Results tagged ‘ Roger Bernadina ’

Spanning The Ages

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Denard Span has maintained since his arrival in the Nation’s Capital that he takes more pride in his defense than his offense. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the year, taking extra bases away from Joey Votto and Zack Cozart of the Reds, Carlos Ruiz and Darin Ruf of the Phillies, Jason Kubel of the Diamondbacks, and others.

Perhaps it’s because of all those other plays that we’ve seen over the course of his first season in a Nationals uniform, but when the ball left Hunter Pence’s bat with two on and two out in the top of the ninth Wednesday night, there was a sense of confidence that Span would find a way to track it down. Track it down he did, notching the catch of the year for Washington and securing the fifth straight win for the Nationals.

Like a walk-off home run, the game-saving grab stands out above other tremendous defensive plays more because of its situational importance than the shear athleticism involved. Because of the situation and the location of Span’s catch, it was most obviously evocative of Roger Bernadina’s game-saver in Houston last season. But where does Span’s snag rank among the top game-saving catches in franchise history? We’re letting you decide from among our favorites. Watch them below, then vote in the poll at the bottom of the post.

Span Saves The Day: 8.14.13

The Shark’s Disappearing Act: 8.8.12

Willie Harris Leaves Them Loaded: 4.10.10

Walk-Off Wonder

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The Nationals came into Thursday’s game desperately needing a win. For eight innings, it looked like they had finally broken through after dropping the first six games out of the All-Star break against a Dodgers squad just coming into its own and a Pirates team that has been as strong as any in baseball all season long. But it took another late rally in the ninth, a show of resiliency this team has been searching for, to deliver a Curly W.

Kurt Suzuki singled with one out, and after Roger Bernadina grounded into a 4-6 force out, The Shark stood at first as the winning run with two outs for the top of the order, in the form of Bryce Harper. The Nationals 20-year-old All-Star worked the count to 1-1, then extended through a cutter on the outer half from Pittsburgh reliever Bryan Morris. With the speedy Bernadina off and running on contact, the line shot looked like it might split the left-center field gap for a double. But as the ball continued to carry, center fielder Andrew McCutchen pulled up at the wall, watching as it cleared the #NATITUDE sign and dropped into the second row of the Red Porch.

Harper, who opened the game with a great diving catch before closing it with the home run, seemed more relieved than excited by his heroics.

Harper's walk-off blast was the first of his career.

Harper’s walk-off blast was the first of his career.

“I’m just happy we won the ballgame,” he said. “I’m serious. I could care less if it went over the fence or if it was a double off the wall.”

Whether the win provides the momentum swing to get the Nationals several wins in a row, to get them on a streak, remains to be seen. They will have a great chance on Friday, as they will face the Mets twice in a matter of hours, a doubleheader to start a four-game series over the next three days. The last time Washington faced their division rivals from Queens, they put up a season-high 13 runs. The resurgent offense was perhaps more important than the actual victory, as it will need to reemerge for the Nationals to take advantage of the series in front of them.

“I think it was just more important for us to get some hits,” said Ian Desmond of the bats Thursday, which produced 14 of them, two more than Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s games combined.

Nevertheless, Desmond recognized the difference in the clubhouse in terms of approach as the club looks ahead at the final 60 games of the 2013 campaign.

“I’m trying to take these games almost as playoff games. We’ve gotta win.”

Ryan Zimmerman, who was one of three Nationals with three hits (along with Harper and Steve Lombardozzi), echoed those sentiments.

“We needed a win,” he admitted. “It didn’t matter how we got it, although that’s the most exciting way you can get one.”

And while it may not have gone just how they envisioned, the Nationals will take every win, exciting or otherwise, that they can get.

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: 5.30.13

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5.30.13 – Orioles 2, Nationals 0

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren worked into the eighth inning allowing just two runs, tossing his fifth quality start of the season. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Roger Bernadina hit in all four games vs. Baltimore, finishing the series 5-for-16 with a double and two home runs.

It Was Over When: The Orioles added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth to push ahead 2-0.

Highlights: 5.29.13

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5.29.13 – Orioles 9, Nationals 6

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman homered in each of his first three at-bats for the first three-homer game of his career. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Roger Bernadina also homered, marking the second straight game in which he has gone deep.

It Was Over When: The Orioles turned a three-run deficit into a three-run advantage with a six-run seventh inning, providing the final margin.

Turning On The Heat

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When a team is looking to find its offensive stride, as the Nationals have been through much of the early part of the season, they will try just about anything to get going. As baseball is arguably the most superstitious of sports, lineup shuffles will give way to bizarre rituals, including – but certainly not limited to – beard growing. Even manager Davey Johnson has gotten in on the act, sporting an ever-lengthening gray goatee over the recently concluded five-game homestand.

And while Washington’s offense began to pick up a tad – the bats registering three straight double-digit hit totals during the Philadelphia series for the first time since doing the same against the White Sox April April 9-11 – the Nationals hadn’t put together a real breakout game yet. That task was even taller with four regulars – Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth – each out of the lineup nursing various injuries.

The Nationals got production and power from all over the lineup Tuesday night.

The Nationals enjoyed production and power from all over the lineup Tuesday night.

But the game finally came on a rainy Tuesday night in D.C., and against one of the more unlikely foes available, no less. All year long, the toughest opposing pitchers against the Nationals lineup have been of the young, flame-throwing variety. From the Mets Matt Harvey (who, admittedly, has shut down pretty much everyone) to Los Angeles hurler Clayton Kershaw and his 1.68 ERA, Washington’s bats had struggled to find their timing. All that changed against Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman, who was brushing 98 on the Nationals Park radar gun.

Denard Span lashed the first pitch of the game for a loud out, then Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman each singled to set the stage for the red-hot Adam LaRoche. After laying off the first two pitches out of the strike zone, LaRoche turned on an offering from Gausman and blasted it into the right-centerfield seats. Four batters in, 3-0 Nats.

“When you see a couple guys getting on him early, it boosts everybody’s confidence,” said LaRoche of the first-inning outburst.

For a team that had gone 19-4 when scoring first and 22-4 when plating at least three runs this season, it was a welcome early sign. But what followed in the next eight innings may have signified a much more profound change.

Nathan Karns impressed enough in his first Major League start to earn another Sunday.

Nathan Karns impressed enough in his first Major League start to earn another Sunday.

The Orioles came back to tie the game in the fourth against Nathan Karns, called up from Double-A Harrisburg to make his Major League debut. No sooner had Baltimore done so than Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina, two Nationals still looking to find their groove at the plate, went back-to-back off Gausman, each on a two-strike pitch, to reestablish the three-run lead.

And while four home runs (LaRoche would add another late) will pretty much always win you a game, it was the notable lack of another number that should have Washington fans excited.

In spite of the powerful swings and the high velocity pumping in from the opposing starter, Washington struck out just once Tuesday night. Compare that to the eight whiffs they had against Harvey and the Mets or the 12 against Kershaw in Los Angeles.

LaRoche’s second home run in the eighth inning provided mere icing on the cake of this game and his torrid month of May. After a slow April, the slugging first baseman has put on a display this month, batting .341/.422/.648 with seven homers and 19 RBI, with still three games to play before the calendar reaches June.

With temperatures projected in the 80s and 90s all week in Baltimore and Atlanta, perhaps the Nationals bats will follow the weather and heat up for good, just as they did last season. And despite Moore’s claim that he hopes Davey “looks like Santa by the end of the year,” if LaRoche and the offense can maintain anything close to their recent output amidst the rising temperatures, the skipper may shave his beard sooner rather than later.

Clinically Speaking

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Saturday morning, Nationals coaches held a youth baseball clinic, presented by Medstar Health, at Nationals Park in an effort to continue enhancing youth baseball programs in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia region.  The Nationals coaching staff provided major league instruction for children from King Greenleaf Recreation Center, USO Metropolitan Washington and MVP members of the Jr. Nats club.

The group kicked off the clinic with warm-up and stretching exercises that mirror those of the Nationals players, and took full advantage of the stadium’s facilities through various baseball drills. From taking batting practice in the batting cage and fielding balls in the outfield to working on pitching techniques in the bullpen, the young athletes took full advantage of their time at the ballpark.

The event wrapped up with lunch as well as a meet-and-greet and autographs with Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina.

Check out a photo gallery from the event below.

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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.

What to Watch for: 5.16.13

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Washington Nationals (21-19) vs. San Diego Padres (18-21)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-5, 3.10) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (3-3, 5.15)

The Nationals head south for the second stop on their three-city California tour as the open a four-game, weekend set with the San Diego Padres Thursday night at Petco Park. Stephen Strasburg makes his first-ever Major League start in his hometown city, where he also attended college at San Diego State University.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Bernadina RF

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP

GOING STREAKING

Adam LaRoche enters tonight’s action riding a 12-game hit streak, marking his career long and the longest hit streak by a Nationals player this season. During the stretch, which began on May 2, LaRoche has gone 16-for-41 (.390) with two doubles, a homer, five RBI, seven walks and six runs scored, posting a .469 OBP & .982 OPS. His hit streak, which has raised his average 85 points, began after hitting just .129 (11-for-85) in his initial 25 games this season.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Washington is 16-2 when scoring first this season, compared to 5-17 when its opponent gets on the board first. The Nationals have been outscored 16-22 in the first frame this season, but have outscored their opponents 21-10 in the second inning.

RISP FACTOR

Washington’s offense has gone two consecutive contests without recording a knock with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-13 in those games. The Nationals have gone hitless in 14 straight at-bats with RISP, since Roger Bernadina’s sixth-inning single on Monday at Los Angeles. During the current five-game rough stretch (1-4 record), Washington has batted just .133 (6-for-45) with RISP.

The Good Fight

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A quick glance at the final box score may suggest that Washington enjoyed a rather comfortable victory in its rubber match triumph on Sunday. But the series finale in Pittsburgh began about as poorly as one could possibly draw it up for the Nationals. They went three up, three down in the top of the first, culminating in Bryce Harper’s check swing strikeout, after which he was ejected by third base umpire and crew chief John Hirschbeck.

The bottom of the first didn’t get any better. Starling Marte hit Gio Gonzalez’s first pitch over the wall, Jordy Mercer followed with a double, and Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to first on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen hit the runner in the back. After a walk to Gaby Sanchez, the bases were loaded with nobody out.

Gio Gonzalez averted disaster in the first on the way to six strong innings.

Gio Gonzalez averted disaster in the first on the way to six strong innings.

The afternoon could well have been over right there. But Gonzalez locked in and fanned Russell Martin swinging, then Michael McKenry looking. With two outs, Brandon Inge sent a grounder past Gonzalez up the middle, but a rangy play and a strong throw across his body by Ian Desmond beat the runner to first, and the Nationals escaped with just the single run of damage.

“It just felt like the momentum shifted,” said Gonzalez after his first-inning Houdini act. “A younger me would have probably spiraled out of control, trying to be too much, trying to do too much.”

Instead, the Nationals got that run back immediately, as Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning, moved to third on Adam LaRoche’s double and scored on Danny Espinosa’s sac fly deep to center field, knotting the game at 1-1. The game remained deadlocked until Espinosa’s next at-bat, when he got into a two-out, two-strike hanging curveball from Wandy Rodriguez and punished it deep into the left field seats for a two-run shot, putting Washington ahead for good.

“He didn’t really try to crush it, he just met it,” said Davey Johnson of Espinosa’s swing. “Of course, he’s so strong, it went a long way.”

In a sense, that approach has been emblematic of the Nationals in general this year, where they may have pressed too much out of the gates. They are such a strong team that simply meeting the challenges in front of them should yield positive results.

The Pirates clawed back within a run in the sixth, but again Gonzalez stranded a big runner, leaving Martin at third base as the potential tying run. The start – six innings of two-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts – was much more like the Gonzalez Nationals fans got to know last year, when he won 21 games.

“He was the old Gio,” said Johnson after the game. “I hadn’t seen that grin in a long time.”

Tyler Moore's late blast gave Washington some breathing room.

Tyler Moore’s late blast gave Washington some breathing room.

The contest remained a one-run game until late, when Washington got some fitting redemption for the first-inning antics. With one out and Roger Bernadina at second base, the Pirates elected to walk LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore, who had gone down looking three times in as many trips. Moore fell behind 1-2, then checked his swing at a pitch out of the zone, with the home side appealing down to first base umpire Jim Reynolds, who signaled no swing. Moore annihilated the next pitch to left field for a three-run bomb to put the game out of reach.

“It fires you up a little bit,” said Moore of the intentional walk ahead of him, before quickly couching his statement. “But you can’t blame them. I would have done the same thing. LaRoche was swinging a good bat and I was struggling early.”

There have been a number of games so far this season where an early miscue or unfortunate turn would alter the mood, portending a feeling of, “Here we go again.” Sunday’s contest in Pittsburgh provided the most amount of early trouble to overcome in any victory thus far in the young season. Those feelings crept up upon Harper’s ejection, grew stronger after Marte’s leadoff home run, and were at full boil with the bases loaded and no outs in the first.

But just as it turned around a road trip that saw the club lose the first two games at rival Atlanta, Washington rebounded Sunday to make it four wins in five days to close the trip, mostly low-scoring, tightly-played affairs that leaned on the good pitching and solid defensive foundation upon which this roster was constructed. If the final game of the trip does mark a turning point in the campaign, it may also well serve as a microcosm of the season as a whole. After struggling from the outset and encountering some adversity, cooler heads prevailed on the way to victory.

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