Archive for the 'Nationals' Category

Voth and Bullpen Stymie Mets

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

The Nationals do not have a lot of depth in their starting rotation at the upper levels of the minor leagues. They traded most of that depth for Adam Eaton. The Nationals chose to start Austin Voth against the Mets. In 24 starts in AAA he had an ERA of 4.87. In two starts and three appearances with the Nationals his ERA sits at 6.10. In his major league debut against the Mets back in July he gave up seven runs on nine hits in just four plus innings of work. Nats fans came into this game with their fingers crossed.

Voth started the game retiring the first two hitters. His command got a little shaky after that, throwing just one strike in his next 9 pitches to put two runners on. Against Todd Frazier he got the big whiff. After that he only allowed one more base runner in his five innings of work, an infield single to the right of Anthony Rendon, who was playing at shortstop in the right field shift against Michael Conforto.

The bullpen only allowed two base runners, both on walks, giving the Mets just one hit in their nine innings, a 6-0 loss to the Nationals in front of a large group of disappointed bussed in Mets fans.

The Nationals got all the runs they needed when Trea Turner launched a pitch from Corey Oswalt into the left field bleachers in the third inning. Victor Robles had started the inning with a line drive ground rule double that one hopped over the wall down the left field line. It would be the only runs Oswalt allowed in his five innings of work. Like Voth the Mets expect Oswalt to provide them with starting depth next year.

Jeremy Blevins came on to pitch the sixth. Anthony Rendon ripped a double into the left centerfield gap. With two outs and Rendon standing on third the Mets chose to walk Ryan Zimmerman intentionally to face the disappointing Matt Wieters, who is hitting below the Mendoza line while batting righthanded. In his last at bat hitting lefthanded Wieters drove a pitch to the right field wall. This time Wieters crushed a pitch into the left field bullpen. That gave the Nationals a 5-0 lead.

They added their last run in the seventh after Trea Turner walked. He stole second, his 41st of the season and his 122nd career stolen base with the Nationals, tying him with Ian Desmond for most career stolen bases by a National. Bryce Harper then drove a hard grounder down the first base line for a double to put the score at 6-0.

Game Notes: The Nationals have a lot of needs for 2019. The general feeling is they won’t be able to address those needs economically if they sign Harper to a large contract. The bullpen needs to be rebuilt, unless they want to rely on youngsters Jimmy Cordero, Austen Williams and Koda Glover. Two starting pitchers may have to be signed. And a catcher needs to be found. If Harper leaves it would also be nice to get a veteran outfielders in case Robles continues to struggle…Jimmy Cordero has been hitting three digits with his fastball. His big issue is command of his pitches. In 15 innings he has walked 10 hitters, two of those intentionally…The Nationals were officially eliminated from the playoffs after Saturday play. In a year they were supposed to walk away with the division they finished third…The walk to Bryce Harper in the first innings was his 125th of the year. That is a Nationals franchise record…The win put the Nats one game over .500. Even though they are out of the pennant race it would be nice if they could finish over .500. They will not finish over .500 against the Mets, coming into the last game of the series against them 8-10.

Top 20 AFL Players to Watch

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Below are the top 20 players who will be playing in the Arizona Fall League that myworld will try to get out to watch. Austin Hays, one of the players we initially had on the list will now not be playing because of ankle surgery.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Blue Jays/Surprise) 3B - The son of the Hall of Famer and the minor league player of the year in most organization readings. How could you not want to go out and watch him if you have not seen him play already? Flirted with .400 this year and showed impressive power. Some question his defense at third and think a move to first may be required.

2. Luis Robert (White Sox/Glendale) OF - He came hyped with lots of tools. Those tools, especially the power did not make an appearance in his second minor league season, though he was limited to 50 games because of injuries. There were no homeruns in his bat.

3. Forrest Whitley (Astros/Scottsdale) RHP - Most pitchers who appear in the AFL are there because they pitched little in the regular season because of injuries. Forrest was limited to 8 starts last year. At 6′7″ he has length and a blazing fastball that can hit triple digits. He needs to increase the 26 innings he pitched in the regular season and show the fastball is difficult to hit.

4. Domingo Acevedo (Yankees/Glendale) RHP - The same that was said of Forrest also applies to this 6′7″ righthander except he had a few more starts (12) and innings (69) to his season. The strikeout numbers (55) were not impressive, especially when you consider he can hit the high 90s with his heat.

5. Jon Duplantier (Diamondbacks/Salt Lake) RHP - Last year he had an unbelievable season with a 1.39 ERA. Only Justin Verlander has had a lower ERA in the minors. This year his season was delayed by injuries. He did squeeze in 16 starts and his numbers were excellent (2.55 ERA) but not when compared to last year. Myworld expects only four starts from him in the AFL before he is gone, so get there early if you want to see him.

6. Peter Alonso (Mets/Scottsdale) 1B - In the Futures game he hit one of the longest and highest homeruns myworld has ever seen at Nationals park. He has power. Right handed hitting firstbaseman are not given a lot of respect by major league analyzers, but his 36 homeruns last year could change some minds.

7. Taylor Trammell (Reds/Scottsdale) OF - He was voted the MVP of the Futures Game, almost hitting two homeruns in his two at bats. His first almost homerun he ran into a triple after it hit the top of the wall. He began his circle around the bases with a homerun trot, but then had to shift it in high gear after the ball did not travel over the fence. This year the toolsy outfielder hit only 8 homeruns in the Florida State League, but his resume shows the potential for power and speed.

8. Bo Bichette (Blue Jays/Surprise) SS - The son of Dante is not said to have the tools to play major league shortstop. Myworld was impressed with what we saw of him in the Futures game. He does have a potent bat that sprays the gaps with doubles (40 plus) and hits his fair share of balls over the fence (15 plus).

9. J.B. Bukauskas (Astros/Scottsdale) RHP - He does not carry a lot of height (6′0″) for a right handed pitcher but he was the Astros first round pick in 2017. Last year injuries restricted him to 14 starts but they were an impressive 14 starts (2.14 ERA and .199 opposition average). He throws in the mid 90s.

10. Sixto Sanchez (Phillies/Scottsdale) RHP - Another smallish pitcher (6′0″) who throws gas. Last year injuries limited him to 8 starts (2.51 ERA). A good AFL and strong spring will put him in AA, a stone’s throw from the major leagues.

11. Keston Hiura (Brewers/Peoria) 2B - Maybe one of the purest hitters in the Fall League. Batting titles are in his future. Elbow issues restricted most of his appearances to DH duties. When he does play defense it is at second base. He may get a lot of second base playing time in the AFL.

12. Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers/Glendale) C - One of the better catching prospects in the minor leagues. He can hit for pop (12 homeruns) and has a decent arm, though he was only able to gun down 26 percent of those who stole against him. Makes solid contact striking out just 33 times in over 400 at bats.

13. Carter Kieboom (Nationals/Salt Lake) SS - A first round pick of the Nationals in 2016. The reports on him is that his arm and range may be short to play shortstop in the major leagues. Since Turner has that spot locked up (whose scouting report was similar to Carter) second base may be his best position. Expect him to get some time there. He shows good pop with the bat with 16 homeruns last year.

14. Daulton Varsho (Diamondbacks/Salt River) C - The son of Gary, an ex-major leaguer, he was named after Darren Daulton. Another catcher with some pop who had a little more success nabbing base runners (40 percent). He showed some speed for a catcher with 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts. If he is half the player of Darren Daulton he will make it at least as a back up.

15. Estevan Florial (Yankees/Glendale) OF - The Haitian born prospect was all the talk of the Yankees prospect system last season after hitting .298 with 13 homeruns in 2017. Last year he had difficulty replicating those numbers, though his season was limited to 84 games because of injury.

16. Buddy Reed (Padres/Peoria) OF - The Padres have a wealth of minor league and young major league outfielders. Buddy shows some good tools to play center field, but will they be enough to beat out Manuel Margot. Last year he stole 51 bases to go with his 13 homeruns.

17. Pavin Smith (Diamondbacks/Salt Lake) 1B - The Diamondbacks drafted him in the first round of the 2017 draft. That is pretty high for a first baseman who may be a bit short in the power numbers. Last year he hit 11 homeruns but his batting average was only at .255, not indicative of his college numbers (.342). Pavin needs to hit for pop to justify his first round selection.

18. Bobby Dalbec (Red Sox/Mesa) 1B - Because there is someone we want to see play at Mesa. The power is there with 32 homeruns last year, but it comes at the expense of having a right handed bat. There is still a lot of swing and miss in his swing that he will have to learn to tame if he wants to see Fenway park.

19. Lucius Fox (Rays/Peoria) SS - All the tools and gracefulness to play short but his bat may hold him back. The Giants signed him out of the Bahamas but made him one of the players included in the Matt Moore trade.

20. Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds/Scottsdale) SS/2B - There was a lot of hype about him and his glove when he came out of Cuba. The glove has been good but the bat has been blah (.241/.294/298 slash line for average/OBA/slugging). Injuries limited him to 46 games last year. At 24 he should be knocking on the major league door rather than scuffling in the Florida State League.

Nitpickin at the Nats

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Of the 30 major league baseball teams only one team can win the World Series. That is an honor any player would celebrate. On the other end of the spectrum is an honor most teams would choose to avoid. That is being the most disappointing team in baseball. That dubious honor belongs to the Washington Nationals.

They were supposed to easily win the National League east. They had trouble fighting their way past .500. The Phillies and the Braves shot past them and appear to have younger and more talented teams for the future. The Nationals traded most of their youth to stay in the playoff race. The saving grace is the Nationals have an opportunity to pass the fading Phillies before the year is out. If they can fight their way out of that .500 bag.

Below are some of the issues myworld believes went south for the Nationals season.

1) Ryan Zimmerman’s belief that spring training is a waste of time and over rated. He spent most of his time in the minor league camp, making only a couple appearances in major league spring training games. Don’t know if he was trying to hide an injury but appearances matter. If Zimmerman had gotten off to a strong start all would have been forgiven. As we said earlier appearances, which are defined by results, matter. He could not find his way above .200 until two days before he got injured and by the time he returned in late July the Nationals fate had been sealed. His bat has gotten better since his return from injury, but it was not enough to escape .500. He has also become a part time player, starting in only four or five games a week.

2) The microfracture knee surgery for Daniel Murphy was treated very lightly. The Nationals indicated he would only miss the first couple weeks of the season. Myworld has not been witness to any micro fracture knee surgery having a recovery time of less than six to nine months. April turned to May and Daniel Murphy was still not back. After Howie Kendrick’s injury the only real option for the Nationals at second base was Wilmer Difo. He is best used in a utility role, not as a regular starter for a playoff contending club. When Daniel Murphy finally returned in June his defensive mobility was extremely limited.

3) Managing on the cheap. The Lerners are not known for spending a lot of money hiring managers. Don’t know if they run their business the same way when they hire CEOs. They hired Davey Martinez to manage the club with a three year contract that comes out to a little less than $1 million a year. Quite a bargain for managers these days. Davey learned that managing is a little more difficult than being a bench coach. Instead of making recommendations that do not have to be followed you have to actually make decisions. His use of the bullpen early in the season was not good. Ryan Madson was overused, got lit up and may have lost his confidence as the season progressed. Last year the bullpen was a strength after the acquisition of Madson and Sean Doolittle. This year it was a weakness, even though the actors remained the same.

4) The trade for Adam Eaton and sacrificing the depth of the starting pitching. Perhaps Mike Rizzo did not like Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito or Dane Dunning when he traded all three for Eaton. At the time Eaton was going to be the centerfielder, but most defensive metrics measured him as a suspect defensive outfielder. He did not get much of a chance to play for the Nationals in 2017 after getting injured early in the year and not returning. He got injured again early in the 2018 season, missing a good portion of the early games. The injury seem to linger and even upon his return Eaton does not run like an outfielder with healthy legs. The trade of the three outfielders to get Eaton sacrificed much of the depth the Nationals had in their starting pitching in the minor leagues. When injuries hit them this year they did not have a sixth or seventh starter to replace those injured starting pitchers. It is possible that Lopez or Giolito would not have been the answer. They are struggling with the White Sox now that they have been given an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues. Pitching for the Nationals they may have been given more development time in AAA to be effective in the major leagues. Another minor league starter the Nationals traded was Jesus Luzardo, for Doolittle and Madson. Blake Treinen was also included in that deal. Luzardo was pitching so well in the minor leagues he was being discussed as the minor league pitcher of the year.

5) The collapse of Michael Taylor. Myworld does not know what kind of effect the departure of Dusty Baker had on the confidence of Michael Taylor. He seemed to have a break out season in 2017 addressing the Nationals centerfield needs. When 2018 began it was Eaton in left, Taylor in center and Bryce Harper in right. Eaton got hurt to begin the season and Taylor failed to hit. Juan Soto became a saving grace in left when the Nationals had no choice but to call him up. Meanwhile, the Nationals centerfield position has been a black hole defensively. Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton can not play the position like Michael Taylor. The early returns on Victor Robles indicates he still needs some improvement on route running before he becomes an elite centerfield like Taylor defensively. So the disappearance of Taylor has put a black hole in center field when it comes to defense.

6) The Nationals failed to address their weakness at catcher. Despite Wilson Ramos inability to catch balls on throws home he is still the best catcher the Nationals have had. When they let him go as a free agent after the 2016 season and signed Matt Wieters they were hoping for a wash. What they lost offensively they could get back defensively. Wieters was a disappointment in 2017 and he was even more so in 2018. Pedro Severino, the catcher of the future appears to now be the catcher of AAA. His bat was so far south of the Mendoza line that teams would walk the pitcher intentionally to face Severino (a slight exaggeration). For the 2018 season the catching position was a big hole and it appears to be a problem in 2019. They tried to trade for J.T. Realmuto in 2019, but they traded most of their quality players from their farm system for veterans to help them in the playoff run that the only attractive options the Nationals had were Juan Soto and Victor Robles, and the Nationals did not want to trade them.

7) The lack of leadership in the locker room. When the Nationals went into the playoffs in 2012 they allowed Michael Morse to leave as a free agent. He was the recognized leader of their clubhouse in 2012. Without him the Nationals did not make the playoffs in 2013. Jayson Werth took over the leadership reigns in 2014 and the Nationals returned to the playoffs. He left after the 2017 season and the Nationals again found a big void in the leadership equation. Myworld is not saying allowing Morse and Werth to depart was not the right move, but sometimes general managers do not take locker room camaraderie into account when building a team. Max Scherzer tried to take over the leadership role, but it is tough for part time players (starting pitchers) to rally position players. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman seem to lack the fire or will to take over the leadership role.

The National players complained about management waving the white flag too soon and trading their veteran players, while getting nothing in return. Sometimes it is tough to look in the mirror and see reality. You want to see the good things. That 50 year old face is still 20 and those wrinkles around the eyes are invisible to your tainted view. The Nationals had too many problems at the beginning of the 2018 season to over come them. Perhaps next year will be different. One thing is certain. They will not be the favorite to win the National League East.

Bote Haunts Nationals Again

Friday, September 7th, 2018

The last time David Bote batted against the Nationals he hit a walk off grand slam homerun in front of a national audience for Sunday night baseball. Forward to D.C. a couple weeks later and he enters as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth. He gets another chance to beat the Nats batting in the tenth with a runner on second. He lines a pitch into right center just past the glove of Victor Robles for a double, driving in the go ahead run in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Nationals. Most of the baseball world has not heard of David Bote. Against the Nationals he is their nightmare.

Stephen Strasburg got the start for the Nationals. He was not sharp, throwing a lot of pitches with his velocity still sitting at 94. In the third he retired the first two hitters but became unhinged after that. Javier Baez touched him for a bloop single into left field. Anthony Rizzo beat the shift by lining a ball into right center past Wilmer Difo, who was playing in short right field. Because Baez was going on the pitch he scored easily, even though the Nationals cut the ball off before it reached the warning track. Ben Zobrist followed bouncing a single off the first base bag to score Rizzo to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

The Nationals bounced back in the bottom of the fourth. Bryce Harper grounded a pitch past the first baseman into short right field. Javier Baez fielded the ball and threw to the pitcher covering first. The ball zipped past the pitcher putting Harper on and tacking an error to Baez. Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into right center for a triple, scoring Harper. With two outs Mark Reynolds drove a pitch over the left field bullpen to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. All three runs off Kyle Hendricks were unearned, though that error against Baez was a tough call.

The lead did not last long. Ex-Nat Daniel Murphy drove a single into left field. Anthony Rizzo bounced a ground ball to third. Rendon made a back hand play of the ball, tried to make a sidearm/underhand throw to first and sailed it over the head of Reynolds. Murphy advanced to third where he would score on a Ben Zobrist fly ball.

In the bottom frame the Nationals re-captured the lead on a two out single by Trea Turner scoring Spencer Kieboom from third. Kieboom finished the day 3 for 3 to raise his average over .200. He was bunted to second by Stephen Strasburg and advanced to third on an Adam Eaton ground out.

With a 4-3 lead could the Nationals bullpen hold it? Justin Miller could not. He gave up a leadoff single to Kris Bryant in the eighth. Albert Almora followed with a single to center. Victor Robles made the throw to third, but it was too late to get Bryant and Almora advanced to second on the throw. Trea Turner made a nice back hand play on a ground ball hit by Wilson Contreras in the hole. He could not get Bryant out at home but his throw to second was able to nail Almora, who had strayed too far off second base.

With the score tied the Nationals had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. A Juan Soto double into the right field corner put runners on second and third with one out. Justin Wilson, a left handed pitcher came on to relieve right hander Cal Edwards and struck out Mark Reynolds, who is a killer against left handed pitching. That was a move going against the books. Another right hander Wilmer Difo flied to shallow left to end the inning.

The walk off man Ryan Zimmerman came up in the ninth and grounded to second. That brought the game to the tenth where the hard throwing Jimmy Cordero was called on to pitch. He was short of the task. Albert Almore and David Bote hit back to back doubles to score one and Taylor Davis tacked on an insurance run with a single to right.

Jesse Chavez came on to close out the game. The Nationals rallied on a Trea Turner walk and Anthony Rendon single to put runners on first and third with one out. The Nationals super rookie Juan Soto could not get the job done, striking out and Mark Reynolds lined out to center to end the game.

Game Notes: A sparse crowd for a Cub game. Daniel Murphy was given an ovation prior to the game but there were not a lot of Nationals fans at the park. As the game continued the seats filled, but it sounded like most of the seats were occupied by Cubs fans. The attendance was announced at 32,000. It would have been a sell out if the Nationals were still in the playoff hunt…Wilson Contreras seems to be wearing down. In past seasons injuries have given him a rest during the season. He hit three weak grounders and a shallow fly ball. There appears to be no juice left in his bat…Part of me wonders if Michael Taylor might have caught that line drive hit by Bote into right center. Taylor knows how to track down fly balls. Robles seemed to make an inefficient route when trying to catch the fly ball hit by Bote…Terrence Gore came in as a pinch runner and stole second base. He now has more steals (23) than major league plate appearances (15).

Yelich Slam Sinks Nationals

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Christian Yelich blasted his first grand slam of his career and it was enough for the Milwaukee Brewers to blast past the Washington Nationals 9-4. Keon Broxton also homered that inning, a three run bomb that was really the big blow of the inning giving the Brewers a 5-4 lead. The win gives the Brewers the top wild card spot in the National League over the St. Louis Cardinals. For the Nationals, their season is over even though they are not yet mathematically eliminated.

Jefry Rodriguez got the start for the Nationals. At the start of the game his fastball was hitting 96-98 but had no location. The first two hitters walked. A Mike Moustakas two run single scored both to give the Brewers an early 2-0 lead.

The Nationals responded back in the bottom of the second off Junior Guerra. With two outs Wilmer Difo lifted one high into left center field. Keon Broxton went to the fence but lost the ball in the sun. The ball travelled over the fence into the corner of the left field bullpen for a homerun. It was doubtful Broxton could have caught the ball if he saw it.

The Nationals took the lead in the third, scoring all of their runs after two were out. An Adam Eaton single and two out walks to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon loaded the bases. That brought up Juan Soto. As poorly as the Nationals season has gone, imagine what it would have been if not for Soto. Soto lined a clutch single into left center to score one to tie the game at 2-2. Mark Reynolds broke the tie and drove in two with his bounce single up the middle.

Jefry Rodriguez continued to struggle with his command. He had six walks through four innings. His fastball had dropped from 96-98 to 93-94 in the fourth inning. In the fifth most of his pitches were read as changeups because they were only lighting the radar up at 87-90. With Manny Pina up and Eric Thames on second and two out my comment was “This will be Rodriguez last batter”. His stuff was just not there. Pina hit a infield single.

Rodriguez stayed in the game. Dave Martinez had bounced back and forth between warming up Tim Collins, to Austen Williams back to Tim Collins in the bullpen. Because Tim Collins was the current pitcher warming up Martinez stuck with Rodriguez to face the right hander Keon Broxton. Maybe he was trying to give Rodriguez a baseball life lesson by telling him to dig deep. The life lesson failed. Rodriguez got behind 2-0. The next pitch Broxton drove deep into centerfield for a three run homer. My comment “Martinez waited one batter too late before removing Rodriguez.”

Rodriguez continued to pitch. He gave up a single to light hitting Orlando Arcia. The pitcher Brandon Woodruff came up and Rodriguez walked him on four pitches. Martinez finally came out. In comes lefty Tim Collins. He was not much better.

The first pitch from Collins sailed over the head of catcher Spencer Kieboom to advance the runners to second and third. Collins walked pinch hitter Hernan Perez on four pitches. Collins first two pitches to Christian Yelich were off the plate. The next pitch was served to Yelich’s liking. He clobbered it into centerfield for a grand slam homerun. All seven runs had scored after two were out.

The Nationals had trouble hitting Brandon Woodruff. He pitched four innings of relief and did not allow a runner until his third inning of work. In the seventh inning, his fourth inning of work he allowed two singles but got out of the inning without the Nationals scoring. Xavier Cedeno and Corey Knebel each pitched one inning to finish the six shutout innings of relief.

Game Notes: The more myworld sees of Jefry Rodriguez the more convinced we are that he belongs in the bullpen. The fastball has good velocity, but it lasts only three innings. Myworld only sees a fastball/curve combination, which tells me he lacks a third pitch, or throws it so infrequently that myworld does not notice it…Eric Thames did not look good on defense at first base. His primary position in Korea was DH. Myworld would not be surprised if the Brewers traded him to an American League team. It is either him or Jesus Aguilar…Orlando Arcia is a smooth fielding shortstop. It is too bad he lost his bat…It worries me when Bryce Harper swings and misses at 97 mile per hour fastballs. He used to feast on fastballs. Brandon Woodruff blew one by him for a K…Juan Soto may be able to hit, but he is not the most graceful defensive outfielder…Christian Yelich had quite the road trip. He had his first two homer game, his first six hit game, his first cycle and his first grand slam. Myworld always considered his bat good for batting titles, but now that he is adding power with 27 homeruns it puts him with the elite bats in the National League…With the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez, another poor outing by Junior Guerra may knock him out of the Brewers rotation. Over his last nine starts his ERA sits at 7.62…National pitchers walked 11 hitters, tying a team record for a nine inning game…Austen Williams made his major league debut with two scoreless innings of relief.

A Tale of Two Seasons

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

Yesterday was a shining example of the two teams that have gone out on the field for the Nationals in 2018. Prior to the rain delay the group out in the field appeared lethargic. Disinterested. Just going through the motions as they stumbled their way through the game. It is not a group filled with energy so when they make mistakes the perception is they lack the intensity to win.

Myworld does not know what happened after the two hour rain delay but they rallied for four runs in the eighth inning to pull out a 5-4 win. Myworld was not there for the rally. Call me lethargic. Disinterested. Just going through the motions in watching the games.

Both pitchers started out well. Strasburg mowed down the Brewers using an economy of less than 30 pitches to retire the first 9 Brewers in three innings. Jonathan Schoop touched him for a leadoff single in the third but he was erased on a line out double play. Chase Anderson had done the same, going through the first 9 batters in order. He walked Carter Kieboom in the third but he was erased when Stephen Strasburg grounded into a double play.

Strasburg began his struggles in the fourth when he threw over 30 pitches to retire five batters. He walked two of them and had 3-2 counts to four batters and a 2-2 count to the leadoff hitter before striking him out. In the fifth his frustration began to show.

The fifth also mirrored the Nationals worst stretches of the season. Mike Moustakas doubled into right field on a ball many thought Adam Eaton could have caught. It one hopped the fence and bounced past Eaton. Jonathan Schoop ripped a one bouncer that glanced off the glove of Anthony Rendon. It was originally ruled an error but correctly changed to a double. It was a tough play for Rendon, but the horror was watching Rendon jog for the ball out in short left field foul territory while the slow footed Mike Moustakas chugged his away around third and raced home. Perhaps he thought Soto was going to get the ball but Moustakas never should have scored on that play.

Turner made a nice diving stop on a ball hit by Manny Pina but his one hop throw could not be scooped by Zimmerman. A failed bunt attempt by Anderson and a ground out to Rendon put runners on first and third with two out. Christian Yelich then lined the first pitch by Strasburg over the head of Difo into left field. Eaton tried to pick the ball up twice and dropped it twice allowing Cain to hustle to third. Fortunately, it did not hurt the Nationals as Jesus Aguilar grounded out to third.

The Nationals scored a run in the bottom frame. Juan Soto started the inning off lining a single into right field. Ryan Zimmerman followed lining a single to left, Soto hustling to third. Wilmer Difo hit a ball that glanced off the diving Aguilar at first. He still attempted to flip it to the pitcher who failed to catch it allowing Soto to score and Zimmerman to advance to third. With first and third and one out the Nationals failed to score when Carter Kieboom hit a shallow fly to right. Yelich made a diving catch but Zimmerman could not score, stuck halfway between home and third. Strasburg grounded out to catcher to end the inning with only one run.

The Nationals pen is one of strangers as Mike Rizzo has traded many of them to playoff teams (Kintzler,Kelly and Madson) and the rest are on the disabled list (Kieboom and Herrera). So Dave Martinez called on Jimmy Cordero in the seventh and he gave up a solo shot to Manny Pina into the left field bullpen area to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead. The rains began to fall in the bottom of the seventh and myworld had seen enough.

Needless to say the Nationals rallied for four runs in the eighth after the two hour rain delay. Juan Soto got the clutch two run single that put the Nationals ahead. Justin Miller almost gave the game away, giving up two hits and a run, including a solo shot to pinch hitter Tyler Saladino, but he is the fifth closer the Nationals have tried this season and the only bullpen presence that has been with the team for most of the year.

Game Notes: Bryce Harper has either lost a step or has issues moving quickly out of the batter’s box. He grounded into a double play in the fourth that was not hit that hard. A fast runner should have made it to first…The bullpen for the Nationals last night was Jimmy Cordero, Tim Collins, Wander Suero, Matt Grace, Greg Holland and Justin Miller. That is a far cry from the bullpen the Nationals started with to begin the 2018 season…The velocity for Strasburg sat at 93 to 94 miles per hour and he got Jesus Aguilar swinging and missing at a third strike fastball. So his velo appears to have returned…The crowd gave Gio Gonzalez a nice standing ovation. He was traded to the Brewers while they were in town so he was in a Brewers uniform…The loss prevented the Brewers from capturing the top wild card spot in the playoffs. A win could have put them one half game ahead of the Cardinals…Travis Shaw looked good at second. He fielded all the balls hit at him and even started two double plays. It would have been interesting to see his double play pivot…Chase Anderson only threw 79 pitches in five innings. The month of September has arrived meaning an expansion of the bullpens.

Nationals Remain a Magnet to .500

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

At this point in the season a team should recognize they are what they are. You can blame injuries, poor years, bad bullpens, whatever. As you head into September you are either a good team as reflected by your won loss record, an average team or a poor team. The Nationals are an average team. They can not escape .500.

Even the infusion of youth could not light a fire under these group of veterans. Juan Soto has had one of the more phenomenal rookie seasons in baseball, but even this has not been able to get the Nationals past .500. They have even had team meetings once they creeped a couple games below .500 but two weeks later they remain at .500. They are what they are.

A 7-5 loss to the poor Miami Marlins put them at 62-62. A porous bullpen was again the cause of the loss. Koda Glover, the newest National closer since Sean Doolittle, Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson are now on the disabled list had trouble finding outs in the tenth inning. With runners on first and third and two outs the Nationals chose to walk J.T. Riddle intentionally to load the bases to face Isaac Galloway.

Riddle had been riddling the Nationals pitching staff all night with a double, single and homerun in four at bats, driving in four of the five Marlins runs. You can’t fault them for choosing to walk Riddle. Unfortunately, the walk put the pressure on Glover to throw strikes. He got behind in the count 2-0, was forced to throw a meat ball to Galloway and Isaac ripped the ball into center for a two run single. Bryce Harper tried to charge the ball to make the throw home but the ball hit off his glove and prevented any play on the second runner coming home.

It was not a bad night for National starter Jefry Rodrigiuz. He gave up a solo homerun to Derek Dietrich to lead off the second and J.T. Riddle laced one into the right centerfield gap in the fifth inning to score Austin Dean to make it 2-2. In the sixth he gave up two singles to J.T. Realmuto and Brian Anderson to start the inning. Dave Martinez has been careful with not letting Rodriguez face a lineup a third time but with Rodriguez pitching so well and the bullpen shaky he extended his outing.

Tim Collins came on and struck out the lefthanded hitter Dietrich. Jimmy Cordero came on after that, a tough spot to place on the rookie. Coming into the season he was not considered one of the Nationals top prospects but was having a good season at AAA with a 1.96 ERA in 41 games. He also throws hard, hitting the high 90s with his fastball. The Nationals acquired Cordero from the Phillies last year for a playerd to be named later, but later in the season put him on waivers. No other team picked him up leaving him a National for next season.

Cordero appeared to be out of the inning when Starlin Castro hit a hard ground ball to Daniel Murphy. A tailor made double play ball. The ball clanked off Murphy’s glove and everyone was safe, loading the bases. Cordero struck out Austin Dean for the second out. J.T. Riddle ripped a hard line drive over the head of Murphy for a single to drive in two. One could argue a better fielding, more flexible second baseman could have caught the liner, but that is all conjecture. Even Murphy admitted he did not play the line drive well.

The Nationals had difficulty hitting Wei-Yin Chen. Trea Turner clubbed a two run drive in the second to give the Nationals an early 2-1 lead. Jefry Rodriguez helped his cause by driving a single prior to the Turner at bat. That was all the Nationals could muster against Chen. He lasted 5.2 innings and the Nationals could only touch him for five hits.

Down 4-2 in the seventh the Nationals rallied for a couple. Daniel Murphy started the inning off with a single to left center. Adam Eaton pinch hit for Michael Taylor and hit a slow roller to third baseman Brian Anderson, who let the ball roll underneath his glove. The scorer generously gave Eaton a hit. Matt Wieters was hit on the foot with a pitch, a call the Nationals had to challenge to get the hit by pitch ruling. With the bases loaded and no outs Tayron Guerrero bounced one past the catcher for a wild pitch to score one. Adams popped out to shortstop for the first out. Trea Turner blooped a pitch to centerfield. Galloway just missed making a diving catch, Eaton scoring on the hit but Wieters stopping at third. The potential rookie of the year came up to win the game. The crowd was hopeful. But it was not to be. Soto grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and keep the score tied.

J.T. Riddle began the top of the ninth with a homerun off Justin Miller over the Nationals bullpen into the second deck. Adam Eaton led off the bottom of the ninth with a blast into the right field bleachers off Drew Streckenrider, sprinting around the bases as if his hair was on fire.

The Nationals bullpen was spent. Glover came out to hold the lead in the tenth but failed. After making two comebacks the Nationals three hitters could not get the ball out of the infield, all three grounding out to end the game. The magnet had brought them back to .500.

Game Notes: The Marlins had an outfield loaded with AAA players. Rafael Ortega was in right field, Austin Dean played left, Isaac Galloway was in center. Even Brian Anderson, their third baseman was in the minors last year, but he has been playing with the team all season this year…Myworld did not like how Bryce Harper walked after a loose ball sitting in foul territory in right field in the second inning. He picked the ball up, flipped it to the fans in right field then casually walked back to his position while everyone waited. At least do a slow jog. It was as if he had no energy…For J.T. Riddle the four RBIs in a game tied his career high. If not for the intentional walk in the tenth he could have surpassed it. He was also a triple short of hitting for the cycle…Wei-Yin Chen entered this game with a road ERA of 10.27. Perhaps because D.C. is so close to Baltimore, where he started his major league career he did not consider this a road game…The Marlins bullpen lacks veteran presence but they still pitched well. Brett Graves picked up his first career save. Drew Rucinski, Tayron Guerrero, Adam Conley and Drew Streckenrider all came out of the pen for the Marlins.

Gonzalez Comes up Big for Nats

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Gio Gonzalez has had difficulty winning the big game. He came up big yesterday against the Atlanta Braves tossing seven innings of one run ball in the Nationals 6-3 win over the Braves. This was the final game of the four game series after the Braves had won the first two out of three. A win by the Braves could have sent a dagger into the hearts of the Nationals hope to make the playoffs. Gonzalez big outing gave them another day to stay alive.

Gonzalez was bailed out of some tough situations in the first three innings. On a hit and run Freddy Freeman ripped a rocket to Michael Taylor in centerfield. Ozzie Albies had already rounded second and was easily doubled off first to end the inning. He gave up a leadoff homerun to Nick Markakis in the second, put two runners on base but struck out the pitcher to end the threat. In the third a double by Freeman and a single by Markakis could have scored a run but Adam Eaton threw a strike home and Freeman slid right into the tag for the third out. Gonzalez gave up just one hit in the next four innings, though he was bailed out on a nice diving catch by Michael Taylor.

Nationals killer Anibel Sanchez cruised through the first two innings, but just like the first game of a double header on Tuesday a comebacker knocked Sanchez out after the second inning. He was able to recover and get the out at first to end the inning but did not come out to start the third inning.

Instead, the Braves went with Wes Parsons to make his major league debut and the Nationals feasted. Gonzalez got things started with a single with one out in the third. Adam Eaton singled off the pitcher Parsons foot and the ball caromed into leftfield. Parsons did some warm up tosses and seemed to be okay. Or maybe not. He walked Trea Turner on four pitches and threw three straight balls to Juan Soto before walking him on a 3-2 count to force in a run. Anthony Rendon came within feet of hitting a grand slam, but the ball was caught at the wall, Eaton scoring the second run on the fly ball to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth inning Michael Taylor blasted a ball into centerfield for a homerun. Another run was added in the sixth after a leadoff single by Rendon and a Daniel Murphy double into the right centerfield gap. Rendon slid into home just ahead of the throw.

Ronald Acuna Jr. went deep off Justin Miller in the eighth to close the gap to 4-2. The Nationals put the game away in the bottom frame with RBI singles from Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds.

Ryan Madson worked the top of the ninth and gave up a run on a sacrifice fly hit by Dansby Swanson. His struggles continue as he gave up singles to the first two hitters he faced, creating some anxiety for the Nats fans.

Game Notes: The game may have changed in the second inning after a diving stop by Daniel Murphy stole a hit away from Ender Inciarte. That would have put runners on first and second with one out and a walk to Dansby Swanson would have loaded the bases…This was the first win by Gonzalez after 11 starts. His last win came on May 28. During that time he was 0-6 with a 6.37 ERA…Anibal Sanchez left the game with a left calf contusion. He hopes to be able to make his next start…Bryce Harper was a late scratch from the game yesterday, replaced by Michael Taylor. He was bothered with a swollen shin after being hit for a second time in that area. Michael Taylor made a couple excellent defensive plays and slugged a homerun after being inserted into the lineup.

Braves Earn Split with Nationals

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

After being thrashed in the opener 8-3 the Braves battled back in the second game to win 3-1, earning a split with the Nationals in the Tuesday doubleheader. To stay ahead of the Nationals for one of the wild card spots all the Braves have to do is play .500 against the Nationals. They have two more games against them the next two days.

In the opener Max Fried pitched two shutout innings but was taken out of the game after being hit in the back for the last out on a line drive hit by Spencer Kieboom. He still had the presence of mind to chase after the ball and throw Kieboom out, but in the top of the third the Braves pinch hit for him with Kevin Guasman. It was later learned he strained a groin trying to avoid the ball and was placed on the disabled list.

Kolby Allard came on in relief. He shut out the Nationals in the third but in the fourth the Nationals erupted. Two players who fans would like to take on more of a leadership role with this rudderless Nationals team are Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Both started the fourth inning with booming homeruns, Harper’s a liner deep to the bleachers in right and Zimmerman’s a tomahawk no doubter to the deepest part of the park in center. Jefry Rodriguez helped his cause by lining a single to left that advanced Spencer Kieboom to third. Jefry advanced to second on the throw to third. Trea Turner and Juan Soto made it 4-1 with RBI singles.

It was a short outing for Jefry Rodriguez but he did his job. He gave up his first three hits of the game in the fourth for the Braves first run. Johan Camargo drove in Freddy Freeman with the first run with a seeing eye single through the shortstop hole. Rodriguez pitched one more inning in the fifth and was done for the day.

The Braves tacked on one more run in the sixth off reliever Matt Grace. Ozzie Albies started the inning with a double. Nick Markakis drove him in with a line single to centerfield. Justin Miller was called on to retire the last two hitters to keep the lead at 4-2.

The Nationals responded just as they did in the fourth inning when the Braves scored a run. They responded with a four spot. Rookie reliever Shane Carle was the victim. He walked three of the first four hitters he faced, and though it will say Juan Soto was walked intentionally that was after the count went to 3-1. A fly ball by Anthony Rendon to Nick Markakis scored Spencer Kieboom. A single to left by Bryce Harper tacked on another. Ryan Zimmerman blasted a double over the head of the left fielder to plate the final two runs of the inning.

The Braves scored a final run on a Charlie Culberson pinch hit solo homerun in the ninth.

An odd play happened in the third. With Trea Turner on first Soto hit a deep fly to center. Ender Inciarte leaped near the fence and the ball appeared to hit his glove where Adam Duvall backing up caught the ball in the air. An umpire did call “no catch”, but Trea Turner thinking it was a catch hustled back to first. After review it was confirmed the ball hit the wall and not Inciarte’s glove. Soto was credited with a single but called out for passing Turner on the basepath, which was the original call. The only thing the Nationals could appeal was that Soto never passed Turner on the basepaths.

The second game turned into an old fashioned pitcher’s duel between the veteran Max Scherzer and the youngster Sean Newcomb. Sean buckled in the first inning by giving up a solo shot to Juan Soto, who bopped one into the left bleachers for his 14th homerun. That surpassed Mickey Mantle for the most homeruns by a teenager, putting Soto now fifth in the major leagues for the most homeruns by a teenager in a season.

Scherzer buckled in the sixth when he gave up a lead off homerun to Charlie Culberson. He did put runners on first and third with no out in the fourth, but he got out of that inning with a strike out, pop up and ground out.

It was 1-1 going into the ninth. The Nationals called on Kelvin Herrera to pitch that inning after Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth. Freddy Freeman started the inning rifling a single to left. Nick Markakis followed with his own line shot single to left. Kurt Suzuki lined one to third but Anthony Rendon made a diving catch. The crowd was getting restless because Herrera appeared to be throwing meatballs. Ender Inciarte hit one down the line past first base for a double. The ball kicked off the fence and then scooted by Harper. Harper appeared to be in no hurry to retrieve the ball once it got past him and then heaved a wild throw to home allowing Inciarte to advance to third (the scorer gave him a triple).

At that point Kelvin Herrera shrugged his shoulder, the trainer came out and Herrera was taken out of the game with a tight shoulder. Justin Miller came on to pitch. They intentionally walked Johan Camargo to set up a double play, but did not need it when Miller struck out both pinch hitter Adam Duvall and Ozzie Albies to end the inning.

The Nationals rallied in the bottom half off new closer rookie A.J. Minter. Ryan Zimmerman started the inning with a double. With one out Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second Matt Wieters tagged a line drive that was snagged by Camargo at third. He found Zimmerman too far off the bag at second and was able to double Zimmerman for the third out. Myworld can not fault Zimmerman for being off the bag as hard as that ball was hit (105 miles per hour on the exit gun). It would have been part of his normal lead and instinctively you do not return back to second on a ball hit that hard.

Game Notes: Greg Holland made his Nationals debut and looked a bit rusty. He walked the leadoff man and had 3-2 counts to the next two hitters, but what saved the day for him was he struck out the last three hitters. Myworld would not call it a good outing despite the box score results (one walk and three whiffs). He did get some swings and misses…Juan Soto went 2 for 2 with three walks in the first game. He may be reading too much of his press clippings. In the second game he struck out three times on called third strikes. There has been lots of talk about his patience at the plate but he still needs to stay aggressive. He stranded three runners with those called third strikes…With rain on the horizon and lightening flashing in the background the umpires just wanted to get the first game over before any downpour came. With two outs in the ninth Dansby Swanson hit what appeared a game ending grounder to Anthony Rendon. Rendon casually threw to third but the ball sailed over the head of Zimmerman. One more batter and a strikeout and the game was over. The rains never came…Later reports state that Max Fried had to leave the game with a left groin strain. He was placed on the disabled list…Shane Carle was also placed on the disabled list after his outing with right shoulder inflammation…Herrera exited his game with shoulder tightness. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday before a decision is made on his status…Soto is tied with Phil Cavaretta for fifth place with 14 homeruns for a teenager. Ken Griffey Jr. is next on the list with 16. Teammate Bryce Harper is second with 22 and Tony Conigiliaro stands atop the list with 25.

Soto Leads Nats to Split with Reds

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

After losing the opener 7-1, Juan Soto continued to be the savior of the Nationals 2018 season. He doubled, singled and walked to score three times in the Nationals 6-2 win over the Reds. Anthony Rendon also contributed with two doubles and a single, driving in Soto twice with his two doubles.

Jeremy Hellickson may lack the blazing fastball but he had enough to tame the Reds bats. He gave up a lead off homerun to Jose Peraza on the second pitch he threw in the game. He also served one up to Eugenio Suarez in the fourth. Both balls were deposited into the Reds bullpen in left field.

Matt Harvey had the blazing fastball, hitting 95 on the radar. The Nationals spent the evening off him building a picket fence, scoring single runs in the first to fourth innings. Matt Adams crushed a leadoff homerun off Harvey in the fifth to send him to the showers. The Nationals added another run in the inning on a Wilmer Difo double to stop the picket fence with a two spot.

Prior to that it was all Soto. In the first inning he hit a screaming liner into right center that hit the bottom of the scoreboard. He was able to slide awkwardly into second base. Anthony Rendon followed by lining a double into the left centerfield gap to score Soto to tie the game at 1-1.

In the second inning Michael Taylor got things started with a bunt single. Hellickson laid down a nice bunt to move Taylor to second. Wilmer Difo delivered on the first of his two clutch two out hits, ripping a single to right center to score Taylor, who barely slid into home, beating a strong throw from Billy Hamilton.

It was Soto again in the third. He led off the inning with a single past the diving second baseman into right field. Rendon followed with a bloop single over the head of the shortstop. Matt Adams ripped a double down the first base line to score Soto but Rendon was held at third. The Reds walked Michael Taylor intentionally and it paid off. Spencer Kieboom popped to third and Hellickson hit a weak grounder to short limiting the damage to one run and a 3-1 lead.

Soto sparked the rally again for the Nationals in the fourth. With two out he coaxed a walk from Harvey. Anthony Rendon lined a pitch to left field. Preston Tucker appeared to get a poor break on the ball and it rolled to the wall scoring Soto.

The bullpen did the rest for the Nats, although Kelvin Herrera was not sharp. He gave up a single to Mason Williams and walked Curt Casilla. He was one ball away from walking Preston Tucker to load the bases but finally got him to fly out to right field. He struck out Preston Tucker to end the game. Because the score was 6-2 when he came into the game it was not a save situation.

Game Notes: Bryce Harper was hit on the knee from a pitch by Austin Brice. The pitch was a curve ball. Bryce was able to get to first and run the bases but was taken out of the game in the top of the seventh after Dave Martinez did not like how well he ran after the ball after a Mason Williams double. The Nationals are calling it a stinger and he is day to day…Perhaps it was just coincidence or a purposeful pitch but Joey Votto was nailed in the leg by Ryan Madson with two out in the eighth. Joey was not happy with being hit, yelling something to Madson as he trotted to first and after the third out was made…Juan Soto fouled a pitch into his nether regions in the fourth inning. He was down for awhile, but once recovered drew a walk. He had to race home from first after a Rendon double so he appears fine…After Matt Adams led off the fifth with a homerun Tucker Barnhart said something to the umpire while in his crouch. The home plate umpire did not like what was said and tossed Barnhart while Adams circled the bases. It appears Barnhart had made a comment about the strike zone and Fletcher got a little sensitive and tossed Barnhart. That is when Barnhart got more animated and started arguing with the umpire as Adams rounded the bases…Preston Tucker did not play well in left field. He reacted poorly to a line drive from Rendon that rolled to the fence. He also threw a ball that went nowhere near the cutoff man, hitting the second base bag…Jesus Reyes made his major league debut. The first batter he faced he hit Spencer Kieboom. That later resulted in the Joey Votto hit by pitch that ultimately resulted in warnings being issued to both benches…Trea Turner grounded out in all five of his at bats. The only infielder he ignored was the first baseman.