All posts in baseball

08Jul

nats owe it to fans to keep dunn

(photo by Alex Brandon)

If you think it’s a coincidence that Adam Dunn just had the best game of his 10-year career after a weekend of trade rumors had him being shipped off to the Chicago White Sox, then you’re clueless.

Dunn’s offensive explosion – a three-homer night which paved the way for the Washington Nationals’ 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres Wednesday night – was clearly a sign from the slugger that he’s very comfortable in D.C. and isn’t in a rush to play elsewhere.

“That’s what he can do,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, power guys in the game for the last five, six years. It’s good to have him on your team.”

Of course, none of this guarantees that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will do what’s necessary to keep Dunn in town, but he should.

The only other player to have a three-homer game for the Nationals since they moved to Washington is Alfonso Soriano, who accomplished the feat against Atlanta back in 2006. Soriano, as you might remember, was a big-time slugger who management let get away. Sound familiar?

It’d be a shame for history to repeat itself, especially for a franchise as offensively challenged as the Nationals. Even his teammates realize the situation, and thankfully, are doing their part to speak on behalf of Dunn.

“One of the hardest things to find on a team is a 3-4-5,” said Zimmerman in reference to the team’s batting order of him, Dunn and outfielder Josh Willingham. “Obviously, he’s one of the best four hitters in the game, has been for the last five or six years. He’s a very, very important player to this team in what we do offensively, not only in the field but in the clubhouse, as far as helping out the young guys.

“We understand people have to do their job,” Zimmerman continued. “Personally, I think if we get rid of a couple of those guys, we’re going to maybe take a step backward instead of forward. I don’t think we’re that far away. It’s really, really hard to find a 3-4-5. Look at what we’ve done for the past two years. We enjoy playing together, and we kind of push each other. It’s a good group we have. It would be bad if we broke it up, I think.”

After the game, Dunn wasn’t up for speculating about his future. Instead, he said he was just happy to turn things around after going homerless in his previous 12 games.

“It’s pretty cool to hit three homers, but the last one, since we won, was obviously the biggest,” said Dunn. “I don’t feel any different than I have in the past. I got pitches to hit tonight and didn’t foul them off like I’ve been doing.”

Dunn is now batting .280 with 20 homers (tied for second in the National League) and 54 runs batted in (tied for 12th in NL) this season. Simply put, he’s been everything the team could hope for offensively.

This is the point of the conversation when I point out that Nats owner Ted Lerner is worth more than $3 billion dollars. Yes, I said billion.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at his team’s payroll though, as the Nationals rank 22nd this season – behind notoriously cheap franchises like Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

Read more →

30Jun

caption this 11

(photo by Kevin C. Cox)

Ladies and gentlemen, back by popular demand, it’s time for another round of “caption this.”

The game is fairly simple, as you hopefully know by now. We supply the photo and you bring the witty reader-submitted captions. You might not win any cool prizes, but you’ll be formally recognized for being better than your peers and will get some love here on the blog.

Here’s our humble offering for this photo to help get folks started:

“Rookie Stephen Strasburg has become so desperate for run support in the Washington Nationals’ lineup that’s he now holds auditions on his off days.”

Think you can do better? Leave a comment below with your best caption.

[Editor’s note: The winner is Milhouse44 with a caption of, “You kids get off my lawn or I have 95 mph change up for you AND your old man.”]

15Jun

a decade of mediocrity

(photo by Jared Wickerham)

Losing seasons have been the norm for D.C. sports fans, as the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards and Nationals have won just 1,165 out of a possible 2,673 games in recent history.

Thankfully, the influx of young talent with franchise players such as Alex Ovechkin, Stephen Strasburg and John Wall means that brighter days are ahead for our nation’s capital. Or at least that’s the story we’re telling with our weekly column over at SB Nation DC.

Click here to read the full feature. Or don’t. It’s your call.

14Jun

the second coming of strasburg

(photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Since 2005, the Washington Nationals have been largely ignored, both locally and nationally.

Sure, it felt nice to have baseball back in our lives here in the nation’s capital, but fans largely stayed away, mostly because the team wasn’t very good.

When the “Natinals” did make headlines, they were rarely positive. Games were lost in bulk and missteps by management were far more common than any one fanbase should have to suffer though (just Google the words “Jim Bowden” and “Dominican scandal”).

But in the immortal words of OK Go, “All is not lost.”

The simple addition of pitcher Stephen Strasburg to a mediocre franchise like the Nats instantly makes it all better. Who cares if he only takes the mound once every five days?

Fair or unfair, if baseball is going to succeed in D.C., it’s going to be because of Strasburg. How’s that for putting the weight of the world on this 21-year-old’s shoulders?

After delivering one of the most dominating debuts in major league history, all anyone wanted to know is what would Strasburg do for an encore? Could he top his 14 strikeout, zero walk performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates? Or would he take a step back and look a little more human the second time around?

Whatever the outcome, one thing was for certain – all eyes were on Strasburg and the Nationals as they closed out their weekend series against the Cleveland Indians.

And for anyone thinking Strasburg’s surreal performance against Pittsburgh was a fluke, we’ve got bad news for you – the kid picked up right where he left off.

Strasburg struck out the first two Cleveland batters he faced. Coupled with the seven-straight Pirates he fanned to end his debut, Strasburg extended his strikeout streak to nine consecutive batters.

If that sounds impressive, it’s because it is. The major league record is 10, held by Tom Seaver and Eric Gagne.

From there, Strasburg cruised to an easy 9-4 victory over the Tribe. The rookie continued his winning ways, allowing just one run on two hits and striking out eight in five-and-a-third innings.

And for anyone who wondered if the radar gun was juiced at Nationals Park for Strasburg’s opener, his fastball continued to toy with batters on the road. Ten of Strasburg’s 95 pitches reached 100 miles per hour. Thirteen more clocked in at 99 miles per hour.

In two starts, the San Diego native has two wins and 22 strikeouts. He’s given up three runs on six hits in 12-and-a-third innings.

And here’s the kicker – in just two outings, Strasburg is already tied for eighth on the Nationals in strikeouts. In less than 13 innings of work, he’s already surpassed 11 other Washington pitchers and is currently tied with starter John Lannan (who has thrown 66 2/3 innings).

Yeah, he’s that good.

Read more →

09Jun

this strasburg kid is pretty good

(photo by Greg Fiume)

The statistics might say otherwise, but make no mistake about it – last night was the first perfect game in Washington Nationals history.

If possible, phenom Stephen Strasburg was even better than advertised as the Nats cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 40,315 at Nationals Park.

The anticipation of Strasburg’s debut was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in baseball. The hype, the national spotlight, the media circus. We’d seen it before with names like LeBron James or Alex Ovechkin, but never before in baseball.

A team that has been completely irrelevant since returning to D.C. in 2005 was suddenly thrust into the center of the baseball universe, thanks to Strasburg.

Who knows for sure what realistic expectations could be set for the 21-year-old’s first outing? Whatever they were, the player once referred to as the “greatest pitching prospect ever” might have actually surpassed them.

Against the Pirates, Strasburg was unreal. He established a Nationals single-season record with 14 strikeouts while allowing two runs on four hits with no walks in seven innings of work.

Strasburg’s 14 strikeouts are one shy of the all-time mark of 15 for most strikeouts in a major league debut and he matched a Nats record with seven consecutive strikeouts (whiffing the last seven batters he faced). No pitcher in baseball history has ever struck out so many batters without giving up a walk in his debut. No pitcher, except Strasburg.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing close. Not at that age, that polished,” said Curt Schilling. And those comments from the former Boston pitcher came a month ago. Imagine what he’d say now.

By the time Strasburg’s night was over, we decided if the kid was playing a video game, it was already time to move up to a tougher difficulty level. This is why Nationals team president Stan Kasten joked over the weekend that Strasburg’s $15-million contract might end up being a bargain.

“He’s the only guy in baseball who lives up to all the stories you hear,” said fellow rookie pitcher Drew Storen.

We’re not here to bad-mouth the Pirates, but Strasburg simply toyed with them. Out of the 94 pitches he threw, only one was a bad pitch – a fourth-inning offering that Pirates outfielder Delwyn Young drove over the scoreboard for a two-run homer.

Of course, none of the 10 batters he faced after giving up Young’s homer actually reached base, so it’s safe to say Strasburg shook off the mistake pretty quickly.

His 94th and final pitch of the night – a fastball to Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche – registered 99 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. The MASN broadcast actually listed one of Strasburg’s heaters at 103 miles-per-hour. Everything about this rookie is simply unfathomable.

If you didn’t understand why the baseball world revolved around Strasburg before he even threw his first big-league pitch, you do now.

Read more →

07Jun

reds, umps defeat snake-bitten nats

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Since their arrival in 2005, the Montreal Expos have been lovable losers. Nothing more.

You could compare them to kid picked last in gym class or the child most likely to be bullied into giving away lunch money, but any way you spin it, it’s been a rough road for the Washington Nationals.

Thankfully, for every prepubescent boy, there mercifully comes a time in life when that scrawny, bird-chested boy begins to transform into man.

You know the signs. Hair in new places, a desire to spend more time taking long, hot showers or whatever. Once you begin to see those signs, it’s only a matter of time before everything changes.

As D.C. sports fans undoubtedly know by now, this is Washington Nationals week. A team that has avoiding relevancy like it was a sexually-transmitted disease is finally earning national attention for something other than back-to-back 100-loss seasons.

That’s what happens when you add two of the most anticipated rookies in recent baseball history to your roster – starting pitcher/savior Stephen Strasburg and slugger/chosen one Bryce Harper.

People suddenly care. Folks find a few extra dollars in their wallets for memorabilia. Family outings involve a night at the park. Simply put – everything is better when you’re winning. And if you can’t win games, at least have some players people care about.

You add bona fide stars like Strasburg and Harper to your team and you’re suddenly newsworthy for something other than opposing team’s fans taking over your ballpark on opening day. Yeah, they make that much of an impact.

With all of the excitement and anticipation building, we opted to spend this past weekend at Nationals Park. If for no other reason than to enjoy one final moment with the bad-news baseball team we’ve gotten to know and love over the last few years. We considered it one last chance to go see the scrawny kid – no, check that – our scrawny kid get roughed up at recess.

And boy, did we love every minute of it.

Led by savvy veteran Livan Hernandez, the Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds Friday night, 4-2. While the Nats were more than happy to get the win and snap a three-game losing streak, the game wasn’t without controversy.

Washington shortstop Ian Desmond broke a seventh-inning tie with a single that drove in outfielder Josh Willingham. On the next at-bat, Nats catcher Wil Nieves advanced outfielder Roger Bernadina and Desmond to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.

Pinch-hitter Willie Harris drove in Bernadina with a sacrifice fly and Desmond took off for third base. While Desmond beat the throw, his foot momentarily came off the bag at the end of his slide. The question was – did Desmond’s momentum carry him off the bag or did the third baseman have something to do with it?

Third base umpire Paul Schrieber ruled Desmond safe. Reds skipper Dusty Baker came out to argue the call and crew chief Joe West overturned the call, even though he was working first base.

“To be honest with you, once that call was made, my eyes drifted away from Desmond,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman of Schrieber’s initial safe ruling. “So I didn’t really know what had happened. I just knew that there was a conference over there and I think Dusty came out and said, ‘Can you get help?’ It’s something that happens on a homerun call, fair or foul and that stuff because another umpire might have another view. I’ve never seen it happen on the bases.”

With that in mind, we asked Riggleman for his side of the conversation when he went out to chat with the umpire after Desmond was ruled out and then ejected for arguing.

Read more →

02Jun

oswalt welcomes trade to nats

(photo by Jake Nielson)

Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference in the world.

It seems like just the other day that Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt was being ejected from a game against the Washington Nationals.

Just two and a third innings into his work day, Oswalt lost his temper after missing on a pitch to Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham and yelled something. Home plate umpire Bill Hohn took umbrage and barked back at the pitcher.

Oswalt responded with a terse: “I ain’t talking to you,” and that was enough to earn him an early exit.

With the 32-year-old ace out of the equation, the proverbial floodgates opened as the Nats went on to pummel Houston 14-4 in a rare showing of Washington’s offensive prowess.

Earlier this season Oswalt had already gone public with his request to be traded from the 18-34 Astros, who are currently dead-last in the National League. And now, being ejected less than three innings into a game because he was so frustrated with himself that Oswalt felt compelled to verbally abuse Oswalt? That’s clearly a cry for help, if ever there was one.

What does this all have to do with the D.C. sports scene, you ask? Simple. Oswalt has let it be known that he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Washington if the Nats and Astros were to work out a deal.

It should be pointed out that Oswalt is asking for a trade because he’s tired of losing and wants to play for a contender. And he’s willing to play for the Nationals. Which means, Oswalt actually thinks the Nats are contenders.

“They’ve been playing well,” said Oswalt to the Washington Post. “They’ve got a good offensive club. I saw where they have [rookie pitcher Stephen] Strasburg coming up. He should make an immediate impact, especially, because no one’s seen him in the league, early. There’s always a little adjustment period there.”

Oswalt aside, this might qualify as the biggest shocker of 2010 – outsiders are actually starting to view the Washington Nationals as a legitimate baseball team.

Yes, the team that has averaged 96 losses a year over the last four seasons is honestly on the verge of respectability. Talk about a stunning development.

Read more →

HomerMcFanboy background image