Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lineup keeps on clicking

US Presswire photo
Even Jordan Zimmermann contributed to the Nats' offensive onslaught Tuesday night.
There was a time -- not all that long ago, really -- when the Nationals fielded a lineup that if lucky might scrape together just enough runs to make a fantastic pitching performance hold up.

That was one week ago. It only feels longer.

These days, the Nationals lineup can't stop scoring runs in bunches. With a 9-3 drubbing of Tim Lincecum and the Giants Tuesday night, they extended their recent offensive barrage and made it clear they're no longer a team that relies solely on its pitching staff.

"If they keep hitting the way they're hitting now, I don't see why we can't just run away with this in the second half," right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said. "And if we keep pitching the way we are ... I mean, it's going to be tough to beat us."

It certainly looks tough to beat them right now. Winners in five of their last seven, the Nationals (46-32) now own the NL's best record by 2 1/2 games, having just beaten up on the club that entered the day with the league's second-best record.

And this burst of offense isn't coming from only one or two players. Sure, the re-emergence of stalwarts Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse has been a key difference over the last week, but that's also opening the door for Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa to step up their games.

"Those guys are obviously well renowned big leaguers," Desmond said of Zimmerman and Morse. "For them to be swinging the bat the way they are, it's contagious."

Tuesday night's game -- which included a 1-hour, 25-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh -- saw the Nationals take down a former two-time Cy Young Award winner who barely resembles himself these days. Lincecum entered with a 5.60 ERA and that number only skyrocketed to 6.08 after he was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.

It marked the first time in his illustrious career that Lincecum gave up eight runs.

"That's just lack of command," manager Davey Johnson said. "Some guys were saying he looks underweight. But, to me, with any pitcher if your command is off, you're going to have problems. Hitters get to see more pitches, you're able to time more pitches. Command is the key up here."

No one has timed Lincecum's pitches out as well as Desmond, who singled and crushed a two-run homer (his 14th of the season) to improve to a staggering 9-for-11 in his career against the San Francisco ace.

"He's a good pitcher," Desmond said. "I think I just kind of rise to the occasion when I face him. That adrenaline that we talk about, I can't really fake it. It just shows up. I know he's one of the best pitchers in the game, and that gets my blood flowing a little bit."

The biggest beneficiary of this explosion was Zimmermann, who over the last two seasons has received some of the worst run support in baseball but who has happily accepted the 20 runs the Nationals have supplied him the last two times he's taken the mound.

"It's definitely nice," the right-hander said.

It's also nice for the Nationals to know what they're going to get from Zimmermann every time he's handed the ball. The 26-year-old has now made 16 starts this season and has pitched at least six innings all 16 times. Fourteen of those outings have been quality starts.

"As long as I can stay out there and keep the team in the ballgame and keep it close, I feel like I'm doing my job," he said.


Faraz Shaikh said...

impressive win! excited to see what we do against bum and cain.

Drew said...

The numbers keep getting more impressive.

Jordan's 2.70 ERA is the best on a stellar starting staff.

The Nats have scored 60 runs in seven games.

Adam LaRoche is quietly putting together a nice season, with 15 homers and 52 RBIs in the team's first 78 games.

If he winds up with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in addition to his strong defense and helpful clubhouse presence, it's going to be hard for the Nats to reject his option for 2013, even with the 3M conga line of Morse, Moore and Marrero.

SonnyG10 said...

This has to take the wind out of the sails of the Mets fans. The Mets are playing their hearts out and can't close the gap on us.

Bote Man said...

I *LOVE* how teams pitch around the Nats' #8 hitter so that Strasburg or Zimmermann can whack the cover off the ball. Hope they never learn.

joemktg said...

Speaking of lineups: first pitch in about 4 hours...WHERE ARE THE LINEUPS?? Rise and shine, peeps!!

Joe Seamhead said...

Great times for a Nats fans! I've never been so excited and optimistic about a DC Major League team, and I go back a ways!
Slightly off topic, but Walter Johnson's grandson, Henry Thomas, is throwing out the first pitch Thursday night. Hank wrote "Walter Johnson Baseball's Big Train," one of the most comprehensive and complete accountings of a ballplayer"'s career ever written. I honestly believe that Johnson was the greatest pitcher to ever play the game, and this biography makes it pretty hard to dispute it. Also, did you know that he managed for seven years? In 1930 he managed Washington to a 94-60 (.610) record, only to finish in 2nd place, which was good for one 'atta boy' because only the 1st place team went to the post season.If you can find a copy of the book, I would whole heartedly recommend it to any baseball fan, especially a Nats fan. GYFNG!

baseballswami said...

SonnyG- you are on to something there. The way things stand now, it's not enough for another team to win. That just keeps the gap the same. Overtaking is another thing. Once you have that lead it's in your own hands. So glad to be back to national league baseball so our pitchers can hit,hit, hit! Baseball in just a few hours!

Joe Seamhead said...

Wow! The Phillies are 12 games back now, nd 14 behind in the loss column.It's not even "tick-tock, tick-tock" anymore. Their clock has broken.Excuse me while I try not to gloat, though there is a side of me that wishes that we were going to enjoy the pleasures of a heated pennant race with them. If this keeps up we won't see too many of their fans at OUR stadium later in the year.

NatsLady said...

No Internet or cellphone yesterday until after the rain delay, so I am giving myself the pleasure of watching the first few innings. Lincecum just got knocked out... Funny about the air coolers in the Nats dugout, and none in the Visitors' dugout...

OK, this morning--let's have another one, just like the other one!

Candide said...

@ Joe Seamhead: I think you meant, "If this keeps up, we won't see too many of their fans at THEIR stadium later in the year."

First comes the slide deep into last place. Then comes the booing. Then comes the rows and rows of empty seats.

natsfan1a said...

Nice win last night. I watched until the final out (well, not during the rain delay). Yawn. Expect to be heading for the ballpark within the hour.

natsfan1a said...

In other news, Livo still fields his position well. Nice catch! :-)

natsfan1a said...

(btw, you'll want the Hart dinger footage for that.)

Candide said...

Interesting story about Nyjer Morgan, his latest dust-up with the fans, and sympathetic theory about what makes him tick.

NatsNut said...

Happy 4th, NI buddies.

LOL Desmond (from Kilgore):
“I’m getting tired of our pitchers hitting,” Desmond said. “They’re making us look bad.”

See you at the ballpark!


NatsLady said...

Happy Fourth. Read the Declaration out loud and watch the movie 1776--that is our family tradition. I'll be at a baseball game in the Nation's Capital. Can't get any better than that!! Go Nats!

Sec 304, in the ADA row if anyone wants to say "hello."

SonnyG10 said...

Happy 4th NI virtual friends! GYFNG!!!!!!

Candide said...

"If they keep hitting the way they're hitting now, I don't see why we can't just run away with this in the second half," right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said. "And if we keep pitching the way we are ... I mean, it's going to be tough to beat us."

Those are two huge "ifs." How often do you have everyone in the lineup - even the pitchers - hitting? At the moment, the "soft" spot in the lineup is, surprisingly, Harper. I noticed last night that even Flores has a higher BA than the team as a whole.

I'll be delighted if this kind of hitting, combined with the pitching we've had, holds up the rest of the season. I'll also be amazed. Still, if they can average five runs a game for a month or two, they'll probably run away and hide from the rest of the division.

Candide said...

And happy 236th birthday, America. Thanks for everything you've given us, not the least of which is the greatest game ever invented.

NCNatsie said...

Slept late. Gotta quick go put the flag out. Happy 4th to y'll.

If the team keeps giving JZimm 10 runs a game, pretty soon someone will say, "he's really not that good, he just gets tons of run support."

Section 215 Row A said...

Don't ever feel sorry for those Filthadelphia was just two years ago they came down here as a conquering horde in their vile buses for OUR home opener and screamed "YOU SUCK" whenever each of OUR Nationals were introduced. May they rot in last place forever.

Gonat said...

Even DeRosa is hitting.

Steady Eddie said...

Sec 215: four stages of transition--

Aug 2011: First place Phils come in with raucous and nasty fans, leave stunned after two Nats come-from-behind, walk-off wins.
(Sept 2011: first place Phil's swept by Nats as coasting starts to ever them into the ditch
May 2012: First place Nats send home fans of fading Phil's wiith their tails between their legs
July-Aug 2012: 14 Phillies fans show up for series with Nats and are very quiet

Gonat said...

Jordan Zimmermann with another combo game! Give me the #1 combo of the large burger and the large fries. Back to back games for JZim with great pitching and run support.

Who'd of thunk it?

ehay2k said...

Happy Independence Day everyone. Since it's a holiday, let's pencil in a multi-RBI game for Zimmerman!

ehay2k said...

Also, Mark Z. Has tweeted the lineup.Moore in for ALR.,

NCNatsie said...

After reviewing the news from last December-April I really can't understand how this team is winning.

1. We have no leadoff hitter.
2. Our catcher is out for the season.
3. We were too cheap to get Prince Fielder to play first base and have to start that mediocrity LaRoche instead.
4. Our middle infielders are completely incompetant and need to be traded RIGHT NOW!
5. Zimmerman is overrated and should be dropped WAY down in the lineup.
6. Morse will never be anywhere as good as he was last year.
7. We have no centerfielder at all.
8. Who knows when Harper will be ready, and even if they bring him up, don't expect much from a 19-year old (just look at history).
9. Strasburg is fragile.
10. We gave up way too much for Gonzalez, who walks way too many hitters.
11. Zimmermann is average at best.
12. If Jackson was any good, he wouldn't have been traded so many times.
13. We sent Lannan to the minors.
14. Our bullpen is decent, but they'll be way overworked and lose their effectiveness.

In fact, the only thing I can figure out is that it must be because that has-been Werth is injured and not ruining the team.

ehay2k said...

NCNatsie with the post of the day! You left out the terrible hitting coach though. :-P

NCNatsie said...



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