Results tagged ‘ Adam LaRoche ’
Looking purely at the history of the matchup, not much favored the Nationals heading into Wednesday’s tilt with the Detroit Tigers. The franchise had never beaten Detroit since moving to D.C., going 0-6 over a pair on Interleague matchups since 2005. The Nationals also had never handed opposing starter Anibal Sanchez a loss in his 19 career starts against them.
But the Nationals had Jordan Zimmermann. And, as we’ve begun to learn this season, sometimes that’s enough to throw history out the window.
Behind seven strong innings from their emerging ace, the Nationals played great defense and found just enough timely hitting to pull out a 3-1 win. The victory also marked something of a first for Zimmermann, who took over the top spot in the National League with his sixth of the season. The righty lowered his ERA to just 1.59, trailing only Matt Harvey of the Mets.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper became the first National to reach double digits in home runs, doing so before any of his teammates even hit their fifth of the season. His 10th blast, a no-doubter to right-center off Sanchez in the fifth inning, tied him with John Buck for second in the National League and provided the game’s final margin.
Wednesday night’s contest even included the proverbial “thing you’ve never seen before at the ballpark,” an idiom often used in baseball. The less-than-fleet-footed Adam LaRoche made an aggressive play to tag from second base on a fly ball to right field with one out in the fourth inning. Torii Hunter’s throw came in just as LaRoche went into his slide, but glanced off the runner’s hand, past third baseman Miguel Cabrera and into the photographer’s well next to the Tigers dugout, where it hit a camera and ricocheted back out onto the field. As the ball would have gone out of play, third base umpire Greg Gibson awarded LaRoche home plate for what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
And so, even though some previous trends suggested a victory was unlikely, the Nationals upheld another trend that D.C. baseball fans might find pleasantly surprising. With the win, Washington improved to 22-15 in Interleague play since the beginning of the 2011 season, the best mark in the National League over that span. The Nationals also are now 4-0 against the American League this season, including a three-game sweep of the White Sox back in April. And at three games over .500 for the first time since entering play at 10-7 on April 21, they are just two games behind what is hopefully the next “first” on the list.
A quick glance at the final box score may suggest that Washington enjoyed a rather comfortable victory in its rubber match triumph on Sunday. But the series finale in Pittsburgh began about as poorly as one could possibly draw it up for the Nationals. They went three up, three down in the top of the first, culminating in Bryce Harper’s check swing strikeout, after which he was ejected by third base umpire and crew chief John Hirschbeck.
The bottom of the first didn’t get any better. Starling Marte hit Gio Gonzalez’s first pitch over the wall, Jordy Mercer followed with a double, and Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to first on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen hit the runner in the back. After a walk to Gaby Sanchez, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
The afternoon could well have been over right there. But Gonzalez locked in and fanned Russell Martin swinging, then Michael McKenry looking. With two outs, Brandon Inge sent a grounder past Gonzalez up the middle, but a rangy play and a strong throw across his body by Ian Desmond beat the runner to first, and the Nationals escaped with just the single run of damage.
“It just felt like the momentum shifted,” said Gonzalez after his first-inning Houdini act. “A younger me would have probably spiraled out of control, trying to be too much, trying to do too much.”
Instead, the Nationals got that run back immediately, as Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning, moved to third on Adam LaRoche’s double and scored on Danny Espinosa’s sac fly deep to center field, knotting the game at 1-1. The game remained deadlocked until Espinosa’s next at-bat, when he got into a two-out, two-strike hanging curveball from Wandy Rodriguez and punished it deep into the left field seats for a two-run shot, putting Washington ahead for good.
“He didn’t really try to crush it, he just met it,” said Davey Johnson of Espinosa’s swing. “Of course, he’s so strong, it went a long way.”
In a sense, that approach has been emblematic of the Nationals in general this year, where they may have pressed too much out of the gates. They are such a strong team that simply meeting the challenges in front of them should yield positive results.
The Pirates clawed back within a run in the sixth, but again Gonzalez stranded a big runner, leaving Martin at third base as the potential tying run. The start – six innings of two-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts – was much more like the Gonzalez Nationals fans got to know last year, when he won 21 games.
“He was the old Gio,” said Johnson after the game. “I hadn’t seen that grin in a long time.”
The contest remained a one-run game until late, when Washington got some fitting redemption for the first-inning antics. With one out and Roger Bernadina at second base, the Pirates elected to walk LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore, who had gone down looking three times in as many trips. Moore fell behind 1-2, then checked his swing at a pitch out of the zone, with the home side appealing down to first base umpire Jim Reynolds, who signaled no swing. Moore annihilated the next pitch to left field for a three-run bomb to put the game out of reach.
“It fires you up a little bit,” said Moore of the intentional walk ahead of him, before quickly couching his statement. “But you can’t blame them. I would have done the same thing. LaRoche was swinging a good bat and I was struggling early.”
There have been a number of games so far this season where an early miscue or unfortunate turn would alter the mood, portending a feeling of, “Here we go again.” Sunday’s contest in Pittsburgh provided the most amount of early trouble to overcome in any victory thus far in the young season. Those feelings crept up upon Harper’s ejection, grew stronger after Marte’s leadoff home run, and were at full boil with the bases loaded and no outs in the first.
But just as it turned around a road trip that saw the club lose the first two games at rival Atlanta, Washington rebounded Sunday to make it four wins in five days to close the trip, mostly low-scoring, tightly-played affairs that leaned on the good pitching and solid defensive foundation upon which this roster was constructed. If the final game of the trip does mark a turning point in the campaign, it may also well serve as a microcosm of the season as a whole. After struggling from the outset and encountering some adversity, cooler heads prevailed on the way to victory.
Washington Nationals (16-15) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-13)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34) vs. LHP Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91)
The Nationals enter Sunday with a chance at both a series victory and a winning road trip before heading back to Washington. The rubber match with the Pirates will feature a pair of southpaws as Gio Gonzalez and Wandy Rodriguez each toe the rubber in search of their third win of the season.
1. Span CF
2. Desmond SS
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore RF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Gonzalez LHP
QUITE A STEAL
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche conspired on a shocking double steal in the ninth inning Saturday to set up the winning score. It was the first time in Zimmerman’s nine-year Major League career that he has ever swiped third base, and was just the seventh steal total for LaRoche in 1214 career games.
Washington enters Sunday’s series finale at PNC Park having not yet homered in the series. The Nationals have hit at least one home run in 65 straight series dating to September 2011. The last time Washington played a homerless series was during a four-game set at Citi Field, September 12-15, 2011, a series they nonetheless swept, 4-0.
In 12 games dating to April 23, Steve McCatty’s starting staff has fashioned a 2.96 ERA (26 ER/79.0 IP) thanks in part to a 3.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .218 batting average against.
Over the course of a 162-game season, you have to find any number of different ways to win games to have a successful year. While the Nationals never really came up with the big hit they were looking for on Saturday, they nonetheless discovered a new and creative way to snag a crucial 5-4 road victory over the Pirates, setting them up for a possible series win to close the road trip.
After not hitting a sacrifice fly since April 17 – a span of 16 games – Washington hit three on Saturday, accounting for 60 percent of its scoring. The third and final one proved to be the difference, and was set up by perhaps the unlikeliest turn of events possible, a double-steal from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Not only was it the first stolen base for either player this season, but it was the first time Zimmerman had ever stolen third in his career. Both got such a good jump off Pirates reliever Tony Watson that catcher Russell Martin could not even get a throw off.
“I would have thought those were the last two guys that were going to steal,” said Tyler Moore, who apparently wasn’t alone in that assessment, and who delivered the third and final sacrifice fly moments later to plate Zimmerman with winning run. “But they got it done. That was huge. Trent (Jewett) had the guts to send them, and it ended up winning us the ballgame.”
Sometimes that’s exactly what a team needs to get going. Other than Wilson Ramos’s big two-run single that tied the game in the sixth, the Nationals did not have a hit in their other 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But they drew six walks and were thrice hit by pitches to go along with their six base hits, putting constant pressure on the Pittsburgh pitching staff. They had a runner in scoring position in every inning after the first, and middle-of-the-order stalwarts Zimmerman and LaRoche each reached base four times. There were signs of better at-bats, the kind of patient, grind-it-out style that the team showed in its victories early in the season.
So to what should one attribute the change in approach? For one, Davey Johnson held a team meeting, something he does not do often, before the game. Ironically, he did the exact same thing during a lull in the 2012 season, before the 31st game (also started by Stephen Strasburg), against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Not so ironically, the result was the same. The 2012 edition went on to win its next three games and 11 of 17 to follow.
“That’s how you win Manager of the Year right there,” joked Ian Desmond as the media entered the clubhouse after the game, referring to the honor bestowed upon Johnson last year.
Just how much correlation exists in the cause and effect between the meeting and the team’s performance is open to debate. But it’s hard to argue with the results.
5.4.13 – Nationals 5, Pirates 4
Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman each reached base safely four times and each earned their first steal of the season, on a double-steal in the ninth.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Roger Bernadina made a huge defensive play, gunning down Russell Martin trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double leading off the bottom of the ninth.
It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano whiffed Jordy Mercer to shut the door on his seventh consecutive save opportunity, his 10th in 11 tries overall this season.
5.3.13 – Pirates 3, Nationals 1
Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche reached base safely three times, via two opposite-field singles and a walk.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span made a pair of rangy defensive plays in center field, despite having fouled a ball of his foot in the first inning.
It Was Over When: The Nationals could not convert with runners at the corners, down by two in the eighth inning.
St. Louis Cardinals (11-8) vs. Washington Nationals (10-9)
RHP Adam Wainwright (3-1, 2.48) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-0, 0.90)
The Nationals and Cardinals match up for the second of three contests as Washington’s NLDS Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler squares off with St. Louis Games 1 and 5 starter Adam Wainwright. Detwiler carries the National League’s best ERA into tonight’s game, a mark he shares with Boston’s Clay Buchholz as the lowest in all of Major League Baseball.
1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Rendon 3B
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler LHP
With eight games remaining in the month, Bryce Harper has already matched Alfonso Soriano’s 2006 Nationals club record for home runs in April with seven. Harper’s 14 RBI are just three shy of matching Adam LaRoche (17 in 2012) and Ryan Zimmerman (17 in ‘06) for the club mark in April.
EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!
The Nationals (40.5%) rank third in Major League Baseball in extra-base hit percentage. Only Cleveland (43.2%) and Oakland (40.9%) own superior percentages. Washington’s 148 hits this season include 34 doubles, three triples and 23 homers.
Ian Desmond (12), Danny Espinosa (6) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 20 extra-base hits, tops among middle-infield units. The Reds and Phillies, with 17 XBH apiece from its middle infielders, are tied for second in MLB.
Chicago White Sox (4-3) vs. Washington Nationals (5-2)
RHP Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50)
The Nationals and White Sox match up in the middle contest of a three-game set, after Washington rode four home runs to an 8-7 victory in the series opener Tuesday night. Last night’s victory marked the first ever win at home over Chicago’s American League ballclub at Nationals Park.
1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Zimmermann RHP
Adam LaRoche collected his first two hits of the season last night, as he homered in each of his final two at-bats. With the multi-homer game, LaRoche becomes the third National in just seven games this season to turn the trick, joining Bryce Harper (April 1 vs. Miami) and Wilson Ramos (April 6 at Cincinnati).
The Nationals have blasted 14 home runs in their first seven games of the 2013 season. That is a 10-homer increase on the initial seven games of last season. In fact, Washington’s previous homer high in the first seven games of a season was 10 in 2006.
I WOULD WALK 500 MORE
Jayson Werth notched his 500th and 501st career RBI last night, thanks to a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Werth is also closing in on half a thousand in another counting stat, as he needs just 23 more walks to reach 500 for his career.
The calendar may have read April 10, but there was the distinct feeling of summer in the air as the Nationals began their second homestand of 2013 Tuesday night. With a first pitch temperature of 81 degrees, baseballs were flying out of Nationals Park more the way they tend to do in summertime than in spring. Or, rather, more the way they did when the Washington lineup finally returned to health last summer than the way they did with the depleted, early-season edition.
It can be easy to forget, what with the team’s offensive success in the second half, just how much the Nationals struggled to score runs at times while key members of their lineup were missing. Even once the team was mostly healthy, Jayson Werth’s wrist remained at less than 100 percent strength, while Wilson Ramos would not play again until Opening Day this year.
But look at this lineup right now – there are no breaks, no easy outs. Not just that, but every hitter, one through eight (and even nine, as Gio Gonzalez would have you know), can take a mistake and deposit it over the wall. Werth slugged 20 or more home runs every year from 2008-11, blasting a career best 36 in 2009. Ramos swatted 15 out of the park in less than 400 at-bats two seasons ago before his 2012 was cut short. Considering the three through seven hitters between them combined for 122 homers in under 2,800 at-bats last season (roughly one per 23 at-bats), the current Nationals lineup may well be the most daunting they’ve ever put on the field as a franchise.
Washington has already hit 14 home runs through the season’s first seven games. With the traditional “small sample size” caveat, that puts them on pace for 324 this season, after setting a franchise record with 194 last year. Five players have hit more than one home run. Three – Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Ramos – already have a multi-homer game.
Last year, the Nationals had just four combined homers through seven games, and didn’t hit their 14th until Game #24 on May 2, when Ian Desmond rocked J.J. Putz for a two-out, two-run, ninth-inning, walk-off blast.
That home run ignited the first wave of offense to support the stellar pitching staff. Consider this year’s lineup already ignited.
4.9.13 – Nationals 8, White Sox 7
Stat of the Game: After an 0-for-15 start to the season, Adam LaRoche homered in each of his final two at-bats Tuesday night, his second long ball providing the winning margin in the game.
Under-the-Radar Performance: With his go-ahead, two-run blast in the sixth, Jayson Werth notched the 500th and 501st RBI of his career.
It Was Over When: LaRoche’s second dinger seemed to put the game out of reach, but the contest wasn’t fully decided until Rafael Soriano induced Paul Konerko into a game-ending fly ball to center to wrap up his third save of the season.