Results tagged ‘ Ryan Mattheus ’
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.
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.
It wasn't pretty but we battled, the boys picked me up. Great job all around—
Gio Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47) October 08, 2012
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.
“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.”
Recently, the Nationals played a total of 35 games in just a 34-day span, a brutal stretch of the schedule with little to no opportunity for rest. With only one off day and a pair of doubleheaders during that span, the team still managed to go 24-11 over that stretch, all while finding time to make a number of off-the-field appearances around the Washington D.C. area. Here is just a sampling of a few of the events players participated in over the last week that the team was in town.
Shortly after the Nationals completed an 8-2, three-city road trip in Houston, Arizona and San Francisco, the team boarded their flight back across the country to Washington. Their flight home landed after 2:00 a.m., and players did not get back to the ballpark, then home, until after 3:00. Nevertheless, Bryce Harper – on the first off day after that aforementioned 34-day stretch – arrived at Fairfax High School before 10:00 a.m. that same morning to help out at a free baseball clinic for 200 local area youth, including 50 from the Greater Washington Urban Baseball League. In addition to making a donation to the league, he also took the time to share hitting and fielding tips and throw some batting practice to the kids.
On the morning of August 18, following a 6-4 win over the New York Mets the night before, the Nationals coaching staff provided instruction to a group of 150 local children comprised of military families and Prince George’s County youth at the Medstar Health Youth Baseball Clinic at Nationals Park. The kids had a chance to pitch in the Nationals bullpen with Nationals Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, hit in the batting cage with Nationals Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, and take part in outfield drills. After a morning of baseball on the field, relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus stopped by during lunch to meet everyone and sign autographs.
Finally, on August 20, after the Nationals had waited out a two-and-a-half hour rain delay the previous day against the Mets, winning the series’ rubber game, 5-2, Ryan Zimmerman made a visit to Children’s National Medical Center. In addition to visiting with children being treated for cancer and life-threatening blood disease, he autographed baseballs and hats and hand-delivered pizza and cupcakes. Zimmerman returned to the ballpark in time to reach base four times in Washington’s crucial, 13-inning win over the division-rival Braves that evening.
The Nationals enjoyed a rare off day at home Thursday before entering the final stretch of the regular season that has them slated to play 38 games in 41 days beginning Friday in Philadelphia. But despite the marathon, even the best team in baseball has found time to give back away from the diamond.
In a season full of moments that seem to compete against one another for space in our collective memories, Saturday night brought the latest installment of drama for the 2012 Nationals. Rallying from two runs down with a six-run, two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats sent their home park into perhaps the loudest frenzy of the season to date.
But it wasn’t just the six-run inning that caused the commotion, it was the way in which the runs were scored, and the events that set up the comeback in the first place. Steve Lombardozzi squirted a base hit past the pitcher and up the middle to score Adam LaRoche to cut the lead to one. Tyler Moore followed with a two-out knock the other way to plate Jayson Werth to tie the game. Then Danny Espinosa crushed the go-ahead, three-run shot over the bullpen in left before Bryce Harper hit the longest Nationals Park home run of his young career, an absolute rocket deep into the second deck down the right field line. The final three hits, including the two monstrous homers, all came not only with two outs in the inning, but also with two strikes on each batter.
The Nationals also made three errors on the night, contributing either directly or indirectly to four Marlins runs. Espinosa made two of them (and Lombardozzi the third), only adding that much more to the redemptive value of their clutch hits.
More than anything, though, Saturday night’s triumph was another complete team effort. A month from now, most people will only remember Espinosa and Harper going back-to-back to give the Nationals the lead, but there were a number of unsung heroes Saturday night. Here are our top five:
5. The Bullpen
The life of a reliever can seem like a thankless one. Even those who are lucky enough to have the most visibly defined roles – like closer Tyler Clippard and set-up man Sean Burnett – are expected to succeed every time out. But then there are those expected to pick up the slack in games like Saturday’s, to keep the team close when it is trailing in the late innings. After Jordan Zimmermann left the game, the trio of Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez and Ryan Mattheus combined for three innings of work, allowing just a single unearned run. All three are having very solid seasons for the Nats, and Mattheus was rewarded for the trio’s effort with his fourth win of the season, as he was the pitcher of record when the offense sparked the comeback.
4. Justin Maxwell
Some of you are probably wondering who this is, while others of you are scratching your heads, knowing that Maxwell hasn’t worn a Nationals jersey since the 2010 season. And while that is true, the Olney, Maryland native and former National has found a home for himself with the Houston Astros, who faced the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta last night. Maxwell opened the scoring in that game with a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Paul Maholm, Atlanta’s trade deadline pitching acquisition. After the Braves tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, Maxwell drilled an even longer home run off Maholm to open the seventh, and the Astros held on for the 3-2 victory. Coupled with the Nationals come-from-behind win, the Braves loss pushed Washington 3.0 games clear in the National League East.
3. Steve Lombardozzi
Lombardozzi’s two-out single up the middle in the eighth scored the first run of the six-run rally. While those who have watched the rookie all season have become accustomed to seeing him hit the ball right over the second base bag, we haven’t seen him do it nearly as often from the right side. A switch-hitter, Lombardozzi was batting just .200 (12-for-60) as a righty coming into that at-bat. But he delivered another clutch hit, as he has been wont to do this year. And despite a rare miscue, he also played some tremendous defense Saturday night, including this gem, which saved a run.
2. Tyler Moore
With the return of Werth, Moore has acknowledged that his role will be largely off the bench down the stretch for the Nats. Taking cues from Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa, he knows he’ll have to make the most of his spot starts and especially his pinch-hit opportunities, like the one he got Saturday night. After falling behind in the count, usually pull-happy Moore stayed back and sent a line drive to the opposite field, scoring – of all people – Werth to tie the game.
1. Adam LaRoche
By the time Espinosa and Harper went deep, it was easy to forget that LaRoche had already homered twice Saturday night. Even more impressively, he hit both against tough lefty Mark Buehrle, giving him nine home runs vs. left-handed pithing this year, a new career mark. LaRoche also reached on an error and scored the first run in the six-run eighth. In a resurgent year, the first baseman leads all National League first basemen with 23 home runs and 69 RBI.
Enjoy the highlights below as the Nats look to cap a winning homestand with a series victory over the Marlins Sunday afternoon.
Washington Nationals (51-35) vs. Miami Marlins (42-46)
RHP Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.73) vs. RHP Carlos Zambrano (4-7, 4.20)
The Nationals take on Miami tonight in the finale of the four-game set, looking for a series victory. Earlier in the season, the Fish swept the Nats in Miami (3-0). Edwin Jackson toes the rubber this evening looking to push Washington’s overall record against the Marlins (4-4) over .500 for the season.
1. Lombardozzi 2B
2. Harper RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Espinosa SS
7. Bernadina CF
8. Flores C
9. Jackson RHP
Jackson goes for his fifth win in his last seven starts tonight against the Marlins. In his last start on July 4, he outpitched San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, allowing four runs on five hits in 5.2 innings. He will face Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano for just the second time in their respective careers, with the last matchup coming on June 23, 2009 at Detroit when Jackson was a member of the Tigers and Zambrano was with the Cubs.
Thanks to a dominant start from Stephen Strasburg and three scoreless innings from the bullpen, Washington blanked the Marlins 4-0 on Sunday in Miami. Strasburg (10-4) reached double digits in wins with six innings of shutout ball in which he fanned seven and walked just one. Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard combined to record the final nine outs, preserving the Nationals fifth shutout of the year.
When Strasburg pocketed his 10th win yesterday, he and Gio Gonzalez (12-4) became the first pair of NL teammates to reach the 10-win plateau. San Francisco’s Matt Cain (10-3) and Madison Bumgarner (11-5) became the second NL pair a few hours later when Cain logged his 10th win. The AL’s lone 10-win pair is Texas’ Matt Harrison (12-4) and Yu Darvish (10-6).
Two more Nationals took the plunge this week, joining the growing ranks of players on Twitter: Ian Desmond and Ryan Mattheus. While Desmond is all set up with his profile, Mattheus hasn’t touched his yet. Why not? Because he’s letting you – the fan – construct his page for him!
Below are three photos of Ryan for you to choose from to use for his profile. Vote in the poll below for your favorite, and that’s the one we’ll use to help him create his page! Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and let us know how else you’d like to see our players participate through Twitter.
Hello again Nats fans. It has been a while, but I wanted to stop by and offer some of my thoughts on Tuesday night’s 2011 debut for Stephen Strasburg
Does AWESOME! cover it? I am not sure it does it justice. But it was truly exhilarating. This, I can confirm.
Tuesday night’s start really was a year in the making.
But, I suppose most (myself included) will never know everything that went into the making. We may never know the pain, focus, trepidation, elation and isolation that Stephen endured to get to that mound last night.
Sure, I think we know the year-plus process was arduous at least and tedious at best. But something tells me even that does not tell the entire story.
So, who can relate to Stephen’s plight the last 13 months? Perhaps a marathoner breaking a foot? An artist smashing a hand? They can relate in their own worlds.
But, I have to think that those who can best relate to Stephen are those pitchers who have had arm injuries themselves.
Jordan Zimmermann and Ryan Mattheus (Tommy John Surgery) or Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder), they can relate. The Cardinals Adam Wainwright is likely beginning to understand, as has his teammate Chris Carpenter, who last fall lent Stephen a bit of knowledge as to what to expect. So can hundreds of others who have left this game prematurely, or the dozens currently rehabbing their own arm injuries.
But can we as fans empathize? I am not so sure we can with complete and true appreciation.
With Strasburg’s 2011debut still fresh in our minds, I have to remind myself that this rehab process is not yet complete. With that said, I believe it is appropriate to acknowledge the precision, expertise and wisdom of Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed Stephen’s surgery on Sept. 3, 2010, and Nationals Medical Director, Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, who assisted on the procedure.
Let us not forget those that stood behind Stephen the entire way. For it is their hard work, scheduling, communication and (most importantly) execution of the Strasburg rehab calendar that made Tuesday’s outing possible. Job well done to our athletic training staff of Head Athletic Trainer Lee Kuntz, Assistant Athletic Trainer Michael McGowan, Medical and Rehab Coordinator Steve Gober, Strength and Conditioning Coach John Philbin and Senior Medical Consultant Dr. Bruce Thomas. And I should not forget the athletic training staffs in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown and Viera, too.
What a thrill it was for many of us last night to re-engage and reconnect with Stephen Strasburg the pitcher. And coupling that enjoyment with how much I personally admire Stephen for his talents, it really made me wonder what the last year was like for Stephen Strasburg the person.
Well, thank you for checking in. I will be back in touch in the next couple of weeks. I have a few more thoughts and observations I’d like to convey about the big league and minor-league levels as we put a bow on the 2011 campaign.
Have a great weekend and hope to see you at Nationals Park….as soon as the rain ends!
In recognition of the recent deadly attacks on service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Nationals paid tribute to the thousands of men and women who risk their lives every day for our nation prior to today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
During batting practice, the Nationals honored fallen heroes by wearing military hats emblazoned with the insignias of all branches of the military during batting practice, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, military reserves and the Navy, including the elite SEAL division. For the game, the players and coaches donned their patriotic uniforms featuring the stars and stripes Curly “W.”
“The military is a very important part of the Nationals community,” said Israel Negron, Nationals Senior Director of Community Relations. “We wanted to recognize all of their efforts and show our sincere appreciation for their sacrifices.”
Earlier in the day, the Nationals partnered with Miller High Life and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to invite local military veterans out to Nationals Park as part of the “Give a Veteran a Piece of the High Life” program. Nationals pitchers Ryan Mattheus and Ross Detwiler were joined by Miller High Life deliveryman Windell Middlebrooks at the pregame event, which was attended by hundreds of local veterans and their families.
Pregame ceremonies also featured select IAVA veterans who took part in the Ceremonial First Pitch, Line-Up Card delivery, Starting Nine and “Play Ball” Announcement. In addition, there was a special pregame performance of “America the Beautiful” followed by “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch.
Nationals fans have had their share of memorable at-bat/walk-out music over the past few seasons, and this year is no different.
All-Star Tyler Clippard previously came out to the song “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America. The song became popular enough that eventually the LCD screens around the ballpark would display falling peaches as Clippard warmed up. He now uses “Ready or Not” by The Fugees, a song that, coincidentally enough, came out in 1996—the same year that “Peaches” was released.
Then you have Michael Morse. It’s no secret that Morse loves the ‘80s, especially when he alternates between classic Beastie Boys and A-Ha for the soundtrack to his introductions. Fans now associate “Take On Me” with the power-hitting first baseman.
“I love all kinds of music. But I really like ‘80s music, especially the one-hit wonders. I started with ‘Take on Me’ and I thought the fans liked it a lot, so I can’t stop now,” Morse said.
At the Nationals Dream Gala this year, many players had put together baskets of their favorite things to sell at auction. In Morse’s basket was a “Totally ‘80s” CD, which contained nothing but one-hit wonders from his favorite decade.
More recently, you have relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus joining the “odd music” club. Most other players on the team, and especially in the bullpen, come out to hard, heavy rock music or hip-hop. Not Mattheus.
He went with a somewhat more effeminate choice—Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Because he’s a rookie, some may be inclined to think that the pop hit was chosen as a method of hazing from his teammates. That’s not actually the case.
“It’s kind of a funny story. I was out before the season with a teammate from Double-A, and we were just talking about our walk-out music,” Mattheus said. “We were playing some pool and putting some money in the jukebox, and that song actually came on, and we both started singing.”
After his karaoke moment was over, Mattheus decided he liked the feel of the song enough to have it associated with him during a game.
“I was like ‘this is kind of a feel-good song, I think I’ll make this my walk-out song,’” he said. “And he told me to go for it.”
Mattheus went on to use the song once the season started for him in the Minors, and kept it once he got his call-up to the Nationals. He has no plans to stop using it anytime soon.
“I’ve been successful, so there’s that superstition there for me to hold on to it. It took some guts to do it up here on a bigger stage, but I like it,” he said. “Hopefully it keeps working.”
Bryce Harper has been labeled the Lebron James of baseball. So in case you didn’t watch “The Decision: Part II,” Bryce Harper is taking his talents to the desert and will join the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. It was a decision–influenced by Harper’s talent–and made by General Manager Mike Rizzo and his staff because they didn’t want him to be idle for the next two months after he held own in the Instructional League. Yeah, there are drawbacks but Rizzo believes the benefits will easily outweigh the possible cost: struggling.
Harper proved he can play in the Florida Instructional League. He batted.319 (15-for-47) with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI and seven walks. Harper–who led Washington’s Instructional League squad in homers, RBI and walks–posted .407 on-base and .702 slugging percentages en route to a stellar 1.110 OPS (OBP+SLG).
Now, this isn’t the Instructional League–the AFL offers the top-talent that is knocking on the door of the Majors–but Rizzo isn’t concerned.
“There is a high level of baseball going on,” Rizzo said. “Two months of this guy working out, practicing and playing will only benefit him. He is going to be fine in the [AFL].”
To ease Harper into the action they will restrict his playing time. He will join his new club on Tuesday as a member of the Scorpions’ Taxi Squad. Translation: he will work out, travel and dress normally as do members of Scottsdale’s active roster but he will only be eligible to participate in games twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Harper will also be eligible to replace Nationals farmhands on Scottsdale’s active roster due to injury.
Part of the incentive to send Harper to Arizona is that he will be able to work extensively with Manager Randy Knorr, considered one of the best teachers in the Nationals organization, to learn the intricacies of right field. He will also work with Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein to refine his swing.
“He’s 17 years old and he doesn’t even turn 18 until Saturday,” Rizzo said. “He is very excited. What I had to decide on was: ‘Is he going to be over his head in the AFL?’ It’s a very advanced league, but I think he is going to handle it. It’s going to be very valuable to him.”
While this may seem like it is putting him on a fast track to the Majors, it isn’t. He is still expected to start the season in Single-A.
“He is going to A-ball, make no mistake about it,” Rizzo added. “He is not going to be a rushed guy. We are going to let his performance and development dictate where this guy goes.”
In other news not Harper, here are a few Nationals farmhands who performed at high levels during the just-completed Instructional League: outfielder Tyler Moore (.550, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 11 RBI), catcher Sandy Leon (.429), outfielder Eury Perez (.357, 3 stolen bases), infielder Steven Souza (.345, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), righthander A.J. Morris (0.00 ERA in 4 games, 7 strikeouts in 5.0 innings), lefthander Sammy Solis (0.00 ERA and 9 strikeouts in 9.0 innings spanning 3 games), righthander Ryan Mattheus (1.35 ERA and 6 strikeouts in 6.2 innings) and lefthander Robbie Ray (2.53 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 innings spanning 4 games).