Archive for the 'Nationals' Category

Nationals are World Series Champions

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

That is pretty cool to say. After beginning the season 19-31 and promoting the Nationals dismantle the team and start from scratch, myworld is glad they did not take that advice. Not that anyone from the Nationals really read this blog. Or anyone for that matter. Some of the cool things myworld remembers from this long Nationals journey.

1) Playing in RFK. That was a pretty cool stadium to watch a game in. Unless you were in left field where the seats seemed like an eternity away from the ball park. Most of the other seats were close enough to the field that it was pretty easy to get a foul ball. The down side is if you were too far under the lower section the upper section blocked your view of any fly ball. You had to wait for it to come down before you could see where the ball was hit. And the seats inside the stadium seemed to bounce as you jumped up and down. At the current park the same seats are a little farther and snagging a foul ball is very rare. And the stadium does not bounce when you jump up and down.

2) The drafting of Ryan Zimmerman and trying him at shortstop because Vinny Castilla was your thirdbaseman. That did not quite work out. But Zimmerman stayed loyal to the team and despite the myriad of injuries is now a World Series champion. The years in which he was hitting walk off homeruns every month were pretty cool. Those don’t come as frequently now.

3) The drafting of Bryce Harper. He was the Nationals first real superstar. He was a little brash. As you do in a relationship, the passage of time allows you to find the flaws. Harper liked to hustle on his terms. But when things were not going well, or he was frustrated the hustle was not always there. The arguments and the ejections were pretty constant too. He was supposed to be Mike Trout but he fell short of those expectations. Myworld can’t blame him for leaving because the Nationals offered him a “see you later” kind of contract. He is now with the Phillies and one has to wonder if the Nationals would be World Series champions if he was still on the team. I can’t see him doing the baby shark or the dances in the dugout after each homerun. If karma has its justice the Phillies will be World Series champions next year.

4) Stephen Strasburg won the MVP of the World Series. He is the most dominant post season pitcher in baseball. Myworld still remembers the criticism the Nationals got by sitting Strasburg in their first post season run. The Met chants of “Harvey is better” still ring clear inside my head. The Mets did not baby Harvey after he had his arm issues. They brought him out to pitch that extra inning and got eliminated from the post season because of that decision. Now where is Harvey? And where is Strasburg? Long term who made the best decision for their pitcher?

5) The nerds who do the analytics would probably never recommend acquiring a player like Gerado Parra. The things he did for the team this year would not show up in the baseball stats. The baby shark song became a sensation. That will probably be the most popular Halloween costume in D.C. After each clutch hit the Nationals players would mimic a shark bite with their hands. The dance in the dugout after each homerun was a Parra idea. I could just picture Strasburg as he is circling the bases after his one homerun, dreading the dance he would have to do in the dugout. And the group hugs with the reluctant Strasburg that Parra would start and Scherzer would finish were fun to see. It would have been interesting to see how Harper would have reacted to all that chicanery.

6) Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer were teammates for the Detroit Tigers from 2012 to 2014. They did not win a World Series then. Sanchez signed with the Nationals this year reuniting with Scherzer. Now they are both World Series champions. Watching them embrace after the seventh game win was pretty cool.

7) How much more clutch can Howie Kendrick be. After tearing his Achilles heal last year and being relegated to a bench role this year he had some big hits. His grand slam homerun against the Dodgers in the tenth inning of game five was a game winner and a Dodger eliminator. And against Will Harris, a pitcher who had yet to give up a run in 11 post season appearances and celebrated a little too much after striking him out in game four, Howie made him pay launching a two run shot against the right field foul pole that gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead in the seventh game of the World Series. He became the first player to have go ahead homeruns after the seventh inning in post season play. It does not get any more clutch than that. It would have only been better if Ryan Zimmerman had accomplished those feats, but we’ll take Howie.

So now the Nationals are World Series champions. They “finished the fight.” Cool.

Astros One Win Away from World Series Title

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

When myworld arrived at the park on Sunday night we thought the Nationals were doing a special Halloween celebration. It appeared that Max Scherzer was on the mound disguised as Joe Ross. It was not until we settled in that reality struck and it was actually Joe Ross on the mound. Max Scherzer was having a resurgence of his back problems and would not be available to pitch on Sunday.

The Astros took advantage of the lack of Scherzer in the second when Yordan Alvarez slugged a two run homerun into the centerfield bleachers. Yuli Gurriel had started the rally with an infield single that glanced off Joe Ross and bounced toward Anthony Rendon, who could not make the throw to first. Alvarez got an opportunity to play left field by his manager after sitting out the first two games to get some swings in. Alvarez rewarded Hinch in his first at bat.

The Nationals had an excellent opportunity to rally in the bottom half of the second. Back to back singles by Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick put runners on first and third with no one out. Normally clutch hitter Ryan Zimmerman struck out. Victor Robles ended the threat by grounding into a double play. That would be the last time the Nationals would get a runner past first, with the exception of the solo homerun by Soto in the seventh.

The Astros struck again in the fourth on a two run homer by Carlos Correa. This was the start of the Nationals complaint with the home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. Joe Ross thought he had strike three on him but Barksdale disagreed, even though the pitch appeared to catch the outside corner. The next pitch Correa deposited into the left field bleachers.

The Nationals tried to make a comeback in the 7th with a solo homer by Soto. Ryan Zimmerman drew a two out walk and Victor Robles ran the count to 3-2 against Cole. The next pitch was clearly high and outside but Barksdale emphatically rang Robles up for strike three. The umpire probably knew he had blown the call with the boos raining from the stadium and getting even louder when they saw the replay on their phones, and as Robles threw his bat, batting gloves and everything else in the direction of Barksdale near home plate he was not ejected. Except for Astro fans Barksdale was the most hated person in the world for that particular moment.

The Astros put the game away in the last two innings, scoring a run on a Yuli Gurriel single in the 8th and two more on a two run homer by George Springer in the 9th.

Game Notes - Trump arrived at the ball park after the first pitch was thrown. Don’t know if that was purposeful intent. Juan Andres, a Trump critic was throwing out the first pitch. When Trump was introduced in the third inning the “boos” overwhelmed any cheers that may have been in the stadium. There were also chants of “lock him up”. D.C., Virginia and Maryland are strongly Democratic areas, so those “boos” may not have been as prevalent in Ohio…The Nationals were outscored 19-3 in the three home games. The Nationals were not really in any of the games, a disappointment to the 130,000 in attendance. Under the 2-3-2 format the Astros became just the second team to win the middle three games on the road without trailing. The Yankees were the other team against the Dodgers in 1949…Barksdale did not show any accountability for the blown call, blaming it on the catcher Yan Gomes for standing up too quickly after the pitch.

Astros Take Advantage of Nats R and R

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

The Nationals bullpen has been decent in these playoffs, but it imploded on Saturday night. The Astros took advantage of five walks in the seventh inning from Tanner Rainey and Fernando Rodney and a grand slam from Alex Bregman to erupt for four runs to bury the Nationals 8-1. Astros starter Jose Urquidy also did the unexpected, giving the Astros five shutout innings in what was supposed to be a bullpen start.

It was essentially over after the first inning. Patrick Corbin struck out the leadoff hitter George Springer. After that the Astros stringed together four consecutive hits from Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel to score two runs. For Bregman he would end the day with five RBIs. A walk to Carlos Correa loaded the bases, but the Nationals averted disaster when Robinson Chirinos grounded into a 5-3 double play, Rendon stepping on third to get the first out and throwing to first to retire Chirinos.

Chirinos would not be so kind in the fourth inning when he took Corbin deep into the left field bleachers for a two run homer. Carlos Correa had started the inning with his second walk of the game. He would end up walking three times in the game.

The Nationals could not figure out Urquidy. He gave up just two hits in his five innings of work. The only time he got into trouble was in the third when Yan Gomes led off the inning with a double. Corbin tried to advance him to third with a bunt but hit it too hard to the pitcher and Gomes was forced to stay while Corbin was thrown out. Trea Turner grounded out to first, advancing Gomes to third. Too little too late with Adam Eaton popping to short to end the inning.

The Nationals were finally able to score after Urquidy was pulled. Josh James started the sixth and walked two of the first three hitters he faced. The Astros then turned to Will Harris, who was making his 10th post season appearance. In his first nine he had not given up an earned run, two shy of the record for post season appearances without allowing an earned run. Harris gave up an infield single to Anthony Rendon that glanced off the leg of Harris. With the bases loaded and one out Juan Soto hit an easy grounder to Gurriel, who made the play at first, allowing the run to score. Howie Kendrick swung and missed at a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh the Nationals bullpen let the game get away. Tanner Rainey walked the first two hitters he faced. He got Jose Altuve to fly to right, but Dave Martinez went to Fernando Rodney to get the last two outs. Rodney failed. Michael Brantley singled into center to load the bases. Bregman then deposited Rodney’s second pitch deep into the left field bleachers for a grand slam. Rodney seemed to lose it after that, walking three batters, but he was able to get the last two outs without allowing the Astros to score another run.

Secure with an 8-1 lead the Astros finished the game with Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski to get the last six outs.

Game Notes: Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman were awarded the relievers of the year prior to the game. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera were present to issue them the award. Only Aroldis made an appearance. After losing the wild card game Josh Hader was a no show at Nationals park…Frank Howard was introduced at the game. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Howard is now relegated to a wheel chair. Attendance was announced at 43,889, 22 more than last night. Two standing room only fans took advantage of the two seats next to me. They paid more for their standing room only seat than myworld paid for section 300 seats. Those $164 seats were going for $1,200 or more on stub hub…Jose Urquidy became the second pitcher to make his starting debut in the post season without allowing a run. Jon Lester (2007) was the first. Urquidy also became the second Mexican pitcher to get a victory in a World Series game. Fernando Valenzuela was the first (1981). And in a final Urquidy buzz, he had more 1-2-3 inning in his five innings than Scherzer, Strasburg, Verlander and Cole had in their starts…The Astros are the best team hitting lefty starters. They are 38-11 when facing lefty starters during the regular season and now 3-1 in the playoffs. The fact they are also the best hitting team against pitchers with sliders and Corbin’s signature pitch is his slider made it a tough match for Corbin.

Pen Gives Astros First Win

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

Zack Greinke could only go 4.2 innings so the Astros relied on their pen to get the remaining outs to beat the Nationals 4-1. They will need to rely on their pen in game four if they hope to even the series. For myworld it was another bucket list completed. My first World Series.

Anibal Sanchez was not sharp for the Nationals. He lasted one out into the sixth. In the second he gave up his first run. Carlos Correa clothes lined a double down the left field line. Josh Reddick followed by blooping a single into left field. Juan Soto tried to gun down Correa but threw it way over the head of the catcher and into the back stop. Reddick advanced to second. A single by Robinson Chirinos into right field put runners on first and third with one out but Sanchez was ableto wiggle out of the inning giving up just the run.

In the third Jose Altuve led off the inning bouncing a double past the diving Rendon and into the corner. Soto bobbled the ball and Altuve advanced to third. Michael Brantley lined a single off Sanchez for a hit to score Altuve. Sanchez again got out of the inning giving up just the one run.

The Nationals had their opportunities in the first and second innings. In the first Anthony Rendon doubled down the left field line. Juan Soto could not drive him in grounding to first. The Nationals had first and second with one out in the second inning when Victor Robles grounded into a double play. They also loaded the bases in the third but a Asdrubal Cabrera whiff ended that threat.

In the fourth the Nationals were finally able to put their lone run across. Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a walk. After a Kurt Suzuki strikeout Victor Robles hit a ground ball down the third base line and into the corner. Zimmerman scored and Robles stopped at third. They could not get the run across when Sanchez bunted a third strike foul and Turner grounded out to the pitcher.

Altuve got the run back for the Astros in the top of the fifth. He hit a one out double down the left field line and scored when Michael Brantley grounded a single into right field past a diving Cabrera. In the sixth Robinson Chirinos hit the left field foul pole for a homerun to make it 4-1. After a walk to pinch hitter Kyle Tucker the day was done for Sanchez.

The Nationals bullpen did well, shutting down the Astros the rest of the way. Rodney walked two in the sixth, one intentionally to load the bases but got Alex Bregman out on a hard grounder to short. Joe Ross pitched two innings giving up just a two out single in the eighth. Wander Suero retired the Astros in order in the ninth.

Greinke did not last five. Asdrubal Cabrera lined a two out double into the right field bullpen wall. Reddick played the ball perfectly off the wall and held Adam Eaton to third. With runners on second and third and two out Josh James came in from the pen and struck out Ryan Zimmerman on a 3-2 count.

Brad Peacock walked two in the sixth, forcing the Astros to turn to Will Harris a little early. He struck out Turner and got Eaton to ground to first to end the threat, then retired the side in order in the seventh. The Nationals had a hard time making contact off his curveball.

Joe Smith and Robert Osuna finished the game off, each giving up a one out single, but the Nationals could do nothing after that.

Game Notes: Myworld’s first World Series. A lot of pomp and circumstance for opening ceremony. The crowd also seemed a little different. It appears many sold their $164 dollar tickets for the stub hub price of $1,200…Carlos Carrasco was announced as the Roberto Clemente award winner…Buzz Aldrin threw out the first pitch. Based on his throw he did not have much of a baseball career. It did not reach home plate. Chad Cordero also threw out a first pitch to catcher Brian Schneider…There were 43,867 in attendance…Game again tonight as well as a volleyball match this afternoon, so myworld will have to cut this short.

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.

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.

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.