Tagged: Washington Nationals

Here, Not There: A Summer in Cincinnati

As freshman year at Xavier University has come to a close, people are asking me when I’m going to be able to make it back to the great land of Northern Virginia. While I might make it back for a quick weekend sometime soon, I’ll be here in the Queen City for the summer. So, I just wanted to throw out a quick post wrapping up the year at Xavier and setting the scene for what should be an exciting summer, both personally and for the Nationals.

Before I get into some Nats news, here’s what I’ve been up to over the last year. I did the sports report for Xavier News periodically…

Additionally, I did play-by-play for several home baseball games for Xavier, who by the way won the Big East regular season championship and begin play in the Big East tournament tomorrow.

This summer, I landed a spot doing play-by-play via internet stream for the Hamilton Joes, a collegiate summer baseball team in a league similar to the well-known Cape Cod league. I will be doing the home games, as well as frequently doing road games.

Now on to the Nats, where the powers that be at ESPN have them at third behind the North Siders and the Fenway-dwellers. Do these rankings really mean anything? Nope. But, one thing noted under the Nats’ wrap-up stands out; Scherzer, he of the 20K game, has the highest ERA on the team at 3.80. Bryce seems to have come back down to Earth after his torrid stretch to start the season, but is still producing at a high level. Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos are carrying a mighty stick, and the rest of the lineup is starting to fall into place.

The Nats’ starting pitchers have the 2nd lowest ERA, 4th lowest WHIP, and highest strikeout percentage throughout all of the major leagues, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Yeah, all of this is pretty basic information, but it’s promising to see them do so well, especially against a team like the Mets.

Washington comes to Cincinnati the weekend of June 3rd, and I’m hoping to go Friday and Sunday if possible. In addition to attending Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter in April, I saw the Reds play the Cubs two more times that weekend, including once with Steve.

Paul and me at Great American

I would be remiss if I did not throw this in here. The day after Arrieta’s no-hitter, I was at the game with my hall as a result of free tickets from our RA, and after the game there were fireworks of all sorts. I am enamored with home run derbies, as you can tell, and in between the end of the game and the fireworks show, the Long Haul Bombers (video from 2010) lit up the night sky, propelling neon-colored softballs well into the second deck at Great American Ball Park. What a weekend at GABP that was.

So, here’s to what’s ahead. And oh by the way, you’re always welcome to take a listen.

Welcome Back, Baseball

It has been quite some time since this page has been active, and I got to figurin’ that that ought to change. College basketball has consumed the vast majority of my sporting interests since early November, but as Bronson Koenig ended the dreams of my beloved Xavier Musketeers all-too-early in March, I have turned back to the national pastime. A great couple college basketball and the MLB make; when one ends the other begins.

Ryan Zimmerman

I have been thinking about various ideas for this site in particular, and I will try and take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to cover the team from my perspective over the course of the season. I’m sure my good friend Steve Miller and I will have some more stories to share from Nationals Park.

Harper

It has been exactly six months (or about 183 days and 26 minutes) since the Washington Nationals last played a game that counted in the standings. Granted, it was a loss to the New York Mets, but it was a real game nonetheless. Now, it’s go time. In about ten minutes, reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, ace Max Scherzer, and the rest of the Nationals will get their season underway against the Atlanta Braves. As the Nationals Twitter account has been promoting throughout spring training, the Nats have #OnePursuit. Many speculate that with injuries, age, and impending free agencies, the window for the Nats to win is slowly closing. Today marks the first step on this particular journey.

Harper and the Squad

So, without further ado…let’s do this thing.

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Saying Goodbye to a Win and a Park

It was a solemn day, Friday, as it marked the final time I would be making the trek to Nationals Park in the 2015 season. As distance abounds between the park and my place of learning, I will have to settle for cheering on the team from the constraints of my dorm room.

Last week produced a whirlwind of events, not all of which were positive in nature. In fact, Steve and I only saw the Nationals win once in our four games, and Friday’s finale proved to be the most gut-wrenching of all as I will relay to you below. For a full background on the tales of the week that did not all pertain to the national pastime, be sure to check out Steve’s recap here.

Steve and I arrived to the park right as the gates opened, allowing ample opportunity for batting practice leading up to the game. I tracked a Jayson Werth bomb that was my best chance as of yet, but I made it across the aisle just too late and the ball skimmed off the edge of my glove. Luckily, I had a chance at redemption only a few moments later when Werth hit another one; this time the ball found itself securely in the back of my glove. As for Steve, he made an acrobatic catch on a home run by none other than Dan Uggla, one of his favorite MLB players. imageThe Colorado Rockies took their turn but did not produce many home runs to where we were standing in the Red Porch, save for one caught by Steve.

We meandered around the stadium as we killed time before first pitch attempting to find some consumables along the way. Upon filling our stomachs with some delightful American food, it was time to go watch some baseball.

The Nats got off to yet another good start, taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann did his part in shutting the door and held the Rockies off the board until the seventh inning. He got an extra run of support in the fourth along with two more insurance runs in the sixth to make it 4-0 entering the final third of the game.image

Colorado trailed 4-1 in the eighth as recently-dominant relief man Drew Storen strode to the mound from the bullpen. For the first time since the Papelbon trade, he allowed a runner to reach scoring position. All of a sudden the bases were juiced. And then…Carlos Gonzalez put the Rockies ahead with one swing of the bat, a laser over the right field fence.

Nationals Park was deflated. What looked to be a certain 4-1 victory had see-sawed into a 5-4 deficit seemingly in the blink of an eye. It was not over yet, and the Nats had two more chances to muster just the one run they needed to tie it back up.

The Nats left a runner stranded at third in the bottom of the eighth, so still behind by one in the ninth, they were looking at 9-1-2 coming to the plate.

One runner reached, and the Nationals had none other than Bryce Harper coming to the dish with two outs, down by a single run. One swing of the bat and the home crowd would be going home exuberant, but it was not to be. Tommy Kahnle earned his first career save and the game was over. With yet another Mets win, the Nats were now 2.5 games behind in the division.Steve and II watched the post-game Freedom Fireworks with a strong sense of nostalgia. The summer was quickly coming to a conclusion and I will soon be heading off to begin another chapter in my life. Hopefully, my beloved Nationals can write themselves a storybook ending to their season.Steve and I departing Nationals ParkSee you next year, Nationals Park.

Third Time is Not a Charm as Nationals Drop Another

One year ago, on August 5th, 2014, the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome enamored a fan base and caused hysteria among the masses attempting to get one in their possession. I made sure I would not be denied, and waited nearly two and a half hours as the first in line for the unique promotion. I was interviewed by The Washington Post, and it was one of my fond memories from last summer.

The same date of this year served as a platform for yet another distinct giveaway utilizing Jayson Werth’s likeness: The Jayson Werth Chia Pet. Given to the first 20,000 fans, the Chia Werth was all over Twitter in the time leading up to the event and the game was sure to be packed with fans trying to get their hands on one. Werth ChiaIn the spring, Steve Miller interviewed me for an article he was writing for Flyer News, the University of Dayton’s student newspaper. The article was about the promotion schedule for Major League Baseball, and he talked about my experience last year with the craze of the Werth Garden Gnome.

He applied for a press credential to cover the follow-up to the gnome: the chia pet. He was granted the press pass, and upon informing me of his success, I applied for one also but did not hear back.

When we emerged from the Navy Yard metro station and looked down Half Street, I noticed the line for the chia was not nearly as long as I remembered it for the gnome before the gates had opened. After walking around and ensuring Steve had made it into the park, I made my way back to the left field gate where I received my chia.

The Red Porch was quite crowded for batting practice but that didn’t stop me from trying to catch a home run. I had not caught one on the fly since August 5th of last year, so I was hoping for a repeat experience a year later. Sure enough, after waiting for a little while, a batter who I believe was Ian Desmond, smacked a ball right near where I was standing and I moved over to make the catch.

Around 5:30 the entire park opened and I went down next to the Diamondbacks dugout since Steve was on the field behind home plate for batting practice with his press pass. He told me he had already talked to some broadcasting members, including Dave Jageler who we interviewed last year before a game. Steve and I talked for a little while longer and when he left to go back to the press box, I meandered back to the Red Porch to try my luck with D-backs BP. Be sure to read all about his experience here.

Wouldn’t ya know, one of the batters hit a home run to essentially the same spot as the one I had caught before and I had my second souvenir of the day. At this point, my parents and another friend were arriving and I had my company to ascend to our seats and watch the game.

Like the night before, leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar got things started with a blast to center. While this one did not go over the fence, it did go over the head of the Diamondbacks center fielder, and Escobar had himself a double to start the game. The Nationals scored three in the first on Tuesday night and two in the first on Wednesday night, but the games would turn out to be polar opposites upon completion.

Gio Gonzalez pitched five strong innings and left in the sixth with a one run lead. To say the bullpen imploded is an understatement, as Aaron Barrett relieved Gio but left in the same inning after having recorded only one out and allowing three earned runs. By the end of the sixth it was 5-2 Diamondbacks and the visiting team was not looking back. They tacked on three more in the eighth and three more again in the ninth to turn a 2-1 battle into a 11-2 laugher. It got so bad in the ninth that position player Tyler Moore was called on to finish the inning.

There was even a point when the section I was in started chanting “Let’s go Marlins!” after the Marlins staged a rally in the bottom of the ninth to make it a close game against the Mets.

Michael Taylor provided a two-run blast in the bottom half of the frame, and then the fat lady sung, concluding a marathon of an affair that lasted nearly four hours. With yet another Mets victory, the Nationals ended the night two games back in the National League East. The Nats took a loss last year on gnome day, so hopefully next year August 5th doesn’t become an annual losing affair.imageAll in all, it wasn’t a completely bad day. The experience before the game was fun, and it was interesting hearing Steve’s stories of the press box. If only the actual game had gone better.

Tomorrow, Friday, will likely be my last trip to Nationals Park before I set off for college in less than two weeks. Stay tuned also for a special announcement coming from this site in the very near future.

Ramos Rights Ship: Nationals Win on Day Two

imageDay 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.image

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.

image

From left: Ben, Jack, Steve, and I

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.image

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.image

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.

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

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.

So Close Yet So Far: Nats Fall Short Against Diamondbacks

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.imageSteve 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.

While the game was sub-par, the day was fun. I’m looking forward to what the next three have to offer.image

From a Pick-Off to a Pick-Up: Clint Robinson’s Impact

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.Clint RobinsonOn 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.

Clint Robinson (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

Clint Robinson (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

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.