Results tagged ‘ Rafael Soriano ’

What to Watch for: 6.22.13

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Colorado Rockies (37-38) vs. Washington Nationals (37-36)

RHP Jhoulys Chacin (5-3, 4.26) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-8, 5.72)

The Nationals won their third straight game thanks to Ian Desmond’s seventh-inning, go-ahead jack, his third homer in as many contests. The win helped propel Washington to its sixth win in 10 games, and gave the Nats their first season series win over the Rockies since 2005. Today, Dan Haren takes the mound to try to give the Nationals their first four-game winning streak since winning five in a row between May 4-10.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Rendon 2B

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina RF

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Solano C

9. Haren RHP

GOOD WOOD

Remarkably, nine of Ian Desmond’s 12 home runs this season have been go-ahead blasts. Desmond currently leads all active MLB shortstops with 32 extra-base hits (18 doubles, 2 triples, 12 home runs). During Washington’s current three-game win streak, Desmond has posted the game-winning RBI in each contest, and he paces all MLB shortstops with nine game-winning RBI.

19 PUBLIC UNTUCKINGS AND COUNTING

With 19 saves in hand, Rafael Soriano is one save shy of becoming the third Nationals closer to tally 20 saves before the end of June. At present, Matt Capps (20th save on June 9, 2010 vs. Pittsburgh) and Chad Cordero (June 14, 2005 at Los Angeles Angels) comprise this short list.

BULL-PENNINGS

In 14 games and 43.0 innings dating to the June 8 series opener vs. Minnesota, Jim Lett’s bullpen is 4-3 with five holds, four saves (zero blown saves), 43 strikeouts and a 1.67 ERA (8 ER/43.0 IP). In that span, the bullpen has lowered its season ERA from 4.06 to 3.61. The bullpen has not allowed a home run at Nationals Park since Atlanta’s Ramiro Pena went deep in the 10th inning on April 12. Since that blast, Nationals relievers have worked 73.1 consecutive homerless innings in the District.

Highlights: 6.13.13

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6.13.13 – Nationals 5, Rockies 4

Stat of the Game: Ian Desmond went 4-for-4, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman drove in three runs, including two on his seventh home run of the season.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano locked down his 17th save in 20 opportunities, stranding the tying run at first in the ninth.

Highlights: 6.9.13

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6.9.13 Game 1 – Nationals 7, Twins 0

Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann cruised, allowing just two hits over seven scoreless frames to earn his ninth win.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Anthony Rendon plated three RBI to guide the offense to its largest output since May 28.

It Was Over When: Ian Desmond‘s two-out, two-run single helped lead to a a five-run fifth frame and knocked Twins starter Scott Diamond from the game.

6.9.13 Game 2 – Nationals 5, Twins 4

Stat of the Game: The Nationals overcame an early three-run deficit with single runs in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Six different relievers combined to throw six innings of three-hit, shutout ball to preserve the victory.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano got the final out, popping up Josh Willingham to strand the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first.

Stammen The Tide

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A couple weeks ago, when discussing the options for taking over the injured Ross Detwiler’s spot in the rotation, Davey Johnson opted not to go with Craig Stammen, despite the righty’s excellent numbers early in the season. In fact, it was precisely because of those numbers that Johnson felt he needed Stammen in case of emergency long relief, or if the team needed quality extra-inning work. And while one never wishes for such situations to arise, when one did Friday night in a crucial series opener in Atlanta, Stammen was there to answer the call.

Did he ever.

Craig Stammen silenced the Braves over four innings of emergency relief to earn his third win.

Craig Stammen silenced the Braves over four innings of emergency relief to earn his third win.

The right-hander came on with the Nationals ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and set down all 12 Braves batters he faced, three by strikeout, to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano tossed an inning each to finish out a 3-2 victory, one that seemed a stretch to believe after Stephen Strasburg departed with tightness in his back after just two frames.

“He was unbelievable, he did a great job,” said Johnson of Stammen’s clutch performance. “I thought he could go about 50 pitches, and he did. He probably could have gone further…It was a big win. We needed it bad.”

While it’s hard to call any single outcome in a 162-game season a must-win, Friday night may well have been the most significant single matchup on the schedule so far this season. Coming off a pair of disappointing setbacks in Baltimore, the Nationals sat with even .500 record, trailing the first-place Braves by 5.5 games in the division. With Strasburg on the mound against up-and-down rookie starter Julio Teheran, Washington appeared to have the advantage in the pitching matchup heading into the evening. When that assumed advantage was suddenly thrown out the window, it was Stammen who led the charge, as the team came together to gut out a huge win.

“I try to stick to my routine of taking it one pitch at a time,” explained Stammen, acknowledging the overused phrase, but emphasizing the importance of that mindset. “It may sound cliché, but that’s really the only way you can look at it. If you put your heart and soul into every pitch, every time, sooner or later you look up and you’re through three or four innings.”

Denard Span used his speed to deliver two of Washington's three runs.

Denard Span used his speed to deliver two of Washington’s three runs.

Stammen’s four innings gave the offense enough time to piece together another run, just enough to squeak out a victory. All three runs came via productive outs, and all three were set up thanks to hustle plays. Leading off both the first and sixth innings, Denard Span stretched for an extra base after lacing a ball into the right-field corner, notching a pair of triples. In each case he went on to score easily on a deep sacrifice fly to right field by Steve Lombardozzi. The only other Washington tally came after Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each singled with one out in the second, The Shark racing around to third base after Espinosa’s chopper bounced through the right side of the infield. Kurt Suzuki followed with a grounder to third, but busted hard out of the box, beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play, allowing Bernadina to score.

Together, the bullpen and lineup showed the kind of hustle and effort it will take to win games with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth still out of the lineup. Ultimately, Friday night’s game was one of sacrifice – Stammen’s well-earned tourniquet victory, Lombardozzi’s pair of run-scoring fly balls – of giving up whatever was needed to get the victory. It was epitomized by Stammen’s attitude afterward, one which the Nationals will need to embrace as they slowly get back to full strength.

“I’ll be here tomorrow with my cleats on,” he said, despite throwing 49 pitches over his four perfect frames. “If it goes 20 innings, I’m sure I can flip something up there.”

Highlights: 5.31.13

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5.31.13 – Nationals 3, Braves 2

Stat of the Game: Craig Stammen retired all 12 batters he faced out of the bullpen to earn his third win of the season. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span tripled and scored twice to provide the bulk of the offense.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano closed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 15th save in 18 chances this season.

Happy Flight Home

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Winning on the road in extra innings is one of the hardest things to do in baseball. In fact, one could argue that it’s the toughest overtime scenario in any major sport. Even reaching that point means you’ve already survived a sudden death situation in the bottom of the ninth, and no matter what kind of rally you put together, your opponent will always have the chance to counter. It is perhaps the biggest factor in baseball’s home field advantage, one that extends far beyond the simple comforts of playing in familiar surroundings, in front of the hometown crowd.

But that’s exactly what the Nationals did on Wednesday, scratching out a 10th-inning run to wrestle a 2-1 victory away from the Giants in front of a raucous San Francisco crowd. Bryce Harper made a pair of crucial catches, Adam LaRoche reminded everyone that he’s still a wizard at first base, and Ian Desmond stepped in following an intentional walk to Ryan Zimmerman to deliver the game-winning hit.

“It’s gonna be a good flight back home,” said Gio Gonzalez, who silenced the Giants offense into the eighth inning, but came away with a no decision. “Today was a great example of how they battled, and we fought all the way to the end.”

Harper led a team effort in a gutty win Wednesday.

Harper led a team effort in a gutty win Wednesday.

Athletes will often say that after things go poorly for them, the first thing they want to do is get back to the same situation in which failed in order to have another chance to succeed. For Harper, that meant a chance to track down Hunter Pence’s ball on the warning track in the sixth inning Wednesday, in an eerily similar spot to the ball he couldn’t corral in the ninth inning Tuesday night, leading to the game-tying run. For Rafael Soriano, it meant another one-run lead entrusted to his right arm less than 24 hours after a blown save in the same spot, with a chance to once again lock down a huge road victory.

“People on the outside don’t really understand what kind of a mental hurdle that is,” said Desmond in regards to Harper’s play in particular. “Whether you run into a wall, or you get caught stealing, whatever it may be, to bounce back from it is a huge mental hurdle. That took some big guts today, a lot of guts from everybody.”

There was, perhaps, some fitting irony that it came down to Marco Scutaro – owner of the longest hitting streak in the Majors this year at 19 games – for the final out. Hitless to that point on Wednesday, Scutaro got a decent piece of Soriano’s 2-2 offering, but the ball came to rest in the leather of Roger Bernadina’s glove, a step onto the left field warning track at AT&T Park, snapping Scutaro’s streak as well as Washington’s four-game slide. For a team that has yet to notch a walk-off win following 12 of them last season, it was as close as the Nationals had come all year to that kind of dramatic, momentum-shifting victory.

“It makes the trip home easier,” said manager Davey Johnson of Wednesday’s result. “This was a good road trip to get through, and I’m glad to be coming home with a win, a tough one.”

And so, a 10-game trip full of trials and tribulations ended on a high note. While the Nationals would have liked to win more than four of those contests, the fourth and final victory may prove to be the most important win of the season so far.

Highlights: 5.8.13

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5.8.13 – Nationals 3, Tigers 1

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper became the first National to reach 10 home runs, and is now tied for second in the National League with 10 long balls. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: With another stellar performance, Jordan Zimmermann earned his league-leading sixth victory, dropping his already paltry ERA to just 1.59.

It Was Over When: Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined to record the final six outs and lock up the victory, Washington’s third in a row.

Highlights: 5.4.13

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5.4.13 – Nationals 5, Pirates 4

Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman each reached base safely four times and each earned their first steal of the season, on a double-steal in the ninth. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Roger Bernadina made a huge defensive play, gunning down Russell Martin trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double leading off the bottom of the ninth.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano whiffed Jordy Mercer to shut the door on his seventh consecutive save opportunity, his 10th in 11 tries overall this season.

Highlights: 5.2.13

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5.2.13 – Nationals 3, Braves 1

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren needed just 90 pitches to complete a season-high eight innings of work in earning his second consecutive victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span factored in all three Washington scores, finishing 3-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, a run scored and two RBI.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano popped out Dan Uggla as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth to earn the series split.

Acquiring An Understanding

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Through the first 23 games of the season, Nationals fans had caught glimpses of the reasons Mike Rizzo pulled the trigger on his three major offseason acquisitions, Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. But although Haren earned his first Nationals win on April 11, Soriano had converted six of seven save opportunities and Span had shown an early propensity to get on base, none of the three had turned in a starring performance.

That all changed Saturday afternoon, as 38,903 red-adorned fans were treated to a beautiful day of baseball loaded with great pitching, clutch hitting and a pair of spectacular defensive plays.

Span saved at least four runs Saturday with two stellar catches.

Span saved at least four runs Saturday with two stellar catches, including this one of Joey Votto’s sixth-inning drive.

Haren turned in his strongest start to date, in which he was largely dominant over six solid innings, striking out five Cincinnati batters without a walk. Soriano slammed the door shut on the Reds hopes, fanning two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 ninth. But Span stole the show, leaping into the left-center field wall to rob Joey Votto of extra bases in the sixth, then ranging far to his right to corral a line drive off the bat of Zack Cozart with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, one that looked like it might very well erase Washington’s three-run advantage.

“I got great jumps on both of those balls,” said Span after the game. “The Cozart ball, that was my favorite out of the two today. It’s just fun for me to be able to go out there and show my speed and grab my ball like that in the gap.”

Haren and Span also got the scoring started, each placing two-out, RBI-singles between the Cincinnati defense in consecutive at-bats in the second inning.

With impressive performances all around by the newcomers, one could be forgiven for forgetting Bryce Harper’s team record ninth April home run, which also gave him the franchise mark for RBI (18) in the season’s opening month. And while all that may not have added up to anything nearly as historical as what happened in the first two games of the series, it was a recipe for success in one of the most complete games the Nationals have played so far this year.

“I was kind of disappointed when I gave up the second hit today,” joked Haren about having to follow back-to-back one-hitters as he improved his home record to 2-1 this year. “I finally feel like part of the team. I’ve got to be like this or better the rest of the year.”

If Haren can replicate Saturday’s success on the mound and Span can do the same in the field, Soriano will have that many more opportunities to untuck his jersey after he puts opposing lineups down for the count.

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