Saturday was a special day for the Nationals, even if it were in futility. Bryce Harper connected with his 42nd and final home run of 2015, a game winning titanic blast to right field that won the Nationals the game 3-1. He ended the season on 99 RBI, 42 home runs, and a .330 batting average.
But for me, the moment of the day was a limping Bryce Harper (he took a Noah Syndergaard 96 mph fastball off the shin earlier in this game) getting off the mat to take an MVP hack and win his team one more ballgame.
Alright, so we’re a little late on this one. The Nationals ironically received huge performances from both Stephen Strasburg, and got a Bryce Harper home run to kick off scoring, and to close their scoring; and they were still swept by the team from Queens.
Home Run #35
Home Run #36
So, first time we’ve had a delay in getting one of these Harper home run posts up. Pardon us, it was a busy several days and the Nats basically being unofficially eliminated from the playoffs was depressing.
The Nationals didn’t need this home run to win yesterday or anything, but number 34 for Bryce Harper came off Manny Banuelos, and it was impressive because it was a finesse swing off a slider. The Nationals swept the Braves out of town with an 8-4 win, and moved within four games of the Mets in the NL East.
As for the home runs, Harper has three in his past three games, with each one seemingly more impressive than the one before. On Friday, he clubbed a 453-foot shot to dead center off Julio Teheran that was the longest of his career. On Saturday, he got behind 0-2 on righty Shelby Miller, then proceeded to foul off four pitches before going deep to left-center. The at-bat lasted 10 pitches and resulted in Harper’s 500th career hit. Then on Sunday, leading off the third inning, he hit another opposite-field shot, this one coming on an 0-2 slider from southpaw Manny Banuelos. Said Washington manager Matt Williams: “His stroke is under control.”
Bryce Harper is heating up at the right time, and he’s got an outside shot at 40 home runs if he stays this hot. It’s going to be more fun to watch the pennant race in this division though starting with today’s game.
Real good ballgame going on tonight on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Noah Syndergaard opposes Jordan Zimmerman down at animalistic Citi Field that is sounding and feeling more like old Shea Stadium by the night this summer. The Mets are going for the sweep, and are just a game back of the Nationals. The first two games have been nail-biters. This should be a great one. Or it could be 7-2. Gut feeling, Bryce Harper hits home run number 30 before leaving the big apple. He likes hitting there.
There just isn’t much to cheer about as a Reds fan right now. The Reds are playing out a string here in late June and in a season that they welcome the All Star Game, the team just seems so ‘blah’.
They dropped two games today, one the completion of a suspended game in 13 innings and the other becoming the first belt notch in Steven Matz’s career in Queens.
But there is Todd Frazier; the beacon of light. The Toddfather just hit his 25th homer of the year in the team’s 74th game. George Foster holds the record with 52 home runs which he hit in his MVP season of 1977. Right now, Frazier is in the hunt for this team record and 40 home runs seems a lock.
I have to admit, I always thought Frazier would have a few Aaron Boone type years where he showed flashes of first-round brilliance at the big league level. But I always saw Frazier as more of a secondary start to the Bruce’s and Votto’s of the world. Frazier at this point is completely leveling any expectation I had of him. Little league swing or not, the guy has a .978 OPS and is going to catch Giancarlo for the National League home run lead shortly.
He’s a good dude who goes about his game quietly, and he’s developed into a hell of a power hitter. That doesn’t go without salute in these parts. Plus, our wife loves him!
I asked some guy I know who is a Giants fan at the beginning of the year what he thought of Chris Heston – because I thought the guy was more than serviceable.
“I don’t know man. I think he’s pretty much just a guy,” he said to me.
The guy just threw a no-hitter in his 12th career start. It was the fourth no-hitter for the Giants in four years. They have things good. Heston struck out 11 Mets hitters, and didn’t walk anyone. The only thing that separated him from a perfect game was him hitting three batters.
Heston got the final out with a called strike-three to Ruben Tejeda. It was a pretty good pitch. It’s interesting to note that the last time the Mets were no-hit was in September of 1993 by Darryl Kile. I remember that day well.
It’s always good to see the magic a no-hitter brings during baseball season. Even if you hate the Giants, it’s still neat. Baseball will grab center stage on the sports highlights shows tonight. At least, they should.
Today, Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. What a magical occasion that’s going to be. As we like to do with all heralded prospects coming out of the minors on their debut-day, we provide you with the scouting report from Baseball Prospectus on Syndergaard:
Syndergaard’s best pitch is his fastball, a mid-90s offering that will get up to 98 with some life. He’s not just a hard thrower, as the young Texan has two above-average offerings to keep hitters off his plus-plus heater. The best of these is his change; it’s a pitch that offers excellent deception from both a velocity difference (typically in the high 70s as compared to the 94-96 mph fastball) and his ability to keep that difference without losing much arm speed. His curveball—a well below-average offering when Syndergaard first entered the big leagues—now flashes plus with hard spin and some depth, and he can either bury the pitch out of the zone or throw it for strikes. It’s the least consistent of the three offerings, and there are times when he’ll “overthrow” the pitch and it will end up in the middle of the zone.
And while the stuff alone makes Syndergaard an upper-echelon pitching prospect, what makes him one of the best in baseball is his ability to throw all three of his pitches for strikes. There isn’t much effort to his delivery, which allows him to repeat it on a consistent basis, and though the command isn’t Pedro-esque by any stretch of the imagination, he’s generally within the margin of error and does a good job keeping the ball below the belt.
You hope Syndergaard can avoid the arm troubles that seemingly all young pitchers encounter in present day baseball. Hopefully he has a couple years where he’s successful, exciting to watch, and just stays healthy. We’re excited to see what he can do at Wrigley and for the rest of the season.
I caught a lot of the last two Nationals/Mets tilts in Queens the past two days, a pair of1-0 wins by the Nationals where their four and five starters showed phenomenal stuff, enough stuff to shut out the team with the best record in the division.
To me, that is very telling. Gio Gonzalez was phenomenal last night (made papa some money) and Doug Fister threw 6 and 1/3 scoreless without walking anyone to get the win today.
The Nationals won these two games on an infield RBI single by Michael Taylor and a bloop single today by Ryan Zimmerman.
It was the type of series that reminds you of the way things are really going to be by season’s end, that the Mets are a simple small sample size anomaly that worked without completely breaking down for 25 or so games.
No matter how many times Terry Collins came out of the dugout to get in the umpire’s ass this weekend, it just didn’t matter. The Nationals were the better team with the worse record and took three of four at Citi Field.
When (and if) the Nationals ever get the health of their full roster restored, they’ll probably go on some type of run that turns everyone’s heads. They really aren’t even playing that well right now, just grinding.
“We’re not really giving ourselves a chance, it feels like,” the All-Star slugger said after the loss. “We’ve got a positive vibe, but [something] is just not there.
“The fire is not there, it seems like. You always want to have it. But when you’re out there and it’s game time, it’s just nothing there.”
Things didn’t get much better on Saturday night in a 5-4 loss at Citi Field. Despite an okay five innings from Mat Latos, and five hits from Dee Gordon; Jacob deGrom threw seven scoreless innings striking out eight and walking nobody. Stanton went hitless (down to .220) and Christian Yelich went 1 for 5 (down to .225).
You could make the case that this is baseball’s most disappointing team; a label they have tried desperately to avoid with all the offseason moves and roster makeover.
Perhaps this was the test that was meant to happen all along. If they’re one of baseball’s worst teams in the first half of the season will Jeffrey Loria stick to his promise to continue trying to build a championship team or will they deal a few veterans for prospects?
This just wasn’t the way it was supposed to go down in Miami. Our call is that they continue to struggle, only to become one of baseball’s hottest teams when they get back Jose Fernandez, falling just short of a Wildcard berth by season’s end because they couldn’t break out of their slumber soon enough.
If you’re wondering on an update for Fernandez, he’s been throwing off a mound for the last month and he’s expected back in June.
If you’re wondering about the Marlins salvaging something on Sunday in Queens, they’re staring down the barrel of Matt Harvey; as always a team seems to when they’re struggling most.
With this home run, Giancarlo Stanton passes Dan Uggla as the Marlins all-time leader in home runs. That’s pretty sad that Dan Uggla – when you think of the type of player he’s been reduced to – was at one time a tenured, all-time leader in home runs of a franchise. This in and of itself has the Marlins headed towards a more respectable future with this guy atop their archives in the sexiest category.
It was a true rapier shot to right-center. The Marlins lost the damn game 7-5 and continue to generally underachieve (especially when we bet money on them, they’re 0-4 now).
After a big 2-1 win last night behind one of their true aces, Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals and Mets played this afternoon on getaway day and grabbed a spot on ESPN because it was billed as Matt Harvey versus Stephen Strasburg. Two hard throwing big time shut down guys, right?
Not so. It became clear fairly early on that these are two completely different animals, even with Harvey making his first start since having Tommy John surgery.
Stephen Strasburg had the kind of start that he has far too often. He was throwing hard and dropping knee buckling breaking balls in the zone to hitters; but he didn’t look dominant. And then the trouble started.
Strasburg seemed to have no out pitch from the beginning, and allowed four runs in the third inning and also did damage to himself by walking three hitters. He struck out five in 5 and 1/3 innings and wasn’t the difference maker in the rubber game against the other team’s best pitcher. The Mets weren’t knocking fences down on Strasburg by any means, but they found a way to make contact and punch balls just beyond the grasp of infielders and single the other way with guys in scoring position.
Harvey on the other hand was a complete badass. I saw him blow away Bryce Harper three times with 97 or 98 MPH gas up in the zone and you look at his line; he walked one hitter on the day and struck out nine.
If you’ve watched a lot of the Nationals and Strasburg, you’ve kind of become used to these type of outings from Strasburg. It was an opening series 6-3 loss that drops them to 1-2 on the year; it’s not the end of the world.
But on a mostly quiet day in baseball, the biggest take home message is that it’s becoming more and more clear by the day that Stephen Strasburg is just a good pitcher who will get his strikeouts and never have too high an ERA; but he’s no stopper. He’s probably reached his ceiling and he’s nowhere near the level of a Jordan Zimmerman in a game that the Nationals have to have. I wouldn’t be surprised if people inside the organization feel this way as well.
And then there was Max Scherzer. Boy, he was throwing pellets today. He sat down the first 15 or so hitters and then things got sticky. The Nationals only run on the day was the above swing of beauty by Harper that ended up in the seats. It would appear that Bryce Harper gets up to play on Opening Day; and Bartolo Colon was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I cannot believe that Bartolo Colon is still starting Opening Day games.
The Nats lost the game 3-1 because their middle infield tandem is Dan Uggla and Yunel Escobar. I should have thought long and hard about that before I said they would win the 2015 World Series.
Hopefully, this is the start of something beautiful that lasts 161 more games for Harper.
Now in the spirit of following up some tough news about a great arm gone bad, there’s Matt Harvey who returned to his first in-game action since the 2013 regular season yesterday. The reviews were rave about his performance:
Harvey struck out three of the six Tigers he faced and he cracked the bats of two others. He was dominant. He comfortably threw his fastball 96 to 99 mph. His slider dived into the dirt, same as ever. Even his curveball, a reclamation project, was a knee-buckling filthy pitch. Nick Castellanos was the only Tigers hitter who saved even a little face against him. Castellanos should have received some kind of trophy for at least getting the ball out of the infield — though even that was just a lazy fly ball he lifted to right.
Harvey was so good when he blew away Tigers No. 4 hitter Jordan Lennerton on three straight pitches, it provoked an on-air laugh from former Mets pitcher Ron Darling, who was calling the game for SNY. Darling said poor Lennerton, who spent last year in Triple-A, was likely to get some good-natured kidding when he got back to the Detroit bench about forgetting to take the weighted doughnut off his bat before leaving the on-deck circle.
This is great to hear. It’s unfortunate that baseball had to exist at all without the rare talent of Matt Harvey. The early reports would seem to support that this guy is going to get back on track as a generational talent who defines his legacy with sparkling numbers on the back of his card.
And every fifth day, when you turn this guy on the television set; he’s going to be the same guy we came to remember. That’s good news for everyone except opposing hitters.
There is one pitch that will forever haunt you. It will happen during the 1988 NLCS with your team up 4-2. In the 9th inning, you’ll walk John Shelby on four pitches, and then face Mike Scioscia. The guy is not a home run hitter but you should respect him as a veteran with a lot of experience. Everyone in the stadium, including Scioscia, knows that you’re going to throw a fastball. With your first pitch, your instinct will be to try to throw it over the middle to get ahead on the count with a quick strike. What you should do is throw it low and away.