Tag Archives: Washington Nationals

Bullpen hiccups cost Phillies series sweep against Nationals

It almost seems fitting that when MLB Network re-aired an episode of ‘The Pen’ documenting the ’09 Phillies bullpen the year after they won the World Series would be the day that this year’s almost perfect pen would blow it and put a skid to the Phils five game win streak.

For a second straight start (well his only two thus far) lefty J.A. (call me ‘Jay’) Happ didn’t allow an earned run.  However, again in his second straight start he didn’t last six innings.

Against the Nationals in the final game of the series in Philadelphia he did last 1/3 of an inning longer and only allowed 3 hits, as apposed to six in his first start.   However, he didn’t have any strikeouts and walked six batters.  Walking six and not allowing an earned run is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but why put that much pressure on yourself.

Not taking anything away from Scott Olsen who pitched adequately but this game really started when both starters left the game.  It seems the Nats bullpen took a page from the Phillies for this game.  The night before after the two inning slugfest to start the game, the Phillies bullpen came in and held Washington to only four hits and one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.  The Nats bullpen didn’t fair so well giving up seven hits, seven runs and four walks in only 4 innings.

After Jose Contreras struck out the final two batters in the 6th coming in for Happ, the rest of the night was a bit shaky.  Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and Ryan Madson pitched an inning each in which combined they allowed six hits and six earned runs.  The biggest blow was the pinch-hit two-run homerun by Ryan Zimmerman, which put the Nats up by one.

Obviously the bullpen is going to have its troubles, just like the starting rotation, but they should be expected to hold it down against a team like Washington?  Ok maybe that is not fair.  Yes they are a Major League team but again they are the Washington Nationals.

Let’s look at it this way.  Relievers are supposedly brought it depending on match ups.  Now when a pitcher doesn’t last 6 innings, the bullpen may be required to pitch longer than usual and face hitters they normally would not be left in to face.  And with logging over seven innings the night before, the bullpen was a little skinny.  Last night against the Nats the bullpen trio for Philly (Bastardo, Baez, Madson) faced a total of 18 batters.  Of those 18, nine reached base via a hit or a walk.  When two of those hits turn out to be homeruns, then the walks really hurt.

Hopefully with Roy Halladay pitching today, that will give the bullpen a rest.

Worth noting:  Placido Polanco once again has two hits in a game and is batting a league high .475.  Jimmy Rollins replacement at shortstop while he is on the DL Juan Castro went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.  Chase Utley, for the series with Washington, had 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R.

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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Oddities on Opening Day in Big Win for Phillies

All the things you expected to happen, did.  Thousands of Phillies fans made the trip to the Nation’s capitol to see the Phillies take on the Nationals for Opening Day of the 2010 season.  The Phillies delivered in crushing fashion beating Washington 11-1.  Roy Halladay made his debut and looked stellar.  Allowing only one run in 7 innings and striking out nine.  The Phillies hit the ball.  And I mean hit.  Ryan Howard put those ‘slow start’ talks aside and crushed a John Lannan offering into the right field seats to give the Phightins a 2-1 lead.  It was all down hill from there.

As Phillies fans, we all expected this.  We expected, as we do every game, for the Phillies to win.  And win big.  Philadelphia has always been called an AL lineup in the National League.  They are going to hit homeruns.  We also expected Halladay to dominate.  And facing the lowly Nationals it was no problem.  Lifted after 7 innings and 87 pitches, I am confident he could have pitched a complete game.  But there was no need for

With the group at the Phillies Nation tailgate.

that.  A call to the bullpen showed confidence in the new arms.  Antonio Bastardo, Danny Baez and David Herndon finsihed out the game only allowing three hits and striking out two in the final two innings.

But like I said, we all expected this.  There were a few things that made me, at least, say hmmmm.  The first thing happened at about 10:15 Monday morning getting to the parking lot.  This was the parking lot under the bridge on the Potomac where Phillies Nation was holding their Opening Day Tailgate party.  Which by the way was amazing.  If you weren’t in this parking lot bare with me for a bit.  Upon pulling into the parking lot a middle aged gentleman walked up to the car and said ‘Parking?  $15.”

This wasn’t the weird part, because we knew we would have to pay to park.  He was wearing a 3-piece suit in almost 80 degree weather directing people where to park.  And this was a dirt parking lot.  Seemed like odd attire for a job like that.  Now we move on to the game.  Or right before it I should say.  President Barack Obama came out to throw the first pitch.  Smiling hugely as he walked out of the dugout, he shook hands with a couple discharged military people and Nationals Coach Jim Riggleman.  I noticed he had a glove under his arm, like an 8 yr-old hoping to catch a foul ball.  Still not the oddest part.  He walked to the mound and put on a Chicago White Sox cap.  We all know he is from Chicago and an avid sports fan but this seemed a little much.  Almost in bad taste.  But then again it is the Nationals and he is a politician.

Other oddities actually happened in the stat columns.  Halladay had always been a pitcher that doesn’t walk a lot of batters.  Last season he had more starts than he did walks.  On Opening Day he issued two walks, one of which was in the first inning.  After the game the Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz, said Halladay never once shook him off.  So it seemed Roy was comfortable throwing whatever Chooch asked for.

Next was the third baseman trotting out to the hot corner for the Phils.  Polacido Polanco netted six rbis for the day with four of them coming on a grand slam in the 7th inning against Nationals reliever Jason Bergmann.  A great start to his second stint with Philadelphia.

Throw in an error in left for Raul Ibanez, a stolen base by Jimmy Rollins and a base hit for Halladay it was a very exciting game.  What a way to start the season!  Go Phillies!

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Strasburg Debuts, Delivers on Hype

I must admit this was a day I have been waiting for all spring.  Since the day the Nationals made the San Diego State star their number one pick overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, I was not the only one counting down until Spring Training.  Stephen Strasburg was hitting triple digits, regularly, on the radar gun in college.

Well that day came.  Amongst all the hype and excitement Strasburg toed the rubber for his first action of Spring Training 2010 against the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

And he did not disappoint.  In his first inning he threw only seven pitches.  With none of them registering lower than 96 mph on the radar gun.  He fell behind the first two hitters 2-0 then got them both to ground out.   In the second inning, things should have been a bit more difficult for the young right hander, with some of the core guys for the Tigers coming to the plate,  but he made easy work of Miguel Cabrera with a 98-mph heater and getting Carlos Guillen to ground out to third base on a 97-mph fastball.  After allowing two consecutive singles, Strasburg then fell behind 3-0 to Brent Dlugach only to strike him on the third consecutive strike looking; an 81-mph curveball.   Strasburg finished the day pitching 2 IP, 2, H, 2 K, and 0 BB.  He threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.

For the most part, Strasburg looked sharp.  His fastball obviously had some zip on it but what surprised me the most was his hook.  His curveball froze Cabrera in the second inning for a called strike.  And when he came back with a top shelf 98-mph fastball, it just wasn’t fair.   Now a little of his success, I guess, can be attributed to the Tigers having never seen this kid throw before.  But in no way can you take away from how this kid throws.

In college, he threw two pitches.  His fastball and a breaking pitch.  It seems at the Major League level, Strasburg will throw two types of fastballs; a four-seam and a two-seamer which both have good movement.  He also has a breaking ball and a change-up.  There has been rumors of him developing a cutter, but we didn’t see it in his debut.

It still appears to be a pipe dream for Strasburg to start the year in Washington with the big club, but a September call up would not be out of the question.  When asked about the possibility of Strasburg making the Opening Day roster, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman had this to say, “I think it’s going to come down to a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision.”

“We anticipate that he is going to throw great. I think it’s going to come down to, what is going to be best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization? I have been very impressed, and I continue to be impressed.”

My guess is he will start at Class-AA Harrisburg for eight to ten starts before moving up to Class-AAA Syracuse until a possible September call up.

Kieran Carobine

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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