Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’

Rays of Hope

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This is a story about a young, exciting team, built from the ground up through great drafts. It is a story about a dominating pitching staff helping lead the way through one of baseball’s toughest divisions. It is a tale of a team that endured injuries to its top outfielder, its franchise third baseman and its closer, yet found a way to keep winning games. It is about a franchise that has never enjoyed a season above .500, but suddenly found itself at 38-26 through its first 64 games, with a reason to believe it could look forward to exciting September – and possibly October – baseball.

This is a story about the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

Stephen Strasburg has led the game’s best pitching staff.

If the themes sound familiar, well, they should. The parallels between this year’s Nationals team and that Rays squad that shocked the baseball world by winning 97 games and the American League East crown, eventually going all the way to the World Series, are astounding.

To start, there are number one overall picks – David Price and Stephen Strasburg – lighting up radar guns. While Price did not make his debut until late in the season, the staff was led by James Shields, Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir, all 26 or younger. Similarly, the Nationals have their rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson behind Strasburg, with Jackson being the elder statesman at 28. Oh, by the way, where do you suppose Jackson was four years ago, when he was just 24? Sharing the Rays team lead in wins with Shields, as the fourth member of that 2008 rotation.

Tampa Bay also turned in by far the best year the franchise had ever seen without a single player, starter or reserve, batting over .300, finishing 13th out of 14 in the American League in hitting. But great pitching can help make up for a lot. Aside from the aforementioned starters, they also had great bullpen pitching, led by Grant Balfour (6-2, 1.54 in 51 appearances), Chad Bradford (1-0, 1.42 in 21 appearances) and J.P. Howell (6-1, 2.22 in 64 appearances). As we discussed when the homestand began, the trio of Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen have combined for a 1.65 ERA over their first 87.2 innings pitched this season, holding down the fort until closer Drew Storen returns.

Adam LaRoche has stood alone as the Nationals top power threat.

The Rays survived the gauntlet of the AL East with just one 30-home run hitter, first baseman Carlos Pena, who hit 31. The Nationals top power threat so far has been first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is quietly having a terrific comeback season after spending most of last year on the Disabled List. LaRoche launched his 12th home run of the season Sunday, putting him right on pace for 30 this season.

Then there are the scintillating rookies – Evan Longoria and Bryce Harper – that have energized the fan base, and given each franchise a face recognized around the baseball world. Buoyed by that national support, the Rays had three players selected to the All-Star Game that July, the most the franchise had ever sent to the Mid-summer Classic. The third and final to go (joining Kazmir and catcher Dioner Navarro) was Longoria, who won the MLB Final Vote campaign. With Strasburg and Gonzalez seeming like strong candidates from the rotation, might Final Vote history repeat itself, giving Washington three All-Stars in 2012?

If the Nationals needed any consolation after one of the toughest weekends of the season, they need only look into the opposing dugout, at a franchise that has become the model after which many wish they could mold themselves. The Rays have averaged 92 wins each of the last four years, led by that core of young players and a strong pitching staff. If they can do it, why can’t the Nationals?

So, is this a story about the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, or is it a story about the 2012 Washington Nationals?

Yes.

Weekly Review (6/11)

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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 action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Nationals entered the week in first place in the National League East, coming off a weekend sweep of the Boston Red Sox. The road trip continued to Toronto for the first of a three-game set, in which they pounded out 14 hits to help Edwin Jackson to his third victory of the season. Upon further review, we discovered an odd but fortuitous connection between Jackson’s starts and the bat of Adam LaRoche. Meanwhile, the Nationals announced the signing of 23 recent draft picks, including six of their top 10 selections. In game two of the series, Bryce Harper and company accepted the challenge to “Be Bold” as they crushed three home runs in support of Stephen Strasburg in a 4-2 triumph to win their fifth straight. A different rookie stepped up to be the hero of game three, as Tyler Moore hit his first two Major League home runs and drove in five RBI to key a 6-2 victory, a series sweep, and a season-high sixth consecutive win.

Back at home, as the team relaxed on their off-day Thursday, members of the Nationals ownership group enjoyed a unique experience, thanks to the US Navy. Meanwhile, we took advantage of the break to answer a number of your questions surrounding the Ignite Your NATITUDE Tweet-up, more commonly known as #IYNT.

The club returned home to face the Yankees on Friday as we celebrated the US Army’s 237th birthday. At the same time, Ian Desmond encouraged fans to start a new patriotic tradition in our Nation’s Capital for the National Anthem. Unfortunately, the team and could never really get rolling against Phil Hughes, dropping a 7-2 decision. A tough call on what would have been the go-ahead run in the eighth inning doomed the two teams to a 14-inning battle on Saturday. Even with seven hitless innings from the Nationals underrated bullpen, New York eventually prevailed, 5-3. In the finale, despite our clairvoyant tweet, the Yankees completed the weekend sweep to run their winning streak to nine games.

Mon @ TOR: W, 6-3

Tue @ TOR: W, 4-2

Wed @ TOR: W, 6-2

Thu: OFF

Fri vs. NYY: L, 2-7

Sat vs. NYY: L, 3-5

Sun vs. NYY: L, 1-4

Weekly Record: 3-3

What to Watch for: 6/17

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New York Yankees (39-25) vs. Washington Nationals (38-25)

RHP Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02)

The Nationals and Yankees take the field for the series finale this afternoon at Nationals Park. While both bullpens must recover quickly from yesterday’s 14-inning affair, Edwin Jackson is looking to give the Nats the proper start they need to defeat New York. Happy Father’s Day!

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Lombardozzi LF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Solano C

9. Jackson RHP

AVOIDING THE BROOMS

The Nationals will try to avoid their first home sweep of 2012 today. To date, the Nationals have been swept twice this season, both of which came on the road (at Los Angeles, at Miami). In fact, the last team to sweep the Nationals in D.C. was the Marlins, who won three times in three days July 26-28, 2011. While the Nats have dropped two straight, they have won six of eight and eight of their last 11 contests.

JUNE PITCHING BOON

During a 9-4 June, Steve McCatty’s starting rotation has yet to allow more than three runs in a game and has limited opposing teams to two runs or less ten times in 13 contests. In fact, as good as the starting staff has been (3.02 ERA, .218 batting average against) during June, the bullpen has performed better (2.82 ERA, .189 BAA).

DESMOND MATCHES CAREER HIGH

With his game-tying home run in the eighth inning yesterday, Ian Desmond matched his career-high with 10 home runs on the season. He also hit 10 in 2010, but did not hit his tenth until September 14th at Atlanta.

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An Unlikely Pair

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Despite his stellar ERA of just over 3.00, Edwin Jackson has won just three games this season. The vagaries of pitching wins can be discussed ad nauseum, so we’ll leave that column for someone else, some other time (shameless plug alert: perhaps the next Inside Pitch, available beginning this Friday, FREE, at Nats Park). What’s intriguing, though, is a running theme throughout each of Jackson’s triumphs: the presence of Adam LaRoche.

Edwin Jackson has gotten consistent support on the mound from Adam LaRoche, dating back to their days in Arizona.

When Jackson turned in one of the Nationals most impressive pitching performances of the season – a complete game, two-hitter of the Reds back on April 14 for his first win of the year – it was LaRoche’s two-run double that broke a 1-1 tie and led to the eventual 4-1 victory. Jackson would not win again until last Wednesday, at home against the Mets, when LaRoche’s three-run, first-inning home run and subsequent sacrifice fly were enough to singlehandedly beat the Mets in a 5-3 final. And again, Monday night in Toronto, with a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, LaRoche blasted an upper-deck monster of a home run to stretch the lead to 4-1. Toronto would get no closer than that three-run margin the rest of the night, as Jackson earned his third win.

In fact, in Jackson’s 12 starts this year, LaRoche is batting .383 (18-for-47) with three doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI.

We have mentioned before in this space (following the sparkling, two-hit performance in April) that this odd trend actually goes all the way back to when the two were teammates in Arizona in 2010. LaRoche’s solo home run provided the lone run of support for Jackson’s no-hitter on June 25 that year. He also drove in a pair in Jackson’s other spectacular outing in 2010, eight innings of shutout ball in which he allowed just four hits while fanning 12 against the Marlins.

So what is it about Edwin Jackson starting that seems to bring out the best in Adam LaRoche? We really can’t be sure, but we know one thing for certain: we’ve already got this upcoming Sunday circled, when Jackson is slated to toe the rubber in the finale of the Yankees series. With right-hander Ivan Nova scheduled to start for New York (LaRoche has hit nine of his 11 homers and 21 of 26 extra-base hits against righties), we’ll have our eyes on the powerful lefty in the box all afternoon long.

Weekly Review (6/4)

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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 action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Monday brought with it the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, in which Washington snagged prep right-hander Lucas Giolito with the 16th overall pick. Meanwhile, the Nationals returned home as they continued their stretch of 33 straight games versus east division opponents with a three-game set against the New York Mets. The teams went extra innings on Tuesday, as Ian Desmond became the first player since Cincinnati’s Art Shamsky in 1966 to tie a game three separate times in the 8th inning or later before Bryce Harper hit the first walk-off by a teenager since 1988 in a 7-6, 12-inning win. On Wednesday, Adam LaRoche homered in the first inning on his way to a four-RBI night in support of Edwin Jackson, as the Nationals won their second series in as many tries against the New York National League Ballclub. The Mets bounced back on Thursday behind a sparkling performance by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to salvage the final game of the set, 3-1.

Washington then hit the road for just the club’s second visit to Fenway Park in team history since the move from Montreal. Friday night, the Nationals recorded their first-ever win in Boston, using a superb team effort to back a 13-strikeout performance from Stephen Strasburgon the two-year anniversary of his Major League debut – in a 7-4 victory. The team struck early on Saturday, jumping out to a four-run lead early, then hanging on late for a 4-2 victory thanks to some solid work by the bullpen. The Nationals then capped off the week with a Sunday victory for just their second full-series sweep of the year, as Tyler Clippard recorded his third save in as many days in a 4-2 final.

Mon: OFF

Tue vs. NYM: W, 7-6 (12)

Wed vs. NYM: W, 5-3

Thu vs. NYM: L, 3-1

Fri @ BOS: W, 7-4

Sat @ BOS: W, 4-2

Sun @ BOS: W, 4-3

Weekly Record: 5-1

What to Watch for: 6/11

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Washington Nationals (35-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-29)

RHP Edwin Jackson (2-3, 3.11) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (7-3, 2.90)

The Nationals move on to another Interleague series at Rogers Centre in Toronto to face the Blue Jays starting Monday night. Washington is looking to strengthen its lead in the NL East, but Toronto ace Brandon Morrow may prove as a major challenge in tonight’s series opener.

CANADIAN HOMECOMING

The Nationals return north of the border for just the fourth time since relocating from Montreal to Washington, D.C. prior to the 2005 season. This marks their first Canada trip since June 2007 when they dropped two of three to the Blue Jays, and where they are just 2-7 in Canada since making the move. Two Nationals coaches have Blue Jays ties as bench coach Randy Knorr played five seasons (‘91-’95) and won two World Series rings with the Jays and bullpen coach Jim Lett coached on Toronto’s staff from ‘97-’99.

EDWIN LOOKS TO CONTINUE THE WINNING WAYS

Edwin Jackson collected just his second win of the season in his last start (6/6 vs. NYM) despite seven quality starts in 11 outings so far in 2012. Tonight, he makes his 14th career start against the Blue Jays. He is 3-0 with a 4.43 ERA (20 ER/40.2 IP) in his last six starts against Toronto dating to July 30, 2008.

NL BROOMS MAKE RARE APPEARANCE AT FENWAY

With a weekend series sweep over the Red Sox, the Nationals became the first National League team to sweep a series at Fenway since the Atlanta Braves did so in June ’02. Roger Bernadina broke a 3-3 tie with a RBI-double in the ninth inning off Alfredo Aceves, scoring Bryce Harper from first base. Jordan Zimmermann posted seven innings of three-run ball, before turning it over to Tom Gorzelanny (win, 2-1) and Tyler Clippard (8th save).

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What to Watch for: 6/7

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New York Mets (31-26) vs. Washington Nationals (32-22)

RHP Robert Alan Dickey (8-1, 2.69) vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-1, 6.43)

As the Nationals lead the series (2-0), the Mets are hoping to prevent the home team from walking away with a series sweep this afternoon. Mets’ pitcher R.A. Dickey, is coming off of a shutout, when he faced the Cardinals last Saturday, while Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang makes his first home start of the season.

ADAM’S BOMB PROVIDES NEEDED SUPPORT

After Bryce Harper reached on an error and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a walk, Adam LaRoche hit his ninth home run of the season to put the Nationals ahead 3-0 in the first inning last night. With one swing, LaRoche provided Edwin Jackson with more run support than he received in five of his previous 10 starts as a member of the Nationals.

SERIES BUSINESS AT NATS PARK

With last night’s 5-3 victory over the visiting New York Mets, the Nationals now boast a 6-1-3 record in series at Nationals Park in 2012. A victory today would give the Nats their second home sweep of the season (Miami, 4/20-21).

MORSE CODE

Michael Morse plated his first RBI of the season last night with a single to right field in the fifth inning, plating Ryan Zimmerman. After going 0-for-9 since his return from the DL, Morse now has four hits in his last seven at-bats, with two doubles and an RBI.

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What to Watch for: 6/6

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Game 54: New York Mets (31-25) vs. Washington Nationals (31-22)

RHP Jeremy Hefner (1-2, 5.60) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (1-3, 3.17)

Tonight, the Nationals are looking to secure a second win over the Mets in game two of the series at Nationals Park. After the 12 inning-long battle last night in which Washington used each of its relief pitchers, starter Edwin Jackson is toes the rubber for the Nationals tonight.

DRAFT

The Nationals notable selection of the second day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft was University of California-Berkeley second baseman Tony Renda. He hit .342 with 16 doubles, five home runs and 27 RBI as a junior in 2012. His 16 stolen bases led his club and ranked second in the Pac-12. For his efforts in 2012, Renda was named Third-Team TPX All-American by Collegiate Baseball as well as First-Team All-Pac-12.

EXTRA! EXTRA!

With his game-ending hit in the bottom of the 12th inning last night, Bryce Harper became the first teenage to record a game-ending hit since 1988. With RBI in the 8th, 10th and 12th innings, Ian Desmond became the first big leaguer since Cincinnati’s Art Shamsky in 1966 to tie a game three separate times in the 8th inning or later.

BIG EAST

The Nationals are 13-7 against NL East competition (4-1 vs. ATL, 2-3 vs. MIA, 4-2 vs. PHI, 3-1 vs. NYM) and their .650 intradivision winning percentage is tops in the NL East.

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Round Two (Through 50)

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It’s June, and the Nationals are still in first place, albeit by a tenuous half-game in a competitive NL East. The new month does bring some changes, though, including the second edition of Nationals Magazine. This issue includes features on Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, as you can see below.

We are also on to the fourth edition of Inside Pitch, which previews the MLB First-Year Player Draft, starting on Monday. Make sure to pick up both of them at the ballpark this homestand!

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: NATITUDE Park

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Hello again Nats fans,

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the season thus far.

I’d like to start with last weekend’s crowds at ‘NATITUDE Park.’ I am very proud to say that over 100,000 were in attendance for the three-game set against the rival Philadelphia Phillies. D.C. baseball fans left little doubt that they take their baseball seriously. Taking two of three from the Phillies is always welcome, but to do so in front of back-to-back-to-back large crowds made the weekend memorable for all.

Bryce Harper has provided an extra spark for the Nats lineup.

Being a part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was a thrill for all of us. It was our first ESPN Sunday Night game since Nationals Park opened on March 30, 2008. Everything looked fantastic, as usual, in HD and the entire atmosphere was electric.

How about Bryce’s steal of home on Sunday? Not only won’t that moment be forgotten, it’s likely to be talked about with reverence for years to come. I have had friends tell me this week that the swipe was Bryce’s “arrival” on a national stage.

I know that Jayson Werth and Bo Porter both had a hand in educating Bryce on Cole Hamels’ pickoff tendencies. That was a true team effort. All in all, everything about last weekend went perfectly, Sunday’s result and especially Jayson’s wrist injury notwithstanding.

As I write this, the Nationals are caught in a three-game losing streak. The bats have been a tad flat, but that should be temporary, especially with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche now back in the lineup. And Mike Rizzo tells me that Michael Morse and his Beast Mode are progressing quite well. We can really use that jolt in the middle of the lineup.

I’d also like to recognize the strong play of LaRoche thus far. He’s leading the club in the Triple Crown categories: a .316 batting average, five homers and 19 RBI. After an injured left shoulder hindered his play last season, I am glad to he is back this season and playing at the levels he expects for himself. Rizzo calls Adam a two-way player. In my mind, he is a three-way player, as there is also no finer gentleman or community advocate in our clubhouse.

Adam’s homer in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh was the 1,000th home run hit by the Nationals since arriving in Washington in 2005. I remember being at the Nationals first game in Philadelphia and watching Terrmel Sledge launch our first homer at Citizens Bank Park. Why does that initial game in April of 2005 seem like such a long time ago? And at the same time, why does it seem like yesterday? I suppose that is the nature of this game.

Stephen Strasburg returns to the hill for the Nationals Thursday night.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the continued excellence of Steve McCatty’s starting rotation. Collectively, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler are the best rotation in the game right now. I don’t think anyone can objectively argue this point. Consider, in 16 the last games, the rotation has posted 15 quality starts and allowed one run or less 8 times. That’s sustained dominance.

Tonight, Strasburg takes the mound at PNC Park. Here’s to this three-game slide being temporary!

The NHL playoffs, and the Capitals series with the New York Rangers, also have my attention.

Game 6 was really something last night. I attended the game with Drew Storen as my guest. Drew along with many of his teammates, are really enjoying the Caps and their march through the Eastern Conference. Incidentally, Drew’s elbow is feeling fantastic and he is very anxious to get back on the mound.

As for the game, Ovechkin’s early goal really set the stage for loud evening at the Verizon Center. In between the pipes, Braden Holtby played with a grace and poise well beyond his years. He’s been just fantastic.

After further review, I just noted that the Nationals play in Cincinnati on Sat. at 7:05 p.m. And the Caps play Game 7 that same night at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m.

Nearly simultaneous starts, again? That’s two straight weekends! Not that I am counting!

We will start at our homestand Monday night against the San Diego Padres. Please come out and support the team. They are playing great ball and as we all know they are fun to watch.

Let’s go Caps!

Let’s go Nats!

Please enjoy the weekend and Happy Mother’s Day!

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