Results tagged ‘ Milwaukee Brewers ’

To the Last Man

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To the last minute.

To the last second.

To the last man.

We fight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights: 8.2.13

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8.2.13 – Nationals 4, Brewers 1

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann delivered six scoreless frames for his career-high 13th win of the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Bryce Harper tied the team lead with his 16th home run and drove in a pair.

It Was Over When: Washington added an insurance run in the top of the ninth to pad the lead and provide the final margin.

What to Watch for: 8.2.13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Werth RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Zimmermann RHP

A WERTHY P.O.M. CANDIDATE

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

CLASS OF 2005

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

Home Runs: Second, 165 (Braun, 211)

RBI: Second, 647 (Braun, 681)

Hits: First, 1208

BELOW THE SURFACE

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

What to Watch for: 7.5.13

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San Diego Padres (40-46) vs. Washington Nationals (43-42)

 RHP Andrew Cashner (5-3, 3.31) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-3, 3.09)

After celebrating our nation’s birthday with a 8-5 win over the Brewers Thursday, including five RBI off the bat of newly-returned Wilson Ramos, the Nationals look to make it back-to-back wins as they welcome the San Diego Padres to D.C. tonight. This is the second time and final tiem the Nationals will face the Padres this season after May’s series in San Diego ended in a 2-2 split.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Werth RF

7. Rendon 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Gonzalez LHP

RAMOS RETURNS

Wilson Ramos returned from a 44-game stint on the disabled list with a (literal) bang, as his three-run homer in the seventh inning capped the scoring in Washington’s 8-5 Independence Day victory over the Brewers. Ramos finished with a career-high five RBI as the Nationals split the four-game series against the Brewers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ramos was the first player to post five RBI in the first game after a seven-plus week stint on the DL since Nelson Cruz did so on July 28, 2007 at Kansas City.

THESE GUYS ARE A-O.K.

Neither Fernando Abad, Ross Ohlendorf nor Ian Krol were member of the Nationals Opening Day roster, but all three joined the Nationals in June and are currently thriving in Jim Lett’s bullpen. Collectively, Abad, Ohlendorf and Krol are 1-2 with two holds, zero blown saves and a 1.49 ERA in 33 appearances. The trio has stranded seven of eight inherited baserunners and posted a .189 batting average against, a 0.83 WHIP and a 6.33/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (38 K, 6 BB).

OPPORTUNITY’S KNOCKING

At 8-6 (6-5 at home, 2-1 on the road), the Nationals are 14 games into a 49-game stretch (June 20-Aug. 15) in which they will enjoy 34 games within the comfy confines of Nationals Park. Washington is playing .571-ball in D.C. (24-18), but has struggled on the road (19-24, .441). The Nationals will play more home games in July than any other month this season, as 18 of July’s 27 contests will be played in The District.

Ramos Returns

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Having spent the past 44 games on the disabled list, Wilson Ramos’ return to the Nationals lineup on Thursday couldn’t have come soon enough, and the catcher wasted no time reasserting himself.

Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three) capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“That pitching must have been awful tough down at Potomac,” quipped Davey Johnson, alluding to Ramos’ struggles to regain his offensive prowess during his rehab stint at High-A Potomac prior to his breakout game Thursday.

Ramos took a curtain call from the crowd after his three-run home run Thursday.

Ramos took a curtain call from the crowd after his three-run home run Thursday.

While it was just one swing, one can only imagine how therapeutic it must have been for Ramos, watching the ball sail over the visitor’s bullpen in left field, landing in a sea of red-clad fans.

“It was a great moment,” Ramos said. “I have to keep working. A lot’s happened in my career. A lot of bad moments, a lot of good moments. I have to learn from the bad moments and enjoy the good moments.”

With the well-documented turmoil of his past two years, including a twice-strained hamstring this season, it would have been easy to allow for some degree of rust in his first game action since May 15. No such pardons were necessary on Thursday, however. Instead, in his first pressure situation of the day, Ramos poked a sixth-inning, bases-loaded single up the middle to score Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth.

An even bigger opportunity presented itself again just an inning later. After taking a slider for ball one and waiting out a mound conference, Ramos drove Brandon Kintzler’s second slider over the Brewers bullpen, putting Washington ahead for good.

It was the kind of moment that has been eluding the Nationals for most of the year, a clutch, late-game instant that carries the team to victory. But it wasn’t the kind of moment that’s new to Ramos. Just last season, he drilled a bases-loaded, walk-off single up the middle in an 11-inning, 4-3 win against the Phillies to open NATITUDE Weekend. On June 22, 2011, Ramos capped a five-run ninth inning with a three-run walk-off homer for a 6-5 win over the Mariners, one of the most dramatic triumphs in franchise history.

“You see what the guy has gone through, more than anybody can imagine,” Drew Storen said. “That’s why we were excited to have him back, because he comes up in those big spots. He does big things.”

If his first game back forebears any of what he might achieve this season, Ramos could be the missing piece to the Nationals puzzle as they look to take off in the season’s second half.

Highlights: 7.4.13

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7.4.13 – Nationals 8, Brewers 5

Stat of the Game: Wilson Ramos returned to the lineup and plated 5 RBI, including three on his game-winning home run in the seventh inning.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, who were flipped between the second and sixth spots in the lineup, combined to go 6-for-7 with two walks, four runs scored and an RBI.

It Was Over When: Ramos’ blast over the visiting bullpen in left field broke a 5-5 tie, leading the Nationals to victory.

What to Watch for: 7.4.13

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Milwaukee Brewers (34-49) vs. Washington Nationals (42-42)

RHP Donavan Hand (0-1, 2.63) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.08) 

Washington and Milwaukee close the Brewers lone visit to D.C. of the 2013 campaign with a matchup of two rookies with three combined career Major League starts. The Nationals get Wilson Ramos back from the disabled list for his first game since May 15 as they aim for the series split and attempt to move back above .500.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Werth RF

7. Rendon 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Jordan RHP

WELCOME BACK, WILSON

Wilson Ramos returns to the Nationals for the first time in nearly two months, following a rehab assignment at High-A Potomac. Ramos batted .250 (12-for-48) with three doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 14 games before landing on the DL.

REN-GONE

Anthony Rendon accounted for Washington’s lone run last night, blasting his second Major League home run. The rookie is batting .330 (34-for-103) with 13 runs scored and eight RBI since his early June recall.

BREAKING EVEN

At 42-42, the Nationals own a .500 record for the 19th time this year (excluding season-opening 0-0 record). In recent weeks, the Nationals have sported almost methodical 27-27, 28-28, 29-29, 31-31, 32-32, 33-33, 34-34, 36-36, 37-37, 38-38, 39-39, 40-40 and 42-42 records.

What to Watch for: 7.3.13

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Milwaukee Brewers (33-49) vs. Washington Nationals (42-41)

RHP Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.63) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (2-6, 4.13)

The Nationals and Brewers meet in the third of four games in this series as Ross Detwiler faces off against Kyle Lohse in a rematch of Game 4 of last season’s National League Division Series. Neither pitcher received a decision in that game, which was won 2-1 by the Nationals on Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Rendon 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

THE POWER OF 3

When scoring three or more runs this season, the Nationals are 37-10 (.787). However, when plating two or fewer runs, Washington is just 5-31 (.139).

NOTHING SHORT OF REMARKABLE

Ian Desmond leads all MLB shortstops with 22 doubles and 39 extra-base hits (22 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs). Remarkably, 10 of Desmond’s 15 long balls have been go-ahead homers. On Sunday, Desmond homered and tallied three RBI to established Nationals (‘05-present) records for RBI in a single month (28) and home runs (nine) in the month of June.

LIFE SPAN

Denard Span is hitting .348 (16-for-46) four walks, five doubles, a triple, nine runs scored and two RBI over 12 games dating to June 20. Span has reached base safely 20 times in those 12 games en route to a .400 OBP.

Highlights: 7.2.13

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7.2.13 – Brewers 4, Nationals 0

Stat of the Game: Stephen Strasburg twirled seven scoreless frames, lowering his ERA to 2.24 for the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Anthony Rendon picked up another multi-hit game, his 12th in 32 big league contests.

It Was Over When: The Brewers broke scoreless tie with a four-run eighth inning for the only scoring of the game.

Grand Reopening

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If Monday night’s game seemed to you like a reprisal of Opening Night – albeit an improved one – you aren’t alone.

On a rainy day in The District, exactly three months after the first game of the Nationals promise-packed 2013 campaign, on the first official day of the second half of the season, the night began in eerily similar fashion. Instead of Opening Day starter Stephen Strasburg on the mound, it was de facto ace Jordan Zimmermann toeing the rubber, in search of his National League-leading 12th win. And after a scoreless top of the first inning, Washington came to bat with Bryce Harper once again hitting third in their lineup.

Harper took no time to reintroduce himself upon his return.

Harper took no time to reintroduce himself upon his return to the lineup.

After two outs, Harper stood in the box to face the opponent’s ace, took ball one, then rocketed a home run to put the Nationals in front.

However, that’s where the similarities stopped. Back in April, Harper was that game’s only offense, homering again in his second at-bat for the only other run of the game in a 2-0 victory. Monday night, the rest of the offense came alive. Not content to rest on their laurels, they scored 10 runs the night after plating 13 to match a franchise two-game record with 23 tallies, and the bullpen put the clamps on as the Milwaukee Brewers began to hit their way back into the game. And while they allowed five runs, Nationals pitchers offered up only a single base on balls, making Milwaukee earn their ultimately futile attempt to come back.

Even Harper’s home run reflected the change. Unlike his first Opening Day blast, a majestic shot to his pull field in right, this one required an adjustment, a patient, measured swing to drive the ball the other way. It wasn’t as pretty, but in many ways it was more impressive.

Perhaps there’s something to that. Last year’s Nationals nearly went wire-to-wire, riding their impressive young talent and a series of nail-biting wins to their first-ever division title. Now, a half-season into their attempted encore, with the targets primed, painted, edged, highlighted and lacquered on their backs, they seem to know that getting back to the top of the mountain will not be free and easy, but a daily grind.

Denard Span reached base and scored three times as the Nationals scored 10 runs.

Denard Span reached base and scored three times as the Nationals scored 10 runs.

“Everybody knows we’ve got some work to do,” said Nationals Manager Davey Johnson after the game, only willing to indulge in Harper’s momentous return for a short moment before refocusing on the larger task at hand.

Ian Desmond talks about it nearly every day. Fresh off a record-setting month at the plate and a 56-game errorless streak in the field, the shortstop turned in another mistake-free game, collecting another extra-base hit, another RBI.

Moved up to the two-hole in the lineup – less of an RBI spot than he is accustomed – Jayson Werth took advantage of his opportunities with runners in scoring position, driving home five runs for the first time since his All-Star campaign back in 2009.

“(Jayson) hitting second just causes more problems for the opposing manager,” said Johnson, who is finally sporting the kind of lineup he envisioned when pitchers and catchers reported to Florida back in February, what must seem like a lifetime ago.

Ultimately, 81 games deeper into the season, the feeling in the ballpark Monday night mirrored that on Opening Day, the optimism of what this team is capable of accomplishing palpable in the crowd. The main difference: now everyone knows it won’t be as easy as Harper sometimes makes it look.

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