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Nationals Lose Two Of Three To St. Louis
by Al Galdi
Apr 24, 2015 -- 1:36pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 10-inning win on Tuesday night (April 21)

Game 2: 7-5 loss on Wednesday night (April 22)

Game 3: 4-1 loss on Thursday (April 23)

What I liked:

1. Yunel Escobar’s two big hits
- Escobar, returning from a two-game absence caused by a groin injury, blasted a walk-off solo homer off Carlos Villanueva with two outs in the bottom of the 10th of Game 1.  Perhaps the best part?  Escobar’s head-first slide into home and the awaiting celebration with his teammates.  He then had a game-tying three-run double in the third inning of Game 2.

2. Ryan Zimmerman – Zimmerman had a rough series in other ways (see below), but he produced offensively, going 5-for-13.

3. Denard Span – Span, in his first full series of the season, went 4-for-13 with a walk.

4. Gio Gonzalez’s start in Game 1 – This was a classic example of “run prevention.”  Gio tossed six scoreless innings despite giving up eight hits and four walks.  You hate the lack of efficiency (107 pitches over the six innings), but ultimately pitching is about run prevention, and Gio delivered in that regard.

5. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 3 – Scherzer allowed two runs in seven innings, leaving after just 82 pitches due to having jammed his thumb on a swing in the fifth inning.

What I didn’t like:

1. The offense overall
– The Nats batted just .218 (22-for-101) in the series, including going just 6-for-32 with runners in scoring position.

2. The state of the bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow five runs in 10 innings in the series, giving up 12 hits and four walks.  

Closer Drew Storen had a blown save in Game 1, allowing a run on two singles and a wild pitch.  It was the Cardinals, of course, against whom Storen imploded in NLDS Game 5 in 2012: four runs in one inning on three hits and two walks.   

The Nats on Wednesday placed Felipe Rivero on the 15-day disabled list with gastrointestinal bleeding (yikes) and recalled Matt Grace from Triple-A Syracuse.  Grace made his major-league debut in Game 2, tossing a scoreless seventh inning.  But then came the rest of the game.  Blake Treinen allowed a run in the eighth on two hits and two walks, and Rafael Martin allowed a run in the ninth on a solo homer by Matt Adams.

Nothing captures the state of flux the bullpen is in more than this: Martin (April 15), Rivero (April 17) and Grace (April 22) all have made their major-league debuts over the last 10 days.

Also, the Nats dealt Xavier Cedeno to the Dodgers for cash on Wednesday, having designated him for assignment on April 14.

3. Costly defensive plays in Games 2 and 3 – The Nats’ defense continues to be an issue.

Ryan Zimmerman committed an error during the Cardinals’ two-run third in Game 2.

Aaron Barrett committed a throwing error in the Cardinals’ two-run eighth in Game 3, allowing former Oriole Mark Reynolds to score on his RBI double.  This play was total amateur hour.  Barrett’s poor throw appeared to be a function of Danny Espinosa’s relay throw sailing over Jose Lobaton, as Barrett, who was backing up Lobaton, collected the ball and hurried a throw to second in an attempt to get Reynolds. The ball went into center field, and Reynolds had, as MASN's Bob Carpenter called it, a "little-league home run."

4. Another injury to worry about - We learned after Game 3 that Zimmerman is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, though, for now, he is not expected to miss any substantial length of time.

5. Doug Fister’s start in Game 2 – Fister allowed five runs (four earned) over the first three innings, giving up five hits (including two homers).  He then settled down with three straight scoreless innings, but this was not the Fister we’re used to seeing.

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Orioles Swept At Toronto
by Al Galdi
Apr 24, 2015 -- 1:04pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 13-6 loss on Tuesday night (April 21)

Game 2: 4-2 loss on Wednesday night (April 22)

Game 3: 7-6 loss on Thursday night (April 23)

What I liked:

1. Manny Machado
– Machado went 5-for-10 with a walk and six RBI in the series, blasting a solo homer and a three-run homer in Game 3.

2. Delmon Young – Young went 4-for-9 in the series.

3. Adam Jones – Jones went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series.

4. Buck Showalter removing Jones from Game 1 – Tensions escalated in the seventh inning, when Jose Bautista homered off Jason Garcia after Garcia had thrown a pitch behind Bautista, who showboated after hitting the homer and then had some words for the O’s as he rounded the bases.  Jones took exception and began shouting at Bautista.  Buck then removed Jones from the game before his next plate appearance, not wanting to even risk Jones being thrown at.  Smart move, especially given that starting position players J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters and Jonathan Schoop already are on the 15-day disabled list.  

And by the way, it’s very hard to believe that Garcia purposely threw at Bautista.  Garcia is a rookie who was acquired by the O’s from Houston for cash considerations following the Astros taking him with the fourth overall pick in the Rule-5 Draft last December.  He has seen very little playing time so far this season and likely was nervous.  The O’s are in a difficult spot with Garcia.  Because he is a Rule-5 pick, the O’s must keep him on the 25-man roster all season or risk losing him via waivers or by offering him back to his original organization (Boston).  But they clearly don’t trust him, as he has appeared in just four games and allowed five runs in seven innings on seven hits and four walks.  

Garcia is representative of the lack of flexibility that the O’s have with this roster from a standpoint of minor-league options and the like.  The O’s have made a living the last few years shuttling players to and from Triple-A Norfolk but are not in a position to operate the same way so far this season.  

5. The bullpen starting with the eighth inning of Game 1 – Orioles relievers from that point forward combined for 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the series.  Garcia and Brian Matusz combined to allow four runs in 4 2/3 innings on 10 hits, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch in Game 1.

What I didn’t like:

1. No Orioles starter lasting longer than 5 1/3 innings for a second consecutive series
– What started in the O’s splitting a four-game series at Boston continued in Toronto.  The starting pitching has been awful lately, and the bullpen can't keep being gone to so early in games without it eventually falling apart. 

Bud Norris allowed nine runs in 2 1/3 innings on six hits and three walks in Game 1.  He now has a 17.42 ERA over three starts this season, having allowed 20 runs in 10 1/3 innings.  Two of the starts have come against the power-hitting Blue Jays, but Norris was terrific against them last season, going 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA over five starts.  Norris had a bad spring training, and the struggles have obviously continued into the regular season.

Ubaldo Jimenez allowed four runs in five innings in Game 2, giving up six hits (including two two-run homers) and three walks.  He did record six strikeouts.

Chris Tillman allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 3, giving up five hits and five walks.  He was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher over the previous three seasons, but he now has a 7.58 ERA and 1.84 WHIP over four starts this season.

2. Alejandro De Aza getting thrown out trying to steal in Game 2 – De Aza got thrown out trying to steal third to end the top of the seventh, despite Chris Davis being at the plate and the O’s trailing, 4-2.  Terrible decision with little upside.

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Orioles Split Four-Game Series At Boston
by Al Galdi
Apr 20, 2015 -- 6:28pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 3-2 loss on Friday night (April 17)

Game 2: 4-1 win on Saturday (April 18)

Game 3: 8-3 win on Sunday afternoon (April 19)

Game 4: 7-1 loss in a rain-shortened seven-inning game on Monday (April 20)

What I liked:

1. The offense in Games 2 and 3
– The O’s totaled 12 runs and went 28-for-78 at the plate.

2. Adam Jones – Jones went 8-for-16 with a walk in the series, totaling five RBI in Game 3.   

3. Ryan Flaherty – Flaherty was the starting second baseman in Games 2-4 and went 6-for-11 with a walk.

4. Jimmy Paredes – Paredes on Saturday was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, which he had been on retroactively since April 1 with a lower back strain.  He was the DH in Games 2-4 and went 6-for-13.

5. The bullpen – Considered how much the bullpen was leaned on (see item no. 2 under “What I didn’t like”), hard to be too disappointed in what we got: five runs in 14 innings on eight hits and six walks.

What I didn’t like:

1. Ubaldo Jimenez getting ejected in Game 1
– Jimenez got ejected in the bottom of the fourth by home plate umpire Jordan Baker for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch.  The ejection was ridiculous, coming despite no warning and in a circumstance (Jimenez is coming off a bad season in which control problems plagued him, the O’s were leading 1-0 on the road) that didn’t seem to dictate purposely throwing at a batter.  Baker, who is 6-foot-7 and just 33 years old, believed that the O’s were mad about a hard slide, but he made a terrible call here.

2. No Orioles starter lasting longer than 5 1/3 innings – Not every outing was terrible, but the starting pitching continued to either be inefficient or not good enough.  Chris Tillman allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings on 105 pitches in Game 2.  Miguel Gonzalez allowed three runs in five innings on 96 pitches in Game 3.  Wei-Yin Chen allowed five runs (none earned) in 4 1/3 innings on 95 pitches in Game 4.  The bullpen has had to be used way too often so far this season, and the starting pitchers have themselves to blame.

3. The offense in Games 1 and 4 – The O’s totaled just four runs and went 9-for-56 at the plate.

4. Jonathan Schoop now being out – The O’s on Saturday placed Schoop on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee.  But as noted above, Flaherty was very good in Schoop’s absence in this series.

5. The defense in Game 4 – It’s not often under Buck Showalter that the Orioles’ defense is a problem, but this was the case on Monday.  Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, playing for the first time since April 12, committed a throwing error during the Red Sox’s one-run first.  Chen and third baseman Manny Machado committed errors during the Red Sox’s four-run third.

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Nationals Win Three Of Four Over Philadelphia
by Al Galdi
Apr 20, 2015 -- 1:50pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 5-2 win on Thursday night (April 16)

Game 2: 7-2 win on Friday night (April 17)

Game 3: 5-3 loss on Saturday afternoon (April 18)

Game 4: 4-1 win on Sunday afternoon (April 19)

What I liked:

1. Doug Fister’s start in Game 1
- Fister allowed two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings on 86 pitches.

2. Max Scherzer’s start in Game 2 – Scherzer allowed one run in eight innings, recording nine strikeouts versus no walks and four hits.  He became the first pitcher since the franchise moved to D.C. to last eight innings in two of his first three starts in a season.

3. Stephen Strasburg’s start in Game 4 – Strasburg rebounded nicely from allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings on a career-worst 10 hits in an 8-7 loss at Boston on April 14, giving up one run in 7 1/3 innings on seven strikeouts.  Perhaps most significant was his improved efficiency, as he totaled 95 pitches off totaling 204 pitches in 10 2/3 innings over his first two starts this season.

4. Bryce Harper – Harper went 3-for-9 with five walks in the series, blasting a three-run homer in Game 2 and a solo homer in Game 3.  He drew an intentional walk in each of the series' final three games and exited it leading the majors with five intentional walks.

Another notable moment for Harper: running right through a stop sign by third base coach Bob Henley and ending up just a few feet behind Jayson Werth on Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run double in Game 1

5. Ryan Zimmerman – Zimmerman went 4-for-16 with seven RBI in the series, providing two-run doubles in Games 1 and 2, an RBI groundout in Game 3 and an RBI double and RBI single in Game 4.

6. Ian Desmond the batter – Desmond went 9-for-17 with a walk in the series, totaling an RBI double and eight singles.

7. Denard Span being back – Span, who originally wasn’t expected back until late April at the earliest off undergoing right core-muscle surgery in March and sports-hernia surgery in December, was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.  He started in center field and had a single and a run.

8. The bullpen – Nats relievers combined to allow two runs in 6 2/3 innings in the series, issuing no walks and recording six strikeouts.  The negative: nine hits.

What I didn’t like:

1. Ian Desmond the fielder
– Desmond committed an error in a scoreless Phillies seventh in Game 2 and then made multiple costly fielding mistakes in the Phillies’ two-run third in Game 3.  First, he botched a routine grounder from opposing starter Aaron Harang and then bounced his throw to first, leaving Harang safe (a replay review overturned the original call).  Desmond was officially credited with an error for that play.  Three batters later, he dropped the ball trying to make the transfer on a what would have been a routine 4-6-3 double play.

2. Jordan Zimmermann’s start in Game 3 - Zimmermann, coming off arguably the worst start of his career (seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 9-4 loss at Boston on April 13), was better but still not as good as we know he can be: four runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings on four hits and four walks.  The four walks matched a career high that had been set four previous times, though none since the start of the 2013 season.  In fact, Zimmermann TOTALED four walks last September off totaling four walks in August.

3. Yunel Escobar getting injured in Game 2 – Escobar suffered a groin strain and did not play in Games 3 and 4.  Danny Espinosa started those games at third base and made multiple impressive plays in Game 4.

4. Michael Taylor’s mixed run as the everyday center fielder – The corresponding roster move to Span being activated on Sunday was Taylor being optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.  Taylor as a batter was mostly good, posting a .271 batting average and a .500 slugging percentage over 12 games.  But he had three walks versus 19 strikeouts.  And then there was the fielding.  Taylor, reputedly an excellent glove man, had a number of struggles, including dropping a fly ball while running toward the wall for an error in the Phillies’ one-run fourth in Game 1 and committing a throwing error in the Phillies' one-run ninth in Game 2.  He remains the Nats’ likely everyday center fielder in 2016, and you just have a hope that he learns from this stint.

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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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