Archive for the 'MLB' Category

Strasburg Pitches Nats One Win Away from World Series

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

As he walked alone from the bullpen before the start of game three of the National League playoffs, the fans cheered. Stephen Strasburg gave no reaction. It appeared he was focused as he took each step to the dugout. Failed to hear the cheering fans or just so focused he did not want to react to them. When he got on the mound he was almost unhittable, striking out 12. He did give up seven hits, but three of them were in the seventh inning, his last. That is when he gave up his only run. Juan Soto slipping in the outfield and then making a wild throw to the infield. The ball flew past Trea Turner and Rendon and skipped past an inattentive Strasburg.

In the past, an incident like that would have unnerved Strasburg. A 7-0 lead was now 7-1. Two runners were on base with only one out. Strasburg had just given up three hits, all line drives or clunkers into left field. A defensive player had just made an error that cost the team a run. Time to man up. Matt Wieters came in to pinch hit and Strasburg struck him out. Derek Fowler came up, 0 for 3 with two strikeouts on the day. Strasburg threw three pitches past him for the whiff. You could see Max Scherzer in the dugout giving out a big fist cheer. There was a big group hug for Strasburg as he reached the dugout, led by Gerrado Parra.

The Nationals broke this game open in the third inning off Cardinals pitching phenom Jack Flaherty. Victor Robles got the inning started with an off the end of the bat seeing eye ground ball single into centerfield. Strasburg bunted him to second. After Trea Turner struck out for the second out the Nationals needed a clutch hit from Adam Eaton. They got one with a ground single to the right of second base that scored Robles.

Anthony Rendon blooped one into left field. Marcel Ozuna charged the ball and tried to make a sliding catch. The ball hit off his glove and rolled far enough in front of him for Adam Eaton to score the second run. It was a catchable ball that was ruled a double. Juan Soto walked and Howie Kendrick lined the first of his three doubles, this one into right center that scored both Rendon and Soto. The Nationals were up 4-0. They probably should not have scored any.

Flaherty lasted only four innings. Tyler Webb was the first to come on in relief to start the fifth. He gave up a single to Anthony Rendon. With a bucketful of right handed hitters coming up the Cardinals went with John Brebbia. Howie Kendrick swung at his first pitch and lined it into the left center field gap. Rendon was being waved home and made it easily after Ozuna dropped the ball the first time he tried to pick it up. Ryan Zimmerman got behind in the count 0-2 and lined a pitch into the left centerfield gap for another double to put the Nationals up 6-0.

In the sixth Victor Robles led the inning off with a homerun. He was one of the least likely players to be voted dinger of the day, but he was the only National to have the ball leave the park. It barely left the park. His mom watching him play for the first time in the United States had to be proud.

The Cardinals finally got to Strasburg in the seventh. Jose Martinez ran the count to 3-2, fouled a number of two strike pitches off and then lined a single to left, his second hit of the day. Yadier Molina followed with a single on the next pitch from Strasburg to put two runners on. The pitch count for Stras had reached 100 but he struck out Tommy Edman. Paul Dejong blooped a single to left. The Cardinals were happy to keep the bases loaded, even after Soto slipped on the grass and fell. He got up and wildly threw the ball to the infield, past Turner and Rendon. Strasburg was not looking and the ball got past him. Suzuki chased after the ball that had now rolled past the first base foul line, but Martinez scored. That is when Strasburg showed his mettle, striking out the next two hitters to end the inning and his day at 117 pitches.

The Nationals got the run back in the bottom of the seventh. Howie Kendrick tied a record for most doubles in a National Championship Series by again finding the gap into left center. Ryan Zimmerman lined a single past the third baseman to score Kendrick.

Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey each pitched an inning and retired all three hitters they faced, each striking out two. Rainey hit 102 on the radar gun with his fastball.

Game Notes: In addition to his two fielding gaffes in left field, Ozuna made a base running mistake in the second inning that changed the complexion of the game. He led the inning off with a double to left field. Jose Martinez grounded a pitch to Strasburg. Ozuna strayed too far off second and was tagged by Strasburg for the first out, not even trying to get in a run down…Paul Goldschmidt struck out all four times he came to the plate…The announced attendance was 43,675, but there seemed to be many of those fans looking like blue seats. Columbus day weekend may have resulted in some no shows…The 50-50 payout was a bit over $33,000…Security was plentiful. Lots of dogs and lots of guns. Made me wonder who pays for all this security…Six of the seven runs the Nationals scored were on two out hits. Only the Victor Robles leadoff homerun in the sixth came with less than two out…Kurt Suzuki got his first hit of the playoffs with a single to left in the fourth inning…Strasburg has a playoff ERA of 1.10. The only two pitchers with a lower playoff ERAs are Sandy Koufax (0.96) and Christy Mathewson (1.06)…The Robles homerun was witnessed by his mom, who was watching her first game in the United States…The “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” announcer was at the game and made his patented call, just before “play ball”…The first pitch was thrown by the Make a Wish kid. He wish was to become a National for a day, and signed a one day contract. The Nationals were 19 and something when he signed. They had the best record in baseball after he signed a contract.

Dodgers Maul Nationals Pen

Monday, October 7th, 2019

It has been a problem for the Nationals all season and it became a problem for them yesterday. After five superb innings from starter Anibal Sanchez, the bullpen coughed up nine runs in four innings in a 10-4 loss to the Dodgers. Starter Patrick Corbin started the bullpen meltdown, failing to get past the sixth. David Freese got the critical two out pinch hit single to extend the inningleading the charge for the six hitters after him to get on base for a seven run sixth.

It was a great start for the Nationals. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who rarely walks anyone, issued a one out walk to Adam Eaton. With two outs Juan Soto buried a ball into the right field bleachers and the Nationals had a 2-0 lead. Ryu settled down after that, shutting the Nationals down for the next four innings.

Anibal Sanchez was magnificent. He got into trouble in the first inning, fighting with his control to find the strike zone. A single sandwiched between two walks loaded the bases with two out. He got A.J. Pollock to swing and miss at a change to end the threat. From that point he went on to strike out five straight hitters using his slow stuff to keep the Dodgers hitters off balance. In the fifth Cody Bellinger blasted an 0-2 fastball deep into the right field bleachers. Dave Martinez pinch hit for him in the bottom of the fifth.

Patrick Corbin came on to pitch the sixth. The plan was probably for him to pitch two to three innings to turn it to Doolittle for the 8th and Hudson for the ninth. While Corbin pitched well and was the victim of bad luck, that is what sometimes wins and loses playoff games.

Cody Bellinger led off the inning with a single to right. Corbin struck out the next two hitters. David Freese pinch hit for Gavin Lux, the same David Freese that was a playoff hero for the Cardinals back in 2011. The Nationals played David to pull with the second baseman playing him up the middle. Freese hit what should have been a routine grounder to second, but no one was in that spot and it trickled into right field for a single. It got nasty after that.

Corbin got ahead of Russell Martin 0-2. Martin did not chase two pitches off the plate. The 2-2 slider he blasted into the left centerfield gap for a double, scoring two runs. Chris Taylor walked. The Dodgers had Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Joc Pederson and with another left handed hitter on deck Martinez chose to stay with Corbin. Kiki drove a 1-2 hanging slider into the left centerfield gap to score two more runs. The Nationals chose to walk Max Muncy intentionally and bring in a right hander to face Justin Turner.

In strides the confident but still inexperienced Wander Suero to face the veteran Justin Turner. The count goes full. Turner sees a pitch he likes and mashes it over the left field bullpen to complete the seven run sixth.

The Nationals still had a chance. Joe Kelly, who has trouble finding the plate came in to pitch for the Dodgers. He walked two and gave up a single to Howie Kendrick to load the bases. A wild pitch scored one run. Another walk loaded the bases. That was it for Kelly. He was replaced by Julio Urias without retiring a hitter. Julio got pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera to fly out to right deep enough to score Juan Soto. Howie made a baserunning blunder hesitating on his tag to third and getting caught in a run down when Freese cut the ball off and threw to third. That killed the rally and any attempt at a comeback from the Nationals.

The final scoring came off Hunter Struckland, who gave up a two run pop to Russell Martin in the ninth. Strickland has now pitched 13 playoff innings in his career and given up 9 homeruns. Up until that point 7 of his 8 homeruns had been solo jobs so his 7.62 ERA is not too bad considering all the gopher balls he has given up.

Game Notes: Medal of honor winner David Bellavia threw out the first pitch. He is the only living Iraqi war veteran to earn the medal of honor…Juan Soto has two stances when he bats. One with less than two strikes when his left foot points inward. The second stance when he has two strikes and his left foot is planted on the ground facing the pitcher…Fernando Rodney gave up a double and walked two in the seventh inning. He was lucky that Max Muncy swung at ball four and flew out to center, otherwise the score could have been worse…The Nationals have their two aces, Scherzer and Strasburg going for them in the final two games. If the Nationals had won the game on Sunday myworld would not have been surprised to see Strasburg come into the game on Monday as the closer. Now I would be surprised if he pitches on Monday. Leave it to Max for seven innings…Odds are not good for the Nationals. Teams with 2-1 advantages in five game series with the 2-2-1 format have gone on to advance 71 percent of the time…All seven runs the Dodgers scored in the sixth inning came after two were out and all the hits that drove in the runs came with two strikes. So the Nationals were just one strike away many times from either getting out of the inning, or making the inning less explosive…David Freese finished the game 3 for 3, continuing his clutch performances in playoff games. In 67 playoff games he has an OPS of .918.

Dodgers Maul Nationals Pen

Monday, October 7th, 2019

It has been a problem for the Nationals all season and it became a problem for them yesterday. After five superb innings from starter Anibal Sanchez, the bullpen coughed up nine runs in four innings in a 10-4 loss to the Dodgers. Starter Patrick Corbin started the bullpen meltdown, failing to get past the sixth. David Freese got the critical two out pinch hit single to extend the inningleading the charge for the six hitters after him to get on base for a seven run sixth.

It was a great start for the Nationals. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who rarely walks anyone, issued a one out walk to Adam Eaton. With two outs Juan Soto buried a ball into the right field bleachers and the Nationals had a 2-0 lead. Ryu settled down after that, shutting the Nationals down for the next four innings.

Anibal Sanchez was magnificent. He got into trouble in the first inning, fighting with his control to find the strike zone. A single sandwiched between two walks loaded the bases with two out. He got A.J. Pollock to swing and miss at a change to end the threat. From that point he went on to strike out five straight hitters using his slow stuff to keep the Dodgers hitters off balance. In the fifth Cody Bellinger blasted an 0-2 fastball deep into the right field bleachers. Dave Martinez pinch hit for him in the bottom of the fifth.

Patrick Corbin came on to pitch the sixth. The plan was probably for him to pitch two to three innings to turn it to Doolittle for the 8th and Hudson for the ninth. While Corbin pitched well and was the victim of bad luck, that is what sometimes wins and loses playoff games.

Cody Bellinger led off the inning with a single to right. Corbin struck out the next two hitters. David Freese pinch hit for Gavin Lux, the same David Freese that was a playoff hero for the Cardinals back in 2011. The Nationals played David to pull with the second baseman playing him up the middle. Freese hit what should have been a routine grounder to second, but no one was in that spot and it trickled into right field for a single. It got nasty after that.

Corbin got ahead of Russell Martin 0-2. Martin did not chase two pitches off the plate. The 2-2 slider he blasted into the left centerfield gap for a double, scoring two runs. Chris Taylor walked. The Dodgers had Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Joc Pederson and with another left handed hitter on deck Martinez chose to stay with Corbin. Kiki drove a 1-2 hanging slider into the left centerfield gap to score two more runs. The Nationals chose to walk Max Muncy intentionally and bring in a right hander to face Justin Turner.

In strides the confident but still inexperienced Wander Suero to face the veteran Justin Turner. The count goes full. Turner sees a pitch he likes and mashes it over the left field bullpen to complete the seven run sixth.

The Nationals still had a chance. Joe Kelly, who has trouble finding the plate came in to pitch for the Dodgers. He walked two and gave up a single to Howie Kendrick to load the bases. A wild pitch scored one run. Another walk loaded the bases. That was it for Kelly. He was replaced by Julio Urias without retiring a hitter. Julio got pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera to fly out to right deep enough to score Juan Soto. Howie made a baserunning blunder hesitating on his tag to third and getting caught in a run down when Freese cut the ball off and threw to third. That killed the rally and any attempt at a comeback from the Nationals.

The final scoring came off Hunter Struckland, who gave up a two run pop to Russell Martin in the ninth. Strickland has now pitched 13 playoff innings in his career and given up 9 homeruns. Up until that point 7 of his 8 homeruns had been solo jobs so his 7.62 ERA is not too bad considering all the gopher balls he has given up.

Game Notes: Medal of honor winner David Bellavia threw out the first pitch. He is the only living Iraqi war veteran to earn the medal of honor…Juan Soto has two stances when he bats. One with less than two strikes when his left foot points inward. The second stance when he has two strikes and his left foot is planted on the ground facing the pitcher…Fernando Rodney gave up a double and walked two in the seventh inning. He was lucky that Max Muncy swung at ball four and flew out to center, otherwise the score could have been worse…The Nationals have their two aces, Scherzer and Strasburg going for them in the final two games. If the Nationals had won the game on Sunday myworld would not have been surprised to see Strasburg come into the game on Monday as the closer. Now I would be surprised if he pitches on Monday. Leave it to Max for seven innings…Odds are not good for the Nationals. Teams with 2-1 advantages in five game series with the 2-2-1 format have gone on to advance 71 percent of the time…All seven runs the Dodgers scored in the sixth inning came after two were out and all the hits that drove in the runs came with two strikes. So the Nationals were just one strike away many times from either getting out of the inning, or making the inning less explosive…David Freese finished the game 3 for 3, continuing his clutch performances in playoff games. In 67 playoff games he has an OPS of .918.

A Wild Nats Win in a Wild Card Game

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

In the Nationals recent playoff history they have had trouble advancing past the first round. Winning a wild card game in a one game playoff may not count as advancing, but the Nationals will take any win they can get. They got two clutch hits from two of their clutch players, Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman in the 8th inning to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3. Many strange events occurred in that inning, but myworld will detail them below.

Max Scherzer got the start over Stephen Strasburg in this game. That was one of the big questions in D.C., who do you start in a must win wild card game? There was no consensus among the Nat fans. The Brewers chose to start Brandon Woodruff. He started 22 games in 2019. This is his third season and while he has lots of talent, he is not considered an ace in the mold of Scherzer or Strasburg.

The game did not start well for Max. He appeared too amped up, his fastball getting to the plate at 97-99 miles per hour. Normally he is at 95-97. Many may think faster is better, but Max could not find the plate. He walked leadoff hitter Trent Grisham on a 3-2 count. Yasmani Grandal then took his first pitch and sent a line drive into the left field bullpen. Nats fans were stunned.

In the second inning Max got behind the first hitter Eric Thames 1-0. Eric drove the next pitch from Max high into right center and just reaching the bleachers to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead. In his second at bat in the fourth inning Eric would send a high fly to left field that just fell short of being a homerun. Juan Soto lept for the ball at the fence, but it fell behind him and Eric cruised into second with a double. There were a lot of discussions in the stands about starting Strasburg instead.

Max only worked five innings before being pinch hit for Brian Dozier in the bottom of the fifth. Stephen Strasburg came on in relief for the first time since he was the closer his freshman year at San Diego State. He pitched three brilliant shutout innings, dropping his playoff ERA to 0.41. If the game had turned differently there would have been some serious Monday morning quarterbacking about who should have started the first game of the wild card.

Brandon Woodruff pitched well for the Brewers. Myworld did not think he threw as hard as he did, but his fastball was hitting 99-100 miles per hour. He was only supposed to be used as an opener but he pitched so well the Brewers extended him for four innings. Trea Turner tagged him for a solo shot in the third inning, a line drive that found its way into the left field bullpen. He gave up only one other hit in his four innings of work.

The Brewers went with little used Brent Suter and Drew Pomeranz to shut down the Nationals the next three innings. For the eighth Josh Hader was called on to get a two out save. He struck out leadoff hitter Victor Robles. The Nats called back Ryan Zimmerman from the on deck circle and instead went with Michael Taylor. It was the second time Ryan was called back from the on deck circle as a pinch hitter. Myworld questioned the move thinking this was a strikeout waiting to happen.

For the Brewers it was the start of a chaotic eighth inning. On a 3-2 pitch a Hader fastball came inside and hit Taylor. Or did it hit the bat? I did not see where the ball landed after Taylor was hit but the Brewers threw to first and then appealed the ruling saying the ball hit the bat before it hit Taylor. Video replays were not conclusive and the call stood. Trea Turner then struck out and it was two down.

Dave Martinez finally chose to use his ace to bat for Adam Eaton, trying to take advantage of the lefty/righty split. Hader had trouble throwing strikes, running the count to 2-1. Zimmerman was jammed on the next pitch and his bat split as he plunked a pitch into center field. Lorenzo Cain was playing him deep and the ball fell in front of him. Lorenzo was questionable for the start of this game because of a sprained ankle. Was his ankle bothering him as he charged the ball? Andrew Stevenson pinch ran for Zimmerman. The bat died a happy death.

Anthony Rendon worked the count to 3-2 and walked to load the bases. Up strode the young but confident Juan Soto. Hader is a killer against lefthanders. They are hitting just .143 against him. Soto was not deterred. He lined a 1-1 pitch into right field. Pinch runner Stevenson was being waved home. It appeared a close play at the plate was in the future, but the ball skipped past the glove of right fielder Trent Grisham as he tried to charge the ball to make the throw. Now Rendon was being waived home and he scored easily for the go ahead run. Soto was thrown out at third, stopping before he reached the base and being tagged in the run down. Normally Christian Yelich plays right field, but a fractured knee cap ended his season in September. Would he have made the play?

The Nationals went with Daniel Hudson to close out the game. The same Daniel Hudson that had been released by the Los Angeles Angels during spring training this year and traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Nationals for a song. He had also pitched in 40 games for the Dodgers in 2018, but they chose not to resign him. He gave up a one out single to Lorenzo Cain, but retired the next two batters, the last on a deep drive to center by Ben Gamel that Victor Robles caught short of the warning track. The celebrations began, something the Nationals had not done in the post season. Now it’s on to L.A. where the Nationals will face the Dodgers. Daniel Hudson is probably looking forward to it.

Game Notes: On the video board before the game the Nationals had clips of Morgan’s Minute, as Morgan, a young girl interviewed various players and people in the Nationals organization. She did a good job and has a future in the broadcasting industry. Myworld enjoyed the interviews…Aaron Barrett threw out the first pitch for the Nationals. He made his first appearance with the Nationals this year after Tommy John and a fractured elbow took him four years to recover, then had an emotional scene in the dugout weeping over his first appearance since his struggles. Good luck to him next year…There appeared to be a power outage somewhere in the Nationals stadium, with fire alarms going off in the distance and the stadium without sound for a half inning. The racing Presidents ran in silence and then did a dance with no music from the loud speakers…This was Juan Soto’s first playoff appearance. Perhaps his clutch hit will change the narrative of the Nationals performing so poorly during playoff games. He was 0 for 3 with two whiffs before his clutch hit against a tough pitcher…It was an emotional night for the fans in the stands. There was a lot of hugging among strangers and high fives as people were leaving the stadium. In Panama it is tradition that when the home team wins beer is thrown in the air in celebration. Of course, beer in Panama is only $1 per cup while at Nats stadium they charge about $9. There were reports of a lot of beer raining down on the stadium after the win. The 50-50 winner also came home $27,000 richer. Perhaps he or she will buy the next beers after a Nationals victory…The Nationals had gone 8-0 in their last home stand. Losing a home playoff game after that 8-0 finish would have been tough to deal with.

Top Minor League Shortstop Prospects

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Below are myworld’s top minor league shortstop prospects. There is a bundle of athletic talent at this position. With this list our infield is complete. Next will be the outfield and then the pitching staff.

1) Wander Franco (Rays) - Any player who would be considered the top prospect in baseball in 2020 has to be considered as the top shortstop prospect. But at one time Jurickson Profar was the top prospect in baseball, but he is still struggling to make his mark in the major leagues. Wander has the ability to hit for average and power. In 2018 he hit .351 with a 1.005 OPS, slugging 11 homeruns in just 61 games in the rookie league. In 2019 he got his opportunity to play full season ball and hit .327 with an .885 OPS and 9 homeruns. His defensive tools are not superb, but they are good enough to play shortstop. If he has to move to second or third base the bat is certainly strong enough for him to be an All Star at any position he plays. Next year he should start his season in AA and he could reach the majors as a teenager. Willy Adames is currently the shortstop but he has yet to break out the offensive tools that Franco possesses.

2) Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals) - With newness comes expectations of grandeur. No one has witnessed the warts yet. Witt was the second pick in the 2019 draft. Myworld saw him put on a homerun derby spectacle at the All Star game in D.C. His dad is Bobby Witt and he was a first round pick way back in 1985. His son has chosen to swing the bat rather than pitch. He has five pretty impressive tools. The bat carries plenty of pop and he should be able to hit for average. In his first taste of minor league baseball he hit .262 with just one homerun for an uninspiring .670 OPS. His legs show a lot of speed as witnessed by his five triples and 9 stolen bases in just 37 games. Defensively he has good range and a rocket arm that can throw in the mid-90s if he was asked to pitch. Next year he should make his debut in full season ball where he will be expected to show a little more pop than he did in 2019.

3) Royce Lewis (Twins) - Back in 2017 Royce was the first pick in the draft. You would think this would still make him the top prospect among shortstops but some warts have popped up. In the AFL the Twins have been playing him at other positions, using him at centerfield and third base, in case shortstop continues to be occupied by Jorge Polanco and they need his bat in the lineup. His bat should hit for average and power, but in 2019 he could only manage a .236 average. His strikeout rate went up leading to a drop in average. An OPS of .661 is very disappointing for a player of his tools. He has great speed and should be an above average defender at shortstop, but needs to improve his consistency fielding his position. Last year he finished at AA, which is where he should start the 2020 season. He could see some time in the majors next year if he can find some quality at bats.

4) Ronny Mauricio (Mets) - The Mets are flush with shortstops, with Amed Rosario improving on his defense in the second half, with a bat that has come to life, filling the major league roster. Mauricio is another live bat that can play the position. He is still a few years away from the major leagues. At 6′3″ he could out grow the position, but at this point he would have the bat to move to third or second base. As he fills out the bat will hit for power. In 2019 he hit for a .665 OPS in Low A ball. The arm is good enough to play third or short, but his lack of speed could limit his range at short as he fills out. He also needs to show a little more patience at the plate to take advantage of his hitting potential. Next year Ronny should see half a season at High A and perhaps half a season at AA, depending on how he develops. He could see the majors in 2021 as a 20 year old.

5) Jazz Chisolm (Marlins) - Two shortstops were signed out of the Bahamas in 2015. Lucius Fox signed with the Giants for $6 million and Jazz signed with the Diamondbacks for just $200,000. Jazz is the player on this list. The Diamondbacks traded him to the Marlins in 2019 for Zac Gaillen. Though Zac is a nice pitching prospect, Jazz may turn out to be a premier shortstop. With the Diamondbacks he struggled to make contact, which resulted in a low average (.204), but he did show some power with 18 homeruns. With the Marlins the average went up (.284) and the power was still there to hit three homeruns in 23 games. Defensively, he has the tools to stay at shortstop. The Marlins might see him with their big league club some time by mid-season in 2020.

6) O’Neil Cruz (Pirates) - The Pirates have been developing some pretty vanilla shortstops over the years in Jody Mercer, Kevin Newman, Kevin Cramer and Cole Tucker. If Cruz can stay at shortstop he could fall far right of that Bell curve. At 6′7 myworld expects him to move to first base or right field, but if he can stay at short he could provide consistent 30 plus homerun power at the position. For a big man with a large strike zone he makes pretty good contact. In 2019 he reached AA but he did not make a big impact, hitting just .269 in 35 games with one homerun and a .412 slugging percentage. After a down 2019 the Pirates will be in rebuilding mode for 2020 and Cruz should be a big part of that. Expect him to start next year in AA.

7) Gavin Lux (Dodgers) - After an injury to Max Muncy, the Dodgers called Gavin up in September to handle second base. With Corey Seager at short that position could be filled for the future years. The 2016 first round pick had hit .392 in AAA and combined for 26 homeruns between AA and AAA in just 113 games. He struggled a bit with the Dodgers, hitting just .240 with two homeruns. After a poor 2017 season many were calling him a bust. After two years of hitting .320 plus he is now firmly entrenched in the Dodgers plans. The tools are there to play shortstop, but he has shown a lack of consistency in finding first base with his throws. A move to second may make the throws just a bit easier. Expect him to start the 2020 season with the Dodgers either as their second baseman, or someone who can play second, short and third.

8) Jose Devers (Marlins) - With the acquisition of Jazz the Marlins have two quality defenders they can put at short. Jose is the brother of Rafael, who plays third base for the Red Sox. Jose may not carry the power of his older brother, but time will tell. He just finished his third year with the Marlins and he has only hit one homerun. Jose makes good contact with the bat and last year hit .322 at three different levels, rising all the way to High A. He also has the speed to steal bases and turn singles into doubles. Defensively he has the tools to be an above average shortstop. Next year in his age 20 season he should see AA.

9) Marco Luciano (Giants) - The Giants are in a rebuilding mode and Marco should be a important part of that process. He is another shortstop discovered in the Bahamas, as they replace San Pedro de Macoris and Curacao as the land of the next wave of shortstops. The Giants traded Lucius Fox, who they signed out of the Bahamas for $6 million to the Rays, then went back to the well to sign Marco for $2.6 million. He has the potential for five tools, showing the tools for a strong bat, good speed, solid arm and strong defense. The 2019 season was his first year to show off those tools and he hit .322 with 10 homeruns. This should allow him to start the 2020 season in a full season league.

10) Jorge Mateo (Athletics) - Jorge has been around awhile, signed by the Yankees way back in 2012. He complained back in 2016 when he was not promoted to AA. His prospect status dropped after the 2018 season when he hit only .230 in AAA with just three homeruns. He got his mojo back in 2019 after hitting .289 with 29 doubles, 14 triples and 19 homeruns. There is some sneaky power in his bat. The Athletics have tried him in centerfield and second base. With Marcus Semien at shortstop they do not need help at that position. Expect Jorge to make the Athletics roster in the 2020 season as a super utility player who can move all around the diamond. His speed is terrorizing on the bases, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Nats Pull Out Victory Day After Clinching Playoff Spot

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Normally, teams do not play as well the day after clinching a playoff spot. There are a lot of celebrations and the manager usually rests the top players the next day. Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner were not in the lineup today, but despite that the Nationals were able to squeeze out a victory against the Phillies 5-2. Another win and they will complete a rare five game sweep.

Both Anibal Sanchez and Drew Smyly were sharp early. Smyly retired the first 12 hitters he faced, seven of them on strikeouts. Sanchez retired nine of the first ten hitters he faced.

The Phillies struck first and it was Bryce Harper who led the charge in the fourth inning. He lined a hit into left center and clearly did not want to settle for a single. He took advantage of a somewhat casual Juan Soto and Victor Robles pursuit of the ball and turned it into a double. Rhys Hoskins dribbled the next pitch from Sanchez up the middle and into centerfield. The determined Harper raced home to score the first run. The one thing you can say about Harper is he can hustle with the best of them, but he can also turn it off just as easily if circumstances do not go well.

The Nationals tied it in the bottom frame. After Smyly had retired the first 12 batters, Howie Kendrick ran the count full before pulling a pitch into the left field bleachers for his 17th homerun.

Both pitchers continued their zeros until Brad Miller took the first pitch from Anibal in the seventh and sent it over the Nationals bullpen into the third deck. Miller had hit two homeruns his previous game. Scott Kingery laced a two out single and stole second and third, taking advantage of the shift being deployed for Andrew Knapp. Sanchez was able to strike out Knapp to limit the damage to one.

Just like they did in the third, the Nationals battled back in the bottom frame. Asdrubal Cabrera sent Smyly to the showers with his one out single. Yan Gomes lined a double past the glove of Rhys Hoskins that settled into the right field corner to put runners at second and third. Victor Robles drove in one run with a shallow fly ball to center, the throw skipping past the catcher into the back stop, otherwise it would have been a close play at home. Wilmer Difo punched a single into right center to score Gomes and give the Nationals a 3-2 lead.

The Nationals added two more insurance runs in the eighth off Jose Alvarez. Brian Dozier led the inning off, taking a 2-0 pitch from Alvarez into the left field bleachers. Cesar Hernandez booted a slow roller from Adam Eaton for an error. Hoskins misjudged a foul popup from Kendrick and Kendrick took advantage of the extended life by lining a single to left field, Eaton advancing to third. Juan Soto scored Eaton with a deep fly to center.

Sean Doolittle came on to pick up the easy save in the ninth. He looked sharp, striking out three hitters. He gave a one out single to Jean Segura, but struck out the next two hitters to complete the save.

Game Notes: Harper was critical of the fans in the bleachers in right field. In the eighth inning he was responding to them, almost signaling for them to bring it on. After the game he said the fans had taken it too far, but did not provide specifics as to what the fans had done. He did take the opportunity to praise the Philly fans when comparing them to Nationals fans, looking forward to returning to Philly and their 60,000 loyal fans. Myworld does not blame Harper for going to Philly. Virtually all the fans who are booing Harper would have made the same decision as Harper did when leaving the Nationals. The Phillies offer was clearly better. The Nationals offer was just enough to save face, but a clear message to Harper that they did not want him. Let’s hope they do not take the same approach with Anthony Rendon…Harper had another hustle double in the eighth that was ruled a single and an error after a Robles bobble…Adam Eaton looked horrible on a ball hit to right, turning the wrong way and watching it hit at the base of the fence. He looked like a player who had still not recovered from a night of heavy libations…Myworld will be the first to admit that we gave up on the Nationals making the playoffs after their 19-31 start. It was a remarkable show of resiliency they were able to come back and clinch a playoff spot after that horrible start…The Nationals still need to win games in order to host the wild card game. They are a game ahead of the Brewers who are just a game and a half behind the Cardinals for the NL Central Division…The loss for the Phillies dropped them to .500 and was another mini-collapse as the season came to a close (18-34 the last two Septembers). This can not be a good thing for the long term future of Gabe Kapler…J.T. Realmuto appears done for the season. He will need minor knee surgery to clean up his meniscus. He becomes a free agent after this season.

Top Third Base Prospects

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Below are myworld’s top third base prospects. Interesting the list lacks any internationals players. Perhaps some of those shortstops will move to third base, crowding out some of the players below.

1. Alec Bohm (Phillies) - The 2018 first round pick of the Phillies has some height (6′5″) which creates some massive power to his game. He kind of reminds me of Troy Glaus without the swing and miss. The concern is his defensive game is below par based on his lack of first step quickness. Last year his power was absent with zero homeruns in 139 at bats. This year he has hit 21 homeruns, climbing all the way to AA. For a power hitter he makes good contact, which could result in a high average. This year his average sits at .305, though a .367 average in Low A pads those stats. If his agility does not improve and a move to first is a necessity it would drop his value to the team.

2. Nolan Gorman (Cardinals) - Gorman was also a first round pick in 2018. The Cardinals have a glut of third baseman in the minor leagues, but Gorman is ahead of them all at this point. His defense is solid and his power is exceptional. In his first year after being drafted he slugged 17 homeruns in just 68 games. The big issue in his game is his inability to make contact and his struggle to hit lefthanded pitching. This year his splits are not as pronounced as they were last year but his 152 whiffs in just 125 games has dropped his average to .248. His slugging average has also dropped below .500.

3. Josh Jung (Rangers) - Josh was a first round pick of the Rangers in 2019. Josh dominated in college for Texas Tech, even showing the ability to play shortstop. That won’t happen in the major leagues, but it shows his ability to play a solid defense at the hot corner. His bat should show enough power to play the position and he makes enough contact to hit for a decent average. After tearing up Rookie level pitching (.588) he earned a promotion to full season ball. In Low A his power is a little short with just one homerun, but after a full college season he could be a bit fatigued. Bohm did not hit any homers his first year.

4. Jonathan India (Reds) - The Reds drafted India in the first round in the 2018 draft. He showed some power last year for the Florida Gators. With the Reds he may have to switch positions like Nick Senzel with Eugenio Suarez hitting 40 plus homeruns for the Reds. India is still low enough in the minors that the Reds can show some patience with him but as a college drafted position player you can’t show too much patience. India has already hit his way to AA with 11 homeruns, though his slugging average in AA is a disappointing .378. Defensively he has the glove to stay at third. His speed is also decent enough that a move to a corner outfield would not be without possibility.

5. Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates) - The first round 2015 pick is known more for his glove than his bat. He is the son of Charlie Hayes, who played quite a bit of third base in the major leagues. Power will not be part of his game, but he makes good contact where he could hit for average. Last year he hit .293, splitting the gap for 31 doubles. This year has been a bit more swing and miss in AAA, dropping his average to .265, though his homerun numbers have increased to 10. Next year he should battle for the third base job with the Pirates.

6. Brett Baty (Mets) - Bret was the Mets 2019 first round pick. Brett led all high school players with 19 homeruns. He has had some challenges making contact in his first year and his lack of agility may make a move away from third base a possibility. His speed is not impressive so a move to the outfield would still be a defensive liability and with Pete Alonso at first he is blocked there. The Mets will keep him at third and hope he improves with the glove. His first year in professional ball has been a bit of a challenge with a .234 average playing at three different levels.

7. Sheldon Neuse (Athletics) - The Nationals drafted Sheldon in the second round of the 2016 draft then traded him to the Athletics in the Sean Doolittle trade. With Jesus Luzardo and Blake Treinen also a part of that trade to the Athletics it could be a trade the Nationals regret. Neuse did not show a lot of big time power with the Nationals to justify using him at third base. Entering into the 2018 season he had a career slugging average of .415. This year he has blasted 27 homeruns in the hitter friendly AAA with a .317 average and 102 RBIs. That has led to a promotion to the A’s where his playing time is spotty. He is stuck behind Matt Chapman, and while his glove is solid it falls short of Chapman. If he continues to show power the Athletics could trade him for some pitching help. At 24 years of age his time is now.

8. Nolan Jones (Indians) - Myworld is always confusing him with Nolan Gorman. Jones was a second round pick of the Indians in 2016. He has big time over the fence power that also comes with a lot of swings and misses. Despite his struggles to make contact he has hit for a good average, coming into the 2019 season with a .289 average. His glove should allow him to play third, but he has the speed to move to a corner outfield if the need should arise. Nolan has worked his way to AA where his 15 homeruns is just short of his career high last year of 19. Nolan has also shown some patience at the plate with 96 walks.

9. Rece Hinds (Reds) - The Reds second round 2019 pick has some impressive power for the position. At 6′4″ the agility could be lacking to stay at third base. The speed is a tick slow so a move to a corner outfield would be a defensive liability at a different position. What makes him attractive is his size gives him the ability to hit 30 plus homeruns per year once he shows he can handle the major leagues. Myworld was impressed with some of his batting practice shots in the homerun derby with Bobby Witt Jr last year at the All Star Break. There is some concern about his ability to make contact.

10. Mark Vientos (Mets) - As a second round pick in the 2017 draft Mark is ahead of Brett Baty on the Mets third base depth chart. He doesn’t have the power of Baty and his 22/110 walk to whiff ratio makes one wonder if he can continue to hit for average as he rises up the minor league ladder. At 6′4″ he has some size that limits his agility, but with Alonso at first he will need to play third to stay with the Mets. This is his first season in full season after two years in rookie ball. His batting average and slugging percentage has struggled with that. The arm is strong so a move to first would negate that strength.

An Epic Comeback by Nationals

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Myworld did not attend this game. We were at the game yesterday that the Nationals slept through, losing to the Mets 7-3. The greatest comeback we’ve ever witnessed was when the Angels came back from a 12-5 deficit, scored 8 runs in the bottom of the ninth, capped off by a Dick Schofield grand slam to win 13-12. This would have been close to that Angels win if we had attended.

Myworld listened to the game on the radio. We had just gotten back from our volleyball match in which we made a great comeback to win our first game. The Mets were winning 5-4 going into the ninth. Based on the announcers account of the game the Nationals were making a number of mental errors, mistakes they should not be making in September.

The bullpen gave up five runs in the top of the ninth, four of them unearned after a Matt Adams error and a Trea Turner mental error when he could have turned a double play but he forgot how many outs there were in the inning. That put the score at 10-4. Met fans at the stadium were probably rubbing it in, ready to celebrate their second straight victory over the Nationals and hopefully put themselves in the playoff race.

With a 10-4 lead Mets manager Mickey Calloway saw no need to keep their most effective bullpen pitcher Seth Lugo in the game. Juan Soto had just hit a 2-run homer off Jacob deGrom in the eighth and Lugo came on to protect what was then a narrow 5-4 lead. He retired the Nationals in order to keep it at 5-4.

When the Mets scored five runs in the top of the ninth Mickey Calloway went with Paul Sewald to start the ninth. He got the one out in the inning, a Howie Kendrick fly out after Victor Robles led off the inning with an innocent single. Trea Turner made up for his mental blunder when he forgot how many outs there were and doubled to right, scoring Robles. Asdrubal Cabrera singled and Anthony Rendon singled to score Turner to make the score 10-6. The tying run was not yet coming to the plate but Calloway saw another need for a change.

Calloway replaced Sewald with Luis Avilan to pitch to the lefty hitting Juan Soto, who had homered in the eighth. Soto singled to right to load the bases. Matt Adams was scheduled to hit but Davey Martinez went with Mr. Walkoff Ryan Zimmerman to pinch hit for Adams. Calloway went with their failed closer Edwin Diaz, who the Mets shed a number of prospects to acquire. The Z-man doubled to right to score two and make it 10-8. Michael Taylor came in to pinch run for Z-man, who was the tying run at second.

Kurt Suzuki came to the plate, a 2019 addition by Mike Rizzo to replace what had been a woeful catching position last year. He put the biggest exclamation point to the game and perhaps the season with a booming shot deep into the left field bleachers. He knew the ball was gone as soon as he hit it, pointing to the dugout, whose players were already beginning their celebration.

Coming into this game this year teams were 274-0 when leading by six. The Nationals changed that narrative. Wow!!!!

Myworld has lost our momentum to do the write up for the Monday night loss that we attended. That would be such a downer after this win.

Strasburg Almost Perfect; Rendon More of the Same

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

The Nationals relied on their Cy Young contender Stephen Strasburg and their MVP candidate Anthony Rendon to cruise over the Miami Marlins 7-0. Strasburg was almost perfect, giving up two hits in the first inning and then retiring his last 22 hitters, 14 on strikeouts, 12 of those whiffs of the swing and miss variety. Rendon mashed two homeruns into the left field bleachers to continue his assault on National League pitchers.

Strasburg struggled a bit in the first inning. He gave up back to back singles to Harold Ramirez and Starlin Castro with one out. Neil Walker grounded one up the middle, which was fielded by Strasburg, who started the 1-6-3 double play. After that only 7 of the next 21 hitters put the ball in play as Strasburg showed his dominance with 14 strikeouts.

In the bottom of the first Rendon put his stamp on the game. He launched a 3-2 pitch from Pablo Lopez high into the left field bleachers. Juan Soto followed by going the opposite way on the second pitch he saw, trying to kiss the Rendon shot by also depositing it into the left field bleachers. The back to backs were the 30th homeruns for Soto and Rendon.

Pablo Lopez did not have it this night. In the second inning he gave up a run, Stephen Strasburg ripping a two out single into the third base hole to score Kurt Suzuki. In the third inning Rendon was hit on the elbow with a pitch. Soto lined a hit and run double down the right field line, scoring Rendon. Kurt Suzuki mashed a pitch into the center field bleachers to make it 6-0.

Wei-Yin Chang replaced Lopez and pitched well. He gave up a leadoff double to Victor Robles. After that he retired the next 12 hitters he faced, combining with Strasburg to pitch a perfect game. He was not quite as dominant as Strasburg, striking out just two in his four innings of work, but he got seven ground ball outs with the 13 hitters he faced.

Adam Conley came on to pitch the eighth. Anthony Rendon took his first pitch and launched it into the left field bleachers to finish off the scoring. Tanner Rainey came on to complete the shutout striking out three and walking one. He tested the patience of the National’s fans by getting behind Harold Ramirez 3-0 after walking Jon Berti, but he recovered to strikeout Ramirez.

Game Notes: The Nationals honored the South Loudoun Little League team, who were the first team from Virginia in 25 years to advance to the Little League World Series. They represented themselves well in the games, reaching the finals of the winner’s bracket before losing their last two games…The last time two Nationals had 30 plus homeruns in the same season was in 2009 when Adam Dunn hit 38 and Ryan Zimmerman swatted 33…The homerun in the first inning advanced the hitting streak for Rendon to 16 games…The 14 whiffs gives Strasburg the league lead in strikeouts with 215. He also leads the National League in innings pitched (179) and wins (16). A couple bad outings puts his ERA at 3.47…Strasburg now has a 12 game winning streak against the Marlins…Lewis Brinson was ejected from the game in the eighth inning for objecting to a called third strike, the last of Strasburg’s strikeouts. The replays show that the ball crossed over the plate into the strike zone. Perhaps that is a reason Brinson is struggling to hit major league pitching…With a runner on third and one out Trea Turner grounded out to third, not a place you want to hit the ball. If you want to score that run you have to hit the ball to the opposite side of the infield or find the outfield.

Rendon Walkoff Secures Sloppy Victory Over Marlins

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

The Nationals played the game last night as if they did not want to win. Sloppy fielding plays and the usual poor pitching by the bullpen would have resulted in a loss against most teams except they were fortunate to be playing the Marlins, who have their own issues finding victories. The Marlins can play as poorly as the next team and Anthony Rendon took advantage of a wild pitch that put two runners in scoring position and blooped a single into left field that scored the tying and winning run to give the Nationals a 7-6 win.

Neither starting pitcher had their best stuff. In the first inning Harold Ramirez deposited a pitch from Anibal Sanchez into the centerfield bleachers, just to the right of the bullpen. Elieser Hernandez gave the run right back and added another in the bottom frame. The first three hitters in the order, Trea Turner, Gerardo Parra and Anthony Rendon all singled for one run. A ground out scored the second run and it was 2-1 Nationals.

In the second inning Victor Robles started it off with a double. Anibal bunted him to third and on a slow grounder to Starlin Castro at third he chose to go to first rather than taking the risky throw home. Hernandez settled down after that, retiring the Nationals in order in the next three innings.

The Nationals exhibited some poor fielding in the third inning. A walk by Sanchez to Jon Berti started the inning off. Harold Ramirez hit a sharp grounder to Turner that should have been a double play. Turner’s throw to Asdrubal Cabrera was high, Asdrubal tried to catch it barehanded to make the throw to first but dropped the ball. The error was given to Turner. With one out Neil Walker hit a hard grounder to Matt Adams at first that could have been two. The ball popped out of his glove. He recovered quickly and flipped the ball to Sanchez covering first but Sanchez bobbled the throw and the runner was safe to load the bases. The Nationals got out of the inning when Sanchez struck out Jorge Alfaro on three pitches and Isan Diaz popped to short.

Anibal gave up a run in the fourth, but it was a sloppy fielding play from former gold glover Parra that created a run. He poorly tracked what should have been a routine fly ball to right, turning the wrong direction and letting the ball bounce to the left of him and into the right field bullpen for a ground rule double. What should have been an out was a double for Brinson. Sanchez had trouble throwing strikes and walked his fourth hitter of the game. Hernandez bunted the runners over and a ground out to second scored a run for the Marlins that shouldn’t have scored.

The Nationals took advantage of some sloppy fielding by the Marlins in the sixth. In some generous scorekeeping by the home team Rendon hit a single that bounced in front of the right fielder and then glanced off his leg. If he could have fielded the one hopper cleanly Rendon would have been held to a single. Because it bounced off his leg and trickled behind him Rendon was able to advance to second on what was ruled a generous double. A balk advanced Rendon to third where he scored on a legitimate double by Juan Soto.

Hunter Strickland came back from his paternity leave and the Marlins treated him rudely in the seventh. Jon Berti started the inning off with a bloop single to right. Harold Ramirez and Starlin Castro followed with hard singles to center to score one. Strickland walked Neil Walker to load the bases and after striking out Jorge Alfaro for the first out was replaced by Roenis Elias to face the lefthander. Elias walked Isan Diaz, a player who doesn’t like to walk, to force in a run and tie the game. Lewis Brinson grounded into a double play to Rendon to keep the game tied.

The Nationals scored one run off Kyle Keller without putting the ball in play. Keller walked two and struck out two and was replaced by the lefty Jarlin Garcia to face Juan Soto. Soto lined one into the right field bullpen wall for a double scoring Max Scherzer, who had pinch run for Adam Eaton. With the uncertainty of the Nationals bullpen it would have been nice to score more, but they didn’t.

In the ninth Dan Hudson came on to close the game. Harold Ramirez hit a slow roller to Rendon and beat the throw the throw to first by an eye lash. The play was reviewed and the call could have gone either way. Starlin Castro lifted one into right center and the ball hit off the top of the fence just in front of the right field bleachers for a delayed call homerun. Castro had stopped at third when the third base umpire circled his fingers to complete the four bagger. Hudson was able to retire the next three hitters to keep the deficit at one.

Ryne Stanek, who came from the Rays was asked to close out the game. For the Marlins coming into this game he had been given four save opportunities, succeeded in one and blown three. Howie Kendrick led off the ninth with a pinch hit single and Trea Turner took a walk. Para tried to bunt the runners over and popped it up to the pitcher. Stanek though could not take the generosity and advanced the runners over, throwing a pitch high over the catcher’s head that was for some reason ruled a passed ball. Stanek succeeded in doing what Parra could not. With the count 2-1 Rendon did not hit the ball hard, but hard enough, blooping it over the shortstop for a single and allowing Turner to race home with the winning run. That was the fourth blown save for Stanek, who was used a lot as an opener for the Rays.

Game Notes: The Marlins had two players from Colombia in their starting lineup, Jorge Alfaro and Harold Ramirez. That has to be a first for a major league team to have two Colombians as regulars in the starting lineup…Myworld still likes the construction of the Nationals new bullpen once Sean Doolittle gets healthy. Daniel Hudson and Hunter Strickland are two setup relievers who throw 95 plus along with Wander Suerro. They can get the ball to Doolittle. Myworld is also comfortable using either Hudson or Strickland as closers if Doolittle continues to struggle. Roenis Elias is a better lefthanded option than Matt Grace…After the leadoff hitter got on in the second inning Elieser Hernandez retired the next 12 hitters before running into trouble in the sixth…Anibal Sanchez takes a long time getting to home plate from his stretch position. The Marlins runners were getting some big jumps off him…The three hits by Rendon extended his hitting streak to 15 games and he is leading the National League in hitting with his .333 average.