Results tagged ‘ New York Mets ’

What to Watch for: 7.28.13

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New York Mets (46-55) vs. Washington Nationals (51-54)

RHP Carlos Torres (1-1, 0.94) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (0-3, 3.68)

Fear the goggles.

Tyler Clippard works in what can sometimes be a thankless role, almost always pitching the seventh or eighth inning in close ballgames. Occasionally, when the game is tied or if the Nationals are trailing, that puts him in a position to pick up a win; after all, he’s got six of them this year. But usually, the only time he ends up in the spotlight is if the other team scores a run. That hasn’t happened much lately, which is why Clippard’s tremendous season is largely flying under the radar.

His overall numbers speak for themselves: a 6-1 record, 1.74 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 46.1 innings pitched. But those marks have gotten better and better as the season has progressed. Since June 1, he’s allowed only one run in 23.2 innings, holding opponents to a .108 batting average. And in his last 15 appearances since June 26, Clippard has allowed just two hits and four walks over 15 scoreless frames, striking out 17.

Simply put, it’s hard to pitch any better than Clippard has the past two months. For the season, he’s picked up 19 holds and has not been dealt a single blown save all year. Every time Davey Johnson has handed Clippard the ball with a lead of three runs or less, he has handed it back with the lead intact.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Jordan RHP

DAN THE MAN

Dan Haren earned his fifth win – his first in 12 starts, or since May 9 vs. Detroit – by allowing just one run on three singles and a walk in 7.0 strong innings, striking out six. In four starts since his return from the disabled list, Haren owns a 3.13 ERA (8 ER/23.0 IP) and 26 strikeouts against just six walks.

POWER SURGE

Ian Desmond hit his team-leading 16th, Bryce Harper notched his 15th and Denard Span got on the board with his first home run of the season. Desmond and Span went back-to-back, marking the seventh time this season that Nationals players have homered in consecutive at-bats. Washington has hit 12 home runs in its last eight games at Nationals Park, representing its largest eight-game power output in The District this season.

THE SERIES

The Nationals have won the past two season series from the Mets, going 14-4 last season and 10-8 in 2011. Washington currently holds a 6-5 margin in this year’s matchup, including a 3-2 mark at Nationals Park.

Highlights: 7.27.13

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7.27.13 – Nationals 4, Mets 1

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren earned his first win in 12 starts thanks to a dominant performance, in which he allowed just three hits over seven frames.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Bryce Harper homered for the second time in three games, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBI.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano struck out Ike Davis to lock down his 26th save in 30 opportunities.

What to Watch for: 7.27.13

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New York Mets (46-54) vs. Washington Nationals (50-54)

RHP Dillon Gee (7-7, 4.07) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-11, 5.79)

Some time ago, Ryan Zimmerman earned the title of Mr. Walk-off. He seemed to play the leading role in every significant victory in Nationals history, displaying a unique flair for the dramatic. But it had been a while since Zimmerman’s last walk-off home run, which came back in the 2011 season. That drought ended with a bang on Friday night.

In classic Zimmerman style, he punished a high fastball from LaTroy Hawkins to the opposite field, clearing the out-of-town scoreboard to break a 1-1 tie and give the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets. Following Bryce Harper’s walk-off blast Thursday, Zimmerman’s long ball gave the Nationals walk-off homers on back-to-back days after not hitting any since Ian Desmond’s May 2, 2012 blast beat the Diamondbacks.

More impressively, Zimmerman has now hit nine game-winning home runs. Since his Nationals debut in 2005, that’s the most of any Major League player. It’s also the most by any player in history before his 30th birthday, surpassing Albert Pujols’ mark of eight. Oh, and Zimmerman won’t turn the big 3-0 until September 28. Next year.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Ramos C

9. Haren RHP

OOOOOHLENDORF

Ross Ohlendorf turned in his second excellent spot start of the 2013 season, allowing a single run over 7.0 innings of six-hit ball, walking two and striking out eight. In his two starts, he is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA (2 ER/13.0 IP) and has allowed just 12 baserunners while striking out 10.

BEING IAN

Ian Desmond has posted a NL-best .989 fielding percentage in 84 games at shortstop dating back to April 22. In that three-plus month span, only Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta (.994) has registered a better fielding percentage among big league shortstops.

THE SERIES

The Nationals are 11-2 in one-run games against the Mets since the beginning of 2011. Washington has claimed two straight season-series (14-4 in 2012, 10-8 in 2011) from New York. The Nationals also improved to 3-1 when facing Matt Harvey, despite the righty lowering his ERA to 1.00 (3 ER/27.0 IP) in four career starts against Washington.

Highlights: 7.26.13

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7.26.13 Game 1 – Mets 11, Nationals 0

Stat of the Game: Steve Lombardozzi collected his second straight multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Mattheus returned to the roster, making his first appearance since May 19.

It Was Over When: The Mets broke the game open with six runs in the ninth inning.

7.26.13 Game 2 – Nationals 2, Mets 1

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman blasted his ninth career walk-off home run, the most by anyone in the Major Leagues since his debut in 2005.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ross Ohlendorf allowed a single run on six hits over seven frames, striking out eight.

It Was Over When: Zimmerman’s shot carried the Nationals to their second walk-off win in as many days.

What to Watch for: 7.26.13 – Game 2

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New York Mets (46-53) vs. Washington Nationals (49-54)

RHP Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03) 

NATIONALS GAME 2 LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Ramos C

9. Ohlendorf RHP

*    *    *

Don’t let that windup fool you.

Ross Ohlendorf’s delivery has been described as “old-school.” Sure, it’s a swinging, kicking windup that hearkens back to baseball’s bygone times. And, yeah, it might betray a little vintage sensibility.

Still, the Nationals right-hander is hardly stuck in the past. In fact, that retro motion might be more a sign of progress than anything else.

The fact that the motion is reminiscent of legends like Bob Feller “wasn’t a motivation at all,” Ohlendorf said. “I knew that they used to do it…I’ve liked it a lot. I feel like it’s helped me pitch well.”

Ohlendorf has pitched so well out of the Nationals bullpen that he’ll take that swinging style onto the mound with him today as he makes his second big league start of the season. His presence on the Major League roster was meant to be short-lived, but after an impressive spot start in Colorado while Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg were on the Disabled List in June, manager Davey Johnson knew he had to find a way to keep Ohlendorf around.

Ohlendorf has used his old school delivery to great success so far this year.

Ohlendorf has used his old school delivery to great success so far this year.

He might have his pitching motion to thank for that.

A veteran of seven Major League seasons, Ohlendorf switched to the vintage delivery method this year, though he can’t pinpoint exactly when he made the change. Starting with his hands together, he raises them slightly before swinging his arms behind his back with a step back on his left leg. His hands meet again once more when he finally grips the ball from his mitt. His elbows fold in, and then, stepping forward on his left foot with all that momentum, he lets it fly.

“It helps me, gives me rhythm and it helps me stay loose and the ball has been coming out well pitching that way,” he said after his Washington debut.

So far, it seems to be working for him. After struggling over his last three seasons with Pittsburgh (2010-11) and San Diego (2012) and battling injuries, Ohlendorf has posted some impressive numbers in eight appearances with the Nats. After that initial win at Coors Field, the Princeton graduate has provided solid innings in long relief with a 2-0 record and a 2.03 ERA to show for it. He’s recorded 21 punch outs to just six walks.

His velocity is also spiking. Throughout his career, Ohlendorf’s fastball has averaged 90.8 mph and he hasn’t hit the upper 90s in a few seasons. This year, he’s averaging 92.6 mph, and hit 97 on the gun in Sunday’s relief appearance against the Dodgers. That’s helped in coming out of the bullpen. Accustomed to starting ballgames — he’s had 74 starts in his 116 Major League appearances —Ohlendorf says his location isn’t as sharp as if he’d warmed up to start the game.

“My command isn’t as good necessarily right away for an inning or so because I’m throwing hard,” Ohlendorf said. “But as I’ve kind of eased in to the later innings of a game, my command has gotten sharper and I haven’t needed to throw as hard.

“I feel like my command is usually sharper starting. I think it’s a little more difficult to have command right away out of the bullpen.”

With so much working in his favor these days, Ohlendorf can expect to be a more permanent fixture among the Nationals stable of arms. That’s what Johnson had in mind when he refused to send him back to Syracuse.

Now that the novelty of Ohlendorf’s windup has worn off, his impressive numbers have instead begun to define his year with the Nationals.

What to Watch for: 7.26.13 – Game 1

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New York Mets (45-53) vs. Washington Nationals (49-53)

RHP Jenrry Mejia (NR, -.–) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-5, 3.01) 

The Nationals look to continue their winning ways following yesterday’s ninth-inning, walk-off victory over the Pirates as the welcome the Mets for a day-night doubleheader to open a four-game series over the next three days. Jordan Zimmermann will take on rookie Jenrry Mejia, making his 2013 debut in the opener.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Werth RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Span CF

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

HARPER’S HEROICS

Bryce Harper’s game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning capped a 9-7 win over the Pirates Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Harper’s blast was made necessary only after the Pirates, who trailed 7-3 after eight innings, plated four runs in the top of the ninth to extend the contest. Harper became the first 20 year-old to club a game-ending blast since Miguel Cabrera turned the trick on June 20, 2003 vs. Tampa Bay as a member of the Marlins. Harper’s shot was his first long ball since July 1 and it also rendered Washington’s first game-ending home run of 2013.

K STREET

In Washington’s last two games, Stephen Strasburg (season-high 12 strikeouts, Wednesday) and Gio Gonzalez (11 K, Thursday) have combined on 23 strikeouts to establish a team-mark for the most strikeouts posted a consecutive games by Nationals (2005-present) starting pitchers. With their respective 12- and 11-K efforts the last two days, Strasburg and Gonzalez also became just the second set of Nationals starters to register double-digit strikeout tallies in back-to-back games. John Lannan (11 strikeouts, April 17 at New York) and Tim Redding (10, April 18 at Florida) were the first to turn this trick back in 2008.

RISPY BUSINESS

The Nationals pounded out 14 hits, 5 of which came with RISP (Washington entered the game in a 13-game 7-for-81 rut with RISP) and 11 of which came from Davey Johnson’s 1-4 hitters (Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman with three, Adam LaRoche with two).

Walk-Off Wonder

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The Nationals came into Thursday’s game desperately needing a win. For eight innings, it looked like they had finally broken through after dropping the first six games out of the All-Star break against a Dodgers squad just coming into its own and a Pirates team that has been as strong as any in baseball all season long. But it took another late rally in the ninth, a show of resiliency this team has been searching for, to deliver a Curly W.

Kurt Suzuki singled with one out, and after Roger Bernadina grounded into a 4-6 force out, The Shark stood at first as the winning run with two outs for the top of the order, in the form of Bryce Harper. The Nationals 20-year-old All-Star worked the count to 1-1, then extended through a cutter on the outer half from Pittsburgh reliever Bryan Morris. With the speedy Bernadina off and running on contact, the line shot looked like it might split the left-center field gap for a double. But as the ball continued to carry, center fielder Andrew McCutchen pulled up at the wall, watching as it cleared the #NATITUDE sign and dropped into the second row of the Red Porch.

Harper, who opened the game with a great diving catch before closing it with the home run, seemed more relieved than excited by his heroics.

Harper's walk-off blast was the first of his career.

Harper’s walk-off blast was the first of his career.

“I’m just happy we won the ballgame,” he said. “I’m serious. I could care less if it went over the fence or if it was a double off the wall.”

Whether the win provides the momentum swing to get the Nationals several wins in a row, to get them on a streak, remains to be seen. They will have a great chance on Friday, as they will face the Mets twice in a matter of hours, a doubleheader to start a four-game series over the next three days. The last time Washington faced their division rivals from Queens, they put up a season-high 13 runs. The resurgent offense was perhaps more important than the actual victory, as it will need to reemerge for the Nationals to take advantage of the series in front of them.

“I think it was just more important for us to get some hits,” said Ian Desmond of the bats Thursday, which produced 14 of them, two more than Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s games combined.

Nevertheless, Desmond recognized the difference in the clubhouse in terms of approach as the club looks ahead at the final 60 games of the 2013 campaign.

“I’m trying to take these games almost as playoff games. We’ve gotta win.”

Ryan Zimmerman, who was one of three Nationals with three hits (along with Harper and Steve Lombardozzi), echoed those sentiments.

“We needed a win,” he admitted. “It didn’t matter how we got it, although that’s the most exciting way you can get one.”

And while it may not have gone just how they envisioned, the Nationals will take every win, exciting or otherwise, that they can get.

The Second “Half”

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There has been plenty written about the Nationals the past few days and what it will take for them to play in October this season.

We’ll leave the “to reach x wins, they need to go xx-xx the rest of the way” predictions to others. As Davey Johnson and his troops have expressed over recent weeks, what the team needs to do is play at the level its capable of with more consistency. It doesn’t really matter how many games are left, or against whom. We all know this team is capable – when they are playing their best – of beating anyone.

Davey Johnson is looking for more consistency from his club in the second half.

Davey Johnson is looking for more consistency from his club in the second half.

They’ll get their first test immediately out of the All-Star break. The suddenly hot Los Angeles Dodgers come to town to open an 11-game, 10-day homestand, during which they will throw recently acquired Nationals nemesis Ricky Nolasco, along with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. Things don’t get easier from there, as the contending Pittsburgh Pirates visit for four games beginning next week. The homestand concludes with a Matt Harvey-headlined doubleheader followed by a pair of weekend games against the scrappy New York Mets.

Of course, the Nationals will counter with arguable the healthiest team they’ve fielded since the first week of the season. With the lineup at full strength, the only pieces missing are Ross Detwiler and Ryan Mattheus, both expected back off the disabled list soon. Washington will also be throwing Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in the three Dodgers games, putting its own best pitching foot forward. Dan Haren, who has a 1.64 ERA (2 ER/11.0 IP) and 14 strikeouts in his two outings since his own return from the DL may be starting to show signs of being the solid veteran pickup that Mike Rizzo and company were hoping for when they signed him last offseason. With Taylor Jordan solidly holding down the fort at the back of the rotation in the meantime, the starting staff looks poised to lead the way.

Meanwhile, Rafael Soriano has closed out 25 of 29 save opportunities with a 2.25 ERA on the season. Tyler Clippard has been one of the best relievers in the game, winning six games out of the ‘pen while posting better than a strikeout per inning and a sub-2.00 ERA. Ian Krol and Fernando Abad have given Washington two lefty relievers they did not have at the beginning of the year, both joining Clippard in the sub-2.00 club thus far. Factor in some solid contributions out of the long-man spot by Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 1.74 ERA) and the bullpen looks as solid as it has all year.

It’s taken a few months for all these pieces to come together and be on the field at the same time. But with a fully rested and healthy squad coming back from the All-Star break, these Nationals look as well constructed as they have been all year to finally put together the extended run that has thus far eluded them, the one they all know they will need to bring October NATITUDE back to The District.

What to Watch for: 7.1.13

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Milwaukee Brewers (32-48) vs. Washington Nationals (41-40)

RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-7, 4.20) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (11-3, 2.28)

The Nationals return home following their largest offensive output of the season on Sunday, when they scored 13 runs to beat the Mets and take the road series in New York. Today, they get Bryce Harper back in the lineup after a 31-game absence, during which Washington went 15-16.

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. Zimmermann RHP

BRYCE IS BACK

Bryce Harper was reinstated from the Disabled List today. With Harper in the starting lineup this season, Washington has played .581 ball (25-18). In four rehab contests (two with Double-A Harrisburg, two with Single-A Potomac) last week, Harper went 4-for-11 (.364) with three walks, a double, a triple, a homer, five runs scored and three RBI.

JUNE BOON

With three RBI in June’s finale at Citi Field, Ian Desmond set a Nationals (‘05-present) record for RBI in a single month with 28. Desmond bested the former mark of 27, set by Adam Dunn in May of 2009. With his ninth-inning blast, Desmond also established a Nationals (‘05-pres.) record for home runs in June with nine.

RECORD HIGHS

With their 13 runs on Sunday, the Nationals set a season high for scoring, easily besting their previous high of 10, set on April 15 at Miami. Every Nationals starting position player collected at least one hit and at least one RBI in the victory.

Halfway, Home

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Under gray skies, just across the highway from LaGuardia Airport – from which they would depart shortly after their Sunday series finale – the Washington Nationals obliterated the New York Mets, 13-2, reaching the official halfway point of the season with their 81st game of the 2013 campaign.

The 13 runs marked a season high, easily surpassing the previous high-water mark of 10, which they scored on April 15 at Miami. Four different players mashed home runs, with Adam LaRoche’s massive solo blast opening the scoring and Ian Desmond’s upper deck shot off the glass panels of the club down the left field line at Citi Field capping it. It was a game that reminded the Nationals, their opponent and everyone else in the league just what they are capable of, even if they haven’t shown it as consistently as they’d like through the season’s first half.

Gonzalez's May/June ERA (2.10) is more than a run lower than in his 21-win campaign in 2012 (3.25).

Gonzalez’s May/June ERA (2.10) is more than a run lower than in his 21-win campaign in 2012 (3.25).

Oh, and they get Bryce Harper back today.

Sitting just 10 games (6-4) into a stretch that will see them play 34 of 49 at home, Washington may be finally primed to make the run that seems to elude them after each big victory. They are 22-16 at home this season. They’re 25-19 when Harper plays. In their final 14 games before the All-Star Break, they will draw Milwaukee and San Diego at home, then Philadelphia and Miami on the road. Those opponents are a combined 140-185, all four residing below the .500 mark.

More important than all of that, the team as it has been comprised has won seven of its last 11 games, outscoring opponents 52-39 over that stretch. Desmond, who leads all Major League shortstops in extra-base hits, has six home runs in six different games during that time, the Nationals winning five of them. Plus, he’s coming off of a torrid month of June that saw him hit .306 (30-for-98) with a .988 OPS and 28 RBI, the most ever in a single month by a Nationals player.

Meanwhile, quietly, the pitching is looking more and more like last year, not even considering 11-game winner Jordan Zimmermann. Since May 1, Stephen Strasburg (1.93) and Gio Gonzalez (2.10) have carried the National League’s third and fourth-lowest ERAs. In the 22 games dating back to June 8, the bullpen has saved all seven of its opportunities, going 5-4 with a 2.12 ERA (17 ER/72.1 IP) and 67 strikeouts.

The first half has not gone the way that nearly anyone believed it would. But with the pieces starting to come together, the lineup and bullpen rounding into form, and the team finally running at nearly full strength, the prospects look bright for an exciting second half.

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