Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’

What to Watch for: 4.11.13

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Chicago White Sox (4-4) vs. Washington Nationals (6-2)

RHP Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Dan Haren (0-1, 13.50)

Following a second consecutive victory last night over Chicago, the Nationals take aim at their second three-game sweep in as many home series to open the 2013 season. Dan Haren makes his D.C. debut as Washington looks to improve to 6-0 in front of the home crowd.

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. Haren RHP

THE FIX FOR 6

Washington is 5-0 at Nationals Park to begin the 2013 campaign. This marks the first time in modern baseball history (since 1900) a team from the Nation’s Capital has won its initial five home contests in a single season.

GET HOME EARLY

With Wednesday’s 5-2 win, the Nationals improved to 13-2 in April home games under skipper Davey Johnson (5-0 in ‘13, 8-2 in April ‘12).

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

The Nationals lead Major League Baseball with a .518 slugging percentage this season, as an MLB-leading 49.3 percent of their hits have gone for extra bases (67 hits have included 16 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs). The Blue Jays (44.6%) rank second on this list.

2012 Player Review: Tyler Moore

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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 look at another of Washington’s impressive rookies from 2012, Tyler Moore.

Amidst the impressive crop of Nationals rookies, perhaps none rose as suddenly into the collective fan consciousness from 2011 to 2012 as Tyler Moore. The soft-spoken Mississippi State product let his bat do the talking throughout his two prior seasons in the minors, where he was one of just two players to hit 30 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons. Despite largely coming off the bench for the Nationals in 2012, Moore showed that power streak was no fluke by blasting 10 roundtrippers in only 156 at-bats. Moore also had nine longballs in just 101 Triple-A at-bats over his two stints with the Syracuse Chiefs last year, giving him a combined home run rate of one per 13.5 at-bats, better than either of his previous two seasons (16.7, 16.2).

Tyler Moore swung Game 1 of the NLDS with this clutch pinch-hit.

Tyler Moore swung Game 1 of the NLDS with this clutch pinch-hit.

Moore’s Major League call-up was somewhat overshadowed. After all, Bryce Harper’s debut came less than 24 hours earlier, and Moore’s initial showing wasn’t his strongest, as he managed just three singles in 19 at-bats, striking out seven times without a walk before he was sent back to Triple-A. But in his second showing, Moore more than made up for his slow start. In his fourth game back with Washington, the 25-year-old blasted his first two Major League home runs, driving in five to key a 6-2 victory in Toronto that capped the Nats 6-0 road trip. He stuck in the Majors, and went on to post a .277/.349/.562 line with 19 of his 38 hits going for extra bases (nine 2B, 10 HR) following his second call-up. Moore’s bat, combined with his ability to play first base and his growth in left field made him a versatile option off of Davey Johnson’s bench as a member of the “Goon Squad.”

A former 16th-round draft choice, Moore received exactly one Postseason at-bat, and made the most of it. Washington trailed St. Louis 3-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS, but had Michael Morse at third and Ian Desmond at second. Johnson called upon Chad Tracy to pinch-hit, prompting Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to counter with his lone lefty reliever, Marc Rzepczynski. Davey re-countered with Moore, a righty. The rookie made Matheny pay for his strategy, driving a 2-2 fastball off the outside corner the opposite way for what would prove to be the game-winning, two-run single.

The 6’2”, 215-pound Moore will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, and he remains under team control through the 2018 season.

Spring Into Fall

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The closer you follow baseball, the more you realize how year-round the sport really is. The average American may take notice around Opening Day, then have their fandom tail off as their team is eliminated from contention, perhaps watching the World Series, if they are so inclined. The more passionate follower is more likely to count down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, their baseball awareness stretching from mid-February to the end of October. But for the true obsessives (like us), there are compelling games for the Nationals being played even now, as the Arizona Fall League began this week at the Spring Training complexes around Phoenix.

For those unfamiliar with it, the AFL is a prospect showcase, where all 30 Major League teams send some of their top talent, often including players whose regular seasons were limited for whatever reason, to see how they perform in a highly competitive environment. The 30 clubs are combined into six squads, with five MLB teams apiece represented on each. Last year, the Nationals were assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions, with Bryce Harper the most well known representative of the organization. In 2012, they are members of the Salt River Rafters, along with the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Rockies and Blue Jays.

This year’s crop of Nationals prospects includes:

Matt Skole (second from left) was honored as the Nationals 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.

Pitchers 

Aaron Barrett

Paul Demny

Cole Kimball

Ryan Perry

Infielders

Jason Martinson

Anthony Rendon

Matt Skole

Outfielders

Brian Goodwin

We will be conducting a more thorough Down on the Farm report for many of these prospects this offseason, but wanted to give special attention to one – Matt Skole – whom we have already profiled before here on Curly W Live. The 2012 Nationals Minor League Player of the Year, Skole has busted down the Fall League doors, batting .533/.650/.867 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI through his first four games on the circuit. His early success among some of baseball’s elite prospects helps back up the case that his tremendous 2012 numbers were no fluke. The third baseman batted .292 with 28 doubles, 27 home runs and 104 RBI in just 118 games between Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac in his first professional season.

Make sure to check in to Curly W Live on Wednesdays throughout the offseason for more on many of the Nationals rising stars. And if you’d like to keep up with the AFL on a daily basis through the end of the season in mid-November, check out the home of the league here, complete with scores, stats, stories and more.

Weekly Review (6/11)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Nationals entered the week in first place in the National League East, coming off a weekend sweep of the Boston Red Sox. The road trip continued to Toronto for the first of a three-game set, in which they pounded out 14 hits to help Edwin Jackson to his third victory of the season. Upon further review, we discovered an odd but fortuitous connection between Jackson’s starts and the bat of Adam LaRoche. Meanwhile, the Nationals announced the signing of 23 recent draft picks, including six of their top 10 selections. In game two of the series, Bryce Harper and company accepted the challenge to “Be Bold” as they crushed three home runs in support of Stephen Strasburg in a 4-2 triumph to win their fifth straight. A different rookie stepped up to be the hero of game three, as Tyler Moore hit his first two Major League home runs and drove in five RBI to key a 6-2 victory, a series sweep, and a season-high sixth consecutive win.

Back at home, as the team relaxed on their off-day Thursday, members of the Nationals ownership group enjoyed a unique experience, thanks to the US Navy. Meanwhile, we took advantage of the break to answer a number of your questions surrounding the Ignite Your NATITUDE Tweet-up, more commonly known as #IYNT.

The club returned home to face the Yankees on Friday as we celebrated the US Army’s 237th birthday. At the same time, Ian Desmond encouraged fans to start a new patriotic tradition in our Nation’s Capital for the National Anthem. Unfortunately, the team and could never really get rolling against Phil Hughes, dropping a 7-2 decision. A tough call on what would have been the go-ahead run in the eighth inning doomed the two teams to a 14-inning battle on Saturday. Even with seven hitless innings from the Nationals underrated bullpen, New York eventually prevailed, 5-3. In the finale, despite our clairvoyant tweet, the Yankees completed the weekend sweep to run their winning streak to nine games.

Mon @ TOR: W, 6-3

Tue @ TOR: W, 4-2

Wed @ TOR: W, 6-2

Thu: OFF

Fri vs. NYY: L, 2-7

Sat vs. NYY: L, 3-5

Sun vs. NYY: L, 1-4

Weekly Record: 3-3

What to Watch for: 6/13

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Washington Nationals (37-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-31)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-1, 2.41) vs. RHP Kyle Drabek (4-6, 4.43)

The Nationals have a second consecutive sweep is on the mind, as they get ready for today’s game. If the Washington can capture the victory today, it will extend the team’s winning streak to six games, the longest of the 2012 season. It would also mark the first 6-0 road trip in team history.

ROAD TRIPPIN’

Washington is 5-0 on its current road trip and has already secured the most successful multi-city trip since relocating to The District. The franchise hasn’t gone undefeated on a multi-city trip in 24 years, since the Expos swept back-to-back three-game series at Houston and Atlanta, July 4-10, 1988. In addition, with a win today, Washington would extend its road winning streak to six straight, which would mark the second longest in Nationals history (‘05-present) behind only the nine-game road winning streak from September 12-26 last season.

ROAD WARRIORS

With a .594 road winning percentage, Washington has the record away from home in the National League (third in MLB). The Nationals best single-season road mark was .494 (40-41) in 2005, and the only team in franchise history to finish with a road win percentage better than their current mark was the 1994 Expos (.677, 42-20).

START ME UP

Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg will look to extend his personal winning streak to five games as he makes his first career start north of the border this afternoon in Toronto. While he has never faced the Blue Jays, he is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA (6 ER/29.1 IP) in five career interleague starts, including his dominating, 13-strikeout performance on Friday in Boston.

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What to Watch for: 6/12

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Washington Nationals (36-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-30)

RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-2, 5.11) vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-5, 3.76)

The Nationals head into tonight’s matchup looking to extend their four-game winning streak. Washington also hopes to remain undefeated (4-0) in Interleague Play this month.  A win for the Nationals tonight would not only give Chien-Ming Wang his first win as a starter in 2012, but would also give the team their third consecutive series victory.

STATE OF THE NATIONALS

Washington enters today at a season-best 13 games over .500, the team’s best mark since July 2005 (54-41 after 95 games). The Nationals have not reached 14 games over .500 since they were 54-40 thru 94 contests in July ‘05. The Nats have won four straight and would match their season-best win streak with a victory tonight. A win would also clinch the series; Washington is 13-4-3 in series play this season, including 7-3 in road series.

ZIM CLOSING IN ON 1,000 HITS

Ryan Zimmerman needs just nine hits to reach the 1,000-hit plateau for his career. Since Zim made his debut on September 1, 2005, only two MLB third basemen have posted more hits: David Wright (1,099) and Adrian Beltre (1,021).

In addition, Zimmerman owns the Nationals (‘05-present) mark with 991 hits and will become just the eighth player in Nationals/Expos franchise history to reach 1,000, joining Tim Wallach (1,694), Tim Raines (1,622), Andre Dawson (1,575), Gary Carter (1,427), Jose Vidro (1,280), Vladimir Guerrero (1,215) and Warren Cromartie (1,063).

ESPINOSA HEATING UP

Four games into this Interleague road trip, Danny Espinosa is 5-for-15 (.333) with four doubles, three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases. Furthermore, in his last 10 games, Espinosa is batting .297 (11-for-37) with three walks, five doubles, a triple, four RBI, and seven runs scored.

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What to Watch for: 6/11

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Washington Nationals (35-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-29)

RHP Edwin Jackson (2-3, 3.11) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (7-3, 2.90)

The Nationals move on to another Interleague series at Rogers Centre in Toronto to face the Blue Jays starting Monday night. Washington is looking to strengthen its lead in the NL East, but Toronto ace Brandon Morrow may prove as a major challenge in tonight’s series opener.

CANADIAN HOMECOMING

The Nationals return north of the border for just the fourth time since relocating from Montreal to Washington, D.C. prior to the 2005 season. This marks their first Canada trip since June 2007 when they dropped two of three to the Blue Jays, and where they are just 2-7 in Canada since making the move. Two Nationals coaches have Blue Jays ties as bench coach Randy Knorr played five seasons (‘91-’95) and won two World Series rings with the Jays and bullpen coach Jim Lett coached on Toronto’s staff from ‘97-’99.

EDWIN LOOKS TO CONTINUE THE WINNING WAYS

Edwin Jackson collected just his second win of the season in his last start (6/6 vs. NYM) despite seven quality starts in 11 outings so far in 2012. Tonight, he makes his 14th career start against the Blue Jays. He is 3-0 with a 4.43 ERA (20 ER/40.2 IP) in his last six starts against Toronto dating to July 30, 2008.

NL BROOMS MAKE RARE APPEARANCE AT FENWAY

With a weekend series sweep over the Red Sox, the Nationals became the first National League team to sweep a series at Fenway since the Atlanta Braves did so in June ’02. Roger Bernadina broke a 3-3 tie with a RBI-double in the ninth inning off Alfredo Aceves, scoring Bryce Harper from first base. Jordan Zimmermann posted seven innings of three-run ball, before turning it over to Tom Gorzelanny (win, 2-1) and Tyler Clippard (8th save).

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First Things First

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For all of the hype surrounding this weekend’s three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox on the road at Fenway Park, perhaps Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa summed it up best when reflecting upon the feat.

“I think we were the team to beat right here,” he explained. “We’re the first-place team.”

Indeed, they are. They were when the weekend began, and found their lead padded to two games when Atlanta finally saw its six-game win streak come to an end on Sunday. Nevertheless, the national media was paying more attention this weekend to all the things that Nationals fans have been watching since Opening Day, now more than two months in the rear-view mirror.

That’s the thing about playing at Fenway: wherever the Red Sox reside in the standings, everyone is watching. It is one of those venues that puts you under the magnifying glass of the entire country. Peter Gammons, the Hall-of-Fame writer who covered the Sox for decades before ascending to the National stage, was unapologetic in his gushing over the Nationals fan support, those who showed up to cheer the team on in a hostile environment. As The Washington Post’s Tom Boswell pointed out in his column this morning, The Boston Herald even called the Nats “The most exciting team in baseball.”

The last such moment of national attention for this team came during NATITUDE Weekend against Philadelphia in early May. While the Nationals won that encounter – taking two-of-three including a dramatic, extra-inning victory to open the set – they lost in the nationally televised finale, missing perhaps the opportunity to claim the attention that they demanded this weekend in Boston.

Sunday’s heroes Bryce Harper (right) and Roger Bernadina (middle) celebrate with Rick Ankiel. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Given the opportunity to close out the sweep once again, they did not disappoint. Following a dynamic team performance Friday and a solid effort on Saturday, the Nationals were in a battle in the finale. Bryce Harper, who was given his first day off since his call-up, found himself thrust into the middle of a tie game with one out in the ninth inning. He drew a five-pitch walk, then spent the bulk of the next two at-bats trying to size up Boston reliever Alfredo Aceves for the best time to steal. With a quick delivery to the plate, Aceves kept Harper on the bag until two outs and two strikes, when the rookie finally broke for second on the perfect pitch, a letter-high fastball that Roger Bernadina laced towards the right-field corner. With his momentum already at full blast (nearly overly so, as he struggled to keep his footing heading into second base), Harper tore around the 270 feet toward home, slapping the plate with the go-ahead run as he slid across well ahead of the relay throw back to the infield.

That allowed Tyler Clippard to come out of the ‘pen for the third straight day, and for the third straight day he shut the door on the Red Sox, silencing the Fenway crowd. His final masterpiece, a literally knee-buckling changeup to Dustin Pedroia, iced both the game and the cake of the weekend’s heroics. It marked the second road sweep in just over two weeks for this team, showing the continued growth that they have already experienced since that Phillies series just over a month ago.

Speaking of those Phillies, they now trail the front-running Nationals by eight games in the NL East, and by a staggering 10 games in the all-important loss column. So, yes, a three-game road sweep of a team with the history and tradition always makes for a great weekend. But with a much-less talked about three-game set against a less-heralded (yet quite talented) Toronto team beginning Monday night, it is where the Nationals sit as a result of that sweep that matters far more.

First place.

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