Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
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.
4.25.13 – Nationals 8, Reds 1
Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit over eight innings of work, striking out seven to earn his second win of the season.
Under-the-Radar Performance: While Danny Espinosa homered and plated three on his 26th birthday, Denard Span also had three RBI, collecting three hits as well.
It Was Over When: Espinosa’s two-run shot in the third opened up a 6-0 lead from which Washington would never look back.
Cincinnati Reds (13-9) vs. Washington Nationals (10-11)
RHP Bronson Arroyo (2-1, 3.54) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.85)
The Nationals and Reds open up a four-game weekend set as southpaw Gio Gonzalez takes on veteran righty Bronson Arroyo Thursday night. Gonzalez is 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA (2 ER/19.0 IP) in three career starts against the Reds, including his stellar Nationals home debut last year, in which he twirled 7.0 innings of two-hit, shutout ball.
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. Gonzalez LHP
The Nationals currently rank 14th in the National League and 24th in Major League Baseball in batter BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) at .273. By excluding all homers, free passes and K’s produced by the offense, BABIP measures the percentage of batted balls that fall for hits and is a product of team speed, how hard a team hits the ball, the efficiency of the defense and random luck. With the addition of Denard Span, the ‘13 Nationals are likely faster than the ‘12 squad, which ranked fourth in the NL and fifth in MLB with a .308 BABIP. Washington’s drop off (-.035) in BABIP from 2012 to ‘13 is the largest in MLB.
After Stephen Strasburg allowed just 3 runs on 5 hits in 7.0 innings on Wednesday, Nationals starting pitchers have now allowed three earned runs or less in eight of the last nine games.
Ian Desmond’s NL-leading 12 extra-base hits (eight doubles, one triple, three homers) are tied with the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and Oakland’s Jed Lowrie for the MLB lead among middle infielders.
Baseball players are creatures of habit. They have to be, by necessity. Success in this sport is defined by consistency, by the ability to produce at a high level continuously over the ups and downs of a six-month grind.
So one can imagine that it might take a while for players to get into their groove upon the beginning of a new campaign. Spring Training is easy – every day is almost the same – a morning workout, usually a mid-day game, and the evening off, with the same bed to sleep in for six weeks. The regular season brings something else entirely.
From the beginning of April until whenever the season comes to an end, the team jets north and south, east and west, zigzagging the country every few days. Most road trips – of which the Nationals will take a dozen during the regular season – include at least two different stops, meaning a new city, a new opponent for which to prepare, a new ballpark, and a new hotel bed.
It’s no wonder it can take a while for players to settle in.
“It usually took me the whole month of April,” recalled Nationals television color man F.P. Santangelo, who played parts of seven big league seasons with the Expos, Giants, Dodgers and Athletics.
For the Nationals, the month of April includes the recently concluded trip to Cincinnati, an upcoming week split between Miami and New York, and a trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh that rolls into early May. While that is a fair amount of travel, Santangelo pointed out that the Nats lucked out in one regard.
“At least they only have one Opening Day,” he explained, referencing the April 1 opener in D.C. “Sometimes we’d have two or three. You’d have to stand out on the line for a half-hour for introductions. It would take you totally out of your routine.”
Quite often, teams will play in both their own home opener as well as one or more on the road, as Washington did last year in Chicago. The Nationals were spared the extra pomp and circumstance by a quirk in the schedule this year that saw them play three at home, travel to Cincinnati for three, then return again to D.C.
Now behind the mic, Santangelo is still subject to the same schedule as the players. Having played through it during his career, he knows not to invest too much into the highs (like a three-game, opening sweep of the Marlins) or the lows (such as a 15-0 loss to the Reds on Friday) this early in the season.
That’s the beauty of the game – while each individual result stands on its own, the teams that can get into the habit of winning for the long stretches are the ones that get to keep playing in October.
It was an exciting first week of the 2013 season, as next year finally arrived. The Nationals opened their campaign as defending National League East Champs against the Marlins in Washington on Monday. Bryce Harper took no time building off last year’s Rookie of the Year campaign, homering in each of his first two at-bats of the season, backing Stephen Strasburg in a 2-0 victory in front of the largest regular season crowd in Nationals Park history. Despite the star power on display, the quiet return of Wilson Ramos may have been the most impressive storyline of the day.
After an off-day Tuesday, the Nationals shut out Miami again on Wednesday, with Gio Gonzalez doing it all himself, tossing six scoreless frames and homering for the game’s first run in a 3-0 final. Meanwhile, Roger Bernadina introduced a new term into the ever-growing Shark lexicon. On Thursday, Washington rounded out a season-opening sweep with a 6-1 win, becoming just the fourth team in Major League history – and the first since the 1979 Astros – to allow just one run over its first three combined games.
The first road trip of the year began inauspiciously, as Washington was blanked, 15-0, in the series opener Friday night in Cincinnati. However, the club responded in a big way, launching five home runs, including two in the 11th inning, to capture a thrilling, nail-biting, cardiac arrhythmia-inducing victory on Saturday. Kurt Suzuki got into the offensive act with a three-run shot in the Sunday finale, but the Nats dropped the game, 6-3, and the series to the defending NL Central Champs.
Overall Record: 4-2
4.7.13 – Reds 6, Nationals 3
Stat of the Game: The Reds had 11 hits, but 10 of them were singles, as Jay Bruce’s first-inning double marked their lone extra-base hit of the day.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Kurt Suzuki accounted for all of Washington’s scoring with a three-run, first-inning home run, giving Nats backtops their third home run of the series.
It Was Over When: Cincinnati added three more in the sixth to take its second three-run advantage of the game, then turned the ball over to the bullpen, which kept the Nationals off the board the rest of the way.
Washington Nationals (4-1) vs. Cincinnati Reds (3-2)
RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (0-0, 1.29)
The Nationals bounced back from their first loss of the season by capturing their first road win and first extra-inning triumph on Saturday, a 7-6 victory in 11 innings. Washington will square off with the Reds in a rubber match battle of aces as the Nats look for consecutive series wins to begin the season.
1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. Tracy 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Detwiler LHP
GREAT VENEZUELAN BALL PARK?
With a timely two-home run effort on Saturday afternoon, Wilson Ramos is now 6-for-18 (.333) with five home runs and eight RBI in five career games at Great American Ball Park. Saturday’s tilt was especially noteworthy for Ramos, as he was playing his first game at Great American Ball Park since sustaining a season-ending right knee injury here on May 12, 2012.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
At 4-1, the Nationals have established their finest five-game start since arriving in D.C. in 2005. This is the fourth time the Nationals have sported a winning record through five games (4-1 in 2013; 3-2 in 2012, 2008 and 2005).
FIFTH THIRD HOMER
Via a third-inning, two-run shot on Saturday, Bryce Harper became the first National to hit as many as three home runs in the initial five games of a season (2005-13). In fact, Harper’s three homers through five games this year are more than the entire Nationals team hit through the first five games of the 2010 (2) and 2011 (2) campaigns.