Results tagged ‘ Drew Storen ’

Open For Business

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Whew. If there was any question of how the Nationals would respond to the pressures of expectation in 2012, they showed some good signs in their first game of the season on Thursday. However, we’ll all have to wait until Saturday before enjoying chapter two.

The quirky schedule gave the team a day off Friday after just the one game. While players might normally want to save that break for a time later in the season, our fans could certainly use the chance to catch their collective breath after a nerve-wracking, gut-checking, come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. This is the type of game they should come to expect, though. With the way this Nationals team is built, there are likely to be a good number of well-pitched, tight, low-scoring affairs all season long. And there will be 161 more games in the next 180 days, so brace yourselves.

Stephen Strasburg looked like a seasoned veteran through seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start.

The opener had a bit of everything to make for an exciting affair: great starting pitching, would-be home runs (knocked down by the wind), sparkling defense, and a pair of late rallies, one to tie the score and the other to put Washington in front for good. Many of the offseason storylines were tested immediately. Could the top two spots in the order get on base? Check – Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined to reach safely in five of their 10 plate appearances. How would Stephen Strasburg fare in his first Opening Day start? His line – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K – suggests he was more than up to the task. And what kind of impact could we expect from Davey Johnson’s revamped bench? Look no further than Chad Tracy’s double, which led to Brett Carroll scoring the game-winning run in the ninth. It’s as strong a first impression as Johnson could have hoped for from this group in its collective debut. So on a day when the team managed just four hits, the rest of the pieces came together to get the Nationals that all-important first Curly W.

We need not worry about Ryan Zimmerman, either, whose 0-for-2 (with two walks) performance would have been a 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs, if not for the sharp, gusting wind coming in off Lake Michigan and directly over the center field wall. The third baseman showed just how deep his value really is, though, with two superb defensive plays. He bailed out Wilson Ramos on a pick and swipe tag to catch Alfonso Soriano stealing in the fourth inning, before reversing roles and gunning down Joe Mather at the plate in the ninth (with Ramos applying the nice tag) to preserve the one-run victory.

Jayson Werth couldn't be happier to be reunited with teammate Brad Lidge.

Jayson Werth also had a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit knocked down by the wind early. However, he came up with a great defensive play of his own and battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk, forcing in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. That’s what team leaders are supposed to do: find ways to contribute, no matter what the circumstance. Werth is one of the best in the game at finding ways beyond the box score to do that. Don’t take our word for it, though. Pick up the first edition of Nationals Magazine when you’re at the ballpark starting next week and read all about it.

There should be no lingering questions surrounding Brad Lidge and his stuff at this point, either. One of Johnson’s fill-in closers (along with Henry Rodriguez), Lidge utterly overwhelmed Reed Johnson with a slider and froze Marlon Byrd with a perfectly painted fastball to end the game. He could be the steal of the offseason for Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, providing veteran leadership to the back end of the bullpen and the occasional save when called upon.

Nevertheless, it will be great to get Drew Storen back, as it will be to have outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in Washington again. Morse and Ankiel are both on rehab assignments with Double-A Harrisburg, which is playing just up the road in Bowie this week.

In the meantime, breathe easy and enjoy the day off. There’s been plenty to talk about, but we’re just one game in. At the end of the day, though, the team is 1-0. And that’s as good of a place as you can be one game into the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season.

Our Town, Our Time, Our Park

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Ryan Zimmerman celebrates his walk-off grand slam against the Phillies last year.

Earlier today, the Nationals released Take Back the Park, an initiative designed to get as many Nationals fans in the ballpark for this season’s first home series against the Philadelphia Phillies. With anticipation for the upcoming season at an all-time high, Washington fans have an opportunity to create a true home field advantage here at Nationals Park. That starts today, with a chance to shut Philadelphia fans out of the park for what promises to be another exciting chapter in an already contentious rivalry.

Consider last year. While the Phillies have been dominant in the National League East recently, winning the last five division titles, there was a chink in their armor in 2011. The perennial champs ran into a pesky group from the District that just would not give up. The Nationals won each of the final four series against Philadelphia, including a four-game road sweep in September. In fact, the Nats have won 10 of their last 13 against the Phillies.

Our players have turned the tide on the field of play. Now, it’s time for our fans to do the same. To get you fired up, all next week we’ll take a look back at the top five moments against the Phillies from a thrilling 2011 rivalry series. What are your favorite memories of beating the Phillies in 2011? Check out our top 5 below, then vote for your favorite in the poll below!

Moment #5: A Werth-y Opponent (4/12)

April 12 marked Jayson Werth’s first game against his old team after inking a seven-year deal with the Nationals. He took no time to make his presence felt in the rivalry, taking Joe Blanton deep with a solo shot in the fifth inning en route to a 7-4 victory.

Moment #4: A Team Effort (6/1)

John Lannan out-dueled Roy Oswalt, and the bullpen closed out the game with 3.2 innings of one-hit, shutout relief as Drew Storen closed out a 2-1 win with his 10th save of the season.

Moment #3: Double Dose for Espinosa (5/31)

Cliff Lee surrendered only 18 home runs all season long, but three of them came off the bat of Danny Espinosa, including two in the same game. His second blast, deep over the bullpen and into the left-center field bleachers, provided a signature moment in a 10-2 rout of the former Cy Young Award winner.

Moment #2: Down To The Last Strike (8/21)

With Washington trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ian Desmond fell behind 1-2 before turning around a breaking ball from Antonio Bastardo into the left-field bleachers to send the game into extra innings. Jonny Gomes then took one for the team, as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, forcing in the game-winning run.

Bonus video: The Walk-Off HBP

Moment #1: Zim, For The Win (8/19)

Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals scored twice on RBI singles by Jonny Gomes and Ian Desmond, then loaded the bases for Ryan Zimmerman with two outs. Mr. Walk-off came through in epic fashion with a two-out, full count, walk-off grand slam, delivering an 8-4 victory for the Nats.

So This Is The New Year

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There is something refreshingly cathartic about the cycle of years and seasons. The end of the old always brings with it the beginning of a new era, another chance to be better than before. While this is true of every baseball season, it is no stretch to say that the buzz — the excitement, the energy, the hope — that is floating around the 2012 Nationals is unlike anything that Washington has seen since the team moved to The District in 2005.

This hope does not come without good reason. There is the prospect of a healthy Stephen Strasburg electrifying the top of the rotation every five days. He will be followed by two more dynamic, budding stars in Jordan Zimmermann and the recently acquired Gio Gonzalez, all three 26 years-old or younger. Solid, sturdy veterans Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan will be in the mix with the promising Ross Detwiler, bringing stability to the back end of the starting staff.

Drew Storen will look to follow up on a rookie season in which he saved 43 games.

From there, another set of power arms takes over in the bullpen, led by 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and anchored by closer Drew Storen, who in his rookie campaign became just the second National ever to notch 40 saves in a season. Add in flamethrower Henry Rodriguez, who regularly touches triple digits on the radar gun, and you’ve got three more exciting arms, again all under the age of 27.

In the lineup, the Nationals will look for a healthy year from Ryan Zimmerman. DC’s under-the-radar superstar began last season hot before suffering an abdominal strain that hampered his production throughout the year. Still just 27 years of age, the third baseman will look to return to his form of the previous five seasons, during which he averaged 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in an average of 145 games.

Jayson Werth, meanwhile, will look to reestablish himself as the player who received MVP votes in each of his two seasons prior to joining the Nationals. While he reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2011, a return to form across the board in his numbers would make the middle of the Nationals lineup that much more formidable to opposing pitching staffs.

Mike Morse was one of the National League's best hitters in 2011.

Joining that pair will be 2011’s breakout star, Michael Morse. The numbers don’t lie — Morse hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. But to understand just how good Morse’s season was, consider the following: he had more doubles and home runs than Troy Tulowitzki, and a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (see for yourself). In fact, besides the NL MVP, Morse was the only player in the National League to bat over .300 with 35 or more doubles, 30 or more home runs and a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The return of “The Beast” to the middle of the lineup should be a welcome sight for Nats fans everywhere.

Another returnee for 2012 who impressed last year was rookie infielder Danny Espinosa, who will look to build on the power potential he flashed during his 21-home run performance last season. Coupled with the slick glove work he often showed at second base, the former Long Beach State shortstop may just prove he owns that rare combination of being a versatile middle infielder with pop from both sides of the plate. Oh, and he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day.

Even after trading four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the Gonzalez deal, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, ready to contribute in the future. Top prospects like lefthander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon are poised to join Bryce Harper in the years to come, but that discussion is for another time.

Bryce Harper headlines the next wave of Nationals prospects.

While the future remains very bright for this team, make no mistake, the window has officially opened. With the Gonzalez trade, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo not only added one of the premiere left-handed power arms in the game, he announced that he is not waiting for some distant tomorrow to contend.

“Gio’s ample talents are well known and chronicled,” said Rizzo after inking the lefty to a five-year extension on Sunday. “Now both Gio and our fans can shift their focus and excitement to his debut in DC knowing that their relationship won’t be ending in the short term.”

Of course, the road will not be easy. With the flurry of acquisitions made by the new Miami Marlins, the NL East has improved to the point of challenging its American League counterpart as the toughest division in baseball. And speaking of that AL East, the Nats will draw the perennial powerhouse in Interleague Play this year, making the schedule that much tougher. The good news is, should Washington survive this gauntlet and (gasp!) force its way into the picture for the potentially expanding postseason field, this young Nationals squad will have already faced the toughest teams in the league.

If you’ve been following the Nats from the beginning, your best days certainly appear to be ahead of you. If 2012 marks the beginning of your fandom, then welcome. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Curly W Live – Greetings from 2011 Winter Meetings

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An update from the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas, from the desk of Mark D. Lerner, Nationals Principal Owner:

Hello Nationals fans!

It’s that time again … the Winter Meetings have begun. This blog comes to you from the Hilton Anatole Hotel, located in the shadows of downtown Dallas. Well, if there were shadows, that is. Most of the Nationals contingent arrived in the Big D on Sunday afternoon. However, the bulk of the activity did not begin until Monday (well, except for the Marlins… our 18 matchups with Miami in 2012 sure will have a different feel, won’t they?).

Speaking of teams with new, state-of-the-art facilities, I headed over to Dallas Cowboys Stadium early this morning for a behind-the-scenes tour. I think “wow” is a good word to describe the experience, but since they do everything big in Texas, I’ll go with “WOW and WOW!” It really is quite a facility and the scoreboard is just awe-inspiring. Now I know why all the sideline shots during Cowboys games always feature players looking straight up.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re holding a Q&A with the Nationals Executive Contingent here in Dallas with questions from you, our loyal fans. We’ll get answers from a couple different corners of the organization, so if you haven’t already, ask your questions in the comments below, or by email, Twitter or Facebook. Check back Wednesday to see if your question was answered.

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When I returned to the meetings, we found out that Mike Rizzo is ranked 19th on the general manager’s seniority list. Yep, hard to believe, isn’t it? Note that the rankings include time spent with a GM’s current club. So, for instance, Mike is higher on the list than Kevin Towers of the D-Backs, even though Towers has been a GM for more than 15 years. It almost seems like Mike took over just yesterday, but then you look at our roster and our Minor League rosters and it is clear that he’s been in charge of our baseball operation for three full seasons. And he’s been quite busy. This just goes to show the commitment that Nationals ownership has to Mike’s vision and his plan to achieve it. That level of trust and stability shouldn’t be underestimated.

Which brings me to my final point for the day. Mike’s scouting and player development staff have done a great job of building an impressive stable of talent within out Minor League system. Some of that talent has already percolated to D.C. (Stephen Strasburg, Tommy Milone, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen … you know all the names). We are thrilled with the initial returns on our 2011 draft class and look forward to watching that next wave of Nationals as they rise through the ranks on their way to D.C.

While free agents and trade rumors will be floating all over the internet for the next few months as we approach Spring Training, just remember that we have already achieved our primary objective from when we gained control of the club in 2006; we wanted to have a steady pipeline of impactful talent spread throughout our Minor League system because we felt strongly about the fact that this is the best method to sustain success. Here’s looking forward to continued excitement throughout the busy offseason, leading into what we all expect will be an exhilarating 2012 campaign.

Until next time…

Drew Storen Visits National Rehabilitation Hospital

Earlier today, Nationals closer Drew Storen spent the day visiting with patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Northwest DC. The hospital is one of the nation’s premier institutions, being ranked among America’s top rehabilitation hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 17 consecutive years, and specializes in treating patients with physical disabilities that are caused by spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as a variety of other neurological and orthopedic conditions.

During his visit, Storen got to interact with the hospital’s patients and participate alongside them in their physical therapy exercises. These activities are crucial for the patients’ recovery process, and Storen was able help them by participating and providing emotional support.

“I had a really good time sitting down and talking with them,” Storen said. “Just to see how strong they are makes it a pretty special experience.”

Storen also got to play with the patients, competing in Wii Bowling, and playing catch with some of the older patients. Storen signed autographs, posed for photographs and literally gave the jersey off his back to one young woman.

“Hearing her story about how she’s getting her (prosthetic) legs on Monday, I can’t imagine trying to go through that,” said Storen. “It was pretty special to talk to her, and her spirits were really high. It’s really special to see what some of these people are going through and how strong they are”.

For Storen, the visit marked his second trip to the hospital. This visit touched him because of the remarkable courage shown by the patients.

“My grandfather had a stroke last year, so to visit some stroke victims and see that they’re coming out to the ballpark on Sunday is special,” Storen remarked. “He’s still battling with Parkinson’s, so it’s something that hits close to home, and to come out and visit and talk with some of these people is special for me.

Inside Pitch Live with Tyler Clippard & Drew Storen

Broadcaster Dave Jageler sat down with the back end of the Nationals bullpen prior to Saturday’s game to discuss their roles, the 2011 season and their baseball backgrounds. Clippard and Storen also took questions from the Stars & Stripes Club audience. These two roommates flashed their comedic wits and their verbose vocabulary—no “just happy to be here” quotes here. Have a listen for yourself: InsidePitchLive_ClippardStoren

Several Nationals are worthy of All-Star Nods

With only hours remaining for fans to vote for their favorite players for the 2011 All-Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the Nationals’ candidates for the Midsummer Classic. The Nationals strong month of June has brought more recognition to some of their hottest players and many Nats are making a case to be in Arizona on July 12. Unlike years past, where the team’s lone selection has been pretty clear cut—this year the Nats have a chance to send multiple players to the All-Star Game.

If you’re talking about the potential NL All-Star infield, it’s going to be tough to leave Danny Espinosa out of the conversation. He’s leading all rookies in multiple offensive categories—home runs (15), triples (4), slugging percentage (.465), and OPS (.788). He’s been stellar at second base so far this season, helping provide a wall of defense up the middle. Espinosa is certainly making his case to not only be a Nationals representative in the All-Star Game, but to be Rookie of the Year as well.

Along with Espi, you’ve got Michael Morse leading the Club’s current power surge. Morse has also hit 15 home runs—and with a .550 slugging percentage, he’s currently fifth overall in the NL in that category. After getting off to a slow start, Morse absolutely took off. In May he batted .403 with a 1.196 OPS, and in June he hit more than half of his home runs so far this year and maintained a .299 average. While, admittedly, his position (first base) is going to be tough for him to compete in, he’s at least put his name into the mix. 

Then you’ve got the beast of the bullpen—Drew Storen. Storen is currently 12th in the NL in saves, having gone 19 for 22 in save opportunities. He has a 2.90 ERA with 32 strikeouts. But, better than that, he’s held opponents to a .188 average while posting a WHIP of just 0.99. Matt Capps represented the Nationals in the 2010 All-Star Game and Storen hopes to make it two DC All-Star closers in a row.
 

From the starting rotation, Jason Marquis is making a strong case to go to Arizona for the All-Star Game. He’s currently leading the team in wins, with seven, and is in the midst of a rebound season having recovered from the arm surgery he had last season. He’s posted an ERA of 3.62 with a WHIP of 1.39 and has been one of the team’s most consistent starters.

Jordan Zimmermann is also rebounding from injury in his first full season since going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2009. Zimmermann is currently seventh in the NL in WHIP (1.07) and fifth in the NL in ERA (2.63). He’s had trouble getting run support and is currently only 5-7, but it’s clear he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the mound, having recorded a quality start in 13 of his 16 outings. JZ is also worthy of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.

The fan vote most-likely won’t determine the Nationals’ selection(s) but we’ll find out which Nats stars will be All-Stars very soon.

Nats Seek a Seattle Sweep

The Nationals won the series last night with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, thanks to solid pitching performances by John Lannan, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. They’ll attempt to sweep the series and get a game over .500 today.

Here are today’s lineups:

 

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Dustin Ackley – 2B

Adam Kennedy – 3B

Justin Smoak – 1B

Miguel Olivo – C

Mike Carp – LF

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Justin Wilson – SS

Michael Pineda – P

 

Nationals:

Roger Bernadina – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Ivan Rodriguez – C

Jerry Hairston – LF

Jason Marquis – P

Ian Desmond – SS

 

*In three career starts against the Mariners, Jason Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck them out 13 times while allowing only one home run.

 

*With last night’s victory, this has been the latest in any season since the end of the 2005 season (when they ended the season at 81-81) that the Nationals have been at .500. The last time they were even this year was May 11.

15 down, 147 to go

It is only 15 games into the season—just under 1/10th of the way through—and the Nationals moved over the .500 mark for the first time on Sunday. Granted, it is early and trying to predict future success on current records is senseless. At that same time, the current record isn’t meaningless and it is always better to be 10-5 then 5-10 even if neither record predicts future success. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know how the past 15 games have unfolded. The Nats are 8-7 and here are four things that probably flew under the radar:

On Friday night, the Nats won the game playing a brand of old-school, small ball baseball. The play is the epitome of who Jayson Werth is as a person, a hard-nose player willing to win at all costs and he doesn’t care if it is pretty. In the bottom of the 10th inning with the game tied 3-3, Werth reached on a throwing error by Yunesky Betancourt and immediately took second on the passed ball. It is tough to say how many runners would have remained at first base but Werth and all quality base runners look over their right shoulder when they get to first base in case there is a passed ball—it allows them to pick up the ball right away. Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate and on a 1-1 count, Werth stole third. “We’re having a hard time getting the bats going,” Werth said. “When that’s the case, you have to do something extra a little bit.”

LaRoche worked the count full and chopped a hard grounder to Prince Fielder at first base. Werth was running on contact and easily beat Fielder’s high throw to home. The ball didn’t leave the infield that inning and the Nats didn’t record a hit but they got their run. That’s all that mattered. It’s a brand of baseball that you will see more often.

There was an interesting three up, three down inning for the Nats on Sunday in the second game of the doubleheader. Michael Morse tried to stretch a single into a double but was gunned out by Ryan Braun’s right arm at second. LaRoche singled to right the next at-bat and then Wilson Ramos ground into a 5-4-3 double play. The Nats recorded two hits and only sent three players to the plate. Does anyone know of an instance in which three hits were recorded in an inning and only three hitters batted? I can think of many scenarios in which this could happen, all of which seem rather unrealistic, but conventional wisdom always seems to be turned on its head in baseball. The most obvious scenario is three straight batters trying to stretch a single into a double. It is the most obvious scenario and you would think the least likely. You can only assume after watching two teammates getting gunned out at second, the third batter would do everything in his control not to be that guy. That being said, I am sure it has happened.

Speaking of conventional wisdom, the common belief entering the season was that the Nationals starting rotation was their biggest shortcoming. That hasn’t been the case. The eclectic starting staff has strutted their stuff in the first 15 games, recording 10 quality starts (tied for second in the Majors) and pitching at least 5.0 innings in each game. They are the only team that can say that. The starters have a 3.30 ERA, good for fifth in the Majors, and have walked just 21 batters, good for 28th. That is a recipe for success.

Manager Jim Riggleman has shown that he will rely on three arms when the Nats are up by a run: Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett—it has been in that order so far this season. The big three have a collective ERA of 1.55 (29.0 IP/ 5 ER) with 27 strikeouts. We don’t quite know who will be the closer in September though. The Nats haven’t officially named Burnett the closer but he has been given every opportunity in the ninth so far this season, so it is tough to call it a closer by committee. “I’ve got the chances so far,” Burnett said. “But I understand that Drew was drafted for it with the kind of arm he has. I kind of feel that it’s more my job right now to do as well as I can, but to also help him potentially take over.” Drew Storen did pick up the save on Sunday in the night cap but it wasn’t a save situation entering the ninth inning.

The third annual NatsFest photo journal

Frank Howard told Bryce Harper he had a record that Harper would never touch and he wasn’t talking about his 48 home runs in a single season either. Howard can tell stories as detailed and captivating as a World War II veteran—you start to wish the story never ended. He talked about the doubleheader on Sept. 19, 1970 when he recorded six straight strikeouts and hit into a double play in his seventh at-bat to be the first person to strikeout six straight times and record eight outs in seven at-bats in one day. On the bright side, it was the first standing ovation he received as a visiting player.

Frank Howard didn’t just tell the story—he acted it out for his fans and his peers (Davey Johnson and Bob Boone.)

Future journalists? They showcased their interviewing skills and peppered (far left) Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, Manager Jim Riggleman, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen with questions.

It might not be long before Bryce Harper is calling Nationals Park home.

“I am pretty cool. I just got a high-five from Stephen Strasburg.”

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