All posts in baseball

31Aug

As losses mount during dismal season, Nats focus on future

Three years ago, the Washington Capitals celebrated winning the Stanley Cup in grand style, complete with parades, fountains and countless other locations and actions not suitable for print.

Two years ago, the Washington Nationals celebrated winning the World Series in a slightly more subdued style, much to the chagrin of local party planners and bottle shops.
Since those franchise altering victories though, both franchises have struggled to find similar success. The Caps have qualified for the postseason each of the last three seasons, only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Nats finished fourth in their division last year and have once again toiled in mediocrity again this season.

But while the local professional hockey team decided to double down on its aging core of veterans in hopes of winning one more championship before Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom head off into the sunset, the Nationals opted to handle things differently.

Just two years after winning the franchise’s first-ever World Series, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made the difficult decision to blow it all up — trading away core players and franchise pillars in a series of moves that — for better or for worse — will have long-lasting ramifications.

Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Daniel Hudson, Kyle Schwarber, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Brad Hand and Jon Lester were all shown the door. 

In their place, a dozen prospects, to include 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray, 23-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz and 25-year-old outfielder Lane Thomas, were acquired in hopes of expediting the rebuilding of D.C. baseball team.

The current season was lost long before Rizzo pulled the trigger on these deals. At least now, the remaining games on the schedule carry more meaning as management evaluates which of these young players might eventually guide the Nationals back to glory.

17Jul

The day the season died

Historically speaking, All Star weekend serves as a fitting moment for baseball clubs to pause, assess the situation and choose the best course of action for the remainder of the season. While Juan Soto turned heads during a strong showing in the home run derby and Max Scherzer once again took the mound as the National League’s starting pitcher, this season has not been particularly kind to the Washington Nationals.

Injuries and inconsistencies up and down the roster have resulted in a disjointed and disappointing campaign thus far, putting general manager Mike Rizzo in the unenviable position of having to prepare for multiple scenarios during the second half of the season as his ball club sits in fourth place with a 42-47 record. 

If the Nationals were to wake up and realize that they’ve wasted the first 89 games of the season, then Rizzo could strategically add a player or two before the MLB trade deadline in hopes of a late-season division title run. Or, in the event that the final sprint to the finish line is more of the same, the conversation could turn much darker with the Nats becoming sellers as they give up today in hopes of a better tomorrow.

Exactly one game into the second half of the season, a 24-8 thumping at the hands of the San Diego Padres, the Nationals made let Rizzo off the hook. There are no more difficult decisions to make. Soto aside, this team doesn’t have the offense, defense or pitching to compete in a watered down NL East.

After allowing San Diego (which doesn’t even have a football team anymore) to score three touchdowns and a field goal, Washington has officially concluded the competitive portion of the 2021 season. Sure, an optimist might say, “It’s only one game.” But that optimist would be wrong. It’s been 90 games. And none of them have shown anything other than the fact that these Nationals, as currently constructed, simply aren’t good enough.

So enjoy these players while you can. Chances are, a few of them won’t be around much longer.

15Jun

Fighting till the battle’s won, the Nationals go rolling along

As the U.S. Army celebrated its 246th birthday, the Washington Nationals found themselves in a battle with the rest of the NFC East. Injuries and inconsistencies have marred the team’s 2021 campaign, leaving them seven games behind the division-leading New York Mets.

Late-inning heroics by newly-promoted leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber, who launched his team-leading 13th home run into the right field stands in the bottom of the seventh, paved the way to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates in the series opener.

While starter Jon Lester has yet to earn his first win as a member of the Nationals, the 37-year-old soldiered through a respectable outing — allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings pitched — as Washington won for the third time in four games.

Reliever Kyle Finnegan picked up the win and closer Brad Hand earned his 12th save of the season, thanks in large part to Schwarber’s fourth homer in three games.

23May

Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Harrison pace Nats bats to continue O’s woes

First baseman/face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman has long been one of the most beloved players in Washington Nationals’ history. His three-run homer in the fourth inning helped Washington battle back from an early five-run deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles 12-9. 

As if that wasn’t enough, after scoring the 948th run of his storied career two innings later, Zimmerman surpassed Hall of Famer Tim Raines for the franchise lead. All of which was a welcome distraction from the fact that starting pitcher Jon Lester was rocked early and often – giving up a grand slam in the first inning before most fans had even taken their seats. 

The Nats offense, which has been inconsistent at times this season, responded with 15 hits and 12 runs, thanks largely to Zimmerman and Josh Harrison’s first grand slam. Daniel Hudson picked up the win and Brad Hand earned the save as Washington improved to 19-23 on the year. 

17Apr

Schwarber’s walk-off winner propels Nats over Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals starter and first-ballot Hall of Famer Max Scherzer did everything within his power to secure a victory over his former club, the Arizona Diamondbacks — striking out 10 while allowing no runs, two hits and two walks over seven innings.

In fact, his outing was so impressive that the 36-year-old actually surpassed the legendary Cy Young for the 22nd-most strikeouts (2,807) of all-time. And yet, Scherzer’s heroic effort was nearly wasted because of Washington’s inability to produce anything resembling a coherent offense.

While Scherzer is easily one of the most intense and competitive athletes in professional sports, he’s probably willing to live with a no-decision on this day. That’s because left fielder Kyle Schwarber picked a fine time for his first home run as a member of the Nationals, launching a towering solo shot to the ballpark’s second deck in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the game 1-0 in the most dramatic of fashion.

23Aug

Marlins earn first ‘home’ win of the season at Nats Park

When Sixto Sanchez dreamed of winning his first home game, it’s safe to say this wasn’t how he envisioned it playing out. The highly-touted youngster won his major league debut in an empty ballpark nowhere near Miami to split a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, 5-3.

Thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in 17 Marlins players being sidelined, an early-season matchup between these two teams was called off. A month later, Major League Baseball rescheduled the game as a doubleheader in Washington, with the Marlins labeled the home team during the nightcap.

Home runs by catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Victor Robles were not enough to keep Washington from falling to 10-14 on the season.

23Aug

Mad Max muzzles Miami Marlins

Pitcher Max Scherzer wasn’t at his best — allowing four fifth-inning runs — but the three-time Cy Young Award winner was good enough to earn his second victory of the season.

Once Scherzer’s day was done, Kyle Finnegan, Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson retired seven straight batters to halt Miami’s potential rally and secure a 5-4 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.

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