Friday, May 31, 2013

Instant analysis: Nats 3, Braves 2

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Denard Span slides into third base on one of his two triples tonight.
Game in a nutshell: The opener of a crucial series for the Nationals against a Braves team standing in its path in the NL East got off to what looked like a disastrous start from Washington's perspective. Stephen Strasburg was pulled after two innings with what a source familiar with the situation called a "muscular issue in his lower back." Strasburg clearly wasn't happy when told by manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty he would be leaving the game,but the club decided not to take any chances. That put a tremendous strain on the Nationals bullpen, but Craig Stammen saved the day with four perfect innings in emergency relief of Strasburg. A pair of triples by Denard Span, a pair of sacrifice flies by Steve Lombardozzi and a manufactured runs in the bottom of the second gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead entering the seventh. Tyler Clippard made things very interesting when he allowed one run before loading the bases, only to strike out Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson to escape the jam. Drew Storen then pitched a scoreless eighth, setting the stage for Rafael Soriano to finish this off in the ninth. With that stress-filled victory, the Nationals climbed back over the .500 mark and drew to within 4 1/2 games of the Braves.

Hitting highlight: Too often, the Nationals have tried to generate offense with power. Tonight, they decided to manufacture their

Harper to miss weekend, DL possible

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Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth could be swapped for each other on the DL.
ATLANTA — It was 29 days ago that Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth last were together in the Nationals starting lineup, right here at Turner Field for the final game of Washington's previous series against the Braves. As much as each outfielder hoped to rejoin the club and participate in this weekend's critical series against their division rivals, the possibility now appears nonexistent.

Harper, whose continues to be hobbled by a swollen left knee despite taking the last four days off, is likely to miss this entire series and could wind up being placed on the disabled list. Werth, meanwhile, remains on rehab assignment at Class A Potomac, and Tuesday is the earliest he could return, according to manager Davey Johnson.

The Harper news is most disconcerting, with the club finally acknowledging the 20-year-old star may need to take a prolonged break to let his knee heal some 18 days after he initially injured it crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium.

"He's a tough guy, and he would play if at all possible," Johnson said. "But he's too good a talent to take a chance on further injury. So he's not going out there til it's better, that's for dang sure."

Game 55: Nats at Braves

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faces the Braves tonight at Turner Field.
ATLANTA — Hello from Turner Field, where tonight the Nationals and Braves open what has to be considered a very important series for the visiting club. Yes, the calendar is only about to shift to June, and far greater deficits have been overcome, but psychologically you have to think the Nats need to come out of the weekend at least winning two of three from the team that at the moment leads them by 5 1/2 games in the NL East.

The bad news: Neither Bryce Harper nor Jayson Werth is in the lineup, despite varying degrees of hope for each outfielder. And the only change made my Davey Johnson from last night is a swap of left fielders, with Steve Lombardozzi in and Tyler Moore back on the bench.

The good news: Stephen Strasburg is on the mound, and he's been on a roll, allowing only one earned run in each of his last three starts, averaging 7 2/3 innings and only 4.33 hits per outing.

Plenty of updates to come, so please check back...

Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 186
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
LF Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

VIDEOS: Rehashing the Beltways Series

There was no shortage of topics to discuss last night on "The Baseball Show," with the Battle of the Beltways wrapping up and plenty of subjects and decisions to dissect, analyze and debate.

Here are several segments from the show, with Chick Hernandez — filling in for the under-the-weather Rob Carlin — and Jim Duqeutte joining me on set. In the first clip above, we pick the most significant moment of the series and discuss the growing rivalry between the Nationals and Orioles.

In the second clip below, we delve into the great Bryce Harper vs. Manny Machado debate and also rank our top five position players under 25 in MLB. After that, we recap Tuesday's matchup of rookie right-handers Nate Karns and Kevin Gausman. And finally, we look at Adam LaRoche's stunning turnaround from a disastrous April to an overwhelming May.


Davey: 'We'll probably make some changes'

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Nationals manager Davey Johnson was not his usual, talkative self after Washington's 2-0 loss to the Orioles on Thursday night. He generally holds court and talks extensively about any topic, any question, regardless of the outcome.

But Johnson was clearly upset after the team's seventh shutout of the season and walked away from reporters after just four questions. He tried to leave after two.

With the season one-third of the way over, Johnson was asked whether he will shake things up with an underperforming team and first place Atlanta up next. He was honest.

"We'll probably make some changes," he said. "But that's for another day."

Johnson and the Nationals have a good chance of having Bryce Harper back in the lineup for Friday's game. If that possibility comes true, their lineup will instantly improve. But what other adjustments could Johnson make?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nats' offense shuts down in loss to O's

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BALTIMORE — After a night in which the Nats and Orioles combined for 16 runs, and with two pitchers who have been inconsistent this season on the mound, Thursday’s game at Camden Yards was supposed to be another home run derby. It was a hot and humid evening at a hitters' park, balls were supposed to fly.

But something about the heat may have actually helped Orioles pitcher Freddy Garcia. The 36-year-old found a groove that had escaped him all season and used a split-finger fastball to baffle the Nationals lineup throughout Baltimore’s 2-0 win.

“The split-finger he was throwing, basically like facing R.A. Dickey,” Ian Desmond said. “I think the humidity and the tackiness on the ball, his fingers, there's probably a little bit of sweat going on there, that pitch was pretty unbelievable tonight.”

“A knuckle or something, I don’t know,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “If a pitcher’s got a good pitch and he throws it as much as he did obviously you start to look for it and we still can’t hit it. It’s just one of those nights where he had a really good pitch and he used it as much as he could and it worked for him.”

Instant Analysis: Orioles 2, Nats 0

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Game in a nutshell: One night after dropping six runs on the Orioles, the Nats couldn't get anything going against 36-year-old Freddy Garcia. Garcia allowed just three hits and zero walks with six strikeouts in eight innings of work. On the offensive side, the Orioles didn't need much. They scored a run in the third inning off a Nick Markakis double to right field to bring home Ryan Flaherty. They also added another in the eighth inning off a Manny Machado double. All in all, it was a pitchers' duel that favored the Orioles by a slim margin.

Hitting lowlight: The back end of the Nats' lineup was a major liability in the loss. Their six through nine hitters (Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Kurt Suzuki, and Danny Espinosa) went a combined 0-for-12 with three strikeouts and six runners left on base.

Davey on Espinosa & Lombo; injury updates

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BALTIMORE — When Danny Espinosa needed a week to rest his wrist after discovering a loose bone chip was causing pain and inflammation, Steve Lombardozzi filled in quite nicely as the Nationals' starting second baseman.

In five starts from May 24-28, Lombardozzi went 6-for-20 with four RBI, two doubles, and three runs. Washington saw a spark they perhaps hadn't seen quite yet from Espinosa who holds a .163 average through 40 games.

But despite performing well as a replacement, Lombardozzi was sent back to the bench when Espinosa returned. Manager Davey Johnson said he wants to see how Espinosa fares after resting the hand for a few days and then go from there.


Game 54: Nats at Orioles

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats and Orioles face off for the fourth time in four days.
BALTIMORE — Chase here for Mark as he is on Baseball Show duty. Be sure to watch him tonight at 11 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet, of course.

Tonight the Nats look for a split of the four-game series between them and the Baltimore Orioles. They failed to pull out the victory last night after going up 6-2 early in the game.

Tonight Dan Haren (4-5, 5.43 ERA) takes the mound to face the Orioles, a team he's pitched against 11 times in his career. Through those matchups he is 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 69 1/3 total innings.

Pitching for Baltimore will be Freddy Garcia (1-2, 4.61) who is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA with one career start against the Nationals.

There is one change in the Nats' lineup from yesterday with Adam LaRoche filling in as the designated hitter and Chad Tracy playing first.

Check back for more updates and enjoy the game...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), WTEM (980 AM), XM 177
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 92 degrees
CF Denard Span
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Adam LaRoche

MLB Power Rankings: NL Central rules MLB

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By Steve Roney

St. Louis leads a stacked NL Central division, which by any measure has three of the top teams in the major leagues. Texas, meanwhile, is still the class of the AL, but they've been surpassed by a couple of the Cardinals' rivals.

Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the big leagues shaking out:

1. St. Louis Cardinals (35-17; LW: 1) - Hughes: Each week we laud about their rotation, but their offense isn't too shabby either. Among their key contributors are Yadier Molina (4th rd. pick), Allen Craig (8th rd. pick) and Matt Carpenter (13th rd. pick). It's incredible how they find talent.

2. Cincinnati Reds (33-20; LW: 3) - Hughes: Everything is coming together for Cincy's pitching staff with Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake all pitching as well as they ever have in their careers.

3. Atlanta Braves (31-21; LW: 4) - Roney: Whatever they do, they need to keep giving Evan Gattis regular at-bats. WIth Uggla, Heyward, and Upton Senior struggling, he's too good to languish on the bench.

4. Texas Rangers (32-20; LW: 2) - Zuckerman: Texas is absolutely dominating its division: 19-9 vs AL West, 13-11 vs everyone else.

Zim's career night an afterthought

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Ryan Zimmmerman is greeted after hitting one of his three homers last night.
BALTIMORE — Had the Nationals held on to win last night, everyone today would be gushing over Ryan Zimmerman, who might well have played the best game of his career. Seriously, what is he ever going to do to top a three-homer, two-Web Gem performance? (Aside, of course, from some yet-to-be-experienced October magic moment.)

Zimmerman's evening, though, was completely overshadowed by the Nationals' late meltdown against the Orioles during what became an incredibly disheartening 9-6 loss at Camden Yards. Because of that, the veteran third baseman couldn't take much joy in his individual performance.

"It's tough to have a night like that and not be able to kinda celebrate it and have fun, because we lost," he said. "But I've been swinging the bat better, and it came together in one game."

Indeed, it's rare for anybody to hit three homers and still lose. It's only happened 87 times in modern history, though it happened to

Baltimore's barrage sinks Nats

BALTIMORE — There should be no surer thing for the Nationals right now than Jordan Zimmermann on the mound in the seventh inning with a three-run lead.

Even though the ball had been flying out of Camden Yards all night Wednesday — Ryan Zimmerman, for crying out loud, clubbed three homers in his first three at-bats — Zimmermann had been able to keep the Orioles' potent lineup mostly in check. And now as this game was moving into its final stages, the right-hander and unofficial ace of the staff should have been primed to put the finishing touches on this Nationals victory.

And then ... well, let Davey Johnson explain how that seemingly comfortable lead morphed into an agonizing, 9-6 loss amid a sudden barrage of Baltimore home runs.

"That one hurt," the veteran manager said. "It's a tough ballpark to pitch in, and one little mistake ... you let them get something going and the momentum shifts real quick. I thought Zim had pretty good stuff, but this ballpark can eat you alive."
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Instant analysis: Orioles 9, Nats 6

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Ryan Zimmerman rounds the bases on one of his three homers.
Game in a nutshell: On a hot, muggy night inside cozy Camden Yards, you just had a sense the ball might really fly in this game. Boy, did it ever. The Nationals and Orioles combined to club eight home runs, hardly any of them cheapies. Ryan Zimmerman alone hit three of them, but that wasn't enough to lead the Nationals to victory. Despite holding a 6-2 lead in the sixth, Jordan Zimmermann couldn't hold the Baltimore lineup down. He was roughed up in the seventh, ultimately handing the ball over to Tyler Clippard, who only made things worse, serving up an RBI single to Nick Markakis and then a two-run homer to Chris Davis (his second of the night). Just like that, the Nationals trailed 9-6. And a team that has yet to rally from more than two runs down to win a game this season couldn't pull that feat off tonight, ultimately losing one of its most frustrating games of the year.

Hitting highlight: It unfortunately was lost amid the late implosion by the Nationals pitching staff (or explosion by the

Updates on Harper, Werth, Detwiler

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Bryce Harper is sitting out his third straight game tonight.
BALTIMORE — It wouldn't be a day on the Nationals beat without a flurry of injury updates, so here's the latest on several players attempting to return from various ailments...

Bryce Harper is once again out of the Nationals' lineup tonight, his bruised left knee not healed enough to allow him to play for the third straight day. Manager Davey Johnson said the 20-year-old outfielder will be held out again tomorrow.

Whether Harper (who has officially been diagnosed with bursitis in his left knee) is able to play this weekend in Atlanta remains to be seen.

"I don't have a lot of high hopes, but I'm hopeful," Johnson said. "However long that takes, is however long that takes."

Jayson Werth began his rehab assignment at Class A Potomac tonight, batting second and starting in right field for the P-Nats. This is Werth's second attempt at returning to game action since he was sidelined at the beginning of the month with what the club originally believed to be only a mild hamstring strain.
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Game 53: Nats at Orioles

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Battle of the Beltways shifts to Camden Yards tonight.
BALTIMORE — Hello from Camden Yards, where tonight the new-look Battle of Beltways continues with the series shifting north 45 miles. This is the new wrinkle of interleague rivalry play this season, and I have to say I kind of like how this worked out. Baseball doesn't normally do "home-and-home" series, other than in the postseason, so this has a distinctly different feel to it.

The series, of course, is knotted at one game apiece after the Nationals thumped the Orioles last night. Tonight, they'll give the ball to Jordan Zimmermann, seeking to become the majors' first 9-game winner. He'll be going up against a tough Orioles lineup, though, one that we've already seen do some damage the last two nights.

Chris Tillman starts for Baltimore, facing a Nationals lineup that is again without Bryce Harper but does have Danny Espinosa back after five straight days off to let his fractured right wrist try to heal. Chad Tracy, meanwhile, has the honor of serving as DH for this game in the AL park.

Lots of updates to come, so please check back...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), WTEM (980 AM), XM 177
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 88 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

Nats who's hot/who's not-5/29

Photo by USA Today
By Michael Huberman

Record: 4-3
Runs per game: 4.1
Opponent runs per game: 3.1
Batting average: .272
Batting average against: .232
Team ERA: 3.08


Stephen Strasburg, SP – 1-0/1.13 ERA/8 IP/5 H/9 SO
Hot/Not looks at performances over seven days, but sometimes it’s worth looking at things in the larger picture. After losing April 24 against the Cardinals, Stephen Strasburg was 1-4 with a 3.16 ERA. But with his dominant outing Sunday against the Phillies, Strasburg is now 3-5 with a 2.49 ERA and he’s given up just three runs in his last 28 innings.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP – 1-0/2.57 ERA/7 IP/6 H/1 SO
Zimmermann earned his eighth win of the year Friday against the Phillies, putting him atop the leaderboard with Arizona’s Patrick Corbin and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore for the league lead in wins. Zimmermann has now thrown 26 2/3 innings without giving up a walk, and has six consecutive quality starts.

Karns strong in debut, will start Sunday

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Nathan Karns was in Harrisburg on Monday night, preparing to pitch against Class AA Reading, when coaches told him his start would be pushed back a day. No real reason was given, and instead of studying the Senators' next opponent (the Akron Aeros), coaches wanted him to take notes on the Nationals' big-league game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Karns said he didn't know what to think, but went ahead and got started on charting the Orioles.

"I was kind of thrown off by that," he said. "I was like, 'OK, I'll chart the big-league game and we'll see how this is going to help me against Akron.'"

Soon after he started jotting down notes, Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy walked into the room and gave him the real reason for his unexpected homework assignment: Karns was getting called up to Washington, to face the very same Orioles the very next day.

Nats supply Karns with offensive firepower

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Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore combined to hit three homers in the Nats' win.
Adam LaRoche could tell Nathan Karns was a tad nervous to make his big-league debut when he noticed the right-hander's jersey was soaking wet. This was while Karns was still in the dugout, having yet to face his first major-league batter.

"Like he walked through the shower before he even took the mound," LaRoche said. "That was fun. I'm sure his world was spinning real fast."

Knowing their rookie starter — who only 24 hours earlier was preparing to face the Class AA Akron Aeros — was in a bit of a fog, the Nationals came up with the best possible plan to ease a young pitcher through that pressure situation: They went out and scored a ton of runs.

Behind four homers — two by LaRoche, plus back-to-back shots by struggling Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina — the Nationals pounded the Orioles and rookie Kevin Gausman into submission, cruising to a 9-3 victory before a boisterous crowd of 35,664 that waited out an 81-minute rain delay to see the two promising right-handers go head-to-head.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Instant analysis: Nats 9, Orioles 3

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Nate Karns allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings in his big-league debut.
Game in a nutshell: The evening began as a highly touted matchup of young right-handers, Nate Karns and Kevin Gausman, but was more notable by night's end for the Nationals' rare offensive explosion. Karns did what he needed to do, churning out 4 1/3 solid innings before tiring in the fifth. Gausman, though, was roughed up by the Nationals for three runs in the first, then four more in the fourth before he was knocked out. Adam LaRoche crushed two homers, and Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina went back-to-back in a rare display of firepower from the reserves-turned-starters. Needing 4 2/3 innings out of his bullpen, Davey Johnson got quality work out of Zach Duke (who was credited with the win), Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Fernando Abad. So the Battle of Beltways is now even at 1 game apiece, heading into Phase 2 the next two nights at Camden Yards.

Hitting highlight: The Nationals have been begging, pleading for their bench players to produce with several starters injured. On this night, Moore and Bernadina finally delivered. Back-to-back. Moore,

The M.A.S.H. report: Nats injury updates

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On Tuesday Davey Johnson gave a round of updates on the litany of current Nationals injuries, or what he calls the ‘M.A.S.H. report.’ Most notable was the fact Bryce Harper is still dealing with inflammation in his left knee due to bursitis and is now unlikely to be available as the team’s designated hitter when Washington travels to Baltimore.

“Harper’s still got the bursa” Johnson said. “It’s still tender, still a little bit swollen. The swelling is down a little bit.”

“I was probably being optimistic thinking he could DH up in Baltimore. It’s probably not looking good for that.”

Harper is continuing to rest after missing Monday’s matchup against the Orioles. He left Sunday’s game in the seventh inning after aggravating the injury. Johnson remains hopeful it will not turn into a stint on the disabled list.

Nats reflect on passing of Dr. Yocum

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Dr. Lewis Yocum, renowned sports orthopedist who performed surgeries on many of the biggest names in baseball, has passed away at the age of 65 after a year-long battle with liver cancer.

Yocum did the Tommy John surgeries for many Nationals players including Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Lucas Giolito, and Sammy Solis. He also advised Danny Espinosa during his recovery this offseason from a torn rotator cuff.

Zimmermann spoke to reporters on Tuesday just minutes after learning of the news. He expressed gratitude for Yocum’s work in reconstructing his elbow in 2009.

“He saved my career,” Zimmermann said. “He was a great guy and obviously saved my career and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Zimmermann said he sent Yocum a text message three days before hearing he had passed. Zimmermann had learned he was in the hospital and not doing well.

Game 52: Orioles at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nate Karns and Kevin Gausman face off tonight at Nationals Park.
Neither team designed it this way, but circumstances dictated that the Nationals and Orioles will each be sending rookie right-handers to the mound for the second game of their interleague series. Neither Nate Karns nor Kevin Gausman had pitched above Class AA prior to this season, and neither spent a day at Class AAA before getting promoted to the big leagues (Gausman's call-up coming five days before Karns).

So it should be a good matchup between these two young fireballers. One thing to watch in particular: How do they fare against the opposing lineups the second time around? Gausman struggled in that department last Thursday in Toronto. We'll see if he's made an adjustment, and we'll see if Karns is able to overcome that issue against a very tough Baltimore lineup.

Bryce Harper once again is out of the Nationals' lineup. Davey Johnson is going with the same group that yesterday produced only two runs, hoping to get a little more thunder against Gausman.

Updates to come, please check back...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), WTEM (980 AM), XM 184
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 78 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
2B Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Zimmmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

Around the N.L. East: Braves on the warpath

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney

Glancing around the N.L. East, it's hard not to notice that the general hierarchy has been in place for the entire season, with the Braves sitting atop the standings from the get-go, and everyone else trying to build a foundation to try to challenge them. As Memorial Day passes and the Phillies continue to toil, it's becoming clear that if the Nats don't mount a challenge, nobody will.

Atlanta Braves (30-20)
The Braves have awoken from a mid-spring lull to retake their commanding division lead, which now stands at 4.5 games, the highest margin in the majors. Justin Upton has come back to earth a bit, with a .267 average, and though the long ball continues to elude Freddie Freeman, he is second on the team with 30 RBI. Who leads the team? El Oso Blanco, Evan Gattis, who just won't go away. Try as they might to take at-bats away from him, the slugger leads the team with 31 RBI, leads all major league rookies with 11 home runs, and has worked his average back up to .271. Though he's excelled in pinch-hitting duty, the Braves simply need him in the lineup everyday, somewhere. On a team with three sub-Mendoza Line regulars, they cannot waste him on the bench. 

Previewing Karns' MLB debut

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Right-hander Nate Karns was 4-2 with a 4.60 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg.
Nate Karns wasn't supposed to the be first minor-league pitcher summoned by the Nationals to start a big-league game this season, but circumstances made him the best choice for tonight's surprise outing against the Orioles.

With their Class AAA Syracuse rotation struggling mightily through the season's first two months, the Nationals elected to dip down into the ranks at Class AA Harrisburg, plucking the 25-year-old Karns and throwing him to the wolves tonight in Washington.

Not that Karns hadn't earned the opportunity. This is, after all, the organization's reigning pitcher of the year and the fifth-rated prospect in the entire system entering 2013 (according to Baseball America). He also impressed this spring in his first big-league camp, allowing one earned run in 3 2/3 innings of relief against the Mets and Cardinals.

"I caught him a couple of times, and he's got a good arm," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Obviously, spring training is really early, and he

Monday, May 27, 2013

Nats come up short in loss to Orioles

These days if you get ahead against the Nationals, you’re probably going to end up walking away with the victory. Sure, you could say that in general about any baseball game, but the 2013 Nats have had major trouble coming back into ballgames.

So when the Orioles took a three-run lead in the fifth inning on Monday in their 6-2 win before 41,260 at Nationals Park, they essentially hit a mark the Nats have yet to overcome this season. Each and every time Washington has been down by more than two runs, they have gone on to lose.

Their offense as a whole has been struggling and when they’re behind matters seem to get even worse. And when facing the second best offense in the majors in the Baltimore Orioles, the two runs Washington put up just aren’t going to cut it.

I don't think anyone's pressing,” Zimmerman said. “I just think we haven't scored any runs. Their guy threw the ball well today. We got some hits just couldn't score any of them. Against a team like that, that does score runs, you're going to have to find a way to score more than they do.”

Nats call up Karns to start Tuesday

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In need of a spot start with lefty Ross Detwiler on the disabled list, the Nationals will call up right-hander Nathan Karns to make his major league debut on Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Karns, 25, is heading to Washington from the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. Relief pitcher Xavier Cedeno will be optioned back to Syracuse to make room on the roster.

The Nationals’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Karns will be thrown right into the mix to face the second highest scoring club in the majors. He will be tasked with shutting down the Orioles who beat the Nats 6-2 on Monday behind 12 total hits.

Davey Johnson referred to Karns as one of the team’s top three choices to make the start. The Nats’ skipper liked what he saw out of him in spring training and now wants to see what he can bring to the major league level.

“He’s one of the good young arms in the organization. He’s been throwing the ball pretty good lately,” Johnson said. “It’ll be a good test. We’ll find out.”

Instant analysis: Orioles 6, Nats 2

USA Today Sports Photos
Gio Gonzalez labored over 5 2/3 innings, suffering the loss.
Game in a nutshell: In the opener of this four-game Battle of the Beltways, the Nationals needed a quality start out of Gio Gonzalez, both to set a positive tone today and to save the bullpen heading into tomorrow's game (with Ross Detwiler now on the DL). Gonzalez, though, labored over 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and putting 11 men on base. Thus, the Nationals were forced to play from behind, something they've struggled with all season. They have yet to come back to win any game this year in which they trailed by more than two runs, and today was no different. Jason Hammel scattered two runs and eight hits over eight innings, and the Nats went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. With the loss, they dropped back to one game over the .500 mark, still unable to get themselves on any kind of extended hot streak.

Hitting lowlight: Plenty of lowlights to choose from, but let's focus on the bottom of the seventh inning, which began in fine fashion: a Roger Bernadina double. Just one problem: The Nationals never

Harper out with bursitis; other updates

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Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals lineup against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday after leaving Sunday’s game in the seventh inning with an aggravated sore knee. An MRI showed no structural damage for Harper, but he has been diagnosed with bursitis.

Team Medical Director Wiemi Douogiuh said a few days rest is the best course of action at this point.

“Bryce has got some inflammation of a bursa sac in the front of his knee,” Douogiuh said. “It has nothing to do with the joint. We got an MRI that just showed some soft tissue swelling, soft tissue edema. We anticipate it’s going to clear up in a couple of days. There is nothing structurally wrong with his knee.”

Harper said on Sunday he did not plan to miss any time, but Davey Johnson and the Nationals decided it was best to have him sit.

“If you were seeing the same thing I was seeing, he was hurting even when he came into the dugout,” Johnson said.

“I think it’s just uncomfortable -- it’s like an inflammation. We just need to let it calm down. It was a little more swollen today.”

Team trainer Lee Kuntz said the Nats are most concerned at this point with Harper re-injuring the knee.


Game 51: Orioles at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Battle of Beltways begins today at Nationals Park.
The Nationals and Orioles have been playing each other every year since 2006, but never like this. As part of MLB's new schedule this season, all geographic interleague rivals are playing each other four straight days in two cities. So the Battle of the Beltways begins in D.C. today and tomorrow, then shifts to Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Nationals go into this series banged up. They were already without Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos. Now they're without Bryce Harper, sidelined today with what Davey Johnson said was diagnosed as bursitis in his left knee. Harper will probably miss tomorrow's game as well, then might be able to DH at Camden Yards later this week.

Gio Gonzalez gets the start, looking to continue his recent hot streak (1.29 ERA over his last three outings). He'll be facing right-hander Jason Hammel, who somehow has a 6-2 record despite a 5.37 ERA.

Plenty of updates to come from the ballpark on this spectacular Memorial Day in the nation's capital...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C./Baltimore market)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), WTEM (980 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 72 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
CF Denard Span
2B Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strasburg pounds Phillies in Nats' win

If Stephen Strasburg’s worst days of this season are behind him, then Nationals’ opponents may want to take cover.

Just weeks ago Strasburg was considered to be struggling, an ace with questions of his comportment and emotional stability on the mound. Now he’s carving up opponents and sitting with the N.L.’s tenth best ERA at 2.49. 

In another masterful performance on Sunday - in the Nats’ 6-1 win over the Phillies before 39,033 at Nationals Park - Strasburg was as dominant as ever. His teammates are used to seeing him pitch well, but this is next-level stuff.

“He’s really improving,” Ian Desmond said. “I think this is probably the best we’ve seen him. The last two starts are probably the best two starts we’ve seen from him since he’s been in the big leagues.“

“Obviously the punchouts and stuff that came before were great, but he’s starting to figure it out on another level. It’s exciting to watch. He’s a young guy growing up.”

Harper leaves game, status in question

Photo by the Associated Press
Bryce Harper left Sunday’s game against the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh after aggravating his sore left knee earlier in the day when sliding head-first. He banged his knee while stealing third base in the first inning and afterwards walked with a visible limp until he was replaced.

Manager Davey Johnson said he expects the outfielder to miss several days, but when asked about whether he would miss time Harper replied with an emphatic ‘no.’

Harper’s knee was also bothered by a foul ball he hit in the third inning as it tipped right off his leg, a play he called “icing on the cake.” He said the injury is something that may not go away any time soon, and perhaps not until the season is over.

“I probably won’t get better until the offseason,” he said. “So I’ll just have to deal with the pain and try to keep in there every day and we’ll see what happens.”

Detwiler to DL, Cedeno coming up

USA Today Sports Images
Ross Detwiler is headed to the DL with a lingering oblique injury.
His lingering oblique strain not yet completely healed, Ross Detwiler will have to spend time on the disabled list, forcing the Nationals to look for another fill-in starter for Tuesday night's game against the Orioles.

Detwiler appeared to be good to take the mound as planned after completing a bullpen session Saturday with no issues. But while testing himself during a Sunday morning fielding drill, the left-hander felt the oblique tighten up, and team doctors decided not to take any chances.

"He went out and was doing some running and playing catch and complained," manager Davey Johnson said. "Whereas it's better than it was, it's tight, and we didn't feel like it was the best thing. ... We're not going to rush it and exacerbate it at this point."

Detwiler will be placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 16, the day after he last pitched in Los Angeles. He would be eligible to return June 1, one day before his turn in the rotation would come up again (Sunday in Atlanta).

Instant analysis: Nats 6, Phillies 1

Associated Press
Stephen Strasburg dominated over eight innings to earn his third win.
Game in a nutshell: The highly anticipated Stephen Strasburg vs. Cole Hamels matchup lived up to the billing, with each ace carrying a shutout into the seventh. That's when Strasburg turned things up a notch and Hamels fell back to earth. Strasburg struck out the side in the top of the seventh, then watched as his teammates ambushed Hamels for five runs in the bottom of the inning. That was way more run support than Strasburg needed, enough that manager Davey Johnson didn't need to push his right-hander beyond 112 pitches and let Tyler Clippard close out the ninth. One negative development for the Nationals, though: Bryce Harper's knee (already banged up from his collision with the wall in Los Angeles almost two weeks ago) was barking so badly he had to be pulled for a pinch-runner in the seventh.

Hitting highlight: It was turning into yet another maddeningly frustrating day at the plate for the Nationals, who couldn't get another going against Hamels for six innings. And then, they

Game 50: Phillies at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Liking the panorama function on my new phone...
In the wake of last night's frustrating 5-3 loss, the Nationals face something resembling a must-win game today. Obviously, there's no such thing as a true must-win game on May 26, but the last thing the Nationals want right now is to fall back to .500 and into a tie with the Phillies for second place in the NL East.

So the pressure's on Stephen Strasburg to come up big against a Phillies lineup filled with reserves. No Ryan Howard. No Chase Utley. No Carlos Ruiz. Of course, the pressure's also on the Nationals lineup to do something against Cole Hamels, who has been frustrated by his own lack of run support and comes into this game with a stunning 1-7 record.

Updates to come, so please check back...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9,
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 70 degrees, Wind 14 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

Two pitches doom Haren in loss to Phillies

Photo by USA Today
Sometimes a baseball game can come down to one pitch. In the Nats’ 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Saturday, it may be traced back to just two.

Starter Dan Haren was grooving through the Phillies lineup in the top of the second, having struck out four of the first five batters he faced, when back-to-back home runs put the game in Philadelphia’s hands. The Nats would come back to tie it up later on, and then lose it, but a contest decided by two runs in many ways came down to two consecutive pitches.

The first was to Phillies left fielder Dominic Brown. Haren was in control, trusting his stuff after mowing through the first five batters. But Brown is on a hot streak and took the first pitch he saw, a curveball aimed outside, straight into the stands in right-center field.

It was a play that left catcher Kurt Suzuki almost in disbelief, off a pitch they had intended to be out of Brown’s range.

Storen's struggles magnified

Associated Press
Drew Storen gave up the decisive two runs in the top of the eighth.
Relievers probably don't get enough credit when they pitch well and take too much heat when they struggle, but every one of them knows it all comes with the territory. Pitch one inning every other day, usually in high-leverage situations, and it's only natural that everything will be magnified.

And right now, the magnifying glass is hovering directly over Drew Storen's head, exposing every imperfection during what has been an inconsistent two months for the 25-year-old right-hander.

After surrendering the two decisive runs Saturday night during the Nationals' 5-3 loss to the Phillies, Storen finds himself with numbers uncharacteristic of the first 2 1/2 seasons of his career: a 5.21 ERA, three blown saves, 33 baserunners in 19 innings. And he knows past success doesn't overshadow recent struggles.

"It doesn't matter how long you've been doing this, or what you've done in the past," he said. "It's: 'What have you done for me lately?' I haven't done a whole lot. So I'm gonna be unhappy about it regardless, and it's gonna be fixed."
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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Instant analysis: Phillies 5, Nats 3

USA Today Sports Images
Dan Haren struck out 10 over six innings but received no decision.
Game in a nutshell: Dan Haren gave the Nationals a performance that at times was dominant (10 strikeouts in six innings) though it did include back-to-back homers in the top of the second. His lineup, meanwhile, had plenty of chances to take out rookie right-hander Jonathan Pettibone and the Phillies bullpen but managed only three runs. With the game tied in the eighth, Drew Storen surrendered back-to-back, two-out, RBI hits to put Philadelphia on top. The Nationals lineup then couldn't complete a rally late, going down in the ninth against Jonathan Papelbon to suffer a frustrating loss. Now 25-24, they'll need to beat the Phillies in Sunday's series finale to avoid falling into a second-place tie with their division rivals.

Hitting lowlight: How many chances did the Nationals give themselves tonight, only to come away with very little? Far too many chances. Though Adam LaRoche and Denard Span each

Detwiler on track; bullpen concerns

Photo by USA Today
Ross Detwiler threw a bullpen session on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, keeping him on track to return on Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. The lefty has been sidelined with a mild oblique strain after aggravating the muscle on May 15 against in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Detwiler took the field around 2:45 to stretch, threw some longball, and then went about his bullpen session as if it were any other.

“It was a normal bullpen session. The only difference was I sat down halfway through there for about five minutes to simulate an inning, and then I got back up and threw and everything was good.”

Detwiler feels fine, no soreness or pain to report on. He missed one start, but is ready to slot right back into the rotation.

“Any time you get healthy again it’s definitely going to be a relief. But the thing [is] I kind of went and threw a little harder today than I normally would just so I wouldn’t have any, I wouldn’t hold back anything. I proved to myself that I was healthy and I’m ready to go.”


Kobernus ready for MLB debut

Photo by the Associated Press
A second round pick of the Nationals in 2009, Jeff Kobernus had done just about everything he could to earn a call-up to the major leagues.

At 24 he had held a .288 average through four minor league seasons, stolen over 40 bases in consecutive years, and been a standout on defense. This season he’s held a .333 clip at Triple-A Syracuse, posted 21 steals through 43 games, and scored a team-high 33 runs: all top-five marks in the International League.

This spring he perhaps got closest as part of the Detroit Tigers, but was sent back to Washington as part of the Rule 5 Draft late in camp. Close, but again no call-up.

But on Friday night that dream finally came true for the young second baseman as before the Chiefs were set to take batting practice in Columbus, Kobernus was notified by coach Tony Beasley he would be headed to the majors. He said he called his father Jeff, a former minor league pitcher who topped out at the Double-A level, to tell him the news. His dad started crying, a dream the two had worked towards across two generations was about to come true.

“I called my dad first and then my mom,” Kobernus said. “My dad, he was crying, which was kind of one of those things where he’s helped me a lot through my career and it was a dream come true to be able to call him and tell him to come out.”


Game 49: Phillies at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Dan Haren faces Jonathan Pettibone tonight at Nationals Park.
After a solid, 5-2 victory last night to open their homestand, the Nationals are sticking with their same lineup for the middle game of this weekend series against the Phillies. Might as well stick with what worked, including Kurt Suzuki in the 6-spot, with Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi behind him.

That lineup tonight will go up against right-hander Jonathan Pettibone, seeking to become the Phillies' first rookie to go 4-0 to begin his career since Kyle Kendrick (last night's starter) in 2007. Dan Haren gets the nod for the Nationals, hoping his ragged outing in San Diego was a mere blip on an otherwise upward trend for the veteran.

Jeff Kobernus, meanwhile, officially had his contract purchased from Class AAA Syracuse and is available off the bench. Yunesky Maya has officially been designated for assignment, possibly ending his four-year tenure in the Nationals organization.

Remember: Tonight's game is on Fox. It'll be Tom McCarthy and Bill Ripken with the call. So that's a Phillies play-by-ply guy and a former Oriole. Enjoy...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:15 p.m. EDT
TV: Fox regional (coverage map)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 89
Weather: Clear, 65 degrees, Wind 18 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

Lombardozzi shines in Nats' win vs. Phillies

Photo by USA Today
Ask Steve Lombardozzi to do just about anything for his baseball team and he’ll do it. Since his debut with the Nats in 2011 he’s played second base, third base, shortstop, and left field. Last year when catchers were going down left and right, Davey Johnson said he would call on the Columbia, Md. native as the emergency backstop if the situation ever presented itself.

So when it was discovered Danny Espinosa would be out at least a few days with a floating chip in his right wrist, naturally Lombardozzi was there to step in. The super utility man known as ‘Lombo’ made the most of the opportunity, going 3-for-4 with two RBI in the Nats’ 5-2 win over the Phillies on Friday night.

“You never want anybody to get injured,” Lombardozzi said. “But when my name’s called, I’m gonna be ready.”

The 24-year-old Lombardozzi doesn’t say much. In a rare postgame session with reporters, he spoke softly and kept his answers short, always polite and often deflecting praise to his teammates. But after his three-hit performance at the plate, a big part of the Nationals’ win, Lombardozzi’s teammates weren’t quite as restrained.

Lineup leads Zimmermann to 8th win

Jordan Zimmermann has pitched as well as anyone in baseball through the season's first two months, and more often than not the Nationals have needed it. Only once during his previous six starts had Zimmermann's teammates provided more than three runs of support.

So imagine how the right-hander felt when he looked up at the scoreboard at Nationals Park after five innings Friday night and saw a "5" listed next to the home team's name.

"Definitely nice to get a five-run cushion tonight and kind of put it on cruise control," he said.

And cruise Zimmermann did, churning out seven quality innings against the Phillies and riding the rare run support to a 5-2 victory that made him the NL's first 8-game winner.
Read more

Friday, May 24, 2013

Nats to call up Kobernus, DFA Maya

Photo by USA Today
In need of depth on their bench, the Washington Nationals are calling up second baseman Jeff Kobernus from the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs and designating relief pitcher Yunesky Maya for assignment. Kobernus’ contract will be purchased to place him on the 40-man roster as Maya will now go through the waiver process.

Kobernus joins the Nats to provide an extra position player with Danny Espinosa out with a loose bone chip in his right wrist.

We’re doing something with Maya and calling up Kobernus,” Davey Johnson said. “We’re already one player short with four players on the bench, I like to have at least five. And with Espinosa down, we can’t go with three.”

Kobernus, 24, has spent four seasons in Washington’s minor league system after being drafted by the club in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He has yet to make his major league debut.

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Phillies 2

USA Today Sports Images
Tyler Moore collides with Erik Kratz on a play at the plate in the fourth.
Game in a nutshell: After a grueling road trip out west, the Nationals returned home for the start of a significant homestand, facing a Phillies club that could have caught them for second place in the NL East. But behind yet another strong start from Jordan Zimmermann and a suddenly potent lineup that came through big with a four-run fifth (three of those runs coming with two outs). Steve Lombardozzi was the biggest offensive star, going 3-for-4 with two RBI. Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano cruised through the eighth and ninth innings with no trouble, and the Nationals got this homestand off to a solid start, handing Zimmermann his NL-leading eighth victory and creating a little more space between the two heated division rivals.

Hitting highlight: Lombardozzi couldn't have picked a better night to get hot at the plate. With Danny Espinosa now sidelined with a

Espinosa out with chip in right wrist

Photo by USA Today
Add another name to the long list of Nationals injuries. 

Second baseman Danny Espinosa has a loose bone chip in his right wrist and is expected to miss several days with the disabled list not out of the question. Davey Johnson said it’s related to the sore wrist that kept him out for four games in mid-April after he took a Paul Maholm pitch off his hand against the Braves.

Espinosa missed four games after being hit on April 14, but returned in the Nats’ series that weekend on April 20 against the Mets. Espinosa apparently continued to experience pain, but opted to play through it up until now.

“The problem is that it’s a broken bone,” Johnson said. “The problem is the inflammation and pain from the broken bone. I know what that’s like.”

“The best way I feel is to have him rest it for a couple of days, no hitting and no throwing, and see if he can get by the discomfort in his right wrist.”

Game 48: Phillies at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals return home tonight to finally face the Phillies.
How remarkable is it that on May 24, in their 48th game of the season, the Nationals are finally facing the Phillies for the first time in 2013? Talk about scheduling quirks. But the two NL East rivals meet at last this weekend, with more riding on this series than either club probably expected back on Opening Day. The Nats suddenly find themselves only one game ahead of Philadelphia for second place in the division. You better believe the former five-time champs would like nothing more than to deal a serious blow to the reigning champs.

The good news: Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound for the series opener, exactly the guy the Nationals want for this situation. He'll be opposed by Kyle Kendrick, who has pitched well this season and actually dominated the Nats last year (0.73 ERA in three games).

Big crowds are expected all weekend, but if you're coming to the park tonight, bring some layers. It's cold and really windy. Updates to come, so please check back...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 89
Weather: Cloudy, 60 degrees, Wind 19 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche

VIDEOS: This week's Baseball Show

With the Nationals returning from a lengthy west coast trip ready to take on the Phillies, there are plenty of storylines to discuss involving the team. Mark, Rob Carlin, and Jim Duquette covered all things Nats on last night's Baseball Show, including what the team should do at second base and whether the comments of Rafael Soriano are a concern long term. We also have a clip from Ryan Zimmerman's 'A Night At The Park' which was another huge success.

Zim's "Night at the Park" raises $300,000

After a grueling, 10-day road trip to the West Coast that featured plenty more lows than highs and a red-eye flight home from San Francisco, the Nationals would have been excused had they simply wanted to take Thursday off and rejuvenate themselves.

How, then, do you explain more than a dozen members of the roster and coaching staff showing up at Nationals Park for Ryan Zimmerman's annual "Night at the Park" charity event?

"It means a lot," Zimmerman said. "We're obviously teammates, and on the field we're fighting for the same thing. But for them to take time out of their off-day — which we don't get many — and getting home at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning from the West Coast, for so many of them to come out and support me and buy things

Thursday, May 23, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Drama at the bottom

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney

The Cardinals are holding strong as the top dog in the league, and the Braves are trending back upwards as the Marlins and Astros duke it out to see if there will be a challenger to the '62 Mets. Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:

1. St. Louis Cardinals (29-16; LW: 1) - Zuckerman: Every member of the rotation boasts an ERA under 3.60. That's how you win night in and night out.

2. Texas Rangers (29-17; LW: 2) - Roney: Baseball America No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar has finally made the show -- it'll be interesting to see if he's up for good.

3. Cincinnati Reds (28-18; LW: 4) - Zuckerman: Shin-Soo Choo might prove to be the most important acquisition of 2013 across the big leagues.

4. Atlanta Braves (27-18; LW: 10) - Hughes: Atlanta is getting hot while the Nats are having trouble. Evan Gattis is back to hitting homers and Kris Medlen is looking like the ace he was last season.