Results tagged ‘ Nationals Park ’
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.
Although he doesn’t pitch again until this weekend, thereby delaying any chance of earning his 20th win until later in the homestand, Gio Gonzalez has something else to celebrate today: his 27th birthday. To celebrate, we’ve put him on the cover on Inside Pitch, free at Nats Park. Make sure to pick up a copy this homestand. Happy birthday Gio!
Ever since Larry Wayne Jones, better known around the baseball world as “Chipper,” announced his plans to retire following the 2012 season, his final campaign has become something of a celebratory sendoff in every city in which he has played. Wednesday night’s game in The District marked the final regular season game that he would play in Washington, a place where he certainly made his presence felt since the franchise moved to town. Jones hit the first-ever home run in the inaugural game at Nationals Park in 2008, a fact often overshadowed by Ryan Zimmerman’s indelible game-winning blast later that same evening. Not forgotten, though, especially by Nationals pitchers, is that Jones’ 23 longballs against Washington trails only Ryan Howard and Hanley Ramirez for the most by any single player.
Prior to Wednesday night’s contest, Jones was honored in a pregame ceremony on the field, one that included a video tribute from former teammates Mark DeRosa and Adam LaRoche, who were joined on the field by Zimmerman. They presented Jones with the third-base bag from Monday’s matchup, as well as a framed, signed photo with DeRosa and LaRoche. Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo joined the party to present the framed bat with which he hit the first home run at the ballpark.
Prior to the gift-giving, the video below played on Nats HD, and when it reached the :30 mark noting that Jones finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1995, Zimmerman turned to Jones, an incredulous look on his face, and asked, “Who won?” That the answer was Hideo Nomo is of no real importance for this story – all that matters is that Zimmerman couldn’t believe the honor had gone to anyone else.
Carroll Rogers, who covers the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and who has seen every team’s ceremony for Jones to date this season, called the tribute, “The most personal pregame sendoff ceremony yet.” Jones was clearly moved, and shared hugs with his old teammates, doffing his cap to the crowd of fans behind the visiting dugout before taking the field.
Of course, even though Atlanta won the finale, the Nationals did send the Braves away with another series defeat and another game to make up in the standings from when the three-game showdown began. Washington’s 10-5 head-to-head record against their rivals to the south has comprised nearly the entirety of the six games of separation between the clubs as we enter the season’s final five weeks. And while it would be great for baseball to see Jones get one last shot at the postseason, the Nationals will be far happier to see him get it as part of a Wild Card team.
Washington Nationals (72-44) vs. San Francisco Giants (63-53)
RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 2.35) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (12-7, 3.08)
The Nationals set an AT&T Park record by rapping out 21 hits in a 14-2 series-opening victory over the Giants on Monday night to move to 7-1 on their current 10-game road swing. Jordan Zimmermann squares off against Madison Bumgarner tonight in a matchup of two the brightest young pitchers in the National League.
1. Espinosa SS
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Werth RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore LF
7. Flores C
8. Lombardozzi 2B
9. Zimmermann RHP
START ME UP
After his offensive brethren put up eight earned runs in 2.2 innings against Ryan Vogelsong last night, Zimmermann now boasts a National League-leading 2.35 ERA. Tonight, he will look to win his second game in a row after fanning 11 against the Houston Astros last Thursday. Jordan is 3-0 in his last three starts against the Giants including a victory on July 3, when he spun 6.0 innings of one-run ball.
HE PLAYS THE ROAD
In the first eight games of the Nats current 11-game road trip, Steve Lombardozzi is 13-for-36 (.361) with a double, triple, three walks and seven runs scored. He has hit safely in six of the eight tilts, including multi-hit efforts in four of the last five. Lombo has more hits on the road (46) than he does at Nationals Park this season (43).
The Nationals 5.5-game lead in the NL East matches the club’s largest in eight years in D.C. The 2005 Nationals held 5.5-game advantages at the completion of play on both July 2 and 3. Note that this is also the largest lead of the season for the Nationals, topping their previous 5.0 game advantage on June 13. In addition to the 5.5 game cushion, the Nationals have matched their zenith at 28 games above .500. The ‘33 AL Nationals (99-53) were the last DC-based club to climb as many as 28 games above the break-even mark.
While the Nationals back-to-back extra-inning wins on Monday and Tuesday night over the Houston Astros provided plenty of drama and fodder for water cooler chatter, they also left Washington’s bullpen dangerously thin entering the third of a 10-game road trip. So much so, in fact, that Davey Johnson sent starter Edwin Jackson down to be on standby as an emergency reliever, should Washington need one. Thankfully, the Nats didn’t need any bullpen help at all Wednesday night, as Gio Gonzalez stepped up with perhaps his biggest all-around performance of the season. Not only did Gonzalez toss his first career nine-inning complete game, he also belted his first Major League home run, a two-run shot that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 victory.
Gonzalez made a splash in his first home start back in the home opener on April 12, twirling seven spotless innings and logging his first Major League hit. If that game set the tone for the All-Star’s season, his outing Wednesday night may have provided its defining moment. Reunited for the first time in a game with Kurt Suzuki, his old catcher from Oakland, the 26 year-old southpaw reminded Nationals fans of exactly why Mike Rizzo traded for him this past offseason. Finishing what he started, Gonzalez scattered nine Astros hits and two walks over his 117-pitch outing as he became just the second Nationals starter this year to go the distance after Jackson did so all the way back in April.
As if that wasn’t enough, Gonzalez also delivered the biggest performance of the game on offense. After the Nationals made two quick outs to start the second inning in a 1-1 game, Suzuki came to bat. Astros starter Armando Galarraga plunked the Nats backstop on the rear with his first pitch. Gonzalez stepped up immediately to pick up his teammate. He turned on Galarraga’s very next pitch and belted it deep into the top of the Crawford boxes in left field for a two-run shot, giving Washington a lead it would never relinquish.
Although the left-field seats in Houston are notoriously easy to reach, the tater was a no-doubter, and would have been a number of rows deep at any ballpark in the league, including Nationals Park. See for yourself.
As a result, the Nationals staff now holds a unique distinction. Three Washington starting pitchers – Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, who toes the rubber in Thursday’s series finale – have each hit home runs and have each been honored as National League Pitcher of the Month. With the start Ross Detwiler is off to in August (1-0, 1.29 ERA in two starts), that got us thinking: which is a more likely accomplishment for this Nationals staff: another Pitcher of the Month award, or another home run?