Results tagged ‘ New York Yankees ’
In the lead up to Opening Day at Nationals Park on April 1, we’re counting down 13 things we’re excited about on and off the field heading into the 2013 season. Be sure to check back each day as we add another item to the list and get one day closer to the return of baseball to Washington!
#4: Changing of the Guard
For years, the American League East has been looked at as the gold standard among baseball’s divisions, often stacked three or four deep with postseason-caliber clubs. Last year, the Baltimore Orioles laid claim to a Wild Card spot behind the New York Yankees, and the Rays remained in contention until late in the season.
This season, the Yankees are facing a number of injuries to key players, including back-to-back 40 home run-hitter Curtis Granderson and three-fourths of their starting infield in Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The Red Sox traded away star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and free agent acquisition Carl Crawford along with veteran rotation mainstay Josh Beckett. Tampa Bay sent stalwart starter James Shields to Kansas City in return for top prospect Wil Myers, who will start the year at Triple-A Durham. Baltimore made few improvements to a club that many believed overachieved last season. Really, only Toronto, a 73-win club a year ago, made significant improvements. Given all that, can the AL East really be considered the class of the sport anymore?
One need look no further than its National League counterpart to find a good argument that the power has shifted. The Nationals return a young, potentially improved team from the version that won an MLB-best 98 games in 2012. Atlanta, itself a 94-game winner, plugged the holes created by losses of Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn by acquiring both Upton brothers to complement their young core. Even Philadelphia, coming off a disappointing season, is primed for some measure of return to the form that saw the Phillies win five straight division crowns prior to last season. The Mets still have David Wright and some talented young arms emerging. Only the Marlins seem destined for a true rebuilding year.
That being said, a Nationals-Yankees matchup still offers plenty of intrigue. More still, when one looks at the starting pitching matchup, a duel of two likeable, workmanlike stars in Jordan Zimmermann and Andy Pettitte.
While Roger Clemens garnered many more headlines in his heyday, it was the quiet, affable Pettitte who was so universally admired and who thrived consistently in the background. He was content to succeed without the hype, much the same way that Zimmermann continues to progress into one of the best young pitchers in the game, despite the shadow cast by fellow rotation-mates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
Consider Zimmermann’s accomplishments to this point in his career: the Nationals hidden ace has posted a lower ERA (3.47 to 3.75) and WHIP (1.208 to 1.358) with a substantially better K/BB rate (3.50 to 2.05) than the often more heralded Pettitte over their same aged seasons.
And so, as the two teams and starters meet Friday afternoon in our Nation’s Capital, one could say it will mark a symbolic changing of the guard. The defending champions of their respective divisions, a quiet ace and his veteran squad coming face-to-face with their ascending, youthful counterparts.
If you are reading this blog, chances are that I don’t have to remind you that Opening Day is less than a week away. I’m pumped up for the season to get started, and I know all of you Nats fans are also. During my nearly month-long stay in Viera, I spoke with hundreds of our fans. The common theme down there was unbridled enthusiasm.
Now I am back here in D.C. and the messaging is identical.
Is this is the most anticipated season in D.C. sports history? While this is not for me to say, I have to think it is at the very least on a short list.
- Friday’s 2:05 p.m. exhibition game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park will feature a Jordan Zimmermann-Andy Pettitte pitching matchup. And here’s hoping that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s ankle allows him to play, not only Friday, but all season.
- Interesting to hear that Davey plans to really split time behind the plate between Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. Both are wildly popular in the clubhouse and among the pitching staffs. I think Davey’s direction here tells us that he is quite confident in Wilson’s knee and overall fitness.
- Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina represent perhaps the finest bench in MLB. I know that Davey views all four as talents capable of starting. And this does not include the backup catcher, Ramos or Suzuki.
- If you have not picked up on this yet, … Micah Owings can really HIT. I really enjoyed getting to know Micah during spring training.
- Gazing at the schedule, it is still strange to see that we’ll be hosting the Chicago White Sox for three games from April 9-11. I keep reminding myself that this new day and age of interleague play will take some getting used to. It will also be fun to see the Detroit Tigers visit D.C. for a two-game set, May 7-8.
- More than a few fans mentioned they are pumped to see William Howard Taft (Bill) and Teddy interact. This historically fiery relationship is one to keep an eye on all summer. I understand there has been a lot of trash talking already between the two already. Best of luck to Bill on his upcoming racing debut.
- I’d be remiss if I did not thank and wish Kristina Akra, formerly of MASN, all the best on her new career path. For those that do not know, Kristina recently accepted a new job with the MLB Network. She will thrive there, but at the same time, her warm smile and enthusiasm will be missed here with the ballclub.
- Sports Illustrated, one of the preeminent publications in our industry, came out today with their prediction of the Nationals as World Series favorites. While I’m thrilled about their optimism, as well as that of all others (like ESPN The Magazine) who have tabbed us to be successful this year, I know there is much work to be done before we get to any of that. So I’ll just echo Davey’s remarks today: “It’s better than being picked to come in last!”
See you all on Friday…
There will be plenty of predictions coming out this week about the 2013 season from the outlets that cover Major League Baseball. And while many of us have known ever since last October – and even more so as the team has added to its strong roster throughout the winter – that the Nationals would be getting plenty of attention, the first major prediction has been levied: Tuesday morning, Sports Illustrated officially picked the Nationals as their World Series favorites.
As a Nationals fan, such a prediction should be greeted with equal parts pride and pause. Yes, it is exciting that one of the preeminent publications in all of sports backs our team to be the last one standing. But considering the inaccuracy of such exercises, it’s good to take any such honor with a grain of salt.
First, let’s acknowledge that SI’s last correct prediction came back in 1999, when the publication tabbed the New York Yankees to win it all. In the 13 years since, only the ’01 Yankees even made the World Series, while six of the other 12 missed the playoffs entirely.
Now, for the good news. That ’99 Yankee squad epitomized balance. Nobody on the roster hit more than 28 home runs, but seven players hit 17 or more. Last year’s Nats had six players slug at least 17 round trippers, in spite of long-term injuries to Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth, each capable of such production in their own right.
That Yankees team also featured a deep starting rotation that saw each of its five mainstays win at least 11 games. The staff finished with the most wins, second-best ERA and third-highest strikeout total in the American League. If that sounds familiar, the Nationals staff led the NL in both wins and ERA in 2012, also finishing third in strikeouts.
We say all that to say this: if the Nationals, graced with good health, can put together a 2013 season similar to last year’s magical ride, they look every bit as formidable as those ’99 Yankees.
Here’s to hoping for – but not putting too much stock into – the power of predictions.
The Nationals made it official on Thursday, inking right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal with a vesting option for the 2015 season. The 33-year-old Dominican hurler has eclipsed 40 saves in two of the past three seasons, including 42 last year for the American League East Champion New York Yankees.
Soriano fortifies an already strong Nationals bullpen, joining Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen to form a trio as strong as any in the league to shut down opponents at the end of ballgames. All three have served as closers at different points in their respective careers. In fact, average each pitcher’s most recent season in the closer’s role (Soriano in ’12, Clippard in ’12, Storen in ’11) and you get a 2.92 ERA, 9.5 K/9.0 IP and 39 saves, at an 89 percent conversion rate.
Most any team would jump at the opportunity to sign that player to pitch the most important single inning of the game. Your Nationals have three of them.
The Soriano signing was certainly the biggest player news of the week, but it wasn’t the only development out of The District. In addition to the deal that netted three minor leaguers from Oakland including the return of A.J.Cole, the Nationals also announced that pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training on February 12, with position players on the 15th and the first workout coming two days after that. Washington also signed five players to Minor League deals, and released its Non-roster Invitee list for Major League Spring Training, including five more players already under contract. Here are the names:
Minor League Deals/Non-roster Invitees:
LHP Fernando Abad
LHP Bill Bray
LHP Brandon Mann
RHP Ross Ohlendorf
INF Will Rhymes
Additional Non-roster Invitees:
LHP Pat McCoy
RHP Tanner Roark
C Carlos Maldonado
INF Matt Skole
INF Zach Walters
Some fans may remember Maldonado from his short stint in D.C. in 2012 and Bray from his 19 appearances with Washington back in 2006 before pitching for the Reds the past six seasons. Abad and Ohlendorf both have big league time as recently as last year, and the latter is no stranger to D.C. – the Princeton grad interned for the Department of Agriculture back in the winter following the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Skole and Walters should also be names familiar to those who follow the Nationals farm system, as we have profiled each of them, the former taking home organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors.
As we reach the middle of January, the roster is starting to take shape. Of course, that should come as no surprise – pitchers and catchers report in just 26 days.
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. Today we look at perhaps the most surprising contributor this season, reliever Christian Garcia.
Most Nationals fans had never heard of Christian Garcia at the beginning of Spring Training. Nearly all knew his name by the time the 2012 season was over. An impressive stint as a September call-up gave Washington another promising power arm near the back of the bullpen. But you have to look beyond Garcia’s accomplishments once he got that call-up to understand just how good of a year he had already put together before ever reaching the Major Leagues in the first place.
In 58 relief appearances between Double-A Harrisburg, Triple-A Syracuse and Washington, the 27 year-old righty went 2-1 with a 1.11 ERA (8 ER/65.0 IP), converting all 21 of his save opportunities (all in the minors). He allowed just 58 baserunners (39 hits, 19 walks), good for a 0.89 WHIP, while striking out 81 batters, a rate of better than 11 per nine innings pitched. Those are the type of eye-popping, head-turning numbers that accompany an arsenal topped by a high 90s fastball and a late-breaking, hard-diving slider, like the one Garcia possesses when he is healthy.
Unfortunately, those last four words – when he is healthy – have followed Garcia around for much of his career and adversely impacted his Major League aspirations. Formerly a starter in the Yankees system, the 6’5” righty was originally drafted in the third round out of high school by New York back in 2004, but had never advanced beyond Triple-A. While his career Minor League numbers – a 3.22 ERA and 10.1 K/9 IP – showed his potential, Garcia had been sidelined with elbow trouble, undergoing not one, but two Tommy John surgeries to replace the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.
While an often daunting rehab process awaits, with advancements in modern medicine, today’s pitchers have achieved remarkable recovery rates from a single Tommy John surgery. However, considering how crucial the UCL is to the success of a pitcher, it should come as no surprise that patients who have undergone multiple surgeries, as Garcia has, face an even more challenging road to recapturing their original form. For him to be pitching at all, much less to the degree of success he found in 2012, is already remarkable. It also explains why the Nationals were able to ever have the chance to sign a talent like Garcia to a minor league free agent deal in the first place.
There is some debate as to whether Garcia will return to a starter’s role in 2013, or work out of the bullpen. One thing is for sure – the Nationals found a diamond in the rough in Garcia, who will no doubt be a prime candidate to compete for a spot on the staff this spring.
As we hit the home stretch of the regular season, there will be much use of the “C” word, as people refer to the various opportunities the Nationals could clinch: a potential playoff spot, possibly a division title, even home-field advantage. But on Wednesday, August 15, the Nationals already clinched something significant. By winning their 41st road game, they broke the previous franchise mark for victories away from Washington D.C. (40 in 2005), thereby guaranteeing themselves a winning road record in the 2012 season.
To really appreciate how good the Nationals have been on the road this season, consider the following: at 41-23, their .640 road winning percentage is not simply the best in the league, it’s better than any other team’s home winning percentage. In other words, at this juncture in the season, Washington statistically stands a better chance to win on the road than any team that hosts them.
For some perspective, imagine this: the last team to accomplish this feat for a full season was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went an otherworldly 59-22 (.728) away from Safeco Field on their way to a 116-win season. Not even the 1998 Yankees, who went an astounding 52-29 (.642) away from New York in a 114-win campaign, finished the season with a better road record than the rest of baseball’s home marks. All three National League division winners (Braves: 56-25, Astros: 55-26, Padres: 54-27) were better at home that year.
All of this is even more encouraging knowing that they will see Ian Desmond – who has been sidelined with an oblique injury since shortly after the All-Star break – activated for Friday night’s series opener against the Mets. After he took his first full workout on Tuesday in San Francisco, Desmond decided to have a little fun with his manager, giving him a scare about the timetable for his return.
“I’m hurting,” he told Davey Johnson following his first session of hitting again at full strength. “My ears are hurting from the loud sounds coming off my bat.”
And while Washington will not get catcher Wilson Ramos back until next season, with Desmond’s return they will field the healthiest version of their projected everyday lineup so far this season. Nationals fans have yet to see Desmond, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse all on the same field at the same time. It is conceivable that in spite of the club’s unprecedented success thus far in 2012, that the Nationals best baseball is yet to come.
If so, there is no better time for it than this week in Washington, where they will face the division rival Mets and Braves. While the Mets have dropped off the pace in the NL East race, they remain a dangerous club with tough pitching, including former Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana, who throws in the series opener on Friday. And we hardly need to tell you the importance of the Braves series, which will see two of the top three teams in the National League dueling it out for NL East supremacy and postseason positioning. As others have noted, it may be the most important series played in our Nation’s Capital in several generations. So it is comforting to know that the Nationals are not only playing some of their best baseball yet, but there are reinforcements on the way as well.
Sports are full of “firsts” and “lasts,” the types of facts and figures that allow us to place events in appropriate historical context. One of the most noted of these facts in baseball is that the Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908. What’s often forgotten is that the Cubs have also not won a pennant since 1945, a stretch of 67 years.
In that spirit, let’s go ahead and get the historical facts surrounding where the Washington Nationals stand today out of the way. The club will enter play this 27th of July, 2012 with a 59-39 record, matching the New York Yankees for the best record in the game. This marks the first time the Nationals have stood 20 games above the break-even point since their return to Washington in 2005. It is also the first time a Washington-based Major League Baseball team has been in such a position since the 1945 Senators finished their campaign at 87-67, the same year as that last Cubs pennant.
In fact, at 59 wins the Nationals have already matched their season total from both 2008 and 2009, with 64 games still left to play.
And while all that is notable, games are still won day-to-day, moment-to-moment. It is the little things that continue to have a big impact for the Nationals. Take Thursday night’s game against the Brewers, for example. There was one very loud moment, which you probably remember, and a much quieter one that you may have missed, which turned the game.
The Nationals scored their first run on an Adam LaRoche solo shot, his third home run in as many games, coming on Yovani Gallardo’s first pitch of the second inning. That feat alone was impressive enough, but the fact that it came in lock step with MASN’s highlight package made it even more incredible. F.P. Santangelo had just finished detailing LaRoche’s previous blast as he stepped to the plate, describing the opposing pitcher’s location mistake as a “fastball right down the middle for a home run…” and crack. The ball sailed over the right-center field wall, LaRoche trotted around the bases, and Santangelo continued. “You are looking live, this is not the highlight package that we just showed.”
But it was when Roger Bernadina drew a two-out walk that the Nationals sprung at the opportunity to do some real damage. With the runner at first, the Milwaukee defense played batter Jesus Flores to pull the ball, moving the shortstop into the hole, and pulling the second baseman farther up the middle, assuming coverage of the base on a possible steal. Davey Johnson put on the hit-and-run, drawing the second baseman to the bag and opening up the right side of the infield for Flores, who swatted what would normally be a routine ground ball through the vacated infield dirt, Bernadina racing around to third on the single.
Following the play, Bob Carpenter and Santangelo remarked that Flores had already done his job in the inning. No matter the result, by reaching, Flores had gotten the pitcher to the plate, meaning that at the very least, leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi would lead off the third inning. But Gallardo was flustered by the turn of events, falling behind fellow pitcher Edwin Jackson at the plate 3-0 before walking him to load the bases. Lombardozzi then yanked a clutch, two-out triple inside of first base and down into the right-field corner, and the Brewers never responded.
Meanwhile, LaRoche’s bizarre kinship with his former teammate Jackson – with whom he also played in Arizona – continued, as he hit the seventh of his team-leading 19 home runs in a game that Jackson started. And Jackson continued the trend of superb starting pitching of late. In the last turn of the rotation, Nationals starters have allowed just three runs in 34.0 innings pitched, good for a 0.79 ERA.
For their troubles, the Brewers get lefty Ross Detwiler tonight, who is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA this month. On Saturday, they will face Jordan Zimmermann, who will make his homecoming start in his native state of Wisconsin and currently sits at an otherworldly 3-0, 0.87 through his first four starts in July.
The Nationals, meanwhile, are looking at uncharted waters, a chance to not only push more than 20 games above .500 for the first time ever, but also to notch their seventh straight Curly W, which would mark the longest winning streak of the season. The Nationals have not won that many consecutive games since taking eight straight from June 10-18 of last year.
All of that talk can wait, though. For now the Nats will focus on getting one more baserunner on offense, one more out on defense, doing what they have done all year long. The best part? You can watch it all again tonight.
Tampa Bay Rays (37-29) vs. Washington Nationals (38-26)
LHP David Price (8-4, 3.01) vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-2, 4.67)
The Nationals look to get back on track as they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to start another home series. After last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the Nats are hoping to get back on the winning track and expand upon their four-game lead in the National League East.
1. Espinosa 2B
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Morse RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Moore LF
8. Flores C
9. Wang RHP
NATIONALS LOOK TO GET BACK ON TRACK
The Nationals look to bounce back after being swept at home for the first time in 2012. Washington is 7-5 against the American League this season and can record a winning Interleague record for the second consecutive season by winning at least three of the final six games this week.
DAVEY MAKES IT 30
With tonight’s tilt against the visiting Rays, manager Davey Johnson will have managed against each of MLB’s 30 franchises. In addition, Johnson managed Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist during the 2005 World Cup played in The Netherlands.
ZIMMERMAN NEARING 1,000
With 993 in the bag, Ryan Zimmerman is just seven hits shy of recording his 1,000th career hit. While Zim would be the seventh player to record a 1,000th career hit as a National, he’d be the first to do so exclusively as a National.
Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.
The Nationals entered the week in first place in the National League East, coming off a weekend sweep of the Boston Red Sox. The road trip continued to Toronto for the first of a three-game set, in which they pounded out 14 hits to help Edwin Jackson to his third victory of the season. Upon further review, we discovered an odd but fortuitous connection between Jackson’s starts and the bat of Adam LaRoche. Meanwhile, the Nationals announced the signing of 23 recent draft picks, including six of their top 10 selections. In game two of the series, Bryce Harper and company accepted the challenge to “Be Bold” as they crushed three home runs in support of Stephen Strasburg in a 4-2 triumph to win their fifth straight. A different rookie stepped up to be the hero of game three, as Tyler Moore hit his first two Major League home runs and drove in five RBI to key a 6-2 victory, a series sweep, and a season-high sixth consecutive win.
Back at home, as the team relaxed on their off-day Thursday, members of the Nationals ownership group enjoyed a unique experience, thanks to the US Navy. Meanwhile, we took advantage of the break to answer a number of your questions surrounding the Ignite Your NATITUDE Tweet-up, more commonly known as #IYNT.
The club returned home to face the Yankees on Friday as we celebrated the US Army’s 237th birthday. At the same time, Ian Desmond encouraged fans to start a new patriotic tradition in our Nation’s Capital for the National Anthem. Unfortunately, the team and could never really get rolling against Phil Hughes, dropping a 7-2 decision. A tough call on what would have been the go-ahead run in the eighth inning doomed the two teams to a 14-inning battle on Saturday. Even with seven hitless innings from the Nationals underrated bullpen, New York eventually prevailed, 5-3. In the finale, despite our clairvoyant tweet, the Yankees completed the weekend sweep to run their winning streak to nine games.
Mon @ TOR: W, 6-3
Tue @ TOR: W, 4-2
Wed @ TOR: W, 6-2
Fri vs. NYY: L, 2-7
Sat vs. NYY: L, 3-5
Sun vs. NYY: L, 1-4
Weekly Record: 3-3
New York Yankees (39-25) vs. Washington Nationals (38-25)
RHP Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02)
The Nationals and Yankees take the field for the series finale this afternoon at Nationals Park. While both bullpens must recover quickly from yesterday’s 14-inning affair, Edwin Jackson is looking to give the Nats the proper start they need to defeat New York. Happy Father’s Day!
1. Lombardozzi LF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse RF
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Solano C
9. Jackson RHP
AVOIDING THE BROOMS
The Nationals will try to avoid their first home sweep of 2012 today. To date, the Nationals have been swept twice this season, both of which came on the road (at Los Angeles, at Miami). In fact, the last team to sweep the Nationals in D.C. was the Marlins, who won three times in three days July 26-28, 2011. While the Nats have dropped two straight, they have won six of eight and eight of their last 11 contests.
JUNE PITCHING BOON
During a 9-4 June, Steve McCatty’s starting rotation has yet to allow more than three runs in a game and has limited opposing teams to two runs or less ten times in 13 contests. In fact, as good as the starting staff has been (3.02 ERA, .218 batting average against) during June, the bullpen has performed better (2.82 ERA, .189 BAA).
DESMOND MATCHES CAREER HIGH
With his game-tying home run in the eighth inning yesterday, Ian Desmond matched his career-high with 10 home runs on the season. He also hit 10 in 2010, but did not hit his tenth until September 14th at Atlanta.