Tagged: Braves

Not So Smooth

Boy, am I glad that fool Terry Collins left Johan Santana, fresh off of major shoulder surgery, in to throw 134 pitches during his June 1st no-hitter.  You don’t need to consult Stephen Hawking to figure that his season had nowhere to go but down from there, which it has, with a 13.50 ERA in July and 19.89 ERA in August.  Wait.  What is that?  Some blogger in Tallahassee said back in June that people shouldn’t get their shorts in a bunch over a manager allowing a pitcher to do what he is supposed to do?  Ahem.  What can I say?  The Nats had just shut out the Braves 2-0 behind seven superlative innings from Stephen Strasburg, so I was liable to say and do anything.  Maybe that’s when I also bought the Robo Stir.  Well, at least the yoke of having to stir my own food has finally be removed from around my neck!

Game ball(s):  Mike Morse.  He only got one hit on the night, but he made it count, launching a grand slam off of Santana which staked the Nats to a 4-2 lead which they never surrendered.

Goat(s):  Chipper Jones.  I know.  Larry plays on the Braves and that’s not who the Nationals were playing last night.  But he smashed another home run last night in Atlanta’s 4-3 extra-innings win over the Dodgers, making it three home runs in the last two games.  Oh, and he is hitting .313 at the Geritol contemplation age of 40 and the Braves keep winning.  Anytime now you can begin to break up like the Titanic.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  Bryce Harper. His 2 for 3 night with a home run and 2 RBIs was quite the welcome sight, as he’s batted only .183 since the All-Star break.  And that includes last night’s hopeful slump-buster effort.

Current Record:  74-45

Split Decision

It is sort of remarkable to think that after all that has transpired over the first two days and three games of the Nationals-Braves series, that Washington actually can salvage a series split later today.  But that is exactly the position the Nationals find themselves in, even after:

  • Friday night’s epic collapse
  • Being throttled by Ben Sheets and Atlanta’s pitching staff in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader
  • Watching Bryce Harper limp off in the very same game after fouling a pitch off his left ankle
  • Falling behind 2-0 in yesterday’s night cap, which featured…
  • John Lannan, he of the 4.89 Triple-A ERA, toe the rubber to try to stem the bleeding.

Even Barack Obama thought there was no hope.  But somehow, someway, the Nats dug deep and battled to a 5-2 victory, and now improbably stand on the cusp of making this a no harm, no foul engagement for the top of the NL East standings.

Game ball(s):  Lannan.  Things still may be cozier in TomKat land than they are between John and the Nats, but Lannan pitched a splendidly professional game leading Washington to victory.  What was most impressive is how he settled down after surrendering two runs in the first.  It could have gotten ugly, like when that girl you know keeps putting on makeup and she isn’t applying to clown college.  Hey, hey! No, no!

Goat(s):  The doctor who fixed Ben Sheets. This isn’t how the script was supposed to go for Ben:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  The rest of the Nationals team.  Yep, in a similar vein to yesterday’s tribute to the Braves hitters, each and every member of the team.  Sure, Steve Lombardozzi went 0-5 and stranded five base runners.  And Adam LaRoche pulled off the same feat with one less at-bat.  Still, the Nationals needed the win in a desperate way and managed to summon the collective fortitude to pull it off.  Congrats.  I will put down the Mao literature now.

Current Record:  54-39

Collapse

Collapse.  Last night around 8:30, I thought that word would best describe my head hitting the pillow as I fell into a deep slumber, reaping the fruits of several consecutive nights of poor sleep.  On the heels of a Ryan Zimmerman three-run home run that put the Nats up 6-0 against the Braves, it never crossed my mind that come the morning, that word would have a wholly different meaning.

Alas, before the sun peaked above the horizon, a check of the box scores revealed the word’s new meaning, a description of Washington throwing away a NINE! run lead to Atlanta in an eventual brutal 11-10 extra inning loss.  For once, my lazy gene paid off, shielding me from what has to be one of the worst losses in National’s franchise history.  And I’m drawing that conclusion from the Washington Post and a box score.  I shudder to think what I would be feeling if the Sandman hadn’t called me.

Game ball(s):  The Atlanta Braves hitters.  Yep, each and every one of them.  You don’t rally from nine runs down, even with the opposition bullpen imploding, without showing a tenacity for winning that is worthy of a game ball.  Make that eight game balls.

Goat(s):  Davey Johnson.  While there were a lot of pigs making a mess in the pen, I will allow Davey’s own words to claim the award: ”Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. ”I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did.”

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  The only consolation I see right now is that in less than five hours, the Nats face off again against the Braves, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.  That’s the magic of baseball.  Tomorrow usually offers the chance at quick redemption.

Current Record:  53-38

June’s MESPYs

I’m in a celebratory mood this morning.  The Nationals rolled off another win last night, and in the process, put another curly w in the box score for Jordan Zimmermann.  Baseball is a funny, funny game. Zimm goes winless between late May and late June and now sees superlative pitching being rewarded in his last two starts, with the Nats offense knocking in 20 runs combined.  And of course, it’s our nation’s Independence Day, and while I still have time to write without IRS compulsion, what better way to celebrate than with June’s MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards:

AL MVP:  Mike Trout.  Robinson Cano had a monster June, but on the day we celebrate standing up to the big bully on the block (alliteration!), I’m not going to shirk away from my disdain for the Evil Empire.  So it goes to Trout, who actually edged Cano out in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), 2.2 to 2.0.  And Trout did this at the tender age of 20.  Wow.

AL CY Young:  Hiroki Kuroda.  Dang.  Well, the British did give us the Beatles.

AL Rookie of the Month:  Trout.  I hate to be a Benedict Arnold on such a hallowed day, but what I said in May’s MESPYs hasn’t changed.  Trout has been baseball’s best rookie and at this pace, could be in the running for the AL’s best player by season’s end.

NL MVP:  R.A. Dickey.  Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto both deserve kudos for tremendous months, but Dickey taking home the award just goes to show you how dominate he was during June.  He posted the second best WAR in baseball (2.1), a sub-one ERA (.93), a .60 WHIP, struck out 55 batters while only walking 8, and went 5-0.  Oh, and he did this throwing a knuckleball.

NY CY Young:  Dickey.  If only I had a Forever Lazy this would be the perfect day.

NL Rookie of the Month:  Andrelton Simmons.  Bryce, I still want to be your accountant.  But while you hit a bit of a soft patch in June, the Braves shortstop batted .333, showed slick fielding skills (alliteration!), and posted a nice 1.6 WAR.  I’m going to take a long walk off a short bridge now.

Nationals’ MVP:  Ian Desmond.  He crushed another one out last night off of Tim Lincecum, which was just more of the same for the Nats’ All-Star shortstop.  I’d like to think this is all because of my talk with Ian at Spring Training two years ago.  Oh, but he didn’t do so well last year.  I see.  My silence is golden.

Nationals’ CY Young:  Stephen Strasburg.  A 2.25 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) points to his 3.09 June ERA being unlucky.  But a 13.37 k/9 and six quality starts demonstrate that even without luck, Strasburg is simply dominant.

Nationals’ Rookie of the Month:  Tyler Moore.  I can see why I got into auditing and not public relations.  That depressing thought aside, in 68 fewer plate appearances, Moore had the same number of home runs as Bryce Harper (4), same number of RBIs (11), batted a robust .425, and topped Harper in WAR 1.0 to 0.6.  I hate myself.

And that’s all folks!

Swept!

Funny (well, not haha funny) how a few days and the switch of one letter in a headline makes a world of difference.  Riding high after sweeping the Braves over the weekend, it looked like the Nationals were poised to finish their nine-game road trip with a flourish.  Instead, it finished with a whimper, being swept by the Marlins.  I blame it on the giant flamingo hanging out in left field of Great Crayon Park.

Game ball(s):

IP H R ER BB K HR WHIP Season ERA
C. Wang (L, 1-1) 4.0 7 4 4 3 4 0 1.86 6.43
R. Detwiler 2.0 2 0 0 1 1 0 1.28 3.73

Yeah, this has nothing to do with any game balls.  And yeah, Ross did allow one of Wang’s runners to score.  But let’s just say I’m warming up the I told you so post.

Goat(s):  The offense, which did the impossible and made Heath Bar Bell look in top form The Nats managed only seven runs over the three games, after scoring seven or more runs in each of the three games against the Braves.  While the giant flamingo has his (her?) fingers all over the skid, that sort of offensive break down doesn’t help.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  He is not a Nat, but I have to give a shout-out to Giancarlo Stanton.  Wow, can he hit a baseball.  Living in Florida, I get to catch a lot of Marlins games so this isn’t the first time I’ve seen his power and laser show.  Stanton probably already possesses the most raw power of any hitter in baseball.  After his monster May, he is also batting over .300.  If he finds a way to maintain the average, folks, we are looking at one of baseball’s elite players now.

Current Record:  29-21

Sweep!

Considering the number of hits this blog gets a day, I’m pretty confident that Gio Gonzalez isn’t among one of the regular readers.  Sad emoticon.  But by all appearances, he is pitching like a man possessed to prove that this schlub is as adept at making baseball predictions as Marion Barry is at making racial amends.

Gio was simply dominant again last night, allowing only one hit and striking out ten over seven innings, leading the Nationals to a 7-2 win over the Braves and the series sweep.  I will say it now:  There has not been a better pitcher in the National League through the first two months of the season than Gio, and I daresay that there has not been a better pitcher in all of baseball.  Will it continue?

Yo no digo nada.

Game ball(s):  Gio.  For a nice little look at Gio’s success so far, take a gander at this article courtesy of FanGraphs.

Goat(s):  The injury bug, which may have taken down Jesus Flores.  The team is saying it is just a tight hamstring and he may not miss any action.  I’ve watched baseball long enough to know that this means he is just as likely to miss two weeks.  Shakes fist in frustration.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  Boy, the title of this award is looking sillier and sillier each day.  All Harper did last night was go 2 for 4, extend his hit streak to seven games and toss in his second home run in as many games.

Current Record:  29-18

Happy Halladay!

I’m old enough to not remember the last time the Nationals beat Roy Halladay but I am still young and internet savvy enough to find out that it was under the Expos banner in 2002 when the franchise did.  Ten years and a foreign country apart.  That is long ago, eh?

But the drought is no more, after last night’s 5-2 victory in Filthadelphia.  The Nationals, led by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond, climbed all over Doc early, giving Jordan Zimmermann precious runs that were being to feel to him as scarce as soap in the city that never washes.  Coupled with Atlanta’s loss to the Reds, the Nats are now back in first, a slim 1/2 game lead to their name.

Game ball(s):  Harper.  Read after the game that he had watched video on Halladay from the past three years which had him zeroing in on the curve ball he laced for a two-run triple during his second at-bat. Talented and prepared. Giddyup!

Goat(s):  Me, for benching Zimm in my fantasy league.  I await the tomatoes with great shame.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  I don’t know who this power-crazed Ian Desmond is but I’m getting a little weak in the knees all the same.

Current Record: 26-17