Results tagged ‘ Ryan Zimmerman ’
Every year, in every Major League camp, there is some youngster who shows up, opens eyes with his swing or his arm, and becomes the next most-talked about prospect, waiting to crack the big leagues. Yes, we’re early in spring. Yes the Nationals roster looks just about full, minus a pitcher or two in the bullpen. But this year’s player, clear to anyone who has been watching, is Anthony Rendon.
Last year, fans of Bryce Harper, who had been following him since his Sports Illustrated cover photo at age 16, trumpeted his case to make the Opening Day roster. And while Harper flashed signs of the player that would roar through September to capture NL Rookie of the Year honors, he was a raw ball of energy back in March.
Rendon is the anti-Harper. He is so relaxed, so smooth – and generously listed at just 6’0”, 195 pounds, so unimposing – that one might not even notice he was there, if not for the booming cracks of baseballs flying off his bat.
His swing is not violent like Harper’s. Instead, it starts with a big, smooth, looping hand load, a Ryan Zimmerman-esque leg kick, and a sudden flash of some of the fastest hands you’ve ever seen. One moment, he appears to be just watching a pitch into the mitt. The next, he has turned it around, sending it screaming to some distant corner of the field.
Danny Espinosa sat at third base with two out in the bottom of the second on Thursday night as the Nationals hosted the Mets in Viera. Rendon – batting eighth and playing third base – fell behind in the count, worked it back even, then swatted a double to the opposite-field gap in right-center, into the prevailing wind. In his second at-bat, with runners at the corners, he hit a sharp grounder deep in the hole at short, which only failed to go for another hit as Omar Quintanilla was able to go the short way to second for a force, with Ian Desmond scampering home from third base.
Two more at-bats, two more RBI. The 22-year-old with just 160 professional plate appearances has been the most productive player at the plate for Washington so far this spring, batting .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, a home run and a team-high five RBI. One of the seven outs he’s made came on a home run robbed at the wall in Port St. Lucie a few days ago.
Then there’s the defense, the forgotten part of Rendon’s game. He didn’t have any chances Thursday night, but has already made a pair of notable plays this spring. On Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, he snared a hot shot, raced to the bag at third for the force, and fired a seed across the diamond for a 5-3, inning-ending double play. The next day, he charged a Chone Figgins bunt up the line, barehanded the ball on a do-or-die play, then straightened up and threw a bullet to first to beat the speedy runner by a full step.
After making a short, wide-eyed stint in Major League Spring Training last year, the Rice University product looks noticeably more settled in all aspects of his game this year.
“I think I’m a lot more comfortable now, just knowing that I have one year under my belt,” said Rendon of camp this year, and added that he was thrilled to be getting a lot of opportunities early in spring. “I missed a large amount of games last year, so just any at-bats, any playing time I can get right now is really helpful.”
Baseball America ranks Rendon the 30th overall prospect in baseball, tops among Nationals farmhands. MLB.com has Rendon at 28th, while Baseball Prospectus has him 35th. After a week of games, one has to wonder how much his stock may have risen already. And while Thursday night was the first chance for many Nationals fans to see the young star play on television, it shouldn’t be long before they have that opportunity every night.
With Spring Training games beginning on Saturday, we’re taking the final few practice days of camp to take a closer look at some of the more interesting stories among this year’s Non-Roster Invitees. We start things off by getting to know lefty reliever Bill Bray.
By this point, you’re probably tired of hearing the story of the first-round draft pick raised in Virginia Beach, out of college in Virginia, who moved quickly through the system, making his way into a Nationals uniform. That tale, the one usually ascribed to Ryan Zimmerman, has been told many times, as he has grown into the face of the Nationals franchise. But one year prior, another player matching the same description began a very different journey, one that has, after nearly a decade, landed him back in the same clubhouse here in Viera.
Bill Bray is a name likely familiar to Nationals fans who have been following the franchise since its relocation. After being selected 16th overall in the 2004 First-year Player Draft, the final one in Expos history, he made it to his Major League debut two days before his 23rd birthday in a road game at Milwaukee. The lefty threw a single pitch, upon which Corey Koskie, the runner at first, was gunned down trying to take second base, ending the eighth inning with Washington trailing, 3-2.
Zimmerman – who Bray faced in both high school and college – led off the top of the ninth with a single, and two batters later Brian Schneider took Derrick Turnbow deep for a two-run shot to give Washington the lead. Chad Cordero closed out the ninth, and Bray earned a win in his first Major League appearance, throwing just one pitch without retiring a batter.
The southpaw appeared in relief 19 times in the 2006 season before being flipped to the Reds in an eight-player deal that netted the Nationals Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner. Now he returns to a team that has grown during his absence to one of the strongest in the game.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in a Nationals uniform, and at the same time all these memories just come flooding back,” Bray said of walking into the home clubhouse in Viera for the first time in seven years. “It’s weird, almost like you’re seeing some ghosts walking around.”
Bray was raised in the system with the likes of Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina, but watched them blossom into everyday players from afar. Meanwhile, he has spent the past six years with Cincinnati, carving out a role for himself as a left-handed specialist, though his numbers against righties have been respectable as well.
“I don’t care if it’s a lefty or a righty up at the dish, I’m going to go at them the same way, I’m going to attack, and I’m going to get them out,” he explained, but also acknowledged the necessity of left-handed pitching for a team like the Nationals. “I think it’s a very important job, especially in the NL East with some of the lefties that we’re going to see and face.”
Bray is already embracing the role he hopes to carve out for himself over the next six weeks. He’s thrilled to have the chance to come back to Washington as well, the organization that signed him, and the one closest to his childhood home.
“Besides the baseball, we love D.C.,” Bray said of himself and his family. “Being from Virginia, my wife and I lived in D.C. for a couple years before we moved to Texas and we really enjoyed it.”
But ultimately, Bray’s driving force to return to Washington came from the knowledge that he had the chance to fill one of the lone remaining openings on a team with high aspirations this season.
“I know if I go out there and I’m healthy, I’m going to do my job,” Bray said, matter-of-factly. “That has always been the key for me is just staying on the field. I’m expecting to be healthy this year, I’m expecting to do my job, and I’m expecting to win the spot.”
Here at Curly W Live, we rarely – if ever – discuss politics, despite residing at the epicenter of our nation’s government. We’re far more likely to engage with you in a debate on the latest exploits of George, Tom, Abe or Teddy than any sitting President. But as The District and the country as a whole catches its collective breath following Inauguration Weekend, there is no time better than the present to take inventory of the transformation of our national pastime here in the Nation’s Capital since the last inauguration.
Four years ago, a 23-year-old Gio Gonzalez had just been traded – from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. Stephen Strasburg was halfway through his junior year at San Diego State. And a 16-year-old Bryce Harper had enrolled at Southern Nevada College, but had yet to see a pitch from anyone other than a high schooler.
My, how far we’ve come.
The Nationals became the first team to add 10 or more wins in three consecutive seasons over a span that did not include any strike-shortened campaigns. Coming off their 59 victories in 2009, they improved to 69 in 2010, 80 in 2011 and a Major League-best 98 last year.
Given the previous franchise high-water mark of 81-81 during their inaugural campaign, any winning season at all in 2012 would have marked the best in the franchise’s annals. Needless to say, the Nationals exceeded everyone’s projections, except perhaps for skipper Davey Johnson, who guaranteed a playoff berth all the way back in Spring Training.
But the past was all about potential. The present and future are about raised expectations.
Now, Washington has added defensive wizard and leadoff man Denard Span, the most tested, capable fifth starter in the league in Dan Haren, and one of the game’s premier closers in Rafael Soriano. One could make the argument that each of the Nationals units – the starting rotation, bullpen, catching corps, infield, outfield and bench – rank among the best in the game.
Johnson returns for his second term with a core group of rising stars, many of which are just entering their prime. In fact, 10 players – Danny Espinosa, Gonzalez, Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann – are under team control through at least 2016: four more years.
The last four years of Nationals baseball have brought plenty of change. The next four promise an equal amount of hope.
But whether you identify as red or blue, as long as you’re rocking the Curly W, you’re wearing our colors. And regardless of your interest or involvement in politics, everyone can agree on one self-evident truth: with pitchers and catchers reporting for the 2013 season in just 20 days, it’s good to be a Washington Nationals fan.
As well-recognized celebrities, Major Leaguers are often approached with many different types of charitable opportunities. And while we have our very own charitable foundation here at the Nationals – the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation – there are a number of opportunities outside the organization that our players are involved with. One such organization is Teammates for Kids, founded by country music singer Garth Brooks, which has raised over $80 million since 1999, donating 100% of the money to children in need.
On Friday, January 11 during the Winter 2013 Teammates Appreciation Event in Garth Brooks’ Nashville, TN barn, Teammates for Kids launched their twitter handle (@teammates4kids) with Garth Brooks pledging to donate $1 for each new follower through today, Friday 1/18.
Nationals players who were “teammates” last season included:
- Tyler Clippard
- Ross Detwiler
- Gio Gonzalez
- Adam LaRoche
- Craig Stammen
- Drew Storen
- Ryan Zimmerman
- Jordan Zimmermann
In addition to their generosity, each athlete who participates in the program has their contribution tripled by Teammates for Kids. So go ahead and knock out your good deed for the day – give Teammates for Kids a follow and help our players’ donations go even farther this year.
The Nationals agreed to terms on a two-year contract with a third year mutual option with free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche on Tuesday. The 33-year-old is coming off a stellar 2012 campaign in which he led the club with 100 RBI and a career-high 33 home runs, earning both the National League Silver Slugger Award and his first career Gold Glove.
A nine-year Major League veteran, the left-handed slugger has hit 20 or more home runs six times, totaling 197 for his career. LaRoche played a key role in Washington’s 2012 NL East title run, playing in 154 games, second only to Danny Espinosa’s 160 appearances. He finished the regular season particularly strong, swatting 10 home runs with a .324/.390/.667 slash line over 30 games in September/October.
LaRoche’s return solidifies the Nationals for the near future in more ways than one. With LaRoche at first base, Washington infield defense ranks among the strongest in the game, with super defenders up the middle in Espinosa and Ian Desmond and another former Gold Glove winner at third base in Ryan Zimmerman. LaRoche also provides a second left-handed power bat to complement Bryce Harper in the middle of the Washington order, providing tremendous balance for a team that ranked fourth in OPS and second in home runs in the National League last year.
Finally, the Nationals will welcome the return of LaRoche’s veteran presence in the clubhouse. A leader on the field and an example off of it for the youngest team in the Major Leagues in 2012, “The Rock” is back, which should be an encouraging sign for Nationals fans everywhere.
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today, we make the call to the bullpen for right-hander Ryan Mattheus.
While the Nationals staff was largely praised for the effectiveness of the starting rotation last year, it would be remiss to overlook the contributions of the bullpen, which was as solid and deep as any in the National League. Although Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are more well-known on the national stage, there is another hurler lurking in the ’pen, one who continued to grow and solidify his role in Davey Johnson’s late-game mix: Ryan Mattheus.
The right-hander posted a remarkably similar ERA (2.85) to that of his rookie season (2.81), but made some significant strides in improving his peripheral numbers. A groundball pitcher by trade, Mattheus raised his K rate from 3.4/9.0 IP to 5.6/9.0 IP while cutting down significantly on his walks. As a result, he finished the year with a lower WHIP than any National to throw at least 35 innings not named Gio (yes, even lower than Stephen Strasburg). The biggest mark against Mattheus was his eight home runs allowed, but six of those were solo shots, evidence of his ability to keep opposing runners off base, limiting the damage against him.
Arguably the biggest moment of the 29-year-old’s season – and possibly career, to this point – came in Game 1 of the NLDS in St. Louis. With Washington trailing 2-1, the Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Johnson called on Mattheus, handing him the seemingly impossible task of escaping the middle of the St. Louis lineup without allowing any damage. Cards cleanup man Allen Craig swung at the first pitch and hit a bounder to Ian Desmond at shortstop, who threw home for a force out, the first of the inning. Then, on the very next pitch, Yadier Molina rolled over a ground ball to Ryan Zimmerman, who started an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play. Mattheus’ Houdini act made him the first Major Leaguer in Postseason history to record three outs in an inning on just two pitches.
The Galt, California native gained popularity with Washington fans by picking Katy Perry’s “Firework” as his bullpen entrance song in 2011, and he stuck with the tune in his second full season. The auditory cue became almost as synonymous in its familiarity as Michael Morse’s use of “Take On Me” in his fourth plate appearance of the game. Mattheus also let fans actively participate in helping him create his Twitter profile, encouraging them to vote for his profile photo. Mattheus will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, and is under team control through the 2018 season.
Some of our Top 12 of ’12 are all about context; they are big moments specifically because of when they happened. When Wilson Ramos flew to his walk-off, the drama was heightened because it was the first game of the year against the rival Phillies. When Ian Desmond “dunked” vs. the Diamondbacks, the home run was magnified by the fact that the Nats trailed with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. When The Shark flew into the crevasse in front of the visitor’s bullpen at Minute Maid Park, the significance of the catch itself was magnified by its game-saving nature. Moment Number 3 requires no such context.
On September 29, in the middle contest of a three-game set in St. Louis, the Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning, thanks to a Bryce Harper single, Ryan Zimmerman double and Adam LaRoche walk. That brought up Michael Morse, who drove the first pitch from Kyle Lohse to the opposite field, the ball carrying over Carlos Beltran’s head in right towards the wall. Although it appeared to clear the wall, then bounce back onto the field, the ball was ruled in play. Confusion reigned on the basepaths, as Zimmerman retreated to third, forcing LaRoche back to second, and a once-trotting Morse scampering back to first, where he was tagged before sliding back into the bag. The umpires went to video to confirm exactly what had happened, and emerged a few minutes later from the clubhouse tunnel signaling for the grand slam.
Then, things got really weird. The runners had begun the slow trot around the bags (again), but were ordered back to their original bases to play out the home run in full effect. Harper was brought back out of the dugout to third, with the domino effect pushing a confused Morse all the way back to the batter’s box. As the broadcasters chuckled in amazement, Morse looked back at Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, wondering exactly what to do once he had returned to the box. He decided to pantomime the swing once more, with no bat in hand, then began his trot around the bases. With over 42,000 confused fans in the stands and both Washington broadcast teams doubled over in their respective booths, the Beast rounded the bags, slapped his helmet, and returned to the dugout with a four-run lead, MLB’s Oddity of the Year, and the first home run ever hit in the Major Leagues without a bat.
Near the end of July, the Nationals entered the Sunday finale of a four-game set in Milwaukee looking to win the series and wrap up a 6-1 road trip before heading home to face the rival Phillies. Things looked up as Steve Lombardozzi blasted the fifth pitch of the game – a 3-1 fastball from Milwaukee starter Mark Rogers – into the seats for an early lead. But the Brewers responded with two runs of their own in the first and led 3-1 heading to the sixth inning. From there, they seemed to answer every Nationals rally. Washington scored once in the sixth and seventh, but Milwaukee answered with two runs in each frame to build a 7-3 advantage. The Nationals roared back with four in the top of the eighth to tie the game, only to watch the Brewers score twice to take a 9-7 lead entering the ninth.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Mark DeRosa drew a walk to bring Michael Morse to the plate as the tying run. Brewers closer John Axford quickly got ahead 0-2, but when he tried to sneak a fastball over the outside corner, Morse reached out and belted it the other way down the line in right, just clearing the wall inside the foul pole for a game-tying, two-run home run. Thanks to 2.1 hitless innings of relief from Craig Stammen, the contest remained knotted at 9-9 into the top of the 11th, when Bryce Harper walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled, bringing up Morse once more. “The Beast” fell behind in the count again before hooking a 1-2 breaking ball down the left field line into the corner, scoring Harper easily and Zimmerman on a slide just ahead of the relay throw from shallow left field, pushing Washington in front, 11-9. Tyler Clippard hung on for the save in the bottom of the frame and the Nationals escaped the biggest roller coaster ride of the 2012 campaign with another Curly W in the books.
Washington notched a dramatic victory on Opening Day in Chicago, but the Nationals saved some magic for their home opener against Cincinnati a week later, as well. Gio Gonzalez, making his first-ever home start in D.C., twirled seven sparkling innings of two-hit, shutout ball and recorded his inaugural Major League hit to boot, becoming an instant fan favorite in the District. Adam LaRoche delivered a clutch, two-out, two-run single in the fifth to push Washington ahead, but the Reds came back with a pair of runs in the ninth to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
But if any air had been let out of a raucous, packed house at Nats Park, Craig Stammen pumped it back up as he came on in the 10th inning. The converted starter, pitching in his first full season out of the Nats bullpen, struck out the side on just 10 pitches, one over the minimum. That set the stage for the late heroics, as Ryan Zimmerman was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, moved to second on a one-out single by Jayson Werth, then to third on a groundout by Xavier Nady. That extra 90 feet proved to be crucial, as Alfredo Simon bounced an 0-1 slider to Roger Bernadina that squirted away far enough from catcher Devin Mesoraco for Zimmerman to scamper down the line and slide in safely with the first walk-off win of the season.
- SEE THE REST OF THE TOP 12 OF ’12 -
It’s December, the time of year for oversized family meals, eggnog, lots of gift-giving, and colder weather (eventually… we think). The end of the year also brings about all of the “Best Of” lists. With so many signature moments to choose from this year, we thought we’d let you vote on the Top 12 of ’12, the best of the best in an unforgettable year.
Watch the videos below, then go to the bottom of the page to cast your vote. Our poll is an open one, meaning you can vote for as many different moments as many times as you would like through Thursday at noon. However, we’re keeping the results secret, and will begin unveiling our list with Number 12 on Thursday afternoon. Which moment deserves to be Number One? You decide.
Opening Day Walk-off (4/12 vs. CIN)
After Gio Gonzalez introduced himself to the Nationals faithful with a gem in the home opener, Ryan Zimmerman scampered home on a wild pitch in the 10th inning to give the Nationals a walk-off win.
Desmond’s “Dunk” (5/2 vs. ARI)
Trailing by a run with two outs in the ninth, all while sitting on a season-high, five-game losing streak, Ian Desmond delivered the biggest blast of his season, a two-run, game-winning bomb to the visiting bullpen in left-center field.
Ramos Flies To Victory on NATITUDE Weekend (5/4 vs. PHI)
In Washington’s first meeting with the five-time defending division champion Phillies, the teams battled into the 11th before Wilson Ramos, the last bat on the bench, delivered a bases-loaded single up the middle to send the crowd into a frenzy as he sailed up the first base line.
Harper Steals Home (5/6 vs. PHI)
Phillies hurler Cole Hamels thought he’d welcome Bryce Harper to the big leagues by plunking him with the first pitch of his first at-bat. Harper responded by racing first-to-third on a two-out single, then breaking for the plate on Hamels’ lazy pick-off throw to first, swiping home for his first Major League steal.
Teenage Dream (6/5 vs. NYM)
After Desmond tied the game three times late, Harper delivered the first walk-off of his career (and the first by a teenager in Major League Baseball since 1988) in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Old School Walk-off (7/5 vs. SF)
On Turn Back the Clock Night, with both teams sporting their 1924-era jerseys, the Nationals completed a three-game sweep of San Francisco by coming back late against Matt Cain and – just like the Senators did against the Giants in ’24 – walking off to victory.
Beast of a Comeback (7/29 @ MIL)
Sometimes, one set of late heroics isn’t enough. That was no problem for Michael Morse, who delivered a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth, followed by a game-winning, two-run double in the 11th to lead the Nats past the Brewers, 11-9, in one of the craziest games of the year.
“The Catch” (8/7 @ HOU)
There were plenty of great catches in Major League Baseball this year, but few were more important than the improbable, disappearing act grab that Roger “The Shark” Bernadina pulled out of his hat, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Gi-000000000 (8/31 vs. STL)
As dominant as Gio Gonzalez can be, he had yet to notch a complete game shutout on his impressive resume. That all changed on August 31 against the defending champs, as he blanked the Cardinals for nine frames to earn his 17th win of the year.
Dirty Dozen (9/4-5 vs. CHC)
The Nationals set a club record, blasting six home runs to beat the Cubs on September 4. How did they follow up that epic performance? By blasting six more the very next night, including three in one inning (the “Nat Trick”). All told, eight different players got in on the act, with Adam LaRoche accounting for three of the bombs.
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 06, 2012
Morse’s Phantom Grand Slam (9/29 @ STL)
What do you do when your grand slam – initially ruled a single – is upheld on video replay? If you’re Michael Morse, you head back around the bases, all the way to the batter’s box, then toss in a phantom swing for good measure before heading into your trot.
Werth Game 4 Walk-off (10/11 vs. STL)
When you’re embroiled in a classic postseason battle, with neither team giving an inch, the game often comes down to one pitch. For Jayson Werth, Game 4 of the NLDS came down to the 13th pitch of the longest at-bat of his career, which he hammered into a red sea of deafening euphoria for the win.