Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
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.
Cincinnati Reds (13-11) vs. Washington Nationals (12-11)
RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 3.81) vs. RHP Dan Haren (1-3, 7.36)
Washington is coming off consecutive one-hit performances in the first two games of this series, which have helped the Nationals get back over the .500 mark on the season. Dan Haren looks for his second home win of the season as he squares off with fellow right-hander Mike Leake, who started the lone game the Nationals won in their recent series at Cincinnati.
1. Span CF
2. Espinosa 2B
3. Harper LF
4. Werth RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Rendon 3B
8. Suzuki C
9. Haren RHP
ONE HIT, ZERO TOLERANCE
Washington blanked the Reds, 1-0, on Friday night at Nationals Park as Jordan Zimmermann posted the first shutout of his career. Zimmermann one-hit the Reds with Xavier Paul’s third-inning single serving as his lone blemish, walking one and struck out four. In the 4th, Bryce Harper tripled and scored the game’s lone run one batter later via Jayson Werth’s RBI-single.
Nationals starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of the last 11 games. During this 11-game span, Steve McCatty’s starters have compiled a stingy 3.20 ERA (25 ER/70.1 IP).
APRIL POWER BRINGS MAY FLOWERS
With four games remaining in the month, note that the Nationals have already hit 26 home runs and could challenge the team mark for April home runs (30 in ‘06). With 26 in the bag, the ‘13 Nationals have already secured the second-most powerful Opening Month in the club’s nine-year history.
The Nationals have a short turnaround for Saturday’s matinee versus the Reds following Friday night’s contest, but we felt it was important to take a moment to truly appreciate what the team has accomplished over the last couple of nights.
On Thursday, Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano combined to throw just the second one-hitter in the history of the young Nationals franchise. On Friday night, Jordan Zimmermann did all the work himself, needing just 91 pitches to finish a one-hitter of his own, his first career shutout.
It was the first time since August 10-11, 1917 that a Washington-based baseball club had one-hit an opponent on consecutive days, when first Walter Johnson, then a trio of Senators did so to the Chicago White Sox. Perhaps more impressively, it was the first time the Cincinnati Reds had been one-hit in back-to-back games since July 5-6, 1900, nearly 113 years ago.
For some perspective, the Brooklyn team that accomplished that mastery of the Reds was called the Superbas. The Flatbush Nine would not first begin adopting the nickname Dodgers for 11 more years, and would not make the permanent switch until 1932.
Gonzalez had shown that he was capable of such a performance as far back as last season’s home opener against this same Reds club, which he shut out on just two hits over seven frames. But the progression for Zimmermann, who turned in his first-ever nine inning complete game just two starts ago in Miami, was truly impressive.
“Since I’ve been here, that’s the best-pitched game I’ve seen,” stated Davey Johnson following Zimmermann’s latest gem.
Part of that was due to Zimmermann’s stunning efficiency, but a good deal of it can be attributed to the opponent he silenced. The Reds came into this series with the second-highest run-producing offense in the National League, just one run behind league-leading Colorado. They had posted double-digit run totals five times in their first 22 games before arriving in D.C. this weekend. And they scored 27 runs over the three-game set between these teams just three weeks ago in Cincinnati.
With their performances the past two nights, Gonzalez and Zimmermann made all of that seem about long ago as the age of the Brooklyn Superbas.
4.26.13 – Nationals 1, Reds 0
Stat of the Game: The Nationals conspired to throw their second straight one-hitter, the first time a Washington team has achieved the feat since August 10-11, 1917.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Bryce Harper‘s one-out triple led to the only run of the game, as Jayson Werth singled him home with one of his two hits on the night.
It Was Over When: Jordan Zimmermann woke up Friday morning. The righty needed just 91 pitches to record his first career shutout and his second complete game this season.
Cincinnati Reds (13-10) vs. Washington Nationals (11-11)
RHP Homer Bailey (1-1, 3.24) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 2.67)
The Nationals snagged the opening contest in this four-game set with an 8-1 victory behind Gio Gonzalez last night. They send team wins leader Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who has a 0.90 home ERA, but allowed seven earned runs in just 5.0 innings in his lone road start of the season thus far.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi 3B
3. Harper LF
4. Werth RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Zimmermann RHP
FIRST THINGS FIRST
With the Nationals claiming Thursday’s series opener, 8-1, over the Reds, it should be noted that the Nationals have not lost a home series in which they won the series opener since September 5-8, 2011 vs. Los Angeles (Washington lost that series, two games to one, despite a series-opening victory). Since that series setback, Washington is 16-0-3 in series play at Nationals Park when earning a win in the series lid lifter.
Bryce Harper has already set a Nationals (2005-present) club record for home runs in April with eight. His long ball on Thursday moved him past Alfonso Soriano, who previously held the same April mark (seven in 2006). Harper’s 16 RBI is just one shy of matching Adam LaRoche (17 in 2012) and Ryan Zimmerman (17 in ‘06) for the club’s RBI standard in April.
JORDAN RULES DC
Jordan Zimmermann gets the starting nod for Washington hoping to extend his pitching excellence in the Nation’s Capital. Since the beginning of last June, Zimmermann is 7-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 13 starts at Nationals Park, during which Washington is 10-3 as a club.
It was only a matter of time.
That was the sentiment expressed by Davey Johnson and echoed from locker to locker throughout the Nationals clubhouse Thursday night following a complete and dominant 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Entering the evening on a four-game losing skid and looking to even the season series with the Reds at 2-2, Washington needed a good showing. They got it out of the gates from ace southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who silenced the powerful Cincinnati lineup. The Reds managed only a single hit through eight frames against Gonzalez, who walked two and struck out seven for his second win of the season.
It was a bit of a perfect storm for the lefty, who, in stark contrast to his 21-win season last year, had struggled to get ahead of hitters in his first four starts of 2013. For whatever reason, though, Gonzalez has always matched up well against the Reds, and he continued his mastery Thursday night.
“My job is to make sure we stay in the game as long possible,” said Gonzalez, who certainly did that, improving to 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA (3 ER/26.0 IP) in four career starts versus Cincinnati. “They’ve got a great hitting lineup…you’ve got to just go out there and trust your stuff.”
Perhaps more surprising, the Nationals offense came to life against a crafty soft-tosser in Bronson Arroyo. When bats are struggling, a pitcher that nibbles with a myriad of crooked deliveries is hardly a recipe for turning things around. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did, led by three-RBI nights from both Danny Espinosa and Denard Span. While Span’s slap-hitting style may have lined up well against Arroyo, it was Espinosa who provided the most crucial hits, plating Ian Desmond for the first run of the game on an RBI-double in the second inning before crushing a two-run shot into the home bullpen to break the game open in the third.
“In the past, I’d probably try to be real aggressive and swing real hard to generate power for the ball,” Espinosa said of facing a pitcher like Arroyo. “But tonight I didn’t. Tonight I let it come to me and just tried to get a good pitch…I thought that was a pretty easy swing on my home run. I thought they were both pretty easy swings.”
While Gonzalez’s adjustment was more about getting back to what worked for him last season, Espinosa’s represents a more significant change from the player with whom most Nationals fans are familiar. All spring, Johnson encouraged his young second baseman to make his swing more compact, an adjustment that led to a .333/.358/.474 Grapefruit League slash line. To date, Espinosa had not been able to carry that success into the regular season, but Thursday night provided a glimpse of what it might look like if he does.
“His goal is to improve every year,” explained Johnson of Espinosa. “I feel like with what he was working on in the spring and what he did in the spring that it’ll start paying off for him.”
Espinosa acknowledged as much, but to see the results of his adjustment play out in a Major League game helped him be more circumspect about his change in approach.
“I was swinging too hard the last two years,” Espinosa explained of his approach. “In the minors, I never swung like that, I don’t know where it came from. I needed to get back to using my hands and not trying to use my legs to generate so much.”
If Gonzalez has regained his feel for the strike zone and Espinosa has found comfort in a simpler swing, it will go a long way in helping the Nationals climb back above .500 and stay there.