Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.
Despite continued production from Adam LaRoche in the cleanup spot, the Nationals dropped their series opener against the Mets by the same 4-3 margin as their finale against the Cubs to open the week, leaving them at 2-2 following their consecutive wins to open the 2012 season. However, a trip to the MLB Fan Cave seemed to lighten the mood, and the team responded behind dominant outings from both Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg. In all, the pitching staff allowed just two runs combined in the final two games of the road trip as Washington earned its second series win in a row to start the season.
The team returned to Washington for the home opener on Thursday against Cincinnati and continued its winning ways, as face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman scored the game-winning run in extra innings on a wild pitch. As impressive as Gio Gonzalez was on the mound in the victory, it was his first Major League hit that provided the afternoon’s most memorable moment. The Nationals made it two straight extra-inning, walk-off wins on Friday as Jayson Werth finally concluded the four-hour, four-minute affair with and RBI-single in the 13th frame. Edwin Jackson ran the Nats win streak to five with one of the best performances of his career, a bullpen-saving, 92-pitch masterpiece in which he surrendered just two hits and retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced. Despite coming back from a five-run deficit to force extra innings on Sunday, the Nationals could not quite pull off a victory, settling for the 3-1 series win over the Reds following an 8-5, 11-inning defeat.
The 7-3 record marked the best 10-game start since the franchise relocated to Washington, and the four-game attendance of 129,034 on Opening Weekend was nearly 20,000 fans more than the first four home games in the park’s inaugural year in 2008. We celebrated by eating (all of the) new menu items available at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk.
Mon @ NYM: L, 3-4
Tue @ NYM: W, 6-2
Wed @ NYM: W, 4-0
Thu vs. CIN: W, 3-2 (10)
Fri vs. CIN: W, 2-1 (13)
Sat vs. CIN: W, 4-1
Sun vs. CIN: L, 8-5 (11)
Weekly Record: 5-2
When Drew Stubbs singled home Miguel Cairo in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Reds-Nats affair in Washington, it looked like this might finally be the day the offenses broke out and delivered a high-scoring game. Following consecutive extra-inning games, in which the two teams combined for just eight runs in 23 innings, the early sign of life seemed to indicate a shift, the 74-degree first pitch temperature and out-blowing breeze priming the afternoon for an offensive explosion.
Who knew in that moment, with the Reds still threatening to add on in the inning, that Cincinnati would not log another hit the rest of the afternoon against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. The hard-throwing righty retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced, polishing off a two-hit shutout by inducing a weak pop to shallow center field from Joey Votto, one of the most feared power hitters in the game.
Jackson is perhaps best known around the baseball world for his bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter, which he threw with Arizona against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 25, 2010. He walked eight batters in that contest while striking out just six, but gutted out a marathon performance to earn his place in the baseball history books. In many ways, though, his performance on Saturday in front of 35,489 frenzied fans surpassed his no-no from 16 months prior.
First, there was that lone baserunner after the second inning, a four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey to open the eighth inning. As dominant as Jackson had been, there suddenly appeared to be a crack in the armor, the crowd that had given him multiple standing ovations quieted to a nervous murmur. Tyler Clippard scrambled to get warm in the bullpen as pitching coach Steve McCatty paced out to the mound for a chat. What did the coach have to say?
“It’s your game,” said Jackson, recounting McCatty’s pep talk after the game. “Just get these people out. Throw every pitch with conviction.”
Manager Davey Johnson, the lifelong baseball man, actually found himself nervous in the moment.
“When I’m seeing a gem and we need it, lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I usually don’t get nervous. But when you see something like that – he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game. From a manager’s standpoint, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You kind of protect against all contingencies.”
After all, even though Jackson was the only National who pitched on Saturday, this game meant something to everyone on the staff. Following those back-to-back extra-inning games, both bullpens were spent, leaving few options for the skippers. Perhaps the biggest number of the night was 92: the total number of pitches it took Jackson to finish what he started, a full 57 pitches fewer than his no-hitter.
Meanwhile, the offense did its part, responding when Jackson needed it to by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Jayson Werth – fresh off his game-winning hit in the fifth hour of the game the night prior – legged out the back end of a double play and eventually scored the game-tying run with two outs to level the score at one apiece. An inning later, Adam LaRoche came through again, following a walk to Danny Espinosa and a single from Ryan Zimmerman, with a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The Nationals would only add one more tally the rest of the way, but it was more than enough for Jackson.
After all, Jackson has had plenty of experience finishing off a masterpiece, going back again to his no-hitter in 2010. For all the grief he has received for that non-conventional feat, Jackson nevertheless got the outs he needed – all 27 of them – while pitching with just one run of cushion the entire game. And who, do you suppose, plated the lone run in that game? Why, Adam LaRoche, of course. His solo shot in the second inning was the lone score in a 1-0 game. Both players have looked very much at home, united once more in Washington in the season’s opening stretch.
This past weekend, The Masters was played, as it is every April, at Augusta National. When Bubba Watson sunk his par put on the first playoff hole to seal his victory and went to retrieve the ball, he broke down in tears of joy. It is considered one of the greatest feats in sports when a player wins The Masters, and he is rewarded with its symbolic trophy, a green jacket that the past year’s winner helps the winner put on in the post-tournament ceremony.
There was a moment on Thursday, as the Nationals opened their home season in Washington D.C. with an extra-inning, walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds, in which a Nationals player caught a bit of that same pure emotion that only sports can offer. It was not the two-run single by Adam LaRoche that broke open a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. It was not the franchise player, Ryan Zimmerman, sliding across home plate with the winning run after a wild pitch in the 10th frame. No, it was a simple, one-out single to left field by Gio Gonzalez, his first Major League hit, that drew not only pure joy from the athlete himself, but a standing ovation from the sold out crowd of 40,907 at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez had only a select handful of at-bats at the big league level prior to 2012, having spent his entire career in the American League. He had claimed in Spring Training that all he wanted was to get that first hit, to get one out of the way so that he didn’t have to worry about it. Fast-forward to Game 2 of the season at Wrigley Field, where he took a rip at a fastball from Matt Garza, sending it deep towards the right-center field gap. The solid contact surprised everyone, Gonzalez included, but the ball hung up long enough for former National Marlon Byrd to track it down before it landed.
And so, here he stepped into the batters box in his first home start, after grounding out to shortstop in his first at-bat. Now in the fifth inning, this would likely be his final plate appearance of the afternoon. He got a fastball from Mat Latos and put a good swing on it, certainly a better cut than one might have expected, given his short batting history, but one that reflected his at-bat from Chicago five days earlier. This ball hung up as well, but got down just in time between Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick and the left field line.
As Gonzalez ran to first, he watched the ball the whole way. As it finally fell to the grass, he whipped his head towards the Nationals dugout, mouth open in an ecstatic, toothy grin. After he rounded first, he walked back to the bag with his head tilted back skywards, an expression of relief, yes, but more so pure happiness. As the bat boy returned the ball to the dugout for safekeeping, he also retrieved the pitcher’s big red jacket, to help keep the hurlers arm warm through the rest of his sparkling home debut.
“Big smile, big smile,” he laughed.
Gonzalez gave credit to his father, with whom the pitcher worked in the offseason to get his swing back in shape, but admitted he still has a long way to go.
“I’m not going to say I’m a great hitter or anything like that…I’m just happy to get the first one out of the way.”
While the pomp and circumstance of the green jacket carries much more prestige, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone as happy as Gio Gonzalez to be wearing that red Nationals jacket at first base on Thursday afternoon.