Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’
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.
Chicago Cubs (13-21) vs. Washington Nationals (19-15)
RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50)
As the 2013 season is now just over 20 percent complete, certain trends have begun to emerge, defining each team’s identity on the field. For instance, when the Nationals score three or more runs, they are a stunning 16-2 on the season. When scoring five or more, they are a perfect 13-0. The only problem lies with the fact that they have played 34 games heading into this weekend’s three-game tilt with the Cubs, meaning that in 16 of those contests they have failed to cross the plate as many as three times, going just 3-13 in those affairs.
Of course, if this tells us anything about the club, it simply reaffirms a fact we already knew: the Nationals are built on pitching. As such, it should be no surprise that they own the league’s best winning percentage in one-run games, claiming a victory in six of their first eight battles separated by a single run. They have also made their offense hold up, owning the league’s best mark when scoring first (15-1) and second-best record when scoring last (9-2). With a strong back of the bullpen, it should be no surprise that they are 18-1 when leading after eight innings, but they impressively carry the same mark when leading after just five frames, a testament to that bullpen’s depth.
We remain early in the season, and these numbers won’t be a truly accurate reflection until sometime closer to the All-Star break. But the most important trend for the Nationals is quite clear. They’ve won four straight and six of seven heading into Friday night’s matchup, and are four games over .500 for the first time in nearly a month.
1. Span CF
2. Bernadina RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Espinosa 2B
7. Moore LF
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler LHP
APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS
With the sweep of Detroit complete, the Nationals 6-1 mark in May is tied for the second-best record in baseball this month (St. Louis is also 6-1). Only the 7-1 Indians have been better in May. Meanwhile, Washington’s four-game winning streak is tied for the longest in MLB with Arizona, San Diego and Cleveland.
LONG STREAK OF LONG BALLS
The Nationals have hit at least one home run in 67 consecutive series. That is currently the second-longest such streak in MLB (the Rangers have homered in 76 straight series) and the longest streak in D.C. baseball history (1901-71, 2005-present). Washington blasted 15 long balls in its four-game home series with Chicago last season.
BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN
Jim Lett’s bullpen has excelled of late, going 2-1 with six holds, seven saves and a 1.84 ERA (11 ER/53.2 IP) in 22 games dating to April 15. Nationals relievers have posted a .191 batting average against and been touched for just three home runs during the 22-game revival.
Following our interview with both Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, Mr. Wilbon stayed behind to shed some more insight onto what the Nationals mean to him personally and to the Washington D.C. region.
Curly W Live: As a fan of the game of baseball, what do enjoy about Nationals games?
Mike Wilbon: The food is great. The variety of food, the pavilions you can walk. Basically, 20 years from now, all these kids who are going to these games where they see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, they ought to be enormous fans, where there is loyalty built – real loyalty – to the brand.
I’m not from here. I go to one place, I take my kid to one thing: Nationals games. That’s it. I took him to Nationals-Cardinals, since we both hate the Cardinals. That’s my birthright (laughing). We sat next to a couple from St. Louis who are Nationals Season (Plan) Holders, but they’re from St. Louis. They were the nicest people in the world.
This year, I’ll take him to more like eight or 10 games, because he’s five. When he’s walking out, I’ll be like, “Why do you have that jersey on?”
Now we’re getting to reasons why you go to baseball games. But to me, that all goes back to the arc of planning for stuff you can’t control. There’s two separate parts: There’s the appeal of coming to something, then there’s the satisfaction you get once you get there.
D.C.’s an event town, it’s not a sports town. But for a baseball team, it’s the hardest one of all, because you’ve got 81 games. To me – and it’s too hot here, so they’ve done the right thing – but you should have as many afternoon games on the front and the back (of the schedule). April, May and September ought to be all day games. I’ve seen what day games do to a franchise: They create an environment where you take your kids and you play hooky. I’m going to say to my son, “Where were you?” and he’s going to say, “I was at school,” and it’s going to be a lie! He’s going to be at the Nats game.
CWL: How has the perception of the Nationals changed since the team arrived in 2005?
MW: People are aware of it. People are aware of baseball. My wife grew up here in the 70’s and 80’s and she doesn’t know anything about it. It’s a learning process, even for people in their mid-40s: They don’t know anything about baseball, I mean, not for real. They may have made a couple of treks over to Camden Yards because their parents took them, or it was a date night, or something like that. But you have to grow up with baseball every day, day-to-day, caring about the team, checking the box score. It’s what I want my kid to grow up with. Most of the people I know in Washington are at least 35 and up, and baseball is not in their soul, from no fault of their own. It’s not in their blood. It’s not a ritualistic thing. I feel for them – I can’t imagine my life without that obsession. Even though I live somewhere else, I want to know what the Cubs did: It’s the first thing I check. That’s changing. It’s sad, but that group’s going to have that void. I don’t know how you get rid of that. I don’t know if living here another 20 years, if my wife would automatically think about the Nationals. The Nationals have to hope the kids who are seven and nine years old, that those are going to be kids who grew up with the Nationals in their consciousness. It’s like starting over, but it’s been eight years. This sort of change is a big-time thing.
CWL: Did you see specific signs of the increased awareness around D.C. last season?
MW: Yeah, yeah. Even on the road. I was in Los Angeles walking through LA Live and I saw a guy in a Strasburg jersey and a Nationals hat. One of the things you can control – the uniforms – are great. They’re great. The combinations are great. The colors – even people who aren’t really Nationals fans are going to get into it. All of that was done well, in my opinion. But the awareness of last year was an adult awareness. Kids don’t know that. Kids don’t pick the team because it’s good, follow the team because it’s good. They follow the team because it’s their team, and I think that is building. That’s taken a while to build and it’s going to take some more years. They have to be successful, but they don’t have to be in the playoffs every year – nobody does that. Even the most popular teams, they don’t do that every year.
CWL: That being said, how much did the 98-win season in 2012 contribute to the change in attitude?
MW: Last year appealed to adults. They got some hardcore adults who didn’t pay attention to baseball all of the sudden on the bandwagon, but to me that’s a separate story of the seeding and of growing baseball in Washington. I think there are two separate things going on: the Nationals as a contender, which is an adult thing, and the Nationals as a civic – and I don’t want to say obligation, but baseball is almost an obligation – something you are tethered to, and it’s not affected by winning. I don’t want to hear, “Oh, in Washington they’re baseball fans because they won last year.” That’s bull. That’s nothing. You want to show me you’re a fan, show me how you react to losing. Winning accelerates the whole process. But God knows, if winning had everything to do with it, Fenway and Wrigley – the Red Sox and the Cubs – would not be overflowing all these years. I think there’s more to it than that.
Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch. Make sure to pick up the first 2013 issue of Nationals Magazine to read the full Q&A with Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon.
For the bulk of the season, the Nationals vaunted pitching staff – the best in the National League in 2012 – led the way for the eventual NL East Champions. With a slew of injuries to position players over the course of the year, Washington never really had its full complement of everyday starters on the field at the same time. But in late August, the Nats finally put together as close to a fully stocked lineup as they had seen all year. After pummeling the Cardinals, outscoring them 31-14 over a four-game set, they entered a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs with a chance to pad their division lead.
After eking out a 2-1 victory behind a strong performance from Ross Detwiler in the series opener, the bats caught fire like never before. On September 4, five Nationals combined to set a new franchise record by belting six home runs in an 11-5 thumping. How in the world could they follow up that act? By doing the exact same thing the next night, crushing six more longballs in a 9-1 victory, giving them 12 in just a 16-inning offensive span. Adam LaRoche led the way with three bombs in two nights, while Bryce Harper accounted for a pair of the blasts. At the height of the air horns and Chuck Brown’s Bustin’ Loose looped on repeat over the ballpark’s PA system, three Nationals – Roger Bernadina, Harper and LaRoche – homered in the same inning, all in a four-batter span, sparking the coining of a new phrase: The Nat Trick.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the display, though, was that eight different players contributed to the power barrage, helping Washington to a series sweep. The Nats went on to hit 194 home runs for the season, smashing the old Washington mark of 164 from 2006, as well as the franchise record of 178, set by the 2000 Expos.
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. Our list continues with veteran utilityman Mark DeRosa.
Statistics can tell us a lot in baseball, perhaps more so than in any other sport. Of the American “Big Four,” it is certainly the game that relies most heavily upon the numbers, over a large sample size, to determine success or failure, at least in the regular season. However, some players carry value in ways that are not generally quantifiable, bringing knowledge and expertise or even setting the tone of a clubhouse in a way that makes the players around them better. Mark DeRosa is one of those players.
A 15-year Major League veteran, DeRosa enjoyed his greatest success over a three-year span from 2006-08, playing for the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs. He carried a .291/.368/.453 line while playing every position outside of the battery, providing a valuable, interchangeable piece for his managers. While his production on the field hasn’t reached those levels since a pair of surgeries on his wrist, he was still the top target on Davey Johnson’s offseason wish list heading into Spring Training in 2012.
Why DeRosa? He was on Johnson’s World Baseball Classic squad back in 2009, and left an indelible mark on the manager. Back in Spring Training, it was DeRosa – not a fellow hurler, or pitching coach Steve McCatty – who pulled Gio Gonzalez aside after a rough inning to make him aware of a mechanical flaw in the lefty’s delivery. Gonzalez would not allow another run the rest of the afternoon. Before Game 4 of the NLDS, it was DeRosa who spoke to the team, ad-libbing a colorful interpretation of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous The Man In The Arena speech. Johnson acknowledged his veteran utility man’s importance in that afternoon’s press conference.
“DeRosa’s been kind of a spokesperson the guys have looked up to,” Johnson said. “He’s been in [postseason] situations. He’s a real good baseball man.”
DeRosa is a free agent heading into 2013, and is, as of yet, unsure if he will return for another season. After the end of the season, he shared his thoughts on his uncertain future.
“I’m kind of in a weird state,” he told reporters. “I don’t know if this is the last time I put on a uniform. I don’t know if I’m okay with that yet. We’ll see. I’ll go home and listen.”
Whenever DeRosa’s playing days are done, it would not be surprising to see him transition into another side of the game, whether as a manager or broadcaster. An Ivy Leaguer (he was a two-sport star at the University of Pennsylvania), his intelligent, charismatic, witty delivery seems tailor-made to fill either the long summer nights in the booth or the ears of the next generation of players from the end of the dugout.
Stop us if this sounds familiar.
The Washington Nationals, trailing a tight, low-scoring game by one run in the top of the eighth inning, need a clutch hit late. This is, after all, their first time in such a position, with newfound expectations heaped on their collective backs, the attention of the sport and the nation at large turned to them for the first time in their young history. They need to find a way, through a raucous road crowd in one of baseball’s historic cities, to shut out the noise, the emotion, and find a way to win. Washington rides a three-hit day from Ian Desmond and a clutch hit late off the bench to a one-run road victory. It is Opening Day, April 5 in Chicago, and the Nationals have just beaten the Cubs to start the season.
Six months and two days later, Washington began its “second season,” the postseason, in remarkably similar fashion. The Nationals use another three-hit game from Desmond and a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single – the very definition of clutch – from rookie Tyler Moore to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League Division Series. Of course, it was Chad Tracy who delivered the big blow on Opening Day, with his ninth-inning double. On Sunday afternoon, Tracy again played a role, despite never even crossing the lines onto the field of play. His announcement as the pinch-hitter for Ryan Mattheus (more on him later) in the top of the eighth prompted Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny to pull setup man Mitchell Boggs in favor of his lone lefty reliever, Mark Rzepczynski. Davey Johnson countered by pinch-hitting Moore, and the chess game continued. Matheny opted against a second pitching change, leaving right-handed closer Jason Motte in the ‘pen. Moore delivered. Checkmate.
Asked if it was the biggest hit in his career, Moore, the fresh-faced 25 year-old tucked into his stock, grey postseason sweatshirt, kept it simple.
“Uh, yeah,” he laughed.
However, none of those events would have transpired if not for the tremendous, history-making postseason debut of Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus. Already leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, St. Louis had loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, a single and a walk against Craig Stammen, prompting Johnson to go to his ground ball specialist. Even he couldn’t have imagined things would work out quite so well.
It wasn't pretty but we battled, the boys picked me up. Great job all around—
Gio Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47) October 08, 2012
In a game in which the Cardinals seemed to constantly be on the verge of breaking out, Mattheus delivered in the biggest spot. For starters, he got cleanup man Allen Craig – a .400 hitter (50-for-125) with 74 RBI with RISP during the regular season – to hit the first pitch on the ground to shortstop, Desmond throwing home for the first out of the inning, the bases remaining loaded. Then, on the very next pitch, he induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of 2012 All-Star Yadier Molina, becoming the first pitcher in the history of postseason play to record all three outs in an inning on just two pitches.
“I sold out to the ground ball,” he said with a smile after the nail-biting victory. “I’ve done it all year, that’s been my MO to get ground balls. Look at my numbers – I don’t punch very many guys out. So I’m not going to go in there and try to strike out the side.”
To call Mattheus an unknown factor would be an understatement. As the official scorer called out the afternoon’s final totals over the public address system in the press box, he mispronounced the reliever’s name, calling him “Math-A-us” rather than “Matthews,” though the right-hander surely could care less. He had just, after all, recorded the three biggest out of his career.
“Absolutely, no question about it,” Mattheus agreed when asked if Sunday’s performance topped his career highlights. “I don’t think we care if we stole it. Any one we can get is a win, no matter how we get it.”
Desmond had a different view of the outcome.
“I don’t think we stole it,” he said. “I think we earned it.”
Indeed, the Nationals earned it through a mix of quality pitching from the whole staff, combined with a couple of big hits in key spots. As anyone who has followed the team this year knows, that should come as no surprise.
“That’s really been the formula,” explained Desmond. “Just some timely hitting and some really, really good pitching.”
On that much, he and Mattheus agreed.
“I think that’s how this team’s been the whole year,” said Mattheus, reflecting back to Opening Day. “Some nights we pitch, some nights we hit. We try not to make too much of these games. Hopefully we can treat them like games in April. That was the most exciting day in my career so far, Opening Day, but this has to trump that.”
The Nationals offense has done so much damage as a unit lately that individual performances have been largely assimilated into the mass of gaudy numbers. Washington bombed 15 home runs in outscoring the Cubs 31-9 over a four-game sweep and the Nats are averaging 8.8 runs per game through the first eight games of their current homestand. But one player in particular is posting even more absurd stats, laying legitimate claim to the nickname we gave him early this year: AdaMVP.
We began using the moniker back in early May, as Adam LaRoche carried a depleted Nationals offense through the early part of the season. His numbers eased back to earth as the rest of the lineup returned, piece by piece, to pick up the slack. But as the calendar has flipped to September, with a full complement of support around him, LaRoche has caught fire once again.
The veteran slugger has been impossibly hot through his first six games of the month, posting a line of .524/.583/1.381 (yes, a 1.381 slugging percentage) with six home runs, seven runs scored and 11 RBI. He homered in all four games against the Cubs, against whom he went deep a total of seven times in the seven games the two teams played against one another this season.
If that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, consider this: LaRoche is just the sixth player in Major League history to homer in all four games of a series, including at least one multi-homer performance. The other five guys? Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Hank Greenberg, Babe Ruth and Mike Schmidt. For those readers less well-versed in the annals of baseball history, yes, all five of those player are Hall-of-Famers.
The first baseman figures to be a lock for National League Comeback Player of the Year, but the quality of his season seems deserving of more than just that honor. He leads all National League first basemen in hits (130), home runs (29), RBI (92) and slugging percentage (.511) and needs just four more longballs and nine more RBI to set new career marks.
It is no surprise that LaRoche continues to thrive late in the year, as he has traditionally posted his best numbers after the All-Star break. He has gone deep 14 times in 53 games since the break, after hitting 15 longballs in 73 first-half contests. If he (and the Nationals) continues at this pace, the strongest offensive force for the team with the best record in baseball, he will warrant legitimate consideration as the Most Valuable Player in the National League.
Miami Marlins (61-77) vs. Washington Nationals (85-52)
RHP Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 2.94)
Washington’s offensive barrage continued, as the Nationals completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs with a 9-2 victory, their fifth win in a row and their eight in the last nine games. Stephen Strasburg makes his final scheduled home start of the season as Washington opens a three-game set with the Marlins to conclude an 11-game homestand.
1. Werth RF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Strasburg RHP
While homering in a career-best four consecutive games, Adam LaRoche became just the sixth player in MLB history to homer in every game of a four-game series, including at least one multi-homer effort, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. LaRoche joins the following Hall-of-Famers in accomplishing the feat: Johnny Bench, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt.
Stephen Strasburg faces his most frequent opponent tonight, the Miami Marlins. He is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in eight career starts against the Fish. By game’s end, he will have faced Miami nine times in 45 career starts (20%). In addition, he has worked 6.0 scoreless innings in five of eight career starts against the Marlins and has more wins (four) over Miami than any opponent.
FISH FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Ryan Zimmerman’s 16 career homers against the Marlins are tied with Atlanta for the most he’s hit against another club. The Nationals won their final two series at Sun Life Stadium, but went 0-2-1 in first three visits to Marlins Park. Via a 10-8 mark in ‘07, the Nationals/Expos franchise has won only one season series from the Marlins since ‘98. With a 3-1 win on September 28, 2011, Stephen Strasburg (win) and the Nationals helped end Florida’s tenure at Sun Life Stadium. Roger Bernadina recorded the final hit and RBI in the venue’s 19-year MLB history.
DATE IN D.C. BASEBALL
September 7, 1907 – Walter Johnson pitches the first of 110 career shutouts, blanking the host Boston Americans, 1-0, at Huntington Ave. Baseball Grounds.
September 7, 2007 – Less than three months after being selected sixth overall in the First-Year Player Draft, out of Missouri State, Ross Detwiler makes his MLB debut at ATL and becomes the first member of the 2007 draft class to appear in a big league contest. Detwiler struck out one (Willie Harris) in 1.0 scoreless inning, but Atlanta won the game, 7-1.
Chicago Cubs (51-85) vs. Washington Nationals (84-52)
RHP Justin Germano (2-5, 5.52) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-8, 3.01)
Gio Gonzalez took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and for the second straight night the Nationals rode six home runs to a victory over the Cubs, their third straight to open the series and fourth in a row overall. Jordan Zimmerman looks to rebound from his toughest start of the season tonight as Washington aims for the four-game sweep.
1. Werth RF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Zimmermann RHP
Washington launched six home runs, including a pair from Bryce Harper, during its 9-1 win over the Cubs. The Nationals, who homered six times the night prior, became the first team in MLB history to hit six or more homers in two straight home games. Between the homers Wednesday night and Thursday night, the Nationals became only the third team in MLB history to hit six or more home runs in each of two consecutive games. The Dodgers did so 6/29-30, 1996 at Colorado and the Angels turned the trick 6/3-4, 2003 at Montreal.
With two home runs last night, Harper became the third teenager since 1918 to hit two home runs in a game twice in a season, joining Mel Ott and Ken Griffey, Jr. Harper has hit 17 home runs this year, behind only Tony Conigliaro (24) and Mel Ott (19) for most home runs as a teenager.
Adam LaRoche clubbed his fourth home run in three games last night, hitting a solo shot off Chris Volstad in the third inning. LaRoche ranks among NL first basemen in home runs (first, 28), extra-base hits (second, 56), RBI (first, 90) and walks (tied-second, 56). Before he struck out in the seventh, LaRoche was 7-for-7 with two walks in his previous nine plate appearances.