Results tagged ‘ Davey Johnson ’

What to Watch for: 8.16.13

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (59-61) vs. Atlanta Braves (74-47)

RHP Taylor Jordan (1-3, 4.14) vs. LHP Alex Wood (2-2, 2.78)

Rookies Taylor Jordan and Alex Wood will square off in game one of a three-game series, the final matchup between the Braves and Nationals in Atlanta this season.

Jordan will be making his ninth start of the season, his first against the Braves, while Wood faces the Nationals for the first time after 20 appearances, including five starts. Wood, the 85th-overall pick (second round) in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Georgia, will be the third pitcher from his Draft class to face the Nationals this season; Washington roughed up fourth-overall pick Kevin Gausman of the Orioles on May 28 at Nationals Park, and faced Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez (82nd overall/second round) on three occasions earlier in the year.

Both Jordan, a lanky right-hander, and Wood, a tall, sturdy lefty, induce ground balls at a high rate. Jordan has a ground out/air out ratio of 1.69:1, inducing eight double plays in 45.2 innings, while Wood has posted a 1.71:1 GOAO with three double plays turned behind him in his 45.1 innings of work.

Wood features a deceptive delivery that is equally tough on righties and lefties, holding left-handed hitters to a .200 batting average and right-handed hitters to just a .207 mark. He has been even stingier with runners in scoring position, holding opponents to a .146 (6-for-41) batting average against in those situations.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Taylor Jordan RHP

D.C.’S HIT MAN SOON TO BE EXPOSED

With a .331 batting average entering play Friday, Jayson Werth would rank second in the National League behind Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson (.337) with enough plate appearances to qualify. Werth, currently at 357 plate appearances, will need 145 more trips to the plate over the Nationals final 42 games (3.45 per game) to qualify for the 502 necessary to win the batting crown. Meanwhile, Johnson is just 5-for-32 (.156) in his last eight games against Nationals pitching.

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Ian Desmond’s third-inning double on Thursday was his 52nd extra-base hit (33 doubles, two triples, 17 homers) of the 2013 season. No other Major League shortstop has more than 40 extra-base hits this season. Desmond’s 33 doubles trail only Manny Machado (42) and Matt Carpenter (40) among all big leaguers, leaving him in a five-way tie for third with Mike Trout, Joe Mauer, Chris Davis and Jay Bruce.

DAVEY’S LAST STAND

Nationals Manager and former Braves second baseman Davey Johnson will make his last appearance in Atlanta this weekend. Johnson’s 42 home runs as a second baseman (43 total) in 1973 as a member of the Braves remains the top output by a second sacker in baseball history. Dan Uggla, with 35 in 2011, is the only other Braves second baseman to crack more than 21 long balls in a single campaign. Uggla is currently on the disabled list following corrective eye surgery this week.

The Stras SHO

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Several times each season when Stephen Strasburg takes the hill and cruises through two or three innings without allowing a hit, the press box begins to buzz.

“He’s got no-hit stuff tonight.”

“I know it’s early, but…”

Etc., etc.

With all his pitches working, Strasburg dominated for his first career shutout.

With all his pitches working, Strasburg dominated for his first career shutout.

Any such talk was wiped away on Strasburg’s very first pitch of Sunday’s game, as Jimmy Rollins lobbed a broken-bat floater into right field for a leadoff single. But the Phillies would manage just three more singles and a walk the rest of the way, as Strasburg completed his first-ever shutout in a 6-0 Nationals victory.

Impressively, he combined the dominant power pitching that he burst onto the scene with in his first big league start, with the more pitch-to-contact-heavy approach he has implemented this season. Despite striking out 10 Philadelphia batters, the 25-year-old needed just 99 pitches and faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum.

“It’s something you try to do every time out,” said Strasburg of his performance. “Try to get more outs with less pitches.”

He fanned seven different Philadelphia starters, with only Chase Utley and Erik Kratz bucking the trend. Instead, those two combined to make seven outs in just five at-bats, as Utley twice grounded into double plays.

Perhaps most impressively, Strasburg did all of this after enduring an early scare, when he stumbled a bit off the mound after spiking a changeup past the ankles of Domonic Brown. The trainers went out to check on the right-hander, and both Strasburg and Davey Johnson would later confirm that he had tweaked his groin on the delivery.

Jayson Werth kept hitting, while Ian Desmond provided a jolt of energy.

Jayson Werth kept hitting, while Ian Desmond provided a jolt of energy.

Ironically, it was something that only happened in the first place – and that he would only feel afterwards – as a result of flying too far open to his glove side, a mechanical glitch that he has worked to rein in all season. Perhaps the added awareness helped Strasburg stay on a better line to home plate, as he would go on to strike out seven of the next 10 batters he faced following a walk to Brown, his lone free pass of the afternoon.

“If he didn’t fly open, it didn’t bother him,” said Johnson after the game. “Obviously it didn’t bother him.”

The masterful performance overshadowed other story lines, like the fact that the 6-0 victory gave the Nationals their first-ever home sweep over their division rivals. Former Phillie Jayson Werth also collected his second straight three-hit game, and is following his NL Player of the Month Award in July with a .571/.647/.821 slash line thus far in August. The Nationals showed aggressiveness on the basepaths, with Ian Desmond scoring from second base on a fielder’s choice, coming all the way home after the ball trickled away from Kratz following Utley’s bounced throw home on a force attempt. And there was terrific defense, capped by Ryan Zimmerman’s diving snare of Kevin Frandsen’s liner to end the game, which, of course, brought the storyline full circle, back to Strasburg’s shutout.

“You expect more of those from him, with his talent,” concluded Johnson.

Strasburg’s next scheduled start will come against the Braves in Atlanta this weekend.

To the Last Man

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

To the last minute.

To the last second.

To the last man.

We fight!

Of all the things asked of Bryce Harper at such a young age, team leader has not been among them. But after a disappointing first two-thirds of the season, the 20-year-old spoke up the other day, then went out and provided the Nationals with a personal slogan, emblazoned on red camouflage workout shirts, prior to Friday’s game. It is a quote with which those who follow the young outfielder on Twitter may be familiar, from the movie Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen.

At just 20 years of age, Harper is stepping into the role of an emotional team leader.

At just 20 years of age, Harper is stepping into the role of an emotional team leader.

The emotional team leader role had been shouldered largely by Ian Desmond thus far in 2013, but he seemed happy to have a second voice in the clubhouse speaking up at this critical juncture in the season.

“I think they’re great,” he said of the T-shirts, displaying his own for the media to see. “It’s good to see him coming into his own.”

As for Harper’s ability to walk the walk, he launched a second deck home run and drove in two of Washington’s four runs Friday night as the Nationals got back in the win column with a 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“He rises to the occasion pretty well, if you hadn’t noticed,” quipped Desmond of his teammate after the victory.

Desmond himself got Washington on the board first, taking advantage of a bad route by Carlos Gomez to snag a leadoff double in the fifth, then stealing third and scoring as the throw skipped down the left field line. It was one of the game’s little swings that has seemed to go against Washington all year, but finally broke in their favor.

Of course, in order to once again accomplish their goal of playing in baseball’s postseason, nearly everything will have to go right for the Nationals. That was Davey Johnson’s point of emphasis after the game.

“We have to play really good from here on out to have any chance at all,” he stressed. “I think our guys know that.”

Denard Span had his strongest month yet in July, batting .289/.349/.402 with his first two home runs.

Denard Span had his strongest month yet in July, batting .289/.349/.402 with his first two home runs.

They will need more offense from Denard Span, like the quality at-bat he put in leading off the top of the ninth inning Friday night after quickly falling behind former Nationals lefty Michael Gonzalez 0-2. He fouled off a fastball, took a couple of tough sliders for balls, fouled another breaking ball off, then spoiled the fifth slider of the at-bat for a humpback liner, over third baseman Jeff Bianchi’s head and into left field. He would speed into second for a leadoff double, later padding the Nationals lead back to three runs after the Brewers had gotten one back in the bottom of the eighth.

The Nationals will also need the likes of Ryan Mattheus to fill the void in the seventh inning as he did with one of his best appearances of the season, and easily the strongest since returning from the disabled list. Mattheus got a strike out followed by a pair of grounders from the top two hitters in the Milwaukee order, following Jordan Zimmermann’s six scoreless innings with one of his own.

Speaking of Zimmermann, Washington needs his return to his first half form, as well as for Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to continue to do what they have done most of the year. Dan Haren, who has pitched well in four starts since his own return from the DL, will be counted on to continue to do so the rest of the way.

But there is a sense among some – Harper and Desmond included – that they need a little extra fire to make all these things happen. If they can continue to lead the way as they did on Friday night, maybe they can close the 6.5 games remaining between themselves and a postseason spot over the final 53 games.

What to Watch for: 8.2.13

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (52-56) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (46-62)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-6, 3.19) vs. LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 2.83) 

The Nationals have offered a couple of lengthy extensions to players in the last couple of seasons, first signing Gio Gonzalez to a five-year deal with a sixth year club option last January, then following that with Ryan Zimmerman’s seven-year deal, which will retain the Face of the Franchise for the foreseeable future. But Thursday evening, the club offered arguably its most important extension yet, to its top executive, Mike Rizzo.

In addition to a multi-year contract renewal, Rizzo was promoted to President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, a show of faith for the tremendous strides he has made with the Nationals organization. During Rizzo’s tenure as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and GM, Washington saw its farm system rise from dead last all the way to the top of the Baseball America rankings and saw the Major League club go from 103 losses in 2009 to 98 wins last season. The club now consists of one of the youngest, most cost-controlled rosters in the game, with a large window of contention and a bright future ahead.

“It’s humbling and very fulfilling for me,” said Rizzo in the dugout at Miller Park before the Nationals opened the final third of the 2013 season against the Milwaukee Brewers. “I’m not going to change the way I do my job one bit. I’m going to attack the job the way I always have, with hard work and good decisions, and continue to hire good people and let them do their work.”

Rizzo has been in charge of Washington’s drafts since the 2007 season, when he signed Ross Detwiler and second-round pick Jordan Zimmermann, out of little-known Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He took Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper number one overall in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010, but also the likes of Taylor Jordan (ninth round, ’09) Nathan Karns (12th round, ’09) and quick rising Minor League arms A.J. Cole (fourth round, ’10) and Robbie Ray (12th round, ’10).

“I think it’s great,” said manager Davey Johnson of Rizzo’s promotion and extension. “I’ve made no secret I think he’s a great baseball man.”

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Werth RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Zimmermann RHP

A WERTHY P.O.M. CANDIDATE

During the month of July, Jayson Werth led the National League in OPS (1.072), on-base percentage (.450) and RBI (22). He also ranked among the Senior Circuit’s top five in home runs (tied-second, seven), batting average (second, .367) and slugging percentage (fifth, .622).

CLASS OF 2005

A closer look at where Ryan Zimmerman ranks among the MLB Draft Class of 2005, which included, among others: Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Upton.

Home Runs: Second, 165 (Braun, 211)

RBI: Second, 647 (Braun, 681)

Hits: First, 1208

BELOW THE SURFACE

The .547 winning percentage (309-256) posted by the Nationals Minor League system currently ranks fourth among Major League Baseball’s 30 franchises. Washington trails only Houston (.573), Texas (.566), and San Francsico (.554). The Nationals system has registered winning records each of the last five seasons (2008-12), but has never finished among the top five.

What to Watch for: 7.30.13

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (52-54) vs. Detroit Tigers (59-45)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-8, 2.85) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 2.68)

The All-Star break provides a number of opportunities for players. The four days are a chance to catch your breath, lick your wounds, and get a mental restart for the stretch run. For managers though, it also provides a chance to reset the pitching rotation to best match up with opponents.

In Davey Johnson’s case, that meant he could line up Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez for this two-game set against Detroit, beginning Tuesday night in the Motor City. It also means Jordan Zimmermann will get to start back in his home state of Wisconsin on Friday night in Milwaukee, where he delivered six strong innings to earn his fourth win in a very strong month of August last season.

Of course, it also means the rotation will roll over once more, setting up the top three Washington starters to pitch during the Nationals upcoming August 5-7 home series with Atlanta. With a little tinkering, Johnson could work around the off days to do the same for the road series against the Braves, August 16-18 at Turner Field.

The ability to set up the top of the rotation is great, but it is made all the more important by the success of the rest of the starters, like the three huge starts delivered by Ross Ohlendorf, Dan Haren and Taylor Jordan over the weekend. After one of their toughest losses of the season in the opening game of the doubleheader with the Mets on Friday – and with All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey and Nats nemesis Dillon Gee on the horizon – Washington needed big performances from all three to have a successful weekend.

That’s exactly what they got. Ohlendorf, Haren and Jordan combined to deliver 20 innings over which each allowed just a single earned run (1.35 combined ERA) on 14 total hits and four walks while striking out 21 Mets batters. The offense did just enough to muster a win Friday night, with Ryan Zimmerman providing the ninth-inning heroics, then powered three home runs Saturday and came alive to set season highs in hits and runs on Sunday. That gave the Nationals three straight wins heading into their current Midwest road trip.

If the rotation can continue to feed off of itself and the lineup behind it finds its groove, the Nationals will be as well positioned as they could possibly hope for the upcoming division showdowns with Atlanta that may well determine the fate of the division.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Tracy DH

RHP Strasburg

BETTER AT-BATS = BETTER BALL

The Nationals won four of the final five games on their season-long 11-game homestand. They batted .302 (52-for-172) and plated 29 runs during the 4-1 surge since last Thursday, averaging 5.8 runs per game over that stretch.

WERTH THE WAIT

Jayson Werth is batting .331 (56-for-169) with 23 walks, seven doubles, 11 home runs, 30 runs scored, 32 RBI, and a .410 OBP in 48 games since returning from the disabled list (right hamstring) on June 4. During the month of July, Werth paces the National League in batting average (.376), OPS (1.103), on-base percentage (.455) and RBI (21). He also ranks among the Senior Circuit’s top five in home runs (tied-second, seven), slugging percentage (third, .647) and hits (tied-fifth, 32).

THREE GRAND

With Wilson Ramos’ bases-clearing blast in the third inning on Sunday, the Nationals have now blasted three grand slams in 2013. The club went 70 games before hitting a grand slam, with Ian Desmond providing the first of the year, in the 11th inning on June 19 in Philadelphia. Since then, Washington has collected three in 36 games, also including Ryan Zimmerman’s shot against San Diego on July 7 in The District.

A Show of Appreciation

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

As a nod to the tremendous support the Nationals get from their fans each game, the club hosted its annual Season Plan Holder Appreciation Day on Saturday before an afternoon contest against the New York Mets. More than 4,800 full and partial Season Plan Holders took part in the event.

The interactive festivities included a Kids Carnival, an Ultimate Access Lounge, a Season Plan Holder Picnic Area and the opportunity to purchase exclusive game-worn items at the Nationals Authentics booth on the main concourse. Attendees could also participate in a Q & A on the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk hosted by Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler with General Manager Mike Rizzo and Director of Player Development Doug Harris. Each gave candid answers to questions regarding the 2013 season, the team and the Nationals farm system.

The main event was an on-field photo opportunity with Nationals players and coaches, in which fans lined the warning track for a chance to take a photo with their favorite Nationals personalities. Many players and coaches stopped for autographs or a handshake, with manager Davey Johnson the first to appear on the field and the last to leave.

The Nationals also hosted their annual toy drive with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and their Toys for Tots program. New toys and monetary donations were collected prior to Season Plan Holder Appreciation Day as well as Saturday afternoon’s Nationals-Mets game.

Check out the gallery below for photos from the event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What to Watch for: 7.28.13

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

New York Mets (46-55) vs. Washington Nationals (51-54)

RHP Carlos Torres (1-1, 0.94) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (0-3, 3.68)

Fear the goggles.

Tyler Clippard works in what can sometimes be a thankless role, almost always pitching the seventh or eighth inning in close ballgames. Occasionally, when the game is tied or if the Nationals are trailing, that puts him in a position to pick up a win; after all, he’s got six of them this year. But usually, the only time he ends up in the spotlight is if the other team scores a run. That hasn’t happened much lately, which is why Clippard’s tremendous season is largely flying under the radar.

His overall numbers speak for themselves: a 6-1 record, 1.74 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 46.1 innings pitched. But those marks have gotten better and better as the season has progressed. Since June 1, he’s allowed only one run in 23.2 innings, holding opponents to a .108 batting average. And in his last 15 appearances since June 26, Clippard has allowed just two hits and four walks over 15 scoreless frames, striking out 17.

Simply put, it’s hard to pitch any better than Clippard has the past two months. For the season, he’s picked up 19 holds and has not been dealt a single blown save all year. Every time Davey Johnson has handed Clippard the ball with a lead of three runs or less, he has handed it back with the lead intact.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Jordan RHP

DAN THE MAN

Dan Haren earned his fifth win – his first in 12 starts, or since May 9 vs. Detroit – by allowing just one run on three singles and a walk in 7.0 strong innings, striking out six. In four starts since his return from the disabled list, Haren owns a 3.13 ERA (8 ER/23.0 IP) and 26 strikeouts against just six walks.

POWER SURGE

Ian Desmond hit his team-leading 16th, Bryce Harper notched his 15th and Denard Span got on the board with his first home run of the season. Desmond and Span went back-to-back, marking the seventh time this season that Nationals players have homered in consecutive at-bats. Washington has hit 12 home runs in its last eight games at Nationals Park, representing its largest eight-game power output in The District this season.

THE SERIES

The Nationals have won the past two season series from the Mets, going 14-4 last season and 10-8 in 2011. Washington currently holds a 6-5 margin in this year’s matchup, including a 3-2 mark at Nationals Park.

What to Watch for: 7.26.13 – Game 2

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

New York Mets (46-53) vs. Washington Nationals (49-54)

RHP Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03) 

NATIONALS GAME 2 LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Ramos C

9. Ohlendorf RHP

*    *    *

Don’t let that windup fool you.

Ross Ohlendorf’s delivery has been described as “old-school.” Sure, it’s a swinging, kicking windup that hearkens back to baseball’s bygone times. And, yeah, it might betray a little vintage sensibility.

Still, the Nationals right-hander is hardly stuck in the past. In fact, that retro motion might be more a sign of progress than anything else.

The fact that the motion is reminiscent of legends like Bob Feller “wasn’t a motivation at all,” Ohlendorf said. “I knew that they used to do it…I’ve liked it a lot. I feel like it’s helped me pitch well.”

Ohlendorf has pitched so well out of the Nationals bullpen that he’ll take that swinging style onto the mound with him today as he makes his second big league start of the season. His presence on the Major League roster was meant to be short-lived, but after an impressive spot start in Colorado while Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg were on the Disabled List in June, manager Davey Johnson knew he had to find a way to keep Ohlendorf around.

Ohlendorf has used his old school delivery to great success so far this year.

Ohlendorf has used his old school delivery to great success so far this year.

He might have his pitching motion to thank for that.

A veteran of seven Major League seasons, Ohlendorf switched to the vintage delivery method this year, though he can’t pinpoint exactly when he made the change. Starting with his hands together, he raises them slightly before swinging his arms behind his back with a step back on his left leg. His hands meet again once more when he finally grips the ball from his mitt. His elbows fold in, and then, stepping forward on his left foot with all that momentum, he lets it fly.

“It helps me, gives me rhythm and it helps me stay loose and the ball has been coming out well pitching that way,” he said after his Washington debut.

So far, it seems to be working for him. After struggling over his last three seasons with Pittsburgh (2010-11) and San Diego (2012) and battling injuries, Ohlendorf has posted some impressive numbers in eight appearances with the Nats. After that initial win at Coors Field, the Princeton graduate has provided solid innings in long relief with a 2-0 record and a 2.03 ERA to show for it. He’s recorded 21 punch outs to just six walks.

His velocity is also spiking. Throughout his career, Ohlendorf’s fastball has averaged 90.8 mph and he hasn’t hit the upper 90s in a few seasons. This year, he’s averaging 92.6 mph, and hit 97 on the gun in Sunday’s relief appearance against the Dodgers. That’s helped in coming out of the bullpen. Accustomed to starting ballgames — he’s had 74 starts in his 116 Major League appearances —Ohlendorf says his location isn’t as sharp as if he’d warmed up to start the game.

“My command isn’t as good necessarily right away for an inning or so because I’m throwing hard,” Ohlendorf said. “But as I’ve kind of eased in to the later innings of a game, my command has gotten sharper and I haven’t needed to throw as hard.

“I feel like my command is usually sharper starting. I think it’s a little more difficult to have command right away out of the bullpen.”

With so much working in his favor these days, Ohlendorf can expect to be a more permanent fixture among the Nationals stable of arms. That’s what Johnson had in mind when he refused to send him back to Syracuse.

Now that the novelty of Ohlendorf’s windup has worn off, his impressive numbers have instead begun to define his year with the Nationals.

What to Watch for: 7.26.13 – Game 1

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

New York Mets (45-53) vs. Washington Nationals (49-53)

RHP Jenrry Mejia (NR, -.–) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-5, 3.01) 

The Nationals look to continue their winning ways following yesterday’s ninth-inning, walk-off victory over the Pirates as the welcome the Mets for a day-night doubleheader to open a four-game series over the next three days. Jordan Zimmermann will take on rookie Jenrry Mejia, making his 2013 debut in the opener.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

HARPER’S HEROICS

Bryce Harper’s game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning capped a 9-7 win over the Pirates Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Harper’s blast was made necessary only after the Pirates, who trailed 7-3 after eight innings, plated four runs in the top of the ninth to extend the contest. Harper became the first 20 year-old to club a game-ending blast since Miguel Cabrera turned the trick on June 20, 2003 vs. Tampa Bay as a member of the Marlins. Harper’s shot was his first long ball since July 1 and it also rendered Washington’s first game-ending home run of 2013.

K STREET

In Washington’s last two games, Stephen Strasburg (season-high 12 strikeouts, Wednesday) and Gio Gonzalez (11 K, Thursday) have combined on 23 strikeouts to establish a team-mark for the most strikeouts posted a consecutive games by Nationals (2005-present) starting pitchers. With their respective 12- and 11-K efforts the last two days, Strasburg and Gonzalez also became just the second set of Nationals starters to register double-digit strikeout tallies in back-to-back games. John Lannan (11 strikeouts, April 17 at New York) and Tim Redding (10, April 18 at Florida) were the first to turn this trick back in 2008.

RISPY BUSINESS

The Nationals pounded out 14 hits, 5 of which came with RISP (Washington entered the game in a 13-game 7-for-81 rut with RISP) and 11 of which came from Davey Johnson’s 1-4 hitters (Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman with three, Adam LaRoche with two).

Guest Blog: Looking Forward

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

As you may recall, we gave away the opportunity to blog with us for a day as part of the 13 Days of NatsFest. And while it’s been six months since then, we didn’t forget about our winner. Her originally planned date got washed away by the rain, but we were able to get her out to Nationals Park Friday night for the first game of the season’s second half. This is the story of her experience behind the scenes at the ballpark.

Looking Forward

by: Michelle Hendley

The Nationals were back from the All-Star Break, rejuvenated and filled with optimism for what the second half can bring. The majority of the players were healthy for the first time in what seems like a century. Errors were down and hitting was up. Yesterday’s pitching match-up, featuring former Marlin Ricky Nolasco and Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, was a rematch of Opening Day. Though the late July heat was stifling, the excitement was clearly evident on the field, and everyone was hopeful that the team could pick up some momentum heading into the second half.

Strasburg survived the heat to post a quality start.

Strasburg survived the heat to post a quality start.

The excitement was palpable for me as well. While I have been to many Nationals games as a spectator – probably more than I could count –  this was the first time that I had experienced the game up close and personally as a member of the press. As someone who grew up in a sports-mad family, working in the media for a professional team is as close to a dream job as I could get. Whether it was related to me being scared or me being realistic (probably a bit of both), I took a job in another field immediately after college. However, in the back of my mind, I always did wonder what path pursuing my dream would have taken me on, and today was the day for me to find out. Who knows what I may decide to do after that?

While the crowds gathered outside, eating at the food trucks and playing games, I started by observing Davey Johnson’s pregame press conference. Well, to be completely honest, I started by disregarding the GPS and getting myself a little lost on my way downtown. But I digress. Davey injected his trademark bit of humor into the briefing as we got updates from him. He was incredibly optimistic about the prospects of the team heading into the second half, telling everybody that, “We are right where we need to be.”  He’s definitely got a point. With the exception of Ross Detwiler and his lingering soreness, he’s got as close to an Opening Day lineup as he has had since, well, practically Opening Day. Davey wrapped up his presser, and I headed down to batting practice.

The ball just sounds different coming off of Harper's bat.

The ball just sounds different coming off of Harper’s bat.

Now, to say it was hot was probably the understatement of the decade. It was hot in the sense that I could have probably fried an egg on the warning track. While I was prepared for several players to hit in the air conditioned, indoor batting cages, I was surprised to see all of the players out there taking their hacks. I had been told that Bryce Harper’s batting practice was not necessarily just worth seeing, but worth hearing. It really was. If you ever find yourself in the park early enough to catch him, take the time to do so. The best way I can describe it is that the sound of the ball hitting the bat echoes like a sonic boom. It’s really impressive – but so is pretty much everything he does.

I settled in the press box for the start of the game. The view is really beautiful, although I caution you if you’re afraid of heights. You could see the vast majority of the field perfectly, allowing me to get a good grasp of everything that was going on during the game.

As the game progressed, I had a feeling that even though rest and a seemingly fresh start can really boost morale and infuse positivity, they aren’t necessarily magic. All bad things don’t turn into good things overnight. The most you can hope for is progress, and although the Nationals lost, they definitely showed progress. In tough conditions, Strasburg pitched superbly. The Nationals made several defensive gems, and put nine hits up on the board. Historically, Ricky Nolasco has had a lot of success against the Nationals, but they put up a great fight. There is a lot to build upon in this second half, and the team needs to continue to look forward. As Davey said, wrapping up his postgame presser, “Tomorrow is another day.”

You can’t keep looking back and talking about what you could have done differently – a lesson that applies to both baseball and life. All you can do is to continue to improve. I think the team is learning that. And I think I am as well.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 537 other followers