Results tagged ‘ Brett Carroll ’

Open For Business

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Whew. If there was any question of how the Nationals would respond to the pressures of expectation in 2012, they showed some good signs in their first game of the season on Thursday. However, we’ll all have to wait until Saturday before enjoying chapter two.

The quirky schedule gave the team a day off Friday after just the one game. While players might normally want to save that break for a time later in the season, our fans could certainly use the chance to catch their collective breath after a nerve-wracking, gut-checking, come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. This is the type of game they should come to expect, though. With the way this Nationals team is built, there are likely to be a good number of well-pitched, tight, low-scoring affairs all season long. And there will be 161 more games in the next 180 days, so brace yourselves.

Stephen Strasburg looked like a seasoned veteran through seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start.

The opener had a bit of everything to make for an exciting affair: great starting pitching, would-be home runs (knocked down by the wind), sparkling defense, and a pair of late rallies, one to tie the score and the other to put Washington in front for good. Many of the offseason storylines were tested immediately. Could the top two spots in the order get on base? Check – Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined to reach safely in five of their 10 plate appearances. How would Stephen Strasburg fare in his first Opening Day start? His line – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K – suggests he was more than up to the task. And what kind of impact could we expect from Davey Johnson’s revamped bench? Look no further than Chad Tracy’s double, which led to Brett Carroll scoring the game-winning run in the ninth. It’s as strong a first impression as Johnson could have hoped for from this group in its collective debut. So on a day when the team managed just four hits, the rest of the pieces came together to get the Nationals that all-important first Curly W.

We need not worry about Ryan Zimmerman, either, whose 0-for-2 (with two walks) performance would have been a 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs, if not for the sharp, gusting wind coming in off Lake Michigan and directly over the center field wall. The third baseman showed just how deep his value really is, though, with two superb defensive plays. He bailed out Wilson Ramos on a pick and swipe tag to catch Alfonso Soriano stealing in the fourth inning, before reversing roles and gunning down Joe Mather at the plate in the ninth (with Ramos applying the nice tag) to preserve the one-run victory.

Jayson Werth couldn't be happier to be reunited with teammate Brad Lidge.

Jayson Werth also had a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit knocked down by the wind early. However, he came up with a great defensive play of his own and battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk, forcing in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. That’s what team leaders are supposed to do: find ways to contribute, no matter what the circumstance. Werth is one of the best in the game at finding ways beyond the box score to do that. Don’t take our word for it, though. Pick up the first edition of Nationals Magazine when you’re at the ballpark starting next week and read all about it.

There should be no lingering questions surrounding Brad Lidge and his stuff at this point, either. One of Johnson’s fill-in closers (along with Henry Rodriguez), Lidge utterly overwhelmed Reed Johnson with a slider and froze Marlon Byrd with a perfectly painted fastball to end the game. He could be the steal of the offseason for Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, providing veteran leadership to the back end of the bullpen and the occasional save when called upon.

Nevertheless, it will be great to get Drew Storen back, as it will be to have outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in Washington again. Morse and Ankiel are both on rehab assignments with Double-A Harrisburg, which is playing just up the road in Bowie this week.

In the meantime, breathe easy and enjoy the day off. There’s been plenty to talk about, but we’re just one game in. At the end of the day, though, the team is 1-0. And that’s as good of a place as you can be one game into the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season.

Carrolling In Viera

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It was a moment out of a Little League game. Brett Carroll came up with the bases loaded and the Nationals having already scored twice to take a 2-1 in the sixth inning of Thursday’s home game against the Braves. After walking in his first two plate appearances, the outfielder was looking for a pitch to drive, just to get something deep enough to score the run. Instead, his shot to the opposite field gap carried past the outfielders, bouncing off the wall and caroming back towards the infield.

As the runners began circling the bases, Carroll went from thinking he had a sacrifice fly to thinking he had a double, to suddenly realizing he had a shot at a three-base hit. As he slid into third ahead of the relay throw, the ball short-hopped Braves third baseman Martin Prado and skipped away. With 270 feet of base path already behind him, Carroll sprung to his feet and raced home. The throw home arrived at the same time, but Carroll’s nifty hook slide to the inside of the plate allowed him to avoid the tag as he scored, capping the six-run outburst.

Brett Carroll shows his not-so-serious side before a recent Spring Training game in Sarasota.

“The guys in the dugout were laughing,” said Carroll. “I just kept running until I…well I didn’t stop.”

While Davey Johnson has been vocal about his admiration for Carroll’s talent and versatility throughout camp, the outfielder is not taking anything for granted in terms of making the big league club.

“Not one bit,” he attempted to say with a straight face, but broke into laughter. “I’m comfortable because it is what it is. I’ve been down this road before…Until I’m on that plane going north (to Washington), I’ll just continue to take it one day at a time.”

Later Thursday, the other half of the Nationals split-squad traveled to play Detroit in Lakeland. After falling behind 3-0 early, Washington roared back on the strength of late, run-scoring hits by Xavier Paul and Steve Lombardozzi, who had three more knocks. Lombardozzi is now batting .328 for the spring, as also he looks to add his name to the list of 25 heading north to D.C. next Monday night.

Speaking of that plane going north, Curly W Live will be there with the team, providing an inside look as the Nationals return to D.C. for the highly-anticipated beginning of the season.

Davey Johnson discusses the finer points of hitting with Brett Carroll during batting practice.

The Nationals take on the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium this evening at 6:05pm. After winning four of their last five, here are the team’s spring results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – L, 3-2 (10)

@ St. Louis – L, 9-0

@ Houston – L, 5-1

@ Baltimore – L, 12-3

vs. New York (NL) – W, 12-0

vs. Houston – W, 7-4

@ Miami – L, 3-1

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-2

vs. Atlanta – W, 6-3

@ Detroit – W, 5-3

vs. Miami – Friday, 6:05pm

Overall Record: 10-14-3

A New York Welcome

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We were back at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie for our second evening affair with the Mets on Tuesday, where we received some true New York hospitality. Right in the middle of the Nationals batting practice, the sprinklers went off around the infield, spraying everything in sight. Most of the players and coaches didn’t bat an eye, and just kept on with their routine, waiting for the water to subside. Only it didn’t stop. Not for a solid five minutes, at which point third base coach Bo Porter, who was on the rail of the dugout, began jokingly chiding anyone and everyone around.

The sprinklers went off during Nationals batting practice in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday.

“What, did the grounds crew take the day off?” he started, then spread the playful blame to his fellow coaches. “Davey, isn’t this your job? I thought you ran things around here.”

Finally, the water stopped, allowing the players to get back to business without getting soaked. We knew unexpected, five-minute showers were commonplace in Florida, but this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. All kidding aside, it’s a telling sign of the attitude of the players and coaches, the way they handled the situation. Nobody complained or got too bent out of shape, and everyone just went on about their business.

As for the game, the lineup gave Nats fans a good look at how deep this club is up the middle of the diamond. With Steve Lombardozzi and Mark DeRosa playing the corners on the infield and Brett Carroll and Roger Bernadina behind them in left and right, you could argue that Washington was fielding an up-the-middle player at every position Tuesday night. Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond were in their regular spots at catcher, second base and shortstop, respectively, with Rick Ankiel manning center field behind Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, the Mets shut down the Nats, posting a 2-0 win behind starter Dillon Gee.

Strasburg looked as sharp as he’s been this spring, starting at 93-95 on the stadium gun and moving up to 96-97 by the second inning. He struck 97 for the first time as he painted a called third strike on the outside black against Lucas Duda for his first K of the night. Two batters later, he sawed off Josh Thole with a 96 mile-per-hour heater and narrowly avoided the barrel of the bat as it bounced past the pitcher’s mound on a comebacker. In the end, Strasburg allowed a single run on just two hits, walking one and fanning three in five full innings of work, extending his pitch count to 85.

Stephen Strasburg squares off against the Mets in at Digital Domain Park.

One last thought on Digital Domain Park – we couldn’t really put our fingers on it last time we were here, but there’s something funny about the acoustics here. Perhaps it’s the way the seating area is shaped, or the concrete canopy that encompasses the bowl from third to first base, but every ball has that special pop off the bat. It’s a sound that sportswriters are trained to recognize, the one of a ball well struck, that pulls the head away from the computer screen if one is otherwise occupied. As it turned out, there was a lot of head-snapping for what proved to be nothing more than routine fly balls Tuesday night, as neither team recorded a hit until the third inning, when Strasburg hit a one-hop rocket that ate up Daniel Murphy at second base for an infield single. While it takes some time to get used to, it actually makes for an entertaining game experience.

Washington is back at home Wednesday to host the Braves. Here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – Wednesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 5-9-3

Ankiel Rolling In St. Lucie

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Digital Domain Park is hilarious. Home to the Mets Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, it is a little slice of New York nestled among the palm trees and endless blue skies. Each of the half-dozen parking attendants or ushers we spoke to responded with a heavy New York accent, clearly late-life transplants to the warmer climate. The park itself is very nice, though we arrived a little late in the afternoon to sample the empenadas stand in right field. The wireless internet signal in the press box was also much improved from years past, we’re told. When you’re on the job and the games have no actual impact on the standings, these things tend to be two of the most important factors in evaluating a ballpark.

The Nationals warm up on a picture perfect day at Digital Domain Park.

Oh, and there’s also a tiki bar down the left field line. So yeah, it’s still very much Florida.

As for the action on the field, Rick Ankiel had an impressive game in more ways than one. He nearly threw out Andres Torres scoring from second on a single in the first, on a play where he looked to have no chance at all. He then got that run back in the top of the second, with a no doubt, opposite-field home run on a 2-0 offering from Dillon Gee. He also drew a walk in his second plate appearance, a good sign for a team looking to improve its on-base percentage this season. Finally, he tracked down a deep fly ball at the wall in center field to finish out his four-inning stint.

- WATCH RICK ANKIEL’S SECOND-INNING HOME RUN -

“I feel good for where I’m at,” said Ankiel of both his swing and his defensive timing as he watched the end of the game. “It’s still early, but I feel like I’m right where I need to be right now.”

As a member of the non-roster invitee group fighting for one of the final roster spots, he has made a strong opening statement.

Some heads-up baserunning from Eury Perez, who went first-to-third on a single to left by Steve Lombardozzi in the fifth inning, led directly to the second Nationals run of the night, as Mark Teahen plated Perez with a sac fly.

The aforementioned tiki bar.

And it wouldn’t be Spring Training without one of these plays. With one out in the top of the eighth, Brett Carroll skied a ball high in the air to shallow center. Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis called off the second baseman, who was parked under the ball, then, after a long run in, dropped it. Carroll was hung about halfway between first and second and made a break for the latter. Nieuwenhuis fired the ball in to shortstop Ronny Cedeno in time to apply the tag at second, but Cedeno dropped the ball. This is why they play these games – to shake off the rust and get ready for the ones that count.

Obscure stat of the day: Waldis Joaquin tossed a pair of scoreless innings to earn the save, which brings us to the obscure stat of the day, which will be a regular feature in our recaps. While at Triple-A Fresno last season, Joaquin was 2-0 with a save and a 0.70 ERA (2 ER/25.2 IP) in the 12 outings in which he pitched at least 2.0 innings.

We’ll be back in Port St. Lucie in a couple weeks. Next time, we’ll have to try the empenadas.

Off to Lake Buena Vista to face the Braves today. Here are the Nationals results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – 1:05pm

Overall Record: 1-2

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