Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’
The 2013 season is not yet over. But the dream of defending the National League East crown, of a repeat trip to the postseason has come to an end.
While the end always stings, it did not come as suddenly or unexpectedly as the end of the 2012 season. And while it may have technically ended at the hands of the Cardinals, there wasn’t much of a sense of any connection between the end of last year and the end of this year. It was simply happenstance that the Nationals should make their lone trip to St. Louis at the end of September, after staving off elimination for weeks, and that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh should each squeak out runs against inferior opponents just minutes earlier to create such a scenario.
The odds were stacked against Washington as early as April, when Atlanta built a division lead it would never relinquish. They grew longer with injuries to key cogs in the offense and the rotation, and with the way the National League shook out, a high-80s win total was simply not good enough to knock on October’s door this year.
“It’s tough,” said Davey Johnson after Monday night’s 4-3 defeat. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done.”
This will be Johnson’s last year in uniform on the bench for Washington, which surely adds to that emotion. But there is solace in knowing that he will be back in the front office next season, helping President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo as the club looks to improve in 2014 and beyond.
“I’m not worried about the organization,” he expressed. “The organization’s in great shape.”
Ian Desmond, who has been the first to stand up and face the media in the wake of any tough loss this season, concurred in his assessment.
“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place, with a better group of guys,” he said.
Even as the national media has portrayed Jayson Werth as the emotional leader of this club, and continued to focus on Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as the name-brand stars, it was Desmond who stayed consistently, statistically great the past two seasons, no matter what happened around him.
His final 2012 line looked like so: .292/.335/.511 with 60 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases and a team-leading 5.0 fWAR.
With five regular season games remaining in 2013, he’s compiled a .285/.337/.463 line with 61 extra-base hits, 21 steals and a 5.1 fWAR, again best on the club.
“For me personally, I just play the game the way I know how to play the game,” he said Monday night. “I don’t turn the dial up. The dial’s already turned up.”
Desmond’s ability to stay healthy has helped him remain consistent in a year of turbulence. That quality is one that Harper, who remained in his full jersey, sitting at his locker well after the conclusion of the game, looks to draw from heading into the offseason.
“I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night,” Harper said, looking ahead to next season, referencing time missed due to injury this year.
But before all attention turns to 2014, Washington can still make life tough on these Cardinals. With two more games in St. Louis, the Nationals can go a long way toward determining the pecking order in the NL Central, perhaps pushing the Cards into the one-game Wild Card.
“We’ve got an opportunity to rain on their parade a little,” said Desmond, well aware of the situation.
And so, with that, we’ll say the words that baseball people never dare to speak aloud.
Let it rain.
9.20.13 – Nationals 8, Marlins 0
Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann pitched a complete-game, two-hit shutout, giving him an NL-best 19 wins.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Anthony Rendon went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while making several strong defensive plays at second base.
It Was Over When: The Nationals sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, plating seven runs.
Miami Marlins (56-97) vs. Washington Nationals (82-71)
RHP Jacob Turner (3-7, 3.51) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (18-8, 3.33)
The Nationals won their seventh game in as many tries at home against the Marlins Thursday night with a 3-2 victory behind Gio Gonzalez. Washington has won four-of-five, 11-of-13 and 22 of its last 29 games in its frantic, late-season push for the postseason. The Nationals will have their eyes on the Reds and Pirates – both of whom they are chasing in the Wild Card hunt – who begin the first of six matchups over the season’s final nine games.
1. Denard Span CF
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
3. Jayson Werth RF
4. Bryce Harper LF
5. Ian Desmond SS
6. Adam LaRoche 1B
7. Wilson Ramos C
8. Anthony Rendon 2B
9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP
ALL GREAT THINGS MUST COME TO AN END
Denard Span’s 29-game hit streak came to an end last night, one game shy of the Nationals (2005-present) franchise mark, set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009. A look at the longest hit streaks in D.C. baseball history:
1. Heinie Manush* (AL Nationals) 1933 33
2. Sam Rice* (AL Nationals) 1924 31
T3. Ryan Zimmerman (NL Nationals) 2009 30
T3. Sam Rice* (AL Nationals) 1929-30 30
T5. Denard Span (NL Nationals) 2013 29
T5. Sam Rice (AL Nationals) 1920 29
* – Hall-of-Famer
FOUR SCORE AND 20 BLASTS AGO
With Bryce Harper’s 20th homer, the 2013 Nationals became the first club in franchise history, including Montreal, to have five 20-homer players. Ryan Zimmerman (25), Jayson Werth (23), Ian Desmond (20), Adam LaRoche (20) and Harper helped Washington become the third Major League team with five 20-homer players this season.
Ian Desmond—via his 20-homer, 19-stolen bag effort so far—is on the cusp of becoming the first National with multiple 20-20 campaigns (25 HR, 21 SB in ‘12). Six Major Leaguers have attained 20-20 status so far in ‘13: Carlos Gonzalez (26 HR-21 SB), Hunter Pence (25-21), Mike Trout (26-33), Will Venable (22-20), Carlos Gomez (21-36) and Andrew McCutchen (20-27).
With an 0-for-4 last night, Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak came to an end just shy of matching the Nationals franchise record set by Ryan Zimmerman four seasons ago. And while we here at Curly W Live observed the baseball tradition of not discussing such a streak while it is in progress, we would be remiss not to revisit it in depth, now that it is over.
Span batted .371/.406/.492 and collected seven stolen bases over the 29 games, raising his season slash line to .282/.331/.383 at the end of play Wednesday. His averages are all now within points of his career norms, and he sits just two steals shy of reaching 20 for the third time in his six-year Major League career. With his solid defense in center field, he has contributed a 3.3 fWAR, fourth-highest on the club, between Bryce Harper (3.9) and Zimmerman (2.9).
Not surprisingly, as their streaking leadoff hitter’s fortunes improved, so did the Nationals record. But the fact that Washington went 22-7 in those 29 games (they lost a 3-2 decision in Philadelphia when he entered the game late, but did not bat on September 2) really shines a light on the difference a productive Span makes at the top of the lineup.
But let’s go back to the streak itself to appreciate where it rests in the history of baseball. When Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games in 1941, he set an immeasurably high bar, perhaps the most untouchable of all records in professional sports. In the 72 years since, the reverence attached to the feat has only grown. So impressive is DiMaggio’s mark that, by comparison, only one man has even surpassed the 40-game plateau in the intervening years. That would be Pete Rose, who strung together 44 games with at least one hit in 1978.
In fact, hitting streaks of any considerable length are exceedingly rare. Most tend to fizzle out in the teens, while anything above 20 becomes noteworthy. Consider that, since 1941, only 30 players in the big leagues have recorded a streak as long as Span’s 29-gamer.
Span’s streak was the longest in the Major Leagues since both Dan Uggla (33) and Andre Ethier (30) both broke the 30-game barrier back in 2011. And, like most quirky baseball items, the streak was not without one notable anomaly: while Span had only a pair of two-hit performances over the streak, he collected three hits six different times and four hits once.
Aside from Rose, Paul Molitor came the closest to the 40-game marker, stretching his 1987 streak to 39 before his next hitless game. Between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Jimmy Rollins recorded a hit in 38 consecutive contests and Tommy Holmes logged a 37-game hitting streak in 1945. In 1949, DiMaggio’s brother, Dom, put together a 34-game run.
Here’s a look at all hitting streaks of at least 29 games since 1941:
40+ games: Pete Rose (’78, CIN) 44.
35-39 games: Paul Molitor (’87, MIL) 39, Jimmy Rollins (’05-’06, PHI) 38, Tommy Holmes (’45, BOS-NL) 37, Luis Castillo (’02, FLA) 35, Chase Utley (’06, PHI) 35.
31-34 games: Dom DiMaggio (’49, BOS) 34, Benito Santiago (’87, SD) 34, Dan Uggla (’11, ATL) 33, Willie Davis (’69, LAD) 31, Rico Carty (’70, ATL) 31, Ken Landreaux (’80, MIN) 31, Vladimir Guerrero (’99, MON) 31.
29-30 games: Stan Musial (’50, STL) 30, Ron LeFlore (’76, DET) 30, Nomar Garciaparra (’97, BOS) 30, Sandy Alomar Jr. (’97, CLE) 30, Eric Davis (’98, BAL) 30, Luis Gonzalez (’99, ARI) 30, Albert Pujols (’03, STL) 30, Willy Tavares (’06, HOU) 20, Moises Alou (’07, NYM) 30, Ryan Zimmerman (’09, WAS) 30, Andre Ethier (’11, LAD) 30, Joe Gordon (’42, NYY) 29, Harry Walker (’43, STL) 29, Ken Boyer (’59, STL) 29, Rowland Office (’76, ATL) 29, Johnny Damon (’05, BOS) 29, Denard Span (’13, WAS) 29.
With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We seeded the top 10 in our book, and after more than 6,500 votes, you determined the ultimate Signature Moment of the season. Relive each and every one in video form below.
A STORYBOOK BEGINNING | 4.1
On April 1, Bryce Harper’s first swing of the 2013 campaign connected with a hanging curveball out of Ricky Nolasco’s hand, soared 406 feet and landed in the right field seats. In his second at-bat, the defending National League Rookie of the Year punished another Nolasco breaking ball, again to right. He couldn’t have scripted a better start to his sophomore season.
ONE HIT WONDERS | 4.25 & 4.26
On April 25 against the Cincinnati Reds, Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano combined to throw just the second one-hitter in the history of the young Nationals franchise, handing the Reds an 8-1 loss. The very next night, Jordan Zimmermann did all the work himself, needing just 91 pitches to finish a one-hitter of his own, his first-career shutout, 1-0. It was the first time since August 10-11, 1917 that a Washington-based baseball club had one-hit an opponent on consecutive days, when Walter Johnson and a trio of Senators did so to the Chicago White Sox.
LOMBO LIFTS NATS | 6.4
With the Nationals trailing 2-1 late against the New York Mets, the bats came alive with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan Zimmerman led off the frame with a double and scored on a single by Adam LaRoche, who went to third on a double by Ian Desmond. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Steve Lombardozzi worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lifting a sacrifice fly down the left-field line, just deep enough to score LaRoche for the Nats first walk-off win of the 2013 season.
THE WALKING DEAD | 6.19
Trailing most of the game on June 19 in Philadelphia, the Nationals bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip. Jayson Werth, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped a game-tying, two-out, RBI-single in the top of the ninth inning. In the 11th, the Nationals loaded the bases for Ian Desmond, who annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes for his first career grand slam, giving the Nats a 6-2 win.
BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1
Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.
RAMOS RETURNS | 7.4
After Wilson Ramos spent 44 games on the disabled list, his return to the Nationals lineup on July 4 couldn’t have come soon enough. Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three), capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh inning that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
WALK-OFF WONDERS | 7.25 & 7.26
On July 25, in a 7-7 tie with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper ripped a line drive to deep left-center field, just clearing the #NATITUDE sign and dropping into the second row of the Red Porch for the first game-winning home run of his career. The very next night, in the second game of a doubleheader with the New York Mets, Ryan Zimmerman punished a high fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was his ninth-career walk-off home run, four shy of the Major League record.
ONE GRAND SWING | 8.10
Jayson Werth reached the 1,000-hit milestone in memorable fashion on August 10, in an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. After a pair of singles in his second and third at-bats got him to 999, Werth was set up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game with a runner at first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The normally methodical Werth took no time to make his presence felt, jumping on the first pitch and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run.
THE STRAS ‘SHO’ | 8.11
On August 11 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Stephen Strasburg completed his first Major League shutout in a 6-0 Nationals victory. Impressively, he combined the dominant power pitching with which he burst onto the scene in his first big league start, with the pitch-to-contact approach he has executed this season. Despite striking out 10 Philadelphia batters, the 25-year-old needed just 99 pitches and faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum.
“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17
Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
9.19.13 – Nationals 3, Marlins 2
Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper launched his 20th home run of the season to provide all three runs of offense.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Three relievers – Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano – combined for 3.0 innings of scoreless relief.
It Was Over When: Soriano fanned Christian Yelich with two runners on to lock up his 42nd save of the year.
9.13.13 – Nationals 6, Phillies 1
Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman hit his team-leading 24th home run, his ninth in his last 11 games.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a sixth-inning single.
It Was Over When: Wilson Ramos‘ bases-loaded, infield single in the fifth inning scored Jayson Werth from third and Bryce Harper all the way from second.
The videos below are supplemental bonus footage of some of Bryce Harper‘s season highlights, featured in the To the Last Man cover article in Issue 12 of Inside Pitch. For the full story, be sure to pick up a copy this homestand at the the ballpark.
7.1.13 vs. Milwaukee Brewers: The Triumphant Return
In the first at-bat of his first game back off the disabled list, Harper hit the second pitch he saw over the left-field wall for a home run, bringing Nationals Park to its feet, demanding a curtain call.
7.25.13 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Walk-Off
After opening the game with a terrific diving catch in left, Harper saved the day by blasting his first Major League walk-off home run to snap Washington’s losing streak and beat the Pirates.
8.23.13 at Kansas City: The Comeback
After falling into a 6-0 hole through two innings, the Nationals roared back for their biggest comeback win of the season, thanks in large part to Harper’s team-high three RBI. In the ninth, his sprawling catch helped preserve the one-run win.
New York Mets (60-72) vs. Washington Nationals (68-65)
RHP Dillon Gee (9-9, 3.69) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (15-7, 3.32)
Often in baseball, we talk about the intangible benefits of veterans in the clubhouse. They seem to have an effect on the team dynamic by their mere presence, leading by example, letting their play speak for itself.
It’s less often we hear about the tangible benefits of veteran leaders. Sure, they’re frequently the ones making an impact in the box score night in and night out, but their role as teachers for the less experienced players can be easy to overlook.
Yet, if it weren’t for one of those moments of tangible leadership, the Nationals might have had a more difficult time dispatching the Marlins, 9-0, on Thursday night.
On paper, pitcher Gio Gonzalez’s seven shutout innings look about as solid as a manager can hope for from his starter. For the first two innings, though, Miami appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough, as Gonzalez walked three and gave up two hits, striking out just one batter. While he managed to strand three runners in scoring position over the first two frames, his pitch count rose to 43, not a good sign with a depleted Nationals bullpen that threw seven innings Wednesday due to the rain.
Cue that veteran guidance. Dripping with sweat after the two long frames, Gonzalez retreated to the clubhouse and found closer Rafael Soriano waiting for him. The 12-year veteran had noticed something off with Gonzalez’s delivery and had some words of wisdom for the Nationals starter.
“After the second inning, I came up here to change my shirt, and I had Soriano standing right in the entrance telling me, ‘Stay back, your arm is dropping way too low and you are trying to rush,’” Gonzalez recalled. “That meant a lot, especially when he is out there watching.”
Gonzalez made the adjustment. Over his next five innings of work, he gave up just one more hit and struck out seven Miami batters on just 65 pitches. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson flirted with the idea of sending him back out for the eighth, before handing the ball over to Tanner Roark. The rookie reliever made quick work of the eighth and ninth innings, needing just 13 pitches, 12 of which were strikes.
The Nats offense helped alleviate any lingering pressure, with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond each launching multi-run homers over the left field fence. If the Nationals are to make a run at a National League Wild Card spot, offensive performances like those that have marked their current hot streak will be crucial. But so, too, will the small adjustments like Gonzalez’s, and the veterans that spot the need for them.
1. Denard Span CF
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
3. Bryce Harper LF
4. Jayson Werth RF
5. Ian Desmond SS
6. Adam LaRoche 1B
7. Wilson Ramos C
8. Anthony Rendon 2B
9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP
D.C.’S HIT MAN SOON TO BE EXPOSED
Jayson Werth’s .329 batting average would rank a close second in the National League and trail only Yadier Molina (.333) with enough plate appearances to qualify. Werth’s 411 plate appearances to date are only one shy of the 412 presently required (133 games x 3.1 plate appearances per game) to qualify for the NL batting title. The outfielder is batting a Major League Baseball-best .389 dating to July 1.
18 AND UP CLUB
The Nationals are the lone National League club to feature four players with 18 or more home runs. The team’s long balls have been fairly evenly distributed, however, as each of the top four power players in Washington are within just three dingers of one other:
Jayson Werth – 21
Ian Desmond – 20
Bryce Harper – 19
Adam LaRoche – 18
After struggling offensively for portions of the 2013 season, the Nationals rank third in the NL in runs per game in the month of August. Washington has scored 123 runs in 25 games this month (4.92 per game). Among Senior Circuit entries, only St. Louis (5.19 runs in 27 August contests) and Arizona (5.04 in 25 games) have scored more often per contest than the Nationals this month.