Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
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.
Miami Marlins (56-98) vs. Washington Nationals (83-71)
RHP Tom Koehler (3-10, 4.51) vs. RHP Dan Haren (9-13, 4.88)
With Saturday’s postponement, the Nationals will wrap the home portion of the regular season with a split doubleheader today against the Marlins. Washington comes into the day having won five-of-six, 12-of-14 and 23 of its last 30 to pull within 4.5 games of the Reds and 5.5 games of the Pirates in the chase for the postseason. The Nationals will send Dan Haren – who is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA (1 ER/12.0 IP), allowing just seven baserunners while striking out 12 over his last two outings – to the mound in the opener.
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. Steve Lombardozzi 2B
8. Jhonatan Solano C
9. Dan Haren RHP
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…
With just over a week to play in the regular season, the Nationals enter Sunday’s twin-bill with a 1.2 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus. In order for Washington to force a one-game playoff for the final Wild Card spot, the Nationals need to pair their record with one of the scenarios in the box to the right from either the Reds or Pirates.
Jayson Werth currently ranks among the National League’s top five in OPS (third, .934), slugging percentage (fourth, .532), batting average (fifth, .321) and on-base percentage (fifth, .402). Werth is the only player in the league to rank among the NL’s top five in each of those four categories. Werth has hit better than .300 in July (.367), August (.380) and September (.314).
THIS, THAT, THE OTHER
The Nationals have out-homered their opponents, 22-4, over the past 14 games, dating to September 7. In 40 games dating to August 9, the Nationals have scored four or more runs 27 times, going 25-2 in those contests. After starting 60-for-86 (69.8%) on the basepaths, Washington has been successful on 21 of its last 22 stolen base attempts (95.4%).
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).
A quick look at Jordan Zimmermann’s 2013 season so far shows that he has been, unequivocally, one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball. His 1.64 ERA (sixth), five wins (tied-second), .168 batting average against (fourth) and 0.75 WHIP (second) all rank among the top marks in the Major Leagues. Somehow, even considering all of that, he may still be underrated.
Dating back to his final inning of work on April 21 in New York, the Wisconsin native has shut out opponents over his last 18 frames. In his last two starts, against the dangerous lineups of the Reds and Braves, he has allowed just three hits and a walk in 17 innings of work.
The reason for Zimmermann’s success is no secret. He comes right after hitters with all four of his featured pitches – his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup – and attacks the strike zone. In fact, he has thrown at least 60 strikes in all but one of his starts. The lone exception? His first career shutout, a one-hitter in which he needed only 91 pitches (59 of them strikes) to silence the Reds bats.
“I’m just getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes, making them hit my pitch,” Zimmermann said after his latest gem in Atlanta. “Last year, I’d fall behind and have to battle to get back to even and ahead in the count…this year, so far, I’ve stayed in attack mode and gone right after hitters.”
Zimmermann’s ability to control the strike zone is reflected in his ever-improving strikeout-to-walk rate, which sits at 3.83 so far this season, up from 3.56 last season. His career mark of 3.53 would rank right alongside Zack Greinke in the top 20 all-time among pitchers with 1,000 or more innings thrown. While Zimmermann has only tossed just over half that total (523.1 after Wednesday’s shutout of the Braves), the 26-year-old shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Last season, Zimmermann was a model of consistency, throwing at least six innings in each of his first 21 starts. But he never made it past the seventh in any of those outings, throwing exactly six frames 12 times. Through six starts this season, the righty has finished eight or more innings three times already, including a pair of complete games.
“I think that’s just experience,” said Davey Johnson of Zimmermann’s improvement in efficiency. “He’s getting more comfortable with the league, the ballparks, the umpires, the mounds, the hitters and how they approach him.”
And while Zimmermann remains as calm and collected as ever on the mound, the competitive engine within him – the one fans got a glimpse of in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the NLDS last year – churns as strong as ever.
“He’s got that calm demeanor,” explained Johnson. “But there’s a big fire going on inside him.”
4.28.13 – Reds 5, Nationals 2
Stat of the Game: Ian Desmond collected two hits, including his National League-leading 10th double, plating Washington’s second and final run.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Craig Stammen had another big outing out of the Nationals bullpen, tossing two perfect innings of relief with two strikeouts.
It Was Over When: The Nationals got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but could get no closer.
Cincinnati Reds (13-12) vs. Washington Nationals (13-11)
LHP Tony Cingrani (1-0, 2.25) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-1, 1.38)
The Nationals look for their first four-game sweep of the season as they take on the Reds in a battle of southpaws. Ross Detwiler puts his team-leading ERA on the line against promising Cincinnati rookie Tony Cingrani as each look for their second win of the season.
1. Span CF
2. Espinosa 2B
3. Harper LF
4. Werth RF
5. Desmond SS
6. LaRoche 1B
7. Rendon 3B
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler LHP
ONE (BE)FOR(E) THE ROAD
With Saturday’s 6-3 victory, the Nationals (4-2) clinched the season series win from Cincinnati. Washington has won two straight season series from the Reds for the first time since the Expos turned the trick in 2002 (5-1) and ‘03 (4-2). A win on Sunday would render a winning homestand for the Nationals, who were swept, three straight by the Cardinals to start the ‘stand earlier this week. In today’s finale, the Nationals will also attempt to register their first win on a Sunday in four tries this season.
BRYCE’S BIG LEAGUE BORN-ON DATE WAS ONE YEAR AGO TODAY
Exactly one year ago today, Bryce Harper made his MLB debut, going 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI in a 10-inning, 4-3 setback at Dodger Stadium. In a year since, Harper has played in exactly 162 games, which is the equivalent of one full big league campaign. During those 162 games, Harper is 175-for-616 (.284) with 31 doubles, 10 triples, 31 home runs, 77 RBI, 68 walks and 115 runs scored (tied for second in MLB). Those numbers render a slash line of .284/.356/.518.
OUTFIELD IS LOCKED IN AT THE PLATE
Nationals outfielders have combined on a .859 OPS, which currently ranks second in the National League and third in Major League Baseball. In eight previous seasons in D.C., the top OPS posted by a Nationals outfield was .804 in 2006.
Through the first 23 games of the season, Nationals fans had caught glimpses of the reasons Mike Rizzo pulled the trigger on his three major offseason acquisitions, Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. But although Haren earned his first Nationals win on April 11, Soriano had converted six of seven save opportunities and Span had shown an early propensity to get on base, none of the three had turned in a starring performance.
That all changed Saturday afternoon, as 38,903 red-adorned fans were treated to a beautiful day of baseball loaded with great pitching, clutch hitting and a pair of spectacular defensive plays.
Haren turned in his strongest start to date, in which he was largely dominant over six solid innings, striking out five Cincinnati batters without a walk. Soriano slammed the door shut on the Reds hopes, fanning two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 ninth. But Span stole the show, leaping into the left-center field wall to rob Joey Votto of extra bases in the sixth, then ranging far to his right to corral a line drive off the bat of Zack Cozart with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, one that looked like it might very well erase Washington’s three-run advantage.
“I got great jumps on both of those balls,” said Span after the game. “The Cozart ball, that was my favorite out of the two today. It’s just fun for me to be able to go out there and show my speed and grab my ball like that in the gap.”
Haren and Span also got the scoring started, each placing two-out, RBI-singles between the Cincinnati defense in consecutive at-bats in the second inning.
With impressive performances all around by the newcomers, one could be forgiven for forgetting Bryce Harper’s team record ninth April home run, which also gave him the franchise mark for RBI (18) in the season’s opening month. And while all that may not have added up to anything nearly as historical as what happened in the first two games of the series, it was a recipe for success in one of the most complete games the Nationals have played so far this year.
“I was kind of disappointed when I gave up the second hit today,” joked Haren about having to follow back-to-back one-hitters as he improved his home record to 2-1 this year. “I finally feel like part of the team. I’ve got to be like this or better the rest of the year.”
If Haren can replicate Saturday’s success on the mound and Span can do the same in the field, Soriano will have that many more opportunities to untuck his jersey after he puts opposing lineups down for the count.
4.27.13 – Nationals 6, Reds 3
Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper‘s fourth-inning home run was his ninth of the year and plated his 17th and 18th RBI, setting club records for the month of April in each category.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span had two hits and made two terrific, run-saving catches in the outfield to preserve the Washington lead.
It Was Over When: Span ranged far to his right to snare a bases-loaded, two-out liner off the bat of Zack Cozart in the seventh, keeping the Nationals ahead by three the rest of the way.