johnson, who began his tenure with Washington with a 4-3 setback on June 27, 2011 at Los Angeles (AL). The .528 road winning percentage in that span ranks third in MLB behind only the Rangers (.562) and Dodgers (.537).

Let It Rain

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The 2013 season is not yet over. But the dream of defending the National League East crown, of a repeat trip to the postseason has come to an end.

While the end always stings, it did not come as suddenly or unexpectedly as the end of the 2012 season. And while it may have technically ended at the hands of the Cardinals, there wasn’t much of a sense of any connection between the end of last year and the end of this year. It was simply happenstance that the Nationals should make their lone trip to St. Louis at the end of September, after staving off elimination for weeks, and that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh should each squeak out runs against inferior opponents just minutes earlier to create such a scenario.

The odds were stacked against Washington as early as April, when Atlanta built a division lead it would never relinquish. They grew longer with injuries to key cogs in the offense and the rotation, and with the way the National League shook out, a high-80s win total was simply not good enough to knock on October’s door this year.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

“It’s tough,” said Davey Johnson after Monday night’s 4-3 defeat. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done.”

This will be Johnson’s last year in uniform on the bench for Washington, which surely adds to that emotion. But there is solace in knowing that he will be back in the front office next season, helping President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo as the club looks to improve in 2014 and beyond.

“I’m not worried about the organization,” he expressed. “The organization’s in great shape.”

Ian Desmond, who has been the first to stand up and face the media in the wake of any tough loss this season, concurred in his assessment.

“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place, with a better group of guys,” he said.

Even as the national media has portrayed Jayson Werth as the emotional leader of this club, and continued to focus on Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as the name-brand stars, it was Desmond who stayed consistently, statistically great the past two seasons, no matter what happened around him.

Ian Desmond's consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

Ian Desmond’s consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

His final 2012 line looked like so: .292/.335/.511 with 60 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases and a team-leading 5.0 fWAR.

With five regular season games remaining in 2013, he’s compiled a .285/.337/.463 line with 61 extra-base hits, 21 steals and a 5.1 fWAR, again best on the club.

“For me personally, I just play the game the way I know how to play the game,” he said Monday night. “I don’t turn the dial up. The dial’s already turned up.”

Desmond’s ability to stay healthy has helped him remain consistent in a year of turbulence. That quality is one that Harper, who remained in his full jersey, sitting at his locker well after the conclusion of the game, looks to draw from heading into the offseason.

“I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night,” Harper said, looking ahead to next season, referencing time missed due to injury this year.

But before all attention turns to 2014, Washington can still make life tough on these Cardinals. With two more games in St. Louis, the Nationals can go a long way toward determining the pecking order in the NL Central, perhaps pushing the Cards into the one-game Wild Card.

“We’ve got an opportunity to rain on their parade a little,” said Desmond, well aware of the situation.

And so, with that, we’ll say the words that baseball people never dare to speak aloud.

Let it rain.

What to Watch for: 9.23.13

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Washington Nationals (84-72) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (91-65)

RHP Tanner Roark (7-0, 1.08) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (17-9, 2.98) 

Washington heads to St. Louis and Arizona for the final road trip of the 2013 season as the Nationals return to Busch Stadium for the first time since the 2012 NLDS. The Nationals continue to cling to slim postseason odds, but enter tonight’s game winners of six of their last eight, 13-of-16, and 24 of their last 32 games. In addition to the best September record in the National League, Washington owns the best overall mark in all of baseball (30-12) since August 9, since which point the Nats are +71 in run differential.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Tanner Roark RHP

MR. 20-20

Ian Desmond (number 20) stole his 20th and 21st bases of the season on Sunday, becoming the first National to reach the 20-20 plateau more than once. The only prior 20-20 seasons in Nationals history belong to Desmond (25 HR, 21 SB) in ‘12 and Alfonso Soriano (46 HR, 41 SB) in ‘06. Desmond is the eighth Major Leaguer to attain 20-20 status this season.

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth is currently the only player who ranks among the National League’s top five in OPS (fifth, .927), slugging percentage (fourth, .528), batting average (fifth, .319) and on-base percentage (fifth, .398). Werth has hit better than .300 in July (.367), August (.380) and September (.304).

2,652,422 THANK YOUS ARE IN ORDER

In 2013, the Nationals hosted 2,652,422 fans to Nationals Park. The average attendance (32,746, 81 openings) is the highest in the six-year existence of Nationals Park and the highest since the inaugural year of the franchise back in 2005. Attendance at Nationals Park in ‘13 was up over 9.1% (or 2,736 per game) compared to 2012.

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