Tagged: Nick Johnson

Cleaning out the dust and the cobwebs

It’s been a while…over two months, in fact…but I’m back. Real life intruded upon my online time — work issues and personal issues kept my online time limited to just my message board for the most part, but I’m hoping that everything is resolved now, and I’ll be able to make regular contributions to this blog once again.

Let’s see…what has happened since my last blog entry? Well, starting with the Yankees:

With a sweep of the Twins in early July, the Yankees tied the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East for one game, surrendering the lead the very next day with the first of three losses to the Angels. Less than two weeks later, a win over the Orioles pushed the Yankees into another tie for first in the AL East with the Red Sox. The Yankees have been in first place ever since, and despite losing their first eight games against Boston this season, they now hold a 9-game lead over the Red Sox. Since my last blog post, the Yankees have had winning streaks of 7 games three times and an 8 game winning streak, with no losing streaks longer than 3 games.

As for the Nationals:

Joel Suckrahan Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge were traded to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, giving the Nationals the centerfielder they’ve needed all season. Manager Manny Acta got the boot just before the All-Star game and was replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals front office sent a “We admit that we suck, but we’re trying not to suck quite so much” email to all season ticket holders and all fans who purchased Nationals tickets or merchandise online. The Nationals were 6-10 in July after Riggleman took over for Acta, and were 14-15 in August, including an 8-game winning streak in early August. The Nats traded Nick Johnson — the last remaining connection to the Montreal Expos — to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Aaron Thompson. Starting pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, and Collin Balester were lost for the season to injuries (shoulder surgery for Olsen, Tommy John surgery for Zimmernann, arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur int he elbow for Stammen, and an intercostal strain of his left
side for Balester). In need of an innings eater, and/or overtaken by nostalgia, the Nats signed pitcher (and former National) Livan Hernandez after he was released by the Mets. Oh, and the Nationals signed their number 1 draft choice — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — some guy named Stephen Strasburg.

Yep, that about covers it.

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4th and 2nd — Nationals 5, Blue Jays 3

Wow…apparently those interleague wins over the Yankees really were a confidence booster for the Nationals. Tonight the Nats got their 4th consecutive win and 2nd straight extra innings win, beating the Blue Jays 5-3 in 12 innings thanks to a walkoff home run by Willie Harris.

Rookie pitcher Ross Detwiler had one of the best games of his short career, giving up just 2 runs (including a solo home run to Vernon Wells), on 6 hits with 3 strikeouts in just over 7 innings of work. He left the game in the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead and a runner (Jose Bautista) on 1st; Kip Wells was unable to keep the inherited runner from scoring. Joel Hanrahan replaced Wells 3 batters later with a runner (Aaron Hill) on 3rd and gave up a single to Scott Rolen, allowing Hill to cross the plate and tie the score and denying Detwiler a chance to get his first major league win. It was Hanrahan’s 5 blown save of the season. The only reason why I am not referring to him as Joel Suckrahan (or Blownsaverahan, for that matter) is because the Nationals ultimately won the game.

Willie Harris was The Man tonight, with another outstanding diving catch, a stolen base, and the game winning home run. Harris was 2-4, as were Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson. In addition, Johnson extended his streak of safely reaching base to 10 straight plate appearances with a walk and 2 hits in his first 3 at bats. That set a Nationals record and tied the franchise record set by Rusty Staub (Expos) 40 years ago. The streak ended when Johnson grounded out in the 8th inning.

The Nationals got lucky in this game, facing rookie pitcher (and Maryland native) Brett Cecil instead of Roy Halladay, who is on the 15-day DL. Cecil pitched 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts.

This win finally gives the Nationals 20 wins on the season. The Nats 4 straight wins coupled with the Phillies 5 straight losses puts the Nats only 16 games out of 1st place in the NL East. Start printing the playoff tickets…here come the Nationals! LOL OK, OK…4 straight wins don’t put us into pennant contention. But they do make this long-suffering Nationals fan extremely happy!

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Nationals 3, Yankees 2

Umm…WHAT??

OMG_shocked.jpgNationals starter John Lannan pitched just over 8 strong innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, and despite giving up 2 home runs, Lannan — a Long Island native who was a Yankees fan as a youngster — got the win as the Nationals defeated the Yankees, 3-2. Adam Dunn hit his 18th home run of the season, former Yankee Nick Johnson got his 2nd triple of the season and had 2 RBI, and former Yankees prospect Cristian Guzman was 3-5.

Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang had his best start of the season, surrendering just 3 runs on 6 hits over 5 innings. Johnny Damon was 2-4 with a home run, and Robinson Cano hit a home run. The Yankees pulled within one run in the bottom of the 9th, but it wasn’t enough to pull out a win.

(This is where my split personality with regard to baseball kicks in……)

The Yankees lost to the Nationals?! Are you kidding me?? The freakin’ Natinals?!?! Those guys suck so bad, they can’t even spell the name of their team! Who the hell is John Lannan, and why couldn’t the Yankees get more than 4 hits off of him? They got 9 hits and scored 9 runs off of Johan Santana but could only manage to score 2 runs off Lannan. Once again, the Yankees managed to make a nobody pitcher look much better than he really is. And Cano was the hero last night, but he was a different story tonight, grounding into a double play to end the game. It’s humilating to lose to a 17-46 team…the Yankees should have blown these guys out. Worst of all, the Yankees lost ground to the Red Sox, who defeated the Marlins tonight.

OMG OMG OMG!!! The Nats beat the Yankees?! Are you kidding me?? I’m definitely a Lanna-fan, and I knew Lannan would pitch well…I just didn’t think he’d pitch as well as he did tonight. He had took a no-hitter into the 5th inning! How exciting must this game have been for him, with his family there at the Stadium to watch him pitch. Cristian Guzman had a great game, and I thought Nick Johnson was going to need oxygen after his triple. Thank goodness I suck at prediciting the outcomes of games. LOL

Two down, one to go…….

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Mixed results

The Yankees and Nationals had different, but not surprising, results in their respective games tonight.

Yankees:

The Yankees defeated the Mets tonight, 9-8, thanks to an error by Luis Castillo in the 9th inning. This was a crazy game, to say the least…..

The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning on Robinson Cano’s home run.

The Mets came right back in the 3rd inning to regain the lead, 2-1

The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 3rd.

The Mets jumped out to a 6-3 in the top of the 5th inning.

The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the 5th.

The Yankees regained the lead in the 6th inning, 7-6.

Then the Mets tied the game in the 7th.

The Mets took the lead, 8-7, in the 8th inning.

And then, finally, the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, when Luis Castillo dropped a 2 out pop-up off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, allowing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to score the tying and winning runs, respectively. The final score was 9-8.

Whew…it was exhausting just typing all of that. I can’t imagine how tiring it must have been to watch the game in person, much less to play in it!

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Postscript to the Yankees/Red Sox series: the last Yankees pitcher to win a game against the Red Sox was Mike Mussina. It was his 20th win of the season last year.



Nationals:

And then, there were the Nationals, who lost to the Rays tonight, 4-3. Pitching into the 6th inning, starter Craig Stammen, did a decent job, putting his team into a position to win. But the 3 runs that the Nats scored in the 1st inning were all they could manage. And then, with 2 outs in the 8th, Nick Johnson misplayed a pop-up in foul territory. Instead of the inning coming to an end, Gabe Kapler stepped up to the plate and hit the home run that won the game for the Rays.

SSDD…same stuff, different day. Another day, another loss.

Catching up

I apologize to my readers — all 4 of you! — for being AWOL for more than a week. My roommate had surgery last Monday, so I’ve been visiting her most evenings. Between being busy at work and the stress of the hospital visits (hospitals creep me out), I just haven’t had the energy to post anything here.

To catch up a bit, since my last post, the Yankees have 5 wins and 3 losses. Some notable games:

The June 1st game vs. the Indians featured another attack of the midges, but the bugs didn’t bug starter Joba Chamberlain too much this time. The Yankees set a new MLB record of 18 error-free games, breaking the record that the Red Sox set in 2006, and they beat the Indians 5-2.

applause.jpgIn the June 2nd game vs. the Rangers, there was an exceptional amount of testosterone flying through the air, after Mark Texeira was hit by pitches from Vicente Padilla in the 2nd and 4th innings. Tex then slid into Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus at 2nd base in the 4th. Inspired by Tex’s display of manliness, the Yankees scored 7 runs in that inning. A.J. Burnett sent a message of his own in the 5th inning, throwing a pitch over the head of Nelson Cruz. That display of testosterone drew a warning from the home plate umpire to both dugouts. It also drew a fine, as well as a 6 game suspension two days later. (Padilla was also fined.) Burnett’s appeal of the fine will allow him to play until a hearing takes place.

Tex’s comments about being hit by those pitches:

“There’s really no reason for it in baseball. You know, if you can’t get a guy out, don’t hit him. You know, if you don’t want to pitch to a guy, then, you know, put four fingers out there and walk him,” Teixeira said.

I agree, Tex. As I mentioned here, I think the pitcher and hitter should just drop their pants, let everyone see who is bigger, and then tuck it back in and get on with the game.

Unfortunately, the Yankees errorless innings streak ended in this game. Oh well, at least they set a new record and won the game, 12-3.

The June 4th game vs. the Rangers featured Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation. Unfortunately, he was not particularly effective, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, including a home run, in 4.2 innings. But the Yankees rallied in the 8th inning, overcoming a 5-1 deficit to win the game, 8-6.

In the June 5th game vs. the Rays, Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the season and got his second loss, when Joe Dillon broke a 5-5 tie with a single in the 9th inning. The Rays scored 4 runs (3 earned) off Rivera in the 9th for the win.

I watched the Yankees beat the Rays tonight (Monday), 5-3. Andy Pettitte got the win, Mariano Rivera got the save; it was the 59th time the two have combined for a win and a save. Pettitte and Rivera are the all-time MLB winner-closer combo leaders, with two more wins/saves than Oakland’s Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley.


Since my last blog post here, the Nationals have 5 losses and 2 wins. It’s really quite astonishing that they have those two wins in 7 games! Some notable games:

On June 2nd, the Nationals had a surprising 10-6 win against the Giants and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. The Giants were leading 5-2 when the rally began with the Nats scoring 2 runs at the bottom of the 6th. The Nats offense exploded for 6 runs in the 8th inning. Joel Suckrahan Hanrahan gave up a run in the 9th inning, but managed to finish the inning and the game without any further damage. Prior to that win, the Nationals had lost 6 straight games.

On June 3rd, the Giants’ Randy Johnson was supposed to be going for his 300th career win, but Mother Nature did not cooperate. The start of the game was delayed for over 3-1/2 hours as MLB hoped the game could be played and history could be made. Now, I understand the historical significance of the game, with Stretch trying for career win #300. But come on… a 3-1/2 hour delay?! That’s ridiculous!! At 10:46, the game was finally postponed and rescheduled for the following evening.

Stretch did get his 300th win on the 4th, in the first game of a doubleheader, as the Giants beat the Nats 5-1. Ironically, the start of this game was also delayed by about an hour because of rain. Too bad so few people actually saw this historic game; attendance was so low that the attendance stats weren’t even listed in the box score. Perhaps the 16,787 attendance figure for the second game was actually a combination of attendance for both games? Anyway, some of the Nationals commentators, members of the media, and Nats fans have fussed about a called strike against Adam Dunn on a 3-2 count to end the 8th inning, which preserved the Giants 2-1 lead with the bases loaded. The call was a bad one — it was definitely NOT a strike — but hey, those are the breaks. Lots of bad calls have been made against the Nationals this season…and against the 29 other MLB teams as well. Bad calls happen. I saw comments on one particular Nats message board which hinted that the umpire had intentionally called a strike to prevent a run from being walked in to tie the game…that, of course, would have given Stretch a no-decision. OK, so in a split second, when the pitch is thrown and caught, the umpire was thinking, “If I call this a ball, then a run will score, and that means that Randy Johnson will end up with a no-decision instead of getting his 300th win tonight, so I should call this a strike even though the pitch was a ball….” Riiiiiiiiight. [SARCASM] I’m sure that’s exactly what that umpire was thinking at that moment. [/SARCASM] This, of course, was the second time the Nationals were involved in a history-making game. In August of 2007, former Nats pitcher Mike Bacsik gave up Baroids Bonds’ 756th career home run.

After the Nats 3-1 loss to the Mets on June 5th, Joel Hanrahan went back to being Joel Suckrahan as far as I’m concerned. With the game tied at 1 in the 10th inning, Suckrahan gave up a single to Luis Castillo, a walk to Carlos Beltrán, and a double to David Wright which scored Castillo and Beltrán. And that was that. The loss caused Suckrahan to lose his job as the closer for the second time this season.

The June 6th game vs. the Mets was another surprising win for the Nationals. John Lannan pitched the first complete game of his career, allowing just 1 run and 4 hits in a 7-1 win. He even hit a single in the 5th inning and scored a run  on Nick Johnson’s home run. Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes also hit home runs in the game, which lasted exactly 2 hours.

The Nationals reverted back to their usual form on the 7th, losing to the Mets 7-0. Just more of the same suckitude.

At least the Nationals didn’t lose tonight…they didn’t play tonight…….

Has interleague play run its course?

Is interleague play really necessary anymore? In my opinion, the novelty has worn off. It was fun at first, but it’s just not as interesting as it initially was. This weekend, in particular — with some of the so-called “rivalries” games — was just…well, boring. Was anyone other than the fans of the respective teams really interested in the result of the series between the last place Nationals and the last place Orioles, or the result of the series between the last place A’s and the next-to-last place Diamondbacks? Of course, last place teams in each league do play other last place teams within their own leagues, but those aren’t hyped the way interleague series are hyped.

Another reason why I’m no longer a big fan of interleague play is because it creates a major, and possibly dangerous, disadvantage for AL teams when they play in NL ballparks. Thanks to the lack of a DH in the AL, pitchers don’t normally have to bat, and therefore aren’t used to running the bases. At best, they risk tiring sooner than they normally would; at worst, they risk injury. Remember, it was during interleague play last year when Chien-Ming Wang’s season ended due to a foot injury suffered while running the bases.

Fans generally still seem to enjoy interleague play, as evidenced by the fact that attendence rises for it. I googled “interleague play” tonight out of curiosity, and I found an article showing that ballplayers apparently are far less fond of interleague play than fans. According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com:

Players we surveyed this week told Rumblings they would estimate the number of players who dislike interleague play is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75 percent.

Stark mentions several of the players’ complaints regarding interleague play, most of which make a lot of sense, IMO.

One suggestion made by a ballplayer caught my attention in that ESPN.com article.

Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin proposed an idea we’ve campaigned for forever: “Use the visiting team’s league rules,” he said. “Show the fans something unique.”

I think that’s pretty interesting. It would definitely be unique.

What do you think? Do you still find interleague play fun and/or interesting?



Yankees vs. Phillies

The home run total at the Bronx Bandbox increased by 12 during the weekend interleague series between the Yankees and the Phillies — 6 by each team — as the Yankees lost 2 of 3 games to the Phillies. There have been 87 home runs already at Yankee Stadium, and it’s not even at the end of May. Just imagine how the home runs will be flying out of the park once the temperature and humidity go up later in the season!

Friday: the Yankees lost, 7-3, in a game that included a total of 7 home runs. The testosterone level on the field skyrocketed on the field in the 1st inning when Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter, in obvious retaliation after A.J. Burnett hit Chase Utley in the shoulder. The plate umpire then warned both dugouts. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to throw a pitch at a batter. If you hit him, you give the opposing team a baserunner, and you risk injuring him. Why not just have the pitcher and hitter drop their pants, whip it out to see which one is bigger, and then get on with the game.

Chien-Ming Wang was activated before the game, replaced Burnett in the 7th inning. He threw 51 pitches, giving up 2 runs (including a home run) on 6 hits. His pitches had more velocity, but his location was off a bit. Maybe he’s just rusty?

Saturday: the Yankees were victorious in a 5-4 come from behind win. Those 9th inning comebacks seem to be becoming a Yankees trademark this season. Oh, and  “only” 4 home runs were hit in that game.

Sunday: the Yankees lost, 4-3, in 11 innings, before a crowd of 46,986. That’s the largest Yankee Stadium crowd since opening day. Melky Cabrera did his best to be the hero for the second night in a row, hitting a game-tying single in the 9th inning. But it wasn’t meant to be…no wild celebration for the Yankees after this game. CC Sabathia pitched very well, allowing just 3 runs on 9 hits over 8 innings. But with two outs and the score tied in the 11th inning, Brett Tomko walked Chase Utley, and after Utley stole second, Carlos Ruiz doubled to score Utley. The Yankees were unable to score in the bottom of the 11th.

Interleague play resumes for the Yankees on June 12th, vs. the Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Nationals vs. Orioles

The Battle of the Beltways — i.e., the interleague series between the Nationals and the Orioles — wasn’t quite as much of a snoozer as I thought it would be. Yes, both teams stink, and the games probably held very little interest for anyone other than Nats or O’s fans. But the Nationals starting pitchers had very good games on Friday and Saturday, although the usually prolific offense fell asleep on those nights in losses to the Orioles. However, the offense woke up in time to bail out a less than spectacular effort from Sunday’s starter to prevent a sweep.

Friday: the Nationals lost, 4-2 in 12 innings. Jordan Zimmermann had the longest start of his young career, allowing  2 runs on 6 hits over 7 innings. Zimm2 walked 1, struck out 7, and gave up a home run. But the Nationals offense took the night off, scoring just 2 runs (on Ryan Zimmerman’s 4th inning homer, with Nick Johnson on 1st). It would be easy to blame the bullpen again for this loss…but if the offense had not fallen asleep, the game’s outcome might have been different.

Saturday: I was at this game, a 2-1 loss, getting to see Ross Detweiler for myself. He did not disappoint, with a 6 inning, 1 hit and 1 run performance. Justin Maxwell sparkled on defense with an outstanding catch above and over the wall in centerfield, robbing Brian Roberts of a home run. Julian Tavarez gave up a run in the 7th to give the Orioles a lead that they never lost. The Nats’ normally porous bullpen prevented the Orioles from scoring additional runs, but for the second night in a row, the Nationals offense took the night off. Another game…another loss. Ho hum.

Sunday: I was at this game as well, an 8-5 victory to avoid the sweep. Shairon Martis did not have his A-game, but his offense finally woke up and let him off the hook. His defense helped him out as well…in particular, a leaping catch in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field by Austin Kearns, robbing Nick Markakis of a hit in the first inning. Martis also helped himself out with an RBI single in the 5th inning, scoring Wil Nieves to tie the score at 3. Adam Dunn got it done with 2 homers, including a grand slam in the 7th inning after the Orioles intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to Dunn. Anderson Hernandez added to the defensive highlights with a spectacular diving catch of a Brian Roberts line drive in the 8th inning. Wonder of wonders, Ron Villone, Joe Beimel, and Joel Hanrahan combined to shut down the Orioles over the last 3 innings — no hits, no walks, no runs. Amazing!!

Interleague play resumes for the Nationals on June 12th at Tampa Bay.

The Nationals win…no errors, and no blown save…WOW!

OK, for the time being, I will refrain from referring to Joel Hanrahan as Joel Suckrahan. He actually got a save tonight as the Nationals avoided a second straight 4-game sweep by beating the Pirates, 5-4.Not that Suckrahan Hanrahan pitched well — he did not — but he somehow managed to keep the Pirates from scoring in the 9th inning.

I was at tonight’s game. Not only did the Nats win, but for just the second time this season, I didn’t have to deal with a rain delay. In fact, the weather was perfect!

Tonight’s game marked the major league debut of Craig Stammen, whose performance was actually better than his line indicates. Stammen pitched into the 7th inning, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits (including a home run), with a walk and 3 strikeouts. He was perfect through 4 innings before finally giving up a hit, and eventually a run, in the 5th. Things fell apart for Stammen in the 7th inning when he began to tire, and the Pirates took the lead. Manny Acta probably left him in the game a couple of pitchers too long, but considering how horrendous our bullpen is, I really can’t blame him for being hesitant to take Stammen out. Despite that 7th inning, Stammen was very impressive…he worked fast and threw strikes. That’s not something that can be said about any of Daniel Cabrera’s efforts this season.

I was ready to leave the game after the 7th inning. I had witnessed Stammen’s debut, so I was pleased. But the Pirates had taken the lead, and Stammen was out of the game, and I had little faith that the bullpen would prevent any additional scoring. I went to the bathroom and was on my way to the gate when someone with a funnel cake walked by me. I loooooooove funnel cakes (yes, I know they are bad for me…they are nothing but fried fat covered with sugar…but they are soooo gooooood…..). Seeing that funnel cake made me want one, so I did get a funnel cake. I sat at one of the picnic tables behind section 142 (or thereabouts) to eat it while watching the game. But then the Nats took the lead once more, so I ended up sticking around until the end of the game.

It was nice to see the Nats battle back in the 8th inning to regain the lead. Ryan Zimmerman’s single scored Cristian Guzman, and Adam Dunn got it done with a single that scored Nick Johnson. And I have to mention the nice catch Zimm made in foul territory for the first out in the 6th inning. He leaned over the rail and grabbed a ball that otherwise would have dropped into the front row of seats. I checked out the video of it when I got home from the game…a fan in the front row looked like he was going to try to catch the ball but pulled back at the last moment, allowing Zimm to make the catch. After he caught the ball, Zimm gestured towards the fan to thank him for not interferring. That was pretty funny!

And then came the 9th inning and Joel Suckrahan Hanrahan. Adam LaRoche hit a fly ball to deep center, driving Willie Harris all the way to the wall to make the catch (whew…thanks, Willie!), and then Brandon Moss singled. Pretty much everyone in the ballpark figured that was it…Joel was about to blow another one. But he got the final two K’s, much to the crowd’s delight, and the Nationals were finally winners. The seven game losing streak is history.

Next up…interleague play with the Orioles coming to DC, in the Battle of the Beltways. Two crappy, last place teams…[sarcasm] boy oh boy, this should be an exciting series! [/end sarcasm]