September 2013

Meet the Team: Part IV

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The third annual Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic takes place this Sunday, September 15, following the Nationals home game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. Each day this week in advance of the game, we will introduce you to two members of the team – one celebrity participant and one of the Wounded Warriors who will participate.

NCISBRIAN DIETZEN
Born: 1977 in Boulder, Colorado

Position: Shortstop

WWCSC Experience: First Year

Best known for his role as Jimmy Palmer on the top-rated show NCIS, Dietzen is making his first appearance in the WWCSC. However, this will not be his first charitable experience with the military, as he has previously participated in a golf tournament benefitting Wounded Warriors. Dietzen plays softball recreationally in a pair of leagues, one with the NCIS crew and another one with a group of friends outside of show business. In addition to the honor of playing with our nation’s heroes, he is looking forward to the experience of stepping between the lines to play tomorrow.

“I’ve walked on a Major League Baseball field, but I’ve never played before. Just being out there, at Nats Park, that’s an amazing, amazing place to be able to have my first time ever playing out there, at the ripe of age of 35. I’m a 35-year-old rookie. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Greg ReynoldsGREG REYNOLDS

Born: 1984 in Dighton, Massachusetts

Position: Outfield

WWCSC Experience: Third Year

A veteran of the US Army who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Reynolds underwent a left arm forequarter amputation following his 15-month tour when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. Reynolds previously participated in Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic contests in 2011 and 2012. In addition to softball, he also enjoys weight lifting, golf, fishing, baseball, Texas Hold ‘Em and riding four-wheelers.

Highlights: 9.13.13

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9.13.13 – Nationals 6, Phillies 1

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman hit his team-leading 24th home run, his ninth in his last 11 games.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a sixth-inning single.

It Was Over When: Wilson Ramos‘ bases-loaded, infield single in the fifth inning scored Jayson Werth from third and Bryce Harper all the way from second.

What to Watch for: 9.13.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-78) vs. Washington Nationals (77-69)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3-0, 3.28) 

Lost a bit in the shuffle of Denard Span’s current 23-game hitting streak, another member of the Nationals lineup has put together a noteworthy streak that has not generated nearly the same amount of publicity.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, who successfully battled back from hamstring issues earlier in the year, will start his 21st consecutive game behind the plate when the Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. The streak, rare for a catcher in this era, brings him to within two games of breaking the longest streak of the season for a backstop: the 22 games started by perennial Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, from April 20-May 14.

During the streak, Ramos has contributed at a high level both at the plate and behind it. He has hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs, including a trio of blasts in the past five games, while throwing out 6-of-16 baserunners trying to steal. The latter stat is a welcome development, as his 37.5 percent caught stealing rate over the 20-game stretch is nearly triple the 12.9 percent (12-of-93) rate Nationals catchers had compiled entering play August 22, the first day of the streak.

“When I play every day, I like that, because I’m more consistent at the plate,” Ramos said of starting night in and night out.

More importantly, the Nationals have found a groove during Ramos’s run. They are 15-5 in the 20-straight games in which he has started, as his durability has helped offset the August 23 trade of Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland Athletics.

Since he returned from the disabled list on July 4, Ramos has paced all Major League catchers in both home runs (11) and RBI (41), making the most of his 200 plate appearances in that time. And, for the season, the Nationals have compiled a 40-24 record when Ramos starts, proving his value to a team that has otherwise gone 37-45 when he’s not penciled into Davey Johnson’s lineup card.

“I don’t want a day off right now, when I can do well and win a game,” Ramos said. “It feels great. If we win, why not?” 

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. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

PITCHING, IN DEPTH

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf toes the rubber tonight in place of originally scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg tonight, who was scratched with forearm tightness, but whom Davey Johnson expects to start again on September 19. Washington is 13-7 (.650) in games not started by their Opening Day rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler). The two replacement starters still currently in the rotation are Ohlendorf (2-0, 3.62 in five starts) and Tanner Roark (2-0, 1.50 in two starts), who are a combined 4-0 as starters and 9-0 overall.

THE LAST ‘STAND

Washington enters the final homestand of the season coming off an 8-2 road trip that has propelled them within 5.5 games of the Cincinnati Reds for the final postseason spot. Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (23-9, .719). In that span, the Nationals have led the National League in runs scored, en route to outscoring their opponents, 170-123. Washington’s current six-game winning streak is the team’s longest of the season.

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 23 straight games at a .385 (37-for-96) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 16 runs scored and 7 RBI. Span’s fifth career double-digit hit streak has raised his season batting average from .258 to .281. The streak includes seven multi-hit performances: a four-hit game, five three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. Span’s streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (CMichael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30 games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

All-Stars Off The Field

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It takes more than just the players on the field to play a Major League Baseball game, much less 81 every regular season at each park across the country. In addition to the front office, we here at the Nationals employ a support staff of thousands of local D.C. area residents who see to it that our fans have the best guest experience possible at Nationals Park.

This year, we are rewarding those who have stood out as TEAM Service All-Stars, and we’re asking for your vote! You can vote both online and by text message, with the latter option entering you for a chance to win tickets to our final home game on September 22 and join your nominee on the field as they are honored before the game.

- CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR YOUR ALL-STARS NOW -

Bryce Harper: To the Last Man

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The videos below are supplemental bonus footage of some of Bryce Harper‘s season highlights, featured in the To the Last Man cover article in Issue 12 of Inside Pitch. For the full story, be sure to pick up a copy this homestand at the the ballpark.

7.1.13 vs. Milwaukee Brewers: The Triumphant Return

In the first at-bat of his first game back off the disabled list, Harper hit the second pitch he saw over the left-field wall for a home run, bringing Nationals Park to its feet, demanding a curtain call.

 7.25.13 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Walk-Off

After opening the game with a terrific diving catch in left, Harper saved the day by blasting his first Major League walk-off home run to snap Washington’s losing streak and beat the Pirates.

8.23.13 at Kansas City: The Comeback

After falling into a 6-0 hole through two innings, the Nationals roared back for their biggest comeback win of the season, thanks in large part to Harper’s team-high three RBI. In the ninth, his sprawling catch helped preserve the one-run win.

 

IP12_Harper_Medium

Meet the Team: Part III

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The third annual Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic takes place this Sunday, September 15, following the Nationals home game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. Each day this week in advance of the game, we will introduce you to two members of the team – one celebrity participant and one of the Wounded Warriors who will participate.

WinnefeldADMIRAL JAMES ALEXANDER “SANDY” WINNEFELD

Born: 1956 in San Diego, California

Position: Second Base

WWCSC Experience: First Year

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Winnefeld is the second-highest ranking officer in the United States Armed Forces, a post he has held since August, 2011. While he has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park several times, his baseball experience extends past that, having played throughout high school.

“I’m honored to share the field with this incredible group of wounded warriors.  I’m continually amazed by their grit and resilience . . . their commitment to ability over disability. And the caregivers, all heroes in their own right; they are so vital to the journey, spending countless hours unselfishly giving to those who’ve given so much to this nation.”

Nate LindseyNATE LINDSEY

Born: 1985 in DeKalb, Illinois

Position: Outfield

WWCSC Experience: Third Year

Lindsey lost part of his right arm below the elbow after serving in the US Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lindsey, a fan of the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs, is participating in this third Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic. He played in contests in 2011 and 2012.

Meet our other participants:

Chelsey Desmond & Josh Wege

Sakina Jaffrey & Kyle Earl

District 9: Ian Krol

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We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 9 of Inside Pitch.

1. What was your experience growing up near Chicago and visiting Wrigley Field?

I had a really good experience. I played Little League, but I didn’t really start pitching until travel ball, when I was 12 or 13. Growing up, I was a Cubs fan, so I went to a lot of Cubs games. My family, they’re all Cubs fans. I have a lot of support around that area.

2. Do you have a baseball role model who you looked up?

My two role models in my life are my mother and my father. They do everything for me, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done. If I had to pick two people to look up to, it would be them.

3. Did your mom or dad have a strong influence on your interest in baseball?

They just encouraged me to do what I wanted to, and to excel at everything I did. There wasn’t a decision about what I should do or what sport I should play. They were just happy for me if I was happy.

4. What was it like to pitch so close to home in Single-A (Kane County)?

It was awesome. It was my first full year as a rookie in the Minor Leagues. To live at home, it rarely ever happens for anybody. I had family and friends come out all the time to support me. It made it a lot easier for them to see me.

5. How have you adjusted to pitching in a new organization?

There are a couple of guys from Oakland who play for Washington now, which made it a lot easier. Also, the coaching staff here is great. Everybody who works for the Nationals is really helpful and supportive with everything. The biggest thing is having Paul Menhart and Matt LeCroy as my first coaches in this organization. They really helped out with everything and did a great job of getting me ready to go to the big leagues. They made me feel welcome.

6. Was there a chip on your shoulder after being labeled as the “player to be named later” in the trade with the Athletics?

Not really. I just really kind of took it and ran with it. I came over to the Nationals and just played baseball. I didn’t worry about a thing. The only chip I have is from all the struggles I’ve been through. It makes it so much sweeter to make it up here after all of that.

7. Can you believe that you’re sitting in a big league dugout just four years out of high school?

My mom and dad tell me all the time, “Don’t ever wake up. Take every moment in and enjoy it, don’t get ahead of yourself, just soak it all in.” But sometimes I have to take a step back and look at where I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish so far. It’s pretty sweet.

8. What was your first Major League memory after you were called up?

Probably when I stepped into the clubhouse for the first time. I’ve never been in anything like that. I stepped in and my locker was all set up for me. That’s when it first really hit me, like, ‘Wow, I’m in a big league clubhouse, I get to put on a big league jersey, and go out and play big league baseball.’ It was unreal, so surreal. It’s everything I could ask for.

9. What’s the story behind your Twitter handle, @IanKrolTKB?

It’s kind of a funny joke just between me and my friends. They used to call me “King” back in Oakland, because that’s what my last name means (in Polish). I was off Twitter for a while, so when I came back I used “TKB” in my handle: The King is Back.

Highlights: 9.12.13

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9.12.13 – Nationals 7, Mets 2

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman homered for the eighth time in his last 10 games, tying Jayson Werth for the team lead with 23 on the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Tanner Roark improved to 6-0 on the season, following 6.0 innings of two-run ball.

It Was Over When: Anthony Rendon swatted a solo shot in the ninth, as the Nationals out-homered the Mets, 13-0 on the series.

What to Watch for: 9.12.13

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Washington Nationals (76-69) vs. New York Mets (64-80)

RHP Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.94) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (5-11, 5.76)

Much has been made of Ryan Zimmerman’s adjustments at third base since his offseason shoulder surgery, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Though he’s made 21 errors overall, two shy of his career high, the third baseman has committed just four in his last 34 games, while adding to his career highlight reel with some spectacular plays.

On Saturday night in Miami, he made this tremendous play, ranging to his backhand, then spinning and throwing mid-air while falling into foul territory to get the runner at first.

Two nights ago, late in a one-run game, he laid out to stop a hot shot, bounced back to his feet and nabbed a speedy runner by a couple steps.

Then, Wednesday night, he turned in a pair of defensive gems. First, he showed off his reflexes with a great backhand stop, and followed it up with this charging, barehanded grab and throw.

As Zimmerman’s defense has improved, so has his production at the plate. He opened the scoring with a home run Wednesday night, his fifth in his last five games. It is no coincidence that Washington has won each of those games, matching the longest winning stretch for the team this season and elevating the club to a season-high seven games over .500.

“I don’t know if one has anything to do with the other,” said Zimmerman about his offense and defense both improving simultaneously. “But I say it all the time – baseball is contagious.”

Another thing Zimmerman has reminded the media of throughout the season is the tendency for the players on hot or cold streaks to return to the norm by season’s end; that they usually settle around their career numbers. Zimmerman, a career .286/.353/.477 hitter who has averaged 22 home runs over the past seven years, is currently batting .275/.348/.462. His home run on Wednesday was his 22nd of the season.

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

FIVE FOR FIGHTING

The Nationals have won five straight games and are 7-2 on their current 11-day, 10-game road trip entering Thursday’s series finale. Washington has also won seven-of-eight, 16-of-21, and is 22-9 since entering play on August 16. With 17 games remaining in the regular season, the Nationals trial the Reds by six games, five in the loss column.

DR. JEKYLL & MR. HAREN

After struggling to a 4-10 mark and a 5.61 ERA before the All-Star break, Dan Haren has been better in the season’s second half, flashing signs of brilliance, as he did Wednesday night. Overall, Haren sports a 5-3 record (with a save) and a 3.68 ERA (26 ER/63.2 IP) since the break.

CATCH-22

The number 22 was the number of the night for Washington. Ryan Zimmerman blasted his 22nd home run of the season, which was also his fifth in as many games. Denard Span extended his career-high hitting streak to 22 games with a third-inning double. And Anthony Rendon’s two-out, two-run double in the eighth was his 22nd of the 2013 campaign.

Highlights: 9.11.13

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9.11.13 – Nationals 3, Mets 0

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren limited the Mets to a single hit over six scoreless frames, striking out eight.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman hit his fifth home run in as many games and Denard Span extended his hit streak to 22 games.

It Was Over When: Anthony Rendon added a pair of key insurance runs with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth.

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