September 2013

Top 30 Moments of 2013 (#30-21)

What a Weekend!  Well, fans, the season is over.  Even with 86 games in the win column, people thought the Nationals underperformed this year because they were pre-season favorites for the World Series.

I still think the season was successful.  They ended up only 4 games behind the Reds for the 2nd Wild Card spot and took 2nd in the NL East.

To help you remember the exciting moments, this week I am counting down the Top 30 Moments of the 2013 Nationals season.  Today we start at #30 and start counting backwards.  Look for the rest of the Top 30 in 2 more posts this week.  You can click on the links to see video.

Also, keep following @MattsBats on Twitter and reading MattsBats.com online during the offseason.  I have some exciting things that I am planning to write about during the offseason to keep you interested for the next 182 days until Opening Day on March 31, 2014.

30. Desi’s Monstrous Home Run in Kansas City (8/25/13)

29. Rendon’s 1st Home Run is a Go-Ahead After Indians Bungle a Foul-Out Fly Ball (6/15/13)

28. Strasburg’s 500th Strike Out and Ramos Walks Off on a Fielding Error (9/22/13)

27. #Spanning To End It (8/14/13)

26. Nats Sweep The Tigers at Home (5/7 and 5/8/13)

25. LaRoche’s 2-Homer Game (4/9/13)

24. Harper’s 2-Homer Game (4/20/13)

23. Corey Brown’s Homer On His First Swing of 2013 (9/3/13)

22. Nats #UpsetTheMets 13-2 for Biggest Win Margin Ever (6/30/13)

21. Gio’s Big Fly: 2nd Career HR and Open Season with Back-to-Back Shutouts (4/3/13)

Matt’s Bats Chat with Sports Memorabilia Collector Andrew Lang

nationals_celebration

Today’s Matt’s Bats Chat is with sports memorabilia collector Andrew Lang. Andrew is a partner in a sports art gallery called The Art Of The Game that sells memorabilia from locations around a few sports venues. Fans love collecting memorabilia from their favorite teams, and Andrew has a great collection. He is also giving MattsBats.com readers a chance to buy some souvenirs at a discount.

Andrew organized the Big Train Celebrity Nats Camp that I attended and has organized other events around town with Nationals players, like the Gio Gonzalez foundation camp this summer. You’ll learn all about this and more. Also be sure to follow him on Twitter @Allstars_S2.

Matt’s Bats: Thanks for taking the time to do a Matt’s Bats Chat to let my readers know about the interesting business of sports memorabilia collecting. For background, how did you start your business?

Andrew Lang: I started as a collector of sports art and started collecting game used memorabilia. When oldest son 10 years old he was a techie and created a website for me to display my items on the internet. That was 17 years ago. That website eventually turned into an e-Commerce site and we
became a successful business. It’s evolved greatly over the last 17 years and will probably continue to evolve.

MB: Where are your stores located? Can people buy things online?

AL: The Art Of The Game stores are located in stadiums and arenas around the country. The closest store is inside the warehouse in RF at Oriole Park at
Camden Yards. We also have stores in Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium, and the Staples Center where the Lakers, Clippers and LA Kings play. We want to be in Nationals Park, but opening locations are complicated and it hasn’t happened yet.

Nats_Corner

Nats Corner at the Oriole Park at Camden Yards store

People can buy art directly off my personal website at www.AllstarsArt.com. Our memorabilia website we took offline as it needs major maintenance.

MB: What is the most expensive sports memorabilia thing you sell?

AL: We have some Muhammad Ali autographed paintings that are over $10,000 but the most expensive item is an original oil painting of Frank Howard of the Washington Senators from the artist LeRoy Neiman. It’s listed on our site AllstarsArt.com for $247,500.

People mentioning Matts Bats for the next week will get 10% off. (So if you buy the painting, you can save $24,750!)

Frank_Howard_Neiman

MB: Which piece of memorabilia is your favorite?

AL: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as I believe I have the most extensive collection of Washington Nationals items from the 1st season in
2005 to the opening of Nationals Park in 2008. I’ve accumulated so many unique items that I have actually given some back to players like Ryan
Zimmerman. I’m thinking my Brian Schneider game used catcher’s mitt and shin guards and jersey from the 1st game ever in 2005 is cool plus Brian
used all that to catch the 1st pitch from President Bush.

brian_schchneider_chest_protector2

I have some pieces that players have given me like Michael Morse gave me his 1st HR bat and Brian Schneider gave me the chest protector he wore when
Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s HR record.

Michael_Morse_2009

MB: If you could buy one thing now to collect for the future what would you buy?

AL: For the future, I am most interested in any significant item from any of the top players. Last season it was post-season items as it was the 1st
post-season in Nats history. This year I was looking for anything unique and picked up Rendon’s 4th hit of his career and will hope he becomes a
member of the 3,000 Hit Club. Certainly looking to add any significant Bryce Harper, Ryan Z., Jordan, Z., Stras, Gio items.

jordanzimmermansigning

MB: As I mentioned at the top, you helped organize the first Nationals celebrity camp this year. How did you get involved starting the Nats player camps? What other kinds of events do you run?

AL: We seem to have this knack for combining our love of the Nats into events. What could be better than teaching kids and doing that with Nats
players? We used to do player training camps and the interest level wasn’t high 5 to 8 years ago as the Nats fanbase wasn’t large and now all that has
changed. We’ve done golf events with players and public autograph signings. I think our most popular event was bringing Ryan Zimmerman out for his 1st
public autograph signing in Fairfax Virginia as we had several hundred people line up for that but we really wanted to do more interactive events
and the camps is a perfect fit. The Gio Gonzalez Foundation Camp we put together this year was a huge success. Our Washington Celebrity Camps are
great on instruction and learning and fun.

MB: How did you get to know the players who you bring to the camps? Who are your favorites to work with?

AL: I have gotten to know many players personally and also many of the agents out there. I didn’t know Taylor Jordan and wanted him for our camp and got
him through his agent. We got Ian Desmond through Gio Gonzalez who asked him to come to the camp. Roger Bernadina we know personally and he came
to many of our camps. Ross Detwiler has volunteered for last years camp and couldn’t come this year because of his injury. Ian Desmond has emerged
as one of the greatest persons I have met. I got to see how he interacted with children away from the cameras. It was a thrill for me to throw
grounders for a whole morning to Ian and Anthony Rendon as they demonstrated middle infield fielding. I know Ian’s agent and have already contacted him about having Ian do a camp of his own.

MB: How many baseball games do you go to a year?

AL: 50 to 100 a year depending on how much I am traveling on road trips. I was a Nats season ticket holder from the start. Had great seats in Section 117 in RFK.
MB: Are you a fan of other sports besides baseball? Which teams and players?
AL: All local teams, Washington Redskins and Maryland Terps are my other loves. Big fan of Shaquille O’Neal when he played and Michael Jordan.
MB: Who are your top 5 favorite people you follow on Twitter– people who say the smartest or funniest things or have the best information?
AL: Certainly Matt’s Bats, my son Jake (JakeNATS24), Bryce Harper (BHarper3407), and the Nationals beat writers like Mark Zuckerman (ZuckermanCSN) and Amanda Comak (acomak).
That’s it for this MattsBats chat! I hope you were interested in Andrew’s sports collection, because the next Matt’s Bats Chat coming up is with someone who has one of the largest collection of MLB souvenirs you’ve ever heard of. And he got them all himself!
With the Nationals loss against the Cardinals on Monday night, they were are eliminated from postseason contention after a hard-fought September. They still will end up with about 87 or 88 wins (about 10 less than the 2012 season), which usually gets you a ticket to the postseason. But not this year. So, after about six months of following the team, this is your chance to rate the Nationals’ 2013 performance. You can click the box in the poll, but use the comments section below to explain your answer.

Scarves & Barves

It all started on April 23rd, with the Nats coming off a 98-64 season that won the NL East, fresh out of Spring Training. On that day, the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles came out. Throughout the summer, the lyrics “I Want To See You Be Brave” sounded to me like she was singing “I Want To See You Beat Braves.” Now, whenever I hear the song, I sing it that way.

Now, I don’t have to anymore. After Logan Morrison caught Jayson Werth’s foul pop for the third out in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Atlanta Braves clinched the NL East on the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Marlins.  It was a sad goodbye for Davey Johnson, but he should be proud because his team fought so hard to win and went on the biggest winning streak of the season in September. Davey came to DC to win, and now that this is (sadly) his last game, we’ll always miss him on top step.  They showed a cool highlight video of Davey’s career.

But not everything was sad today.  Ian Desmond almost got his 20th stolen base in the 2nd inning, which would have made him a member of the 20/20 club again this year.  I think he’ll still do it.  He was hit by a pitch and was going for the steal/hit and run, when Adam LaRoche flew out to left field.  He also made an amazing leaping catch to rob Giancarlo Stanton of a hit in the Marlins’ 8th.

The other big highlight was getting really cool scarves as a giveaway.  That’s why this post is called “Scarves and Barves.”

natsscarf

After the Cincinnati Reds bamboozled the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, 11-3, the Nats’ season is basically over.  I’ll still be watching the remaining Nationals games and the playoffs and World Series.  Shortly, I’ll write the top 30 moments in the Nationals 2013 season.

I wish the best of luck to the A’s, Dodgers, and Red Sox, Cardinals, and Tigers in the playoffs.  And I guess to the Braves too.  But next year the Nationals are going to CONTEND!  I’ll be looking back at my predictions from the pre-season and writing about how I did, and I’ll tell you who I’m rooting for in the postseason.  Let’s Go Nats!

UPDATE

  • The Nats won the second game of the double header 5-4 on a walk-off error, like they did against the Braves. 
  • Ian Desmond got the 20-20 (20 HRs, 20 stolen bases)!  He is the first Nationals player to make the 20-20 Club twice. Maybe next year he’ll pull off the 40-40, like Alfonso Soriano did in 2006.
  • Stephen Strasburg recorded his 500th strikeout.  He is the 3rd-fastest pitcher to reach 500 Ks since 1900!

 

Monday: #DeckTheCards

Wounded Warriors Celebrity Softball Game/ Nats Game

Photo by Julia Payne @jmpayne24

Photo by Julia Payne @jmpayne24

I was at the Nats game this past Sunday, September 15 and the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team’s Wounded Warriors Celebrity Softball Classic that followed it. Both games were fun. Here is a short recap of both to relive the good times.

First, some highlights of the Nats game against the Phillies.

Photo by Julia Payne (@jmpayne24)

Photo by Julia Payne (@jmpayne24)

Wilson Ramos blew the game open with 5 RBIs, including a solo home run deep into the Red Porch in center field. Zach Walters scored his 1st major league run. With the Nats ahead by 9 in the in the 9th, Davey Johnson let his September call-ups get some playing time. It looked like an MiLB game!

Tyler Moore replaced Bryce Harper in left, Eury Perez replaced Denard Span in center, Corey Brown replaced Jayson Werth in right, Zach Walters (Wyoming power) replaced Ian Desmond at short, Anthony Rendon replaced Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner, Jhonatan Solano replaced Wilson Ramos behind the dish, and even Xavier Cedeno got some playing time for Jordan Zimmermann. The Nats still won, 11-2.

One highlight was a pigeon on the field that just wouldn’t fly away. I learned today that it’s hazardous if you are a pigeon hang out on a baseball field during a game. Dan Steinberg from the Washington Post Sports Bog reported that Zach Walters stepped on it while running home. Umpire Jim Wolf, Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez, and Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche all had staredowns with a pigeon. My mom, who took me to the game, thought LaRoche wanted to hunt it.

The game was important for the Nats because they gained a game on the Reds after Sean Halton hit a walkoff homer for the Brewers to beat the Reds.

I also witnessed the Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic, which was played right after the Nationals game. The Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic is a charitable event to show people that “Life without a limb is limitless.” Just to state it, those people are the most amazing ever! They have lost legs, arms, and hands while fighting for their country and are still amazingly athletic. For example, Warrior Josh Wege hit a homer and pinch hitter, Sydney Barta, who lost part of her leg, also got on base. One guy, Greg Reynolds, had only one arm, but that didn’t stop him from playing amazing defense in the outfield. He would hold up his one hand, with the glove on it, to catch a fly ball. Then, in fast motion, he would throw the ball, then the glove in the air. The glove would land on the field and he would catch the ball in his barehand in order to throw it back into the infield. That was an amazing one of all the sensational plays.

The Wounded Warriors were mixed onto teams with celebrities like Nats players wives (Jennifer LaRoche, Chelsey Desmond), broadcasters (F.P. Santaneglo, Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler), and TV stars (Omar Miller and Sakina Jaffrey).

kidsSome of the players’ kids were watching the game from the dugout, like the Desmond kids, Tracy kids, LaRoche kids and Hairston kids. Grayson Desmond was “swinging” a bat and then sliding on the grass like his dad. A few players too, like Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen, Adam Laroche, Ian Desmond, and Scott Hairston watched the game too.

One Desmond, Chelsey, made a incredible diving catch and doubled a guy off first.

Photo by Julia Payne (@jmpayne24)

Photo by Julia Payne (@jmpayne24)

It was unbelievable. Here’s a link of the play from someone named T_Mac202.

http://instagram.com/p/eXwhlpKxv6/

Other highlights were home runs by Omar Miller and F.P. Santangelo and a triple by Dave Jageler.

Photo by Luigi de Guzman (@oiuj)

Photo by Luigi de Guzman (@ouij)

I came away from the game with a souvenir. After one overthrow, the Hairston kids got the ball and threw it into the first row, where I was sitting. I even got their dad, Scott Hairston, to sign it during the game.

softball

The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team is special because they have lost their body parts in service to our country. And then they go around showcasing their amazing athletic abilities for charity. Amazing. Period.

Hope for the Nats for Wild Card

spanningThe Washington Nationals are now an unthinkable 5.5 games back of Cincinnati in the chase for the second NL Wild card spot.  That is a large margin but still possible to meet in the 16 games that remain.

The Reds’ magic number is 11.  They need a combination of Reds wins or Nats losses equal to 11 to clinch.  If the Nats keep winning, the Reds will have to too in order to make the playoffs.  They still have 6 games against Division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates that will go a long way in deciding whether they play in October.

Also, the Nats play a series against NL Central’s St. Louis Cardinals, who are fighting for the NL Central Division and a wild card spot.  Imagine if the Nats sweep the Cards, the Pirates take the Division and the Reds take the first Wild Card.  We can get the second WC spot as long as the NL Central teams keep losing.  The magic formula is Nats winning and the NL Central teams losing.

The Nationals are carrying a six game winning streak, the longest they’ve had all season.  The teams is also more games over .500 than they have ever been all season.  That’s because the team is finally playing up to their expectations.  The dude above, #2 Denard Span, is carrying a 23-game hitting streak, the longest active hitting streak in the majors, the longest ever by a Nats CF, and, if he keeps it up for 8 more games he’ll jump over the Rockies Michael Cuddyer for the longest this season in MLB and Ryan Zimmerman and Vladimir Guerrero for the longest hitting streak in Nationals history.

And what the heck is the power outburst going on with Ryan Zimmerman? He’s homered so many times this road trip. 8 home runs in September, which almost as many as he’s hit all season.

Jayson Werth is coming up with some clutch hits.  And if he plays a few more games, Wilson Ramos is about to have the longest catching streak in the MLB. Yadier Molina would be 2nd, with 22. Ramos is on his way to 23.

So that brings me to the next poll:

By the way, after Gio Gonzalez almost pitched a no-no earlier this week I asked readers “Who Would Be the First National to Pitch a No-Hitter?”  Here are the results so farYou can click here to keep voting.

poll091313

Jordan Zimmermann is winning in the poll. The next closest person was Stephen Strasburg.  That’s a little surprising, but Zimmermann has been probably the best pitcher this season with his league-leading 17 wins.

Keep following @MattsBats on Twitter!  Sign up for email updates in the box on the right side of the page.  And come back and visit my webpage and keep voting!

#PhlattenThePhillies

PhlattenThePhillies

Gio Was “Oh So Close” to a No-No

gatorade

Gio Gonzalez has that kind of stuff to throw a no-hitter. And if we said that he was inches away from a no-no, would you be impressed? Well, Gio Gonzalez did just that.

After pitching 7 nearly perfect innings with just 1 walk, he just gave up a line drive single down the first base line that appeared to hit the chalk near the ball girl.  He was as close as you can come to a no-hitter without actually getting it.  Check out the video.  I kind of hoped that the Mets would have gotten another clean basehit so it didn’t feel like he was just so close to a no-hitter, but Gio did even better and sat every other batter down without a hit (1 more walk in the 9th).  At least it wasn’t as bad as Yusmeiro Petit’s blown perfect game last week with 2 outs and full count in the 9th inning.

The hit came from Mets pinch hitter Zach Lutz. If he struck out, he’d be Zach Klutz. And that would also mean that Gio would have thrown the first no hitter in Nationals history.  Instead, this is Gio’s second complete game shut out.  The first time Gio went complete-o was just about one year ago– Aug. 31, 2012, against the Cardinals.  The score in that game was just 1 run better than this one (10-0).

Gonzalez got plenty of run support last night, with the Nats belting 5 homers for all  nine runs. Tyler Moore went solo, Span and Zim went back-to back to start the game, and Werth and Ramos each hit 3-run bombs.

So that brings us to an important question:

Highlights of the July 3 VoteNats Tweet-UpLet other baseball fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter (@MattsBats).  I write almost every day about baseball, and especially the Washington Nationals.  I love getting new followers and RTs.  If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!

Matt’s Bats Debuts on Top 50

As readers know, on August 20, MattsBats.com made its debut on MLBlogs Network and I became a pro blogger.

A link to my Pro Blog website was featured on the MLBlogs after it launched. Soon it should be listed in the MLB Pro Blogs index.MLBlogs homepage

MLBlogs just released its Latest Leaders list of the Top 50 blogs on the MLBlogs Network.  And guess who placed in the Top 50!  Even though I only started writing on MLBlogs on Aug. 20 and published only 2 posts in the month of August, Matt’s Bats was one of the top 50 most viewed Pro blogs on the network (#45)!

Thanks to everybody who reads my posts.  It was awesome to get that much recognition in 15 days! The blog has been so successful and educational for me. Keep reading and retweeting my blog posts and I hope to make the Top 50 again in September.  I will keep writing about the Nationals and baseball in general through the playoffs and World Series, the offseason, spring training and, of course the World Series-winning 2014 season! Go Nats!

TONIGHT’S GAME

Nationals vs. Marlins

TANNER ROARK’S MLB DEBUT AS A STARTING PITCHER vs. Nathan Eovaldi

Thanks @FakeFP

#SquishTheFish

 

Latest Leaders – August 2013

Matt’s Bats debuts in the Top 50 Latest Leaders for August in the MLB Pro category!

MLB.com Blogs Central

Latest Leaders logoWe’ve seen some impressive late season debuts in recent weeks, with MLBPipeline.com‘s Jim Callis and Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel both launching their blogs. HammelTown immediately made its Latest Leaders debut this month, so look for Callis’ Corner to do the same next month. Congrats to everyone who made the list. Take the first step to joining them by creating your own MLB.com Blog and blog with the pros!

Latest Leaders ranked by page views from Aug. 1-31:

MLB PRO
Photography blogs make their move, occupying three of the top nine positions….
1. Dodgers Photog Blog
2. John & Cait…Plus Nine
3. SF Giants Photos
4. MLB.com Fantasy 411
5. TribeVibe
6. Curly W Live
7. Better Off Red
8. Brandon and Brandon
9. The Halo Way
10. From the Corner of Edgar & Dave
11. Cubs Vine Line Blog
12. Alyson’s Footnotes
13. White Shark
14. MLB.com Blogs Central…

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September Might Be Golden For Nationals Callups

Zach Walters, Sandy Leon, Xavier Cedeno, Erik Davis, Ian Krol, Corey Brown, Jeff Kobernus, and Eury Perez were the Nats 2013 September callups.  These players should help the Nats down the stretch.  Brown showed how HE can help the Nats by hitting a monstrous homer in the 9-6 win last night over Philadelphia!  Davis, Krol, Cedeno, and Kobernus have all played at the Major League level this year already, while Leon and Perez helped out on the 2012 Nats.  All of these guys made a major impact on the team.  Zach Walters is making his debut at the Major League level.  He hit 29 home runs this season in Syracuse!  I can’t wait to see what these players do for the rest of the Nats season.

NL Star of Tuesday: The Pittsburgh Pirates: with 81st win, clinched winning season for the first time in Bryce Harper’s life.

AL Star of Tuesday: Eduardo Nunez: The Yankees shortstop laced a 2-RBI double down the left field line, that clinched a 6-4 Yanks win.

NATS LEAPED PAST THE DBACKS AND ARE NOW IN SECOND PLACE FOR SECOND WILD CARD SPOT

 

Nats @ Phillies

Jordan Zimmermann (15-8, 3.33 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (3-4, 7.94 ERA) (Yes, Roy Halladay as in former no.1 most feared pitcher)

PhlattenThePhillies#PhlattenThePhillies

Nats Start Sept. With Come From Behind Win, #PhlattenThePhillies Tonight

2013-09-01 Werth It took a gapper to win it. A low line drive off the blazing hot bat of Jayson Werth brought Ryan Zimmerman home in the eighth inning, the go-ahead run in the Nats’ 6-5 win over the Mets on Sunday.  This was a much needed win after Wild Card challengers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, lost their Sunday games.

The Nats moved up 0.5 games on Arizona.  The Nats now stand a half game behind the D-backs.  The next 3 Nationals series are against the Phillies, Marlins and Mets. The Diamondbacks take on the Blue Jays, Giants and Dodgers.  That’s a harder schedule than the Nationals, and they take on the Dodgers 7 times before the season ends.

This could be the biggest series so far for the Nationals in the 2013 season.  If the Nats reign over their NL East opponents, they can match or even pull ahead in the Wild Card standings.

What about the current leader for the second Wild Card spot?  We know that the first Wild Card spot will be decided by the the outcome of the NL Central division race (either the Pirates or the Cardinals).  Right now, the Cincinnati Reds are 6.5 games ahead of the Nationals for the second ticket to the post-season.  Cincinnati, however, plays the next six games against the Dodgers and Cardinals!  These are two of the best teams in the league, and hopefully they can pounce on the Reds and allow the Nats to pull ahead.  We need the Reds to lose their games and the Nationals to win theirs.

This could get interesting.  The Reds face some hard teams while the Nationals face a few teams I think they can beat.  But after that tough series, the Reds get to coast against the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, and the Chicago Cubs.  The Nationals end their year against the Braves (Nats are 0-6 vs. ATL at home- ouch!), Cardinals, Marlins and Diamondbacks.  So any gain the Nationals pick up this week needs to last.  That season-ending Diamondbacks series in Phoenix could be very, very interesting.  Stay supportive Nats fans and show your #MATT-itude!

PhlattenThePhillies#PhlattenThePhillies

 

Nationals vs. Phillies

Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.96 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (6-13, 3.58)

 

Cardinals vs. Reds ( CIN- 2nd Wild Card holders, 6.5 games above the Nats)

Adam Wainwright (15-8, 2.96) vs. Mat Latos (13-5, 3.03)

 

Blue Jays vs. Diamondbacks (ARI- 0.5 games ahead above Nats, 6.0 games back of CIN)

Esmil Rogers (3-7, 5.03) vs. Brandon McCarthy (3-8, 5.03)