Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’
Let me start by stating that things could not be better here in Viera. The weather is wonderful, the workouts are crisp and the results have been encouraging. Yes, a team’s Grapefruit League winning percentage can, at times, be misleading, but winning games is always better than the alternative.
Seven wins, four losses and a tie. But what is most encouraging is how Manager Matt Williams has them playing the game. I love the aggressive base running. Taking an extra base. How fantastic was it to see Danny Espinosa score from second base on Saturday on a dribbler back to the pitcher? This brand of baseball really is infectious.
Fifteen home runs in 12 games. Only five allowed. That’s a good ratio.
Strong offensive starts from stalwarts like Ian Desmond (.286, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Adam LaRoche (2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (.474, HR, 10 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.389, HR, 2 RBI) among others.
And many of our young players are making their marks. Zach Walters is hitting .615 with four extra-base hits and five RBI. He is as hot as anyone. Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor have each made memorable catches in the outfield. Matt Skole hit .357 and four of his five hits went for extra bases before he was assigned to Minor League camp earlier this week so that he can get additional at-bats.
- I have not even mentioned the pitching. There truly are too many to name, but I’ll risk mentioning three standouts: Taylor Jordan (team-leading 11 strikeouts), Jerry Blevins (3.2 hitless innings) and A.J. Cole (6.2 scoreless innings).
- Forgive me if I think it is 2005 all over again watching Jamey Carroll and Luis Ayala perform admirably as they battle for roster spots. Jamey’s approach at the plate (.333 OBP), base running and defensive versatility are all a real plus. Meanwhile, Luis can throw a strike whenever he needs to. He has that same veteran savvy gene our friend Livan Hernandez had during his playing days.
- And Matt Williams? What’s not to like? Crisp, precise and purposeful baseball usually yields wins. I love what Matt brings to our dugout and clubhouse. I especially like how our team has taken to his aggressive nature.
- I was pleased to see President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo sign Michael Gonzalez to a Minor League deal last weekend. Gonzalez was a big part of our bullpen’s success in 2012 and there are very few southpaw relievers who can match his experience in tight situations. Welcome back Michael!
- I just counted. Only three of the club’s 18 errors have been committed by players who were “regulars” in Washington last season. And one of those miscues was charged to Mr. Perfect, Denard Span! Remember, Denard did not commit an error last season. As I have said before, he should have won a Gold Glove!
- I’d like to thank all of our fans in Central Florida, but especially those from our local area on the Space Coast (Viera, Melbourne and Rockledge). The crowds for the Cardinals and Yankees games in the last week were the two largest we have ever enjoyed hosting.
- As for our fans from back home, I’ve had quite a few friends remark upon arrival in Viera about the significant pockets of Nationals fans on their flights from DC to Orlando. It’s hard to ignore all the smiles and Curly W shirts, sweaters and hats. It is great to see so many of our fans catching on to just how special Spring Training is.
Until next time …
Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!
Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.
What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.
Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.
- Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.
- Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
- Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
- I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
- There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
- Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
- Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
- Be sure to follow the Nationals (@nationals) and Amanda Comak on Twitter. She has done a fantastic job sharing the sights and sounds of Nationals’ 2014 Spring Training on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis. Last week, Amanda shared some of the unique images that were captured by our quadcopter, which was equipped with a tiny high-resolution camera, on our various social-media platforms. For 24-48 hours there, the quadcopter was the talk of camp.
The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.
- Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs. Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
- If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.
Until next time …
Washington Nationals (28-28) vs. Atlanta Braves (33-22)
RHP Nathan Karns (0-0, 6.23) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.74)
Washington sends rookie Nathan Karns to the hill in search of his first Major League win as the Nationals look to take the series in Atlanta. If recent history is any indication, Sunday’s finale should be a close contest. Six of the last seven games between these two teams have been decided by two runs or less, with each club winning three of those six.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Moore RF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Solano C
9. Karns RHP
RUBBER TO THE ROAD
The Nationals aim for the rubber match victory today before returning home (where they are 15-11 this season) for 20 of their next 32 contests. Washington has played 21 of its last 31 games on the road, compiling a 15-16 record during that stretch.
D, NO E
Washington has not committed an error as a team for a season-high five consecutive games. Up the middle, the defense has been particularly strong, with Ian Desmond playing 37 straight error-free contests, while Danny Espinosa has pitched in 22 straight outings without a defensive miscue.
THE POWER OF 3
When scoring three or more runs this season, the Nationals are 24-5, good for an .828 winning percentage. Conversely, the club is just 4-23 when scoring two times or less (.148).
A couple weeks ago, when discussing the options for taking over the injured Ross Detwiler’s spot in the rotation, Davey Johnson opted not to go with Craig Stammen, despite the righty’s excellent numbers early in the season. In fact, it was precisely because of those numbers that Johnson felt he needed Stammen in case of emergency long relief, or if the team needed quality extra-inning work. And while one never wishes for such situations to arise, when one did Friday night in a crucial series opener in Atlanta, Stammen was there to answer the call.
Did he ever.
The right-hander came on with the Nationals ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and set down all 12 Braves batters he faced, three by strikeout, to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano tossed an inning each to finish out a 3-2 victory, one that seemed a stretch to believe after Stephen Strasburg departed with tightness in his back after just two frames.
“He was unbelievable, he did a great job,” said Johnson of Stammen’s clutch performance. “I thought he could go about 50 pitches, and he did. He probably could have gone further…It was a big win. We needed it bad.”
While it’s hard to call any single outcome in a 162-game season a must-win, Friday night may well have been the most significant single matchup on the schedule so far this season. Coming off a pair of disappointing setbacks in Baltimore, the Nationals sat with even .500 record, trailing the first-place Braves by 5.5 games in the division. With Strasburg on the mound against up-and-down rookie starter Julio Teheran, Washington appeared to have the advantage in the pitching matchup heading into the evening. When that assumed advantage was suddenly thrown out the window, it was Stammen who led the charge, as the team came together to gut out a huge win.
“I try to stick to my routine of taking it one pitch at a time,” explained Stammen, acknowledging the overused phrase, but emphasizing the importance of that mindset. “It may sound cliché, but that’s really the only way you can look at it. If you put your heart and soul into every pitch, every time, sooner or later you look up and you’re through three or four innings.”
Stammen’s four innings gave the offense enough time to piece together another run, just enough to squeak out a victory. All three runs came via productive outs, and all three were set up thanks to hustle plays. Leading off both the first and sixth innings, Denard Span stretched for an extra base after lacing a ball into the right-field corner, notching a pair of triples. In each case he went on to score easily on a deep sacrifice fly to right field by Steve Lombardozzi. The only other Washington tally came after Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each singled with one out in the second, The Shark racing around to third base after Espinosa’s chopper bounced through the right side of the infield. Kurt Suzuki followed with a grounder to third, but busted hard out of the box, beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play, allowing Bernadina to score.
Together, the bullpen and lineup showed the kind of hustle and effort it will take to win games with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth still out of the lineup. Ultimately, Friday night’s game was one of sacrifice – Stammen’s well-earned tourniquet victory, Lombardozzi’s pair of run-scoring fly balls – of giving up whatever was needed to get the victory. It was epitomized by Stammen’s attitude afterward, one which the Nationals will need to embrace as they slowly get back to full strength.
“I’ll be here tomorrow with my cleats on,” he said, despite throwing 49 pitches over his four perfect frames. “If it goes 20 innings, I’m sure I can flip something up there.”
Chicago Cubs (14-22) vs. Washington Nationals (20-16)
RHP Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97)
Washington looks to make it a 4-1 homestand with a rubber match victory over the Cubs today. The Nationals send southpaw Gio Gonzalez to the hill in search of his fourth win as Bryce Harper returns to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Gonzalez LHP
COUPLE OF 3
Ian Desmond has posted consecutive three-hit efforts in two games this weekend against the Cubs. This is the third time in Desmond’s career he has registered three or more hits in back-to-back games, previously doing so in August of 2010. Spanning the 2012-13 campaigns, Desmond is 17-for-38 (.447) with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI, three walks, two stolen bases and nine runs scored in nine games against the North-siders.
Desmond (21), Danny Espinosa (12) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 35 extra-base hits, tops among MLB middle-infield units. The Phillies rank second with 29 extra-base hits.
BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S BEST
Nationals starting pitchers rank second in the National League and third in MLB with a 3.32 ERA (81 ER/219.1 IP). Last season, Washington paced the NL in starters ERA at 3.40.