Results tagged ‘ Postseason ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: An Unforgettable Journey

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My intent was to post my own blog on the eve of hosting Game One of the NLCS. But the offseason came rather quickly, and in an especially cruel fashion.

I want to sincerely thank Nationals fans near and wide for their support during what was in so many ways a DREAM season. Your words and notes of support meant so much, not only to me, but my family.

Jayson Werth’s Game Four walk-off punctuated a thrilling season.

The roars heard in conjunction with Jayson Werth’s Game Four homer and the record crowd (45,966) for Game Five will long be remembered in these parts, but the 2012 season was so much more.

We, of course, began our journey together in the Grapefruit League. We survived an opener at Wrigley Field that appropriate for the Windy City. We Took Back The Park from the Phillies. We swept a series at venerable Fenway Park. We won The Pine Tar series from Joe Maddon’s Rays. We witnessed The Shark defy gravity in Houston.

We watched D.C.’s favorite teenager come of age right before our eyes. We watched our primary off-season acquisition exceed every expectation by winning 21 games and do it all with a smile. We watched our Opening Day starter win 15 games and provide us with the cushion needed to hold off Chipper’s 94-win Braves. And yes, in early September, we shut him down for all what we firmly believe to be the right reasons.

We won the NL East, arguably the toughest division in baseball.

We ended D.C.’s 79-year postseason drought.

Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo guided the Nationals to the NL East title.

We posted MLB’s best record.

We won 100 games.

We made a ton of history.

And, just as importantly, made a fleet of memories to keep us warm this offseason.

I want to acknowledge the efforts of Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson, our coaching staff and especially the players themselves. What a fantastic season from top to bottom!

Setting aside the outcome of the World Series for a moment, I can honestly say that there is not one franchise in our game that I would swap futures with.

The 2013 season will not be without its own unique challenges. We are quite aware that there are no guarantees in this game. But I like where we are standing as a ballclub.

Let’s talk again soon, perhaps during MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville in early December.

Thanks again for an unforgettable journey…

Mark

October #NATITUDE Contest Winners

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Amidst the madness of the postseason, you may have missed our October #NATITUDE Twitter contest that ran throughout the NLDS. If you did, have no fear, we will have plenty more opportunities to win great prizes throughout the offseason and into next year through our various social media platforms. However, we’re here today to crown our winners, who will each receive a Nationals 2012 Postseason Prize Pack as well as tickets and on-field recognition prior to a 2013 Nationals home game.

First up is the Local Business category. While many DMV-area businesses ignited their NATITUDE with food and drink specials or decorations, this particular confection – inspired by Jayson Werth’s Game Four walk-off homer – caught many an eye around the District for its creativity and originality. Well done!

On the topic of Werth’s heroics, Nats fans may have saved the best meme of the year for last, as they began to interpret their own ideas of the iconic photo of Werth jumping into a sea of teammates at home plate. With a hat tip to @b_hartland for creating the Tumblr account that housed many of the finished products, this submission from @ampetersen99 was just one of his many creations the morning after Game Four and takes home our winner from the Fan category.

Finally, we have our School category winner. Despite their mascot being the Cardinals, the National Presbyterian School ignited their NATITUDE for Washington’s playoff run in a school-wide display of support (click on the “Showing our NATITUDE” gallery).

Thanks to all who participated, and keep your eyes open for our Halloween NATITUDE contest, coming soon!

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.

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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On the Postseason Train

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With Thursday night’s 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals reduced their magic number to three with six games to play in the regular season. But Washington already punched its first postseason ticket since the franchise’s relocation to the Nation’s Capital, marking the first playoff team in Washington D.C. since 1933. Keep an eye out for the video below throughout the 2012 Postseason as the Nationals look to ride this train as far as it will take them.

This Is Happening

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It’s only appropriate, on this last day of summer, that we can officially begin to discuss postseason baseball in Washington D.C. no longer as a “likelihood” or a “probability,” but as a reality. That’s the thing about the baseball season – a hot start is great, like the one the Nationals stormed out to by winning 10 of their first 14 games, but in the scope of a six-month marathon, it means very little. All the excitement of holding down first place is fantastic fun, but it does not mean anything until this time of year. There are no cheaply won postseason spots in our sport, and only sustained success over the duration of the spring and summer will lead to those meaningful games in October that Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and everyone around the organization have been talking about since Spring Training.

Yes, the National League East remains undecided, with a combination of eight Nationals wins and/or Braves losses still needed to determine the division crown. Beyond that lie the fight for home field advantage through the various rounds of the playoffs. These Nationals have taken nothing for granted so far this season, and you can be sure they won’t start now. Nevertheless, one indelible fact remains: there will be postseason baseball in our Nation’s Capital for the first time in 79 years.

Michael Morse celebrated as Ryan Zimmerman raced home on a wild pitch.

“What’s the big deal?” an exuberant Johnson jokingly questioned of the press corps, as fans watching his post-game press conference in the adjoining Lexus Presidents Club cheered his arrival.

The Nationals almost clinched their postseason spot Wednesday night in dramatic, surprising fashion, coming from nowhere to overcome a six-run, eighth-inning deficit, only to fall to the Dodgers, 7-6 in the ninth. While that would have been a game for the ages, long remembered by those who stuck it out to the end, it would have supported the script that is often preached, but not necessarily accurate, about this year’s Washington club, that all of this sudden success is a surprise. In actuality, it is the culmination of years of building the right way, from the ground up, and simply watching the pieces come together at the Major League level all at once. In a sense, it was much more fitting that the history was made thanks to a well-pitched, well-defended game, trademarks of a team that Washington fans have fallen in love with this season.

Drew Storen gave the game and the fans their endearing moment to cherish, as he faced the daunting middle of the Dodgers lineup – Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez – holding a three-run lead in the ninth. The cushion would turn out to be more than enough. Storen painted a perfect, outside corner fastball to freeze Kemp, Wednesday night’s hero. He then handcuffed Gonzalez, the powerful lefty’s bat waving helplessly over a disappearing changeup. Finally, he blew away Nationals nemesis Hanley Ramirez – who owned a career .339 (147-for-433) mark with 27 home runs against the Nats coming into the at-bat – on a nasty slider to end it, pounding his mitt once and high-fiving catcher Kurt Suzuki in celebration.

Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth to nail down the clinch.

“I didn’t even think about it until I saw it on the scoreboard afterwards,” said Storen of the clinching moment. “I was just having fun. The crowd was real into it. If you’re not out there having fun in that situation, you shouldn’t be out there.”

And though Storen provided the coup de gras, seemingly everyone chipped in. Ryan Zimmerman opened the scoring with a booming double to the left-center field gap, scoring Bryce Harper in the third inning. Danny Espinosa had an RBI-double of his own, and came in to score on a Suzuki sacrifice fly, the culmination of a hard-fought, professional at-bat. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth each had a pair of hits, with the shortstop stealing one bag and the outfielder swiping a pair. As it has been all year with this team, you never know who the hero will be, and there were many of them Thursday night.

Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, continued to impress, and continued to show why this team has a real chance to make a deep October run. With six nearly flawless innings, in which a solo home run and a pair of singles were the only bumps in an otherwise smooth road to his career-best 10th victory, he quieted the powerful Dodgers lineup to put the Nationals in position to clinch.

Zimmerman and Werth celebrate the historic night.

“It was great seeing all of them on their feet,” the lanky lefty said of the crowd. “It really gives you the chills a bit to see how into it all of them were.”

Detwiler has consistently gone about his business, and though he is sometimes overshadowed by his teammates, there is no hiding his 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He also became the fourth Nationals starter to hit double-digits in wins on Thursday, with Edwin Jackson sitting on nine victories heading into his start tonight against Milwaukee.

Speaking of those pesky Brewers, they are suddenly hot, and have clawed their way back into the race for the second National League Wild Card spot. In fact, the final four series on the Nationals schedule – Milwaukee, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Philadelphia again – all bring teams fighting for every game, their postseason lives at stake. Each game will be its own challenge, as the Nats try to wrap up the division. Those battles begin again tonight. But for today, at least, allow yourself to soak in the reality.

This is happening.

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