Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’

Past the First Bowie

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With the Nationals enjoying an early off day Friday following their thrilling, 2-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Opening Day, we decided to make the 20 mile drive northeast from Nationals Park to Price George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Bay Sox. Why, you might ask, would we do such a thing? We wanted to check in on Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse, both on Major League rehab assignments with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, who opened their season in Bowie. We also wanted a chance to see a couple of prospects – Destin Hood and Danny Rosenbaum – play in a real game.

Rick Ankiel taking batting practice in Bowie. He would go on to homer on the first pitch he saw in the game.

While we didn’t get a chance to see Rosenbaum, a starting pitcher whose turn of the rotation lands on Sunday, we got more than our fill of Ankiel and Morse, despite each taking only three at-bats. They each looked healthy enough right from the start. Ankiel swatted the first pitch he saw deep out of the park to the opposite field, and Morse followed with a ringing double off the wall in right-center. Morse saved his best at-bat for last, though, blasting a towering shot the opposite way that hung in the air forever and still got out on a chilly Maryland night.

We also saw prospects Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus each deliver two-hit nights, both using their speed to their advantage. Both put pressure on the defense with bunts and both stole a bag, contributing to the 5-2 victory. While Hood had an off night at the plate, he looked impressive in his batting practice rounds and clearly is a player to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.

Back to big league ball today, as Nationals fans will get their first regular season look at Gio Gonzalez at Wrigley Field. We’ll have more here at Curly W Live following the game.

Open For Business

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Whew. If there was any question of how the Nationals would respond to the pressures of expectation in 2012, they showed some good signs in their first game of the season on Thursday. However, we’ll all have to wait until Saturday before enjoying chapter two.

The quirky schedule gave the team a day off Friday after just the one game. While players might normally want to save that break for a time later in the season, our fans could certainly use the chance to catch their collective breath after a nerve-wracking, gut-checking, come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. This is the type of game they should come to expect, though. With the way this Nationals team is built, there are likely to be a good number of well-pitched, tight, low-scoring affairs all season long. And there will be 161 more games in the next 180 days, so brace yourselves.

Stephen Strasburg looked like a seasoned veteran through seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start.

The opener had a bit of everything to make for an exciting affair: great starting pitching, would-be home runs (knocked down by the wind), sparkling defense, and a pair of late rallies, one to tie the score and the other to put Washington in front for good. Many of the offseason storylines were tested immediately. Could the top two spots in the order get on base? Check – Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined to reach safely in five of their 10 plate appearances. How would Stephen Strasburg fare in his first Opening Day start? His line – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K – suggests he was more than up to the task. And what kind of impact could we expect from Davey Johnson’s revamped bench? Look no further than Chad Tracy’s double, which led to Brett Carroll scoring the game-winning run in the ninth. It’s as strong a first impression as Johnson could have hoped for from this group in its collective debut. So on a day when the team managed just four hits, the rest of the pieces came together to get the Nationals that all-important first Curly W.

We need not worry about Ryan Zimmerman, either, whose 0-for-2 (with two walks) performance would have been a 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs, if not for the sharp, gusting wind coming in off Lake Michigan and directly over the center field wall. The third baseman showed just how deep his value really is, though, with two superb defensive plays. He bailed out Wilson Ramos on a pick and swipe tag to catch Alfonso Soriano stealing in the fourth inning, before reversing roles and gunning down Joe Mather at the plate in the ninth (with Ramos applying the nice tag) to preserve the one-run victory.

Jayson Werth couldn't be happier to be reunited with teammate Brad Lidge.

Jayson Werth also had a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit knocked down by the wind early. However, he came up with a great defensive play of his own and battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk, forcing in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. That’s what team leaders are supposed to do: find ways to contribute, no matter what the circumstance. Werth is one of the best in the game at finding ways beyond the box score to do that. Don’t take our word for it, though. Pick up the first edition of Nationals Magazine when you’re at the ballpark starting next week and read all about it.

There should be no lingering questions surrounding Brad Lidge and his stuff at this point, either. One of Johnson’s fill-in closers (along with Henry Rodriguez), Lidge utterly overwhelmed Reed Johnson with a slider and froze Marlon Byrd with a perfectly painted fastball to end the game. He could be the steal of the offseason for Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, providing veteran leadership to the back end of the bullpen and the occasional save when called upon.

Nevertheless, it will be great to get Drew Storen back, as it will be to have outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in Washington again. Morse and Ankiel are both on rehab assignments with Double-A Harrisburg, which is playing just up the road in Bowie this week.

In the meantime, breathe easy and enjoy the day off. There’s been plenty to talk about, but we’re just one game in. At the end of the day, though, the team is 1-0. And that’s as good of a place as you can be one game into the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season.

One Up, One Down

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It was bound to happen eventually. As good as Gio Gonzalez had looked so far in Spring Training up until Thursday’s contest with the Cardinals, he finally had a bad day. Arguably his best performance of the spring – where he shut out the Red Birds on two hits, striking out two without walking a batter over four innings of work 11 days prior – was wiped from the record books when that game was cancelled due to rain before reaching the fifth inning. Unfortunately for Gio, this is the one that will stick on his stat line, as he absorbed his first loss of the spring in a 9-0 defeat.

It was a good day to remember that these games don’t matter in the standings, something Gonzalez was keenly aware of.

When the Nationals play the Cardinals, there is plenty of red both on the scoreboard and in the stands.

“You’re going to have some of those days,” he said. “The great part about today was that it was Spring Training.”

And if a rough outing in March can translate into a smooth start in August or September against the defending champs, well, the Nationals will certainly take that trade-off. As for the result itself, manager Davey Johnson wasn’t too worried. With the team playing the first of three consecutive road games, the lineup was devoid of many of its regular starters, as players receive alternating days off from the rigors of Grapefruit League travel.

“These are kind of the doldrums of spring,” Johnson explained. “When we come home (to Viera), I’ll be starting guys for nine innings more frequently in the lineup.”

The skipper had a sense of humor about the game as well.

“I don’t want (our guys) peaking too early,” he said, then quipped, “they’re not.”

In other Gio news, earlier this week he learned his assignment as the number two starter, following Stephen Strasburg who’ll toe the rubber on Opening Day vs. the Cubs. The whole point of landing Gonzalez in the offseason trade was to have a power lefty to slot in between the club’s young righties, Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. That appears to be exactly where Gio will fit as the rotation begins its first turn at Wrigley Field in Chicago in just under two weeks.

Gonzalez will follow in the rotation behind Strasburg, who was named the Opening Day starter.

We have one other note from an otherwise largely note-less afternoon. Another oddity of Spring Training came on a routine ground ball from former National Alex Cora in the sixth inning. Cora grounded into a force out, with Minor League second baseman Seth Bynum shuffling the ball to shortstop Andres Blanco at second base. There was nothing remarkable about the play itself, except that #13 (Cora) hit the ball to #13 (Bynum), who made the putout to #13 (Blanco). With the additional Minor Leaguers filling out the roster for the road game, there are often double-ups on jersey numbers, as players keep their assigned jerseys from Minor League camp. Still, it’s unusual to see three players wearing the same number involved in the same play.

The Nationals will play the second of those three straight road games against Houston in Kissimmee on Friday afternoon. Here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – L, 3-2 (10)

@ St. Louis – L, 9-0

@ Houston – Friday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 5-11-3

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