Day Two of Steve and my’s baseballing escapades commenced Tuesday, this time with the same crew that took on the park nearly two years ago.
We got there a few minutes before the gates opened, prime time for catching home runs in batting practice for both teams. We quickly made our way down to the Red Porch as the Nationals took their hacks.
Not many home runs came out our way, but Wilson Ramos managed to clobber one into the restaurant section of the Red Porch. I was standing by the first row of the seating section as I watched it sail way over my head. It hit the ground uncaught and promptly bounced all the way back to where I was standing. The ball found itself in my glove, and I was ensured I was not leaving for home empty handed.
Another takeaway from batting practice was Bryce Harper. He usually does not take BP on the field, but chose to on this day and put on a display. He hit upper-decker after upper-decker, including one into the third deck which was probably the longest home run I had ever witnessed in person.
Also of note was Denard Span, who was taking ground balls in centerfield. Span, working his way back from back problems, hopes to return to the lineup soon to provide that leadoff spark the Nationals so desperately need.
After batting practice had concluded and we had made our way to our seats, we were informed by the PA announcer that, despite the sun shining, a delay was in effect for an impending storm. The storm never came to fruition and the game started around 7:35.
Max Scherzer squared off against Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin, who was making his sixth start of the year after coming off Tommy John Surgery.While the first inning did not go very well for Mr. Corbin, it went abundantly well for the home team. Yunel Escobar lead off with a home run to center, and two more runs crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. An early three run lead hoped to be a boost to Scherzer who has proved he does not need much run support to produce a win.
However, three runs would not be enough. Scherzer labored through a 40 pitch 4th inning in which the D-backs scored the needed amount to tie the game. Things would remain knotted for several more innings until there came some drama in the later stages.
Drew Storen entered in the top of the eighth for what would become yet another shutdown inning. To put in perspective how he has pitched since the Papelbon trade last week, let’s take a look:
It was the meat of the Nationals order for the bottom half of the eighth, and the game would not be tied in the 9th if they had anything to say about it. Ryan Zimmerman walked, Jayson Werth smacked a double into the left field corner, and Wilson Ramos strode to the plate with two runners in scoring position. He dropped a blooper into shallow right field allowing Zimmerman to score easily and Werth to come home and score from second. The crowd roared as Ramos gave his customary Buffalo horns on second, and the hit seemed to be a product of the day’s work for Wilson.
Jonathan Papelbon allowed one run in the 9th on a throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar, but shut the door quickly afterwards and earned his first save at home for his new team.
The Mets defeated the Marlins, so the Nats remain one game back of the Metropolitans.
Today is August 5th, or in the minds of Nationals fans, Jayson Werth Chia Pet day. It is also the one year anniversary of the Gnome day, as many of you may remember from last year. I’ll be there for the Chia Pet with a review of the event tomorrow.
The workforce did not claim me this summer, but it did claim my good friend Steve Miller; and his hours were sub-optimal to say the least. He worked weekdays from 5PM to 1AM, and as such, he was unable to attend Our National Pastime at the rate he would have liked. So earlier in the summer we discussed the first week of August as a possible “stay-cation.” Steve and I would go to the Nationals games against the Diamondbacks and Friday against the Rockies. Well, it’s the first week of August and the plan is being executed, so Nationals Park is essentially my home for the next few days and I’m not complaining.Steve bought four tickets for Monday’s game, and he invited two humans of the female kind. One was a mutual friend from our high school and the other was a girl he knew and actually attends Xavier University (the institution of higher learning that will be educating me in a few weeks). We decided to make a day out of the affair, so the four of us went to the Newseum to take in the new Nationals exhibit on display. It had everything from the home plate in Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter to the pitching mound from Strasburg’s debut to the golden shoes donned by Teddy in his first President’s Race victory. Adjacent to the exhibit was the interactive TV broadcasting section, where visitors get to stand in front of a camera and rattle off a pre-determined script to test whether or not they have what it takes to make it to the broadcasting big-time someday. Behold what Steve and I produced:
Upon leaving, and after we stopped in at a Potbelly, we made our way to the Metro and eventually to Nationals Park.
Entering the game, I was on a 13 inning scoreless drought when attending Nationals games. I had not seen the Nationals score a run since the 5th inning of a double-header against the Blue Jays in early June after watching Zack Greinke mow down the Nationals lineup on Star Wars Day.
It looked as if the scoreless streak would continue. Doug Fister took the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks looking to right the ship after struggling for much of the year.
He started off well but his first blemish came on a 3rd inning home run. Then in the 4th, the Diamondbacks tacked on three more behind two more round-trippers and the Nationals faced a 4-0 hole. After another run in the 5th, the Nats needed five runs to tie. Looking at the out-of-town scoreboard, the Mets were dismantling the Marlins and the Nationals were staring second place straight in the face.
On the other side, little known rookie Zack Godley continued his strong start for the Diamondbacks. He threw six shutout innings, including three perfect ones to start the game. He added six strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 1.50 over his first 18 innings.
After much criticism for his bullpen management over the weekend at Citi Field, Nationals Manager Matt Williams called on Drew Storen for the eighth who retired the side in order.
It was then Jonathan Papelbon who came in to make his home debut. His first outing at the park was not exactly endearing as he gave up yet another D-Backs home run.
The Nats were staring a shutout straight in the face, but they were not going to get shutout if Ryan Zimmerman had anything to say about it. He hit a towering homer to left field with one out in the 9th to at least get the home team on the board, and thus, thankfully, end my scoreless innings streak.
Then all of a sudden the Nationals woke up. It was hit after hit, and before the crowd that was left knew what was happening, the score was 6-4 Diamondbacks. Jayson Werth, struggling since coming off the DL, came up with one out and Michael Taylor on 2nd, but could not muster an RBI. Subsequently, Yunel Escobar flew out to left field, and just like that, the Nationals had dropped their fourth in a row and were one game behind the Mets in the NL East.
Journeyman Clint Robinson has more than exceeded expectations for the Nationals this season. During Friday night’s game, broadcaster F.P. Santangelo said how Robinson, when asked what the bench squad this season calls themselves, considers the bench “Regulars.” This is a reference to the excessive amount of injuries the depleted Nats have had to deal with during 2015; however, they have managed to stay in first place thanks to the production of their back-ups, especially Clint Robinson. The 30-year-old is in the midst of his first extended stay in the majors after being drafted in 2007 and navigating his way through about eight minor league seasons.On June 4th, the Nats trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th against the Chicago Cubs, and Robinson drew a walk to move the tying run to scoring position, the winning run on first, and allow Anthony Rendon a chance to win the game. It was not to be though, as Robinson took too big of a lead and this happened:
Through June 4th, Robinson appeared in 33 games, 22 of which were as a pinch-hitter. He was hitting .232 with three doubles and a triple, seven runs scored but only three RBI. He had a .605 OPS and a .277 BABIP (Batting Average with Balls In Play), and a measly 67 wRC+, all according to FanGraphs.
Since that infamous day, Robinson has stood-out as one of the Nationals’ top producers. When Ryan Zimmerman was forced to take yet another trip to the disabled list, Robinson has seen everyday playing time, particularly at first base. He’s hitting .286 with eight doubles, four homers, and 15 RBI. His OPS since then is .819 and he possesses a significantly increased .311 BABIP, along with a 129 wRC+. Granted, his continued success can mainly be attributed to his consistent playing time, he has still performed admirably for a man that was simply thrilled to finally make the opening day roster.Playing both first base and the outfield has provided Robinson with a chance to acquire more playing time as starters deal with injuries. He’s even filled in as a pitcher when duty calls.
For more on Clint Robinson’s journey to the big leagues, check out Chelsea Janes’ story.
As the Nationals recover from their plethora of injuries, including Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth tonight, they know that they have a reliable player eager to do what he can to help the team; an invaluable asset as the Nats look to secure the division in the final stretch of the season.
The Nationals have suffered yet another blow to their already depleted roster. Bryce Harper had surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, an injury he suffered while sliding into third base last week. The injury adds Harper to the already plentiful number of Nationals who are out with injuries: Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Scott Hairston, and now Harper.
Some have been quick to criticize Harper’s overly-aggressive playing style, which has been a roller coaster of its own over the past two weeks. Harper was benched for a lack of hustle after he failed to run out a ground ball, and now he has found himself on the Disabled List after showing too much hustle. Harper does exhibit warning signs as a player, but as a 21 year old with relatively little Major League experience, it is obvious that he still has much to learn. He probably did not need to take third base on a bases-clearing hit as a double would have still produced the same result, but if Harper hadn’t been injured, we would be talking about how much hustle he showed and that he put his team in a better chance to add to their lead. Situational awareness also factors in when you realize that his hit gave the Nats a sizable lead, but at the same time, Harper was playing the style of baseball he is accustomed to playing.
Hopefully in the future, Bryce will learn how to corral his enthusiasm and filter it into creating a more positive result for both him and his team. Until then, we can only hope that his thumb heals quickly. And for that matter, that all the other injured Nationals have a speedy recovery.
There are just two days standing between pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in Viera. This means we have come to number two on my countdown.
#2 – Veteran Leadership
Clubhouse leaders are an essential component to any successful team. They are players who take it upon themselves to guide inexperienced teammates. They know the value of having a mentor show them the ropes in order to become a better player. The value veteran baseball players have for the team is an intangible aspect of the game which often times goes un-recognized. However, even though there is no award for Best Leader, any knowledgeable player knows the importance of having an experienced core of talent in a locker room.
The Nationals are not low on numbers in this area. Seasoned veterans such as Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Adam LaRoche, and especially Ryan Zimmerman are part of an essential make up of a contending team. They take the younger players such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg under their wing when times get rough. In return, it is necessary that the younger players absorb what they are told. When the team works together and helps those who are struggling, they roll along like a well-oiled machine.
While it is important that the veterans convey verbal leadership, leading by example is also beneficial.When the rest of the team sees the vets stepping up and producing, it often rubs off on the other players. When the Nats hit a rough patch, it is important the veterans step up and take command in re-directing the team back onto the right track.
Worst Case Scenario:
The worst case scenario for veterans is a tough one. It is easy, yes, to simply say that they won’t perform well. However, that doesn’t provide much insight besides something we all could have thought of on our own. I think what would be the worst case scenario in this situation is that the veterans don’t come up big in clutch situations. This will be a key in this upcoming season; to be able to win games in late inning contests when either side could steal a victory. It will be these defining moments which characterize the season for the Nats.
Best Case Scenario:
This scenario is not as difficult to contemplate. The vets take the rookies under their wing and the team becomes a unit. Everyone feeds off each other and wins come from the positive attitude as well as on-field performances. Rookies learn from how the more experienced members of the team act in stressful times, and this enables the rookies to become reliable contributors by the end of the season. I may not be stellar in math, but it’s a pretty simple equation here: if the veterans play well and lead by example, the rest of the team will follow suit and it will be one amazing season.
It will be interesting to see where the Nationals get the majority of their contributions from this season. Will it be the veterans who take charge? Or will it be the younger players who step up when their team needs them? Only time will tell.
What will be number one?! Be sure to find out tomorrow!
Only two more days…
Countdown to #Natitude: 2 days
In creating this blog, I pondered for a long time how to give it my own unique spin. There is such a large number of blogs out there, especially on my die-hard favorite team, the Washington Nationals. I watch the games every day, tweet my frustrations, and vent my enthusiasm to many of my friends who probably couldn’t care less about the great sport of baseball, much less the Nats. So I sat back and thought, how could I virtually verbalize my thoughts and knowledge about this sport and team I love so much, while also adding a spin to it which, hopefully somewhat, might separate it from the vast number of other writing outlets that have been created. A separation which can sort of set it apart so that it does not get lost in the heaps of more popular blogs surrounding it. While I know there are plenty of other sources you can read to acquire the knowledge you’re looking for, maybe there will be a bit of info in here that will suit your needs.
I’ve been a sports fan, first and foremost baseball, as long as I can remember. I grew up in a baseball-less Washington, D.C. and rooted for my mom’s hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds. It was around the age of 6 when my life as a live baseball fan really took off. I had attended games at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, even seeing a brawl I still remember between the Giants and the Reds. While those games were fun, I was too little to appreciate everything going on around me (plus I hated fireworks so every time there was a long fly ball my hands immediately went to my ears). That was when my dad decided to take me to our local minor league team, then the Potomac Cannons. Oddly enough, they were the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. For those of you who, through obviously no fault of your own, are not familiar with Potomac, they have a small, run-down stadium with game attendance that often times you can count yourself. I brought my glove to the game and couldn’t wait to get to our seats – in the field box which is right on the field. It was during the game that my life of baseball and bond with the game was forever sealed.
There was a foul ball rolling down the fence which a member of the opposing bullpen picked up. He made sure the ball got to me, and I couldn’t believe what I now had in my possession. A game used foul ball. I couldn’t wait to show my mom. However, in my youth and excitement, I was not keen enough to put the ball away and mark it as my first. It has since gotten lost among the heaps of foul balls which I have collected from both major league and other Potomac games over the years.
Later on, the Washington Nationals moved to DC from Montreal and I finally had a home team to root for. They promptly acquired the Potomac Cannons from the Reds, and their name was changed to the Potomac Nationals. I have since grown up watching and becoming attached to many
current members of my favorite team in their earliest professional stages. I’ve watched my favorite player, Ian Desmond, ascend the ranks. I’ve seen Espinosa, Lombardozzi, Eury Perez, as well as countless others, in an up-close game. I’ve also seen a number of players, such as Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos,
and Ross Ohlendorf, make rehab appearances there. When I see a player enter the Washington games which I’ve seen at Potomac, I can clearly recall the announcer’s voice calling out their name in that small stadium in Prince William County. I have raced out of the stadium to chase foul balls (yeah, it’s small enough to do that), and analyzed game after game with my dad in those creaky old stands. One day I finally became savvy enough to write who hit each foul ball on the ball so I know who hit it when they make it into the major leagues. I most likely have a ball from Desmond, but it kills me every time I watch him play to know that just like my first ball, one of his foul’s is probably sitting amongst the bucket.
You may be thinking by now, is this a life story, or a blog? I wanted to give you some insight into my career as a Washington Nationals fan so that you can see I’m not a bandwagoner of the 2011 or 2012 seasons (which by the way I do not condemn by any means. The more fans the merrier!). I suffered through ’08 and ’09 along with my beloved team, but all the while knowing that one day we would achieve greatness. I have sat all over RFK stadium, and listened to the number of MASN broadcasters over the years. So now nearly every summer night, somewhere in the house can be heard the voices of FP Santangelo and Bob Carpenter, breaking down every pitch of our team.
Not one spring has passed where I have not donned a uniform myself and helped a team win baseball games. I am now a junior in high school and a member of our Varsity baseball team. It’s one thing to watch the pros perform at the highest level every day, but it’s another to actually be a part of the action; spitting sunflower seeds in the dugout and going through highs and lows yourself. Playing baseball and watching baseball has become somewhat of a lost art, a passion which many today fail to grasp. That is what I hope to bring about with this blog. That someone out there somewhere, be it a Nationals fan or a curious reader, may come to appreciate our National Pastime just a little bit more. And hey, maybe become a Nats fan along the way.
So that is what I hope sets this writing space apart from the others. My unique articles on the Nats, baseball goings-on, and intriguing historical pieces which will draw in the non-Nats fan. I plan on writing nearly everything about the Nationals, from my personal thoughts to team news, while also including other posts about happenings around the MLB, historical baseball events or notable achievements, a post here and there about high school baseball, and the off article on my thoughts on other large news. That was what I thought of with the name; to include, but not completely limit it to, the Nationals. Rather, for it to be about baseball, just mainly on the Nats. As an aspiring journalist, perhaps this can be an alley to bettering my skills and improving my chances for a successful future. I hope you can find useful information out of reading my posts. Here’s to a winning year.