Results tagged ‘ Arizona Diamondbacks ’
When you win 98 games and go almost wire-to-wire to take the division crown, the season doesn’t have too many turning points. However, in the midst of a season-long five-game slide, the Nationals looked as vulnerable as they had all year, trailing Arizona 4-3 at home on May 2 with Bryce Harper at second base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Ian Desmond, who entered the game with just seven extra-base hits and a .260/.294/.375 line through his first 22 games, stood in as Washington’s final chance against D-backs closer J.J. Putz, who had shut the door for 45 saves the year prior.
With a nervous crowd clinging to hope, Putz delivered a 93 mile-per-hour, belt-high fastball in a 1-1 count and Desmond turned on it, sending it towards left-center field. Despite the cold, spring night, the ball carried deep towards the visiting bullpen. Just as center fielder Gerardo Parra and left fielder Jason Kubel converged at the 377 mark, the ball disappeared over the wall for a walk-off, two-run home run. The Nationals would go 84-55 from that night forward, and Desmond would go on to post a .300/.344/.542 line with 28 doubles and 23 home runs in his final 108 games, earning the first All-Star bid and Silver Slugger Award of his young career.
When Bryce Harper was called up to the Major Leagues on April 27, he became the favorite in many eyes to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award, well before he ever stepped on the field. The hype that has surrounded Harper since his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year-old has been entirely overwhelming and unprecedented in the sport’s history. But they don’t give awards for hype – such honors have to be earned. And, whether Reds and Diamondbacks fans agree or not, Bryce Harper earned the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year.
First, some respect for his competition. Todd Frazier was very impressive, coming out of relative obscurity when Joey Votto was injured to post a .273/.331/.498 line, slugging 19 home runs and notching 51 total extra-base hits. Wade Miley, the Arizona hurler, came up huge with 16 wins and nearly a 3.9/1 strikeout-to-walk rate over almost 200 innings in his first full campaign. Both are worthy candidates, and either could have been Rookie of the Year, had it not been for Harper.
To start, there are the now-20 year-old’s overall numbers. He collected more home runs (22) and extra-base hits (57) than Frazier, while also stealing six times as many bases (18/3). His .270/.340/.477 overall line was slightly weaker, but he ripped through September and October at a .330/.400/.643 clip, finishing far stronger in the season’s final month than either Frazier (.176/.235/.257) or Miley (2-2, 5.40 ERA). And perhaps the biggest difference was that Harper did all of this while playing above average defense at one of the game’s toughest positions.
While Frazier actually compiled a negative dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) of -0.2 at first base, third base and left field (according to Baseball Reference), Harper notched a dWAR of 1.4, leading to an overall WAR of 5.0, nearly twice Frazier’s 2.7 total. And while measuring pitcher WAR against position player WAR is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, Miley’s was 3.2, just for frame of reference. The point is, Harper’s all-around excellence defined his season as being greater than a simple look at his slash line.
But if you love raw offensive stats, he led in plenty of categories there, too. Harper paced all NL rookies with 98 runs scored, 17 more than his next closest competitor and 43 more than Frazier. His nine triples were also best, even one more than AL Rookie of the Year winner Mike Trout. Even if you discount the intangibles and individual moments – like his steal of home off Cole Hamels on national television – Harper had an impact on the game in 2012 that few, if any, could match.
All that’s left now is to wonder just how much better he might be next year.
The closer you follow baseball, the more you realize how year-round the sport really is. The average American may take notice around Opening Day, then have their fandom tail off as their team is eliminated from contention, perhaps watching the World Series, if they are so inclined. The more passionate follower is more likely to count down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, their baseball awareness stretching from mid-February to the end of October. But for the true obsessives (like us), there are compelling games for the Nationals being played even now, as the Arizona Fall League began this week at the Spring Training complexes around Phoenix.
For those unfamiliar with it, the AFL is a prospect showcase, where all 30 Major League teams send some of their top talent, often including players whose regular seasons were limited for whatever reason, to see how they perform in a highly competitive environment. The 30 clubs are combined into six squads, with five MLB teams apiece represented on each. Last year, the Nationals were assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions, with Bryce Harper the most well known representative of the organization. In 2012, they are members of the Salt River Rafters, along with the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Rockies and Blue Jays.
This year’s crop of Nationals prospects includes:
We will be conducting a more thorough Down on the Farm report for many of these prospects this offseason, but wanted to give special attention to one – Matt Skole – whom we have already profiled before here on Curly W Live. The 2012 Nationals Minor League Player of the Year, Skole has busted down the Fall League doors, batting .533/.650/.867 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI through his first four games on the circuit. His early success among some of baseball’s elite prospects helps back up the case that his tremendous 2012 numbers were no fluke. The third baseman batted .292 with 28 doubles, 27 home runs and 104 RBI in just 118 games between Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac in his first professional season.
Make sure to check in to Curly W Live on Wednesdays throughout the offseason for more on many of the Nationals rising stars. And if you’d like to keep up with the AFL on a daily basis through the end of the season in mid-November, check out the home of the league here, complete with scores, stats, stories and more.
It’s hard to believe, with the season the Washington Nationals have had, that they have not had more walk-off home runs. Other types of walk-offs have come in nearly every shape and form, from singles, to wild pitches, to sacrifice flies. But Ian Desmond’s two-out, two-run shot to beat the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth on May 2, more than five months ago, a seemingly distant memory, was the lone game-winning blast of this memorable 2012 campaign.
Until last night.
If you believe in the cosmic powers of the game, the baseball gods, as it were, this one was foreshadowed. Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game on 10.11.12, Jayson Werth worked an epic at-bat against Lance Lynn, driving the 13th pitch into the visitor’s bullpen at Nationals Park for his 14th career postseason home run. But the bizarre parallels go beyond that sequential string of numbers alone.
On September 8, the Nationals trailed the Miami Marlins by a score of 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning at home in D.C. With closer Heath Bell already throwing his warm-up pitches and Werth slated to lead off the frame, a torrential storm descended upon Nationals Park, sending fans scampering to seek shelter from the high winds and sheets of rain. The game went into a delay for more than two and-a-half hours, the dramatic bottom of the ninth put on ice. Finally, the weather cleared, the teams reemerged to the field, and Werth dug in against Bell. They battled through a long at-bat, Werth fouling off three pitches before finally working the count full.
Less than 1,000 fans remained from the original crowd of 28,860, all descending behind the dugouts, standing, yelling, living and dying with every pitch. It had the feel of a high school playoff game, the drama and emotion running on high for those diehards that remained. Werth finally saw a center-cut fastball from Bell and smoked it to the Red Porch in left-center field for a game-tying home run. The Nationals would go on to win in walk-off fashion in the 10th inning.
Ross Detwiler also started that game, with Drew Storen earning the win following his and Tyler Clippard’s scoreless innings. Each reliever fanned the side in that September game. Clippard did so again Thursday night, with Storen punching out a pair.
The same momentum from the pitching in that September game grew in the late innings Thursday night. And once again, Werth delivered, on an at-bat five pitches longer and more surreal, a crowd of better than 44,000 already frenzied fans igniting like a supersonic jet engine as the ball cleared the left field wall.
Enjoy the full at-bat below, the six minutes of tension cut down to a tidy 2:47, to appreciate just how amazing it was. Then click below to listen to Nationals play-by-play man Charlie Slowes, who summoned the memories of that September 8 game before the 13th pitch, and the overwhelming crowd behind him as his prediction came true.
Washington Nationals (70-43) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (57-56)
RHP Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.56) vs. LHP Wade Miley (12-7, 2.85)
Michael Morse homered for the third time in two days and Ryan Zimmerman went deep as well as the Nationals continued their flawless road trip with a 9-1 win over the Diamondbacks. Stephen Strasburg allowed a single hit over six innings of work in earning his 13th win of the season. Edwin Jackson takes the hill tonight against impressive rookie Wade Miley looking to extend Washington’s winning ways.
1. Werth CF
2. Espinosa SS
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Morse RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore LF
7. Flores C
8. Lombardozzi 2B
9. Jackson RHP
Thanks in part to a season-high seven straight wins, the Nationals are a season-best 27 games above .500. The ‘33 AL Nationals (99-53) were the last big league club representing the Nation’s Capital to climb as many as 27 games above the break-even mark.
In Friday’s 9-1 win at Chase Field, Stephen Strasburg secured the 50th win by a Nationals starting pitcher in 2012. The starting staff of the inaugural-campaign 2005 Nationals currently holds the mark for most wins (52) in single season.
At 38-21 (.644), Washington owns the best road winning percentage in MLB, and the Nationals have won 17 of their last 22 road contests. Washington is 12-4-2 in road series play in 2012.
Well, it’s finally here. Welcome to NATITUDE Weekend at Nationals Park, the first three-game set of the year against the rival Phillies. If you are planning to attend any (or all) of this weekend’s games, here’s a handy guide to help arm you with the NATITUDE you need to show the Philly fans who decided to make the trip south to Our Park that Washington is ready to turn the tide both on the field and off.
1. Knowledge is power
The Nationals are off to a great start to 2012, and it helps to understand just how good they’ve been so far. As any Phillies fan will tell you, pitching is all-important in building a winner. So far, the Nationals have had the best staff in the game, and by a decent margin at that. Stephen Strasburg, who is scheduled to start the series opener on Friday, just took home National League Pitcher of the Month honors for April after going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32.0 IP), striking out 34 batters while walking just six over his first five starts of the year. In fact, four of the five Nats starting pitchers – including all three slated to start in this series – have ERAs under 2.00 going into Thursday night’s game. That’s something neither Phillies starters Cole Hamels (2.78) nor Roy Halladay (3.40) can claim.
2. Understand your history
Yes, the Phillies have won five straight National League East titles. You already know this, but you will no doubt be reminded of it several times this weekend. However, were you aware that the Nationals beat Philadelphia, 10-8, in the season series in 2011, including the final five games? Before completing a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park in September, the Nats won their last home game over Philadelphia in an extra-inning walk-off affair. Two days before that, Ryan Zimmerman cleared the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off grand slam.
3. Speaking of walk-offs…
The Nationals enter their series finale with the Diamondbacks Thursday night with a 9-3 home record, best in the division. Four of those victories have come in walk-off style, including Wednesday’s dramatic, two-out, two-run, come-from-behind, game-winning home run off the bat of Ian Desmond. The winning run in those games has been scored by four different players (Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, and Desmond), so you never know who the hero might be when you come to the ballpark.
4. There’s this guy named Bryce
They may boo him, but every opposing fan will have their eyes trained on home plate when 19 year-old Bryce Harper digs in. The outfielder turned in the first three-hit game of his young career on Wednesday, and is already altering games on defense with his cannon of an arm. Make sure you’re in your seat when Harper bats – you just might witness a piece of history.
5. Root, root, root for the home team
Bring your passion and energy to Our Park to cheer for the Nats. It’s going to be a fun, rowdy environment for sure, so bring your yelling voice. But should you run into some unruly visiting fans, don’t worry about wasting it on them. Let them regale you with stories about their .500 ballclub, and about how good they used to be. You know, in the past. Just take the high road and Ignite Your NATITUDE to support the NL East-leading Nats, the most exciting young team in baseball.
See you at Our Park this weekend!
Hello again Nationals fans,
As I talked about in my last blog, Dodger Stadium is one of the iconic venues in all of sports, and it is fitting that a 19 year-old kid from Las Vegas will be making his much-anticipated big league entrance on this stage.
As “Hollywood” as this script seems, this was not how it was supposed to happen. Sure, the scenic backdrop, the 50,000-plus fans and the A-list celebs will be fantastic for the history books, but Bryce is here tonight on someone else’s terms.
Unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder soreness has prompted a DL stint. Thankfully, this won’t be a prolonged absence for Ryan, but it does leave an immediate void in Davey’s lineup.
So, Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson talked. And they talked again. Ultimately, it was determined that they needed another left-handed bat in the lineup, and an outfielder if possible.
So, Mike went to chilly, Rochester, NY and watched Bryce play three games. He saw enough to know that this is what he had to do. He diverted from his plan. But how many of us see our best laid plans executed exactly as we scripted? Not nearly enough. That’s just reality.
So, when Mike called me yesterday with the news that he planned to recall Bryce on Saturday, I was taken aback. Like most, I did not see this happening so quickly.
Mike told me that Bryce was the best fit for what Davey needed, especially with Zimmerman and Michael Morse on the shelf.
He also told me that Bryce’s development plan is still not finished. There is a good chance that he’ll need more time, more reps and more at-bats at Triple-A. But that is a discussion for another day.
Bryce should not be seen as a panacea. He’s not our run-production savior. That would be unfair.
But Mike does think – and I agree – that Bryce can provide our roster a healthy jolt.
So, let’s see what he can do. Let’s dig deeper than his batting average, his power output and instead keep our eyes open for his total game – the base running, the defense, the throwing arm. Let’s resist the urge to make grand conclusions based on ridiculously small sample sizes.
But, at the same time, let’s have fun. On a personal level, I am thrilled that I am in Los Angeles and will be at Dodger Stadium tonight.
It all starts for Bryce tonight, fittingly in Tinseltown.
The first page of what we believe will be a special Hollywood script.
Up goes the curtain: it’s time to enjoy the show.
When Drew Stubbs singled home Miguel Cairo in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Reds-Nats affair in Washington, it looked like this might finally be the day the offenses broke out and delivered a high-scoring game. Following consecutive extra-inning games, in which the two teams combined for just eight runs in 23 innings, the early sign of life seemed to indicate a shift, the 74-degree first pitch temperature and out-blowing breeze priming the afternoon for an offensive explosion.
Who knew in that moment, with the Reds still threatening to add on in the inning, that Cincinnati would not log another hit the rest of the afternoon against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. The hard-throwing righty retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced, polishing off a two-hit shutout by inducing a weak pop to shallow center field from Joey Votto, one of the most feared power hitters in the game.
Jackson is perhaps best known around the baseball world for his bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter, which he threw with Arizona against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 25, 2010. He walked eight batters in that contest while striking out just six, but gutted out a marathon performance to earn his place in the baseball history books. In many ways, though, his performance on Saturday in front of 35,489 frenzied fans surpassed his no-no from 16 months prior.
First, there was that lone baserunner after the second inning, a four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey to open the eighth inning. As dominant as Jackson had been, there suddenly appeared to be a crack in the armor, the crowd that had given him multiple standing ovations quieted to a nervous murmur. Tyler Clippard scrambled to get warm in the bullpen as pitching coach Steve McCatty paced out to the mound for a chat. What did the coach have to say?
“It’s your game,” said Jackson, recounting McCatty’s pep talk after the game. “Just get these people out. Throw every pitch with conviction.”
Manager Davey Johnson, the lifelong baseball man, actually found himself nervous in the moment.
“When I’m seeing a gem and we need it, lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I usually don’t get nervous. But when you see something like that – he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game. From a manager’s standpoint, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You kind of protect against all contingencies.”
After all, even though Jackson was the only National who pitched on Saturday, this game meant something to everyone on the staff. Following those back-to-back extra-inning games, both bullpens were spent, leaving few options for the skippers. Perhaps the biggest number of the night was 92: the total number of pitches it took Jackson to finish what he started, a full 57 pitches fewer than his no-hitter.
Meanwhile, the offense did its part, responding when Jackson needed it to by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Jayson Werth – fresh off his game-winning hit in the fifth hour of the game the night prior – legged out the back end of a double play and eventually scored the game-tying run with two outs to level the score at one apiece. An inning later, Adam LaRoche came through again, following a walk to Danny Espinosa and a single from Ryan Zimmerman, with a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The Nationals would only add one more tally the rest of the way, but it was more than enough for Jackson.
After all, Jackson has had plenty of experience finishing off a masterpiece, going back again to his no-hitter in 2010. For all the grief he has received for that non-conventional feat, Jackson nevertheless got the outs he needed – all 27 of them – while pitching with just one run of cushion the entire game. And who, do you suppose, plated the lone run in that game? Why, Adam LaRoche, of course. His solo shot in the second inning was the lone score in a 1-0 game. Both players have looked very much at home, united once more in Washington in the season’s opening stretch.
Ed. Note: Here at Curly W Live, we will be taking a closer look at some of the top up-and-coming prospects in the Nationals farm system throughout the 2012 season. Make sure to vote in our poll at the end of this article to help determine which player we will profile next.
There have been plenty of heralded prospects making their way up the ranks of the Nationals farm system over the last few years. Strong, talent-rich drafts have stocked Washington’s minor league affiliates to the point that prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade – which sent four of the club’s top 13-rated prospects to the Oakland Athletics – Baseball America had the Nationals ranked as the top overall minor league system in the game heading into 2012. Even after that deal, there are plenty of big names left, led of course by Bryce Harper. Those who keep their eyes on the minors will get their first glimpse of the likes of Anthony Rendon and the first regular season action for Matt Purke, who made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League. These few will dominate the headlines, but we begin this season’s slate with one of the most promising power hitters in the system, Tyler Moore.
At the minor league level, where seasons are shorter and younger players are still filling out their athletic frames, large power totals are rare. In fact, only 15 minor leaguers hit 30 or more home runs in 2011, and only two have turned the trick in each of the last two years. The first name may ring a bell: Paul Goldschmidt. He was the rookie phenom who, after swatting 35 longballs for Double-A Mobile, was called up in September and played a key role in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ run to the National League West crown. The other player was Moore, a soft-spoken first baseman who, even after such an impressive two-year run, still does not appear in Baseball America’s top 10 prospect list for the Nationals.
Ranking or no ranking, that kind of power will earn you some respect and, in Moore’s case, some investment from the organization. The slugger was added to the 40-Man Roster in November, along with Eury Perez, Jhonatan Solano and the recently traded Derek Norris, to prevent him from being selected by another club in the annual Rule V Draft.
“This was his protection year,” explained Doug Harris, the Nationals Director of Player Development. “With power being a premium in today’s game, we felt like it was an easy decision for us.”
While Harris was not yet with the organization back when Moore first came into the system, he saw him as an opposing player while Harris was with the Cleveland Indians and Moore was at Low-A Hagerstown in 2008.
“As an opposing scout watching him, he was a guy that could always impact the baseball,” recalled Harris. “When he was in Hagerstown, it was really pole-to-pole power. Really his best power was to right-center, which is a true indicator of a guy who has a chance to come into bigger power down the road. So you saw glimpses of it, and I think a lot of the doubles he hit in Hagerstown got turned into home runs over the last couple of years.”
After hitting 30 two-baggers but just nine home runs in 111 games at Hagerstown in 2009, Moore got off to a rough start his next season at High-A Potomac. In 79 games through July 12, he had collected 47 RBI, but was batting just .191. Moore made an adjustment, though, and turned his season around completely. Over his final 50 contests, he went a staggering 76-for-193 (.394) with 21 home runs and 64 RBI. He would go on to lead the Carolina League in home runs (31), RBI (111), doubles (43), slugging percentage (.552), extra-base hits (77) and total bases (277), earning both league MVP honors and the Nationals Organizational Player of the Year. Moore put together another impressive campaign last year in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League, where he matched his home run total of 31, and again lead the league in RBI, extra-base hits and total bases.
In fact, in 189 games played since his remarkable turnaround, the 6’2”, 210-pound righty has swatted 52 home runs and driven in 154.
“When you break down the 2010 season that he had at Potomac…he really came into his own in the second half,” explained Harris. “It’s a credit to him. He’s a tireless worker, he never wavered in his approach or his intent day-to-day, and it really speaks volumes about who he is.”
Like many sluggers with such impressive power numbers, Moore also racks up his fair share of strikeouts, averaging 125 K’s over the past three seasons. However, he has also batted a very respectable .277 over that same stretch and it’s hard to argue with the run production.
Clearly, the Nationals have seen something in Moore’s potential ever since he was just a prep player at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, Mississippi. They actually drafted him on three separate occasions: in the 41st round straight out of high school in 2005, in the 33rd round after a year at Meridian Junior College in 2006, and finally in the 16th round after two years at Mississippi State in 2008. Moore signed at last, and has spent each of the last four seasons at a different level of the farm system, slowly playing his way up to Double-A in 2011. Now, as he enters his first big league camp in Florida, Moore will face new pressures and expectations from the Nationals staff. So, just how high is Moore’s ceiling?
“I think a lot of that is really up to Tyler,” said Harris. “He’s obviously put together two very productive years back-to-back. He’s going to be given an opportunity at a higher level and a chance to continue to show what he’s capable of doing. I know that our Major League staff is excited to get a glimpse of him in Spring Training.”
As for how Moore will respond to the challenge, Harris is not worried.
“Tyler is a very high-character young man, a tremendous teammate,” said Harris. “He’s an early-to-the-ballpark kind of guy. He blends with every mix of player. He’s a quiet leader, not a big-time vocal leader, but he’s got a great presence and he’s very well-liked amongst his teammates.”
Those traits should serve him well, as Harris suggested that the coaching staff may try Moore out at several defensive positions to see where he can best fit into the Nationals’ future plans. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he has played exclusively at first base (or been a designated hitter) in his 448 career minor league games. Harris said the staff has tried him in the outfield a bit as well, and that they will continue to “kick the tires” on that experiment moving forward. Either way, it will just be one more adjustment, something Moore has shown that he’s good at making.
“There’s an adjustment period going to a new level each year,” said Harris. “I know that he’s preparing himself to be ready to go out of the gate this year. He’s a kid that’s had to earn everything he’s got.”
While Moore seems destined for Syracuse in April, if he is able to find similar success at the Triple-A level in 2012 as he has the past two years, fans in the District may get a glimpse of him before the year is out.