The Nats look (to me) poised to get into October in pretty good shape. But I would not bet the farm on them getting to the World Series:)
Manager Matt did a great job of managing last night (Sept. 1). The best move of all was bringing Thornton in to rescue Storen. He has been showing a tendency to switch pitchers quicker recently; GOOD!
The guys are looking (as a team) ready for the necessary Sept/Oct. “push.” Span, Gio, Strass, Werth, Harper, Rendon, Cabrera, Lobaton and Ramos have been stepping up their production recently. The good teams do that.
The team brought up 6 players for the “Sept. Call-up.” The best of those moves was getting Barrett and Cedeno for the bullpen. They had been trying to rest Barrett in Syracuse and they accomplished that. Hopefully he is ready for what is ahead; he could very well be the additional “stopper” the Nats need. Cedeno is another lefty weapon in their pen. No team has enough of those. I used to be one myself:)
Us fans need to hang onto being positive, no matter how hard that is!
The Nats offense has mostly been MIA for the month of May. Last night’s (May 28) gift to the Marlins in 10 innings was especially ugly (and typical of this whole month). They loaded the bases with no outs in the 8th inning and failed to push even one run across the plate with the game tied at 4. I can remember 4-5 other times this year when that happened. Then in the bottom of the 9th, the leadoff batter, Wilson Ramos, was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single. He would have scored the winning run if he had played it safe, as Frandsen and McLouth both got base hits after that. Then in the 10th inning the Marlins rallied to win the game.
The Nats batting average for May is the worst in the major leagues. They have a bushel basket of losses by one or two runs. Clutch hitting with runners on base is exceedingly rare. OK, Ramos, LaRoche, Zimmerman and Harper (four of their bast hitters) have been out with injuries. The way Ramos was tearing up spring-training pitching, it appeared he would come out of the gate on opening day leading the offense. But he went on the DL after the very first game and though he’s back in the lineup now, he has yet to regain his hot bat. And the best one can say about the bench hitting is that it is better than last year’s.
LaRoche is the only starter who has steadily maintained an average over .300. Rendon and Espinosa both started very hot in April, but Danny is now reminding us of 2013 when he couldn’t even hit at Syracuse! Rendon is in the first slump of his pro career and one can only hope he turns it around soon. His approach appears to be the same as always, a good sign. And that makes me think his numbers will begin to improve.
When they score 4 or more runs the Nats win 90% of the time, so that is a good goal to shoot for.
There is an excellent Tom Boswell article in today’s Post on all this
Stras pitched very well yesterday, lowering his era to 3.42. Though he gave up 2 runs in the first inning, he shut down the Dodgers after that into the 8th inning. meanwhile his teammates, including Wilson Ramos—back from the DL, took a lead they would not relinquish. Grinding through adversity has not been his strong suit, but Stras is improving on that. Tom Boswell has a great article (again) in today’s Post on this. He compares Stras with Clayton Kershaw.
Meanwhile, the guy who played 2B for the Orioles yesterday has a batting average 70 points below that of Steve Lombardozzi, and it is Lombo who has been sent down to AAA! Go figure.
Check out the Richard Justice article on MLB.com. It’s a good read!
Matt Lecroy is the new bullpen coach of the Nats, having been hired over the winter by new manager Matt Williams. Several weeks ago a TV videoclip of Lecroy dashing in from the bullpen went viral, as a little “dustup” evolved into a possible bench-clearing brawl during a Nats game. The video looked like a Marx Brothers “Chinese fire-drill” with Lecroy at first leading the charge, then slowly fading as the 20-something pitchers quickly left him in their dust:) He subsequently fell down (tripped over himself?) and never arrived at the two-team face-off in the infield (no punches were thrown and things simmered down quickly). The fact that the middle-aged Lecroy is more than several pounds over-weight added to the comical video!
Fast-forward to Friday night’s game (May 2) and another bench-clearing face-off between the Nats and Phillies. The bullpen gates open and out charges Lecroy, followed by the much younger pen denizens (you just can’t make this stuff up!) again. Again no punches were thrown and in the post-games press conferences the protagonists (Cliff Lee and Denard Spann) both claimed through clenched teeth and straight faces that they were not angry with each other:) Stay with me here…………..
Wait for it……………
A footnote in today’s Washington Post has a story about the one injury from Friday night’s potential armageddon; Matt Lecroy is now laid up with a pulled muscle in one leg:) Me thinks the team might want to put the new bullpen coach on a leash?
I’ve mentioned this before, but we continue to see how Stephen Strasburg can become rattled and loose his focus when events occur during games (errors by his teammates for example, or a plate umpire with a strike zone not to Stephen’s liking). Last night in the 3rd inning Jason Werth dropped a routine fly ball in foul territory that would have been the third out. Right after that Stephen threw a fastball right across the middle of home plate to a good hitter, Marlon Byrd, who hit it for a 3-run homer.
Those were the only runs Strasburg gave up in his 6 or 7 inning stint, so he was able to settle himself down after the home run. My point is these episodes seem to affect Stephen’s pitching more than they do most pitchers. I’m sure the Nats coachs are trying to work with him to increase his ability to stay focused on “grinding” through opposing team’s lineups while tuning out adverse events that are not under Stephen’s control.
1. Former Nat (a very popular one!) Mikey Morse (“The Beast”) hit the game winning home run as the Giants beat our nemesis, the Atlanta Braves. That was the Braves 4th straight loss!
2. Another former Nat, Steve Lombardozzi, hitting .292 for the Orioles was sent down to AAA in order to make room for star third baseman Manny Machado as he came back from injury to play yesterday for the first time in 2014. There were other Orioles that in my opinion should have been sent down instead of Lombo. Note to Mike Rizzo: Get Lombo BACK!
Bo (formerly with the Nats coaching staff) has his hands full in Houston, with a roster mostly filled with very young players who would be playing in the minor leagues of most other clubs in the majors. After watching the 2 recent Nats games in Houston, I’m very impressed with Porter’s creativity and willingness to try new ideas. I’ve noticed a “minor buzz” around National League coaching staffs that some of Bo’s new approaches are attracting favorable comments among his peers.
Harper forced to DL with sprained left thumb (photo courtesy of CBC Sports)
I’ve mentioned writer/reporter Tom Boswell before. He is a gifted observer of our national pastime, and today’s piece on Bryce Harper is another gem. I hope Bryce takes it to heart.
Manager Matt (MM) was interviewed on XM radio on 4/30 and when asked if he would be counseling Harper on not sliding headfirst so much, had this to say “he slid feet first in our season-opening series with the Mets and had a potential concussion. Also, he did hurt himself once last year sliding feet first.” It is apparent MM plans to be very careful in any effort to alter Harper’s approach to his playing style:)
This latest news is a huge blow to the Nats chances for fighting their way to the playoffs. Both Zim and Bryce got seriously hurt sliding headfirst.
Doug Fister and Wilson Ramos are on the road back however. It seems possible that Fister could start a game by about May 7th. Ramos is practicing “lightly.” It will likely take him several more weeks to regain the strength needed to bat with power in game conditions. But he hopes to appear in minor-league games this week.
This is the time for the bench players to step up and show us why they made the roster coming out of Spring Training! I have to admit, after hoping the Nats would trade Danny Espinosa before Spring Training, that he has made me VERY GLAD he is still here! I did not think it would be possible to make Danny a major league hitter, but I was wrong:) I’m impressed with the improved hitting thus far. And we all know he is a gold glove calibre fielder. In fact many of the usual suspects posting on the team website are calling for Danny to REPLACE Ian Desmond at SS!
Late breaking news: Zack Walters has been sent down to Syracuse as well as Taylor Jordan. Ryan Mattheus is back up here. The last time Mattheus pitched well was in 2012; I hope they don’t have to use him in a critical situation. Maybe they want to have him in case they need a “mop-up” pitcher in a game that has got out of hand:) I also hope they bring Souza back.
The newest AAA Baseball Team – the El Paso Chihuahuas.
I heard a rumor the other day that caught my attention. Not sure as to the veracity, but here’s the gist. The El Paso Chihuahuas are the San Diego Padres AAA team. One of their backup infielders is Guglielmo H. Espinosa (I’m checking his heritage to see if there is a familial connection to The Danny). Anyhow, he’s batting .172 currently in ST camp in the Cactus League. Last week he belted 3 HRs in one game, so Mike Rizzo calls his scout who is out in AZ now and asks him to go check the guy out. A couple days of silence follow. Then four days later the scout walks into Rizzo’s office in DC, and there’s a little Chihuahua peeking out of his coat pocket! Mike says “what’s the ____ is this?” The scout’s response supposedly went something like this: “Well this Espinosa guy didn’t show me much. He’s leading the team in Ks at the plate, always swings at the first pitch, etc, etc (sound familiar?). But I got a brilliant PR idea about the Nats adding a little chihuahua to the Presidents Race and training him to nip at Teddy’s heels so Teddy has a shot at winning once in a while! Whaddya think boss?”
p.s. Single game tickets for the Chihuahuas’ first season went on sale yesterday. To learn more about the story behind their mascot, click here.