Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’
As the Nationals arrived at Petco Park to begin their four-game set with the San Diego Padres on Thursday, a special visitor awaited them. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M University quarterback, was in town for a training program with his personal coach and decided to drop by before the game.
In addition to posing for a picture with fellow Aggie Davey Johnson, Manziel took batting practice with the Padres and appeared on the hometown broadcast that night. But Manziel was, in particular, also at this specific game for another reason: Bryce Harper.
Harper, who won the Golden Spikes Award in 2010 –baseball’s equivalent of the Heisman – had befriended the quarterback via Twitter. It’s only fitting that the two 20-year-olds got to know one another, considering that their all-out styles of play are what have put them in the national spotlight. Together, they are kindred spirits of hustle.
“You’re never going to see him not go all out,” said Manziel of Harper. “I play with my heart on my sleeve and he plays the same way.”
Of course, their paths to the top-ranked amateur players in their sports were wildly divergent. Several months after Harper found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated dubbed “Baseball’s Chosen One,” Manziel was just beginning to turn heads as an undersized signal-caller at tiny Kerville-Tivy High School in central Texas. And while they are the same age, Manziel recognizes that he still has plenty of work ahead of him to ascend to Harper’s level on the professional stage.
“He’s at the top,” said Manziel. “He’s at the highest level. I’m still working my way up there.”
As he often does, Harper shone brightly with the extra attention of the evening. And although Stephen Strasburg ruled the day with his solid start in front of family and friends in his hometown, Harper found a way to steal a bit of the spotlight with a 432-foot home run to center field.
5.16.13 – Nationals 6, Padres 2
Stat of the Game: Stephen Strasburg logged a career-high 8.0 innings in his first-ever start in his hometown of San Diego.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Adam LaRoche extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games with a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
It Was Over When: Bryce Harper crushed an offering from Tyson Ross off the top of the batter’s eye in the eighth, providing the final margin.
There are few living legends in the game whose presence looms as large as Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. The now 85-year-old has been the voice of the Dodgers for 64 years, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. He is a walking encyclopedia of baseball and cultural knowledge and always makes for a tremendously entertaining interview.
Scully sat down with Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes prior to Tuesday night’s game in Los Angeles. He told stories of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, his start in broadcasting in Washington D.C., and discussed Bryce Harper’s collision Monday night.
“The only good thing about it is it knocked his beard off,” Scully mused, as Harper had to shave in order to receive his stitches.
Scully went to the clubhouse before the game Tuesday to see Harper, who seemed caught off guard to see him in Davey Johnson’s office. As Harper shook Scully’s and offered a customary pleasantry, Scully retorted with, “Well, how are you young man?” in reference to the play the night before. The two went on to chat for several minutes as Johnson made his away around the clubhouse.
“He’s such a fine young man and an outstanding player,” said Scully of Harper. “It’s none of my business, but I hope he stays clean shaven.”
Listen to the full interview below. The Nationals wrap their three-game set in Los Angeles tonight.
Ryan Zimmerman has long been the name best associated with the Washington Nationals. For years, he was easily the most recognizable player, his Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards helping him stand out as the clear-cut favorite to be recognized in a ballpark outside of Washington.
While he remains the most well-established and longest-tenured star on the club, with young stars like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg joining him in the forefront, Zimmerman can now lean on those around him to help carry the load, both on and off the field. And so, in typical Zimmerman fashion, his contributions on Monday night were overshadowed by other headlines, his three RBI and solid defense at third base pushed down the page.
Meanwhile, after a year of ceding various accolades to rotation-mates Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann’s eye-opening start to the 2013 campaign has suddenly thrust him into the spotlight.
Just how good has he been? Few pitchers would see their ERA rise after allowing just two runs over 7.2 innings of work, but that’s exactly what happened to Zimmermann on Monday night. His 1.69 ERA now sits just .25 behind NL-leader Matt Harvey of the Mets, fifth-best in the National League on the young season. His effort still earned him his league-high seventh win as well, but there’s another, more obscure category in which he also leads every pitcher in the sport.
Zimmermann’s 13.26 pitches per inning are the fewest of any starting pitcher in baseball. Couple that with his quick reset on the mound between deliveries, and he gives his defense the shortest amount of time possible standing out at their positions. The less time the Nationals spend on the field, the more they spend at the plate, putting additional pressure on the opposing pitcher.
Shorter innings also equal longer starts for the 26-year-old, who has worked at least seven innings in six of his eight starts. In comparison, he only lasted that late into a game nine times in 32 starts in 2012. A longer outing takes pressure off the bullpen, meaning fewer opportunities for the opposing offense to catch a reliever on a bad day or have the chance to exploit a matchup.
Though not obvious, flashy statistics, they create a recipe for success that, just like Zimmermann’s mid-90’s heater, can sneak past you before you have time to adjust. If the rest of Zimmermann’s season is anything like these first eight starts, he’ll have a chance to do what Strasburg and Gonzalez did last season: pitch in the Midsummer Classic in July.
Regardless of what accolades he receives, fans around the league ought to start learning the name of the Nationals newest superstar. The adjustment should be easy – just add another “N.”
Chicago Cubs (14-22) vs. Washington Nationals (20-16)
RHP Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97)
Washington looks to make it a 4-1 homestand with a rubber match victory over the Cubs today. The Nationals send southpaw Gio Gonzalez to the hill in search of his fourth win as Bryce Harper returns to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Gonzalez LHP
COUPLE OF 3
Ian Desmond has posted consecutive three-hit efforts in two games this weekend against the Cubs. This is the third time in Desmond’s career he has registered three or more hits in back-to-back games, previously doing so in August of 2010. Spanning the 2012-13 campaigns, Desmond is 17-for-38 (.447) with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI, three walks, two stolen bases and nine runs scored in nine games against the North-siders.
Desmond (21), Danny Espinosa (12) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 35 extra-base hits, tops among MLB middle-infield units. The Phillies rank second with 29 extra-base hits.
BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S BEST
Nationals starting pitchers rank second in the National League and third in MLB with a 3.32 ERA (81 ER/219.1 IP). Last season, Washington paced the NL in starters ERA at 3.40.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija figured to be a tough matchup for the Nationals on Friday night. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had a strong recent history against Washington, compiling a 1.15 ERA with 16 strikeouts in two starts in 2012 – plus Bryce Harper was out of the lineup with a toe injury.
Ian Desmond had other designs. He entered the game a lifetime 5-for-10 with a pair of doubles against Samardzija, the only batter in the Nationals lineup with more than two career hits against the pitcher nicknamed “Shark” by his college teammates at Notre Dame. Desmond proved his history of head-to-head success was no fluke.
Batting fifth, the Nationals All-Star shortstop singled in his first at-bat and later scored on a two-out, two-run double by Kurt Suzuki that gave Washington an early 2-1 lead. He homered in his second trip to the plate, a two-run blast to left that snapped a 2-2 tie. He later gave the Nats a 5-2 advantage, driving home Ryan Zimmerman with a two-out double in the fifth, and scored one batter later on a two-run double by Danny Espinosa, completing the scoring for the Nats in a 7-3 victory.
Three trips to the plate against Samardzija, three hits, three runs batted in and three runs scored. Combined with their previous meetings, Desmond is now 8-for-13 with three doubles and a home run against the Cubs ace, good for a slash line of .615/.615/1.077.
Desmond’s homer, his fifth of the season, carried another impressive distinction. All five of his long balls have given Washington the lead, and the Nats are 5-0 when Desmond goes deep.
Needing a triple to complete the cycle, Desmond grounded to third base against reliever Shawn Camp leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Although disappointed in the result, Desmond offered up some humor to put everything into perspective.
“Yeah. But, I mean, third base is a long ways away,” he said.
Detroit Tigers (19-12) vs. Washington Nationals (18-15)
RHP Doug Fister (4-0, 2.38) vs. RHP Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01)
The Nationals look for a two-game series sweep of the Tigers, following Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory behind Jordan Zimmermann. Dan Haren rides a two-game personal winning streak into this afternoon’s affair against Detroit righty Doug Fister.
1. Span CF
2. Bernadina LF
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Haren RHP
On Wednesday night, Jordan Zimmermann became the first Washington Nationals (2005-present) pitcher to garner a win in three straight starts despite Nationals bats posting three or less runs of offensive support (3-1 on Wednesday vs. Detroit, 2-0 on May 1 at Atlanta, 1-0 on April 26 vs. Cincinnati). Zimmermann has pocketed the win in seven consecutive starts at Nationals Park.
THE AMERICAN WAY
The Nationals are a perfect 4-0 this season against the American League (1-0 vs. Detrit, 3-0 vs. Chicago). Washington is also 22-15 in interleague play since the beginning of 2011. The corresponding .595 winning percentage paces NL clubs (fourth in MLB) in that 2+ year span, during which Washington is 12-7 (.632) at Nationals Park against the AL.
BRYCE HITS 10TH HOMER
Bryce Harper slugged his 10th homer of the season in his 111th at-bat of the season on Wednesday. In doing so, Harper reached the double-digit home run plateau quicker than any National (2005-present) with the exception of Adam Dunn, who blasted his 10th homer of the 2009 campaign n his 103rd at-bat, May 10 at Arizona.
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.
5.8.13 – Nationals 3, Tigers 1
Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper became the first National to reach 10 home runs, and is now tied for second in the National League with 10 long balls.
Under-the-Radar Performance: With another stellar performance, Jordan Zimmermann earned his league-leading sixth victory, dropping his already paltry ERA to just 1.59.
It Was Over When: Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined to record the final six outs and lock up the victory, Washington’s third in a row.
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.