Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’

Highlights: 5.12.13

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5.12.13 – Cubs 2, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez took a perfect game into the sixth inning, allowing just two hits in seven scoreless frames overall. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman collected two hits and Washington’s lone RBI, on a double in the first inning.

It Was Over When: Kurt Suzuki‘s throw to third on a steal attempt by Alfonso Soriano ticked off batter Welington Castillo’s bat, allowing Soriano to score with the winning run.

What to Watch for: 5.12.13

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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.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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.

PIVOTAL PRODUCTION

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.

Highlights: 5.11.13

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5.11.13 – Cubs 8, Nationals 2

Stat of the Game: Ian Desmond singled, doubled and homered for the second straight game, bringing his batting average up to to an even .300 for the season. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Henry Rodriguez tossed a pair of scoreless innings of relief with two strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.09.

It Was Over When: The Cubs followed their four-run fifth with four more in the sixth inning to open up a seven-run advantage.

Desmond Takes Bite Out of Other ‘Shark’

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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.

Desmond went 3-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season.

Desmond went 3-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season in Friday’s 7-3 victory over the Cubs.

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.

What to Watch for: 5.10.13

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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.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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.

What They’re Saying – Mike Wilbon

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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?”

MikeWilbon2011 (3)“Because I like Bryce Harper.”

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.

Top 12 of ‘12: #5 – Dirty Dozen

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Top 12 Number 5For 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.

- SEE THE REST OF THE TOP 12 OF ’12 -

2012 Player Review: Mark DeRosa

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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.

Though he made just 101 plate appearances in 2012, DeRosa had a major impact on the Nationals clubhouse.

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.”

The upbeat veteran helped set the tone for Davey Johnson’s young team.

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.

Don’t Panic

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by Noah Frank

Take a deep breath, Nationals fans.

It can be easy, when your team’s back is against the wall, playing to keep its season alive, to panic and lose hope. The postseason brings heightened emotions and an extra sense of urgency to every game, so individual wins and losses can seem blown out of proportion. That’s why now is as good a time as ever to remove emotion from the equation for the moment, to step back, and to look at the reality of what lies ahead the next day or two, based on what we’ve learned about the Nationals and Cardinals from the 2012 season.

By the time Major League teams hit the postseason, they have formed an identity. A 162-game regular season lends enough time to form trends and predictable results, a sample size that – while it does not always play out exactly to form – gives the viewing audience an idea of what to expect from a team in the playoffs.

While the Nationals are known for their pitching, a potent offense helped them to the best run differential in baseball.

The Cardinals posted a +117 run differential over the course of the regular season, fourth-best in baseball and second in the National League only to Washington’s +137 mark. They went 60-31 in games in games decided by three or more runs, also the second-best mark in the league. This is no doubt a strong indicator of the Cardinals ability to produce prolifically on offense, but it also helps compensate for another, less flattering, team statistic. See, St. Louis went just 28-43 (.394) in games decided by less than three runs, ranking just a hair above Chicago and Houston – two teams that combined to lose 208 games this year – as the worst in the league.

The Nationals had a tendency to win blowouts as well (their 56-26 record in games decided by three or more runs was the best in baseball), but they were also solid in close games, going 42-38 in one and two-run games. Washington also played 20 extra-inning contests, the most in baseball, and were 13-7 in those games (8-5 at home). St. Louis, meanwhile, went just 6-12 in extra-inning affairs.

So far, these trends have largely played out to form through the first three games of the series. The Cardinals have won a pair of blowouts, while the Nationals have taken the lone nail-biter. Postseason experience or not, the large sample seems to indicate that this is the norm, not the exception. And if it is, the Nationals should feel pretty good about themselves, as the head into Thursday (and hopefully Friday) needing wins at home. Especially so, when you consider the following:

Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell pointed out early in the series that all four of last year’s Division Series winners were actually outscored by their opponents in their series. The Rangers (21-16), Tigers (28-17), Brewers (25-23) and yes, Cardinals (21-19) all saw their competition score more runs over the course of their respective series, but all came out on top. Each won at least one one-run game in the series, with three of the teams winning a pair of them. But that 2011 St. Louis team was 45-38 in games decided by two runs or less. They were not the same team that Washington needs to beat twice in the next two days to keep its season alive.

Ross Detwiler has been excellent at home this season.

The Nationals have been outscored 22-7 through the first three games of this series, and would likely end up on the short end of the overall run total even if they do take the next two games (after all, they’d have to outscore the Cardinals by an average of eight runs a game to tip the overall balance). The good news is, by doing so, they would actually be the norm, not the exception.

When examining the particulars of the matchups in front of the Nationals, it helps to again stay away from the knee-jerk reactions. A quick look at Game 4 starter Kyle Lohse’s numbers (16-3, 2.86 ERA) doesn’t inspire hope. In fact, he posted a 2.62 ERA in 199.1 innings against all the teams in the league that do not call the Nation’s Capital home. But in his two starts against Washington, the Nationals battered him around to the tune of a 6.92 ERA (12 runs, nine earned, in 11.2 innings). He did not take the loss in either, but very well could have, leaving with deficits of 9-8 and 4-0 in the two games.

Coupled with the lineup’s success against Lohse, Ross Detwiler’s 8-2 record and 2.59 ERA at Nationals Park reshape the whole outlook of the matchup. Of course, Game 5 would bring a rematch of Adam Wainwright and Gio Gonzalez, a Game 1 matchup that the Nationals won, 3-2, back on Sunday in St. Louis.

All the Nationals have to do is win two games in a row at home, something they’ve done 23 times this season, including against this same Cardinals squad on August 30-31, just over a month ago.

Nationals fans, allow yourself to exhale – if only until first pitch Thursday afternoon.

Another Opening Day

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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.

Tyler Moore silenced the Game 1 crowd of more than 47,000 in St. Louis.

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.

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.

Heroes Moore (left) and Desmond enjoy the spoils of victory at the post-game press conference.

“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.”

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