Results tagged ‘ Mets ’

Nats vs. Mets take two

At first, last night’s game versus the Mets seemed to be headed in the same direction as many of the Nationals’ games the past month–a close, low-scoring game, pitched well enough for Washington’s starter to earn the win, but which ultimately ended in a heartbreaking loss due to lack of offensive output. But last night was different. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and the scoreboard reading 1-1, Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-ending sacrifice fly, providing Willie Harris enough time to scoot home and beat Jeff Francoeur’s throw from right field. Game over. Nationals 2, Mets 1.


Some fun facts about last night’s game:

– Livan Hernandez did not walk a batter and fanned seven, a season-high, in 7.0 innings. He allowed only one run. Hernandez has not given up more than two runs in any of his nine home starts this year. It’s the second-longest streak of consecutive home starts allowing two or fewer runs by any pitcher in Expos/Nationals franchise history. Scott Sanderson holds the record with ten straight starts in 1980.

Including last night’s 2-1 victory, Washington has played an MLB-leading 46 games decided by two runs or less this season.

– At 14-13 (.519), the Nationals have played discernibly better baseball against NL East foes than when facing interdivision opponents (21-32, .396).


Mets (44-35):

1.    Angel Pagan – CF

2.    Ruben Tejada – SS

3.    David Wright – 3B

4.    Ike Davis – 1B

5.    Jason Bay – LF

6.    Rod Barajas – C

7.    Jeff Francoeur – RF

8.    Alex Cora – 2B

9.    Jonathon Niese – SP (5-2, 3.84 ERA)


* The Mets have lost five of their last six road games, a skid immediately following a streak of seven consecutive road wins.

* Last night, the Mets suffered their ninth walk-off loss of the year, tied for most in the Majors with Arizona and Seattle.

 Nationals (35-45):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Michael Morse – RF

8.      Ian Desmond – SS

9.      Luis Atilano – SP (6-4, 4.33 ERA)

* Washington’s current bullpen ERA of 3.43 ranks fifth in the NL and ninth in MLB. Last year, the Nationals’ bullpen ranked last in MLB with a 5.04 ERA. Contrasting bullpen ERAs from this season to last, the Nationals’ improvement of -1.61 ERA paces the Major Leagues.

The Shortstop and the Glove

Inside Pitch Cover Ian Desmond.jpgIt was a few minutes before the game and there were a handful of fans circled around the photo well at Nationals Park, adjacent to the Nats dugout, lined up three, four, five deep just waiting patiently for an autograph. There were kids with baseballs, dads with jerseys and a mom with a pink bat. There was just one player present and it wasn’t a surprise that it was Ian Desmond. He has made it a daily practice to give fans what they want–his autograph. No one walked away empty-handed.

Everyone got an autograph and everyone left smiling. It is the Ian Desmond way: no shortcuts and stay until the job is finished. That’s why he takes extra ground balls. That’s why he practices the minor details of his position like throwing the ball sidearm to second base instead of overhand to save precious milliseconds. That’s why he practices signing his autograph, a signature he can sign in a blink of an eye.


Just a few months into his rookie season, Desmond is already making a difference on the field and with his storytelling in the clubhouse–even if no one believes him.


“You want a story of young fables,” said Nyjer Morgan laughing, who nicknamed him ‘Aesop’s Fables’ because he is full of tales. “He tells the most ridiculous stories. He acts like he is so wise. He thinks he is a wise man but his hands still haven’t crawled out of his turtle shell.”


Desmond could only laugh. It is all in fun, just part of being a rookie.

When you put Desmond and Morgan in the same room, you worry about the oxygen levels because collectively they are never short on words. Their friendship resembles Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Son–but they both think they are the teacher filled with infinite wisdom. Desmond doesn’t bear gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh but he is a man of many tales–spontaneous stories that don’t come to mind very easily. Morgan–a person who is never out of words–was at a loss trying to think of one of Desmond’s parables.

“I can’t remember anything because they are too ridiculous to remember,” Morgan said. “You just have to hear it for yourself.”

Desmond is a self-proclaimed wise man and Morgan is full of wise cracks.

“This is the problem,” Desmond said. “These older guys can’t appreciate the fact that a young guy has a little bit of wisdom. I got a little bit of wisdom. When I try to talk to Nyjer, he automatically takes it as jargon. But really there is a lot of reality to what I say, but he just doesn’t want to hear it.”

Sorry, Rookie.

His fables–or words of wisdom–have reached the point that when he opens his mouth he is immediately discredited. The common response is “Come on Aesop, that’s not true. Stop embellishing the story.” If you can’t argue the facts, just discredit the source.

Desmond was trying to show Morgan a few exercises with the foam roller in the Nationals weight room. The players roll on it to stretch their muscles but Nyjer would only use it to stretch his leg muscles so Desmond told him, “Nyj–that is great to use on your lower back and shoulders, it breaks up the tissue and makes your arm feel better.”

Yeah, whatever you say, Mr. Desmond.

For a week straight, Nyjer kept saying, “No, no, I don’t believe you.” Nyjer didn’t alter his routine and believed it was just for the legs. As the fable goes, Morgan tried it and he liked it.

“But when I tell him something,” Desmond said. “He pretends he came up with it on his own. ‘Aesop didn’t tell me, I thought of it myself.'”

Deciphering what is fact and what is fiction is as easy as asking two little kids who started the fight? The kids immediately point at each other and you are right back where you started. His nickname is no longer just a name–it is an action, a verb, a response to anything that can’t possibly be true, as in “That’s Aesop.”

 It works both ways. When he tells a story or when his teammates see him diving to his right, making a play in the hole that only he can get to and the first expression that comes to mind is “Wow, that’s Aesop.”

His ability to make unbelievable plays and his production at the plate earned him the starting position after Spring Training, and now he is showing he can play every day at the Major League level. It hasn’t been easy but it wasn’t easy getting here either. It took five years, numerous comparisons to Derek Jeter, a broken hand and a Single-A demotion. It has been the journey along the way that has provided him the wisdom and the knowledge to know that he can’t take it for granted.


Desmond off the field is the same person on the field. His reflecting sunglasses, gold chain, baggy pants and loose jersey is who he is–a laid-back, low key, Floridian. He keeps his family close to his heart–literally–there is a tattoo of his mom, dad–he passed away when Desmond was a child–and his step dad tattooed on his chest and the words “Family” tattooed on his left wrist.


“He’s special,” Third Base Coach Pat Listach said. “He’s out there and he wants the ball hit to him. And we do, too.”

desmond 4 c.JPGDesmond is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to his defense–he has the most errors in the Majors but still is one the best rated shortstops according to his range and ultimate zone rating, a statistic that tries to quantify a player’s value by the number of runs he saves. He makes the ‘how-did-he-do-that,’ gold glove play look routine but he has occasionally made the routine play look challenging.

It is just part of being a rookie–there are going to be errors just like there might be holes in his stories.

 “But it’s plays that are made that maybe some other people don’t make that’s impressive about Desmond,” Riggleman said. “Last year, there were plays that weren’t made that aren’t scored, errors that were killing our pitching staff. Guys are making plays now, Desmond especially.”

There is no need to embellish how good he can be, all you have to do is watch him.

After former General Manager Jim Bowden watched Desmond in 2005–his first invite to Big League Spring Training–he picked up his phone and called former Scouting Director Dana Brown to talk about Desmond. Bowden had just one complaint.

“Dana,” Bowden said. “You made a mistake when you drafted Desmond.”

“Why?” he asked, mystified by the statement.

“Because you took him in the third round instead of the first round,” Bowden replied.

Mistakes aside, he continues to prove at the young age of 24 that he can be a main contributor for the Nationals in the years to come.

“He’s a got a chance to be one of the elite shortstops in baseball,” Riggleman said.

That just means you should get his autograph while you can because it is only going up in value, even if he isn’t concerned with limiting the supply.

And that is no fable.

Nats vs. Mets: Game 1

If you believe the Nationals play in month-long spurts or slumps, you are probably glad that today is July 1. We can officially say goodbye to the month of June. On top of the promise a new month brings, the Nationals face the Mets tonight–a team that weathered both an 85-minute rain delay and a late flight from Puerto Rico last night. The Nationals themselves return home to kick off a 10-game homestand that will carry them into the All-Star Break, just another reason to stay positive. But the team has already been doing that. Here’s what they have to say about the June slump:

Jim Riggleman:All of us feel like we can win more games…I feel like there’s enough talent here that the glass is half-full.”

Ryan Zimmerman: “Whether we’ve won five in a row or lost five in a row, I think we have the same amount of confidence that we’re going to win every game.

Ian Desmond: “The sense in here is the feeling that you get when you can’t catch a break. That’s what it feels like. That’s the best description. There’s no one sad, no one’s upset. There’s probably some frustrated people, but no one’s down by any means. We’re ready to go, we’re ready to win every game.”

Mets (44-34):

1.    Jesus Feliciano – CF

2.    Ruben Tejada – SS

3.    David Wright – 3B

4.    Ike Davis – 1B

5.    Jeff Francoeur – RF

6.    Chris Carter – LF

7.    Henry Blanco – C

8.    Alex Cora – 2B

9.    Johan Santana – SP (5-5, 3.55 ERA)

* David Wright led the National League and was third in the Majors, hitting .404 (42-104) in June. He also led the NL and was second in the Majors with 29 RBI during the same period. Wright became the first player in franchise history to bat at least .400 with 25 or more RBI in a calendar month.

Nationals (34-45):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (6-4, 3.10 ERA)

* The Nationals’ 34 wins to date are eight more than the 26 W’s registered by the team prior to last season’s All-Star Break. Last year, Washington did not record its 34th win until August 3rd, an 8-4 victory at Pittsburgh.

What goes up…

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words so here is 6,000 words by Ian Desmond.

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Nats look for two game sweep

It is a beautiful day at the ballpark–the temperature is in the low 80’s and the sun is shining brightly. With a win tonight, the Nationals would secure their fourth straight series win at home. A win would also give the Nationals their third series win over the Mets this season alone. The Nationals have never claimed three series from the Mets in a single season before.


Here are a few more things to keep in perspective:

If you were at last night’s game, it could be the only game you ever attend where three semi-unique events all occur in one game: a pitcher recording his first Major League victory, an inside-the-park home run and a triple play. Each one by itself is semi-memorable but all three of them in the same game is magical.

Drew Storen picked up his first Major League victory and Stephen Strasburg earned the victory in his third Triple-A start. It may be a while before both pitchers earn a victory on the same night again in their careers.

Matt Capps converted his Major League leading 15th save last night, improving to 15-for-15 in save opportunities. The Nationals now have 16 saves on the season. The Nats didn’t record their 16th save last season until August 2.

Mets (19-22):

1.    Jose Reyes – SS

2.    Alex Cora – 2B

3.    Jason Bay – LF

4.    Ike Davis – 1B

5.    David Wright – 3B

6.    Angel Pagan – CF

7.    Rod Barajas – C

8.    Jeff Francoeur – RF

9.    John Maine – SP (1-3, 6.13 ERA)

* Angel Pagan’s inside-the-park homer in the fourth inning last night marked the first ever at Nationals Park. One inning later on defense, Pagan started an 8-2-6-3 triple play–the first triple play turned at Nationals Park.

* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a team has not posted an inside-the-park homer and a triple play in the same game since September 25, 1955. Philadelphia’s Ted Kazanski hit the homer and started the triple play against the New York Giants.

 Nationals (21-20):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – RF

8.      Ian Desmond – SS

9.      Luis Atilano – SP (3-0, 3.90 ERA)

* Drew Storen earned his first Major League win last night, tossing 0.2 scoreless innings and stranding his lone inherited runner. It was his second Big League contest. He did not earn a decision in his debut.

* In 12 of the Nationals’ last 15 games, including last night’s win, Washington’s bullpen has received the decision.

Nats look to end skid against Mets

Mets (19-21):

1.    Jose Reyes – SS

2.    Luis Castillo – 2B

3.    Jason Bay – LF

4.    Ike Davis – 1B

5.    Angel Pagan – CF

6.    Jeff Francoeur – RF

7.    Fernando Tatis – 3B

8.    Henry Blanco – C

9.    RA Dickey – SP


Rod Barajas is out of the starting lineup for the second straight game which is good for Nationals fans. He is batting .323 (21-for-65) with seven home runs, 13 runs and 16 RBI in his last 19 games.

 Nationals (20-20):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – RF

8.      Ian Desmond – SS

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (4-2, 1.46 ERA)


Since the game was rained out in Colorado on Friday night, Livan Hernandez is pitching on only three days rest. It shouldn’t be a problem for the rubber armed veteran. He could probably pitch every other day. Livo faces the Mets for the second time this season. He pitched seven scoreless innings against them on April 11 at Citi Field–his first start of the season.


Adam Dunn is back in the lineup after being held out of the starting lineup the past three games because of flu-like symptoms.


Ian Desmond is becoming more comfortable at shortstop every game. He is also batting .319 (22-for-69) with two home runs, 10 RBI and 10 runs in the last 20 games.


“I think I’m starting to get a little more acclimated,” Desmond said. “I think early on I was probably doing a little too much, just because I was new here and I was trying to get everything figured out. Now I think I’m getting more comfortable, and now it’s just baseball.”

Fly Willie… FLY

Willie Harris DC 1.jpg

 There has been a trend in baseball to focus on defensive stats and there isn’t a shortage of numbers: Arm (Outfield Arm Above Average), DPR (Double Play Runs Above Average), RngR (Range Runs Above Average), ErrR (Error Runs Above Average), WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).

If you don’t know what they stand for or what they mean, that’s fine. It just means you have a life. We won’t waste your time trying to describe them.

The only stat you need to know is: game saver. As in… Willie Harris is a game saver. He saved the game on Saturday with a sensational diving catch and it wasn’t the first time. It was as good as a walk-off home run. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Harris went airborne to rob Rod Barajas of a game winning hit, leaving the Nats celebrating and Mets fans on their feet with nothing to cheer about.

“He is so good, you got the feeling he is going to catch it,” Barajas said.

“I said, ‘Willie, you have to catch this ball. At least give it your best effort,'” said Harris, speaking in third person as if he wanted to impress Ricky Henderson. “If the ball falls in front of me, it was the game or at least tied and we have a play at the plate. It was pretty much a gamble. Fortunately, I came up with it and made the play.”

It was the third great catch Harris has made against the Mets since joining the Nationals. He also made a game saving catch when he robbed a home run on August 9, 2007 against the Mets when he played for the Braves.

Harris has moved around the baseball diamond with the Nats–playing every position except catcher and first base.

“You know Willie is a good player,” Jim Riggleman said. “Willie can go a lot of places on the field, he is a good hitter and he is fearless.”

Here are a few fearless defensive plays Willie has made… or at least looked good trying to make. We can’t confirm the ball ended up in his glove but we would just like to assume it did. I wouldn’t bet against it. Just like I wouldn’t bet against his love of flying.


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Monday morning short hops

·         The Nats wrapped up opening week with back-to-back wins against the Mets. The Nats are .500 for the first time since April 5, 2008 after a 5 RBI day by Josh Willingham and a brilliant pitching performance by Livan Hernandez. The Hammer hit a grand slam in the top of the first off of Johan Santana–originally ruled a triple only to be overturned by instant replay. It was Willingham’s fifth grand slam of his career and the first since he became the 13 player to hit two in one game on July 27 last season at Milwaukee. According to the Elias Sports Bureau… “Willingham’s first slam was for the Marlins on Aug. 11, 2007 off the Mets’ Guillermo Mota at Shea Stadium. No player has hit bases-loaded homers at both Shea and Citi Field for the Mets, but Willingham and Albert Pujols have done so as visitors.”


·         Stephen Strasburg earned his first professional victory, leading the Harrisburg Senators to a 5-4 win over the Altoona Curve. Strasburg’s final line was: 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. He threw 82 pitches, 55 for strikes.

“I definitely was super excited,” Strasburg said. “There definitely was a lot of anticipation for this outing. I went out there, from the get-go, I knew I was moving a little too quick out there. I had the adrenaline pumping. I was able to settle down and keep the team in the ballgame. Lucky enough, the bats came alive.”

·         Drew Storen closed out the first game for Stephen Strasburg and earned his first save of the season.

“I don’t want to be the guy blowing his first win,” Storen said. “Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. Hopefully, it won’t be the last time for me doing that.”

·         Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore writes Scott Olsen will replace Garrett Mock in the Nationals rotation and will start the Thursday game in Philadelphia.

·         ESPN’s Keith Law’s take on Strasburg’s Double-A Debut–Insider only.

“Strasburg’s velocity was incredible; he hit 99 with his first pitch and reached that mark two other times in the third inning. He didn’t throw a fastball under 97 until the fourth. Over his final two innings, he was 94-97, although he threw several pitches in the 94-96 range that had the slight tail of a two-seam fastball. His fastball command wasn’t great, although that may have been more a function of situation than inability to locate. His best, most consistent pitch was his curveball, 78-83 mph with incredibly sharp two-plane break and a downward finish, and he threw it for strikes most of the day. His worst pitch was, as before, his changeup, still a work in progress, although he threw several that were plus in the 87-88 mph range with hard downward tail; he overthrew several changeups, some as hard as 92, and didn’t locate the pitch well, throwing many (if not most) below the zone.”

·         Wall Street Journal’s Robert Costa sat down with Nationals season ticket holder and Pulitzer Prize writer George F. Will to talk about everything and anything baseball related.

“In baseball, if you’re a terrific young athlete, you’re going to spend some time on a bus, going from Laramie to Carlsbad,” Will said. “If you go to Ohio State and they make you into a running back, you’re able to go straight into the NFL. Or in college basketball, it’s one and done–you have a great year and then you’re rich, really rich. Baseball remains a humbling game, and partly because of that I think it’s still a pretty admirable slice of young American manhood.”