In a season of walk-offs, improbable wins, home runs, and clinches, there couldn’t have been any better way to finish off the 2014 season. Jordan Zimmermann threw the Expos/Nationals’ franchise’s 5th No-Hitter on Sunday, backed by the most unbelievable catch ever by Steven Souza Jr.
The quickest games of 2014 were both pitched by the same man- Jordan Zimmermann. He took a 1-0 loss on June 13th, playing the Cardinals, in 2 hours and 3 minutes, and threw his no-hitter in a stunning 2 hours and 1 minute. The last Nationals/Expos no-hitter was thrown in 1991, before Bryce Harper was born, when the Expos finished with a 71-90 record, and were in 6th place in the NL East. The Brewers were in the AL, the Braves played in the West, Michael Jackson was alive, the popular show The Rugrats debuted, Britney Spears was on a show called Star Search, and Dr. Seuss died. Now, in 2014, the Nationals finished 96-66, and are in first place in the National League East and headed to the playoffs.
The catch was unbelievable. Souza ran like he was racing a cheetah, and out of nowhere he made an AMAZING catch. He stretched out his arm and almost mimicked Jim Edmonds. As the ball flew in the air, Jordan looked like he’d just lost his no-hitter, but once Souza made the play, the stadium erupted and Zimmermann raised his arms in victory. I was batting in my baseball game, but when my mom showed me the news, it was cause for a celebration. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. Jordan Zimmermann just made history by throwing the 5th no-hitter in franchise history.
THAT WAS AWESOME.
Last year when Gio almost threw his No-No, I asked my readers which Nat would be the first to throw a No Hitter. My readers are pretty baseball-smart – more than half of my readers thought JZ would be the first!
- Send me a picture of your baseball-loving kid (son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, friend, or grandkid). If you are a baseball-loving kid, send a picture of yourself.
- Tell me what your favorite Matt’s Bats post is. You can choose one from this year or go through the Archives to find another one (see the bar on the right side of the MattsBats.com homepage).
- If you don’t have a picture and don’t have a favorite Matt’s Bats post (if this is true what is wrong with you?), then send me a good reason why you should get the book. Maybe you know a charity or school library that could use a copy. I already donated one copy to my school library.
If you still really want a copy of Derek Jeter’s THE CONTRACT, but can’t wait to win one, buy one right now on Amazon.com.
The best way to send me your entries it to send them to me on Twitter at @MattsBats. If you don’t have a Twitter, you can also leave them as a comment on this post or send them in an email using the link at www.mattsbats.com/contact.
As the Captain finishes off his home career on Thursday against the Orioles, he has started a new career in writing a series based on his childhood, and I think they will be widely popular.
Tonight was an exciting night. The Nationals clinched the National League East Division with a 3-0 win over their rivals, the Atlanta Braves. This is the second time in three years that the Nats have won the Championship.
The Nationals had high expectations in 2013, but didn’t fulfill it. The Atlanta Braves were the winners that year. But last night, the Nats were the winners and extinguished (get it- Fireman Bryce, extinguish) the Braves from the playoffs.
This 2014 campaign ended with champagne, and it began a new chapter to the story. This is definitely an accomplishment for the Nats after a tough season, stuffed with injuries, setbacks and overturned challenges. I think the turning point was when the Nationals went on 10-game winning streak. At the same time, the Braves played great baseball but struggled to make up any ground. The Nats pulled away to a 14.5 game lead and closed the door on the Braves on their home field.
And as color commentator F.P. Santangelo said on the TV broadcast, D.C. stands for Division Champs.
The Nationals’ cross-town rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, also won their Division last night for the first time since 1997. My favorite tweet last night from the celebrations was this one:
Rename it Division Champions Drive pic.twitter.com/mUjAQJj0mp
— Matt Terl (@matt_terl) September 17, 2014
This turned out to be a very exciting day for me. Not only did my favorite team win their Division, but Yankees Captain Derek Jeter featured one of my posts on his Facebook page. He brought thousands and thousands and thousands of new readers to MattsBats.com yesterday.
Last week, MLB announced the 2014 postseason schedule, and it turns out that both Games 1 and 2 of the National League Division Series and both Games 2 of the American League Division Series fall on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The holiday begins at sundown on Friday, October 3, and ends at sundown on Saturday, October 4.
Yom Kippur is the most important Jewish holiday. It is the day of repentance where Jewish people fast to ask for foregiveness for the wrongs they have caused.
There have been other times when the baseball post-season took place over Yom Kippur. Most baseball fans will instantly know that in the 1965 World Series, Dodgers star pitcher Sandy Koufax took that day off to observe that holiday. Also, in 1934, Tigers superstar Hank Greenberg refused to play on Yom Kippur even though the Tigers were in the middle of a pennant race. Neither Koufax or Greenberg were ever very religious, but Koufax explained why he didn’t pitch on Yom Kippur 1965: “There was never any decision to make … because there was never any possibility that I would pitch. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish religion. The club knows that I don’t work that day.”
As the 2014 season winds down, some Jewish major league ballplayers will have to think about whether they are going to play on Yom Kippur. Some playoff-contending teams have Jewish players who may want to take a day off to observe the holiday. Some notable Jewish players on likely playoff-bound teams are Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers, 1.5 back in the NL Wild Card), Ike Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2nd NL Wild Card Spot), Sam Fuld and Nate Freiman (Oakland A’s, 1st AL Wild Card Spot ), Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers, 1st in AL Central), Joc Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1st in NL West), and Danny Valencia and Kevin Pillar (Toronto Blue Jays, 4 games back in the AL Wild Card). Also, Brad Ausmus, the manager of the Tigers, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig are probably also going to observe the holiday. Teams owners, Ted Lerner and family, owners of the first-place Nationals, and Lewis Wolff, owner of the A’s, are Jewish too.
MLB probably didn’t make the post-season schedule conflict with the holiday on purpose. They need to get the games in, and that’s just the way the calendar happened. However, given the importance of the holiday for the people who observe the religion, many Jewish fans may choose not to go to the games and many Jewish players or coaches may not play in the games. The players and coaches face a hard decision, because it could also be some of the most important games of their career. Just like Sandy Koufax in 1965, it is possible that Ryan Braun or Ian Kinsler may be remembered for the next 50 years by putting their religious beliefs first and not playing. We will see what happens.
On Thursday, MLB played only eleven games, as opposed to the usual 15. Still, there was a unusually high number of batters hit by a pitch. In fact, there were only 2 games were a player wasn’t hit: Game 1 of the double header between Minnesota and Cleveland, and Oakland at Chicago.
Here’s the list of the players who were hit, which includes some of the biggest stars of the game:
MIN @ CLE (Game 2)- Brian Dozier (by TJ House in the Top of the 6th)
STL @ CIN- Jon Jay (by Johnny Cueto in the Top of the 1st)
ARI @ SF- Cliff Pennington (by Javier Lopez in the Top of the 8th)
PIT @ PHI- Starling Marte (by AJ Burnett in the Top of the 2nd)
TB @ NYY- Derek Jeter (by Brad Boxberger in the Bottom of the 8th), Chase Headley (by Jake McGee in the Bottom of the 9th)
WSH @ NYM- Ian Desmond (by Bartolo Colon in the Top of the 2nd), Jayson Werth (by Bartolo Colon in the Top of the 4th), Daniel Murphy (by Matt Thornton in the Bottom of the 8th)
LAA @ TEX- Mike Trout (by Nick Martinez in the Top of the 3rd), Mike Trout (by Nick Martinez in the Top of the 5th), Tomas Telias (by Joe Smith in the Bottom of the 9th)
BOS @ KC- Yoenis Cespedes (by Liam Hendriks in the Top of the 3rd), Josh Willingham (by Clay Buchholz in the Bottom of the 6th)
MIA @ MIL- Giancarlo Stanton (by Mike Fiers in the Top of the 5th), Reed Johnson (by Mike Fiers in the Top of the 5th), Carlos Gomez (by Anthony DeSclafani in the Bottom of the 6th)
Even though Mike Fiers hit Stanton, and then hit the pinch hitter who replaced him, I don’t think it was intentional. Fiers went on Twitter to apologize.
However, it seems like Bartolo Colon’s pitches that hit the Nationals may have been intentional. They each came after a Nationals player hit a home run. In the second inning, Colon hit Ian Desmond after Adam LaRoche’s monster home run. In the fourth, he hit Jayson Werth after Anthony Rendon hit a 2-run reviewed home run. Colon was thrown out of the game, and so was manager Terry Collins. As I said last year, intentionally hitting batters is completely unacceptable. The severe injuries that Stanton suffered, which will end his season, show just how dangerous it can be to intentionally hit a batter with a fastball. If Colon beaned Werth and Desmond on purpose, t was very bad sportsmanship, especially in the game that was part of the patriotic series to commemorate 9/11.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball celebrated the career of Derek Jeter. Everybody knows the New York Yankees’ star short stop as one of the best players to ever play the game. He is a 14-time All-Star, World Series MVP, winner of the the American League Rookie of the Year award in his first season, and, with over 3,400 hits and counting, he is number 6 on the all-time hits list. Jeter is a guaranteed member of the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.
The public learned two more things about Jeter earlier this year. First, was that the 2014 season would be his last, because he one that he was going to retire at the end of the season. And second, that he is moving on to his next occupation as an author.
On September 23, a few weeks before his retirement from baseball becomes official, Jeter will release his first book for kids, called “The Contract.” It is a middle-grade fiction book inspired by Jeter’s childhood. Teaming up with Simon & Schuster, the Jeter Publishing line of books will include nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books, and more fiction books for kids like The Contract. Later this year, Jeter Publishing will release a chronicle of his last season with the Yankees, told mostly through the photographs of Chris Anderson. He is also working on an adult non-fiction book. Jeter has already written two books for adults, The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams and Game Day: My Life On and Off the Field.
I’m giving away two tickets to the Nats-Braves game on Monday, September 8! It’s an important match-up for the NL East title, as the Nationals try to build on their lead and bring down their magic number.
Do you want the tickets? Here is what you have to do to win:
Tweet me at @MattsBats with a picture of you with any one of the Nationals’ starting pitchers. I’ll try to retweet them all. The best picture I get will win two tickets to the game. I’ll send you a tweet back, and you’ll have to come back to MattsBats.com/contact and fill out the email form so I can email you the tickets.
For example, here I am with Gio!
And here I am with Fister…
Show me your pics! GO NATS!
The hype going into Felix Hernandez’s start against the Nationals in the DC twitterverse on Friday was unreal. It was the first time the Nationals were facing King Felix, who is the best right handed pitcher in all of baseball. The stats were scary.
Like Dave Jageler said:
Felix is 7-0 with a 1.77 ERA with extra rest. He is pitching with 6 days rest tonight. #icouldgoonandon
— Dave Jageler (@DaveJageler) August 30, 2014
Many fans were hoping for the best and wishing the Nats good luck.
— Matt’s Bats (@MattsBats) August 30, 2014
Coming off the 3-game sweep by the Phillies in Philadelphia, there was one thing no one was seriously confident would happen: winning.
Even after Anthony Rendon launched the first pitch he ever saw from Hernandez over the wall in the top of the first, when Seattle scored two runs in the bottom of the inning and Jordan Zimmermann had some control problems, the game may have seemed to be over. But it wasn’t. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Wilson Ramos all connected on home runs off Felix. The Nats hit 4 home runs off Hernandez, the most he has ever given up in his career. In fact, he hadn’t given up more than 1 home run this whole season.
That was not it for the Nationals. Bryce Harper and Ramos joined the party too (off former Nats reliever Joe Beimel) to guide the Nats to a surprise 8-3 victory over the Mighty Mariners.
This was a shocker around the country. I was sure I would wake up to see that the Nationals lost this game. It’s a good thing they won, since Atlanta beat the Mets. The Nats victory keeps them 6 games ahead in the NL East and lowers the magic number to 23.
We’ve faced the biggest challenge in Seattle, now let me tell you an amazing fact:
Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nationals have played the Mariners 10 times and have won all 10 games.
Tonight, the Nats try to clinch the series by beating Rookie Roenis Elias, and then play Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday.
The Nationals have been on an epic tear. Even after dropping the past two games to the Phillies, the Nats have won 12 of their last 15 contests, with 5 of them being decided by a walk off. The Nats, have now surpassed the O’s , who got swept by the Cubs this weekend for the largest division lead in baseball. As I am writing this, they are 7.5 games up on the Braves in the NL East, so there is comfort going into September and (hopefully) the postseason.
The Nats are on the road now for 9 games, after finishing a 10-game homestand. We learned a lot of things over that time, as they played 7 games against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona D-Backs, and 3 pivotal games against the Giants. Here is a recap of some of the lessons the Nats taught us fans over the past couple of weeks and a way to remember these great games.
AUG 15- Nationals 5, Pirates 4 Don’t be so confident with your lead. The Nats jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 5th inning, but the Pirates made a comeback making it look like Pittsburgh would break the Nats 3 game winning streak. The Pirates comeback was highlighted by a 2 run home run by Starling Marte off Tanner Roark in the 4th inning and a RBI single by Pedro Alvarez in the 9th with two down to make it a 5-4 game – it looked like the Pirates would make the Nats walk the plank. Luckily, Rafael Soriano got Josh Harrison to pop out to end the game. You can not be comfortable even with a lead playing against a team like the Pirates.
AUG 16- Nationals 4, Pirates 3 Believe in the bottom of the order. Oh sure, he regularly bats 7th or 8th on a daily basis, but never count out the lively bat of Wilson Ramos! The Nats fell behind 3-0 in the 3rd inning, and it stayed that way until the eighth inning, when a Kevin Frandsen RBI single and an Anthony Rendon double play set up a game tying two run home run by Adam LaRoche, and in the 9th, Wilson Ramos laced a RBI double into the bullpen in right field on a bounce to end the game.
AUG 17- Nationals 6, Pirates 5 It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. When the Nats were down 2-0 on errors by Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond hit an RBI single that closed the gap and made it a 2-1 game. It seems like the Nationals learned from the errors but the Pirates didn’t, because Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez made back-to-back blunders to give the Nats 3 runs and a 4-2 lead. In the 9th, Rafael Soriano threw a wild pitch to make it a 4-3 game, and then Gregory Polanco hit a RBI double off the wall to score two and to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead. The Nats didn’t give up, though. Luckily, Asdrubal Cabrera came through big time with a RBI single and in the 11th, Scott Hairston walked the Nats off with a sac fly. Sweep!
AUG 18- Nationals 5, D-Backs 4 Don’t get discouraged. Rookie outfielder Jake Lamb started the scoring for the Diamondbacks with a sacrifice fly in the 5th, but Wilson Ramos answered with a two run liner off Vidal Nuno over the 402 sign in centerfield. Didi Gregorius put Arizona on top with a two run home run in the 8th, but the Nats’ Bats answered in the bottom of the inning with a RBI triple by Rendon and a sacrifice fly by Werth to put the Nats ahead 4-3. That lead didn’t last long. David Peralta hit a home run to tie the game, and no one scored until Adam LaRoche unloaded for a walk-off home run on a big, fat curveball by Will Harris. The Nationals didn’t get discouraged and give up. Instead, they stayed in it the whole game and walked off the winners.
AUG 19- Nationals 8, D-Backs 1 Extra-innings “free baseball” and walkoffs are fun, but sometimes easy games are more fun. After Stephen Strasburg battled with David Peralta in the 1st and eventually gave up a solo shot to him, Stras settled down. However, the Nats’ bats didn’t. They scored six in the 3rd, highlighted by a bases clearing double by Asdrubal Cabrera. Ian Desmond added with a 2 run single, and Jerry Blevins K’d Aaron Hill to end the contest. It was a nice, normal and high scoring game, and it didn’t take 4 hours like the last 2 games.
AUG 20- Nationals 3, D-Backs 2 But walkoffs are fun and exciting too! Wilson Ramos opened up the scoring in the 2nd, beating out a potential double play by Bryce Harper’s takeout slide. In the 6th, Jayson Werth doubled in Asdrubal Cabrera to make it a 2-0 game. However, Ender Inciarte hit a home run to right field to tie the game in the 8th inning off Tyler Clippard. Anthony Rendon singled near the chalk past the diving Cliff Pennington to end the game with a series-clinching walkoff. Three of the last four games ended with this kind of excitement.
AUG 21- Nationals 1, D-Backs 0 Sometimes you just get lucky. With all the goose eggs on the board through 9 innings, this game didn’t look like it was going to be as exciting as the last few games. Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez were locked in an epic pitchers’ duel. There was a lot of loading the bases then striking out to leave the runners stranded. In the 9th, Denard Span singled and stole second, then Anthony Rendon grounded a ball to the third baseman Jordan Pacheco, but he threw it away. Because Span was running on contact, he was in between 2nd and 3rd already. The ball bounced into the camerawell and Span was awarded home. This proves that there are lots of different ways to walk off, and sometimes you get lucky breaks.
AUG 22- Nationals 3, Giants 10 Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a missed catch on a stolen base attempt by 2B Joe Panik, but he would make up for that. In the 4th inning, Panik lifted one over the centerfield fence for his first MLB home run, scoring three and giving San Francisco the lead. Jayson Werth productively homered on a laser to left field, but the Giants answered with Buster Posey’s 15th homer of the season in the 6th. Travis Ishikawa made it a 6-2 game with a two run double, and Ross Detwiler struggled in the 9th, to give San Francisco a commanding 10-2 lead. Wilson Ramos hit an RBI double in the bottom of the 9th, but pitcher Juan Gutierrez shut the door in the 9th for the Giants, ending the Nats’ ten game winning streak. This just shows that sometimes you win big, and sometimes you lose big. Hang in there!
AUG 23- Nationals 6, Giants 2 Never give up on your team. After Hunter Pence tomahawked a 0-2 pitch over the out of town scoreboard in right-center field, the Nats may have seemed to lose confidence. But they tied the game on a double play in the bottom of the first, and tacked on three more runs to make it a 5-2 Nats lead. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit home run number 11 for the season (CLE/WSH). The game remained 6-2, and after Tim Lincecum was pulled, Yusmeiro Petit pitched 5 1/3 innings of perfect ball. He has been shutting down, but Jordan Zimmerman was a tad better, only giving up the Pence home run. In the 9th, Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse singled off Matt Thornton, but he grounded Joe Panik into a double play and got Andrew Susac to fly out with a runner at third to end the game. It was a nice way to make up for the big loss the day before.
AUG 24- Nationals 14, Giants 6 Did you hear me? Never give up on your team! I was at the Sunday matinee game, and it was a great one! Gregor Blanco led off the game with a home run into section 141, where my family was actually sitting at the time. The Giants added another run on a Travis Ishikawa dinger, and the Giants tacked on three in the 3rd to make it a 5-0 game. That’s about when we decided to get up from our seats and move somewhere else in the stadium for a change of view. Adam LaRoche and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled in runs in the 4th to make it a 5-2 game, but Hunter Pence hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 in the 6th. It seemed like the game was slipping away, but here is where the excitement started. Ian Desmond crushed a solo shot over the bullpen off Ryan Vogelsong, and Bruce Bochy quickly changed Vogelsong to usually good lefty Jeremy Affeldt. Against Jose Lobaton, Affeldt threw a wild pitch to him AND gave up a RBI single. Scott Hairston doubled to tie the game at 6, and Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche had back-to-back RBI singles to make it a 8-6 game. The Nats actually batted around the order. Denard Span added on with a RBI single in the 7th. Ian Desmond hit a RBI single in the 8th, followed by home runs from Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa. Rafael Soriano K’d Michael Morse to end the game. Even when it looked like the Nats would lose the game and the series to the Giants down by 5 in the 3rd inning, they didn’t give up and battled back to a commanding win by over 8 runs in the end.
Now that most kids are back at school, or will be going back next week, these are some great lessons to take into the last month of the season and the playoffs. The Nationals lost Monday and Tuesday to the Phillies on the road and have a tough road trip against the Dodgers and Mariners ahead. Even with a current 7.5 game lead going into the stretch, they play the Braves 6 more times and have a couple of series against other NL East rivals. If they don’t do as well in the future, we need to keep these lessons in mind, because this may have been the greatest stretch of baseball in Nationals history and it was so much fun for the fans!
On Saturday, August 16, I attended the Wilson Ramos Parent & Child Baseball Experience presented by Washington Celebrity Baseball, Celebrity Sports Camps, and D.C. Elite Baseball. The Camp was at Shipley Field at the University of Maryland. The camp gave instruction to kids about different baseball skills, like hitting, fielding, and pitching. After the kids had their turn, a bunch of dads also took BP in the cage. “We had a lot of really good kids show up today who were eager to play baseball,” said Andrew Lang, who ran the camp. “The pros that were out here, Wilson Ramos, Mike O’Connor [former Nationals pitcher], and Derek Hacopian [former University of Maryland star and Indians draftee], really put on a great clinic with us. The weather and the field helped to make it a perfect day.”
The small group of about 30 campers were able to do drills right on the field that Maryland’s baseball team plays on. Wilson Ramos even got down and coached kids at the catching station on how to play like a major leaguer. My group started out at infield, and I won a contest for who could throw a baseball the farthest.
Wilson talked with everyone, took pictures, and signed autographs. At the end, I was able to pull Wilson aside and ask him a few questions. Here is my Matt’s Bats Chat with Wilson Ramos.
Matt’s Bats – What’s your favorite thing to do on an off-day?
Wilson Ramos – I like to enjoy it with my family. I have a 10 day old daughter and I like to enjoy it with her and my wife, make a lunch and dinner. I like to do that.
MB – What’s it like being a baseball player and a dad?
WR – It feels great. Its an amazing experience. The first time I saw her, I loved my daughter. I love to play and everything I do now, I do it for her. It makes me feel happy and ready to go play hard everyday.
MB – What tips do you have for kids who want to be catchers?
WR – First step is you need to be strong. Catchers get a lot of hits behind the plate and not too many guys can play that position. It’s hard.
MB – You have a six game lead over the Braves in the NL East. What’s the mood in the clubhouse?
WR – Everybody is feeling great. Everybody feels happy right now that we’re in first place in our Division. Everybody is doing a great job. Everybody feels happy with what we are doing. We’re playing hard right now and trying to get into the playoffs.
I also challenged Wilson to the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS, but he tuned it down. I don’t blame him, because he didn’t have other clothes to change into. However, he would later get doused with cold Gatorade in the game that night as he walked off against the Pirates by a score of 4-3!
A few days later, Wilson tweeted that he did the official Ice Bucket Challenge and also challenged Miguel Cabrera.
— Wilson Abrahan Ramos (@WRamosC3) August 19, 2014
— Wilson Abrahan Ramos (@WRamosC3) August 19, 2014
Wilson was great with his fans, and the camp was a lot of fun. Follow @Allstars_S2 on Twitter to learn about other camps and sports-related events in the DC area.