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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Getting Swept At Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Apr 14, 2014 -- 3:36pm

Game 1: 7-6 10-inning loss on Friday night (April 11)

Game 2: 6-3 loss on Saturday night (April 12)

Game 3: 10-2 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 13)


1. There was injury in addition to the insult


Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman fractured his right thumb diving back into second base while getting picked off in Game 2 and was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks.  This is a blow that figures to hurt, as Zimmerman has been a major offensive force for most of his career (121 career OPS+) and was off to a nice start this season (12-for-33).

Zimmerman’s throwing problems get a lot of attention, but another issue for him has been durability.  He hasn’t played in more than 147 games in any season since 2009. 

Zimmerman made several nice defensive plays in Game 1, though you still hold your breath on his throws, one of which was one-hopped to first baseman Adam LaRoche.

The Nats’ 15-day disabled list now includes Zimmerman, catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Doug Fister and outfielder Scott Hairston.

Center fielder Denard Span collided with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla in Game 1 and was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday.  Span missed significant time with a concussion in 2011 while playing for Minnesota.


2. The Braves remain the Nats’ “daddies”

The Nats now are 7-22 against the Braves starting with a loss on August 22, 2012.   

The Nats are 1-5 against the Braves but 6-0 against the Mets and Miami this season.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton went 8-for-10 with two homers and two doubles in the series.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 6-for-12 with two homers and two doubles in the series.


3. The starting pitching fell on its face

A dirty little secret right now is how poor the Nats’ starting pitching has been so far.  Nats starters are 24th out of 30 MLB teams with a 4.81 ERA.  

Do I expect Nats starters to continue to be this bad?  No.  But are the struggles through 12 games worth noting?  Absolutely. 

 

The Braves scored 14 of their 23 runs in the first two innings of each game in the series.

Tanner Roark allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1, giving up five hits, a walk and three hit-by-pitches.

Taylor Jordan allowed five runs in five innings in Game 2, giving up 10 hits and two walks versus five strikeouts.

Gio Gonzalez allowed six runs in six innings in Game 3, giving up nine hits (including two two-run homers), four walks and a hit-by-pitch versus six strikeouts.


4. Sloppiness, a theme in the Nats losing two of the three to the Braves April 4-6, was a theme again

Game 1 included:
     -    LaRoche getting thrown out at home while attempting to score from second base on a wild pitch.

     -    Bryce Harper, playing right field as opposed to left field thanks to Jayson Werth tweaking his groin, bobbling the ball on Upton’s walk-off single.  Harper was playing no-doubles defense, and so the ball landed in shallow right field.  Pinch runner Jordan Schafer scored from first base on the play, taking off after three rather nonchalant pickoff throws by reliever Jerry Blevins.
    
Game 2 included:
     -    Zimmerman and Harper each getting picked off

     -    Two throwing errors by shortstop Ian Desmond and an error by right fielder Nate McLouth

Game 3 included errors by Gonzalez, Harper and Desmond, whose error came in a four-run Braves eighth.


5. Two relievers are struggling while Harper’s heating up

Reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a game-tying solo homer to Upton in the eighth inning in Game 1.  Clippard has recorded 12 strikeouts, but he and Blevins now have combined to allow seven earned runs in 12 innings.

Harper went 6-for-10 with three walks in the series and now is 10-for-21 since his 3-for-21 start.


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Losing Two Of Three To Toronto
by Al Galdi
Apr 14, 2014 -- 2:24pm

Game 1: 2-0 loss on Friday night (April 11)

Game 2: 2-1 12-inning win on Saturday night (April 12)

Game 3: 11-3 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 13)


1. Keep in mind where we are


Nineteen of the Orioles’ first 22 games, including the next 10 games, are within the normally ultra-competitive American League East.  The O’s are 4-5 against the division so far.  

Yes, it’s April.  Yes, a lot can change between now and September.  But it’s hard not to view these first 3 ½ weeks of the season as very important given the competition.


2. The offense struggled

The O’s went just 22-for-108 (.204 batting average) in the series, totaling just four runs and five walks.

First baseman Chris Davis in Game 3 hit his first homer of the season, going back-to-back with catcher Matt Wieters in the eighth inning.  


3. The starting pitching was terrific in Games 1 and 2 before another bad outing in Game 3

Chris Tillman allowed two runs – both unearned – in eight innings in Game 1, recording six strikeouts.

Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2.

Ubaldo Jimenez allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings in Game 3, giving up 10 hits (including two solo homers), two walks and a wild pitch.  He now has a 7.31 ERA over three starts with the O’s.

Orioles starters are 27th out of 30 MLB teams with a 4.93 ERA.


4. The bullpen had mixed results

Zach Britton totaled 2 1/3 scoreless innings over Games 1 and 2 and now has tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings this season.

Evan Meek tossed a scoreless inning in Game 2 and now has recorded 5 1/3 scoreless innings this season.

Closer Tommy Hunter allowed a game-tying solo homer to center fielder Colby Rasmus in the ninth inning of Game 2.  The homer came a pitch after a check swing by Rasmus appeared as if it should have been strike three.  Hunter fell to 3-for-4 on saves this season.

All 11 of the homers Hunter gave up last season were to lefties.  Rasmus is a lefty.  Lefty specialist Brian Matusz was unavailable in Games 1 and 2 due to illness.  I would wonder if Matusz would have faced Rasmus, but Hunter retired another lefty, DH Adam Lind, for the first out of that inning.      

Josh Stinson allowed six runs in two innings in Game 3, giving up seven hits (including a three-run homer to right fielder/center fielder Jose Bautista).


5. Shortstop J.J. Hardy was back

Hardy, off missing six of seven games due to back spasms, started Games 2 and 3.  But he went 0-for-9 and remains without an extra-base hit this season.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Sweeping Miami
by Al Galdi
Apr 11, 2014 -- 2:42pm

Game 1: 5-0 win on Tuesday night (April 8)

Game 2: 10-7 win on Wednesday night (April 9)

Game 3: 7-1 win on Thursday (April 10)


1. The Nats are doing what they should: fattening up on the non-Atlanta portion of the National League East


The Nats are 1-2 against the Braves but now 6-0 against the Mets and Miami.  

The Nats went just 6-13 against the Braves last season but 37-20 against the Mets, Marlins and Philadelphia.


2. The offense is rolling despite manager Matt Williams’ lineups continuing to defy research

As I’ve written before, Baseball Prospectus has found that a spot in the lineup is worth 18 plate appearances more than the next spot over the course of a season.  If you’re going to insist on consistently batting center fielder Denard Span in the leadoff spot (which is where he was in Games 1 and 2; center fielder Nate McLouth batted first in Game 3), you better be sure his production is worthy of the extra amount of plate appearances he’ll be receiving versus other batters, like left fielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Ian Desmond, both of whom have consistently batted fifth or lower.  

But it’s hard to argue with the results of Williams’ lineups in this series.  The Nats went 29-for-100 (.290 batting average) and totaled 22 runs, four homers (including two grand slams) and six doubles.

Right fielder Jayson Werth batted third in all three games and had a great series: 4-for-11 with seven RBI and five runs.  He blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2 and a two-run homer in the third inning of Game 3.  Werth also had an outfield assist in Game 2, throwing out right fielder Giancarlo Stanton at home in the eighth inning.

The most intriguing Nats batter right now may be second baseman/third baseman Anthony Rendon.  He went 5-for-11 with two walks, three RBI and four runs in the series, which he exited with a .412 batting average.

Harper batted second in Game 1, seventh in Game 2 and sixth in Game 3.  He blasted a mammoth 416-foot homer per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker in the fourth inning of Game 2 and drew a bases-loaded walk in Game 3.  

Desmond batted fifth in Game 1, sixth in Game 2 and seventh in Game 3.  He blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 3.


3. Quite the comeback in Game 2

The Nats overcame a 5-0 fourth-inning deficit in Game 2.  

The Nats did not come from three runs or more behind to win a game last season until June 9.  The Game 2 win marked the second time in eight games this season that the Nats overcame at least a three-run deficit to win.


4. Two quality starts sandwiched a career-worst outing for Jordan Zimmermann

Zimmermann’s Game 2 start was the worst of his career, as he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings on seven hits and two walks.  He gave up a two-run homer, a triple and five singles.

Gio Gonzalez tossed six scoreless innings in Game 1, recording five strikeouts.

Stephen Strasburg rebounded from two subpar starts with a terrific outing in Game 3, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings and recording 12 strikeouts.  

Nats pitchers totaled 17 strikeouts in Game 3, tying the most for the franchise in a nine-inning game since the club moved to D.C. prior to the 2005 season.  The Nats have an MLB-best 105 strikeouts over nine games.


5. The bullpen was mostly terrific

Craig Stammen provided the outing of the series in Game 2, recording four strikeouts in 3 1/3 scoreless innings off Zimmermann’s terrible start.

Rookie Aaron Barrett continued to impress, tossing a scoreless ninth in Game 1 and striking out the only batter he faced (Stanton) to end the top of the eighth in Game 3.  Barrett has recorded six strikeouts in four scoreless and hitless innings so far this season.

Closer Rafael Soriano allowed a double and a single but also recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth in Game 2 and then recorded two strikeouts in a perfect ninth in Game 3.  He has recorded eight strikeouts but also given up five hits over four scoreless innings so far this season.

Tyler Clippard recorded two strikeouts in a perfect eighth in Game 1 but then allowed a run on two walks and a double in the eighth inning of Game 2.  He has allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings so far this season, though he has recorded 11 strikeouts.


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Two Of Three At The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Apr 10, 2014 -- 3:55pm

Game 1: 4-2 loss on Monday afternoon (April 7)

Game 2: 14-5 win on Tuesday afternoon (April 8)

Game 3: 5-4 win on Wednesday night (April 9)


1. Things could be worse (how’s that for being positive?)


The O’s now have won three of four since the 1-4 start.  There are reasons to worry (see item no. 3), but 4-5 isn’t bad considering the brutal start to the season: three home games with defending World Series champion Boston, three games at three-time defending American League Central champion Detroit and three games at the Yankees, who spent a reported $471 million in free agency during the offseason.


2. The bats busted out

After a largely underwhelming first seven games of the season, the O’s exploded offensively in Games 2 and 3: 32-for-80 with four homers and six doubles.  

Rookie Jonathan Schoop started at third base in all three games and went 5-for-12 with four RBI and three runs.

Catcher Matt Wieters went 4-for-11 with two walks, four RBI and two runs in the series.

Delmon Young served as the DH in Games 2 and 3 and went 6-for-11 with three RBI and two runs.


3. The starting pitching continued to struggle

Ubaldo Jimenez allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings on eight hits and five walks versus four strikeouts on 109 pitches in Game 1.  He now has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings over two starts with the O’s.

Wei-Yin Chen allowed four runs in five innings on nine hits in Game 2.

Miguel Gonzalez technically provided a quality start in Game 3, but allowed three runs in six innings and gave up seven hits, including two solo homers.

Orioles starters now have a 6.06 ERA over nine games.


4. Shortstop J.J. Hardy remained out

Hardy did not play at all due to back spasms and now has missed five of the last six games.


5. A staggering number for reliever Brian Matusz

The bullpen had mixed results in the series, including Matusz giving up a solo homer to second baseman Kelly Johnson in the eighth inning of Game 2.  

But Matusz tossed two-thirds of a scoreless inning in Game 3, stranding center fielder Bret Gardner at third base.  Matusz now has stranded 51 of 56 inherited runners since the start of 212.  

Matusz was the fourth overall pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, and the fact that he hasn’t succeeded as a starter is a major disappointment.  But give him credit for finding a niche as a lefty specialist.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Losing Two Of Three To Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Apr 09, 2014 -- 3:10pm

Game 1: 2-1 loss on Friday afternoon (April 4)

Game 2: 6-2 loss on Saturday night (April 5)

Game 3: 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon (April 6)


1. The Braves are the Nats’ “daddies”


Then-Boston starter Pedro Martinez famously talked about the Yankees being his “daddy” in Sept. 2004.  Credit the Nats for avoiding a three-game sweep, but the bottom line is the Nats now are 7-19 against the Braves starting with a loss on August 22, 2012.  

Each season is its own entity, and I’m not one to buy into clichés like “the Braves have the Nats’ number.”   But it’s pretty hard to see the Nats winning the National League East this season if they only win around a third of their games with the Braves.  

A particular problem for the Nats over the two losses was sloppiness.  Game 1 included first baseman Adam LaRoche getting thrown out and home and shortstop Ian Desmond and left fielder Bryce Harper each getting caught stealing.  Game 2 included costly throwing errors by Harper and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.  


2. Injuries are mounting

Zimmerman committed the throwing error during the Braves’ two-run fourth in Game 2 and did not start Game 3, though he did pinch hit.  An MRI exam on his right shoulder revealed no structural damage, just inflammation.  Zimmerman’s shoulder is only bothering him when throwing, and manager Matt Williams suggested on Sunday that Zimmerman’s dealing with “throwing overload.”

Zimmerman underwent right shoulder surgery in Oct. 2012 and has battled throwing issues for multiple seasons now.  

What’s become really interesting is how the conversation regarding Zimmerman moving to first base has evolved from “eventually” to “in a few seasons” to now “next season.”

Zimmerman being unable to play in the field for an extended period would really put the Nats in a bind, as LaRoche has no other position besides first base and obviously there is no DH in the National League.

The Nats on Sunday (April 6) placed outfielder Scott Hairston on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain.  He joined catcher Wilson Ramos and starter Doug Fister on the DL.


3. The offense really struggled

The Nats totaled just five runs and went 17-for-91 (.187 batting average) over the three games.  

Harper did not play in Game 3 due to receiving a mental break.  He’s 3-for-21 with just one walk and 10 strikeouts.

Desmond batted seventh in Game 1, sixth in Game 2 and fifth in Game 3.


4. Starting pitching was a mixed bag, but the bullpen delivered

Jordan Zimmermann, off being scratched from the previous day’s start due to flu-like symptoms, lasted for just five innings and 81 pitches in Game 1 but allowed just one run and recorded nine strikeouts.

Stephen Strasburg allowed six runs (three earned) in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2, giving up eight hits and three walks versus six strikeouts on 96 pitches.

Taylor Jordan provided a quality start in Game 3: one run in 6 1/3 innings.

Nats relievers allowed just one run over 11 1/3 innings in the series, totaling 12 strikeouts.


5. Instant replay bit the Nats in Games 1 and 3

Desmond had an inside-the-park homer that instead was ruled a ground-rule double in the fifth inning of Game 1.  The ball got stuck under the padding of the wall located in foul territory down the left-field line.  Left fielder Justin Upton raised his arms in order for the umpires to call a ground-rule double, but third-base umpire Marvin Hudson did not make an immediate ruling and so Upton retrieved the ball.  Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged the play (which was challenge-able), and the ultimate decision was a ground-rule double.  

MLB said to The Washington Post that the umpires made the right call, pointing out they can overturn a call if a ball is determined to be stuck: “We considered [Friday's] play a stadium boundary call, which is fine for review purposes.  The ball was initially left in play but in the review, we determined that the ball was lodged and thus the initial call was overturned.  It was an unusual set of circumstances, given that it was perceived differently on the field, but we felt the ground-rule double result was appropriate.  There is a section in the replay regulations that provides for review of non-home run boundary calls. That is what this play was.  It specifically calls out situations where the ball leaves the playing field and is or is not ruled dead.”  

Manager Matt Williams unsuccessfully challenged a bang-bang play that saw Desmond called out at first base in first inning of Game 3.  Desmond, though, provided a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh.


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Losing Two Of Three At Detroit
by Al Galdi
Apr 07, 2014 -- 2:43pm

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

Game 2: 7-6 loss on Saturday afternoon (April 5)

Game 3: 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon (April 6)


1. Rough way to begin a season


The O’s find themselves 2-4 through two-thirds of what appears a brutal way to start the season: three home games with defending World Series champion Boston, three games at three-time defending American League Central champion Detroit and three games at the Yankees, who spent a reported $471 million in free agency during the offseason.


2. The parade of bad starting pitching continued in Games 1 and 2 before mercifully ending in Game 3.

Miguel Gonzalez allowed seven runs in 3 1/3 innings in Game 1.  He gave up nine hits (including two homers), a walk, three hit-by-pitches and a wild pitch.

Bud Norris allowed five runs in five innings on nine hits in Game 2.

Chris Tillman provided the O’s with their first quality start of the season in Game 3: one run in 8 1/3 innings.


3. The offense, with the exception of one inning, continued to underwhelm.

The O’s exploded for five runs on five hits in the ninth inning of Game 2.  But even with that outburst, the O’s went just 25-for-104 (.240) in the series.


4. The increasingly overworked bullpen struggled in Games 1 and 2.

Josh Stinson and Ryan Webb combined to allow three runs in 4 1/3 innings on eight hits in Game 1.

Brian Matusz allowed two runs in the sixth inning of Game 2.


5. Shortstop J.J. Hardy is ailing

Hardy didn’t play in Games 1 and 3 due to back spasms.  He did have two singles, a walk and a run in Game 2.


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