Sunday, June 10, 2012
Nationals Sweep Weekend Series Vs. Red Sox At Fenway Park
Now I'm not a betting man (wink, wink, nod, nod) but if I was, I'd say put some money on the Washington Nationals before everyone else in the gambling world does the same. They probably won't win a World Series in the next year or two but after seeing them up close this weekend in Boston (on TV), they have the look of a serious contender in the near future (Tampa Bay Rays style slew of young talent).
The Nationals (35-23, 17-13 away) left Fenway Park with a 4-3 win this afternoon against the going nowhere Red Sox (29-31, 14-19 home).
Washington swept the three-game series and as a result, they are still firmly in control of the powerful NL East. Conversely, Boston has fifth-place in the AL East locked down and it doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon since all the other teams in the division are winning games-the key to not being in last place.
Boston has lost six of its last seven games to fall a season-high six games back of the Rays in the AL East.
It was tied 3-3 headed into the ninth inning but Alfredo Aceves (0-4) couldn't keep it that way. Roger Bernadina (2 hits, stolen base) drove in pinch hitter Bryce Harper with an RBI double. When will MLB managers learn that closers almost never have a clean inning when they don't come into a save situation?
Working in his third straight save-situation, Nationals closer Tyler Clippard had to throw 25 pitches but he still managed to close it out by striking out the side for his eighth save of the season.
The most impressive aspect about the three games for Washington is that they were all close and yet they found a way to win them all. They won by three runs on Friday night, two runs yesterday afternoon and two runs today. That points to three main winning ingredients: enough timely offense, solid outings and reliable bullpens.
Jordan Zimmermann got a no-decision but he had an acceptable start. He went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Tom Gorzelanny (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth to get the win.
Jon Lester had the same result as Zimmermann: nothing in the win-loss column. He was decent too after a poor beginning. Lester went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits with a season-high nine strikeouts and two walks.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first on Ryan Zimmerman's groundout which scored Danny Espinosa (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run, walk, stolen base).
Boston tied it on Dustin Pedroia's fielder's choice in the third that scored Nick Punto. The Red Sox grabbed their only lead in the fourth on David Ortiz's (3 hits) solo homer (14th of the season) into Boston's bullpen.
Espinosa gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead in the seventh with a two-run double off the Monster that would have been a routine out in any other park.
Scott Podsednik's ground out in the seventh tied it as Ryan Sweeney scored.
Not for nothing but I'm going to say that with a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford in the lineup, the Red Sox wouldn't score nine total runs in three games at Fenway Park no matter who they were playing. When the Red Sox are right, it seems like they average about nine runs (slight exaggeration) at home especially when the weather is so great.
Interleague play (so far the Red Sox are 2-4 against their NL East counterparts) continues as Boston hits the road to face the Miami Marlins (31-29, 4th place NL East) at their stupid new stadium-Marlins Park. Fresh off a three-game sweep (take a number) at the hands of the Rays, the Marlins enter the series on a six-game losing streak which is double what the Red Sox are currently suffering through. After that, the Red Sox visit Wrigley Field for three games this weekend to take on the woeful Chicago Cubs led by former GM Theo Epstein.
Bobby Valentine got thrown out in the ninth inning today arguing balls and strikes but hopefully he's taking notes from the master-Ozzie Guillen-who also happens to be Miami's manager. Former Marlin Josh Beckett (4-6) faces Josh Johnson (3-4) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Clay Buchholz (6-2) gets Mark Buehrle (5-6) Tuesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) and Felix Doubront (6-3) opposes Ricky Nolasco (6-4) in the series finale on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN).
National League rules will be in effect meaning no DH in the lineup and the pitchers have to hit, so Valentine will need to find a way to get Ortiz plenty of at bats since he's been by far the team's best hitter so far this season. Sit Adrian Gonzalez instead who hasn't done anything.