Results tagged ‘ Kurt Suzuki ’

What to Watch for: 9.13.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-78) vs. Washington Nationals (77-69)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3-0, 3.28) 

Lost a bit in the shuffle of Denard Span’s current 23-game hitting streak, another member of the Nationals lineup has put together a noteworthy streak that has not generated nearly the same amount of publicity.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, who successfully battled back from hamstring issues earlier in the year, will start his 21st consecutive game behind the plate when the Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. The streak, rare for a catcher in this era, brings him to within two games of breaking the longest streak of the season for a backstop: the 22 games started by perennial Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, from April 20-May 14.

During the streak, Ramos has contributed at a high level both at the plate and behind it. He has hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs, including a trio of blasts in the past five games, while throwing out 6-of-16 baserunners trying to steal. The latter stat is a welcome development, as his 37.5 percent caught stealing rate over the 20-game stretch is nearly triple the 12.9 percent (12-of-93) rate Nationals catchers had compiled entering play August 22, the first day of the streak.

“When I play every day, I like that, because I’m more consistent at the plate,” Ramos said of starting night in and night out.

More importantly, the Nationals have found a groove during Ramos’s run. They are 15-5 in the 20-straight games in which he has started, as his durability has helped offset the August 23 trade of Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland Athletics.

Since he returned from the disabled list on July 4, Ramos has paced all Major League catchers in both home runs (11) and RBI (41), making the most of his 200 plate appearances in that time. And, for the season, the Nationals have compiled a 40-24 record when Ramos starts, proving his value to a team that has otherwise gone 37-45 when he’s not penciled into Davey Johnson’s lineup card.

“I don’t want a day off right now, when I can do well and win a game,” Ramos said. “It feels great. If we win, why not?” 

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

PITCHING, IN DEPTH

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf toes the rubber tonight in place of originally scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg tonight, who was scratched with forearm tightness, but whom Davey Johnson expects to start again on September 19. Washington is 13-7 (.650) in games not started by their Opening Day rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler). The two replacement starters still currently in the rotation are Ohlendorf (2-0, 3.62 in five starts) and Tanner Roark (2-0, 1.50 in two starts), who are a combined 4-0 as starters and 9-0 overall.

THE LAST ‘STAND

Washington enters the final homestand of the season coming off an 8-2 road trip that has propelled them within 5.5 games of the Cincinnati Reds for the final postseason spot. Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (23-9, .719). In that span, the Nationals have led the National League in runs scored, en route to outscoring their opponents, 170-123. Washington’s current six-game winning streak is the team’s longest of the season.

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 23 straight games at a .385 (37-for-96) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 16 runs scored and 7 RBI. Span’s fifth career double-digit hit streak has raised his season batting average from .258 to .281. The streak includes seven multi-hit performances: a four-hit game, five three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. Span’s streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (CMichael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30 games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

What to Watch for: 8.23.13

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Washington Nationals (63-64) vs. Kansas City Royals (64-62)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-6, 3.38) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (5-1, 2.20)

Coming off a 3-1 series win over the Chicago Cubs, the Nationals continue their 10-game road swing with a trip to Kansas City for three games against the Royals. The Interleague series will mark Washington’s first visit to Kauffman Stadium since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005, and the first game in Kansas City for a D.C.-based team since August 22, 1971 – 42 years and one day ago.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper RF

4. Jayson Werth DH

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Adam LaRoche 1B

8. Tyler Moore LF

9. Anthony Rendon 2B

Gio Gonzalez LHP

MOVING DAY:

The Nationals announced a pair of roster moves Friday, as the team dealt catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland Athletics and outfielder David DeJesus to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In return for Suzuki, Washington acquired pitcher Dakota Bacus, a 6-foot-2 right-hander who was a ninth-round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.  The 22-year-old was 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA for Beloit of the Class-A Midwest League this season, after going 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA, 12 hits, five walks and 35 strikeouts in 30 innings during his Rookie League campaign a year ago. Bacus will report to Hagerstown of the Class-A South Atlantic League.

Tampa Bay will send Washington a player to be named later or cash considerations in exchange for DeJesus, who was picked up in a deal earlier in the week from the Chicago Cubs. The Nationals recalled catcher Jhonatan Solano and left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno to replace Suzuki and DeJesus on the 25-man roster.

GOON SQUAD COMES ALIVE:

Despite a slow start to the season, the Nationals bench provided a spark in the series win over the Chicago Cubs. Scott Hairston gave the Nats a huge lift with a go-ahead, three-run homer on Wednesday, while Tyler Moore (four hits in the series), Steve Lombardozzi (double and home run Thursday) and Chad Tracy (game-winning RBI Thursday) came through in key situations.

200 CLUB

Washington Manager Davey Johnson earned his 200th victory with the Nationals Wednesday night, the third team he has piloted to 200 wins. He went 595-417 with the New York Mets, 204-172 with the Cincinnati Reds and is now 201-171 with the Nationals. He also tallied 186 victories for the Baltimore Orioles and 163 more for the Los Angeles Dodgers during his illustrious managerial career.

 

What to Watch for: 8.19.13

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Washington Nationals (60-63) vs. Chicago Cubs (53-70)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (14-6, 3.02) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (6-11, 4.29)

The Nationals made a trade Monday afternoon, acquiring Chicago Cubs outfielder David DeJesus for a player to be named later. DeJesus brings a veteran, left-handed presence, along with the defensive versatility to play all three outfield spots. He’s also a familiar face for several Washington players, including Gio Gonzalez, Scott Hairston and Kurt Suzuki. All four played together as members of the Oakland A’s in 2011, while DeJesus and Hairston also shared a clubhouse in Chicago this season.

DeJesus didn’t have far to go to join his new team – he literally walked out of the Cubs dugout earlier this afternoon, crossed behind home plate, and disappeared into the Nationals dugout on the first base side.

On the field, DeJesus brings the same approach to the plate as other Nationals veterans, especially Jayson Werth. While he carries a career slash line of .290/.366/.448 against right-handers, DeJesus’ 4.07 pitches per plate appearance would put him in the top 10 in the National League with enough at-bats to qualify.

“My game is grinding out at-bats and making the pitcher work,” he explained.

Off the field, the 33-year-old hopes to provide an affable, congenial voice for a young club trying to come into its own.

“Try to be a leader, someone the young guys can learn from,” DeJesus said, when asked about what he brings to the club. “That’s my role, and I’m going to take that to heart.”

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Adam LaRoche 1B

6. Ian Desmond SS

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

ON SCHEDULE

The Nationals second half record is just 12-16, but they could be in store for a strong finish. Washington is 2-13 in the second half against the teams with the top four records in baseball (Braves, Tigers, Dodgers and Pirates) but 10-3 against everyone else (Mets, Brewers, Phillies and Giants). Beginning with today’s contest with the Cubs, the Nats play 27 of their remaining 39 games against teams currently at least 10 games below the .500 mark on the season.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

Last season, the Nationals went 29-13 against the NL Central, and their corresponding .690 winning percentage paced the Senior Circuit against the division. Washington is just 12-15 (.444) against the NL Central in 2013, including a 1-2 record against the Cubs. The Nationals have seven games remaining against NL Central competition (four at Chicago, three at St. Louis).

D.C.’S HIT MAN SOON TO BE EXPOSED

Jayson Werth’s .334 batting average would rank a close second in the National League to Atlanta’s Chris Johnson (.335) with enough plate appearances to qualify. Werth’s 371 plate appearances are 10 shy of the 381 required (123 games x 3.1 plate appearances per game) to qualify for the NL batting title. His 4.28 pitches per plate appearance would also be tops in the National League (Paul Goldschmidt, 4.19).

Highlights: 8.13.13

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8.13.13 – Nationals 4, Giants 2

Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche‘s two-run shot in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie and helped the Nationals to their fourth straight victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Tanner Roark earned his second win in four days, allowing one unearned run over two innings of relief.

It Was Over When: Kurt Suzuki‘s eighth-inning sacrifice fly scored Jayson Werth with an insurance run to provide the final margin.

Showing Heart and Hustle

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Ian Desmond has already been named an All-Star and has won a Silver Slugger Award in his career. With a few more plays like the barehanded one he made on Mike Minor’s slow roller last night, he may add a Gold Glove to that register at some point. But tonight, he can take great pride in earning the Heart & Hustle Award, an accolade seemingly created for a player like Desmond, who is growing into a leader both on the field and in the community.

Desmond (third from left) at the groundbreaking of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

Desmond (third from left) at the groundbreaking of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

The Annual Heart & Hustle Award recognizes one player on each Major League team who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. Of the 30 winners from each Major League team, one player will be chosen as the final Heart and Hustle Award recipient, as voted on by the more than 6,000 members of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. This winner will be announced at the Legends for Youth Dinner, held in New York City on November 19, 2013.

“We can’t control results, but we can control what we do off the field,” said Desmond in regards to his work in the community, particularly with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. “We’re called to do more than just get hits and play defense.”

Former Washington Senator and current Chairman of the Board of the MLBPAA, Jim Hannan will present Desmond with his award on the field prior to Tuesday night’s game vs. Atlanta. Desmond has been the Nationals nominee twice in the past, in both 2010 and 2011. Teammate Kurt Suzuki was also the Oakland Athletics nominee in both of the same years.

For more information on this award, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, and how you too can become a member, please visit www.baseballalumni.com.

Walk-Off Wonder

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The Nationals came into Thursday’s game desperately needing a win. For eight innings, it looked like they had finally broken through after dropping the first six games out of the All-Star break against a Dodgers squad just coming into its own and a Pirates team that has been as strong as any in baseball all season long. But it took another late rally in the ninth, a show of resiliency this team has been searching for, to deliver a Curly W.

Kurt Suzuki singled with one out, and after Roger Bernadina grounded into a 4-6 force out, The Shark stood at first as the winning run with two outs for the top of the order, in the form of Bryce Harper. The Nationals 20-year-old All-Star worked the count to 1-1, then extended through a cutter on the outer half from Pittsburgh reliever Bryan Morris. With the speedy Bernadina off and running on contact, the line shot looked like it might split the left-center field gap for a double. But as the ball continued to carry, center fielder Andrew McCutchen pulled up at the wall, watching as it cleared the #NATITUDE sign and dropped into the second row of the Red Porch.

Harper, who opened the game with a great diving catch before closing it with the home run, seemed more relieved than excited by his heroics.

Harper's walk-off blast was the first of his career.

Harper’s walk-off blast was the first of his career.

“I’m just happy we won the ballgame,” he said. “I’m serious. I could care less if it went over the fence or if it was a double off the wall.”

Whether the win provides the momentum swing to get the Nationals several wins in a row, to get them on a streak, remains to be seen. They will have a great chance on Friday, as they will face the Mets twice in a matter of hours, a doubleheader to start a four-game series over the next three days. The last time Washington faced their division rivals from Queens, they put up a season-high 13 runs. The resurgent offense was perhaps more important than the actual victory, as it will need to reemerge for the Nationals to take advantage of the series in front of them.

“I think it was just more important for us to get some hits,” said Ian Desmond of the bats Thursday, which produced 14 of them, two more than Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s games combined.

Nevertheless, Desmond recognized the difference in the clubhouse in terms of approach as the club looks ahead at the final 60 games of the 2013 campaign.

“I’m trying to take these games almost as playoff games. We’ve gotta win.”

Ryan Zimmerman, who was one of three Nationals with three hits (along with Harper and Steve Lombardozzi), echoed those sentiments.

“We needed a win,” he admitted. “It didn’t matter how we got it, although that’s the most exciting way you can get one.”

And while it may not have gone just how they envisioned, the Nationals will take every win, exciting or otherwise, that they can get.

Highlights: 6.29.13

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6.29.13 – Mets 5, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Kurt Suzuki had three of Washington’s seven hits and also drove in the lone run for the Nationals.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Taylor Jordan was solid in his Major League debut, as only one of the three runs he allowed was earned.

It Was Over When: The Mets scored twice in the sixth to double their lead, providing the game’s final margin.

Highlights: 6.28.13

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6.28.13 – Nationals 6, Mets 4

Stat of the Game: The Nationals matched their biggest deficit overcome on the season, rebounding from a 4-1 hole with just six outs to go.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ian Desmond broke up Matt Harvey’s perfect game with a home run in the fifth and put Washington ahead for good with an RBI-double in the ninth.

It Was Over When: Kurt Suzuki‘s sac fly added an insurance run and Drew Storen slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save of the year.

Stroke of Fortune

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Sometimes, just when it looks like everything is breaking against you, something that appears to be bad luck instead returns good fortune. In a game that appeared headed the direction that too many have already gone this season, where a couple bits of bad luck tilted a close game against them, the Nationals got just such a break Friday night.

Washington had precious few opportunities against Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood, who looked every part like the pitcher with a 2.33 ERA heading into his start, a number all the more impressive given half of his outings take place at Coors Field. The first of these chances followed a two-out Steve Lombardozzi walk in the second inning. Lombardozzi got a decent jump on Chatwood and appeared to have second base stolen with Kurt Suzuki at the plate, but was called out by second base umpire Rob Drake. Both Lombardozzi and Davey Johnson argued the play to no avail.

Colorado's forced pinch-hit opened the door for Desmond's game-winning home run.

Colorado’s forced pinch-hit opened the door for Desmond’s game-winning home run.

In the top of the fifth, Josh Rutledge hit the ball deep in the hole at shortstop, where Ian Desmond made a tremendous effort just to get to the ball, then had to throw across his body back towards first, his momentum carrying him towards the left field line. His throw arrived just as Rutledge was reaching first, but the runner was called safe. Thankfully, the Nationals would escape the inning with no damage.

In the sixth, following a leadoff single, D.J. LeMahieu took off for second, and it appeared that Kurt Suzuki’s throw might have him nabbed. But again, Drake signaled safe, another bang-bang play against the Nationals. Stephen Strasburg bore down to strike out Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario to once again avoid trouble, though.

One inning later, another seemingly unfortunate play actually helped set in motion the events that led to Washington’s eventual victory. With two outs in the top of the seventh, in a 1-1 tie, Rutledge – Strasburg’s personal tormenter for the evening – floated a double down the left field line into the corner, becoming the fifth runner in scoring position against the Nationals righty. The hit brought Chatwood’s spot to the plate, and in turn, forced Rockies manager Walt Weiss to pinch-hit for his starter in an attempt to take the lead. That ploy didn’t work, as Ryan Zimmerman chased down a Tyler Colvin pop-up to end the frame.

Furthermore, it resulted in Manuel Corpas enteringfrom the Colorado bullpen for the bottom of the seventh. He drew Desmond as his first assignment, and after missing with a pair of sliders, left a sinker up and out over the plate that Desmond crushed for his third home run in as many nights. The run provided the difference in the 2-1 victory, and marked the ninth of Desmond’s 12 homers that have given the Nationals the lead when they were hit.

That was just enough for Strasburg, who allowed only a single earned run for the sixth consecutive start, but had collected just two wins in the previous five. Instead, this was a win that harkened back to the early parts of last season, when Johnson’s mantra of great pitching, great defense and just enough timely hitting seemed to be enough to win most nights. Even when everything seemed to be breaking bad.

The Walking Dead

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For six innings Wednesday night, as they have much of the season to date, the Nationals struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. And then, slowly, piece by piece, the offense collected itself, as the bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip.

The bats lay dormant, unable to generate anything more than Adam LaRoche‘s second-inning single through six frames. Meanwhile, two batters in, the Phillies were out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of Michael Young’s two-run home run. Gio Gonzalez settled in after that, as he did not allow a hit the rest of the way through seven innings of work. He notched 11 strikeouts, the most he’s ever recorded as a member of the Nationals, matching his career high.

Jayson Werth deilvered a pair of clutch, two-out, RBI-singles to force extra innings.

Jayson Werth deilvered a pair of clutch, two-out, RBI-singles to force extra innings.

Finally, a solid, patient at-bat by Ryan Zimmerman led to a one-out walk in the seventh, and he stood at second base with two outs and Jayson Werth coming to the plate. The former Phillie reached out and rapped a single to right field to score the run and cut the lead in half, a big clutch hit in a season sorely needing more of them.

After a quiet eighth frame, the Nationals would be tasked with trying to deliver Jonathan Papelbon his second blown save in three nights after entering the series a perfect 13-for-13 on the season. Denard Span, whose job in most any situation – but especially this one – is to get on base, did just that, chopping an infield single. He remained at first until, with two outs, LaRoche walked, bringing up Werth once more. He, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped another two-out, RBI-single, this one to left, as Span flew around third, scoring the tying run without a throw. But, as had been the case Monday night in Papelbon’s blown save on Chad Tracy‘s pinch-hit, two-out, two-strike home run, the Nationals were unable to push ahead. Ian Desmond struck out, stranding runners at the corners, spiking his helmet in frustration.

“After the at-bat against Papelbon, I’m just thinking, ‘Give me one more chance,’” Desmond said after the game.

The Washington bullpen conspired to afford Desmond and the Nationals that opportunity. Tyler Clippard fired an inning and two thirds of scoreless ball, giving way to Ian Krol, who got Dominic Brown – Monday’s hero – to end the bottom of the ninth. After the Nationals offense threatened, but failed to score, in the top of the 10th, Drew Storen fanned a pair and put up a zero in the bottom half, taking the game to the 11th inning.

Ian Desmond's first career grand slam won it in the 11th.

Ian Desmond’s first career grand slam won it in the 11th.

With one out, it was again Zimmerman who got the wheels turning, lacing a low liner to the left-center field wall for a double. That prompted Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies to play matchup, deciding to intentionally walk LaRoche to get to the man with both of Washington’s RBI, Werth. An unintentional walk later, the bases were loaded, Desmond stepping to the plate with the second chance he begged for earlier. After falling behind 0-2, the shortstop worked the count back to 2-2, where he annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes into the seats beyond the left-center field wall.

“I did the same thing I always do,” said Desmond when asked about the blast after the game. “See the white ball, put the barrel on it.”

Before Desmond had reached the jubilant visitors dugout, rivers of Phillies fans had already begun streaming for the exits, an actualized shifting of the tides. Rafael Soriano quietly shut the door, and the Nationals returned to Washington with an enormous win and a positive end to their road trip, thanks to perhaps the biggest swing of the season from their shortstop.

“He’s quite a character,” said Nationals skipper Davey Johnson of Desmond. “He’s got a lot of big hits for us in the past.”

It was Desmond’s first career grand slam (and Washington’s first of the season), but he has had plenty of success with the bases loaded, as it was his 17th hit in 40 such at-bats, good for a .425 batting average. The timing and importance of the blast hearkened back to Desmond’s game-winner on May 2, 2012, when he swung a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory with a two-out, walk-off blast off Arizona’s J.J. Putz.

“That’s like how I remember it from last year,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki of the feeling in the dugout after the blast. “It was pretty exciting.”

If Wednesday night’s series finale in Philadelphia turns out to be a microcosm of the 2013 Nationals season, recounting what has happened to date and foreshadowing what lies ahead, we are all in for a nerve-fraying, heart-stopping, hair-graying ride before the year is done. But if the ending portends anything of the future, it will have been worth the ride.

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