Results tagged ‘ Rafael Soriano ’

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.

One-Hit Wonders

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The Nationals have a short turnaround for Saturday’s matinee versus the Reds following Friday night’s contest, but we felt it was important to take a moment to truly appreciate what the team has accomplished over the last couple of nights.

On Thursday, Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano combined to throw just the second one-hitter in the history of the young Nationals franchise. On Friday night, Jordan Zimmermann did all the work himself, needing just 91 pitches to finish a one-hitter of his own, his first career shutout.

Zimmermann threw his second complete game in his past three starts Friday.

Zimmermann threw his second complete game in his past three starts Friday.

It was the first time since August 10-11, 1917 that a Washington-based baseball club had one-hit an opponent on consecutive days, when first Walter Johnson, then a trio of Senators did so to the Chicago White Sox. Perhaps more impressively, it was the first time the Cincinnati Reds had been one-hit in back-to-back games since July 5-6, 1900, nearly 113 years ago.

For some perspective, the Brooklyn team that accomplished that mastery of the Reds was called the Superbas. The Flatbush Nine would not first begin adopting the nickname Dodgers for 11 more years, and would not make the permanent switch until 1932.

Gonzalez had shown that he was capable of such a performance as far back as last season’s home opener against this same Reds club, which he shut out on just two hits over seven frames. But the progression for Zimmermann, who turned in his first-ever nine inning complete game just two starts ago in Miami, was truly impressive.

“Since I’ve been here, that’s the best-pitched game I’ve seen,” stated Davey Johnson following Zimmermann’s latest gem.

Part of that was due to Zimmermann’s stunning efficiency, but a good deal of it can be attributed to the opponent he silenced. The Reds came into this series with the second-highest run-producing offense in the National League, just one run behind league-leading Colorado. They had posted double-digit run totals five times in their first 22 games before arriving in D.C. this weekend. And they scored 27 runs over the three-game set between these teams just three weeks ago in Cincinnati.

With their performances the past two nights, Gonzalez and Zimmermann made all of that seem about long ago as the age of the Brooklyn Superbas.

Highlights: 4.20.13

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4.20.13 – Mets 7, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper notched his second multi-homer game of the season and the fourth of his career, going 3-for-3 with the two dingers, a walk, a double, three runs scored and three RBI.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Craig Stammen did not earn a decision, but struck out five of the six batters he faced over two perfect innings of relief.

It Was Over When: Harper homered for the second time to break a 6-6 tie on the first pitch of the eighth inning, then Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined for the game’s final six outs.

Highlights: 4.9.13

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4.9.13 – Nationals 8, White Sox 7

Stat of the Game: After an 0-for-15 start to the season, Adam LaRoche homered in each of his final two at-bats Tuesday night, his second long ball providing the winning margin in the game.

Under-the-Radar Performance: With his go-ahead, two-run blast in the sixth, Jayson Werth notched the 500th and 501st RBI of his career.

It Was Over When: LaRoche’s second dinger seemed to put the game out of reach, but the contest wasn’t fully decided until Rafael Soriano induced Paul Konerko into a game-ending fly ball to center to wrap up his third save of the season.

What to Watch for: 4.4.13

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Miami Marlins (0-2) vs. Washington Nationals (2-0)

LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-0) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-0)

Washington aims for a season-opening sweep as the Nationals face the Marlins in a rare, midweek mid-afternoon affair at Nationals Park. Miami has yet to score through the first two games of the season against the Nats pitching staff.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Zimmermann RHP

LUCKY NUMBER 13

According to Elias, the Nationals became just the 13th team since 1900 to open the season with consecutive shutouts, blanking the Marlins 3-0 after a 2-0 Opening Day whitewash. It also marks the first time any team in Expos/Nationals history has accomplished the feat. The last MLB team to turn the trick was the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks.

DEEP SIXED

Gio Gonzalez became the just the third pitcher in franchise history, and the second since the team moved to The District, to throw at least six scoreless innings and homer in the same game. He joins Floyd Youmans (6.8.86 vs. Philadelphia) and Livan Hernandez (9.14.10 at Atlanta) on the short list.

UNTUCK YOU TO SLEEP

Rafael Soriano closed out his second save in as many games, allowing a hit and a walk in a scoreless ninth inning. In 12 career appearances at Nationals Park, the reliever has a 1.59 ERA (2 ER/11.1 IP) and has converted all seven of his save opportunities.

Highlights: 4.3.13

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4.3.13 – Nationals 3, Marlins 0

Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez outscored the Marlins on his own, launching his second career home run in the fifth inning while tossing six scoreless frames to earn the victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman picked up his first two hits and first RBI of the season, tripling in the sixth, then singling home Bryce Harper in the eighth for Washington’s third and final run.

It Was Over When: Harper’s insurance run helped, but the Marlins weren’t done until Rafael Soriano got Justin Ruggiano – representing the game-tying run – to fly out to Denard Span for the final out of the game.

What to Watch for: 4.3.13

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Miami Marlins (0-1) vs. Washington Nationals (1-0)

RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-0)

The Nationals and Marlins had Tuesday off following Opening Day on Monday. Washington rode a pair of blasts off the bat of Bryce Harper and a combined, three-hit shutout from Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano to a 2-0 victory in the first game of the regular season.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

OPEN SESAME

Washington blanked Miami, 2-0, in Monday’s season opener at Nationals Park. Stephen Strasburg earned his first Opening Day win with 7.0 scoreless innings, during which he allowed just three hits, walked none, struck out three and required just 80 pitches. Bryce Harper homered twice to account for both Nationals runs. Rafael Soriano struck out a pair during a perfect ninth to notch the save in his Nationals debut. Ryan Zimmerman started his 8th straight opener at third base for

Washington and he kept the Fish off the scoreboard with a dazzling play to end the first inning. The Opening Day shutout was the first registered by a team from Washington since 1971, when the final incarnation of the Senators blanked the A’s, 8-0, at RFK. The game was played in front of the largest regular season crowd (45,274 – sellout) in Nationals Park’s six-year history.

HARPER’S HISTORY MAKER

Not only did Harper become the youngest player in MLB history to homer twice on Opening Day, he did so by going deep in his first two at-bats of the season. Thus, he became the first player to homer in his first two at-bats of a season since the Pirates’ Garrett Jones turned the trick in 2010. Harper also became just the third defending Rookie of the Year to blast two home runs on Opening Day (Boston’s Carlton Fisk Carlton in 1973, Los Angeles (NL)’s Raul Mondesi in 1995).

GO GO GIO

Gio Gonzalez makes his 2013 debut at Nationals Park after throwing the home opener in D.C. last season. In that game, against the eventual NL Central Champion Cincinnati Reds, Gonzalez allowed just two hits without a walk, fanning seven over 7.0 scoreless frames to earn the first of his MLB-high 21 victories.

Highlights: 4.1.13

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4.1.13 – Nationals 2, Marlins 0

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper homered in each of his first two plate appearances of the season to provide all of the game’s scoring. He became the youngest player ever to homer twice in his team’s first game of the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: It’s hard to imagine this actually went under the radar, but Stephen Strasburg retired 19 batters in a row following a leadoff single to start the game. In the end, he twirled 7.0 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits along the way.

It Was Over When: The game wasn’t really over until it was over, when Rafael Soriano locked up Giancarlo Stanton looking on a called strike three to earn his first save as a Washington National.

A Storybook Beginning

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None of us know how this season will end. That would, after all, defeat the purpose of the six-month odyssey that lays before us: the highs and lows, anticipation, frustration, elation, and satisfaction that only a baseball season can bring. But on Monday, we at least learned how this story would start.

And it was hard to imagine a more perfect beginning.

Bryce Harper made the most of his first Opening Day.

Bryce Harper made the most of his first Opening Day.

Bryce Harper’s first swing of the season connected with a hanging curveball out of Ricky Nolasco’s hand, soared 400 feet through the Washington spring air and landed in the right field bleachers. In his second at-bat, Harper punished another Nolasco breaking ball, depositing it within 50 feet of his original blast. Two at-bats, two home runs for the defending Rookie of the Year. He couldn’t have scripted a better beginning to his sophomore season.

Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg allowed a single to start the game, then set down the next 19 Marlins batters, mostly on a combination of weak groundouts and lazy fly balls. He was not the overwhelming, 14-strikeout Strasburg of his 2010 debut, but he was just as dominant, allowing only three hits over seven scoreless frames.

Tyler Clippard fired a scoreless eighth and newly-acquired Rafael Soriano came on for his first save opportunity in the ninth, with Harper’s two runs of offense still representing the game’s only scoring to that point. Soriano rang up the Marlins 1-2-3 hitters with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth, freezing Miami star Giancarlo Stanton for strike three to put the first Curly W of 2013 in the books.

As we all catch our breath Tuesday, the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day fading into our rear-view mirror, we know not every day will like the first this season. But if the first taste of the season is a harbinger of anything to come, Nationals fans have plenty to be excited about this season.

13 Things We’re Excited About for 2013: #1

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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!

#1: Next Year Is Here

This offseason may have seemed torturously long. The sudden void of passion from the greatest season in franchise history coming to a screeching halt might have made the winter months seem like years. That’s what happens when your team’s games mean more. It is an unavoidable side effect of winning.

Last season was all about potential, about the new car smell of a winning franchise. But we are not here to rehash last year any longer.

We’ve come here to bury Pete Kozma, not to praise him.

NATSST_02162013_DMOnce the reality of last season was accepted, the focus turned to next year. And now, as you sit reading this, next year has, at long last, become this year.

This year is about expectation. The return of Adam LaRoche. The additions of Dan Haren, Denard Span and Rafael Soriano. Full seasons of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for the first time.

The stakes have been raised. Make no mistake, that’s a good thing. Before Sports Illustrated, or ESPN, or anyone else had a chance to raise them from the outside, Davey Johnson set the tone – just as he did last year. And just as we did last year, when we told you that the clock had started on the Nationals window of contention, on this Opening Day, we’ll tell it to you straight.

We’ll never forget Game 5, but we’ll always remember Game 4 as well. We have experienced the joy of must-win victory, but we yearn for more, for the chance to savor it this year. However, we also know that nothing is guaranteed.

October is not an entitlement. It is earned every day, in Washington and in the 18 cities across the nation to which the Nationals will travel this year. Because there is no October until after September, and August, and July, all the way back to April, to right here, right now.

It’s time to launch the journey that will define this year, and possibly many years of Washington baseball past and present.

It’s time to begin.

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