Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nats run into rolling Wainwright

Photo by USA Today

Struggling to score over their previous two games and missing two regulars in their lineup, the Nationals could have used a game against some run-of-the-mill, meatball tossing pitcher. Perhaps the last man they would have liked to face on Tuesday was Adam Wainwright. 

Not only is Wainwright one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, he took to the mound a source of extra motivation. Knowing he had trouble with Washington hitters in particular last season, and knowing he wasn’t at his best the last time he pitched at Nationals Park in Game 5 of the NLDS, Wainwright had an axe to grind. 

Unfortunately for the Nats, they had to be sacrificed.

“That start, even though we won the game, that served as motivation,” he said. “That game to me was a game that I live for and I was disappointed in the effort I put out there. It just gives you incentive to work harder in the offseason and come back stronger.”

The Nationals gave Wainwright trouble last year in both the regular season and the playoffs. In total he gave up 14 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings, including six in just 2 1/3 in Game 5. 

“They’ve got some numbers off me in the past so I knew you could go two ways with it,” he said. “Either you remember those games, you give them too much credit and you go out there defeated already, or you say ‘no, I’m a good enough pitcher to get everyone out.’”

Wainwright had memories of last year fresh in his mind. He also had his backup catcher putting in extra time to help him game plan.

“When I got here Tony Cruz spent the morning here digging up stuff, tendencies they had against me,” Wainwright said. 

“He brought that into our plan to add to what I had going. It was a good session early on and tonight I think the key was just executing what I was trying to do.”

Wainwright had a down season in 2012 as he was in the first year back from the Tommy John surgery he had in 2011. But otherwise he has been one of the game’s best pitchers since 2006, finishing in the top three of Cy Young voting in both 2009 and 2010. Now, however, he is not only stronger another year after the procedure, he has a new weapon.

Wainwright struck out Adam LaRoche four times on Tuesday, including once with the bases loaded in the sixth with a high four-seam fastball he is just starting to utilize. He said he is taking a note from Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in trying to mix in the high heat with his curveball.

“To be honest with you, I probably threw until last year about three or four four-seam fastballs my whole career,” he said. “It’s something I worked on this spring training and the games leading up to this point. It was a pitch that I wanted to add to my repertoire.”

LaRoche is one of Wainwright’s best friends and the pitcher said he’ll wait a few days to try and talk to him. 

“I’m not going to text him tonight, but maybe a couple of days from now,” he said.

Wainwright was able to hit his spots up in the zone all night, grooving his fastball and hitting the edge of the plate with his swooping curve. It is a strategy manager Mike Matheny is okay with, but only if you can pull it off.

“I think there’s very few guys who should throw in the top of the zone, bad things happen,” Matheny said.

“We preach down in the zone, pitch to contact, that’s the philosophy of our organization. But there’s times for every adjustment.”

Wainwright finished with a near complete game shutout, he was pulled with one out in the ninth inning despite allowing just five hits and a walk. The lone walk, to Bryce Harper in the sixth inning, was the first he has allowed all year, coming 34 innings into his season.

Wainwright felt he could have tried to get Harper out, but said afterwards the walk was the right move given the situation.

“I was going to let the game dictate when that was okay to do and right there I felt like pitching him tough," he said. "Even though I’m loading the bases for a tough hitter in LaRoche, Bryce Harper can hurt you in a lot of different ways. Even though I knew I could make a pitch to get him out, I was smart about it. When you load the bases you got a lot of different ways to get an out.”

“I wasn’t going to go the whole season without walking someone." 

Matheny called the walk one of his “favorite things” about Wainwright’s night.

“I knew he was going to pitch Bryce tough right there and do that. That’s what he did, he stuck with his gameplan. He didn’t let something like a walkless streak... you can get distracted by stuff like that. In a game that close, any missed opportunity, or a bad judgment, something that can distract you cost you a run, and not just that runner but the game.”

Wainwright fell two outs short of his second complete game of the season as Matheny replaced him with Edward Mujica after 113 pitches. He had sprinted to the mound ready for the opportunity, but fell just short of getting the final three outs.

“I was very disappointed. First, letting the leadoff guy on. You go out for the ninth inning with a borderline pitch count, you have to get the leadoff guy out,” he said. 

“I was so mad when Bryce Harper got on base. He’s a great player, an amazing player, one of my tougher outs in the game. Just get him out and I probably finish that game. But he worked a tough at-bat on me, I threw some good pitches to him, and you tip your hat there.”

The Nats may have finally frustrated Wainwright in the ninth inning, but it was too little too late. They were shut out for the second time in the last three games and now have to try and avoid the sweep on Wednesday. Jaime Garcia will take the ball for St. Louis, perhaps increasing the odds just a little bit of the Nationals’ lineup getting things going.

33 comments:

Navy Nats Fan said...

What a beautiful day - need an excuse to come to the game and see the results when Davey gets a little mad?

I have a few groups of extra tickets in the right field mezzanine to today's game - I am selling them at a deep discount. Contact me at navynatsfan(at)gmail(dot)com for details!

Tcostant said...

Wainwright ain't so good, he gave up a walk.

JD said...


There are 2 basic differences from last April to this April:

1)Stephen Strasburg.
2)Gio Gonzalez.

Tcostant said...

In D.C. on business Thursday so I just picked up a club seat for $22 on stubhub; life is grand.

Section 222 said...

JD, I might switch the order, but I think you're absolutely right. Remember last year when most of the experts (including our fearless leader and most of the "experts" who comment here), picked the Phillies to win the AL East even though Ryan Howard had yet to come back from his Achilles tendon injury and Utley could hardly walk? They did so because of the supposed dominance of the team's starting rotation. And then it took quite awhile for it to sink in that Halladay, Lee, and Hamels were not as unhittable as everyone thought. Even as late as late August, some folks feared the Phillies would make a run. Reputations die hard.

This year, even though we have a highly touted, balanced lineup and made some improvements in some people's eyes by trading for Span and re-signing ALR, the real reason that the Nats were the preseason favorite was our rotation. And it's the rotation's reputation that is keeping the experts (on MLB Network for example) for abandoning us quite yet.

It's too early to tell whether Stras and Gio are this year's Halladay and Lee, but all the lineup tinkering in the world isn't going to make a bit of difference if they don't return to their 2012 form. So we can debate Lombo vs. Espi, Moore vs. ALR, and Rendon vs. Zim all we want, but the real issue is whether Stras vs. Stras and Gio vs. Gio.

JD said...


Bowdenball,

I have often taken your position regarding Espi/Lombo but there is one caviat. There is a chance that Lombo has gotten better. I am not opposed to giving Lombo an extended look.

Espi is the current poster boy/punching bag but in the current slump everyone not named Harper is producing pretty much at the same level.

Eric said...

Re: Espi, I really think it would be insane to bench or send down the only extremely solid ranging infielder we have going so far this season. ESPECIALLY just as the D finally seems to be gelling. His hitting is frustrating, but if/when everyone else gets going, his D will more than compensate. There's certainly precedence for this:
http://www.funtrivia.com/en/subtopics/Good-Field-No-Hit-Shortstops-214882.html

Eric said...

Er, while that's a list of short stops, I think the point translates to Espi.

EmDash said...

I feel like this is the kind of loss we would shrug off outside of the context - the poor pitching/defensive start to the year and Atlanta's hot start. Not being able to muster much against one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this year, who's getting every single borderline call in his favor (and some clearly wrong calls in his favor)? That's kind of understandable. But I hope they come alive in a big way today, they may need the burst of confidence.

peric said...

To the Espinosa bashers stop saying he's a liability and Lombo is better over x amount of at bats because you are just plain wrong.

2012: Espinosa .315 OBP .400 SLG
2012 Lombardozz: .317 OBP .350 SLG

Lombo either needs to get A LOT better defensively, learn to walk, and hit for more power. Can he do all of that? Probably not at this stage. Is he a good pinch hitter and decent UTL; except he is a defensive liability and MOST banjo hitters had better get on base.

If Kobernus keeps hitting the way he has been seems likely he could move ahead of both of them.

peric said...

Now Adam LaRoche on the other hand? 22 K's already in the #4 slot behind Harper is a gaping hole which Tyler Moore might be able to fill but with a loss of some defensive prowess. A healthy Ryan Ziimmerman's bat should fill the hole nicely. He doesn't slump for long when he's healthy.

Eric said...

peric, methinks you're enamored of call ups ;).

JD said...


Sec222,

I am concerned that the coaching staff has gotten into Stras's head about pitching more efficiently.
I watched him very closely against the Mets and he was throwing an assortment of 2 seam fastballs/curveballs/changeups right from the start and he had a hard time commanding his assortment ending up with a high pitch count which is exactly the opposite of what he's trying to accomplish.

Ron Darling commented and I agree that when you have Stras's stuff you should use your secondary pitches sparingly at least the 1st time through the lineup and probably the 1st 2 times just like Harvey was doing. It's time to start blowing people away.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD said...

Bowdenball,

I have often taken your position regarding Espi/Lombo but there is one caviat. There is a chance that Lombo has gotten better. I am not opposed to giving Lombo an extended look.

Espi is the current poster boy/punching bag but in the current slump everyone not named Harper is producing pretty much at the same level.

April 24, 2013 10:18 AM


To Peric, you can't compare Espi overall as his problem is LH plus you are assuming that Rookie Lombo who swan dived the last part of 2012 is indicative of what he will do in 2013.

You must try to improve. Lombo is hitting albeit a small sample size and Espi is batting 40 pounds below his weight.

Davey has to shake it up. Get TyMo and Lombo in there for some more looks.

I still think the answer will be Rendon at 2nd and Espi can fix himself in Syracuse.

Time to get real.

JD said...


Peric,

LaRoche is coming off a 30 HR 100 RBI season and has historically been a slow starter. It could be that his skills have left him completely between last September and now but it's not all that likely.

I would like to see Tyler Moore play a bunch of games in a row if only to give Werth and LaRoche a blow.

JD said...


Ghost,

What have you seen from Rendon that implies he's ready?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD said...

Ghost,

What have you seen from Rendon that implies he's ready?


That double and the fact I know he's a born hitter. He's just needs to get in a groove.

If he doesn't show he's ready by the time RZim comes back, then we know where he's going. He can go back to AA or straight to AAA and make some adjustments and show Rizzo he deserves another chance.

bowdenball said...

JD said...

"I have often taken your position regarding Espi/Lombo but there is one caviat. There is a chance that Lombo has gotten better. I am not opposed to giving Lombo an extended look."

I can understand that. But he would have to get a LOT better to compensate for the gulf between the two career-wise to date. Especially when you consider that he can't possibly make up the gap in power no matter how much he improves.

Also, my posts weren't intended to criticize people who think Lombo is worth an extended look over Espi, although I disagree with that too. My posts were aimed at the people who think it's obvious and that Lombo should be in the lineup starting today, against a left-hander. That's a MUCH easier question. There is no argument for Lombo over Espi against LHP unless Espi is hurt or something.

Tcostant said...

JD I think Darling and you are correct about Stras. As a side note, isn't it amazing how far Darling as come in the years since he was part of the Nationals broadcast team.

Eric said...

"That double and the fact I know he's a born hitter. He's just needs to get in a groove."

This describes half of our slumping line up right now, including RZimm. I see no reason to give Rendon--with his total lack of MLB history--more benefit of the doubt during a slump than the proven starters.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

bowdenball, agreed that Espi batting RH is better than Lombo batting RH.

Davey may really want to get Lombo some LH at-bats however. If it doesn't work out it doesn't work out but at this point Davey has to jump start this offense and pump some excitement back into this team.

Espi isn't the biggest problem, it's been LaRoche who has been a K machine in key situations and clearly other players like Werth have to step up.

peric said...

That double and the fact I know he's a born hitter. He's just needs to get in a groove.

He understands the strike zone and is clearly not going to be a 'K' machine. He's not a replacement for Zimmerman. He's the way and means to keep his bat healthy.

JD said...


Ghost,

Rendon will get his chance in the next 2 weeks and I hope I am wrong but I see a young hitter who can still be dominated by veteran pitchers. I think a trip to AAA would be very beneficial because that's where you face a lot of older veteran pitchers.

peric said...

LaRoche is coming off a 30 HR 100 RBI season and has historically been a slow starter. It could be that his skills have left him completely between last September and now but it's not all that likely.

Historically, he doesn't get started until the team he is on is out of the running. Except for last year. Not as much pressure when the team is out of the running.

LaRoche needs to step it up. He's in the 4-hole behind Harper and they've all decided to stop pitching to Harp. And that's because they like the way he is hitting right now. That IS NOT GOING to work. Not with the new improved Braves franchise. And its not like the Phillies and Mets are that far away.

peric said...

Rendon will get his chance in the next 2 weeks and I hope I am wrong but I see a young hitter who can still be dominated by veteran pitchers. I think a trip to AAA would be very beneficial because that's where you face a lot of older veteran pitchers.

And that likely is where he is going in order to get exposure to major league caliber breaking pitches and relief pitchers. I hope you are wrong and he doesn't go down mostly because I want to see Zimmerman get completely healthy again. LaRoche as a middle of the order bat looks pathetic and I'm not so sure that will change. Look at his age? I'm sure Davey is getting an earful from the FO about that.

peric said...

They need a healthy Zimmerman and his bat or they aren't going anywhere this season.

peric said...

I see no reason to give Rendon--with his total lack of MLB history--more benefit of the doubt during a slump than the proven starters.

Who you got to play gold-glove caliber third base? Lombo and his arm just don't cut it. Tracy? You've got to be joking right?

Plus Rendon is the system's TOP PROSPECT period. And will remain so given that Giolito still has a lot of time left in his rehab. So, HE WILL get the benefit of the doubt over a lot of veterans who are either declining rapidly (LaRoche/Werth) or haven't really proven themselves long enough yet. (Desmond)

Eric said...

Re: LaRoche's age, he's younger than Werth! Both are slumping!

Conclusion: we're screwed.

Eric said...

"Who you got to play gold-glove caliber third base? Lombo and his arm just don't cut it. Tracy? You've got to be joking right? "

Er, I suppose I could've been if I'd said "Tracy"?

Anyway, again, I see no reason to think a slumping, unproven entity the benefit of the doubt over a slumping, proven entity.

Sure, LaRoche and Werth may have utterly collapsed in the off season. But, it also seems possible that Rendon won't (yet) reproduce his minor league success in the majors over the next two weeks.

Lots of possible outcomes here, and I forgot my crystal ball.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD said...

Ghost,

Rendon will get his chance in the next 2 weeks and I hope I am wrong but I see a young hitter who can still be dominated by veteran pitchers. I think a trip to AAA would be very beneficial because that's where you face a lot of older veteran pitchers.


Rendon got over-matched yesterday along with almost every player.

His first few starts he was opening up with his head coming off the ball which caused his bat to come off the ball. Most of that was nervousness and trying to hit the ball 500 feet.

His AB where he hit the double was textbook.

He has to get it going or like I said he will be back in the Minors. If he can get it going, I really think he will be Davey's new 2nd baseman when RZim comes back.

Eric said...

peric - I think our wires are crossed. My only point in the "benefit of the doubt" argument is that I find it odd people give Rendon more benefit of the doubt to "find his groove" than they seem to give Werth, Desmond, or LaRoche. I'm not at all suggesting we remove Rendon from third because he's in a slump.

Alphabet Soup Erik said...

Ghost-Agree 100% that Rendon may very well be at 2B when Zimmerman returns. Espinosa has been given 3 years worth of chances to learn how to hit an outside fastball and a low and inside breaking ball...still can't do either. Wasn't he about Rendon's age when he got all of his chances. So tired about hearing how Rendon isn't ready...blah, blah, blah!!! Those same idiots said Harper wasn't ready and needed to be in the minors also. Talent is talent. He just needs MLB at bats. I really don't think the 2 decent pitchers a week he might see in AAA are going to make any difference to his progression. This kid can hit.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Thanks Erik!

Oh NEW POST

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