Results tagged ‘ Nationals Park ’
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. A new week brings a new player, as we round out the Nationals keystone combination with a deeper look at Danny Espinosa.
A young player’s second full season is often considered his first real test as a Major Leaguer. After turning heads as a rookie – swatting 21 home runs and finishing sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2011 – Danny Espinosa faced the task of a league adjusting to him, challenging his weaknesses. Following some early struggles, the 25 year-old made his own adjustments, finishing the season strong. When the dust had settled, though, Espinosa’s second campaign replicated his first almost as closely as humanly possible.
After 658 plate appearances in 2011, Espinosa logged an identical 658 this season. He walked 11 fewer times in 2012, but notched 12 more hits, upping his extra-base hit total from 55 to 56. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were all within .012 in one direction or another of his rookie marks. After falling just three stolen bases shy of a 20-20 season in 2011, he was instead three home runs shy this year, but set a new career mark, swiping exactly 20 bags. He also led the team in doubles with 37, two more than Adam LaRoche and one more than Ryan Zimmerman.
The switch-hitter continued to be more consistent from the right side of the plate, notching an OPS more than 80 points higher, but his home run rate was nearly double from the left side, where he hit 14 of his 17 bombs on the season. Perhaps his most memorable longball of the year, though, came from the right side, powering a dramatic, late-inning comeback to beat the Marlins on August 4 at Nationals Park.
One of the more underrated parts of Espinosa’s game, though, is his defense. Combined with Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and LaRoche, the foursome comprised arguably the strongest infield defense in the National League, if not the entire sport. The rangy, strong-armed second baseman could replace many Major League shortstops and did, in fact, take over that spot for the Nationals when Desmond missed a month with an oblique injury.
Espinosa played some of his best baseball of the year during that stretch, batting .313/.366/.527 with eight doubles, six home runs, 21 runs scored and 19 RBI over a 32-game stretch from July 16-August 15 during which the Nats went 22-10. The middle infielder will hope to build upon his second-half success in his first arbitration year in 2013, the same way that Desmond did in his third full season in the Majors. Washington retains team control over Espinosa through the 2015 campaign.
Of all the names you may hear tossed around in association with the Nationals this offseason, one is of particular interest. In the midst of the potential free agent singings and the large number of returning players on the Nationals roster, few will have as much impact on the decisions made regarding the future of the Washington outfield as a young man who will not turn 22 for another couple of weeks. Perhaps you’ve already heard of Brian Goodwin, but it is safe to say that you will hear much more in the weeks, months and, hopefully, years to come.
Most Nationals fans have only seen Goodwin once, as one of the two short-in-comparison draftees smiling in the shadow of Alex Meyer at a press conference at Nationals Park last summer. Goodwin is actually 6’1” and a shade under 200 pounds, a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder with the defensive tools to project as a Major League-caliber center fielder. Goodwin began his 2012 campaign at Low-A Hagerstown before skipping a level and finishing at Double-A Harrisburg, a very advanced level for a 21 year-old position player. He swatted 26 doubles, launched 14 home runs and stole 18 bases in 100 total games, posting a combined .280/.384/.469 slash line in his first year of professional ball, showing the promise that made him the 34th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Now Goodwin is showcasing his talents in the Arizona Fall League with fellow farmhands like Anthony Rendon, the third member of that draft class photo. Goodwin blasted his team-leading third home run in just eight games for the Salt River Rafters, where he has posted an encouraging early line of .294/.368/.618 while playing against some of the premiere prospects in the game. He reached base four times in Tuesday’s game, thanks to three hits, including that third home run.
Baseball America had Goodwin ranked as the number five prospect in the Nationals system going into last winter, behind only Bryce Harper, Rendon, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole. In fact, Aaron Fitt and the BA staff stated that Goodwin “has the tools to be an impact center fielder who hits in the top third of a big league lineup.” It was high praise for a player yet to appear in his first professional game, but he has done nothing to dissuade anyone of that projection to date.
With Harper’s ascension to the Major Leagues coupled with Peacock and Cole’s departure in the Gio Gonzalez trade, one figures Goodwin will find himself battling it out with Rendon (who missed a good portion of the 2012 season with an ankle injury) for the organization’s top prospect rank heading into next year. His continued success in the AFL would certainly help those chances, and offer him an opportunity to compete not just with the great talent in the Washington system, but the cream of the crop from around the game.
Today, October 16, 2012, Bryce Harper turns 20. Really think about that for a moment. While you’ve heard “teenage this” and “teenage that” all season long, it is truly remarkable to step away from the list of facts and figures and just appreciate everything Harper was able to do at the highest level of the professional game before his 20th birthday. We’ll save the inevitable Mike Trout comparisons for later in the offseason, but for now, take a look back at some of the highlights and vote at the bottom of the post for the one that most impressed you during Harper’s tenure as a Major League teenager.
4/29 @ LAD: Welcome to the Show
Harper didn’t take very long to announce his presence to the Major League world, scalding a double to the wall in his first game in Los Angeles. But perhaps his most memorable play from that first series came in his second game, as he ranged deep into center field and snagged a ball off the bat of Juan Uribe right before slamming into the wall. He held on, and gunned the ball back to the infield, nearly doubling the runner off first base. The catch would set the tone for the all-out, aggressive style Nationals fans would come to know and love throughout the year.
5/6 vs. PHI: Harper Steals Home
Big-time players always seem to shine the brightest on the biggest stages. In his first early test, against the division-rival Phillies on national television, Harper was plunked on the first pitch he saw from Cole Hamels. Some forget that on Chad Tracy’s two out single to left, the rookie went first-to-third, right in front of Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre. That set up the play that everyone remembers, as Harper took advantage of a lazy pick-off attempt by Hamels and sprinted home. He slid under the tag of Carlos Ruiz, swiping home for his first Major League stolen base.
6/5 vs. NYM: Teenage Walk-off
In an epic game that featured three game-tying RBI by Ian Desmond, it was Harper who finally delivered the coup de gras. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 12th, he laced a single the other way, handing the Nationals a walk-off win over the Mets. It marked the first Major League walk-off by a teenager since Gary Sheffield’s game-winning hit in 1988, four years before Harper was born.
6/12 @ TOR: Border Crossing
One of Harper’s calling cards on his scouting report was his prodigious power. And while he hit some big home runs in 2012, perhaps none had the awe factor of the one he teed up in Toronto, as the Nationals were busy sweeping a 6-0 road trip. His moon shot, appropriately, drew “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd, and dented the Blackberry ad hanging from the second deck in right-center field at Rogers Centre, punctuating the sign’s slogan: Be Bold. Be bold, indeed.
8/29 @ MIA – 9/5 vs. CHC: A Pair of Two-homer Games in a Week
One of the big early-season questions was whether or not Harper would hit 20 home runs in his rookie campaign. While he was behind pace for a while, he caught fire near season’s end, homering twice on August 29 in Miami, then turning the trick again a week later against the Cubs in Washington. He finished with 22 longballs, fourth on the team behind only Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.
9/7 vs. MIA: Don’t Run on Bryce
Even by late in the season, word of Harper’s arm was slow to spread throughout the league. Teams continued to test him, and he continued to come up with huge defensive plays. His eight outfield assists tied him for the lead among National League rookie outfielders, and included this gem, where his bullet home beat Greg Dobbs by 20 feet.
9/21 vs. MIL: Bryce Over Braun
In a 2-1 game against a Milwaukee team still clinging to postseason dreams, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun stood at second base with one out in the fourth inning. When Aramis Ramirez singled to center Braun sped around third and chugged towards home, and was a mere 50 feet from the plate by the time Harper unleashed the ball towards Jesus Flores. No matter, though, as the rookie delivered a strike and Flores applied the swipe tag on a stunned Braun for the out to keep the Nationals in front.
10/12 vs. STL: Welcome to the Postseason
In the final game of the 2012 campaign, Harper tripled in his first at-bat, then sent this rocket into the right-center field seats at Nationals Park for his first-ever postseason home run. We get the feeling it won’t be his last.
At the end of the third inning of every home game at Nationals Park, the fans set aside the excitement of the game on the field and turn their attention behind home plate, where the Nationals honor men and women of our nation’s military for their service. Washington is the only club in any professional sport to have such a ceremony at every home game, and the response from the fans – a standing ovation each and every time – underscores the ceremony’s importance in our Nation’s Capital. But at Thursday night’s game, a couple hours before the crowd was sent into a frenzy by Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run, the recognition took on a special meaning.
Melissa Banda – wife of Sgt. Hector Banda of the U.S. Army – and her children, Ethan and Penny, were brought out to the landing of the Lexus Presidents Club. They were shown a video of Sgt. Banda on NatsHD, welcoming them to the game from his post in Afghanistan, where he has been for the past five months. However, the family got a much larger gift when Sgt. Banda himself emerged from behind the Racing Presidents to surprise his family right then and there. It was a truly touching moment, one that neither the Banda family, nor the fans in attendance, will forget any time soon.
Our words can’t do it justice, so watch the video for yourself.
It’s hard to believe, with the season the Washington Nationals have had, that they have not had more walk-off home runs. Other types of walk-offs have come in nearly every shape and form, from singles, to wild pitches, to sacrifice flies. But Ian Desmond’s two-out, two-run shot to beat the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth on May 2, more than five months ago, a seemingly distant memory, was the lone game-winning blast of this memorable 2012 campaign.
Until last night.
If you believe in the cosmic powers of the game, the baseball gods, as it were, this one was foreshadowed. Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game on 10.11.12, Jayson Werth worked an epic at-bat against Lance Lynn, driving the 13th pitch into the visitor’s bullpen at Nationals Park for his 14th career postseason home run. But the bizarre parallels go beyond that sequential string of numbers alone.
On September 8, the Nationals trailed the Miami Marlins by a score of 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning at home in D.C. With closer Heath Bell already throwing his warm-up pitches and Werth slated to lead off the frame, a torrential storm descended upon Nationals Park, sending fans scampering to seek shelter from the high winds and sheets of rain. The game went into a delay for more than two and-a-half hours, the dramatic bottom of the ninth put on ice. Finally, the weather cleared, the teams reemerged to the field, and Werth dug in against Bell. They battled through a long at-bat, Werth fouling off three pitches before finally working the count full.
Less than 1,000 fans remained from the original crowd of 28,860, all descending behind the dugouts, standing, yelling, living and dying with every pitch. It had the feel of a high school playoff game, the drama and emotion running on high for those diehards that remained. Werth finally saw a center-cut fastball from Bell and smoked it to the Red Porch in left-center field for a game-tying home run. The Nationals would go on to win in walk-off fashion in the 10th inning.
Ross Detwiler also started that game, with Drew Storen earning the win following his and Tyler Clippard’s scoreless innings. Each reliever fanned the side in that September game. Clippard did so again Thursday night, with Storen punching out a pair.
The same momentum from the pitching in that September game grew in the late innings Thursday night. And once again, Werth delivered, on an at-bat five pitches longer and more surreal, a crowd of better than 44,000 already frenzied fans igniting like a supersonic jet engine as the ball cleared the left field wall.
Enjoy the full at-bat below, the six minutes of tension cut down to a tidy 2:47, to appreciate just how amazing it was. Then click below to listen to Nationals play-by-play man Charlie Slowes, who summoned the memories of that September 8 game before the 13th pitch, and the overwhelming crowd behind him as his prediction came true.
St. Louis Cardinals (2-1) vs. Washington Nationals (1-2)
RHP Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40)
After Wednesday’s loss, Washington finds itself in the position of needing to win two games in a row at home – something the team has done 23 times this season – to extend its season and advance to the NLCS. The Nationals will send southpaw Ross Detwiler to the hill against Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, who has been tremendous against most of the league in 2012 but had really struggled against the Nationals, allowing 12 runs (nine earned) in 11.2 innings over two starts.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
From Nationals Game 5 probable starter Gio Gonzalez on how the team needs to respond over the next two games:
“You learn from that. To be the best, you have to beat the best.”
1. Werth RF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler RHP
GLASS HALF FULL
The Nationals won at least two straight games at Nationals Park this season on 16 separate occasions in ’12 (23 overall). Washington also went 16-5-5 (win-loss-tie) in series play this season at Nationals Park. The ‘12 Nationals went 6-2 the contest after being shut out (St. Louis blanked the Nationals, 8-0, in Game 3). Kyle Lohse (7.48) and Game 5 starter Adam Wainwright (7.24) share a collective 7.39 ERA in seven career starts in D.C. The Cardinals have won games in consecutive days at Nationals Park just once: April 30 (9-4) and May 1 (6-2), 2009.
TWO LEFTIES CAN MAKE IT RIGHT
When Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler or Game 5 starter Gio Gonzalez toed the rubber in a starting role in D.C. this year, the Nationals went 21-7 (.750). Detwiler (11-3, .786) and Gonzalez (10-4, .714) posted the top two team winning percentages at home among the Nationals starting staff.
DESI DOING IT
Through three postseason games, Ian Desmond shares the Major League lead in hits (7) with Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips, who has taken four games to amass the same total. Desmond is batting .583 (7-for-12) with a double and two runs scored in his first-ever postseason series.
Take a deep breath, Nationals fans.
It can be easy, when your team’s back is against the wall, playing to keep its season alive, to panic and lose hope. The postseason brings heightened emotions and an extra sense of urgency to every game, so individual wins and losses can seem blown out of proportion. That’s why now is as good a time as ever to remove emotion from the equation for the moment, to step back, and to look at the reality of what lies ahead the next day or two, based on what we’ve learned about the Nationals and Cardinals from the 2012 season.
By the time Major League teams hit the postseason, they have formed an identity. A 162-game regular season lends enough time to form trends and predictable results, a sample size that – while it does not always play out exactly to form – gives the viewing audience an idea of what to expect from a team in the playoffs.
The Cardinals posted a +117 run differential over the course of the regular season, fourth-best in baseball and second in the National League only to Washington’s +137 mark. They went 60-31 in games in games decided by three or more runs, also the second-best mark in the league. This is no doubt a strong indicator of the Cardinals ability to produce prolifically on offense, but it also helps compensate for another, less flattering, team statistic. See, St. Louis went just 28-43 (.394) in games decided by less than three runs, ranking just a hair above Chicago and Houston – two teams that combined to lose 208 games this year – as the worst in the league.
The Nationals had a tendency to win blowouts as well (their 56-26 record in games decided by three or more runs was the best in baseball), but they were also solid in close games, going 42-38 in one and two-run games. Washington also played 20 extra-inning contests, the most in baseball, and were 13-7 in those games (8-5 at home). St. Louis, meanwhile, went just 6-12 in extra-inning affairs.
So far, these trends have largely played out to form through the first three games of the series. The Cardinals have won a pair of blowouts, while the Nationals have taken the lone nail-biter. Postseason experience or not, the large sample seems to indicate that this is the norm, not the exception. And if it is, the Nationals should feel pretty good about themselves, as the head into Thursday (and hopefully Friday) needing wins at home. Especially so, when you consider the following:
Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell pointed out early in the series that all four of last year’s Division Series winners were actually outscored by their opponents in their series. The Rangers (21-16), Tigers (28-17), Brewers (25-23) and yes, Cardinals (21-19) all saw their competition score more runs over the course of their respective series, but all came out on top. Each won at least one one-run game in the series, with three of the teams winning a pair of them. But that 2011 St. Louis team was 45-38 in games decided by two runs or less. They were not the same team that Washington needs to beat twice in the next two days to keep its season alive.
In 4 DS in '11, the winning team was outscored in all of them: 17-28, 19-21, 16-21, 23-25. They lost blow outs, won close games.—
Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) October 08, 2012
The Nationals have been outscored 22-7 through the first three games of this series, and would likely end up on the short end of the overall run total even if they do take the next two games (after all, they’d have to outscore the Cardinals by an average of eight runs a game to tip the overall balance). The good news is, by doing so, they would actually be the norm, not the exception.
When examining the particulars of the matchups in front of the Nationals, it helps to again stay away from the knee jerk reactions. A quick look at Game 4 starter Kyle Lohse’s numbers (16-3, 2.86 ERA) doesn’t inspire hope. In fact, he posted a 2.62 ERA in 199.1 innings against all the teams in the league that do not call the Nation’s Capital home. But in his two starts against Washington, the Nationals battered him around to the tune of a 6.92 ERA (12 runs, nine earned in 11.2 innings). He did not take the loss in either, but very well could have, leaving with deficits of 9-8 and 4-0 in the two games.
Coupled with the lineup’s success against Lohse, Ross Detwiler’s 8-2 record and 2.59 ERA at Nationals Park reshape the whole outlook of the matchup. Of course, Game 5 would bring a rematch of Adam Wainwright and Gio Gonzalez, a Game 1 matchup that the Nationals won, 3-2, back on Sunday in St. Louis.
All the Nationals have to do is win two games in a row at home, something they’ve done 23 times this season, including against this same Cardinals squad on August 30-31, just over a month ago.
Nationals fans, allow yourself to exhale – if only until first pitch Thursday afternoon.
The Postseason Issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now through the end of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park.
Over the course of 162 regular season games, there are too many dramatic moments to recount in just a few short pages. So, we’ve picked out a few that we believe were some of the most vital and memorable in the Nationals 2012 campaign for our Postseason Issue of Nationals Magazine. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to reflect on each of these Signature Moments and realize that, of course, in their own unique way, each would prove pivotal to this memorable Nationals season. But in the excitement of the moment, with the rush of adrenaline still coursing through our veins, did we really, fully appreciate the splendor of what we had just witnessed? We dust off our coverage of each to help you relive every last detail. Once you’ve soaked it all in (again), vote for your favorite in the poll at the bottom of the page.
Lost in the fanfare of the home opener at Nationals Park, or even Gio Gonzalez’s sparkling home debut on the mound, was the southpaw’s handy-work with the bat as he notched his first career hit that day. Here’s how we saw it:
As Gonzalez ran to first, he watched the ball the whole way. As it finally fell to the grass, he whipped his head towards the Nationals dugout, mouth open in an ecstatic, toothy grin. After he rounded first, he walked back to the bag with his head tilted back skywards, an expression of relief, yes, but more so pure happiness. As the bat boy returned the ball to the dugout for safekeeping, he also retrieved the pitcher’s big red jacket, to help keep the hurlers arm warm through the rest of his sparkling home debut.
As for Edwin Jackson’s gem later in the series, do you recall who provided the offensive support? Hint: You could look up Jackson’s no-hitter with Arizona back in 2010. Or just visit the link above.
NATITUDE Weekend just about speaks for itself, but they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Check the post from that series for even more of our favorite fan photos.
TURN BACK THE CLOCK NIGHT
The Nationals and Giants went all out in recreating the feel of the 1924 World Series, from the throwback scoreboard and uniforms all the way down to a walk-off win for Washington. But if you haven’t seen the retro-inspired game highlights, there’s no time like the present to refresh your memory.
BEAST OF A COMEBACK
The improbable comeback win in Milwaukee – led by Michael Morse – undoubtedly stands as one of the signature moments of the 2012 season, but Curly W Live to puts it in its proper historical perspective:
Perhaps most importantly, it capped a 6-1 road trip that kept the Nationals a full four games ahead of division rival Atlanta as the weekend came to a close. It also left them at 61-40, the first time the franchise has been this many games over .500 since its relocation to the Nation’s Capital.
The final homestand of the regular season is here. As the Nationals get ready to take on the Phillies, they stand on the verge of seizing the reign atop the National League East away from their division rivals in what promises to be a thrilling final series. Don’t miss a minute of the action this week at Nationals Park, and make sure you pick up a copy of our final Inside Pitch of the season, featuring Jordan Zimmermann.
As all Nationals fans undoubtedly know, last night the ballclub clinched D.C.’s first postseason berth since 1933.
Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and the entire clubhouse will be quick to remind us that this is just the first step in an October journey. And they could not be more right. That said, there is no harm in taking a moment to reflect on just what has happened here.
I imagine that the far-ranging emotions we are all feeling are equal parts wonderful and euphoric, and everything between. Think about the span of generations this postseason clinch affects.
Take my family for instance. My father, Ted Lerner, remembers the 1933 World Series. He was eight years old at the time. I think his long-term vision on how to build a franchise has set up this moment for all of us to enjoy. Most of my youth was spent following the exploits of the expansion Senators in the 1960′s. My three children grew up in the era where there was an unfortunate baseball void in Washington, D.C., and could only go to games at Camden Yards like a lot of us.
As diverging as my family’s perspectives are, how different is this moment in time for the youngsters in our area that were raised on Nationals baseball by Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Even within this modern grouping, you can see the differing perspectives.
But come the first weekend in October, that will change. This town, which is predicated on dueling political philosophies, will unite to witness postseason baseball in D.C. for the first time in 79 years. We’ll stand, clap and cheer together. Being together, united behind one cause, is something that this town is not used to, especially in October of an election year. But now we know it is coming and I cannot wait!
Some other quick thoughts after an historic night and what still lies ahead:
- I alluded to it earlier, but I could not be more proud of Mike Rizzo and the job he has done. Mike is truly the Executive of the Year in my book. But let’s remember that this ballclub was not built in the last 12 months. Mike arrived in D.C. in the summer of 2006 as our first hire and has poured his soul into the job. And the results show.
- When thinking about Mike and the job he’s done, my mind naturally segues to the Gio Gonzalez trade and how well that has worked out. Throughout Spring Training, I told anyone who would listen that Gio was special. He had “it.” Now his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to Cy Young discussions. He’ll take another shot at his 20th win on Saturday afternoon against the Brewers. I know it means a lot to him and all Nats fans.
- With a postseason berth now secure, everyone will rightfully turn their focus to the Braves and the NL East crown. As important as that is, don’t lose sight of the race for the best record in MLB. Remember, whoever posts the best record in the NL gets home field advantage during the seven-game NLCS. Think about how special that would be for our city, our team and our fans.
Please enjoy the last two regular season homestands and the pennant race. Come out to Nationals Park during the next few weeks to support the boys. They deserve it, and every game matters right now.