Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Around the NL East: Walk-off wins

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

Though the standings remain unchanged, the dogfight between the Nationals and Phillies for second place is perhaps the most intriguing story in an otherwise underwhelming division. Can the Nats finally shape up and pull away? How long can Domonic Brown prop up the Phillies? Both teams could still catch the first place Braves, of course, but as the mercury rises neither team really feels up to the challenge.

Atlanta Braves (42 - 28)

Freddie Freeman's two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth last night gave the Braves a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Mets, as well as a three-game winning streak after dropping four straight. Oddly enough, the Braves have lost in bunches this season, with five losing streaks of at least three games, though they've counterbalanced those skids with winning streaks of ten, eight, and five games. And yes, if you throw out their 13-2 start, they're just 29-26 since -- but those first 15 games count for just as much as the last 15, and the lead they have is the biggest in baseball. They say that what matters most is how your finish, and not how you start...but if you sprint out of the gate faster than anyone else, sometimes you can coast to the finish line. Ask Usain Bolt.

Aside from Freeman, who has proven to be far and away Atlanta's best hitter, the catching duo of Evan Gattis and Brian McCann has been impressively powerful (a combined 21 home runs and 51 RBI), and Chris Johnson has given them good production at third. The expected boost provided by starter Brandon Beachy will have to wait a bit, however, as word came today that he's been scratched from a doubleheader start against New York this afternoon. An MRI was negative, showing only fluid in his surgically repaired elbow, but the Braves can wait to debut Beachy with five good-or-better starters already in the mix.


Player of the Week: Freeman, 1B: 1 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, .423 AVG

Miami Marlins (22-47)

Now that Giancarlo Stanton is back, the Marlins are finally fielding the team that everyone, including Stanton, expected after their massive offseason roster purge: it's him, a handful of up-and-comers, a couple of trade chips, and a lot of roster filler. The only surprise so far has been the relatively decent pitching performances turned in by the majority of Miami's staff, as trade chips Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey have teamed with up-and-comer Jose Fernandez to keep Miami involved when they start.

That entire narrative was never more apparent than last night, when Stanton hit a pair of homers to drive in every Marlin run in a 3-2 victory over Arizona. The only other Marlins to reach base safely were Juan Pierre (single) and Marcell Ozuna (walk). The only thing more common for the rest of the summer in Miami than a Giancarlo Stanton solo home run will be empty stadium seats.

Player of the Weak: Stanton, OF: 5 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .393 AVG

New York Mets (25-40)

Forgive the Mets if it seems like they're putting a lot of effort into getting cougars to vote David Wright into the All-Star Game -- he deserves to go, and probably deserves to start, and...they don't have a whole lot else going on. Wunderkind Matt Harvey, the talk of baseball for the season's first month, has pitched no less brilliantly of late; the problem is, the Mets stopped winning the games he started, and talking heads can only praise a 5-0 record for so long (and now not at all, since Harvey recently suffered his first loss).

The problem in Queens is that help, aside from top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler (set to debut today), does not appear to be coming. With catcher Travis d'Arnaud still injured, no other impactful prospects are on the horizon, and with a roster devoid of much youth or potential, the idea of a quick or even eventual turnaround is either a pipedream or an abstract notion (depending on which future you're discussing). In the meantime, starter Dillon Gee continues to rebound from a horrendous start to the season, giving up just five runs over his last four starts.

Player of the Week: Gee, SP: 1-1, 13 K, 0.93 WHIP, 1.80 ERA

Philadelphia Phillies (34-37)

Jonathan Papelbon, a solid beacon of light at the end of games for the Phillies all year, finally blew his first save last night, giving up a Chad Tracy home run with two out in the top of the ninth. Domonic Brown bailed him out in a microcosm of Philadelphia's season, driving in the go-ahead run with a single (just a single, Dom?) in the bottom half of the inning, allowing Papelbon to walk off a winner. The Phillies, it seems, will go only as far as Brown's bat will take them, and it's only a matter of time before Cliff Lee -- who has been traded more than an chocolate pudding at a middle school lunch -- is moved again.

Aside from whichever prospects Lee is able to bring back, Philly fans have the continued maturation of Brown and fellow outfielder Ben Revere to look forward to, as each is hitting effectively (Revere: .274, Brown: .280) and is just beginning to enter his prime. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of the remainder of the roster, and it should be interesting to see who follows Lee out the door to allow the youth movement that Philadelphia so badly needs to begin in earnest.

Player of the Week: Ryan Howard, 1B: 3 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .462 AVG

57 comments:

Tcostant said...

And yes, if you throw out their 13-2 start, they're just 29-26 since. If you throw out the Nats 14-4 start in 2012, they win 84 games. That is part of their record, the Braves won those games, so get over it.

I hate loser comments like this.

NatsLady said...

Tcostant, I think that's what he said.

but those first 15 games count for just as much as the last 15, and the lead they have is the biggest in baseball. They say that what matters most is how your finish, and not how you start...but if you sprint out of the gate faster than anyone else, sometimes you can coast to the finish line. Ask Usain Bolt.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Indeed, that was his point, NL; that, and the fact that it *was* the start, and they've played about .500 since then, as have the Nats.

Eric said...

"I hate loser comments like this."

And, I love people with no sense of irony.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

The Braves started the year with Justin Upton en fuego and Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis. Even without Brian McCann they made a quick run.

The Nats started with a slumping trio of Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, and the entire bench. With that many sub-Mendoza performers, I'm surprised the Nats are where they are and STILL have a chance of going on a huge winning streak and taking the NL East. 92 games remaining in the regular season!

Eric said...

>I'm surprised the Nats are where they are

You and Pythagoras both!

Tcostant said...

NatsLady -

I know, I'm just sick of people bring it up. It's like when a player says "Not to make any excusses but our All-Star hitter is out". Well, just because you say "Not to make any excusses", doesn't mean you should list excusses after it.

Caps Fan said...

"but those first 15 games count for just as much as the last 15, and the lead they have is the biggest in baseball. They say that what matters most is how your finish, and not how you start...but if you sprint out of the gate faster than anyone else, sometimes you can coast to the finish line. Ask Usain Bolt."

Or sometimes you can sprint out of the gate faster than anyone else and still end up in a dogfight at the end. Ask the 2012 Nats.

The point being that the Nats jumped out of the gate to a big lead last year, but they let the Braves hang around. The Braves are doing their best this year to let the Nats hang around. Can the Nats seize the opportunity?

SCNatsFan said...

The Nats should be forced to watch Braves games every night - they and the Cards are teams that know how to win. Hopefully the Nats can learn. Quickly.

Mr Baseball said...

What would our record be if we hadn't played so many games against the Marlins at the beginning of the season!

Eric said...

"I know, I'm just sick of people bring it up."

How do you feel about stripping comments of context and intended meaning? I love it myself; I think it makes for the best kind of Internet debate: hot and breezy.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Caps Fan, or the 1982 Braves.

13 games over .500 on April 21; 24 games over on July 24; August 18 they were 7 over, and in second place. The Dodgers and Giants beat each others' brains in for the rest of the way, and the Braves won on the last day, 16 games over.

Don said...

The youth movement that Philly so badly needs to begin in earnest? They are just not that old of a club. Doc, Utley, Ruiz and Young all come off the books this year anyway. They can reload pretty well without having to unload Lee (who is cheap right now, even with $52.5M coming due to him after this year, when you consider that getting an Ace in FA is a $200M item these days).

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Mets finally on the board against the Barfs. 2-0 and threatening. Braves already pulled their starter.

NatsLady said...

I hear you there, Tcostant. I think the point is not to disregard to the hot start, nor to say what would have happened had they not HAD the hot start. I think the purpose is to evaluate how the team is performing currently, that is, since the hot start. The Nats went through a period last year of over 50 games at the .500 level, but it was "masked" by the hot start.

If Atlanta continues to play .500 ball the Nats can catch up with a month's hot streak. That's why it's important, IMO, not to let morale sag (in the clubhouse, I mean) and keep on grinding.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Or, as Roger Craig used to say, "Don't get your dauber down."

NatsLady said...

Any interest in this guy?

The inevitable fire sale is looming for the last-place Milwaukee Brewers, and among their collection of tradable pieces, Yovani Gallardo will likely be their most sought out asset.

Gallardo has whirled 14 scoreless innings over his past two starts. The Brewers couldn’t be happier because his trade value is gradually increasing after a brutal start to the season. However, Gallardo’s value wasn’t as high as it once was. It will take a few more scoreless innings before he can get back to that point.

UnkyD said...

Nobody's elated. I feel bad for Henry, and I'm glad he's somebody else's problem, now, but I don't see anybody dancing on his grave, Karl...

WODL said:
" but the Nats simply have no chance to win with this kind of hitting. That is not doom. That is simply the facts."
---------------
I don't get the defensiveness of the L.O.D... We Rosey Glasses folk look at the same data, and hold out for a more positive outcome, based on what we know of our pitching, and the history of Zim, Adam, Desi, Werth, Span, Harp, and what we see happening with Rendon, while y'all see the disappointing output, this far this year, and the two camps have differing visions. Neither vision is "fact"... Some of you keep insisting that your pessimism is "fact". Stop it! Legion of Doom is not an vile epithet, any more than Rose Colored Glasses... It's just a semi-affectionate handle we imaginary friends hang on one another (the degree of affection depends on how badly the Boys are playing, on a given night,lol). So, as the likely outcome, for the season, lies somewhere between the two visions, can we all stop taking our various reactions to the games, so personally? I love almost all the commentary here, but nothing any of us has to say about tomorrow, or the rest of the year, is "fact"..... It's all conjecture. And, disagreeing is FUN!

Nats 128 said...

I remember one of the big pluses for Denard Span was he got on base to open the game at one of the highest % in the bigs. Now we are hoping he can get on base 1 or more times per game.

baseballswami said...

So much talk about Barves. First we have to stay ahead of the Sillies, then maybe ATL. Then whoever does that can have the fun task of challenging STL- they are a baseball machine. That is the team the Nats should have to be tied to a chair and watch. Talk about playing the game the right way. Does Matheny have a brother or a clone? Is there another catching Miolina brother out there somewhere. Honestly, I can handle losing-- but I hate bad baseball. Play the game hard and correctly and I will accept whatever the results are.

baseballswami said...

News flashes- Harvey a world beater today and maybe no game tonight in Philly.

NatsLady said...

Good chance of rain/thunderstorms tonight in Philly. (It's pouring here). I hope we don't wait until midnight to play.

baseballswami said...

And I would like to point out that the aforementioned Barves put Gattis on the DL immediately. No day to day bs and playing short. That happens to be something that I have seen as iffy management this season. Very poor injury management indeed.

Eric said...

"[STL] is the team the Nats should have to be tied to a chair and watch."

Agreed.

Section 222 said...

Saw this quote in a Nats Journal entry yesterday: "Johnson has preached aggressiveness. Hitters, he said, are letting the ball travel too deep into the their swings and their timing is being thrown off because of it."

FP's head just exploded.

The same entry noted that ALR said yesterday he was being, deservedly, "benched." I wonder if he'll be in the lineup today. He's an imposing LH pinch hitter to have available, but Davey needs to figure out how to use him in situation can't just send in a LOOGY like Charlie did last night. Because ALR is a pretty easy out against a lefty right now, especially in his first at bat.

Nats 128 said...

Harveys no hitter over on a crazy comebacker to the mound with nobody covering 1st.

baseballswami said...

It seems to me that a lot of our hitters are making things easy for opposing pitchers. As I watch, I am sitting there wishing they were making themselves a tougher out and making their at bats and innings longer.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

The Nats have yet to lay their best baseball. Last year, at this time, Zim was only hitting around .220 before he took off for the remainder of the year. Harper is much better this year than last, and he will be back, soon. Rendon adds so much to the Nats offense. Desi is solid. That's a lot of offense. I expect Ryan to pick it up in the 2nd half and Harper to come back as good as ever.

The year started out with terrible defense from the left side. Desi has since played like a gold glover. Zim seems to be getting more accurate with his tosses to first, week by week. Span has been great in CF. The team D has improved since those first shaky days out of the gate.

Span is dinged, ALR is feeling his age, Kurt is overworked, and Werth is slipping. I am not counting on Ramos coming back this year. Davey can manage around Span, ALR, and Suzuki's problems by subbing the bench guys until Span is healed, and ALR and Suzuki catch their second wind. Not sure about Jason. He was out for so long, he may need a little more time.

Be patient. The offense picked up in the 2nd half last year, and could easily do it, again, this year. And you never know what Rizzo might come up with. Krol has turned out to be a heckuva PTBNL. Mike pulled Ohlendorf out of his bag of tricks, and we now have a reliable closer.

Things could be a lot worse. We could be the Dodgers. Or the Angels. Or the Blue Jays. I think the Nats can still pull it together and go on a tear. I thought the early Braves were over-rated and over-achieving. I still think so. They got hot early, we can get hot late. It is the Nats who have under-achieved, thus far. Those things have a way of playing out over a 162 game schedule.

If I am wrong, there is next year. It's a game. Enjoy it as much as Tony Rendon does. I can't wait for Rendon and Harper to hit 2 and 3, and for a heavy-swinging Zim to back them up. When Harp comes back, it's a new ball game.

baseballswami said...

I also think a good run is possible, maybe not probable, but possible. And I absolutely cannot wait to see Harper and Rendon play together.

Nats 128 said...

Strike em out throw em out doubleplay and on to the 8th. Mets 2 Braves 0

Section 222 said...

I assume most people have seen video of H-Rod's debut with the Cubs last night, but if not, you can check it out here.

Ouch.

Nats 128 said...

Section 222, oh whoa on that video. Henry looks like his old self. The good news for the Cubs is they gave up the baseball equivalent of a corpse for Henry.

Section 222 said...

Speaking of wild throws, here's another play filled with comic errors. With men on 1st and 2nd, Alfonso Soriano hits a hot shot to third and when the dust clears, the Mets have committed three errors, two runs have scored, and Soriano is standing on 3B. I kid you not.

Rabbit34 said...

Walk-off wins. Game winning hits. Yeah. I remember those.

Rabbit34 said...

Lady bla bla. You are wrong. The Nats have laid their best baseball. They put it to rest.

Nats 128 said...

Mets up 4-0

karlkolchak said...

Regarding Gallarado - ugh, no...just no. Who are we going to trade to get a good starter with one, possibly two more years left on his contract if his option is picked up? The Brewers are going to want at least two very good prospects who will be able to play in the bigs fairly soon.

Who do we have like that? Virtually nobody as far as position players go (don't tell me Zach Walters--dude is hitting like an old Adam Dunn at age 23 and has 17 errors already). If Span's value was Alex Meyer, Gallarado is going to take a combination like Taylor Jordan and Nate Karns. Our system is already far too depeleted of upper level talent to sabotage it even further.

Nats 128 said...

karlkolchak I agree unless a team is looking for a salary dump. Just can't deplete the Minors any more. Rizzo probably thinks Haren is his answer anyways.

natsfan1a said...

Line below is from the Mets item linked to by 222. Now, that's funny. (Hey, it's Enrico Palazzo!)

"Alfonso Soriano lined a ground ball to third, stopped nicely by a diving David Wright and thus began the opening sequence of a Naked Gun film."

baseballswami said...

Maybe Bud Norris before the trade deadline?

Nats 128 said...

The Braves are rallying again in the 9th and knocked Harvey out. 4-2 game now with only 1 out and 2 on.

Eric said...

>The Braves are rallying again in the 9th and knocked Harvey out. 4-2 game now with only 1 out and 2 on.

Even worse, it's the 8th, not the 9th. Ugh.

Eric said...

1-2, 2 out, men on the corners.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Uhhh...it's only the bottom of the 8th.

baseballswami said...

I am really starting to despise them.

natsfan1a said...

It gets late early there.

Nats 128 said...

Justin Upton softly grounds out. 4-2 with 2 out and Jason Heyward coming up to bat with 2 on base.

Eric said...

Oh, sorry, 1 - 2 was the count on Upton before he grounded out for out #2.

Nats 128 said...

Right you are natsjack. Bottom of 8.

SonnyG10 said...

Laddie, liked your post re 3:14.

Eric said...

I'll take that beer however (virtual or real), NatsJack (re, 8th inning) ;).

Nats 128 said...

Heyward with double. 4-3 now.

Secret wasian man said...

Not really concerned about the Barves. We need to string more than 1 or 2 wins together. Then I'll start to care. Nats not even close to the Barves level.

Nats 128 said...

swm, yes however any help with the Braves losing is bonus.

Nats 128 said...

Span back to leading off.

Secret wasian man said...

I hope the mets win. But that Harvey is a real arrogant dude. He must always be in the spotlight. A real clown. Glad we got Stras who is simple and down to earth.

baseballswami said...

Yeah-- none of those young pitchers are prima donnas at all ............. The one I think is arrogant is Medlin.

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