Results tagged ‘ NLDS ’

2012 Player Review: Ross Detwiler

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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. With Election Day behind us, we move to our favorite, politics-based nickname on the team, The National Det himself, Ross Detwiler.

With all the breakout seasons from various members of the Nationals in 2012, it can be easy to overlook just how good Ross Detwiler pitched. In fact, most fans have probably forgotten by this point that John Lannan was expected to occupy Detwiler’s place in the starting rotation until the final day of Spring Training, when the announcement was made that Detwiler had earned his place as the number five starter. And while Detwiler yielded his starting spot temporarily to Chien-Ming Wang upon the latter’s return from the Disabled List, he didn’t remain in the bullpen for long, finishing the year back in the rotation.

Detwiler quietly proved to be a reliable starter in Davey Johnson’s rotation.

The key for Detwiler was finding the right balance of his two fastballs – a lively four-seamer that runs up in the mid-90s and a sinking two-seamer a couple miles-per-hour slower – and his developing off-speed pitches. He found that balance over his best stretch of the season from June 12 to August 2, a period in which he threw 49.2 innings with a 2.17 ERA, and 29 strikeouts to just 11 walks. While the southpaw has never been an overwhelming “strikeout pitcher,” he learned to pitch to contact to a greater degree this season. That helped him to his first career 10-win campaign, along with a huge performance in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

Detwiler posted very similar overall numbers to those in his 2011 campaign, allowing 8.2 hits, 0.8 homers and 2.8 walks while striking out 5.8 per nine innings (8.6/1.0/2.7/5.6 in ’11). He lowered his WHIP ever so slightly from 1.26 to 1.22. His .241 batting average against ranked 14th among qualifying starters in the National League, just ahead of Ryan Vogelsong and Edwin Jackson, and also lower than rotation-mate Jordan Zimmermann.

Off the field, Detwiler and Jackson happily adopted the moniker of “The Other Guys” during the season, as the two members of the rotation happy to stay out of the wake of publicity surrounding Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann. His easy-going, light-hearted personality allowed him to stay even-keeled through the rotation debates and the ebbs and flows throughout the year.

Although Detwiler pitched just 66.0 Major League innings in 2011, his combined total, including his Triple-A workload, was 153.1 frames. He topped that by 11.0 innings in 2012, not signifying a significant increase, but obviously held up fairly well at the end of the year, if Game 4 of the NLDS was any indication. Detwiler’s left arm should be well prepared to handle another increase in innings as a full-time starter in 2013, when he will enter his first year of arbitration. The Nationals have the 26 year-old southpaw under team control through the 2015 season.

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2012 Player Review: Ian Desmond

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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. Our list continues with the emerging talent up the middle, Ian Desmond.

We’ve written several times in this space about the candidacy of Adam LaRoche as the Most Valuable Player, not just for the 2012 Nationals, but for the entire National League. However, if any Washington position player could challenge LaRoche for that title, it would be the Nationals 2012 breakout star, Ian Desmond.

Ian Desmond emerged as an NL All-Star and clubhouse leader in 2012.

After flashing signs of his potential during a 2009 September call-up (where he went .280/.318/.561 with seven doubles and four homers in 82 at-bats), the shortstop’s numbers fell short of those levels in his first two full Major League seasons. All of that changed in 2012, though, as the 27 year-old saw his talents at the plate and in the field come together to land him an All-Star selection. Despite playing through an oblique injury that hampered his production towards the end of the season’s first half and sidelined him for nearly a month in July and August, Desmond still posted career highs in hits (150), doubles (33), home runs (25), runs scored (72) and RBI (73). His OPS+ of 126 was higher than Ryan Zimmerman’s, Bryce Harper’s and Jayson Werth’s, ranking just slightly behind LaRoche for the team lead.

For some greater perspective on the caliber of Desmond’s season, consider the following. Despite playing just 130 games, he was one of only seven National Leaguers (and the only National) to post a 20-20 season, joining reigning MVP Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, Andrew McCutchen, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins.

Gio Gonzalez flashes his favorite clubhouse shirt, depicting Desmond as a super hero, cape and all.

And while his overall numbers were solid in their own right, Desmond seemed to come up biggest whenever the pressure was turned up. Until Werth’s thunderous, walk-off home run ended Game 4 of the NLDS, Desmond’s come-from-behind, game-winning blast with two outs in the ninth inning on May 2 to beat the Diamondbacks was Washington’s lone walk-off home run of the season. The shortstop also drove in 31 of his 73 RBI (42.5%) with two outs, including three from the eighth inning on in a rousing, 12-inning victory over the Mets on June 5.

And then, of course, there was the defense. After committing 34 errors in his first full season in 2010, Desmond cut that number to 23 the following campaign and again down to 15 this year. His improved consistency, along with his proclivity for highlight reel plays, earned him a Gold Glove finalist nomination. Desmond’s pure athleticism and reflexes led to tremendous plays like the one below, also part of that June 5 performance:

He showed off his range as well this year, with diving grabs like this one in September:

Desmond carried his success into the postseason, staking claim as Washington’s most consistent hitter in the NLDS. He batted .368 (7-for-19) in his first taste of playoff action, continuing to emerge as a leader for this young Nationals squad.

As a player just entering the prime of his career, there is no reason to believe Desmond’s 2012 season was a fluke, and if he is able to play a full season in 2013, the Florida native will have a chance to improve upon the benchmarks he set this year. As he enters arbitration for the first time this year, he remains under team control for the next three seasons, giving Nationals fans at least that much time to watch him continue to grow into his full potential.

Don’t Panic

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by Noah Frank

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.

While the Nationals are known for their pitching, a potent offense helped them to the best run differential in baseball.

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.

Ross Detwiler has been excellent at home this season.

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.

What to Watch For: NLDS Game 3

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St. Louis Cardinals (1-1) vs. Washington Nationals (1-1)

RHP Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.92)

The Nationals split their two road games to begin this best-of-five series against the Cardinals, as they return to D.C. today in what amount to a three-game home series to determine who advances to the NLCS. Former Cardinal Edwin Jackson, who defeated the Phillies in Game 4 of last year’s NLDS, will oppose Chris Carpenter in the first MLB Postseason contest in D.C. in 79 years.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Nationals manager Davey Johnson, on Hall-of-Famer and former Nationals Manager Frank Robinson, who will throw out today’s ceremonial first pitch:

“He’s just an outstanding example of a true professional.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

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. Jackson RHP

WHY OCTOBER 10 MEANS SOMETHING IN THIS TOWN

Exactly 88 years ago, on Oct. 10, 1924, the AL Nationals defeated the New York Giants, 4-3 in 12 innings, to win Game 7 and DC’s lone baseball World Championship. Fittingly, Walter Johnson earned the win with 4.0 scoreless innings of relief. With the score tied in the 12th, the AL Nationals plated the decisive fourth run (which was unearned due to a pair of errors) via an Earl McNeely one-out, RBI-double. The game was played in front of 31,667 at Griffith Stadium.

ED-WIN

Edwin Jackson won his final start of the regular season to give him 10 victories for the year, marking his fifth straight double-digit win season. In Jackson’s lone start against the Cardinals in Washington this season on August 30, he allowed one unearned run on just four hits while striking out 10 over 8.0 dominant innings of work in an 8-1 Nationals victory.

FAMILIAR FOE

The Nationals have won five-of-nine from the Cardinals in the season series, which did not begin until the Nationals 131st game of the season, August 30 in D.C. Thus, nine of Washington’s last 35 contests have come against the Cardinals. The Nationals are 8-1 at home against the Cardinals dating to August 28, 2010. Overall, the Nationals are 16-11 in their last 27 games against the Cards.

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Your Guide To NLDS Game 3

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The 2012 Postseason lands in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. We’re here to prepare you as best we can for Game 3 of the National League Division Series, with first pitch at 1:07 p.m. local time at Nationals Park.

Remember, while Wednesday is Game 3 of the NLDS, it is Postseason Home Game 1 for those of us here in D.C. Therefore your ticket should look like this:

If you don’t already have tickets to the game, there will be a very limited amount of standing room only tickets available beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, ONLY at the Nationals Park Box Office. 

Make sure you wear your Nationals red to the ballpark! While you’re at it, post a photo of you, your business or your school Igniting Your October #NATITUDE and post it to Twitter for a chance to win 2013 Nationals tickets and a Postseason Prize Pack!

All gates will open at 10:30 a.m., 2.5 hours before first pitch. There will be 40,000+ postseason giveaway items for every game of the NLDS. Giveaways will be available at all gates, so feel free to enter through any park entrance.

Face-painting, balloon art, caricatures, and more will be available at the Family Fun Area near the Center Field Gate once gates are open until the start of the game. Plus, live music will take place at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk once gates are open until the start of the game.

And, of course, the game itself features Edwin Jackson and the Nationals taking on Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals with the best-of-five series tied at a game apiece. More on all that right here.

While you’re at the game, don’t forget to stop behind Section 113, where we’ll have unique memorabilia from the Nationals first-ever postseason games last weekend in St. Louis.

Series Information:

Game 4: Thursday, 4:07 p.m. (moves to 5:07 p.m. if Detroit beats Oakland Tuesday night)

Game 5 (if necessary): Friday, 8:37 p.m.

If you have any other questions that are not answered on this post or on this link, feel free to ask them in the space below and we’ll do our best to answer as quickly as possible.

Some Motivation

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Around 1:05 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, after the Nationals take the field for their first home playoff game, the first in the franchise’s annals since the Montreal Expos in 1981, and the first in Washington’s Major League history since 1933, one song will blare out from the ballpark’s speakers, the chosen song of the home nine’s starting pitcher. After everything the Washington fan base has abided to get to this momentous day – from decades of postseason absence, to franchises twice leaving the District, to finally, a winning team being built from scratch to deliver this day – the song is appropriately entitled: “Waiting.”

You know the world is waiting…

Waiting on 103

The collected, experienced Edwin Jackson leads the Nationals into Game 3 of the NLDS.

For the Nationals fan base, it is waiting on Game 3. Their designated starter, the man who will take the hill with this music pumping behind him, will be looking to reestablish the team’s dominance at home, facing off in what has become a best-of-three series in D.C. between the upstart Nationals and the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, following a successful split of the first two games on the road. Now Washington will look to Edwin Jackson, who was a key part of that championship team against whom he will pitch on Wednesday, to deliver as he has done all year long.

We need some motivation,

So won’t you come motivate me?

When the Nationals made the surprise free agent signing of the offseason, inking Jackson to a one-year deal to bolster their starting rotation, many were caught off-guard. An already full rotation was now actually overflowing, prompting the eventual decision to start John Lannan at Triple-A to begin the season. And while it could be argued that Jackson was brought in to do what he has already done – post a double-digit win total and rack up nearly 200 innings in the middle of the rotation – he was really signed by EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo with Wednesday’s Game 3 in mind.

“You have to treat every inning like it’s the ninth inning,” stressed Jackson at his press conference Tuesday of the added pressure of starting in the postseason.

Jackson has been in this position before, pitching for the other side last season.

On a team full of rookies and other young players and a rotation with no postseason experience of any kind, Jackson is the elder statesman, the veteran, the man who has been to the top of the mountain before. He has twice pitched in the postseason, twice in the World Series, for two different teams in two different leagues. He has taken on the Red Sox and the Phillies, the Brewers and the Rangers, and made three starts as a part of that 2011 St. Louis team that won it all. It is only fitting that the same team, a year later, now stands in the Nationals way as they attempt to advance to the NLCS.

Thanks to that experience, Jackson is able to keep a clear mind about the task in front of him, to keep everything in perspective.

“No one has to be a hero,” he explained. “We just need to go out and play the game we know how to play.”

Last year, after the Cardinals had lost Game 3 of the NLDS to the Phillies and found themselves down, two games to one in the best-of-five format, they handed the ball to Jackson with their season on the line. The strong righty allowed two runs in the first inning, but shut down the potent Philadelphia offense (one that had scored 11 runs in the first game of the series) the rest of the way en route to a 5-3 victory. St. Louis went on to win Game 5, and of course, the rest is history.

I done told y’all, and told y’all, and told y’all again

Play the game, play the game, play the game yeah to win

There will also be a measure of revenge available for Jackson, who struggled through his toughest start of the year in St. Louis earlier this month. However, lest Cardinals fans jump to quickly to the conclusion that they will find the same kind of success against Jackson here in Washington, they need only look back at Jackson’s start on August 30, in which he allowed a single unearned run on just four hits, striking out 10 over 8.0 masterful innings in an 8-1 Nationals victory over St. Louis. That contest was part of a four-game set in which Washington pummeled the Cardinals to the tune of a 31-14 score over the series, winning three times.

I ain’t lose, I don’t lose, I ain’t lose, never lost

Always on, keepin’ on, always on, never off

With emotions likely to be running high in the first Major League Postseason game in D.C. in 79 years, it’s hard to think of anyone better than the calm, collected Jackson taking the hill for the Nationals.

Another Opening Day

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Stop us if this sounds familiar.

The Washington Nationals, trailing a tight, low-scoring game by one run in the top of the eighth inning, need a clutch hit late. This is, after all, their first time in such a position, with newfound expectations heaped on their collective backs, the attention of the sport and the nation at large turned to them for the first time in their young history. They need to find a way, through a raucous road crowd in one of baseball’s historic cities, to shut out the noise, the emotion, and find a way to win. Washington rides a three-hit day from Ian Desmond and a clutch hit late off the bench to a one-run road victory. It is Opening Day, April 5 in Chicago, and the Nationals have just beaten the Cubs to start the season.

Tyler Moore silenced the Game 1 crowd of more than 47,000 in St. Louis.

Six months and two days later, Washington began its “second season,” the postseason, in remarkably similar fashion. The Nationals use another three-hit game from Desmond and a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single – the very definition of clutch – from rookie Tyler Moore to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League Division Series. Of course, it was Chad Tracy who delivered the big blow on Opening Day, with his ninth-inning double. On Sunday afternoon, Tracy again played a role, despite never even crossing the lines onto the field of play. His announcement as the pinch-hitter for Ryan Mattheus (more on him later) in the top of the eighth prompted Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny to pull setup man Mitchell Boggs in favor of his lone lefty reliever, Mark Rzepczynski. Davey Johnson countered by pinch-hitting Moore, and the chess game continued. Matheny opted against a second pitching change, leaving right-handed closer Jason Motte in the ‘pen. Moore delivered. Checkmate.

Asked if it was the biggest hit in his career, Moore, the fresh-faced 25 year-old tucked into his stock, grey postseason sweatshirt, kept it simple.

“Uh, yeah,” he laughed.

However, none of those events would have transpired if not for the tremendous, history-making postseason debut of Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus. Already leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, St. Louis had loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, a single and a walk against Craig Stammen, prompting Johnson to go to his ground ball specialist. Even he couldn’t have imagined things would work out quite so well.

In a game in which the Cardinals seemed to constantly be on the verge of breaking out, Mattheus delivered in the biggest spot. For starters, he got cleanup man Allen Craig – a .400 hitter (50-for-125) with 74 RBI with RISP during the regular season – to hit the first pitch on the ground to shortstop, Desmond throwing home for the first out of the inning, the bases remaining loaded. Then, on the very next pitch, he induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of 2012 All-Star Yadier Molina, becoming the first pitcher in the history of postseason play to record all three outs in an inning on just two pitches.

Heroes Moore (left) and Desmond enjoy the spoils of victory at the post-game press conference.

“I sold out to the ground ball,” he said with a smile after the nail-biting victory. “I’ve done it all year, that’s been my MO to get ground balls. Look at my numbers – I don’t punch very many guys out. So I’m not going to go in there and try to strike out the side.”

To call Mattheus an unknown factor would be an understatement. As the official scorer called out the afternoon’s final totals over the public address system in the press box, he mispronounced the reliever’s name, calling him “Math-A-us” rather than “Matthews,” though the right-hander surely could care less. He had just, after all, recorded the three biggest out of his career.

“Absolutely, no question about it,” Mattheus agreed when asked if Sunday’s performance topped his career highlights. “I don’t think we care if we stole it. Any one we can get is a win, no matter how we get it.”

Desmond had a different view of the outcome.

“I don’t think we stole it,” he said. “I think we earned it.”

Indeed, the Nationals earned it through a mix of quality pitching from the whole staff, combined with a couple of big hits in key spots. As anyone who has followed the team this year knows, that should come as no surprise.

“That’s really been the formula,” explained Desmond. “Just some timely hitting and some really, really good pitching.”

On that much, he and Mattheus agreed.

“I think that’s how this team’s been the whole year,” said Mattheus, reflecting back to Opening Day. “Some nights we pitch, some nights we hit. We try not to make too much of these games. Hopefully we can treat them like games in April. That was the most exciting day in my career so far, Opening Day, but this has to trump that.”

What To Watch For: NLDS Game 1

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Washington Nationals (98-64) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94)

The Washington Nationals begin the franchise’s first-ever Postseason in the home of the defending 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards knocked off the Atlanta Braves, 6-3 on Friday night, in the one-game Wild Card Playoff to reach the National League Division Series.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Nationals Manager Davey Johnson on leading his fourth different team to the Postseason:

“It’s not my first rodeo… We know who we are, we know what we do well.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

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. Gonzalez LHP

ARMS RACE

Washington features the staff with the lowest ERA in the National League at 3.33, helping lead to a league-best 98 wins. Nationals pitchers also ranked third in the league with 1325 strikeouts. St. Louis, meanwhile, posted the league’s sixth best mark as a staff (3.71), including 10 shutouts. Gio Gonzalez’s only start against the Cardinals his season resulted in his first career shutout, a five-hit masterpiece in D.C. on August 31. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, had one great start and one rough one against the Nationals, going 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA (7 ER/8.2 IP).

BATTER UP

The Cardinals featured the second-highest scoring offense and second-highest batting average in the National League. However, they were out-homered by the Nationals, 194-159, and Washington actually posted better second-half numbers across the board.

MANAGING EXPECATIONS

This matchup features Major League Baseball’s oldest (69 year-old Davey Johnson) and youngest (42 year-old Mike Matheny) managers, marking the largest age difference between skippers in Postseason history.

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