The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Nats vs. Cardinals, 3/26/14 (Spring Training)

Seeing as there are no real stakes and the games are essentially meaningless, spring-training contests are generally pretty uneventful. Most veteran players go about their business, doing so without the passion that comes when the games that matter begin. But in today’s Spring Training game between the Nationals and Cardinals, the second-to-last on the Grapefruit League docket for the Nats, we got a little action, courtesy of the always passionate Bryce Harper. Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Nationals’ 3-2 loss.

THE GOOD

Gio Gonzalez’s final spring outing of 2014 was solid if unspectacular; he struck out four in five innings of work, allowing seven hits and three runs (just one of them earned). Gonzalez was victimized by some poor defense behind him, including a passed ball and a botched double play, but also struggled to put innings away, allowing two two-out RBI singles to Yadier Molina. Gonzalez finishes with a 2.94 ERA in 18.1 spring innings; he made 81 pitches in today’s game, setting himself up nicely for his first start of the regular season.

Ross Detwiler threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning, throwing 12 pitches and striking out the left-handed hitting John Jay on a good curveball. In four relief innings this spring, Detwiler allowed three runs (all in one outing) on three hits, walking three and striking out two.

— A day after finding out he had made the Opening Day roster, Aaron Barrett demonstrated exactly why the Nationals had so much faith in him.  The 26 year old righty put together another 1-2-3 frame, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout, while showcasing the slider considered to be the best in the organization by Baseball America:

barrett sliderIn 10.2 scoreless innings this spring, Barrett has given up just five hits, walked none, and struck out eight.

THE BAD

The Nationals’ offense once again seemed unable to figure out Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright went five innings today, allowing just one hit (a third inning single by Anthony Rendon), walking none, and striking out six. Wainwright has now thrown 14 scoreless innings against the Nats this spring, and went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings against the team last year.

THE UGLY

— Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Bryce Harper hit a slow roller past Wainwright and towards the right side of the infield.  In one motion, second baseman Mark Ellis barehanded the ball, and flipped it to first, just in time to get Harper in the estimation of first base umpire Jeff Gosney.

harper ejected 2Harper was frustrated, either with the call or the fact that he had made an out.

harper ejected 4We won’t be sure exactly what Harper said until he tells us, but whatever it was, it caused Gosney to toss Harper from the game.  Because the games are meaningless, Spring Training ejections are fairly rare; I can only find only one other example of a player being ejected this spring.  At any rate, Harper not only had to leave the game, he had to leave the stadium as well:

harper ejectedThroughout his career, Harper has been given far less leeway to make mistakes than the average player due to the hype and reputation surrounding him — this ejection seems like another example of that fact.

The Nationals have just one more game in Florida; tomorrow, they head to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets.  Jordan Zimmermann will get the start for the Nats in the 12:10 contest, which will be televised on ESPN and MLB.tv.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Spring Training Game 20 (Nats @ Astros)

In the road game of today’s split-squad doubleheader, Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals traveled to Osceola County Stadium to face Scott Feldman and the Houston Astros. While the regulars stayed back in Vierra to face the Tigers, the Nationals back ups and minor leaguers (with the exception of Anthony Rendon) went up against Bo Porter’s squad. The Nationals defeated the Astros 4-3. Here are the Good, Bad, and Ugly from today’s game.

GOOD

Just like his last outing against the Astros, Gio Gonzalez started off strong. The only difference was that in today’s game, Gio didn’t implode. In his first two innings, Gonzalez was on top of his game, striking out two without allowing a runner. After allowing a single to 6-4 315 pound Japhet Amador to start the third, the batter was quickly erased on a 5-4-3 double play. After retiring the side in the fourth, Gio started to struggle, giving up a run with two outs on a L.J. Hoes single. Hoes would be the last batter Gio would face, as he was removed after going 4.2 innings, striking out 4, and only allowing one run on three hits.

Steven Souza Jr. had the game of his career today, going a perfect 3-3 with two home runs and an RBI triple. Souza’s first home run put the Nationals on the board, hitting a solo shot to deep left field off of former Baltimore Oriole Scott Feldman. His second homer also came off of Feldman, but this one was hit straight to center field. Then, in the top of the seventh, Souza hit a triple down the right field line to score Brock Peterson from first.

Both Brock Peterson and Brian Goodwin checked into today’s game with a pair of hits. Goodwin drove in a run with an RBI single in the top of the fifth, while Peterson scored a crucial run in the seventh inning on the Steven Souza triple.

Manny Delcarmen was able to bounce back from his bad performance against the Mets on Thursday, going two scoreless innings and recording a save in today’s contest.

BAD

Rafael Soriano and Christian Garcia had almost identical mediocre pitching lines in today’s game. Soriano, who was able to bail Gio Gonzalez out of a jam in the fifth, struggled in the sixth, giving up one run on two hits with two strikeouts before being removed with two outs left in the innings in favor of Garcia. Similarly to Soriano, Garcia successfully got the previous pitcher out of a pickle, getting Matt Dominguez to fly out with a runner on third. After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, Garcia gave up back to back doubles to uber-prospects Carlos Correa and Jonathan Singleton, which gave up a run. Garcia finished the day going 1.1 innings with one strikeout and two hits.

UGLY

The Nationals offense had a lot of missed opportunities to add on runs today, all starting in the top of the first. With runners on first and second and only one out, Tyler Moore and Zach Walters were unable to give the Nationals their first lead of the game, grounding out and striking out respectively. Then, in the second inning, Danny Espinosa came up with runners on first and third and two outs, and grounded out to third. In the third inning, Zach Walters (who ended up going 0-5 in today’s game) wasted a runner on second with only one out by grounding into a fielders choice. In total, the Nationals were an atrocious 2-10 with runners in scoring position in today’s game.

The Nationals face the Tigers again tomorrow at 1 PM, this time at Joker Marchant Stadium. Tanner Roark takes the mound for the Nationals against Anibal Sanchez. This game can be heard through the Tigers broadcast, either on MLB.com or on the MLB At Bat app. 

The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Spring Training Game 12 (Nats vs Astros)

On their second night game of the season, the Nationals took on the Houston Astros at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. Gio Gonzalez faced lefty Lucas Harrell in tonight’s match. A lack of offense and two bad innings doomed the Nationals, as they lost to the Astros 7-4. Here are the good, bad, and ugly from tonight’s game.

GOOD

Through the first five batters, Gio Gonzalez looked unstoppable, mowing down Astros batters left and right. Gonzalez was able to retire Dexter Fowler, Jonathan Villar, Jesus Guzman, Matt Dominguez, and Chris Carter (all of whom will be with the Astros on Opening Day) via the strikeout. His command was on point, and his fastball was overpowering. Unfortunately for Gio, he had to get one more out.

After struggling in his first appearance, Blake Trienen pitched excellently today, going three innings in relief of Gio Gonzalez. While he did walk two and give up two hits, he was able to get out of trouble with three strikeouts including Major Leaguers Dexter Fowler and Jesus Guzman.

Steven Souza Jr. showed off his power today, hitting his first home run of the spring off of Michael Foltynewicz in the bottom of the sixth, shrinking the Astros lead to 5.

Both Aaron Barrett and Tyler Clippard looked strong coming out of the pen, going a combined 2.1 innings with 4 strikeouts, while only allowing 3 batters to reach.

After just being recalled from minor league camp , shortstop Stephen Perez made the most of his appearance tonight, going 2 for 2 with a clutch single in the ninth to keep the Nationals hopes alive.

BAD

Jose Lobaton‘s poor Spring at the plate continued tonight, as the backup catcher went 0-2, lowering his batting average to a lowly .091. Lobaton, who has played in 5 games so far this spring, has gone hitless in his last 4 games.

Along with Lobaton both Jamey Carroll and Adam LaRoche were held hitless in tonight’s game.

UGLY

It was unfortunate that Gio Gonzalez had one more out to get in that second inning. After gave up an infield single to the speedy George Springer, the wheels came off. The next batter, Carlos Corporan, hit a wind-aided home run to give the Astros the 2-1 lead. Then, Gonzalez gave up a walk to former Oriole L.J. Hoes. After the walk, Gio gave up a double to minor leaguer Gregorio Petit, sending Hoes to third. After hitting Dexter Fowler with a stray curveball to load the bases, Gio finally recorded the third out of the inning, getting Jonathan Villar to fly out to center.

This outing couldn’t have been any worse for Rafael Soriano, who in just 2/3 of an inning, managed to give up 5 runs on 5 hits. The nadir of the outing was an RBI infield single to 6-4, 305 pound DH Japhet Amador, on which Soriano himself failed to make the play. Soriano’s fastball velocity was down a tick (he sat around 89-91, according to reports), and his slider was two different kinds of devastating — he threw a biting slider to Springer to strike him out, but threw several others with little to no break.  Soriano is notorious for his poor Spring Trainings (he put up an 8.10 ERA in 6.2 IP last March), but his struggles through his first two outings this spring have been a little unsettling.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Game 6 (Nats vs Mets)

In Game 6 of the Grapefruit League season, the Washington Nationals put together something resembling a possible Opening Day lineup for the first time, against the split-squad New York Mets.

This was Jayson Werth’s first start of the spring, after Werth was scratched several days ago with a minor bicep bruise.  Perhaps more interestingly, the lineup featured Bryce Harper in the fifth spot.  Matt Williams has made no definitive statements on what his Opening Day batting order will be, but he is considering batting Harper fifth, saying this:

I think back to my day, and the 5-spot is a really nice spot,” the manager said. “It allows him to get freed up a little bit. He’s not necessarily worried about running in front of the 3-4 guys, if he’s hitting 2. There’s a lot of cleanup RBIs there. And it may provide protection for the 3-4 guys as well, depending on the matchup, righty-lefty.

The Nationals fell behind early, but tied the game in the seventh before putting the game away with a 7-run eighth inning, winning by a final margin of 11-5.  Here once again is the good, the bad, and the ugly of Game 6.

THE GOOD

Gio Gonzalez was the last player of the Nats’ probable starters to make a Spring Training appearance, and he looked very strong today.  In his two innings, he allowed just a first inning Kirk Niewenhuis single, striking out one without walking a batter.  Gonzalez did struggle a little with fastball command, and the lineup he faced wasn’t exactly the ’27 Yankees — the only player in the Mets’ lineup who projects as a starter was the light-hitting Juan Lagares.   But Gonzalez pitched well enough, and will continue to build on this outing as he readies for the regular season.

Ian Desmond continues to look very strong with the bat this spring.  He took a fastball from University of Maryland alum Adam Kolarek over the right field fence for an opposite field home run, his second home run in the last two days.  In four games, Desmond has four hits in ten at bats, including a double and those two home runs.

— Top outfield prospect Brian Goodwin has had a rough time so far this spring.  In his first four games, he had managed just one hit, and had a few hiccups in the outfield.  But in the seventh inning today, Goodwin connected with a fastball from Mets’ righthander John Church, powering a game-tying two run home run off the light stanchion in right.  Goodwin has better than average power for a center fielder (he hit 10 home runs at AA Harrisburg last year), and that power was on full display today.

— The 7-run eighth inning featured another Nationals’ top prospect hitting a two-run home run.  Matt Skole, ranked just behind Goodwin at fourth in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America, took a Cory Mazzone offering just over the right field fence, scoring Goodwin and capping the scoring in the eighth.  It was Skole’s fourth hit in eleven at bats this spring, as the 24 year old continues to show he has fully healed from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in April 2013.

THE BAD

Denard Span had a rough game today, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, both against Mets’ starter Jennry Mejia.  But prior to this game, Span had looked everything like the leadoff hitter the Nationals hope he will be — three hits in six at-bats, with two stolen bases in two attempts.  Bad games will happen, and today, Denard Span had a bad game.

THE UGLY

— After an extremely poor first appearance (4 runs in two innings), Matt Purke came on the third inning with another chance to put his $4.4 million arm on display.  Purke got hit hard in the third, putting two on with one out, but managed to work out of the jam.  But in the fourth, Purke issued a one-out walk, then allowed consecutive singles to Eric Campbell and Zach Lutz, allowing a run to score.  After a groundout moved the runners to second and third, Purke allowed shortstop Anthony Seratelli, a 31-year old with no big league experience, to single to right, scoring two.  Purke’s line for the spring: 7 runs, 9 hits and 3 walks in 3 1/3 innings.

The Nationals meet the Braves for the third time this spring, tomorrow night at 6:05 at Champion Stadium in Orlando. Jordan Zimmermann will pitch for the Nationals; the Braves’ starter has not yet been announced. The game will not be televised, but can be heard on Gameday Audio through the Braves’ radio broadcast.

Let Me Tell You Bout My Best Friend: The Nationals and A’s Story

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Mike Rizzo and Billy Beane are the best of friends!

Earlier today, the Nationals and the Athletics made another trade. The Nationals acquired LHP Jerry Blevins from the A’s in exchange for the Nationals minor league player of the year, OF Billy Burns. It seems like the Nationals and the Athletics do a trade at least twice a year. Mark Zuckerman of CSn Washington tweeted that the Nationals and A’s have been trade partner SEVEN times since 2010, which was Mike Rizzo’s first year as GM. We take a look at all of the trades that the Nationals and A’s have made together since 2005.

(All Information From mlbtradetracker.com)

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Chris Snelling
May 2, 2007
Ryan Langerhans

This trade was a small one, that ended up being big for the Nationals, even though neither of the players ended up being that good. Snelling only played 6 games for the A’s, hitting .350 in 25 at bats. Langerhans tenure with the Nats lasted longer, playing in 176 games over the corse of two seasons with the Nationals. Langerhans was then traded for a 6’5″ power hitting shortstop by the name of Mike Morse.

WINNER: Nationals

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Jermaine Van Buren
June 26, 2007
Player to be named later

Who?

WINNER: Who?

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Josh Willingham
December 16, 2010
Corey Brown
Henry Rodriguez

 This was the first of many Mike Rizzo, Billy Beane transactions. Willingham was in the last year of his contract and the Nationals wanted to get some value out of him. So they decided to trade him to the A’s for fireballing RHP Henry Rodriguez and outfield prospect Corey Brown. Willingham performed well in Oakland, hitting .246 with 29 HRs, good enough for a 2.3 WAR. However, the two players didn’t pan out like the Nationals hoped. Rodriguez struggled to find his control throughout his tenure with the Nationals and Brown has been nothing more then a September call-up for the Nationals.

WINNER: Athletics

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
A.J. Cole
Brad Peacock
Derek Norris
Tommy Milone
December 22, 2011
Gio Gonzalez
Robert Gilliam

Gio Gonzalez was coming off a career year in Oakland. He had a 3.12 ERA, had a 129 ERA+, and was worth 4.3 WAR. The Athletics thought they weren’t close to contending and were hoping to get a lot of the great year Gonzalez had. The Nationals were getting close to being relevant, coming off an 80-81 year, second best in franchise history at the time. They had plenty of pitching and catching deal, and were looking to build on their success. The Nationals agreed to send top pitching prospect AJ Cole, September Call-Ups Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone, and power hitting catcher Derek Norris to Oakland in exchange for Gonzalez and minor league pitcher Robert Gilliam. In 2012, Gonzalez was a near Cy Young winner, pitching the Nationals to their first playoff berth since FDR. His second year with the Nationals was also extremely good. Milone has been the only player who has been beneficial for the A’s, posting two good years for the A’s in the back of their rotation. However, Norris, Peacock, and Cole all struggled in their first year in the A’s organization, and Peacock and Cole were both traded last offseason. 

WINNER: Nationals

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
David Freitas
August 3, 2012
cash
Kurt Suzuki

After losing catcher Wilson Ramos to an ACL injury in May, the Nationals were down to there back up catchers for much of the season. By August, they were in desperate need for a catcher, with starter Jesus Flores barely holding on. The Athletics had a surplus of major league catching, with former National Derrek Norris, recently acquired George Kottaras, and Kurt Suzuki. The Nationals and A’s made their only midseason transaction, sending Kurt Suzuki and cash to Washington in return for minor league catcher David Freitas. Suzuki was key in helping the Nationals get their first playoff berth, having numerous clutch hits, earning him the nickname “Clutch” from teammate Ryan Zimmerman.

WINNER: Nationals

Seattle Mariners acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Michael Morse
January 16, 2013
John Jaso
Comment: 3-team trade between Mariners, Nationals, Athletics
Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
John Jaso
January 16, 2013
Player to be named later (Ian Krol)
A.J. Cole
Blake Treinen
Comment: 3-team trade between Mariners, Nationals, Athletics

This trade still hurts some Nationals fans. Fan favorite Michael Morse was the odd man out in D.C. when the Nationals acquired Denard Span from the Twins. John Jaso wasn’t needed in Seattle because of up incoming prospects Jesus Montero and Mike Zunino, and the Mariners were in the market for some hitting. The A’s needed a catcher because recently acquired catcher Derrek Norris did not pan out the way that the A’s had hoped. These three teams decided to do a three team deal, sending Michael Morse from D.C. to Seattle, John Jaso to Oakland, and minor league pitchers Blake Treinen, A.J. Cole (who was traded to Oakland from D.C. one year earlier), and a PTBNL (Ian Krol). Morse dealt with injury problems throughout 2013, and was traded from Seattle to Baltimore in August, after hitting .226 in 72 games. Jaso suffered a concussion midseason and was replaced by Stephen Vogt. Cole and Treinen had very good years in the Nationals low minor league system, and Krol ended up having a very good year in the Nationals bullpen, and was a key part of the Doug Fister trade this offseason.

WINNER: Nationals

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Kurt Suzuki
Cash
August 23, 2013
Dakota Bacus

About one year after he was acquired by the Nationals, catcher Kurt Suzuki was sent back to Oakland, as the Nationals didn’t have a need for him with Wilson Ramos getting the majority of the playing time. The Nationals received minor league pitcher Dakota Bacus, a player better known by his alter ego, the Whitewall Ninja. Suzuki went on to hit .303 in his short time back with Oakland.

WINNER: Athletics

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Fernando Abad
November 25, 2013
John Wooton

Signed to a minor league contract last November, Fernando Abad was called up in May to be the Nationals lone left handed reliever. Abad did not disappoint, posting a 3.35 ERA in 37.2 innings in the bullpen. After the season ended, the Nationals DFA’d Abad. Two days later, the A’s and the Nats worked out a trade for Abad to be moved to Oakland for minor league pitcher John Wooton. It was reported today that the A’s intend on using Abad as their LOOGY.

WINNER: Athletics

Oakland Athletics acquire Date Washington Nationals acquire
Billy Burns
December 11, 2013
Jerry Blevins

This offseason, the A’s have gone trade crazy, acquiring such relievers as Jim Johnson, Luke Gregorson, Fernando Abad, and Drew Pomeranz. In order to make room for their new acquisitions, the A’s needed to make a trade. The Nationals have been looking for a left handed reliever for some time. The Nationals and A’s made another swap; LHP Jerry Blevins for minor league speedster, OF Billy Burns. This trade gives the Nationals the left handed reliever they always wanted.

WINNER: Too early to tell

Footnote: Mark Zuckerman wrote a piece while I was writing this about why the Nationals and A’s are such common trade partners.