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Nationals Lose Two Of Three At Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Jul 03, 2015 -- 11:05am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 6-1 win on Tuesday night (June 30)

Game 2: 4-1 loss on Wednesday night (July 1)

Game 3: 2-1 loss on Thursday night (July 2)


What I liked:

1. Jordan Zimmermann’s start in Game 1
– Spotted a four-run lead, Zimmermann did exactly what a pitcher should do in such a circumstance: throw strikes and devour innings.  An incredible 85 of his 109 pitches were strikes as he tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings.  Zimmermann now has thrown 15 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts, during which he has allowed no walks.

2. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 3 – Scherzer tossed another complete game, giving up two runs in 8 1/3 innings on nine strikeouts versus five hits and no walks.  He now has three complete games over his last four starts off totaling one complete game over his first 2010 career starts.  This complete game was rare, as it came on a walk-off loss thanks to a Cameron Maybin chop single that went over third base and was ruled fair by third-base umpire C.B. Bucknor, even though he was facing away from the bag as the ball went over it.  The play wasn't reviewable but clear replay angles apparently weren't available anyway, which is pretty surprising.  Gun-to-my-head, that was a fair ball.  But the real takeaway is that this was another gem from Scherzer, who is just 9-6 despite leading the majors in WHIP (0.78), strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.93) and opponents' batting average (.181) and being second in the majors in ERA (1.82).  The Nats have totaled just seven runs in Scherzer's six losses this season.  This is why pitchers should never be judged on their records! 

3. The offense in the first inning of Game 1 – Four of the Nats’ six runs in the series and four of the Nats’ 20 hits in the series came in the top of the first of Game 1.  Shelby Miller’s opposing batters entered the game just 3-for-46 in first innings this season.  The Nats went 4-for-6 and scored four runs.

4. Bryce Harper and Denard Span – They combined for eight of the Nats’ 20 hits in the series.

Harper went 4-for-12 with a walk, providing doubles in Games 1 and 3.

Span went 4-for-9 with three walks and three stolen bases.


What I didn’t like:

1. The offense after Game 1
– The Nats totaled just two runs and went 9-for-59 with 20 strikeouts over Games 2 and 3.

2. Doug Fister’s start in Game 2 – Fister allowed four runs in six innings, giving up seven hits (including two homers).  He now has struggled in two of his three starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list and now has a 4.34 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 10 starts this season.

3. Harper not running out a fly out in the top of the third of Game 1 – This wasn’t an outrageous crime, but it is something that the best player on a team shouldn’t be doing.  Braves announcers Chip Caray and Joe Simpson criticized Harper on Fox Sports South.  Matt Williams on Wednesday said that he had spoken to Harper , "It's important for him to be passionate about the way he plays in every aspect."


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Orioles Lose Three Of Four To Texas
by Al Galdi
Jul 03, 2015 -- 10:53am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 8-1 loss on Monday night (June 29)

Game 2: 8-6 loss on Tuesday night (June 30)

Game 3: 4-2 win on Wednesday night (June 1)

Game 4: 2-0 loss on Thursday night (July 2)


What I liked:

1. Wei-Yin Chen’s start in Game 3
– Chen allowed two runs in eight innings, giving up just four hits and a walk.  He has been the Orioles’ best starting pitcher this season, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 15 starts.  And Chen has been at his best lately, allowing just four runs in 22 innings over his last three starts.  

2. Kevin Gausman’s start in Game 4 – Gausman got another spot start, getting recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday and then recording seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in just his second major-league start of the season.  As I’ve written previously, Gausman is in a werid spot.  He was the fourth overall pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was used only as a starter at the major-league level last season (108 ERA+ over 20 starts) but had been used only as a reliever this season so as to limit his innings and preserve his availability for later in the year.  Gausman now has made two major-league starts since spending nearly a month and-a-half on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis but, unlike after his first major-league start this year, isn’t immediately being sent back down to Norfolk.  That’s perhaps an indication that the O’s are losing patience with Bud Norris (see below).  The O’s need Gausman in the major-league rotation next season, as Chen and Norris are scheduled to be free agents this offseason and appear unlikely to be re-signed.


What I didn’t like:

1. The offense
– The Orioles’ offense cooled off, batting just .217 (28-for-129) overall and going just 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position.  The O’s totaled just three hits in Game 4.

2. Norris’ start in Game 1 – Norris struggled once again, giving up five runs in six innings on nine hits (including four homers).  He now has a 6.79 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 11 starts this season, during which opposing batters are hitting .311 against him.  Most pronounced are his struggles against lefty batters, who have a 1.025 OPS against Norris this season off a .753 OPS in 2014.  There is no obvious reason for his struggles.  His velocity is where it has been.  His strikeout and walk rates and BABIP have gone in the wrong directions but aren’t so egregiously bad that they explain his ERA being up by more than three gull runs.  The bottom line is that arguably last year’s most pleasant surprise in the rotation has been arguably its biggest liability this year.                

3. Miguel Gonzalez’s start in Game 2 – Gonzalez allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits (including three homers) and three walks.  Gonzalez now has allowed 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings on 16 hits over two starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

4. The bullpen – Orioles relievers had their first truly bad series since late May, giving up seven runs in 11 1/3 innings.

5. Delmon Young being designated for assignment – The O’s DFA’d Young on Wednesday to make room for reliever Tyler Wilson on the 25-man roster.  Young was the Orioles’ lone significant offseason re-signing, getting a one-year contract reportedly worth $2.25 million.  He is in theory more expendable than others because of his lack of speed and defensive prowess, but he did lead the O’s and was tied for third in the majors with eight outfield assists at the time of his being DFA’d.

Young was 10-for-20 as a pinch-hitter last season and had arguably the biggest hit in the history of Camden Yards, the pinch three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Orioles’ ALDS sweep of Detroit.  He was 3-for-9 as a pinch hitter this season but overall has struggled mightily, posting an OPS+ of 76.


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Nationals Win Two Of Three At Philadelphia
by Al Galdi
Jun 29, 2015 -- 2:55pm
ESPN 989

Game 1: 5-2 win on Friday night (June 26)

Game 2: 3-2 win on Sunday afternoon (June 28)

Game 3: 8-5 loss on Sunday (June 28)


What I liked:

1. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 1
– Scherzer was great once again, allowing two runs in eight innings on seven strikeouts versus five hits and no walks.  Not quite a 16-strikeout one-hitter or a no-hitter, but still pretty darn good.  The streak of consecutive scoreless innings from Nationals starters ended at 47 1/3 innings, good for the second-longest such streak during the expansion era (since 1961) (the 1974 Orioles are first at 54 straight scoreless innings from starters).  And Scherzer hit another single.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first pitcher with a no-hitter through five innings in each of three consecutive starts since Doyle Alexander of the 1976 Yankees.  Scherzer leads the majors with a 9.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is more than twice as good as his rate last season.

2. Stephen Strasburg's start in Game 2 - Strasburg had arguably his best start of the season so far, allowing two runs in seven innings on nine strikeouts versus four hits and a walk.  Still too early to say that Strasburg is "back," but he has looked quite good since coming off the 15-day disabled list (two runs in 12 innings on 15 strikeouts versus eight hits and two walks).

3. The offense despite a number of key absences - Anthony Rendon joined Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman on the D.L.  Yunel Escobar got hit by a pitch on his left hand in the first inning of Game 1 and missed Game 2.  Bryce Harper missed Games 1 and 3 as he deals with a strained right hamstring.  Denard Span missed Games 1 and 3 as he deals with back spasms.  And yet the Nats batted .264 (28-for-106) and totaled 10 walks, and the 10 runs over the three games could have been many more given that the Nats went just 6-for-31 with runners in scoring position.

A number of bench players delivered in this series.  Matt den Dekker had a two-run homer in Game 1.  Tyler Moore had two singles in Game 1 and a double in Game 3.  Dan Uggla had three singles and a walk in Game 2.  Clint Robinson had two RBI singles in Game 3.  Jose Lobaton had a solo homer and a single in Game 3.

Michael Taylor went 5-for-14, blasting doubles in Games 1 and 2.

Span had a double, a single and a walk in Game 2.

Harper had a double and a walk in Game 2.

Escobar had a double, a single and a walk in Game 3.

4. The bullpen - Nats relievers combined for 7 2/3 scoreless innings, including 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3.


What I didn’t like:

1. Rendon going back on the 15-day disabled list
– Rendon missed Thursday’s 7-0 win over Atlanta and then was placed on the D.L. on Friday with a strained left quadriceps.  

Rendon was the Nats’ MVP last season, leading the team with 6.5 bWAR.  But he, like Zimmerman, now has an injury history that is undeniable:
     •    2015 – missed the first 53 games due to a left MCL sprain suffered in March and a left oblique strain suffered in April

     •    2012 - fractured his left ankle while playing for Single-A Lynchburg

     •    2011 - had to play the majority of his junior season at Rice at designated hitter because of a strained muscle behind his shoulder

     •    2010 - fractured his right ankle while playing for Team USA

     •    2009 -  tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing for Rice

2. The decision to start Game 2 on Saturday - Rain was all over the forecast, and yet it was decided that the Nats and Phillies would try to get the game in.  The result?  One and-a-half innings were played before there was a lengthy rain delay that eventually led to the game being called in favor of a doubleheader on Sunday.  Matt Williams said that  he was "extremely" frustrated that the game started to begin with and added, "It burned our pitcher.  I'm not very happy about it."  That pitcher was Gio Gonzalez, who said, "I'm trying my best to keep my composure right now.  One inning I got out of it.  It's unfortunate.  You're put in a tough situation and it just sucks.  I've been waiting four days and that's what happens."

Starting this game was ridiculous, so much so that you have to wonder if this was the Phillies avenging the Nats playing chessy music during batting practice at Nationals Park earlier this season.  The Nats over the years have been pretty quick to call games at Nationals Park.  Why did the Phillies move so slowly?  The only onus that you can put on Williams is, if he was so sure about the forecast, why didn't he start a reliever and preserve Gio for Sunday?  But while there's logic behind that, you can only be so sure about a forecast.  Playing on Saturday should have never happened.

3. Tanner Roark's start in Game 3 - Roark essentially had one day to prepare for this start and got slammed, allowing eight runs in 3 1/3 innings on 12 hits.  It is worth noting that 11 of the 12 hits were singles.  Roark has been yo-yo'd between the rotation and bullpen this season, and his overall results have not been great: 4.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP.


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Orioles Sweep Cleveland
by Al Galdi
Jun 29, 2015 -- 12:46pm

Game 1: 4-3 win on Friday night (June 26)

Game 2: 4-0 win on Sunday afternoon (June 28)

Game 3: 8-0 win on Sunday night (June 28)


What I liked:

1. 2014 Part II?
– The O’s were 26-27 last season before going 70-39 the rest of the year.  The O’s now are 18-5 since their 23-29 start this season.

2. The starting pitching – Off a stretch in which Orioles starting pitchers had not lasted longer than 5 2/3 innings in five of six games, the rotation delivered big time in this series.

Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs in six innings in Game 1 in his first start since the controversy over him being briefly optioned to Single-A Frederick.

Ubaldo Jimenez continued his bounce-back season with eight scoreless innings in Game 2, recording seven strikeouts versus four hits and no walks.  Most interesting about Ubaldo lately has been his strikeout rate: 42 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings in June off averaging fewer than a strikeout per inning in April and May.

Chris Tillman, who’s in the midst of a horrific season, had his best outing of the year so far in Game 3: seven scoreless innings on six strikeouts versus four hits and no walks.

3. The offense – Fifteen of the Orioles’ 24 hits in the series were extra-base hits, as the O’s totaled six homers and nine doubles while enjoying continued success with runners in scoring position (7-for-22).

Jimmy Paredes went 5-for-9 with three walks, belting two doubles in Game 2 and a two-run homer and a double in Game 3.

Manny Machado went 4-for-12 with a walk, providing a solo homer and a double in Game 2 and a two-run double in Game 3.

Chris Parmelee went 3-for-11, blasting a double in Game 1 and a two-run homer in Game 3.  By the way, how about Parmelee starting at first base and Chris Davis in right field in all three games in this series?  Hard not to read that as Buck Showalter giving Parmelee an extended look at first base with Davis scheduled to be a free agent.  It worth noting that Buck has said that Davis is just as good defensively in right field as he is at first base.

Ryan Flaherty went 4-for-10 with a walk.

4. The bullpen – Orioles relievers combined to allow one run in eight innings for a ninth consecutive quality series for the bullpen.

5. The return of Adam Jones – Jones started Game 2 (as opposed to going on the 15-day disabled list) off having missed eight of the previous 10 games due to a sore right shoulder.  He did then sit out Game 3.


What I didn’t like:

1. Nothing
– This was the Orioles’ best series of the season so far, and they’re now two percentage points ahead of Tampa Bay for first in the American League East.

 


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Nationals Sweep Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Jun 25, 2015 -- 7:42pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 3-1 win on Tuesday night (June 23)

Game 2: 2-1 11-inning win on Wednesday night (June 24)

Game 3: 7-0 win on Thursday (June 25)


What I liked:

1. So much for the Braves being the Nats’ daddies
– Remember when the Nats were owned by the Braves?  The Nats now are 8-1 against the Braves this season, having outscored them by 26 runs (64-38).

2. The starting pitching – Excellent for a second straight series.  Nats starters now have tossed a franchise-record 41 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking the previous mark of 39 1/3 innings set by the 1981 Montreal Expos.

Stephen Strasburg tossed five scoreless innings in Game 1 in his return from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on since May 30 with a left trapezius strain.  He allowed just four hits and a walk versus six strikeouts and perhaps as important as anything, looked good mechanically.  And for those scoring in the mental-toughness category, he did all of this despite the game starting two-plus hours late thanks to the rain.

Jordan Zimmermann tossed eight scoreless innings in Game 2 in what was arguably his best start of the season and in a game that eerily mirrored NLDS Game 2 against San Francisco last October, as Matt Williams pulled Zimmermann despite him having thrown 100 pitches and then Drew Storen allowed a run to blow the save in the top of the ninth.  For the record, I had no problem with Williams going to Storen in that spot.  He’s having a great season.  He’s your ace reliever.  You use him.

Doug Fister tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 3 in his second start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

3. The offense – The Nats batted .294 (30-for-102), including going 8-for-29 with runners in scoring position.

Wilson Ramos went 4-for-12 with a walk, blasting two doubles.

Michael Taylor went 4-for-11, providing a double in each of the final two games.

And it was good to see Ian Desmond hit a walk-off sac fly in Game 2 and a two-run homer and a single in Game 3.  He of course has not had a good season, in fact did not play in Game 1 and committed his 16th error of the season in Game 2.

4. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow two runs in nine innings, though on 11 hits and two walks.  


What I didn’t like:

1. Storen
– Storen had two shaky outings, giving him four over his last six appearances.  He tossed a scoreless ninth in Game 1 despite giving up a single, an infield single and a walk.  Storen then suffered just his second blown save of the season (and first since April 21) in Game 2, giving up a run on two singles, an intentional walk and a sacrifice fly.  

2. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon not playing in Game 3 – Minor ailments kept them out, but anything that comes up with these two is worth tracking. 

Harper felt a cramp in his right leg in Game 2, during which he had a double and an RBI single. 

Rendon has been dealing with soreness in his left quadriceps.  He had six singles over Games 1 and 2. 

Clint Robinson, by the way, had an RBI single, another single and a walk in Harper's place in Game 3.


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Orioles Win Two Of Three At Boston
by Al Galdi
Jun 25, 2015 -- 7:07pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 6-4 win on Tuesday night (June 23)

Game 2: 5-1 loss on Wednesday night (June 24)

Game 3: 8-6 win on Thursday afternoon (June 25)


What I liked:

1. Successful road trip
– The competition wasn’t the stiffest (Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston), but the O’s went 5-3 on an eight-game road trip.

2. The offense – The O’s, without Adam Jones for all three games, batted .314 (33-for-105), including going 11-for-27 with runners in scoring position.  Thirteen of the 33 hits were extra-base hits. 

Chris Parmelee went 4-for-13, blasting three doubles and a triple.  

Manny Machado went 4-for-13 with a walk.

Jimmy Paredes played in Games 1 and 2 and went 4-for-9.

And for good measure, the O's had their way with Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 3, as he allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings.  Rodriguez was traded by the O's to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller last July 31 and tossed six scorless innings against the O's on June 9, capping an excellent first three starts in his major-league career.  He has slowed down since.

3. The bullpen – Make it eight consecutive quality series for Orioles relievers, who combined to allow three runs in 10 1/3 innings on just six hits and two walks versus 11 strikeouts.


What I didn’t like:

1. The starting pitching
– Inefficient and not productive enough.
 
Ubaldo Jimenez allowed three runs in five innings on 101 pitches in Game 1, giving up six hits, three walks and a wild pitch.  

Bud Norris allowed five runs (all unearned) in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2, giving up seven hits and a walk.  

Miguel Gonzalez allowed four runs in five innings on eight hits and a hit-by-pitch in Game 3 in his return from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on with a right groin strain.

2. The base-running – The O’s don’t run often, and this series offered examples of why.  The O’s had runners on first and third with one out in the top of the third of Game 1 but then ran themselves out of the inning.  Parmelee got caught stealing home on an attempted double steal, and then Travis Snider got picked off at first to end the inning.  Also, Paredes got caught stealing second to end the top of the ninth in Game 1.  Then in Game 2, Machado got caught stealing second after a single to lead off the game.  And in Game 3, David Lough got thrown out at home to end the top of the ninth.

3. The defense in bottom of the sixth of Game 2 – The Red Sox’s five-run sixth included costly fielding errors by Norris and Chris Davis and a passed ball by Caleb Joseph.  Norris also appeared late in getting to first on the play that resulted in Davis’ error.  

4. Jones remaining out – Jones now has missed four straight games and seven of the last nine games due to a sore right shoulder.


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