Results tagged ‘ Nationals Park ’

20/20 Vision

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“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

Alright everyone, time for some perspective.

If all you read about the Nationals season so far were the comments left on various social media forums, you would probably surmise that the world had tilted off its axis, sending Nationals Park hurtling into an alternate universe where Bryce Harper was fighting off an alien invasion with nothing more than a bag of bats. At the very least, you’d think the District Nine were off to some frighteningly horrible start through their first 20 games – perhaps a league-worst 5-15 mark, or something of the like.

Ross Detwiler has turned in four straight quality starts to open the year.

Ross Detwiler has turned in four straight quality starts to open the year.

But no, through 20 games – during which the team has openly admitted it has not played its best baseball – the Nationals are 10-10. Through 20 games last season, they were 14-6 (before dropping to 14-9). While that 20-game sample may seem significantly better, it’s really just four games in the standings.

Conversely, there are signs this team is starting to improve its play. After averaging an error per game through the first 18 contests, the Nationals have played error-free ball the last two nights, over which their numbers four and five starters have combined with the bullpen to allow just five runs in 18 innings (2.50 ERA) against one of the top offenses in the National League. All they need is for the bats to get going, an adjustment they also needed to make early last season.

Still, through 20 games this season, the Nats have scored 74 runs. Through 20 games last year, they had scored 71.

Now, let’s put the opening of the season in some greater historical perspective. Here are the records of the last five World Series Champions through 20 games:

2012 San Francisco Giants: 10-10

2011 St. Louis Cardinals: 11-9

2010 San Francisco Giants: 12-8

2009 New York Yankees: 10-10

2008 Philadelphia Phillies: 10-10

Sensing a trend? Great, stay with us – it only gets better. We caught up with Yahoo! Sports Baseball Columnist Jeff Passan on Tuesday morning about what he thought of Washington’s start.

Bryce Harper has been the most consistent offensive performer so far.

Bryce Harper has been the most consistent offensive performer so far.

“A team’s last 20 games tells you a lot more than their first 20,” he explained. “By June 1, you should have a pretty decent idea of how good (the Nationals) are, and I think they’ll be right where everyone expects them to be.”

Passan picked the Nationals to go to the World Series. Last year. He’s been following the rise of the team for quite a while, and is not the least bit worried. However, even his deadline may be a bit premature. Here were the five eventual 2012 MLB Division Champions records (other than the Nationals) entering play on June 1 last season:

New York Yankees: 27-23

Detroit Tigers: 23-27

Oakland Athletics: 22-29

Cincinnati Reds: 28-22

San Francisco Giants: 27-24

Yes, that’s right. The other five Division Champions were a combined two games over .500 on June 1 (127-125), a full 30 additional games past the point where your Nationals sit today.

Baseball is a long season. It is not football. Every game does not make or break you. It seems we forget this each year, when baseball flows away from our conscious, hibernating in its cave until the earth defrosts again and spring arrives. We seem to take our frantic sense of football urgency with us into the beginning of the baseball season, to overvalue both wins and losses in dramatic fashion.

Last year’s Nationals lost three or more consecutive games eight times. They lost five in a row twice. There’s a pretty good chance this year’s team will endure similar stretches as the season goes on. These Nationals have also shown they’re capable of winning streaks, such as their resounding 3-game sweep to start the season. There’s every reason to believe that there are many more of those runs to come.

But for now, Nationals fans, it’s still just April 24 and your team is 10-10, sharing second place in the NL East. Sit back and enjoy the ride, we’ve still got quite a long ways to go.

A Close Second, With Number Two

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The Racing Presidents are off and running again in the 2013 season, with new addition Bill joining the daily scamper from the center field wall to the home dugout at Nationals Park. However, there was another participant present at one of the first races of the young season, marking the race’s first venture into Vice Presidential territory.

COVER PHOTO_VEEPOver the weekend prior to the NationalsWhite Sox series, Teddy announced that the Racing Presidents would run their first relay race of the season since the field expanded to five. When George and Tom partnered up, then Abe and Bill formed their own pact, the lovable Teddy was left to his own devices to find a running mate. Searching online, he asked around for suggestions for #TeddysRunningMate, and offers flowed in from around the interwebs.

As luck would have it, Teddy found someone perfectly suited to run with – Selina Meyer, the fictional Vice President from HBO’s “VEEP.” The two were spotted around Washington in the days leading up to the race, and seemed primed for victory as Teddy stormed out to an early lead in the Tuesday night race.

But given Teddy’s less than illustrious history, combined with Selina’s propensity for finishing second, it should have come as little surprise that the two were unable to collaborate on a victory. They fumbled their baton exchange, leaving Selina with a ton of ground to make up in the race’s second half. And while she made a valiant effort, per the usual, she finished second.

That left Teddy – along with rival Bill – still winless for the 2013 campaign, as both continue to search for new and inventive ways to break the tape first…or at least ensure their counterpart’s defeat.

– SEE THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE –

Remembering 42

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Every year on April 15, at ballparks across the country, young baseball fans will look down at the field and notice something different. Each and every member of both teams wearing the same number on the backs of their jerseys. Inevitably, those who do not know the reason will ask, ‘Why is every player wearing the number 42?”

Perhaps this year, the question will have already been answered.

Kendra Gaither (right) with several Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars at Nationals Park on Sunday.

Kendra Gaither (right) with several Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars at Nationals Park on Sunday.

With the feature film “42” opening in theaters nationwide last weekend, the story of Jackie Robinson has taken center stage. His stellar, 10-year, Hall-of-Fame career transcended the field of play, impacting society in a way that no other athlete has in recent memory. Deservedly, Jackie Robinson’s iconic number 42 jersey is the only one retired across the game of baseball.

“I see him as transformative, the way that he continued to advocate outside of baseball,” said Kendra Gaither, a volunteer and chair of the Mid-Atlantic Scholar Advisory Committee of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “The integration of baseball and the transformation that Jackie Robinson helped to bring about in baseball was really a larger measurement of what was happening in our own society. That’s why I think the story of Jackie Robinson continues to grow.”

Gaither brought a group of scholars to the Nationals-Braves game on Saturday, after which they departed for a screening of the film. While the Nationals unfortunately do not play at home on Monday, they honored Robinson Saturday and will do so again on the road in Miami, as the entire sport dons Robinson’s 42 for tonight’s games.

The Nationals own Bryce Harper, a proud student of the game’s history, has listed Robinson as one of his personal heroes. Harper, of course, took home the Jackie Robinson Award as the top rookie in the National League last season. The award was named after Robinson, who won it himself in 1947, overcoming immense social and cultural pressures to help lead the Brooklyn Dodgers all the way to the World Series in his very first season.

“It’s incredibly moving to see all the players wearing 42,” said Gaither, who has taken part in Jackie Robinson Day at Nationals Park for the past two seasons. “To be able to come to Nationals Park and see how much it also means to the players and the fans that are here, it’s incredibly inspiring.”

The Jackie Robinson Foundation was founded by Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and has thrived for over 40 years, helping more than 1,400 students with a better than 99 percent graduation rate. To learn more about the Jackie Robinson foundation, please visit www.jackierobinson.org.

What to Watch for: 4.12.13

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Atlanta Braves (8-1) vs. Washington Nationals (7-2)

RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 9.00) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0.00)

The Nationals take on the division-rival Braves for the first time in 2013 after finishing off their second consecutive home sweep to key a 6-0 record so far at Nationals Park. Washington went 10-8 vs. Atlanta last season, including a 5-4 mark at home.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

TOP HEAVY

During the Nationals three-game sweep of the White Sox, the top three hitters in Davey Johnson’s lineup – Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper – combined to hit .471 (16-for-34) with a double, two home runs, seven RBI, four walks, two stolen bases and 11 runs scored.

ATTENTION SPAN!

Denard Span’s .475 on-base percentage is noteworthy beyond the fact that it ranks fourth among all MLB leadoff hitters. As recently as 2011, Washington ranked dead last in MLB with a .285 OBP from the leadoff slot. Last year, the Nationals improved to 18th in MLB with a .325 OBP from those batting first in Davey Johnson’s batting order.

GRAND-IOSE OCCASION ON THE HORIZON

Ryan Zimmerman has played in 999 career games. Zimmerman will become the first National to play in 1000 games in tonight’s series opener vs. Atlanta.

What to Watch for: 4.11.13

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Chicago White Sox (4-4) vs. Washington Nationals (6-2)

RHP Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Dan Haren (0-1, 13.50)

Following a second consecutive victory last night over Chicago, the Nationals take aim at their second three-game sweep in as many home series to open the 2013 season. Dan Haren makes his D.C. debut as Washington looks to improve to 6-0 in front of the home crowd.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Haren RHP

THE FIX FOR 6

Washington is 5-0 at Nationals Park to begin the 2013 campaign. This marks the first time in modern baseball history (since 1900) a team from the Nation’s Capital has won its initial five home contests in a single season.

GET HOME EARLY

With Wednesday’s 5-2 win, the Nationals improved to 13-2 in April home games under skipper Davey Johnson (5-0 in ‘13, 8-2 in April ‘12).

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

The Nationals lead Major League Baseball with a .518 slugging percentage this season, as an MLB-leading 49.3 percent of their hits have gone for extra bases (67 hits have included 16 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs). The Blue Jays (44.6%) rank second on this list.

What to Watch for: 4.10.13

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Chicago White Sox (4-3) vs. Washington Nationals (5-2)

RHP Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50)

The Nationals and White Sox match up in the middle contest of a three-game set, after Washington rode four home runs to an 8-7 victory in the series opener Tuesday night. Last night’s victory marked the first ever win at home over Chicago’s American League ballclub at Nationals Park.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

TRIPLE DOUBLE

Adam LaRoche collected his first two hits of the season last night, as he homered in each of his final two at-bats. With the multi-homer game, LaRoche becomes the third National in just seven games this season to turn the trick, joining Bryce Harper (April 1 vs. Miami) and Wilson Ramos (April 6 at Cincinnati).

POWER PACKED

The Nationals have blasted 14 home runs in their first seven games of the 2013 season. That is a 10-homer increase on the initial seven games of last season. In fact, Washington’s previous homer high in the first seven games of a season was 10 in 2006.

I WOULD WALK 500 MORE

Jayson Werth notched his 500th and 501st career RBI last night, thanks to a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Werth is also closing in on half a thousand in another counting stat, as he needs just 23 more walks to reach 500 for his career.

The Boys of Lumber

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The calendar may have read April 10, but there was the distinct feeling of summer in the air as the Nationals began their second homestand of 2013 Tuesday night. With a first pitch temperature of 81 degrees, baseballs were flying out of Nationals Park more the way they tend to do in summertime than in spring. Or, rather, more the way they did when the Washington lineup finally returned to health last summer than the way they did with the depleted, early-season edition.

Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos are showing early signs of returning to their prior power numbers.

Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos are showing early signs of returning to their prior power numbers.

It can be easy to forget, what with the team’s offensive success in the second half, just how much the Nationals struggled to score runs at times while key members of their lineup were missing. Even once the team was mostly healthy, Jayson Werth’s wrist remained at less than 100 percent strength, while Wilson Ramos would not play again until Opening Day this year.

But look at this lineup right now – there are no breaks, no easy outs. Not just that, but every hitter, one through eight (and even nine, as Gio Gonzalez would have you know), can take a mistake and deposit it over the wall. Werth slugged 20 or more home runs every year from 2008-11, blasting a career best 36 in 2009. Ramos swatted 15 out of the park in less than 400 at-bats two seasons ago before his 2012 was cut short. Considering the three through seven hitters between them combined for 122 homers in under 2,800 at-bats last season (roughly one per 23 at-bats), the current Nationals lineup may well be the most daunting they’ve ever put on the field as a franchise.

Washington has already hit 14 home runs through the season’s first seven games. With the traditional “small sample size” caveat, that puts them on pace for 324 this season, after setting a franchise record with 194 last year. Five players have hit more than one home run. Three – Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Ramos – already have a multi-homer game.

Last year, the Nationals had just four combined homers through seven games, and didn’t hit their 14th until Game #24 on May 2, when Ian Desmond rocked J.J. Putz for a two-out, two-run, ninth-inning, walk-off blast.

That home run ignited the first wave of offense to support the stellar pitching staff. Consider this year’s lineup already ignited.

Weekly Review: 4.8.13

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It was an exciting first week of the 2013 season, as next year finally arrived. The Nationals opened their campaign as defending National League East Champs against the Marlins in Washington on Monday. Bryce Harper took no time building off last year’s Rookie of the Year campaign, homering in each of his first two at-bats of the season, backing Stephen Strasburg in a 2-0 victory in front of the largest regular season crowd in Nationals Park history. Despite the star power on display, the quiet return of Wilson Ramos may have been the most impressive storyline of the day.

After an off-day Tuesday, the Nationals shut out Miami again on Wednesday, with Gio Gonzalez doing it all himself, tossing six scoreless frames and homering for the game’s first run in a 3-0 final. Meanwhile, Roger Bernadina introduced a new term into the ever-growing Shark lexicon. On Thursday, Washington rounded out a season-opening sweep with a 6-1 win, becoming just the fourth team in Major League history – and the first since the 1979 Astros – to allow just one run over its first three combined games.

The first road trip of the year began inauspiciously, as Washington was blanked, 15-0, in the series opener Friday night in Cincinnati. However, the club responded in a big way, launching five home runs, including two in the 11th inning, to capture a thrilling, nail-biting, cardiac arrhythmia-inducing victory on Saturday. Kurt Suzuki got into the offensive act with a three-run shot in the Sunday finale, but the Nats dropped the game, 6-3, and the series to the defending NL Central Champs.

Overall Record: 4-2

What to Watch for: 4.4.13

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Miami Marlins (0-2) vs. Washington Nationals (2-0)

LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-0) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-0)

Washington aims for a season-opening sweep as the Nationals face the Marlins in a rare, midweek mid-afternoon affair at Nationals Park. Miami has yet to score through the first two games of the season against the Nats pitching staff.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Zimmermann RHP

LUCKY NUMBER 13

According to Elias, the Nationals became just the 13th team since 1900 to open the season with consecutive shutouts, blanking the Marlins 3-0 after a 2-0 Opening Day whitewash. It also marks the first time any team in Expos/Nationals history has accomplished the feat. The last MLB team to turn the trick was the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks.

DEEP SIXED

Gio Gonzalez became the just the third pitcher in franchise history, and the second since the team moved to The District, to throw at least six scoreless innings and homer in the same game. He joins Floyd Youmans (6.8.86 vs. Philadelphia) and Livan Hernandez (9.14.10 at Atlanta) on the short list.

UNTUCK YOU TO SLEEP

Rafael Soriano closed out his second save in as many games, allowing a hit and a walk in a scoreless ninth inning. In 12 career appearances at Nationals Park, the reliever has a 1.59 ERA (2 ER/11.1 IP) and has converted all seven of his save opportunities.

What to Watch for: 4.1.13

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Miami Marlins (0-0) vs. Washington Nationals (0-0)

RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-0) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-0)

The defending National League East Champion Washington Nationals open the 2013 season today with a three-game set against division rival Miami in The District. This season marks the ninth since the return of baseball to Washington and the sixth played at Nationals Park.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Strasburg RHP

OPENING DAY STRASBURG

For the second year in a row, Stephen Strasburg will toe the rubber on Opening Day for Washington. Last year, Strasburg fired 7.0 innings of five-hit, one-run ball, walking one while striking out five at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. He did not factor in the decision, as the Nationals came from behind with a run in the eighth and another in the ninth for a season-opening, 2-1 victory.

NO APRIL FOOLS

The Nationals notched a 14-8 record in April last year, tying Atlanta and St. Louis for most victories in the National League in the opening month of the season. During that stretch, the pitching staff compiled a 2.33 team ERA, best in the Major Leagues.

FISH FRY

Washington and Miami split their 18 games against one another 9-9 last season, but the Nationals took six of the nine meetings in The District. On August 5, Stephen Strasburg beat Ricky Nolasco in a matchup of the same starters, and Drew Storen earned the save in a 4-1 Nationals victory.