Washington’s 7-6 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Saturday marked the first time in Nationals’ history that the team has seven hits that were all of the extra base variety. Bryce Harper had two homers and a double, Adam Laroche and Ian Desmond both hit home runs, and Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa added two baggers to pace the Washington attack. Back on June 29, 2006, Washington’s only hits were the six extra base safeties the Nats’ managed in an 8-4 loss at the Rogers Centre. Marlon Anderson paced the Nats’ attack on that date with two homers and a double. Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Zimmerman and Daryle Ward had doubles in the contest.
TAKE A SEAT
Craig Stammen was the unsung hero in yesterday’s win, keeping the Mets at bay during his two dominant innings of pitching in relief of struggling starter Gio Gonzalez. The five strikeouts Stammen recorded in his two innnings on the hill marked the seventh time a Nats’ reliever has had at least five strikeouts in a two inning outing. The team record is six, set back in September 2006 by Chris Schroeder against Milwaukee and equaled by Tyler Clippard on May 6, 2001 against Florida and Stammen on October 1, 2012 against the Phillies. The three other five strikeout games besides yesterday’s dominant performance by Stammen were in 2006 by Schroeder against the Phils, in 2010 by Collin Balestar against Arizona and in May 2011 by Todd Coffey against Philadelphia.
TWICE AS NICE FOR BRYCE
Bryce Harper’s two home run game marked the fourth time in his career that the phenom has homered twice in a contest. Since the beginning of 2012, only Ryan Braun (with six), Miguel Cabrera (with five) and Mark Reynolds (also with five) have more multi-homer games than Harper. Among the 13 players besides Harper with four multi-homer games are teammate Adam LaRoche and former Nationals’ slugger Adam Dunn.
A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
In his 11 career starts against the New York Mets, Washington’s Sunday starter Jordan Zimmermann has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of them. Zimmermann has recorded 50 strikeouts and allowed only 18 walks in 60 innings against the Mets.
GOPHER BALL GURUS
WIth three round trippers allowed in yesterday’s loss to Washington, New York’s Jeremy Hefner (with seven) has taken over the top spot for most homers allowed to the Nats since the start of the 2012 season. Philly’s Kyle Kendrick is next with six allowed, with former Brave and current Angel Tommy Hansen, Cincinnati’s Mike Leake and Toronto’s Mark Buehrle next with four allowed each.
THREE IN ONE
Adam LaRoche’s three run home run brought the Nats’ back from a 5-3 deficit to the Mets yesterday, and marked the second three run blast the smooth swinging first sacker has had in his Nats’ career. His first came on June 6th of last season against the always accomdating Hefner of the Mets. Since last season, Ryan Zimmerman has the most three run homers for Washington with four. LaRoche, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, Kurt Suzuki and former Nat Michael Morse have two each, with Tyler Moore, Ian Desmond and former Washington catcher Jesus Flores checking in with one apiece.
BLOW OUT THE CANDLES
Happy 36th birthday to former Nats’ right handed reliever Kip Wells, who was born on this cay back in 1977 in Houston, Texas. Wells was 0-2 with two saves for the 2009 Nats. His finest performance in a curly W hat came on May 8th of that season when he retired the Arizona Diamondbacks in order (including strikeouts of Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds) to preserve a 5-4 Washington win.
While Hall of Famer Eddie Murray is mostly remembered for his exploits as a Baltimore Oriole, the Los Angeles native also spent time in Dodger Blue. Coming to the Dodgers on December 22, 1988 in a trade that sent Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell to Baltimore, Murray was the Dodgers’ regular first baseman from 1989 through 1991.
Murray’s best year as a Dodger came in 1990, when he hit a Major League leading .330 with 26 homers, 95 RBI and a .934 OPS. He was the Silver Slugger award winner that season among National League first basemen, and made the National League all-star team as a Dodger in 1991.
Murray’s tenure in Los Angeles included several games that showed his ability as a premier power hitter. On April 10, 1989 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Murray broke a 3-3 ninth inning tie with a laser beam of a grand slam homer off of Mike LaCoss that gave the Dodgers a 7-3 win over their hated rivals. The slam was one of 19 Murray hit in his career, and the only one he hit as a Dodger.
Later that season, Murray had two homers and five RBI in a Dodgers’ 9-0 win at Philadelphia. In 1990 Murray one-upped that performance with two homers and a career high as a Dodger six RBI as visiting Los Angeles routed San Francisco 12-6.
Optimism abounds as the Washington Nationals begin spring training play this afternoon. With a deep and talented roster, the Nationals are considered by many to be the odds on favorite to win it all in 2013.
If history is a guide, however, the 2013 version of the Nats will have a tough time replicating the Major League leading 98 win total they achieved in the magical 2012 season. Since 1983, 42 teams have won at least 98 games in a season. Only five of those teams won more games in the following season. The New York Mets won 98 games in their breakthrough 1985 season before dominating the National League with 108 in 1986 en route to a World Championship. Four years later, the Oakland A’s improved from 99 wins in 1989 to 103 in 1990. The Atlanta Braves did the trick twice; first improving from 98 wins in 1992 to 104 in 1993, and then winning 106 in1998 following a 101 win season in 1997. The last team to improve from a 98 win plus season was the Oakland A’s, who won 103 games in 2002 following a 102 win season in the previous year.
Since 1983, seven 98 plus win teams have seen their win totals decrease by at least 20 games in the subsequent season. The biggest drop during this time period came for the 1984 Chicago White Sox, who won 25 fewer games than they had in their division winning 1983 campaign. Last year’s Philadelphia Phillies became the first team in nine years to experience such a decline, winning 21 fewer games than they had in 2011.
On average, 98 plus win teams have won 9.3 fewer games in the following season. The well-stocked Nationals are hoping to buck that trend this year.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Many Nationals’ fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of centerfielder Denard Span in a Washington uniform. Most commentators belief that Span’s arrival will bring a serious upgrade to the Nats’ defense in centerfield. But at least according to one advanced defensive metric, their defense in the center of the outfield was in excellent hands in 2012.
Last year, rookie Bryce Harper recorded a National League leading plus 22 in Rdrs (defensive runs saved above average). Michael Bourn of Atlanta (plus 21) was the only other National League full-time centerfielder who came close to the talented rookie’s production in this category. The full National League results in this category are shown below (with each team’s leader in games played in centerfield listed):
Harper- Wash plus 22
Bourn- Atl plus 21
Young- Az plus 12
Maybin- SD plus 9
Gomez- Mil plus 4
Torres- NYM plus 4
Jay- Stl plus 2
Stubbs- Cin plus 2
Campana- CHC zero
Victorino- Phl minus 3
McCutchen Pit minus 4
Bonifacio- Mia minus 6
Pagan- SF minus 6
Schafer- Hou minus 10
Fowler- Col minus 12
Kemp- LAD minus 17
The Nats’ new man in center wasn’t lacking in this category, posting a plus 20 Rdrs while playing for the Twins last season.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
Free agent acquisition Rafael Soriano adds to the Nationals’ riches in the bullpen, and looks primed to be one of the National League’s dominant closers this year. While Soriano has spent the bulk of his career in the American League, he has played in the Senior Circuit for three seasons and has been quite successful while doing so. As National Leaguer, Sorinao has posted WHIP (0.977) and K/9 (10.5) numbers that are superior to his overall career numbers (WHIP- 1.046, K/9 9.4). One matchup that will be interesting to watch this year is when Soriano goes up against Atlanta’s slugging second baseman Dan Uggla. Uggla has hit three homers in 13 at bats against Soriano, the most round trippers the hard throwing reliever has allowed against any one player.
He may be remembered more as an opponent than as someone who wore Dodger blue, but Roger Craig was quite productive in his seven years pitching for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
Born on February 17, 1930 in Durham, North Carolina, Craig made his Major League debut at the age of 25 on July 17, 1955. Later that season he would start and win the pivotal game five of the 1955 World Series, helping the Dodgers to their first World Championship in the process.
Craig’s Major League playing career can be divided into two distinct phases, his Dodger phase and his “all other” phase. As a Dodger, Craig was 49-38 with a 3.73 ERA, 28 complete games and seven shutouts. Pitching for the New York Mets, St. Louis and Cincinnati following his departure from Los Angeles, Craig was only 25-60. While pitching for the hapless Mets in their first two years of existence, Craig led the National League in losses.
The lanky righthander’s best season for the Dodgers came in 1959, when he finished 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA and a National League high four shutouts. Craig was a workhorse type of pitcher, a trait that was exhibited on July 9, 1959 when he threw 11 innings of shutout relief to help the Dodgers to a 4-3, 13 innings victory over Warren Spahn and the Milwaukee Brewers. Craig finished the 1959 campaign with a flourish, winning four of his last five starts and allowing only four earned runs in 40 innings pitched.
Following the end of his playing career, Craig stayed in baseball as a manager and coach. He may be best known for his work as a pitching coach where he taught, among others, Jack Morris and Mike Scott the split-finger fastball.
Before the start of the 1999 season, many experts thought that Angel Pena was destined to be the Dodgers’ starting catcher of the future. Ranked 41st (and ahead of eventual Major League stars such as Jayson Werth (52), Mike Lowell (58), Rafael Furcal (60) and Vernon Wells (69)), Pena appeared on the verge of making it big. Unfortunately for both the Dodgers and Pena, things never quite worked out for the portly prospect.
Born on February 16, 1975 in San Pedro de Marcoris in the Dominican Republic, Pena began to make his mark in the Dodgers’ farm system in 1997. Playing for High A San Bernadino, Pena hit .276 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI. When he followed that campaign up with an even more impressive one (.335 average, 22 homers, 105 RBI) in 1998 for Double A San Antonio, Pena appeared to be on his way to Major League stardom.
He made his Major League debut late in the 1998 season, getting three hits in 13 at bats. He registered a base hit in his very first time at the plate in the Majors, drilling a single off of Arizona’s Brian Anderson on September 8th at Arizona in a game the Dodgers would win by a 6-5 score.
Pena’s Minor League success earned him more Major League playing time in 1999, although he didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Pena hit only .208 in 120 at bats and had only one hit in his final 18 at bats as he fell from prospect to suspect in the Dodgers’ eyes. He did have some moments of success at the plate in 1999. On July 11th, he went three for three with four runs scored, a homer and two RBI in a 14-3 Dodgers’ bashing of the Seattle Mariners. And six days later, Pena helped the Dodgers rout crosstown rival Anahiem 13-3 as he drive in four runs, three of them coming on a home run.
The one-time future star made it back to Los Angeles briefly in 2001, but hit only .204 in 54 at bats and never again played at the Major League level. Conditioning issues (he was listed as carrying 235 pounds on his 5’10” frame but appeared to be about 15-20 pounds heavier) and reported attitude problems hastened Pena’s departure as youngter Paul LoDuca took his place as the Dodgers’ catcher of the future.
Clayton Kershaw is a bona fide ace and is the anchor of the first place Dodgers’ pitching staff. Yesterday in Pittsburgh Kershaw threw exceptionally well yet again to pace the Dodgers to a win and he contributed in another, less common way….with his bat. For his great all-around performance in the Dodgers’ third straight win at PNC Park against the Pirates, Kershaw is the Dodger of the Day.
With two hits, a run scored and another driven in, Kershaw did his part to help batter Pirates’ pitching to the tune of nine runs and 15 hits in the 9-3 victory. The multipe-hit game was the sixth in Kershaw’s career, tying him with teammate Chad Billingsely for the most among active Dodgers pitchers. Hall of famer Don Drysdale holds the all-time mark for multi-hit games by pitchers for Los Angeles with 37, followed by Fernando Valenzuela with 32 and Claude Osteen (who is the only Dodger pitcher to have four hits in a game) with 27.
For all of his exploits at the plate yesterday, the place where Kershaw was once again solid gold for the Dodgers was on the mound. For the ninth time in his last 11 games, the Dodger ace gave up three or fewer earned runs. Over the 11 game stretch, he’s struck out 77 batters in 74.2 innings pitched with only three homers allowed. On the year Kershaw’s WAR is 3.5, behind only Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (5.2), Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann (4.5), New York’s R.A. Dickey (3.7) and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (3.7) among National League pitchers.
Few Dodger players in recent years have evoked such strong feelings, both positive and negative, among fans than pitcher Chad Billingsley. Those on one side of the debate look at Billingsley’s strong 2006, 2007 and 2010 seasons and think that the sturdy righty is just the type of pitcher needed to stabliize a Major League rotation. Others look at the disappointment of the his 2011 season and at the first half of 2012 and wonder why Los Angeles is investing so much into a player who barely performs above replacement level.
Recently, however, the Ohio native’s performance on the mound has won him admirers…..and has won his team ballgames. Billingsley spun another gem on Tuesday night, throwing eight innings of scoreless ball to lead the Dodgers to an 11-0 rout of the Pirates at PNC Park. While he had help from others (second baseman Luis Cruz, in particular), Billingsley’s effort makes him Dodger of the Day.
Over his past five starts, Bills has been among the best starters in baseball. He’s allowed only six earned runs in 34.2 innings over those starts, going 5-0 in the process. His 76 pitching game score in last night’s game was his second best of the year, and he’s posted three of his top five pitching game scores on the season during this five game streak.
Last night, Billingsley continued a trend of strong pitching against Pittsburgh as he won his third straight start against the Buccos. Over those starts, Billingsley has allowed only two earned runs in 19 innnings pitched.
While strong arguments could be made to cite Shane Victorino (2-4, 2 runs, 3 RBI, first HR as a Dodger) or Aaron Harang (6 ip, 2 runs allowed, 1-1 at the plate with a run scored and a key sacrifice bunt) as today’s winner, the Dodger of the Day is reliever Kenley Jansen.
The big righthander nailed down the Dodgers’ 5-4 win in Pittsburgh last night with a perfect ninth inning where he recorded three outs in only seven pitches. The one-two-three ninth gave Jansen his 24th save of the year, this one coming against a dangerous Pirate team that had registered six walk-off wins on the year.
Jensen’s task was made difficult by the misadventures of fellow reliever Ronald Belisario in the bottom of the eighth. Belisario’s July troubles have been well-chronicled (eight earned runs allowed in his last seven innings pitched in the month), but it appeared that the righty had turned things around as he had not allowed a run in his first four apperances in August. But Pittsburgh put two on the board against Belisario last night, narrowing what appeared to be a comfortable 5-2 Dodgers’ lead to a narrow one run margin heading into the bottom of the ninth. But there were no worries on this night, thanks to the aggressive and consistent effort put forth by Jensen. With the Giants getting thumped at home by the red-hot Nationals later in the night, the Dodgers’ win gave them a share of the NL West lead.
Today’s choice for “Dodger of the Day” is easier than coming up with reasons to mock the garish sculpture in the left-centerfield area in the otherwise spectacular looking new ballpark in Miami. The obvious choice is lefty Chris Capuano, whose magnificent effort on Sunday helped the Dodgers win the rubber game of a three game set in Miami.
Capuano threw eight innings of shutout ball, fanning 10 and not allowing a hit until Jose Reyes’ single in the seventh. Capuano’s 10 strikeouts marked the second time this year he’s had double-digit punchouts (he fanned 12 White Sox in a Dodgers’ 2-1 win at home against Chicago on June 17th). The win made Capuano 11-8 on the year, marking the fourth time in his career that he’s had at least 11 wins. Capuano’s career high in wins came back in 2005 when he won 18 games for Milwaukee. He totalled 11 wins in both 2006 (for Milwaukee) and 2011 (for the New York Mets).
The win was only Capuano’s seventh in 22 decisions in the month of August in his career. Capuano’s mothly win/loss totals are as follows:
Yesterday’s game marked only the second time in the veteran lefty’s career where he’s thrown at least eight innings of shutout ball while allowing two or fewer hits and striking out at least 10 opponents. Last August 26th while pitching for the Mets, Capuano threw a complete game two hit shutout while fanning 13 in a 6-0 New York win over Atlanta.
Saturday night was all right for the Nationals yet again last night, as Washington rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win 6-5 over the Diamondbacks. The road win gave Washington its eighth straight win and its 14th in 20 Saturday games on the year. The Nats’ 14 wins on Saturdays is the most on any day of the week so far this year. The only day of the week where the Nats have posted a losing record is on Sundays, where Washington is 8-9. The Nats are 6-4 on Mondays, 11-6 on Tuesdays, 13-4 on Wednesdays, 9-6 on Thursdays and 10-8 on Fridays so far in 2012.
Jayson Werth hit leadoff in last night’s game, getting two hits, scoring one run and driving in another. Since coming off of the disabled list in early August, Werth is hitting .412 with a .512 on base percentage.
Reliever Mike Gonzalez held the Diamondbacks scoreless in the inning he worked last night, extending his streak of appearances without allowing an earned run to 11. Among left-handed relievers in Nats’ history, Gonzalez’s streak is the seventh longest. Sean Burnett had 20 appearances in 2010 without an earned run allowed to set the Washington record, followed by Ron VIllone (19 in 2009), Burnett (18 in 2011), Doug Slaten (18 in 2010), Mike Hinckley (15 in 2008) and Burnett (13 in 2009).
Today’s stater Ross Detwiler has been particularly tough on left-handed batters so far this year, holding them to a .147 average with a .233 on base percentage and a paltry .265 slugging percentage. Detwiler has coaxed 1o double play grounders from opponents so far this year, ranking third behind Jordan Zimmermann (15) and Stephen Strasburgh (14) for most double plays made behind him. Detwiler’s 1.16 ground ball to fly ball ratio is second among Nationals’ starters to Stephen Strasburg’s 1.17.