Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’

What to Watch for: 8.27.13

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Miami Marlins (49-80) vs. Washington Nationals (65-65)

RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-4, 3.82) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.58)

With a successful 6-4 road trip behind them, the Nationals begin a six-game homestand tonight with the first of three against Miami, whom they swept at home to open the season. Washington has won 11 of its last 16 games, and looks to continue its winning ways with its next 19 contests coming against the Marlins (49-80), New York Mets (58-71) and Philadelphia Phillies (60-71).

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

AUGUST HEAT

After struggling offensively for much of 2013, the Nationals rank third in the National League in runs per game in the month of August. Washington has scored 108 runs in 22 games this month (4.9 per game). Only the St. Louis Cardinals (5.4 runs in 25 August contests) and Arizona Diamondbacks (5.0 in 23 games) have scored more profusely than the Nationals this month. 

GOING STREAKING

With Sunday’s four-hit effort at Kauffman Stadium, Denard Span has hit safely in nine straight games, at a .400 clip (16-for-40) with two walks, a double, two triples, a homer, five runs and four RBI. Span is in search of his first double-digit hit streak as a member of the Nationals. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper is 13-for-33 (.394) with six walks, five doubles, a homer, six runs scored and six RBI during his current eight-game hit streak. Harper has yet to register a double-digit hit streak at a big leaguer.

GOOD WOOD

The Nationals are 5-1 and have scored at least four runs in each of their last six games, during which they are batting .314 (72-for-229) with 28 walks, 14 doubles, two triples, and nine home runs, all of which have yielded a .387 on-base percentage, a .511 slugging percentage and an .898 OPS. Washington has also gone (.316, 18-for-57) with runners in scoring position in the same six-game span.

Not A Minor Accomplishment

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The Washington Nationals farm system hasn’t so much met expectations in 2013 as it’s surpassed every one.

Ranked the No. 13 farm system overall in the preseason by Baseball America, the Nationals have surged to the third-best organizational record at 403-322 (.558) overall, trailing only Houston (.572) and San Francisco (.564). Three of Washington’s seven affiliates are playoff-bound, with a fourth in a close division race.

None of this is entirely unexpected either. Under the guidance of President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, the Nats have gone from the Minor League cellar six years ago to a brief stint at No. 1 in last year’s Baseball America preseason rankings. Not to mention that this farm system has cultivated such talent as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. In fact, 11 players on Washington’s active roster have come through its Minor League system.

Lucas Giolito, Washington's top pick in 2012, was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn.

Lucas Giolito, Washington’s top pick in 2012, was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn.

Perhaps most remarkable has been the Gulf Coast League Nationals, which have notched the most impressive mark in all of professional baseball. Since the season began on June 21, the Rookie-level entry has gone 48-9 (.842), better than even the tremendous run by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted a 47-12 (.797) record in the same span. The GCL Nationals lead their division by 24.0 games, have 13 more wins than the next best team in the league, and clinched their playoff spot long ago.

Obviously, such a run requires more than just luck. The GCL Nationals are tops in the league in most meaningful statistical categories. Their 2.49 team ERA and .279 team batting average pace the field, while their 5.52 runs per game is more than six-tenths of a run better than the next closest total. They boast the league’s leader and runner-up in ERA among qualifiers, 21-year-old righty Wander Suero (8-1, 1.65) and 20-year-old southpaw Hector Silvestre (7-0, 1.82). Righty Lucas Giolito, the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect, drafted 16th overall out of high school in 2012, has returned from Tommy John surgery and was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn in the New York-Penn League after notching a 2.78 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 22.2 innings in the Gulf Coast League.

Like the GCL Nats, the High-A Potomac Nationals have put up ridiculous numbers in the Carolina League. Potomac is 81-51 overall, having already locked up a playoff spot by winning the Northern Division’s first-half championship with a 42-27 record. They’re currently 7.5 games up on Lynchburg in the second half, and will earn home-field advantage in all three Carolina League Division Series contests if they secure the second half title as well.

Walters has shown great pop for a middle infielder, sitting on the brink of a 30-home run season.

Zach Walters has shown great pop for a middle infielder, sitting on the brink of a 30-home run season.

Cutter Dykstra has helped pace Potomac on its most recent tear. During the P-Nats recent 10-game winning streak (August 10-20), the infielder racked up a .316/.447/.421 line. He also reached base in a league-best 29 games, putting together an 18-game hitting streak in the process. Meanwhile, right-hander Blake Schwartz is 11-4 with a 2.56 ERA and leads the league with a 1.03 WHIP.

The Low-A Hagerstown Suns (77-53) are also headed to the postseason, while the Double-A Harrisburg Senators (72-63) are a half-game up in their Eastern League division, where the top two teams reach the playoffs. The Suns are pacing the South Atlantic League with 5.03 runs per game, benefitting from a fairly balanced lineup. They’ve also recently added 2013 draft pick Jake Johansen, who was 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 rate with Auburn. The Senators, meanwhile, boast a pitching staff that leads the league with a 3.46 ERA. Nationals third-rated prospect A.J. Cole — who earned the save in the 2013 Futures Game — is sitting at 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA since being promoted in late July.

Though the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs have posted just a 65-72 record, they have their bright spots as well in prospects like Jeff Kobernus and Zach Walters. Kobernus served a brief stint in the big leagues and earned International League Player of the Week honors for the week of August 12-18. He leads the team and is second among Nationals farmhands with a .324 batting average. Walters, meanwhile, has slugged 29 home runs, 10 more than the next closest total in the organization. The infielder has posted a .531 slugging percentage on the season, especially impressive from the shortstop position.

Highlights: 8.24.13

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8.24.13 – Nationals 7, Royals 2

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann earned his National League-leading 15th win of the season, matching the total accrued by Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Tyler Moore had yet another multi-hit game, his fifth straight since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse.

It Was Over When: Fernando Abad struck out David Lough with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the 8th inning.

Highlights: 8.23.13

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8.23.13 – Nationals 11, Royals 10

Stat of the Game: The Nationals rallied from a 6-0 deficit, their largest comeback win of the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Tyler Moore continued his hot hitting, collecting three of the Nationals 13 hits. He has multi-hit games in each of his four games since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse.

It Was Over When: Moore caught a short fly ball to left field for the final out, giving the Nationals their fourth consecutive win.

What to Watch for: 8.22.13

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Washington Nationals (62-64) vs. Chicago Cubs (54-72)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.93) vs. LHP Travis Wood (7-10, 3.13)

Stephen Strasburg takes the hill at Wrigley Field for the first time since Opening Day 2012, a game won 2-1 by the Nationals with some late heroics from Chad Tracy and Ian Desmond. The lineup he will face Sunday includes just two players who started that game for the Cubs, shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney. Chicago will go with All-Star left-hander Travis Wood, who is making his 91st appearance (87th start), but first against the Nationals.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Bryce Harper CF

2. Anthony Rendon SS

3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Wilson Ramos C

6. Tyler Moore 1B

7. Scott Hairston LF

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

POWER OF 3:

The Nationals came through with a trio of three-run innings against the Cubs Wednesday night, powering their way to an 11-6 victory in the Friendly Confines. Jayson Werth and Scott Hairston blasted three-run homers in the winning effort, giving Wilmington, Illinois native Tanner Roark his third win – in front of more than 100 family and friends in attendance.

MORE GOOD THINGS COME IN 3s:

Werth’s three-run shot came on a 3-0 pitch. It was the first such home run for the Nats since Bryce Harper took a 3-0 pitch into the second deck in Miami on August 29 of last season. Wednesday’s contest also marked the first time all season the Nationals hit more than one three-run homer in a game.

200 CLUB

Washington Manager Davey Johnson earned his 200th victory with the Nationals Wednesday night, the third team he has piloted to 200 wins. He went 595-417 with the Mets, 204-172 with the Reds and improved to 200-171 with the Nationals. He has also tallied 186 victories for the Orioles and 163 more for the Dodgers in his illustrious career.

Saturday Night Fever

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“I feel like we were just destined to win that game, some way, somehow.”

Those words came from Dan Haren, maybe the most unlikely of heroes from a game full of them, saturated with storylines from both dugouts.

Saturday night was supposed to be about Bryce Harper, about unwritten baseball rules, about the rising tension between the Nationals and the Braves as they battled through the dog days of summer. But amidst a bizarre game in which two of the best young pitchers in baseball each failed to escape the second inning, it became a story of a true team effort in which 21 of the 25 men on the Washington roster played a role. In the end, the Nationals prevailed after 15 innings and nearly five-and-a-half hours, by a final of 8-7.

Adam LaRoche provided the decisive blow with his team-leading 18th home run.

Adam LaRoche provided the decisive blow with his team-leading 18th home run.

While any 15-inning affair will naturally be referred to most commonly as a marathon, this division rivalry felt more like a long distance relay race, with one reliever handing the baton to the next, over and over again. In all, 18 different pitchers were used by the two clubs – nine each – including the starters, each club’s entire seven-man bullpen, and two more starters to close it out.

Along the way, Washington set a number of records. The 15 innings matched the longest game in Nationals history, equaling the 2009 season finale, a 2-1 win over none other than the Braves at Turner Field. The five-hour, 29-minute affair was the lengthiest in terms of time elapsed. Meanwhile, the 19 strikeouts compiled by the Washington bullpen shattered the all-time Major League mark, at least as far back as anyone can be sure. The records for such a stat only date back to 1971, to which point the highest total ever compiled by a relief staff in a single game was 16. But considering the way the sport had evolved, with increased strikeout rates and higher bullpen usage, it’s hard to imagine any club amassing a comparable total in any previous era.

Following Stephen Strasburg’s second-inning ejection, Tanner Roark was the first Nationals reliever to answer the call, entering a 4-2 game and providing four innings of one-hit, scoreless relief with six strikeouts. Drew Storen tossed a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side. Ian Krol rebounded from a tough Friday night outing to put up two more scoreless frames in extra innings, and Craig Stammen followed a two-inning stint Friday night with a 55-pitch, three-inning scoreless stretch to get the game to the 15th inning.

Dan Haren earned his first Major League save in relief.

Dan Haren earned his first Major League save in relief.

Of course, in the midst of the impressive relief outings, the Braves tied the game in the ninth, making all of the extra pomp and circumstance necessary in the first place. But neither team would score again until the 15th inning, when Adam LaRoche punished a hanging breaking ball from Kris Medlen for a moonshot to right field, the ball searing through the mist at Turner Field before coming to rest in the bleachers, a dozen rows deep, giving the Nationals the lead once more.

That left the game to Haren, summoned from the bullpen to make his first relief appearance since 2004. Haren had thrown his routine side work prior to the game, tossing 30-35 pitches, which he followed with an upper body workout. But when Strasburg’s evening was cut short, several hours earlier, he offered up his services, should they be needed. They were.

“I’m proud of him for even doing that,” said Randy Knorr, who took over as manager when Davey Johnson was ejected along with Strasburg. “A lot of guys wouldn’t even have gone down there after throwing a bullpen.”

Haren allowed a single, but that was all, striking out Jordan Schafer flailing at a splitter, his bat sent cartwheeling towards the Braves dugout to end the game. That netted Haren first Major League save, and only his second as a professional, the other coming more than 12 years prior as a member of the New Jersey Cardinals of the Short-season New York Penn League on July 15, 2001 against the Lowell Spinners.

“I’m only supposed to do media every five days,” Haren joked as the huddle approached his locker after 1 a.m. local time.

In the end, the Nationals went home with a big road victory in Atlanta. Their reward. Both clubs get a whopping 12 hours and 46 minutes between the final out and the first pitch on Sunday afternoon. Haren summed it up best when all was said and done.

“Five-hour games are fine when you win them. But when you lose them, they really stink.”

What to Watch for: 8.15.13

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San Francisco Giants (52-67) vs. Washington Nationals (59-60)

 RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71) vs. RHP Dan Haren (7-11, 4.99)

The Nationals finish up their series against the Giants and their nine-game homestand this afternoon, as they aim to bring their record to an even .500. Jordan Zimmermann won his career-high 14th game of the season thanks to Denard Span, who sealed the victory with a game-saving catch. With Dan Haren on the mound, the Nats look to extend their five game win streak and go for their second straight series sweep.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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. Anthony Rendon 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Dan Haren RHP

SWEEP POSSIBILTIES

The Nationals will attempt to complete their third-ever sweep of the Giants in this afternoon’s series finale. Washington swept a home series from San Francisco in both 2012 (3-0) and 2006 (3-0). The Nationals have also won seven straight home games over the Giants. Washington has likewise won seven consecutive home games over the Marlins and Cardinals, but never reached the threshold of eight straight victories in D.C. over a single opponent.

SEVENTEEN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

The Nationals are the only team in the National League with four players with 17 or more home runs. Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth all share the team lead with 17 each. Only two other Major League teams – Toronto and Los Angeles (AL) – have as many as four players with 17 or more home runs.

SUMMER’S SCORCHER

Jayson Werth leads Major League Baseball in batting average dating to the beginning of both July and August. Since July 1st, Werth has hit .413. Detroit’s Victor Martinez has the next best average hitting .381 in that span. Since August first Werth is hitting .528 with Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen in a distant second at .474.

Meaningful Milestones

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As a baseball player, you can’t always control when you will hit certain career milestones. Often times, they occur simply within the flow of the game, perhaps having little impact on the actual result. Two Nationals players hit memorable milestone marks Saturday night, one helping directly contribute to the other.

After an RBI-single his second time up got the Nationals on the board, Jayson Werth stood at 998 career hits. In the sixth inning, he would fight through a classically Werthian at-bat, fouling off four pitches before swatting a single the other way and eventually scoring Washington’s third run. That set him up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game against Phillies reliever Zach Miner 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 a first pitch slider and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run. He even took a curtain call following the blast, which put the Nationals ahead for good.

“Unbelievable moment for him, to get his 1,000th career hit on a homer against them,” said Bryce Harper after the game, referencing Werth’s achievement coming against his former club.

While Werth himself downplayed the significance of the milestone occurring against the Phillies, he nevertheless took a moment to savor the accomplishment, one he didn’t even realize he was on the precipice of reaching. He was watching tape in the clubhouse after his third at-bat when batting practice pitcher Ali Modami made him aware of the situation.

Bryce Harper and Craig Stammen nailed Jayson Werth with the postgame Gatorade bath.

Bryce Harper and Craig Stammen nailed Jayson Werth with the postgame Gatorade bath.

“When you start out playing this game, however many years ago, it’s one of those benchmarks you put on the list of things you want to accomplish,” said Werth after the game.

Perhaps overshadowed by Werth’s heroics was the yeoman work put in by Tanner Roark in just his second big league appearance. Coming on in relief of Taylor Jordan, Roark needed just 12 pitches to navigate two scoreless frames on the mound, keeping the Nationals in the game. When Washington pushed in front in the seventh, it lined Roark up for his first Major League win.

“Yeah, I realized it,” said Roark of the situation setting up to possibly provide him with his first victory, a smile creeping out of the corner of his mouth. “Most important, we got the win. The team got the win.”

Both Werth and Roark’s milestone performances proved vital to that happening, though.

Highlights: 8.6.13

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8.6.13 – Braves 2, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper hit the longest home run by a Nationals player at home this year (437 feet) for Washington’s lone run.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Gio Gonzalez turned in a quality start but took the hard-luck loss, allowing two earned runs over seven frames.

It Was Over When: The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning, but could not push across a run.

To the Last Man

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To the last minute.

To the last second.

To the last man.

We fight!

Of all the things asked of Bryce Harper at such a young age, team leader has not been among them. But after a disappointing first two-thirds of the season, the 20-year-old spoke up the other day, then went out and provided the Nationals with a personal slogan, emblazoned on red camouflage workout shirts, prior to Friday’s game. It is a quote with which those who follow the young outfielder on Twitter may be familiar, from the movie Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen.

At just 20 years of age, Harper is stepping into the role of an emotional team leader.

At just 20 years of age, Harper is stepping into the role of an emotional team leader.

The emotional team leader role had been shouldered largely by Ian Desmond thus far in 2013, but he seemed happy to have a second voice in the clubhouse speaking up at this critical juncture in the season.

“I think they’re great,” he said of the T-shirts, displaying his own for the media to see. “It’s good to see him coming into his own.”

As for Harper’s ability to walk the walk, he launched a second deck home run and drove in two of Washington’s four runs Friday night as the Nationals got back in the win column with a 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“He rises to the occasion pretty well, if you hadn’t noticed,” quipped Desmond of his teammate after the victory.

Desmond himself got Washington on the board first, taking advantage of a bad route by Carlos Gomez to snag a leadoff double in the fifth, then stealing third and scoring as the throw skipped down the left field line. It was one of the game’s little swings that has seemed to go against Washington all year, but finally broke in their favor.

Of course, in order to once again accomplish their goal of playing in baseball’s postseason, nearly everything will have to go right for the Nationals. That was Davey Johnson’s point of emphasis after the game.

“We have to play really good from here on out to have any chance at all,” he stressed. “I think our guys know that.”

Denard Span had his strongest month yet in July, batting .289/.349/.402 with his first two home runs.

Denard Span had his strongest month yet in July, batting .289/.349/.402 with his first two home runs.

They will need more offense from Denard Span, like the quality at-bat he put in leading off the top of the ninth inning Friday night after quickly falling behind former Nationals lefty Michael Gonzalez 0-2. He fouled off a fastball, took a couple of tough sliders for balls, fouled another breaking ball off, then spoiled the fifth slider of the at-bat for a humpback liner, over third baseman Jeff Bianchi’s head and into left field. He would speed into second for a leadoff double, later padding the Nationals lead back to three runs after the Brewers had gotten one back in the bottom of the eighth.

The Nationals will also need the likes of Ryan Mattheus to fill the void in the seventh inning as he did with one of his best appearances of the season, and easily the strongest since returning from the disabled list. Mattheus got a strike out followed by a pair of grounders from the top two hitters in the Milwaukee order, following Jordan Zimmermann’s six scoreless innings with one of his own.

Speaking of Zimmermann, Washington needs his return to his first half form, as well as for Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to continue to do what they have done most of the year. Dan Haren, who has pitched well in four starts since his own return from the DL, will be counted on to continue to do so the rest of the way.

But there is a sense among some – Harper and Desmond included – that they need a little extra fire to make all these things happen. If they can continue to lead the way as they did on Friday night, maybe they can close the 6.5 games remaining between themselves and a postseason spot over the final 53 games.

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