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Orioles Win Two Of Three Over The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Apr 16, 2015 -- 3:06pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 6-5 loss on Monday night (April 13)

Game 2: 4-3 win on Tuesday night (April 14)

Game 3: 7-5 win on Wednesday night (April 15)


What I liked:


1. The offense - The O’s totaled 16 runs and batted .327 (33-for-101) in the series, going 9-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

2. Catcher Caleb Joseph – Joseph started all three games, going 7-for-11.  He had a triple and an RBI single in Game 2.

3. Center fielder Adam Jones – Jones went 5-for-11 with a walk in the series, providing a two-run homer in Game 1 and a solo homer and RBI sac fly in Game 2.  He did get caught stealing in Game 1.

4. Third baseman Manny Machado – Machado went 4-for-12 with a walk.

5. Wei-Yin Chen’s Game 1 start – Chen allowed two runs in six innings, giving up four hits (including two solo homers), a walk and a hit-by-pitch.  

6. Miguel Gonzalez’s Game 2 start – Gonzalez was terrific, allowing one run in seven innings on four hits, a walk and a wild pitch versus 10 strikeouts.

7. Closer Zach Britton – Britton tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings for two saves, including a four-out save in Game 2.  I love that Buck Showalter isn’t a slave to the save as so many other managers are and wasn’t afraid to his closer for more than one inning.

8. Outfielder David Lough being back – The O’s on Monday reinstated Lough from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on since April 5 (retroactive to March 27) with a left hamstring strain.  Lough played in Game 1 as a pinch runner, played in Game 2 as a defensive replacement and then went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the starting left fielder in Game 3.


What I didn’t like:

1. Relievers Tommy Hunter and Kevin Gausman
– They combined to allow eight runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 innings on seven hits, a walk and a wild pitch in the series.

2. The lack of a lefty option in Game 1 - Hunter gave up a pinch grand slam to the left-handed-hitting Stephen Drew in the top of the seventh.  It was interesting to see Buck stick with the righty Hunter, who had already given up two singles and a walk, as opposed to going with lefty Brian Matusz.  Buck after the game: “I'm trying to stay away from Brian.  We've had a couple short starts, and we only had three pitchers we were going to use in the bullpen, so it's tough.”

You wonder if things would have turned out differently had the Orioles’ other non-closing lefty reliever, Wesley Wright, been available.  He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 11 with a left trapezius strain.  But Buck revealed after Game 1 that an MRI exam revealed left shoulder inflammation for Wright, who now is expected to miss four to six weeks.  

3. Bud Norris’ Game 3 start – Norris threw 98 pitches in lasting just five innings and giving up three runs on five hits and two walks.  He did record seven strikeouts.


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Nationals Lose Two Of Three At Boston
by Al Galdi
Apr 15, 2015 -- 7:00pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 9-4 loss on Monday (April 13)

Game 2: 8-7 loss on Tuesday night (April 14)

Game 3: 10-5 win on Wednesday afternoon (April 15)


What I liked:

1. The offense coming alive in Games 2 and 3
– The Nats had an MLB-worst .185 team batting average exiting Game 1, in which they totaled four hits.  Manager Matt Williams then made some lineup changes starting with Game 2, including moving third baseman Yunel Escobar from the no. 2 hole to the leadoff spot and dropping center fielder Michael Taylor from the leadoff spot to the no. 9 spot.  Who knows how much those changes had to do with what happened next, but the Nats scored 17 runs, batted .297 (22-for-74), went 9-for-22 with runners in scoring position and worked nine walks over Games 2 and 3.

2. Jayson Werth being back – The Nats on Monday activated Werth from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on since April 5 off undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right AC joint in January.  Werth went just 1-for-11 with a walk in the series but don’t discount the significance of him being back.  He was fourth in the National League with a 149 wRC+ over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, meaning that he created 49 percent more runs than a league-average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances.

3. Rafael Martin’s MLB debut in Game 3 - Martin, a career minor-leaguer currently in his age-31 season, recorded five strikeouts in two scoreless innings.  The Nats on Tuesday had selected his contract from Triple-A Syracuse and designated lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno for assignment.  Cedeno had allowed two runs in three innings over five games with the Nats this season.  


What I didn’t like:

1. The defense in all three games
- Game 1 was one of the worst defensive games in the history of the franchise.  No, that is not hyperbole.  The Nats were officially charged with just one error, but they made six defensive screw-ups by my count.    
     •    The Red Sox's one-run first included (1) the returning Werth starting in on a ball that flew over his head for an RBI single by David Ortiz and (2) second baseman Danny Espinosa fumbling with a ground ball by Hanley Ramirez on a play that resulted in a force out at second as opposed to an inning-ending double play.    

     •    (3) The Red Sox's three-run second included shortstop Ian Desmond committing a throwing error that pulled Ryan Zimmerman off first base off a ground ball by Xander Bogaerts.    

     •    The Red Sox's four-run third included three defensive miscues, including two misplays by the Nats' outfield.  (4) A high fly ball by Mike Napoli fell harmlessly near Werth and Taylor for single that loaded the bases.  (5) A fly ball by ex-Nat Sandy Leon fell harmlessly between Taylor and right fielder Bryce Harper for an RBI single.  Additionally, (6) Desmond and Escobar failed to handle a grounder by Mookie Betts for an RBI infield single.    

     •    The irony is that reliever Tanner Roark in the bottom of the fourth had one of the great defensive plays you’ll ever see by a pitcher, making a sliding catch of a pop up in foul territory behind the first-base line by Ramirez.
    
The Nats committed three errors in the Red Sox’s three-run seventh in Game 2.  Desmond was unable to come up with a grounder while going to his left to begin the inning, committing his sixth error in eight games and putting Ramirez on first.  Reliever Blake Treinen later committed two errors on one play: first bobbling a ball off the bat of Ryan Hanigan, then making a wild and pointless throw past catcher Wilson Ramos.  Two runs scored on that play.  The next play saw Desmond inexplicably not throw home when he had plenty of time to, instead throwing to first on an RBI groundout by Brock Holt.

Finally came two defensive mistakes in the Red Sox’s two-run second in Game 3.  Taylor misplayed what was officially a triple by Napoli, and then Escobar committed a throwing error.

2. The starting pitching in all three games - The defense behind Jordan Zimmermann was awful in Game 1, but it’s not like he pitched extremely well: eight runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings on nine hits, a walk and two hit-by-pitches.  The two hit-by-pitches came on consecutive plate appearances to begin the Red Sox’s four-run bottom of the third.

Then came Game 2.  With the Nats just 2-5, their offense and defense reeling and their bullpen taxed, this outing begged for Stephen Strasburg to be a “stopper.”  I know that he’s not technically the Nats’ no.1 pitcher, but if he is going to be the dominant starter that we know that he can be, this is the type of game that Strasburg dominates.  But he did not: five runs in 5 1/3 innings on a career-high 10 hits allowed.  Strasburg exited the game with a 4.25 ERA on the road since the start of the 2013 season. 

Gio Gonzalez in Game 3 was the best of the bunch but not by much.  He allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings on six hits and two walks, throwing 104 pitches.  Gio did record six strikeouts.     

3. Craig Stammen now being out – The Nats on Wednesday placed Stammen on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm stiffness and recalled reliever Taylor Jordan from Triple-A Syracuse.  Forearm stiffness can be a precursor to needing Tommy John surgery.  We shall see.  Stammen has pitched more relief innings (242 2/3) than anyone in MLB since the start of the 2012 season. 


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Orioles Lose Two Of Three To Toronto
by Al Galdi
Apr 13, 2015 -- 3:47pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 12-5 loss on Friday (April 10)

Game 2: 7-1 win on Saturday night (April 11)

Game 3: 10-7 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 12)


What I liked:

Ubaldo Jimenez’s start in Game 2
– I’ve been hard on Jimenez for what was a terrible 2014 off signing the richest free-agent contract for a pitcher in franchise history (four-year, reported $50 million deal in February 2014).  But he pitched well in spring training after a rocky start and was terrific in this game, recording eight strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.  Most significant: Jimenez allowed just one walk off finishing second in the American League with 77 walks allowed last season.  We need to see a lot more of this from him, but thumbs up on a great first start.

The offense – The O’s totaled 19 runs and batted .291 (30-for-103) in the series, including going 8-for-25 with runners in scoring position.  

Center fielder Adam Jones – Jones went 7-for-10 with a walk, five RBI and five runs in the series, providing a solo homer and RBI single in Game 1 and a two-run homer and RBI single in Game 3.

Chris Davis – Davis started Games 1and 2 at first base and served as the DH for Game 3.  He went 5-for-13 in the series, belting a solo homer in Game 2.

Travis Snider – Snider started Games 1 and 3 in right field and was the DH for Game 2.  He went 3-for-9 with two walks, hitting a three-run homer in Game 3 after misplaying a ball for an error in the Blue Jays’ four-run top of the third.  Snider exited this series 7-for-18 with five walks over six games so far this season.

Alejandro De Aza - De Aza did not play in Game 1 but then started in left field and served the leadoff batter in Games 2 and 3.  He went 3-for-10, including a solo homer in the bottom of the first of Game 2.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop – Schoop went 3-for-8 over Games 1 and 2, blasting a solo homer in Game 1 and a grand slam in Game 2.  He did not play in Game 3 due to a sore left quadriceps.  


What I didn’t like:

Bud Norris’ start in Game 1
– Norris allowed eight runs in three innings, giving up seven hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.  He also committed a throwing error during the Blue Jays' four-run first.

Chris Tillman’s start in Game 3 – Tillman allowed seven runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings, giving up six hits (including two homers) and three walks.

The bullpen – Orioles relievers combined to allow eight runs in 14 1/3 innings in the series, giving up 14 hits and five walks.  

Wesley Wright now being out – The O’s on Saturday (April 11) placed Wright on the 15-day disabled list with a left trapezius strain.  This leaves Brian Matusz as the only non-closing lefty in the bullpen.


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Nationals Lose Two Of Three At Philadelphia
by Al Galdi
Apr 13, 2015 -- 1:36pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 4-1 loss on Friday night (April 10)

Game 2: 3-2 10-inning loss on Saturday night (April 11)

Game 3: 4-3 10-inning win on Sunday afternoon (April 12)


What I liked:

1. Doug Fister’s start in Game 2
– Fister tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

2. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 3 – Scherzer allowed one run in six innings, recording eight strikeouts.

3. Gio Gonzalez’s Game 1 start until the bottom of the seventh – Gonzalez was rolling, having tossed six scoreless innings.  Then came that seventh inning, in which Gonzalez recorded an out before issuing consecutive walks and a hit-by-pitch and getting pulled.  All three runners put on by Gonzalez scored after his departure in what proved a four-run seventh.

4. Yunel Escobar – Given Escobar’s offensive track record (OPS+ of less than 100 (i.e., below league average) in four of the last five seasons), I disagreed with manager Matt Williams continuing to bat Escobar second in all three games in this series.  That said, he produced: 5-for-13 with a walk.  Escobar, the Nats’ starting third baseman in all six games due to Anthony Rendon being on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left MCL, exited this series leading the Nats in hits (seven) and tied for the team lead in walks (three) without having struck out this season.

5. Clint Robinson – Robinson had a pinch RBI single in the top of the eighth of Game 2 and then had a double, two singles and a run as the starting left fielder in Game 3.  Robinson is in his age-30 season but entered this year with just 14 career MLB plate appearances, having totaled 921 minor-league games.  The Nats signed him as a free agent this past December.    


What I didn’t like:

1. More bad offense
– Seven runs in three games and a .210 batting average for the series (including going just 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position) aren’t good enough.  Yes, Rendon, left fielder Jayson Werth and center fielder Denard Span are on the 15-day D.L.  But those absences don’t excuse the Nats exiting this series last in MLB in team batting average (.194) and tied for last in MLB in runs (13).    

Shortstop Ian Desmond went for 1-for-12 in the series.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-12 with two walks in the series, though he made a terrific diving backhanded stop for the final out of Game 3.

2. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow six runs in 8 2/3 innings in the series, giving up 12 hits and three walks versus nine strikeouts.  

Xavier Cedeno faced two batters and did not record an out in the bottom of the seventh of Game 1, giving up a two-run single and then a hit-by-pitch.  He then allowed a game-tying pinch solo homer to Darin Ruf in the bottom of the seventh of Game 3.

Closer Drew Storen gave up back-to-back walks and a run-scoring infield single in the bottom of the 10th of Game 3.

3. Danny Espinosa already being back to switch hitting – One of the more intriguing spring-training storylines for the Nats was Espinosa, who has been woeful in his career as a left-handed batter, abandoning switch hitting.  Then what did we see in Game 2, in which he faced right-handed pitching for the first time this season?  Espinosa batting from the left side.  And while he wacked a double to lead off the top of the eighth, he also struck out to end the top of the ninth.  Espinosa said that this is a comfort thing, and I get that.  But how about giving batting from the right side exclusively an actual try given that over the previous three seasons you have a .607 OPS as a left-handed batter versus a .775 OPS as a right-handed batter?


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Nationals Lose Two Of Three To The Mets
by Al Galdi
Apr 09, 2015 -- 7:24pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 3-1 loss on Monday (April 6)

Game 2: 2-1 win on Wednesday night (April 8)

Game 3: 6-3 loss on Thursday afternoon (April 9)


What I liked:

1. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 1
– While it was disappointing to see Scherzer give up a run-scoring hit after each of shortstop Ian Desmond’s two errors, the facts are that Scherzer allowed no earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, recording eight strikeouts versus four hits and two walks.  He took a no-hitter into the sixth.  The loss wasn’t his fault.  

2. Jordan Zimmermann’s start in Game 2 – Zimmermann allowed one run in six innings, giving up five hits and no walks.

3. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to toss eight scoreless innings in the series.

4. Right fielder Bryce Harper – Harper went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He had two of the Nats’ three hits in Game 1, including a solo homer to lead off the top of the fourth.

5. Rookie center fielder Michael Taylor – Taylor batted leadoff in all three games and went 4-for-13 in the series, belting two doubles.  He didn't draw any walks, but no complaints about 4-for-13.


What I didn’t like:

1. Overall offensive production
– The Nats batted .177 (17-for-96), including going 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position, with 30 strikeouts versus seven walks.  This series reeked of slow offensive starts of seasons past and, of course, of the 2014 NLDS loss to San Francisco.

2. Third baseman Yunel Escobar batting second in all three games – Escobar has registered an OPS+ of less than 100 (i.e., below league-average) in four of the last five seasons.  The idea with lineup construction should be to have your best batters (as determined by on-base percentage and slugging percentage) high up.  Don’t get caught up in traditional roles (the leadoff hitter has to be a "speedster;" the no. 2 batter should be a "slap hitter," etc.); get your best batters the most plate appearances possible.  Why is manager Matt Williams putting Escobar so high?  His career screams him batting in the bottom third of a lineup.

Escobar went 2-for-10 with two walks in the series and got caught stealing in Game 3.

3. Desmond’s defense in Games 1 and 3 – Desmond’s two errors in Game 1 immediately preceded run-scoring hits by the Mets.  His failure to make the catch of a shallow-right-field pop-up that second baseman Dan Uggla already had called for in the top of the sixth was followed by first baseman Lucas Duda’s two-run single.  Desmond’s throwing error in the top of the seventh was followed by catcher Travis d’Arnaud’s RBI triple.  

Then in Game 3, Desmond booted a groundball, negating a potential inning-ending double play in what proved a four-run top of the third.  

Errors can be a very inaccurate way of measuring defense, but they aren't meaningless.  And Desmond's history of high-error totals in April is impossible to ignore: eight in April 2014, seven in April 2013 and seven in April 2011.  He’s not off to a good start this April.  

4. Stephen Strasburg’s Game 3 start – Strasburg allowed six runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings on nine hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch.  Compare and contrast that line with that of the Mets’ Matt Harvey, who was making his first regular-season start since Aug. 2013 due to Tommy John surgery: nine strikeouts in six scoreless innings   

It should be pointed out, though, that Strasburg did not unravel after Desmond’s error in the four-run top of the third from a standpoint of the giving up hard contact; the three run-scoring singles that Strasburg allowed after the error were not the results of hard contact.  That said, he's much better than what we saw in this game.     

5. So many key players being out to begin the season - The Nats on Sunday (April 5) placed third baseman Anthony Rendon, left fielder Jayson Werth, center fielder Denard Span, and relievers Casey Janssen and Erik Davis on the 15-day disabled list.  That list includes your 2014 MVP (Rendon), your best offensive player over the last three seasons (Werth), arguably your best offensive player over the last three months of last season (Span) and the potential successor to Tyler Clippard as the Nats' eighth-inning man (Janssen).


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Orioles Win Two Of Three At Tampa Bay
by Al Galdi
Apr 09, 2015 -- 2:48pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 6-2 win on Monday (April 6)

Game 2: 6-5 win on Tuesday night (April 7)

Game 3: 2-0 loss on Wednesday night (April 8)


What I liked:

1. Travis Snider
- Snider started all three games in right field, went 4-for-9 with three walks and threw out Rays first baseman James Loney at home to end the bottom of the fifth in Game 1.

2. Alejandro De Aza - De Aza started all three games in left field and went 4-for-13 with a walk.  His two-run homer in the top of the fifth of Game 1 came at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat that included him fouling off six straight pitches.

3. Steve Pearce - Pearce started Games 1 and 2 at first base and served as the DH in Game 3.  He hit a solo homer in Game 1 and a two-run homer in Game 2.  But his most impressive feat was his slide in the top of the eighth of Game 1.  Pearce, who was initially called out at home trying to score on a double by Snider, actually slid feet-first and under the tag of catcher Rene Rivera.  Manager Buck Showalter challenged the play, and the call was overturned.

4. Chris Tillman’s Game 1 start – Tillman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings.

5. Closer Zach Britton in Games 1 and 2 – Britton tossed a scoreless ninth in each game, totaling five strikeouts.

6. Reliever Darren O’Day in Game 2 – O’Day tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings after the Rays had turned a 6-0 O’s lead into a 6-5 advantage.


What I didn’t like:

1. Overall offensive production
– The O’s batted just .185 (17-for-92) in the series, totaling 29 strikeouts.

2. Wei-Yin Chen's Game 2 start - Chen went just 4 1/3 innings in Game 2, giving up three runs on four hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch on an astounding 96 pitches.  The O’s jumped out to a 6-0 second-inning lead.  Chen needs to do better.

3. Miguel Gonzalez's Game 3 start – Gonzalez went just 5 2/3 innings in Game 3, giving up three hits and five walks on 98 pitches.  He did allow just one run, but you would like to see better efficiency.

4. Some shakiness from the bullpen – O’s relievers combined to allow four runs in 9 1/3 innings.

Tommy Hunter allowed an RBI double to shortstop and former Nat Asdrubal Cabrera in Game 1’s bottom of the eighth, which included Brad Brach allowing a double and a single.  Brach also allowed a double and an RBI single in Game 3’s bottom of the eighth.

Kevin Gausman gave up a two-run homer and two walks in 2 1/3 innings in Game 2, during which he did record four strikeouts.  

5. Two key position players – and four total – being out to begin the season – The O’s on Sunday (April 5) placed shortstop J.J. Hardy (left shoulder strain), catcher Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June), outfielder David Lough (left hamstring strain) and infielder Jimmy Paredes (lower back strain) on the 15-day disabled list.


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