Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

Tom Gorzelanny gets back on track

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Good afternoon, Nats Town.

 

It’s a quiet day at Space Coast Stadium, as the Nationals have traveled inland for a matinee tilt against the Astros in Kissimmee. I, personally, did not travel west for the big league game, instead hanging back to watch the three minor-league games being played at our complex.

 

I love every opportunity I get to watch the minor-league games and see the young prospects we have in our system. Mike Rizzo and his crew have done a terrific job of stocking the system with talented, young players, and the future is bright. There are a lot of names you may not have heard of yet (Eury Perez, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, etc), but you’ll know them soon enough. Trust me.

 

A few things I wanted to touch on…

* It was great catching up with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk yesterday, as ESPN’s Baseball Tonight bus stopped at Space Coast Stadium to feature the Nationals. For those of you who didn’t catch Baseball Tonight yesterday, Tim and John did a great job assessing our club, even taking the opportunity to sit down with Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg as part of their tour stop.

 

I had an opportunity to check out the bus. What an impressive vehicle. Although, here’s some insight: they aren’t really traveling around Florida and Arizona on the bus. It’s pretty much just a mobile studio. They have been sleeping in hotels and following the bus in a more-traditional vehicle. Not exactly roughing it.

 


Tom Gorzelanny 1.JPG* Last night’s game… despite the loss, there were a lot of bright spots in yesterday’s game vs. the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Tom Gorzelanny, acquired from the Cubs this offseason for a trio of minor leaguers, twirled 4.0 solid innings and held the Mets to just a run. Keep an eye on Tom. He was slow out of the gate this spring, hampered by the flu, but could be a key arm in our rotation this year.

 

Another bright spot yesterday, and really all spring, has been right-hander Brian Broderick. We acquired Brian from the Cardinals via the Rule 5 Draft in December, and he has posted an impressive 1.04 ERA in 5 appearances. What’s most impressive about Brian is his presence and demeanor. At 6-foot-6, he is as cool as a cucumber on the mound. 

 

* Monday night, I played in the players’ par-3 golf tournament at the Duran Golf Club (about a mile down the street from Space Coast Stadium).  Had a great time, and even won the ‘closest to the pin’ competition. My foursome (with Cole Kimball, Chad Gaudin and Matt Eiden – one of our strength and conditioning guys) finished 5th of 6. Congrats to the winning team of Rick Eckstein, Davey Johnson, Pudge Rodriguez and Scotty Paquin (assistant equipment manager for our minor-league operations).

 

Since I won’t be blogging tomorrow, I want to take this opportunity to wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s hope we have the luck of the Irish on our side when we battle the Braves in Orlando.

 

And, remember, just 15 days until Opening Day at Nationals Park.

Day 25 in Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates

Good afternoon NatsTown. Time to quickly blog again leading into tonight’s game against the Astros here at Space Coast Stadium. Of course, we are on MASN the next 2 days, so I urge everyone to tune in and gain a glimpse of your 2011 Nationals.

If you can join us at Space Coast Stadium tonight, don’t be late. At 5:57 pm, NASA is launching a Delta 4 – NROL27 Rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral. So, it should be up in the air right around the time the National Anthem is played. Details on this rocket launch can be found here: http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html.

The winning ways have largely continued. Since my last entry, your Nationals are 2-1.

An 8-4 win on Wednesday at Florida was quickly followed by a 6-5 home victory over the Mets. Last night in Kissimmee, the Astros scored late to edge us, 6-5.

Let’s start with Wednesday in Jupiter. This really was our best game of the spring. As you might have guessed, the winning vibe began with the starting pitcher. Vintage Jason Marquis. His 4.0 scoreless innings included 3 strikeouts and, more importantly, a ton of ground balls. Marquis was followed by Todd Coffey, who was in control, striking out the side in the 5th inning. He has looked strong this spring. More strikeouts than you’d expect too. The bats matched the arms as we led, 7-0, after 7 innings. Danny Espinosa went 3-for-3 with a double, his second homer of the season and 4 RBI. Michael Morse had 2 more hits and a walk. Not much went wrong in this contest.

Thursday afternoon’s 6-5 victory had a familiar feel, that is until things got a tad hairy in the 9th inning. But no matter, as Tyler Clippard recorded the game’s final 2 outs to push the winning streak to 4. Chad Gaudin turned some heads with his start. In 5.0 scoreless innings, he struck out 6. Our 3-run first inning was highlighted by Adam LaRoche’s bags-loaded 2-run (automatic) double to center field. Adam’s ball would have been a grand slam in most parks, but a fierce cross wind knocked that ball down a bit.

I was not able to attend last night’s game at Houston, more good pitching from the arms of Collin Balester and Cole Kimball, who tossed 1.0 scoreless inning apiece. At the plate, Jerry Hairston had 3 hits in the loss. Can’t win them all.

I just had our PR official John Dever run the numbers on our starting pitchers through 12 games. In those 12 games to date, our 8 starters have combined on a 2.60 ERA, 12 walks and 32 strikeouts in 38.0 innings. I am quite sure that Mike Rizzo, Jim Riggleman, Steve McCatty, Teddy, Screech and our loyal and ever-growing fan base would gladly take those numbers over 162 games.

We know it is not that simple, but it is hard not to like what we are seeing. I get the feeling we have some pitching depth to work with. Let’s maintain some standard health and I think there is something to work with.

Looking toward next week, we are expecting ESPN and the good folks from Baseball Tonight to bring their bus to Viera and Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday, March 15. I cannot wait to ask Tim Kurkjian what it has been like living the life of John Madden for the last 3 weeks or so. No doubt that Big John put on hundreds of thousands of miles on his Madden Cruiser, but he never had to bunk with John Kruk! It will be good for the ESPN folks to get a first-hand look at our guys (even though we play that evening at the Mets).

As you read various season previews, you should be aware that most of the national baseball writers who choose to write about us do so after watching us play road games. Viera is a bit more isolated than most of the other camps in/around Florida (and Phoenix for that matter). Writers understandably like to cluster their visits. See 6 or 7 camps in a week. They like those types of ratios, as do their employers. This keeps travel costs down.

One of the flaws in this practice is that these writers rarely (if ever) get to see our “A” lineup unless they trek to Viera. At this juncture of the spring (we are nearing the midpoint), you will not see Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Morgan, Pudge, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, etc. playing together on the road. And when you think about it, why would Jim Riggleman exhaust them? It does not make sense. Each of these guys will play in multiple road contests, but these road appearances are staggered for a reason.

So, I offer this info so that you gain some perspective when reading some of the season previews that are readily available all over the internet.

We are expecting a lot of fans and friends to visit us this weekend, mostly from DC. No doubt that Saturday’s Yankees game is a big drawing card. The weather looks good for tomorrow, sunny and in the mid-70s. Cannot wait.

I will be in touch early next week. Please have a great weekend…

Breaking the Curse de Lance

That late Hall of Fame Umpire Jocko Conlan occasionally told a story about the difficulty of making the right call on the field.

According to the wise tale, his story went something like this:

“The count was one ball and one strike on the batter. The next pitch comes in, appears to shave the corner of the plate, and the umpire shouts ‘Two!’ The batter says, ‘Two, what?’

“The umpire says, ‘Too close to call.'”

It isn’t breaking news when umpires miss calls. It is an exercise in the human element of baseball–for better or worse. Umpires are human and they can’t help it that they are perfectly imperfect.

Most of the time, the erred call is forgotten just as quickly as the game but it is tough to forget the beginning of the “The Curse de Lance.” On Tuesday, June 1 Lance Berkman (then a member of the Houston Astros) checked his swing on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the Nats, but it was called a ball. Berkman got another shot–in a way he hit the Nats right in the heart on the proceeding pitch. He laced a single to left that drove in two runs to give the Astros an 8-7 victory over the Nats. A check swing isn’t an exact science, but video replay clearly revealed that it was a strike.

“For me, a check swing is one of those calls in the game that there’s very little consistency on it,” Manager Jim Riggleman said at the time. “Nobody really knows what it is, what it isn’t. If you check swing, to me, that means the pitcher beat the hitter. You know? If there’s a gray, it should be a strike. There’s a way to take a strike, and it’s not in the form of a check swing. It works that way for both clubs.”

The Astros’ victory–which should have been a loss–was the turning point in their season and for the Nats, it was the end of the season. The Astros are 56-45 since June 1 and they were 17-34 before they were given an early Christmas present, courtesy of Umpire Gary Darling-Claus.

We don’t know what the future would have brought had the check swing been a called third strike but we like to think it would be completely different based off of nothing more than a gut feeling–the same process which was used in determining that Berkman didn’t fully swing. We know what happened when it was called a ball though and it wasn’t pretty.

On June 1, the Nats were in the midst of a 10 game road trip and the victory would have given them a 27-26 record with two games left in Houston. But they lost and then lost the last two games in Houston to fall to 3-7 on the road trip. It was impossible to know at the time but, in retrospect, their season was unofficially over–no thanks to Sir Lance Berkman. Since June 1, the Nats are 38-62.

But there is hope. The curse could have possibly been reversed. The same team that cursed the Nats came to the Nation’s Capital  for a four-game set on Monday and the tides turned on Tuesday when Pudge Rodriguez hit a game-tying two-run homer to spark a seven-run 8th inning to send the Nats to a 8-4 win over the Astros.

The Nats scored seven runs in the 8th, all with two outs–an impressive feat for a team that is batting .235 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Washington’s seven-run 8th inning matched its largest single-inning output in a home game since the Nationals came to town in 2005. The Nationals had another come-from-behind victory last night when Danny Espinosa hit a two run please-please-get-over-the-fence home run to win 4-3 in the seventh. He also broke out of his 5-for-51 slump. A win today and a series victory would officially end the curse.

It might seem counterintuitive to blame Mr. Berkman for the Nats woes–it would seem most logical to blame the Nats themselves–but as long as the Cubs blame Steve Bartman, we will continue to blame Berkman.

Nats seek 13 home series victory

Ross Detwiler toes the rubber as a starter for the first time since August 5, as the Nats try to earn their 13th series victory at home. They have four on the road. The Nats will be without Adam Dunn who left last night’s game after he was hit by a fastball in his right elbow. 

 

Astros (73-79):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Jason Michaels – LF

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Angel Sanchez – SS

8.    Humberto Quintero – C

9.    Nelson Figueroa – SP (5-3, 3.51 ERA)

*Jason Michaels went on another tear last night, going 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and one run scored. The three-hit effort was his first of the season and his first since May 10, 2008 vs. the Braves as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Nationals (64-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Adam Kennedy – 1B

3.      Ian Desmond – SS

4.      Michael Morse – RF

5.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

6.      Wilson Ramos – C

7.      Justin Maxwell – CF

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – 3B

9.      Ross Detwiler – SP (0-2, 2.37 ERA)

*Danny Espinosa hit a game-winning two-run homer in the seventh inning last night and by doing so, became the first player in franchise history to have hit as many as five home runs after debuting with the Nationals or Expos in September.

UPDATE: Ryan Zimmerman has been scratched due to a right strained rib but Dunn is available to pinch-hit.

Moving in the right direction… one win at a time

Last night’s win was insignificantly significant for at least one reason–if nothing else it guaranteed the Nats won’t reach the century mark in losses for the first time since 2007. This feat won’t be celebrated with champagne showers… but it’s progress. It is a step in the right direction.

“Certainly we want to raise the bar higher than that,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Winning a little more than last year is a step. We feel we are making progress, but ultimately, you are what your record says you are. We would like to win some more games. We are certainly not happy about the number of losses. If it has a nine in front of it or a 100 in front, it’s not good.”

Tyler Clippard doesn’t see a difference between 100 losses or 90, just like when you double nothing, well you still have nothing. Whether you lose 100 games or 90 games, the team is still only going to play 162 games.

“There is no significance,” Clippard said. “It’s a non-successful season whether it’s 100 losses or 95 losses. When you are in last place, it’s not good.”

He is right in the sense that it is a bad season either way but a 100 loss season is a regrettable milestone and a 99 loss season is just a bad year. When you lose 100 games you are clumped into a category but when you lose 99 games your season is just forgotten. It is the same thing with 100 RBI, 200 innings pitched or 1,000 yards rushing milestones, among many other things.

In a different type of milestone:

The Nationals have played 960 games since arriving in the Nation’s Capitol in 2005. They are 406-554. The Baltimore Orioles are 406-554 over that same span. That is pretty impressive and it settles any debate about which team is better. I don’t know what the odds of two teams playing 960 games and finishing with the same record but they aren’t the only teams. The Red Sox and Angels are 550-411 and the Rockies and Padres are 481-480 over the same span.

It’s worth mentioning:

The Nationals scored all seven of their runs last night in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. It was just the second time that Washington scored as many as seven runs in one inning at home since returning to DC. The last time was on April 16, 2005, in the team’s second game in Washington, when the Nationals recorded a seven-run seventh inning against the Diamondbacks.

After a rough first inning that saw the Astros jump to a 3-0 lead last night, starting pitcher John Lannan retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.

Last night, Tyler Clippard posted his MLB-leading 10th relief win. The last NL relief pitcher to record a double-digit win total was Todd Jones in 2004, for the Phillies and Reds. Clippard also notched his 100th strikeout in relief, becoming the first DC-based reliever to do so. His 100 relief K’s this season trail only the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol (124).

Bill Ladson reports that the Nats are expected to announce by the end of the week that Manager Jim Riggleman will be back for at least another week. 

Astros (73-78):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Angel Sanchez – SS

3.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

4.    Carlos Lee – LB

5.    Chris Johnson – 3B

6.    Brett Wallace – 1B

7.    Jason Michaels – RF

8.    Jason Castro – C

9.    Wandy Rodriguez – SP (11-12, 3.65 ERA)

* Jason Michaels hit his eighth long ball of the season last night in the first. A ******** 18 of his 39 hits (46.2%) have now been of the extra-base variety.

Nationals (63-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

8.      Justin Maxwell – CF

9.      Jason Marquis – SP (2-9, 7.71 ERA)

Game 151

It’s the final countdown at Nationals Park and here are three things as we head into the final 12 games of the season:

 

1.         Ryan Zimmerman is currently hitting .306 on the season, after going 2-for-4 to record his team-leading 46th multi-hit game of the season last night. He is hitting .410 (16-for-39) in his last ten games and aims to become just the third Nationals player to hit .300 or better in a single season, joining Cristian Guzman (.316 in ’08) and Dmitri Young (.320 in ’07).


 
Collin Balester red.jpg2.         A mustache-less Collin Balester is thriving in his converted role as a reliever. He has not allowed a run in 10.1 innings (eight appearances) and has seen his ERA drop to 2.40 since reaching a season high 7.71 on August 3.

3.         The bullpen has racked up 460 relief K’s this season, which is good for third in the Majors and sets the Nationals’ single season record. Tyler Clippard is also 2 K’s away from recording the first 100-relief strikeout season in the history of baseball in DC.

 

Astros (73-77):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Jason Michaels – LF

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Tommy Manzella – SS

8.    Jason Castro – C

9.    J.A. Happ – SP (6-2, 3.24 ERA)

* The seven runs scored in the fifth inning yesterday were the most runs scored by the Astros in a single inning since they drove in seven during a fourth-inning surge against the Marlins on August 12, 2009.

* Bud Norris tossed 6.2 innings of two-run ball last night to improve his record to an impressive 7-1 with a 3.52 ERA in his last 11 starts.

 Nationals (62-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

8.      Justin Maxwell – CF

9.      John Lannan – SP (8-7, 4.61 ERA)

The last stand

When the Astros come into town tonight to open a four-game set, they will be looking to win nine of their last 13 games of the season. If they can complete the feat, they will end up at .500. Why is this so impressive? Because the team was just 36-53 at the All-Star Break. Oh yeah, and they started the season with eight straight losses. But the tides have turned. In fact, the Astros are not the only team coming to town on this final homestand at Nationals Park with something to prove.

 

The next ten days also include series against the Braves and the Phillies–both fighting for the division lead, which is turning into a competition of who can best the Nationals, since both teams will have played Washington six times in their final 19 games. While the Nationals season will end in just 14 short days, the next ten should provide some tough matchups with the competition clawing to achieve a few clear-cut goals. Let’s see which ones the Nationals manage to spoil.

 Astros (72-77):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Geoff Blum – SS

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Brian Bogusevic – LF

8.    Humberto Quintero – C

9.    Bud Norris – SP (8-8, 4.95 ERA)

 Nationals (62-87):

1.      Danny Espinosa – SS

2.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Roger Bernadina – CF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Willie Harris – LF

8.      Wilson Ramos – C

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (10-11, 3.66 ERA)

Umpires are perfectly imperfect


Armando Galarraga 2c.JPGIt isn’t breaking news that umpires are human and they prove it with each mistake. It is the human element of baseball.

Most of the time, the erred call is forgotten just as quickly as the game, like this one…

 On Tuesday, Lance Berkman’s check swing on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth was called a ball and eventually cost the Nationals the ballgame. On the proceeding pitch, he drove in two runs to give the Astros an 8-7 victory over the Nats. A check swing isn’t an exact science, but roughly 50 percent of all umpires would have called it a strike–no science involved with arriving at that percentage.

But there are a few incomprehensible calls that will never be forgotten like this one…


Armando Galarraga c.JPGLast night, umpire Jim Joyce made a gaffe of epic proportions. On the would be 27th out, that would have resulted in the third perfect game in the last month, he ruled that Jason Donald was safe and Armando Galarraga’s perfect game was gone. We will call it the play–it requires no description like the catch–and you have seen it so many times it needs no description.

We could debate all day long if Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game or question whether the play should be reversed or if instant replay needs to be expanded. You could ask 100 people and you would get 100 different opinions. It is a slippery slope and there isn’t a clear place to draw the arbitrary replay line. Good thing we don’t have to decide, but in the age of instant access and immediate reactions… here are a few tweets from anyone who felt they had to vent via twitter:

Buster Olney from ESPN

“It’s just excruciating watching these replays. For Galarraga, for Cabrera, for Jim Joyce. Replay, please.”

“It’s inexcusable that this could not be addressed. The technology is in place that a dope like me knows the call was wrong while sitting on my couch — but the umpires can’t benefit from it, as well. Absolutely no good reason for them to not make a change.”

Jerry Crasnick from ESPN

“If they retroactively change Armando Galarraga’s game to a perfecto, maybe Bud Selig should consider changing Milt Pappas’s, too.”

Keith Law from ESPN

“SNL should do a sketch where Jim Joyce is welcomed into the Blown Calls Club by Don Denkinger, Tim McClelland, and the ghost of Eric Gregg.”

“If you think Selig should reverse Joyce’s call, please provide a list of all parts of baseball history you’d like him to rewrite.”

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm

“As governor, I’m issuing a proclamation declaring Galarraga pitched a perfect game!”

Random Dude

“Armando handled that situation with more class than anyone could. Everyone here is amazed with the class he has shown.”

Jay Jaffe writer for Baseball Prospectus

“Armando Galarraga showed more class in losing his perfect game than Dallas Braden did in completing his”

Bill Simmons the one and only Sports guy

“Look out Detroit, Jim Joyce isn’t done. He just ran his rental car over Kid Rock and Bob Seger.”

Adam Schefter ESPN NFL Insider

Jim Joyce asked Big Ben to please do him a favor. RT @jimwexell: Roethlisberger will talk to the media following today’s practice.”

Not to be outdone… there has already been a website created firejimjoyce.com.

Update: Galarraga was given a car and delivered the lineup card to Jim Joyce today.

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