Last night was Ian Desmond bobblehead night at Nationals Park. As I stated in my post about the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome, I’m not one of those crazy, die-hard bobblehead fans. However, that Garden Gnome may have converted me. I found myself desiring a bobblehead of my favorite baseball player, which lead me to 1500 South Capitol Street on Thursday afternoon. While I was not first in line for this one, I did receive one nonetheless.
In deciding whether to attend the game or not, I was slightly hesitant. I had not seen a win at Nationals Park since Jordan Zimmermann’s complete game two hitter against the Marlins last season, and the Nationals were in the midst of an outstanding nine game winning streak. I figured my presence at the game obviously wasn’t going to affect on-field performance and I thought it would be pretty neat to say I was at the Nats’ 10th win in a row.
Gio Gonzalez pitched the last game I attended but had a much more solid outing this time around. He threw 7 full innings while not allowing a run and striking out six along the way. He only yielded four hits and three walks, an encouraging sign of hopefully similar outings to come in the near future.
The story of the game early and throughout the entire contest for the Nationals was runners left on base. It seemed that everytime the Nats would find themselves with an opportunity to score, they would also find a way not to score. In fact, as Adam Kilgore tweeted, through 7 innings the Nats had eight hits and six walks (i.e. lots of baserunners). However, at that same point in time they were 0 for 11 with Runners in Scoring Position, and had left eight runners stranded. Had the Nats gone on to lose the game, I’m sure that would have been a more prevalent topic in Matt Williams’ post-game press conference.
The Nationals’ defense though backed up their pitching. Behind multiple double plays, the game was scoreless entering the 9th inning. If the Nationals were to extend their winning streak it would come via the walk off. But what’s new? The Nats had walked off four of the last five days, so why not make it five of the past six?
A side-note, I had never seen a Major League walk-off in person before even after all my years of attending games. I guess it was the magic in the air, but I could sense something was brewing in the bottom of the ninth that might put that streak to an end.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Denard Span notched his second hit of the ballgame. Upon reaching first base, Mark Trumbo, the Diamondbacks’ first baseman, said to Span, “Just how you guys like it (referring to now possibly winning on a walk-off).” After waiting patiently and analyzing the quick-delivery of Arizona’s pitcher, Evan Marshall, Span stole second base. He picked a perfect pitch to steal too; a slider, giving him that extra time to slide in and beat the tag.
Span was now in scoring position and it was a question of whether Rendon would come through. I had my camera recording for what I hoped would be that elusive walk-off I had yet to see in person. Rendon connected and hit a ground ball to the third basemen, and it’s Arizona’s third basemen Jordan Pacheco whom Nats fans should thank. He made an errant throw to first, and when Trumbo failed to scoop it, the ball bounced into the Nationals dugout. The ball was out of play and by rule Denard Span was allowed to score. The Nationals were now the owners of a 10 game winning streak; only the second time they have accomplished this since returning to the District in 2005.
The Nationals had walked off for the fifth time in six days. I had witnessed my first Major League walk-off. My losing streak at Nationals Park was over. I got my favorite player’s bobblehead. I captured the walk-off on video, which you can see below. Needless to say, it was a good day.
This post is more of a post to let you all know that yes, I am still alive. With AP testing and my high school baseball season all culminating in the last couple of weeks, it has been hard to find the time to really sit down and give the time due to writing a quality post. However, save for maybe finals week, I’m back now for the long-haul of the rest of the season. I do have a variety of posts I’d like to write, and I will be attending a game at Nats Park in the near future, so be sure to keep checking back in for the latest updates.
As of right this minute, the Nationals are a half game back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The Nats defeated the Mets today 6-3 behind a solid outing from Jordan Zimmermann and a monstrous performance by Wilson Ramos at the plate. He led the way by going 2-3 including a walk, double, and 4 RBI. Ian Desmond left his own stamp on the game, launching a mammoth solo home run over the visitor’s bullpen in left field.
The Braves rallied late and earned a win over the Cardinals today. As one fan put it on Twitter, the Nats can’t seem to beat the Braves even when they aren’t playing them. With the win, as I said, the Braves hold a half game lead over the Nationals.
On the injury front, Gio Gonzalez is the latest National to land on the Disabled List. He has shoulder inflammation, but an MRI revealed no structural damage, which is a huge relief for the Nats, meaning that he won’t need surgery. Gonzalez has struggled this year though, not earning a win in his last five (5) starts. Hopefully after this stint on the DL he will take the rest of the season in stride and turn out more consistent pitching performances.
Adam LaRoche made a surprise appearance on the MASN broadcast of today’s game and said that he hopes to resume playing on Sunday. This is another good sign for the Nats who will regain a consistent starter at first base. Nothing should be taken away from Tyler Moore though, who started there today and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game.
We will see how the Nationals fare over the next couple of weeks. They open a three game series tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds before hitting the road for four games against the Reds’ NL Central foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nats return to DC following that series for a 9 game homestand: three against the Marlins, three in an inter-league matchup against the Rangers, and then three against the Phillies.
More to come on here as more transgresses!
As I’m sure most of you are aware, there is this pesky thing which sometimes gets in the way of recreational activities. School. Needless to say it has been a busy past couple of weeks since I last posted about the reaction to my push-up video, and much has transpired since then. Let’s get ourselves caught up:
- First and foremost is the most exciting news. My dad received two tickets to Opening Day at Nationals Park for his birthday, which means he and I will be taking in all of the April 4th festivities! I will be sure to take lots of pictures and report back on all the happenings. Sadly, it’s against the Barves (yes, that was on purpose), but Opening Day is Opening Day and I can’t wait to be apart of it.
- Once again this year, Sports Illustrated has chosen the Washington Nationals as their pick to win the World Series. As many of you may remember, they also chose us last year and some blamed the disappointing season on this “curse.” We will see how the year plays out and if, hopefully, they will be correct.
- From a roster standpoint, the most notable move of the month was new manager Matt Williams’ decision to send Ross Detwiler to the bullpen to begin the season. Many presumed he would take over the role of 5th starter behind Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister, but that was not to be. Rather, it is still a competition between last season’s two star rookies, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark (pronounced Row-ark).
- Doug Fister will likely start the season on the disabled list after suffering a strained lat as Spring Training came to a close. Hopefully he recovers quickly and can get back as soon as possible. On a positive note, barring anything drastic happening in their exhibition game against the Tigers this Saturday, this will be the most serious injury coming out of Spring Training. Needless to say, the Nationals were pretty lucky in not suffering any major/serious injuries.
- On a personal note, the high school baseball season is already underway. It feels good to once again be playing baseball myself. I’ll keep you all updated on how we do as the season progresses.
Only four (4!!!!) more days until the Nats open their season away against the Mets on Monday. We’ve been waiting long enough, let’s get started.
Snow. The simple word which instills joy in the hearts of kids everywhere. A word often associated with no school, meaning unexpected days for pure joy in the great outdoors. Snow days are an unrivaled present which allow for relaxing days with friends and family, marveling at the calmness of the white blanket.
We all remember the Snowpocalypse of 2010; when the Washington D.C. metro area was hit with over two feet of snow on two different occasions. Last night, Snowmageddon -2014 Edition took place as we all were fast asleep waiting to see what we woke up to. Much of the area was hit over 10 inches, and schools everywhere were closed. It is the first real significant accumulation of snow since those two massive storms just about four years ago.
While we are all digging out from this overnight onslaught, the Nationals’ Pitchers and Catchers, at long last, reported to Spring Training in Viera, Florida today! I would say the winter is over, but as I look out my window, that is obviously not the case. As you can tell from the picture, the weather today in Viera is much nicer than here in Virginia.
However, a little snow thought it could stop us from playing baseball? Good one.
There are so many ways to show your baseball pride on snow days. Snow men are probably the best example and the grand prize has to go to the folks at Nationals 101. As you can see from the picture below, it seems the whole team has made an appearance.
Today has been so full of excitement. Up north, it stemmed from the day off of work and school, and down south in Viera from the Nationals reporting to camp. For us Nats fans, the combination of the two is almost too much to handle.
The snow has started to fall again and school for tomorrow, Friday, has been cancelled. So what will tomorrow entail? I’d love to know! Comment below on your favorite snow activities or tweet me pictures of your creations! Especially if they have a Nats theme to it.
Tonight, we can revel in the fact that Nationals baseball has started and we are snowed in for one more day. #Natitude has begun!
Stay safe and have fun everyone!
As Spring Training nears, we come to number 4 on the countdown of my top 5 things to look forward to in this upcoming season.
4. Pitching Performances
Over the past few seasons, the Nationals have acquired a pitching staff which, when pitching at its full potential, is unrivaled in the National League. However, there were the key words: when pitching at its full potential. Young phenom Stephen Strasburg had his struggles last season in his first full year since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Gio Gonzalez showed spots of brilliance while also faltering at points, and finished the season with an 11-8 record. The pick-up of Dan Haren late in the offseason did not play out nearly to the hopes of GM Mike Rizzo. He struggled mightily the entire first half of the season before regaining some sort of success for a couple stretches following the All-Star break. Haren stumbled to a 10-14 record in his first, and what would be his only, season as a National. To his credit, he did come up big at certain points, such as getting a save in a marathon extra inning game in Atlanta, but his struggles ended up outweighing his successes. Even Ross Detwiler, the team’s fifth starter, fought the injury bug for much of the season.
The Nationals’ gem in the starting rotation during the 2013 season came in the form of Jordan Zimmermann. He pitched his way to an outstanding 19-9 record, including a complete game 2 hit shut-out; a marvel of a game I was fortunate enough to witness in person. He was also one of the two Nationals players selected to the National League All-Star team, along with Bryce Harper. Hopefully, Zimmermann’s successes last season will carry over into this year.
The bullpen also produced some pleasant surprises during 2013. Rookie Tanner Roark (Row-ark) burst onto the Major League scene by finishing the season with a 7-1 record and shining in clutch situations. Drew Storen never completely regained his pitching form after the devastating loss in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS and spent a period of time at AAA Syracuse. New closer Rafael Soriano, another one of Rizzo’s offseason signings, untucked his jersey 43 times (Soriano emphatically untucks his jersey after earning a save). We will see how newly aquired Jerry Blevlins performs out of the bullpen in his first season as a National.
Who will the surprises be this season? Will the starting rotation live up to its expectations? How will the bullpen handle the long season?
Worst Case Scenario:
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez struggle through the season and do not pitch with much consistency. Zimmermann must once again hold down the rotation on his own and the rotation’s back end of Fister and Detwiler do not anchor it enough to fulfill expectations. Mid-season trades are needed for a reliable set-up man and the game cannot be assured when the ball is handed off to the bullpen. Starters try to push themselves to avoid having to use the bullpen, but as the season wears on they begin to get exhausted and give up runs. The Nationals sputter across the finish line due to sub-par performances by their highly touted pitching staff.
Best Case Scenario:
The rotation stays healthy all season long without many complications. Strasburg pitches like the phenom he used to be, and the 1-2-3-4 punch of him, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister end up being too much for nearly any team to handle. They dominate series after series behind quality starts from their starting pitchers, and 5th starter Ross Detwiler exceeds expectations by pitching at a very high level. The bullpen shuts down games when given the opportunity; solidifying the Nationals as a force to be reckoned with across baseball. Opposing teams cannot muster runs due to shut-down performances by Nationals pitchers and the pitching staff provides the team with a chance to win on a daily basis.
I personally believe the Nationals pitching staff will not have an off year. I do see them having their struggles at points and giving up some runs because of pitching mistakes. Overall though I feel they will be much more reliable than last season. I’m not saying the Nationals pitching was terrible last year, because by some standards it was above average, but it was not near what many thought it would be. I believe they will pitch together as a unit, giving the Nats a strong opportunity to win in any situation. The one variable will be seeing how well they can avoid the injury bug. If they can stay healthy all year with time missed kept at a minimum, then the staff will be nearly unstoppable. Here’s to hoping that is the case.
Countdown to #Natitude: 4 days