Results tagged ‘ Tyler Clippard ’

Leading By Example

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We often look for gregarious personalities in our leaders, people whose voices often capture our attention before anything else. Yet sometimes they’re really just the guys quietly going about their business.

The Nationals have found their leadership lately in the unlikely duo of rookie second baseman Anthony Rendon and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. They have quietly carried the Nats this season as the likes of Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos recover from injuries.

Consider for a moment the numbers Rendon has posted in his first 26 big-league games. The rookie is sporting a .354 average, even accounting for his eight-game stint in April and May when he batted just .240. He was recalled on June 5, and since June 8he has accumulated 28 hits and a .400 average. That doesn’t just put him among the best of the league’s rookies. He’s batting as well as anyone in the majors in that time frame. No, seriously.

MLB Hit Leaders since 6/8

While Yasiel Puig has gotten all the attention, Anthony Rendon has quietly been among the best hitters in the game since early June.

While Yasiel Puig has gotten all the attention, Anthony Rendon has quietly been among the best hitters in the game since early June.

1. Yasiel Puig (LAD) 29

David Wright (NYM) 29

3. Anthony Rendon (WSH) 28

4. Mike Trout (LAA) 27

5. Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 26

Jason Kipnis (CLE) 26

7. Brett Gardner (NYY) 25

Manny Machado (BAL) 25

Joe Mauer (MIN) 25

Buster Posey (SFG) 25

Michael Young (PHI) 25

Through his first 25 games, Rendon amassed 32 hits, more than any player to debut with the Nationals since 2005. He then proceeded to go 3-for-4 in last night’s 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks, just missing a home run on a towering shot to left field in his final at-bat.

Zimmermann’s impact has been less unexpected, but perhaps just as unheralded. The righty ace is silently leading the National League with 11 wins (sharing the Major League lead with Detroit’s Max Scherzer), having turned in another stellar outing last night. After giving up two runs on two hits in the first inning, he allowed just one more hit though the seventh inning, giving way to Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano to close out the final two innings.

With Harper set to return as early as Monday, and Ramos expected shortly thereafter, the Nationals are slowly building a winning foundation to build upon when they get those other crucial pieces back.

The Walking Dead

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For six innings Wednesday night, as they have much of the season to date, the Nationals struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. And then, slowly, piece by piece, the offense collected itself, as the bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip.

The bats lay dormant, unable to generate anything more than Adam LaRoche‘s second-inning single through six frames. Meanwhile, two batters in, the Phillies were out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of Michael Young’s two-run home run. Gio Gonzalez settled in after that, as he did not allow a hit the rest of the way through seven innings of work. He notched 11 strikeouts, the most he’s ever recorded as a member of the Nationals, matching his career high.

Jayson Werth deilvered a pair of clutch, two-out, RBI-singles to force extra innings.

Jayson Werth deilvered a pair of clutch, two-out, RBI-singles to force extra innings.

Finally, a solid, patient at-bat by Ryan Zimmerman led to a one-out walk in the seventh, and he stood at second base with two outs and Jayson Werth coming to the plate. The former Phillie reached out and rapped a single to right field to score the run and cut the lead in half, a big clutch hit in a season sorely needing more of them.

After a quiet eighth frame, the Nationals would be tasked with trying to deliver Jonathan Papelbon his second blown save in three nights after entering the series a perfect 13-for-13 on the season. Denard Span, whose job in most any situation – but especially this one – is to get on base, did just that, chopping an infield single. He remained at first until, with two outs, LaRoche walked, bringing up Werth once more. He, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped another two-out, RBI-single, this one to left, as Span flew around third, scoring the tying run without a throw. But, as had been the case Monday night in Papelbon’s blown save on Chad Tracy‘s pinch-hit, two-out, two-strike home run, the Nationals were unable to push ahead. Ian Desmond struck out, stranding runners at the corners, spiking his helmet in frustration.

“After the at-bat against Papelbon, I’m just thinking, ‘Give me one more chance,’” Desmond said after the game.

The Washington bullpen conspired to afford Desmond and the Nationals that opportunity. Tyler Clippard fired an inning and two thirds of scoreless ball, giving way to Ian Krol, who got Dominic Brown – Monday’s hero – to end the bottom of the ninth. After the Nationals offense threatened, but failed to score, in the top of the 10th, Drew Storen fanned a pair and put up a zero in the bottom half, taking the game to the 11th inning.

Ian Desmond's first career grand slam won it in the 11th.

Ian Desmond’s first career grand slam won it in the 11th.

With one out, it was again Zimmerman who got the wheels turning, lacing a low liner to the left-center field wall for a double. That prompted Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies to play matchup, deciding to intentionally walk LaRoche to get to the man with both of Washington’s RBI, Werth. An unintentional walk later, the bases were loaded, Desmond stepping to the plate with the second chance he begged for earlier. After falling behind 0-2, the shortstop worked the count back to 2-2, where he annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes into the seats beyond the left-center field wall.

“I did the same thing I always do,” said Desmond when asked about the blast after the game. “See the white ball, put the barrel on it.”

Before Desmond had reached the jubilant visitors dugout, rivers of Phillies fans had already begun streaming for the exits, an actualized shifting of the tides. Rafael Soriano quietly shut the door, and the Nationals returned to Washington with an enormous win and a positive end to their road trip, thanks to perhaps the biggest swing of the season from their shortstop.

“He’s quite a character,” said Nationals skipper Davey Johnson of Desmond. “He’s got a lot of big hits for us in the past.”

It was Desmond’s first career grand slam (and Washington’s first of the season), but he has had plenty of success with the bases loaded, as it was his 17th hit in 40 such at-bats, good for a .425 batting average. The timing and importance of the blast hearkened back to Desmond’s game-winner on May 2, 2012, when he swung a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory with a two-out, walk-off blast off Arizona’s J.J. Putz.

“That’s like how I remember it from last year,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki of the feeling in the dugout after the blast. “It was pretty exciting.”

If Wednesday night’s series finale in Philadelphia turns out to be a microcosm of the 2013 Nationals season, recounting what has happened to date and foreshadowing what lies ahead, we are all in for a nerve-fraying, heart-stopping, hair-graying ride before the year is done. But if the ending portends anything of the future, it will have been worth the ride.

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: 5.8.13

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5.8.13 – Nationals 3, Tigers 1

Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper became the first National to reach 10 home runs, and is now tied for second in the National League with 10 long balls. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: With another stellar performance, Jordan Zimmermann earned his league-leading sixth victory, dropping his already paltry ERA to just 1.59.

It Was Over When: Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined to record the final six outs and lock up the victory, Washington’s third in a row.

Highlights: 4.23.13

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4.23.13 – Cardinals 2, Nationals 0

Stat of the Game: Nationals bullpen relievers Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard combined to toss three hitless frames, running the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 12.0 innings overall.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ross Detwiler took the tough-luck loss despite delivering his fourth straight quality start to begin the 2013 season.

It Was Over When: Washington got the tying run to the plate in three of the final four frames, but could not get a run across.

Highlights: 4.20.13

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4.20.13 – Mets 7, Nationals 1

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

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

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

What to Watch for: 4.3.13

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

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

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

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

OPEN SESAME

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

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

HARPER’S HISTORY MAKER

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

GO GO GIO

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

A Storybook Beginning

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

And it was hard to imagine a more perfect beginning.

Bryce Harper made the most of his first Opening Day.

Bryce Harper made the most of his first Opening Day.

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

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

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

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

13 Things We’re Excited About for 2013: #12

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In the lead up to Opening Day at Nationals Park on April 1, we’re counting down 13 things we’re excited about on and off the field heading into the 2013 season. Be sure to check back each day as we add another item to the list and get one day closer to the return of baseball to Washington!

#12: Old Dogs, New Tricks

You may have heard reports from camp in Viera that some of the Nationals pitchers are working on some new pitches this spring. Considering that the staff finished the 2012 season with the best ERA in the National League at 3.33, that is a very scary proposition, indeed.

Ross Detwiler has flashed a curveball that Davey Johnson claims is as good as any he’s seen the lefty throw, looking sharp in both international play at the WBC and in quieting the Detroit Tigers daunting lineup. Speaking of taming the Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann was absolutely masterful against Detroit last Sunday – and downright giddy afterwards – after showing some of the best changeups we’ve ever seen the power pitcher throw. Tyler Clippard has also expanded his repertoire, adding a curveball to pair with his already devastating changeup. How has that worked out so far? He’s allowed just two hits over 7.0 scoreless frames this spring, walking one while fanning nine.

Even Stephen Strasburg, already the owner of three plus pitches, has been working on a sinking fastball to pair with his four-seamer. We can’t wait to see all of them in action, as he throws the first pitch of the regular season a week from Monday.

Ace for an Ace

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Jordan Zimmermann was dominant against the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers on Monday, setting down the final 18 batters he faced after allowing a leadoff single to begin the game. And as impressive as he was in dismantling one of the best offenses in baseball, he accomplished a feat even more rare off the field just last week.

As they have done each of the last three years, a collection of Nationals players, coaches and staff joined together for a par three scramble challenge on the Doral course near Space Coast Stadium last Monday night. With the off day on Tuesday, the tradition allowed for the group to come together off the field and bond over some friendly competition.

Zimmermann was as stellar on the mound yesterday as he was on the course last Monday night.

Zimmermann was as stellar on the mound yesterday as he was on the course last Monday night.

If you didn’t already know, the Nationals feature a number of very good golfers, mostly members of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Each group of four on the course had a designated A, B, C and D player, based on respective skill. Zimmermann, whose golf score hovers around his fastball – somewhere in the mid-90s, according to the pitcher – was the “C” player on Tyler Clippard’s squad, which began the day on the third hole, just over 100 yards long. And while Clippard may have been the designated “A” player, it didn’t take long for Zimmermann to establish himself as the ringer of the team.

“First swing of the day,” explained Zimmermann. “I pulled my pitching wedge, spun it back, and it went in.”

A hole-in-one on his very first swing, and style points to boot with the backspin.

Along with Clippard, Zimmermann’s team included Syracuse Chiefs hitting coach and “B” player Troy Gingrich, as well as Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, holding down the “D” player spot. Together, they combined to go 11 under par over 18 holes, forcing a playoff.

On the first playoff hole, Zimmermann again stepped up to finish what he had so masterfully started.

“He buried a 20-footer to win,” said Clippard, whose team knocked off the foursome of Drew Storen, Rick Eckstein, Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart and Kurt Suzuki.

It was both Clippard and Zimmermann’s first win in the tournament’s three-year history, but Philbin’s second consecutive win. Simply known as “Coach” to most in the clubhouse, they gave him a hard time for backing into his success again.

“Somehow Coach always finds his way onto the winning team,” said Zimmermann, who certainly earned the right to make the joke.

The par three scramble challenge will no doubt remain an annual tradition, as it is one of the only times all year the entire team is able to convene outside of the ballpark, just relax, and enjoy each other’s company.

“I wish we could do it once a week,” said Clippard of the event.

Of course, winning probably helps.

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