Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’

Highlights: 4.13.13

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4.13.13 – Braves 3, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Stephen Strasburg surrendered just a pair of unearned runs over six innings of work, striking out seven Atlanta batters, but took the tough-luck loss.

Under-the-Radar Performance: The lone tally for the Nats came off the bat of Danny Espinosa, who drilled his first home run of the year off Braves starter Time Hudson in the fifth inning.

It Was Over When: The Braves added a key insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Jason Heyward was able to leg out the back end of a potential inning-ending double-play ball with the bases loaded.

What to Watch for: 4.13.13

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Atlanta Braves (9-1) vs. Washington Nationals (7-3)

RHP Tim Hudson (1-0, 3.27) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 4.38)

The Nationals and Braves meet for the second of this three-game set following Atlanta’s 6-4, 10-inning victory Friday night. In a matchup of Opening Day starters, Tim Hudson and Stephen Strasburg meet up in the Saturday matinee.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Strasburg RHP

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

At 7-3, the Nationals have matched their finest 10-game start since arriving in D.C. in 2005. Last season, Davey Johnson’s Nationals also jumped out to a 7-3 start and subsequently won seven of their next eight to post a 14-4 mark at the conclusion of play on April 25.

DET OF GRATITUDE, AND LITTLE ELSE

Despite facing two of baseball’s best offenses (Reds, Braves) and twice departing in line for the win, Ross Detwiler has been rendered a pair of no-decisions in two starts this season. Detwiler is, in fact, one of only two big league pitchers to work at least 13.0 innings and allow one earned run or less, but go without a win this season. The other is Carlos Villanueva, who has tossed 14.0 innings of one-run ball over two starts for the Cubs.

SPAN THE MAN

Denard Span has reached base safely at least twice in seven of Washington’s 10 contests this year. He has enjoyed three multi-hit efforts as well as a trio of multi-walk contests. Span has registered at least one hit and one walk five times already this year.

What to Watch for: 4.12.13

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Atlanta Braves (8-1) vs. Washington Nationals (7-2)

RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 9.00) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0.00)

The Nationals take on the division-rival Braves for the first time in 2013 after finishing off their second consecutive home sweep to key a 6-0 record so far at Nationals Park. Washington went 10-8 vs. Atlanta last season, including a 5-4 mark at home.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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. Detwiler LHP

TOP HEAVY

During the Nationals three-game sweep of the White Sox, the top three hitters in Davey Johnson’s lineup – Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper – combined to hit .471 (16-for-34) with a double, two home runs, seven RBI, four walks, two stolen bases and 11 runs scored.

ATTENTION SPAN!

Denard Span’s .475 on-base percentage is noteworthy beyond the fact that it ranks fourth among all MLB leadoff hitters. As recently as 2011, Washington ranked dead last in MLB with a .285 OBP from the leadoff slot. Last year, the Nationals improved to 18th in MLB with a .325 OBP from those batting first in Davey Johnson’s batting order.

GRAND-IOSE OCCASION ON THE HORIZON

Ryan Zimmerman has played in 999 career games. Zimmerman will become the first National to play in 1000 games in tonight’s series opener vs. Atlanta.

A WAR Accord

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The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.­ – Robert Burns

Back in late January, as we planned out the feature articles that would appear in Issue 1 of Nationals Magazine (pick up a copy at the ballpark today!) this season, we decided to tackle a baseball statistic that had become one of the game’s biggest contentions: Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. No sooner did we pen the article than outlets across the sport posted similar pieces, outlining many of the same arguments as us. Still, we included a unique angle in our analysis, comparing the net change in WAR of the Nationals and Braves entering 2013, taking into account the three most high-profile replacements on each team during the offseason.

But then two more developments hit us over the past week.

First, our computations for the third and final section of the article, the one that compared the NL East rivals’ offseason moves, included only offensive totals for each team. As a result, our team totals were off. The second revelation, however, rendered that first one obsolete. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, the two sites who kept different versions of the WAR statistic, joined together to come to terms on a redefined level of “replacement player,” thereby ripping up all of our hard-worked math and throwing it out the window anyway.

But hey, that’s just another reason why we’ve gone digital with our publications this year. Now we have a chance to update you with the new, correct numbers, which are an improved way of measuring the players anyway, now that there is a consistent baseline from which to project. And in spite of the change, the numbers still illustrate the underlying point of our article – according to WAR, the Nationals got better through their offseason acquisitions. The Braves? Well, not so much.

So here are the new numbers, as simple as we can give them to you. The Nationals combined for a total WAR of 44.2 in 2012, while the Braves notched a slightly lower 42.4, numbers which played out closely on the field as Washington won the division by four games. Heading into 2013, both teams essentially swapped three major players out and three players in. The newly tabulated 2012 WAR values of those players is ascribed as follows:

Nationals                                Braves

Outgoing                                    Outgoing

Michael Morse (0.0)               Michael Bourn (6.1)

Edwin Jackson (2.2)               Martin Prado (5.6)

Sean Burnett (0.9)                   Chipper Jones (2.6)

Total = 3.1 WAR                       Total = 14.3 WAR

Incoming                                    Incoming

Denard Span (3.6)                     B.J. Upton (3.1)

Dan Haren (1.8)                        Justin Upton (2.0)

Rafael Soriano (1.2)                 Chris Johnson (1.3)

Total = 6.6 WAR                        Total = 6.4 WAR

Net = +3.5 WAR                     Net = -7.9 WAR

Essentially, while the Nationals added an expected 3.5 wins (not to mention the fact that Dan Haren averaged 5.5 WAR per season in his previous four years, a good sign that he can improve on his 1.8 total of last season) the Braves actually LOST 7.9 expected wins. That’s a swing of 11.4 WAR between the two clubs, even higher than our original article’s combined total of 10.6.

So for all our troubles, the news turned out to be even better than we’d originally reported after all.

Healthy Signs

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The Nationals did not have many questions entering camp this year. They have even fewer as they enter their final game of the Grapefruit League season, after which they will fly north to The District to begin the season ahead. With much of the 25-man roster presumed to be in place before the club even arrived in Viera, there were two major points of concern upon which most of the focus lay all spring: Wilson Ramos’s knee and Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder.

Both were coming off of offseason surgery, but both have steadily progressed through spring. If there were any lingering doubts left in the final 24 hours of their stay in Florida, each put them to bed Wednesday afternoon. Ramos blasted a pair of home runs and Zimmerman crushed three of Washington’s six total long balls in an 11-2 demolition of the division-rival Braves.

Pain free and catching full games again, Wilson Ramos can focus fully on his swing.

Pain free and catching full games again, Wilson Ramos can focus fully on his swing.

Ramos went the other way to right-center for his first roundtripper in the third inning. He followed that up with a mammoth blast to left in the fourth, off the top of the berm at Space Coast Stadium, just at the foot of the electronic scoreboard. They were the catcher’s first two home runs of the spring, but they came at a time when he is finally pain free and able to put all of the focus on his knee behind him.

“In the beginning of spring, I wasn’t working on my swing at all,” explained the backstop. “Three days ago, I finally started working on it.”

The results have paid off immediately.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, rounded into form just as expected. It’s been said repeatedly by manager Davey Johnson that the Nationals third baseman needs exactly 50 at-bats – no more, no less – to get ready for the season. Zimmerman entered the game sitting on 48 for the spring and struck out in his first trip. He then blasted home runs in spring at-bats numbers 50, 51 and 52, sandwiching a couple of moonshots to left around an opposite-field shot over a four-inning span.

With the luxury of gradually easing his way back into playing shape, knowing his skipper had a firm grasp on his projected starting lineup, Zimmerman looks comfortable and refreshed as the team begins packing for the season ahead.

“We’ve pretty much known all spring who our team is,” he said, referencing the unusually high number of returning players entrenched on the roster. “We just used this time to get to doing what we did last year.”

Nats Back at the Lake

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The Nationals are back in Lake Buena Vista Friday night for Jordan Zimmermann’s second start of the spring at they take on the Braves once again. Washington played its second extra-inning tie in its first six games of the Grapefruit League slate Thursday night, drawing even at 4-4 with the Mets in Viera. Here’s tonight’s lineup, as well as a full list of results to date:

1. Espinosa SS

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Harper CF

4. Moore DH

5. Tracy 3B

6. Marrero 1B

7. Brown LF

8. Leon C

9. Perez RF

P. Zimmermann

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

First Taste of Atlanta

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The Nationals traveled to Lake Buena Vista Tuesday afternoon, where they were greeted with their second rain delay in the opening four days of the Spring Training slate, and their first look at what largely resembled a real Opening Day lineup.

The host Braves started five or six regulars (depending on your analysis of their third base situation), including both Upton brothers, Freddie Freeman, Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla against Washington starter Ross Detwiler. The even-keeled lefty took the challenge in stride in what was also his first outing in the Grapefruit League this year.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

“You saw the lineup they put out there today,” he said, referencing Atlanta’s projected regulars, most middle-of-the-order types. “I could have gotten embarrassed pretty easily.”

Detwiler more than held his own however, looking very sharp through two frames before allowing a single run in the third. He didn’t allow a single extra-base hit, but perhaps the most impressive part of his outing was his breaking ball, which he located for strikes with great movement.

“It’s coming along a little bit,” he said, modestly, of his hook.

That’s an understatement, considering how much Detwiler relied on his two fastballs last year. He used three effective breaking balls to neutralize one of the National League’s better left-handed hitters in Heyward over a pair of at-bats on Tuesday, striking him out looking on a front door bender in the first inning.

“He’s got a lot of weapons,” said manager Davey Johnson of his developing southpaw’s expanding repertoire. “[That] makes the fastball that much better.”

When asked if the outing would help prepare him for the competitive outing Detwiler is slated to encounter in the World Baseball Classic, the 26-year-old’s response served to foreshadow the type of intensity the Washington-Atlanta rivalry may well have this year.

“I just played a competitive game,” he deadpanned.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Never one to ease into things, Detwiler’s most supportive teammate in the lineup was Bryce Harper, who continued his hot start to the spring. The young slugger legged out a chopper over Freeman at first for a double, swatted a Mike Minor offering to the opposite field gap for another two-bagger, and finished his afternoon with a rocket off Freeman’s mitt for a single. His 3-for-3 afternoon left him hitting (small sample size alert) .750 for the spring. Harper kept the gaudy numbers in their proper perspective, though.

“Facing Minor during the season and facing him right now is a little different,” he said of the Braves starter, who was also throwing in live action for the first time. “I don’t want to say I’m relaxed or comfortable, because I never want to be that way.”

Just because others are easing into the first days of the schedule doesn’t mean Harper is. He already lobbied his way into the lineup Wednesday afternoon, which will be his first chance to play with both Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche this year.
“I’d like to get in that lineup every day, pretty much,” he said, and Johnson was persuaded to agree.

The Nationals take on Miami in Viera at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon as Dan Haren makes his first start in a Washington uniform. See below for today’s lineup, along with spring results to date.

Nationals 2/27 Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Harper LF

3. Werth RF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Tracy 3B

6. Espinosa DH

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombo 2B

9. Walters SS

P. Haren

Record: 1-2-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

Depth, Charging

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Before Monday night’s Nationals-Mets tilt in Port St. Lucie – the second between the two clubs in the same location in just over 48 hours – skipper Davey Johnson mused aloud that teams with good Minor League depth often posted strong Spring Training records. If the game itself was any indication, Johnson, who relishes the opportunity to see such players in person, must have liked what he saw.

Led by a bevy of rising stars, the Nationals impressed at the plate and on the mound as they notched their first Grapefruit League win, by a 6-4 final.

Karns impressed in his first action against Major League hitters.

Karns impressed in his first action against Major League hitters.

The logic behind Johnson’s reasoning stemmed from the heavy innings that non-regulars log during the Grapefruit League season, and never was that circumstance more on display for the Nats. With a starting nine featuring just one 2012 Opening Day roster member in Steve Lombardozzi (plus Gio Gonzalez pitching), Washington’s youngsters peppered New York pitchers all around Tradition Field to the tune of 17 hits in a victory that was never as close as the final score indicated.

Outfielder Eury Perez leaned on his strongest tool – his speed – to accumulate a trio of infield singles and a stolen base, scoring from first on a double in the third and from second on a single in the fourth. Anthony Rendon, vying for a home run for the second straight day, was robbed of a longball at the center field fence, but later lined a seed the opposite way for a single. Eight of the nine starters pitched in hits, with Nationals 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole demolishing a double to the wall in right-center in his first at-bat.

On the mound, Skole’s counterpart Nathan Karns – Washington’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year – turned in perhaps the most noteworthy performance. Following two hitless innings from Gonzalez in his first spring start, Karns fanned Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and top Mets prospect Travis d’Arnaud, allowing only a David Wright flare single over two scoreless innings.

“He’s got a great future,” said Johnson of Karns, whom he saw live in game action for the first time Monday night. “He had an explosive fastball, threw first pitch strikes. Very impressive for the young man.”

Rendon continued to turn heads with his play.

Rendon continued to turn heads with his play.

Karns overthrew a couple of curveballs early, but settled in and spun a beauty to put away d’Arnaud. He attributed the early inconsistency on the pressure of facing Major Leaguers for the first time.

“Yeah, I was a little nervous in the ‘pen, I’m not going to lie,” Karns said of the experience, but he took Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty’s advice between innings. “Breathe, breathe. I guess I was a little red in the face, a little sweaty.”

Karns’ stuff played just fine, his fastball sitting 93-96 with great life. When asked if that was a normal velocity range, he was non-committal, but referenced his offseason conditioning program.

“I was around there last year,” he said of his fastball velocity. “This year I felt like I did a lot in the offseason to strengthen my lower body, give me some more endurance. So if I get a couple more ticks on the radar, that’s a bonus.”

One veteran in the clubhouse within earshot took notice.

“A couple more ticks?” interrupted Ryan Mattheus, who earned the save with a scoreless ninth, incredulously from the corner of the clubhouse. “What do you want, to throw 105?”

The radar gun at Tradition Field actually misfired and flashed 143 miles-per-hour after one high fastball out of the 25-year-old’s right hand.

“Yeah, I can say I threw 143,” Karns said nonchalantly.

It’ll be a story for the grandkids.

The Nationals hit the road again Tuesday afternoon, where they will face the division-rival Braves for the first time this spring at 1:05 p.m. in Lake Buena Vista.

Record: 1-1-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2012 Player Review: Jesus Flores

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. After a short hiatus, we are back at it with one of the Washington backstops, catcher Jesus Flores.

With the myriad of injuries beset upon the Nationals catching crew in 2012, there was one constant behind the plate, one man who was there, day in, day out, working with the pitching staff. Jesus Flores had nearly as many at-bats (277) as the fellow quintet of backstops he shared time with combined (303), appearing in over half of Washington’s games this year. Defensively, he caught nearly 47 percent of all innings thrown in 2012 by Nationals pitchers.

Flores hit three of his six 2012 home runs vs. Atlanta, each in a key victory.

Flores was thrust into the starting role after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL on a rainy Saturday night, May 12 in Cincinnati. When Chase Headley ran over Sandy Leon – the latter only a couple innings into his Major League debut – just 72 hours later, even more pressure landed on Flores to handle the league’s best pitching staff. He responded both defensively and offensively with his best stretch of the season, batting .320/.352/.500 through June 3, his first 15 games following Ramos’ injury.

Flores’ offensive contributions this season were sometimes obscured, though. His first home run of the year was overshadowed almost immediately, as it was followed by Stephen Strasburg’s first roundtripper of his Major League career, when the duo went back-to-back off Orioles starter Wie-Yen Chen on May 20 at Nationals Park. Flores’ next three longballs all came against Atlanta, each in crucial wins. He opened the scoring off Brandon Beachy with a solo shot in the fifth inning of a 2-0 victory on June 2, then went deep against Randall Delgado on June 29 to help Washington to a 5-4 triumph. Finally, his three-run blast off Paul Maholm on August 21 provided the difference in a 4-1 Nationals victory.

Meanwhile, the backstop continued to improve defensively. After never posting a range factor above 7.00, Flores notched a 9.16 mark over 80 games in 2012, while logging a career-high 687.2 innings behind the plate. He held down the fort throughout the spring and early summer until the arrival of Kurt Suzuki in early August, at which point he returned to his backup role for the stretch run.

With Ramos set to return sometime next spring, the Nationals will have some decisions to make about the future of their deep and experienced catching corps. Flores is entering the final of his four arbitration years (he was a Super Two, starting back in 2010), and is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season.

- SEE ALL OUR 2012 PLAYER REVIEWS -

In Davey We Trust

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At nearly 70 years of age, there isn’t much that Davey Johnson has yet to accomplish in the game of baseball. He has already won a World Series as both a player and a manager, one of just five living men to do so. Coming into 2012, he had skippered three different franchises to the playoffs. And yet, he managed to notch a whole bevy of firsts in his first full season at the helm of the Washington Nationals. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the second BBWAA Manager of the Year Award of his career.

Davey Johnson won his second Manager of the Year Award this season.

He guided the franchise to a Major League-leading 98 wins, 17 more than the previous franchise high, set back in 2005. That success translated into the franchise’s first NL East title and Washington D.C.’s first postseason berth in 79 years. Mind you, of course, that while nobody else predicted such unprecedented success from the club, Johnson calmly and confidently told the baseball world exactly that – his team would be in the playoffs, all the way back before Spring Training began.

Despite a ton of early-season injuries to a good portion of his starting lineup, Johnson’s club either led the NL East or shared its top spot for all but 10 days this season. When the dust had settled, they owned the best run differential in Major League Baseball, outscoring their opponents by 137 runs over the course of the year.

Johnson, along with Executive VP of Player Personnel and GM Mike Rizzo, made the decision to keep Ross Detwiler in the Major League rotation at the end of Spring Training. That, along with the healthy returns of Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann and the additions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson gave the skipper the National League’s best rotation ERA at 3.40. Once fully healthy, his offense went on to produce 194 home runs, second most in the league, establishing both franchise (1969-‘12) and D.C. baseball (1901-‘71, 2005-‘12) single-season marks.

Johnson has agreed to manage one final season for the Nationals in 2013.

Johnson registered the seventh 90-win campaign of his managerial career and joined the legendary Billy Martin as the game’s lone skippers to take four different teams to the postseason. Since shifting from a consulting role and returning to the dugout to assume the Nationals managerial helm on June 27, 2011, Johnson’s Nationals are 138-107 (.563). Just how good has he been at guiding his young squad? In that same time span, only the Braves (139) have won more games among NL teams.

Among those to manage 1,000 or more games, Johnson’s career winning percentage (1,286-995, .564) ranks second among all living managers behind his former skipper, Earl Weaver (.583). He will have one more season to improve upon those impressive credentials, having agreed to manage the 2013 season before retiring from the bench, back to the Nationals front office in 2014.

Congratulations, Davey. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for your grand finale.

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