May 2014

Scouting Report- Washington Nationals vs. Texas Rangers

MessWithTexasIt has been a long time since I have published a Matt’s Bats scouting report.  Is it a coincidence that during that time the Nats have been playing really bad?  The Nats were haunted the past two series, with the offense shutting down, the bullpen handing over a few losses, and regular lefty reliever Jerry Blevins dropping two games during that 7-game span. Actually, since my last Scouting Report during the Reds series, the Nats are 2-7 and were swept in two by the Miami Marlins. Someone needs to heat up the Nats!  We need a new fan hashtag to tweet during the games!  (See it at the end of this post)

This might be the worst time for the Nats to face the tough Texas Rangers, who have been on a tear with runners in scoring position. Yesterday they pulled off a 5-4 upset over the Twins, who have been the underdogs in a tough AL Central with Detroit and Kansas City. The Nats are also playing some tough pitchers, like Yu Darvish. Last time he played, Yu left early with neck stiffness after giving up a lot of runs. The start before, however, he almost no-hit the reigning World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox.  He will be pitching at Nationals Park on Sunday, and I am glad I will be there in person to see both his debut at Nationals Park and his debut against the Nats.

During the series, the Nats are posting Strasburg and Fister.  Fister might have success against the Rangers, because he has faced them before in the American League, but the Rangers have hit him for a .340 average and he has given up 3 home runs. Because Nick Tepesch is starting on Saturday, the Nats would have pretty good chances if they’re offense kicks into gear.

Shin-Soo Choo is the one guy we need to keep off base. He has hit 2 HRs and 5 RBIs with 9 hits off Fister. However, Fister has struck him out 4 times. Hopefully that number will rise by Saturday night.

Sadly, the Nats and their struggling offense look like a sweep-friendly team. The Rangers might take all 3 or 2 out of 3, but Strasburg’s start today and Fister’s on Saturday are their best chances this weekend for a win.

Also, let’s root for the Marlins, who are facing off tonight against the struggling Braves.  The Braves just got swept by the Boston Red Sox, who came in with a 9 game losing streak. Craig Kimbrel gave up a walk-off and recorded his first loss.  If the Marlins win tonight, they will be alone in first place in the NL East.  The Nats have played much better against the Marlins than the Braves, so Nats fans want the Marlins to win.

May 30, 7:05 PM- Colby Lewis (4-3, 5.10 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 3.42 ERA)

May 31, 12:05 PM- Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95 ERA) vs.  Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42 ERA)

June 1, 1:35 PM- Yu Darvish (4-2, 2.35 ERA) vs. Tanner Roark (3-3, 3.47 ERA)

 

#MessWithTexas.

How do “yu” like that?

 

Scouting Report- Cincinnati Reds

Reds (03)In the series against the Mets, the Nationals were haunted by one man, Juan Lagares. Because of Lagares, the Nats were denied a sweep. Lagares homered, had 3 RBIs and robbed Jayson Werth of a home run in the middle game, which I attended.

Ian Desmond had a really good series with a homer on both Saturday and Sunday, and I think he is about to get hotter.  Wilson Ramos also killed New York on Sunday, having a 4 RBI game with two two-run doubles. Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann had great pitching performances on Friday and Sunday, but Gio Gonzalez was placed on the 15-day  DL with a shoulder problem after a really bad 3 innings on Saturday when he gave up 5 runs. Gonzalez got killed his last two pitching performances. I hope he gets some rest and comes back hot.  Blake Treinen, who made is MLB debut in a relief appearance in Atlanta last month, is starting in Gio’s place on Thursday.

As the Mets go out of town, the Reds come to Washington to play three games. This is the last home series before a short stint in Pittsburgh. Cincinnati has always been a challenge for Washington; they lost 15-0 to them last year on a miserable Dan Haren start, if you remember. However, the Nationals Stephen Strasburg on Monday, Doug Fister’s home debut on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we have Tanner Roark on the hill.

But Cincinnati is also posting some nice guys too. Mike Leake is facing his former Little League teammate in Stras, fierce pitcher Johnny Cueto makes a start vs. Doug Fister, and surprising new starter Alfredo Simon is facing Tanner Roark.  Do I think the Nats can win this series?

Yes, I do. But not a sweep. Johnny Cueto definitely out pitches Doug Fister, and I think the Nats will lose that game 5-3. OK, that’s just my prediction and because my predictions have not been really good this year I thought I would try to predict the scores too.  The Nats will take game one by a score of 5-4, and in game 3 it’ll be 4-2 Washington.

Last thing: I need a hashtag for Cincinnati. I was thinking #SteveMcCattyBeatCincinnati. Do you like that? You can tweet your comments or suggestions to me at @MattsBats.

 

20140522-142657.jpg

Scouting Report- New York Mets

UpsetTheMetsLet’s forget about the Nats’ weekend series in Oakland.  Instead, let’s look back at how they did against the Diamondbacks on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Arizona, the Nationals won 2 out of 3 but could have done a teeny bit better. I do, however, acknowledge Bronson Arroyo’s masterful pitching performance in the game they lost and how Arizona jumped out to an early lead. The Nats, however, brought their big bats and got a nice rebound from the sweep in Oakland. The bench had some clutch moments on Monday and Wednesday, with Espi and Frandsen homering on Monday and Tyler Moore with a 2 RBI single off Brad Ziegler in the 9th to pad the Nats lead in the series finale. Ian Desmond also had a stellar series, with a homer and a 2 run single in the desert to start off the week.  It is about time for Desi to break out of his hitting slump.  I expect him to continue to eat #steak.

Yesterday was an off-day, the third Thursday in a row that the Nats had off.  But just like that, the week is coming to a close, and the Nats also are coming back to Washington for a weekend series at Nats Park.

The Mets just played the Yankees in their 2-and-2 home-and-home-cross-town-inter-league (woah!) series. The Mets are playing the Nationals this weekend after an off day yesterday, when little baseball was being played with teams on the East Coast.

Tonight, the series kicks off with vistor Jon Niese facing off against Tanner Roark at 7:00.  Saturday it’s Bartolo Colon for the Mets.  And Sunday, which is Wilson Ramos bobblehead day at Nats Park, Zach Wheeler is on the mound for New York. The Nationals have not named their starters yet.  Do I think the Nats can win?

Bottom Line:I think 2 out of 3 will be won by the Nats. Jon Niese has a slight edge over Tanner Roark in game 1, and I bet the Nats’ bats can hit off Colon and I know for a fact they can hit off Wheeler (Nats are 2-0 against him, one being a 13-2 win). I believe Jordan Zimmermann will get the call on Saturday and Gio Gonzalez on Sunday, but we may see Doug Fister’s Nats Park debut this weekend. A Gonzalez-Wheeler matchup would be the same as the Nats’ 13-2 victory vs. the Mets in New York. Another interesting factoid is that Wheeler has only faced the Nats at Citi Field. I am interested to see what happens on Sunday when Wheeler makes his 1st MLB start at Nats Park.

Scouting Report- Arizona Diamondbacks

RaketheSnakesWell, for the bazillionth time this year, my series prediction was wrong. The Oakland Athletics crushed the Nationals in a 3 game sweep, while across the country in Atlanta the Braves swept the Cubs cleanly. This was a big, big blow to the Nats, because Doug Fister made his long awaited debut in a 8-0 loss, and Gio made his return to Oakland in a 9-1 loss.  This was clearly a huge gain for Braves fans but a huge loss for the Nats.

But in Phoenix, the D-Backs have been slumping all year. Their record is 15-25, the 2nd worst in baseball, only behind the Houston Astros, which makes them the worst team in the National League. The D-Backs are actually only 3-13 at home so far this year.  I’m looking for the Nats to take advantage of that bad record and win the series.  It will also be great to see the welcome Matt Williams gets on his return to Arizona after coaching there the last four years.

The Nats had an amazing comeback victory late last night with clutch 9th inning home runs from Espi and Frandsen.  Let’s keep this winning streak going tonight!

 

May 13- 9:40 PM Washington Time- Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 3.42 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.89 ERA)

May 14- 3:40 PM Washington Time- Doug Fister (0-1, 10.38 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (1-6, 5.66 ERA)

#RakeTheSnakes

 #BakeASnakeCakeForJakeAndThrowItInTheLakeAndCauseAWerthquake

BakeASnakeCake

 

 

Scouting Report- Oakland Athletics

RazeTheAs

By the time this gets published and tweeted, I will probably be asleep, unless I can convince my mom and dad to let me stay up to watch tonight’s Nationals game.  My clock in my room is set for Pacific time.  If you are reading this, then the auto-publishing feature of MattsBats.com worked and you are up late to watch the Nats in their first West Coast road trip of 2014.

The Nats are on a roll! After sweeping the Astros, the Nats have gone 5-3 since. The Nats pulled off an unexpected series victory against the Dodgers, who put up 3 starters who hadn’t lost this season. The Nats beat Zack Greinke and former Nat Dan Haren. Is it surprising that Dan Haren lost a game in Nats Park?  The game was actually pretty close (the Nats won 3-2) and it was different than Haren’s season in 2013, when he would give up a ton of homers and be pulled in the 4th.

After an off day yesterday, the Nats had to take a 5 hour flight to the Bay Area for the start of tonight’s series against the Oakland Athletics.  Many Nationals players will feel at home in Oakland, because they come from Northern California or played for the A’s before joining the Nats. Doug Fister, Kevin Frandsen, Erik Davis, and Jeff Kobernus, and Ryan Mattheus are all from the Northern California area, and Gio Gonzalez was an A before he came to Washington, and so was Jerry Blevins and Scott Hairston. Fister makes his debut as a Washington National this #FisterFriday, and I bet a lot of friends and family from his hometown of Merced will be a the O.co Coliseum to see him.

The Nats are facing Tommy Milone (what team was he on before the A’s? Oh yeah, the Nats!), Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. Can the Nats actually beat the A’s, which happens to be my favorite team in the AL?  Can they top Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss and the rest of the As?

Uh… YES!

Even though Oakland is a good team with a possibility of making it far into the post-season this year, I like the Nationals’ chances in this interleague matchup.  They swept the Astros in one AL West matchup, and took 1 out of 3 from the Angels in the other interleague series they have played.

The advantage this series for the Nats is their pitching lineup.  Oakland is posting the Milone, Gray and Kazmir, who are all very good pitchers, but the Nats will miss Jesse Chavez.  The Nats are putting up Doug Fister, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez, which is a rotation I don’t think any hitter in baseball wants to see.  Tanner Roark is not Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann, but he did pitch a 3-hit complete game against the Padres at the end of April.  The Nats bullpen has been awesome recently.

Because of the Nats’ pitching and the way the offense has been generating clutch hits and even come-from-behind-wins, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nats win 2 out of 3 this weekend, or even a sweep.  So far my predictions this year haven’t been so good, but still, I am looking for the Nationals to:

#RazeTheAs

 

 

End Neurofibromatosis With Ian Desmond

Why I Am Voting #DesiIn13As a lot of you know, Washington Nationals short stop Ian Desmond is raising money to help try to end the disease Neurofibromatosis, which is also called NF. NF is mostly non-malignant brain tumors in the cranial nerve VIII.

Ian met a friend Ethan from South Carolina who has Neurofibromatosis type II. Since he befriended Ethan, NF has been very important to Ian.

Have you seen this video from Ian, talking about why he is raising awareness for NF research?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azQiQQ1VmGA

I talked to Nationals Archive “archivist” Allan Peterson, who set up the NF fundraiser with Ian Desmond.  Click HERE to learn more about the fundraiser and some of the prizes you can get by donating.

Matt’s Bats – How did you get involved with this charity and with Ian?

Allan – I want to preface my answer by saying that this campaign is really about Ian Desmond wanting to do something positive with his platform, and wanting to support a great cause: raising awareness for neurofibromatosis research, and raising money to end the disease.

As for how we got involved, Ian supported Nats Archive throughout 2013 by wearing the shirts that we make for charity and by interacting with us on Twitter. I can’t tell you how much this meant to those of us at the Archive. We wanted to do something to repay this, while also figuring out a way to get the fans involved at the same time. That’s sort of our “mission statement” – we want to make fans laugh, sure, but we also want to get the fans involved and support the players in ways that extend past the playing field. Indiegogo – a “crowdfunding” platform – seemed like the perfect way to help use Ian’s public platform to rally the fans around a player’s cause while also raising much needed awareness.

We selected The Children’s Tumor Foundation through Ian’s relationship with his friend, Ethan Brown, who suffers from type 2 neurofibromatosis. CTF is the leading charity on neurofibromatosis research, and has earned a four star Charity Navigator rating. The folks at CTF have been super helpful in organizing this campaign, and we’re very happy to be helping them to raise money.

Last, but certainly not least, all of us at Nats Archive have been moved by Ethan’s story. So a large part of this is, we want to make him proud and do whatever we can to end NF.

MB – Do you think you will reach your fundraising goal?

Allan – We actually hit our goal of $10,000 within five days of opening the campaign, which is both really exciting and incredibly humbling. The generosity of the Nationals’ fan base has been amazing.

Before the campaign began, we settled on $10,000 as a first goal. It seemed like a realistic fundraising goal that would present an achievable but meaningful challenge. Ian has a great platform and even better fans, and the general thought we had was, “hey, if 1,000 fans give $10 each, we’ll make our first goal.” We thought that number was something that Nats fans could really rally around and achieve. That said, $10,000 was always just the first step; now we’ve got our sights set on our next goal, $20,000, which we definitely believe we will hit. Nats fans have proven again and again to be very generous, and this fundraiser is no exception.

I would like to mention that, as Ian has said: While we certainly want to help raise money for the CTF, the real focus of this campaign is to raise awareness among the fanbase about neurofibromatosis – a disease which is not well understood, and even less well known by the public.

MB – When people donate, they can be listed on the Wall of Fame.  Can you explain more about what the Wall of Fame is?

Allan – This will be a custom graphic made just for the Indiegogo campaign, which will feature the names (or Twitter handles) of donors in various groups based on their donations. When the campaign is completed, we’ll be sharing this graphic as much as we can, featuring it on our website, and hopefully elsewhere in the blogosphere/twittersphere/Internet as well.

MB – A lot of the prizes already got sold out. Are you planning to donate more prizes?

Allan – The answer is yes, absolutely. As the fundraiser progresses and we achieve certain fundraising milestones, we will be releasing more items. In fact, we just announced a work of custom art by artist Hillary Werth (Jayson’s sister), which is available now on the campaign page. In addition, we have more signed baseballs and signed gloves, as well as additional signed items – including some cool stuff that we haven’t announced yet, but we’re sure will get people excited. There will also be some prizes with a “Nats Archive flair” which you can expect once the fundraiser gets closer to $20,000.

I will say one thing: Ian has been incredibly generous here. Not just with items to give away, but also with his time. Signed stuff, game tickets, those aren’t free – not to mention the time he’s spent helping to organize everything and get the word out. I’m sure he’d never admit it, but he’s done a lot here, and as a fan it’s really inspiring to see a professional athlete donate so much energy into a cause like this.

Please check out The Nationals Archive website for lots of Nats and baseball related jokes, but first check out Ian Desmond’s fundraiser to raise money for NF!

Scouting Report- Los Angeles Dodgers

nowaylaThe Nationals went on a road trip to Houston and Philadelphia, and because of the series in Houston, the Nats SQUEAKED out a 3-2 road trip victory, losing 2 games in Philly.

While the Nats were in Houston, big things happened in Miami. Across the Gulf of Mexico and Alligator Alley, the Miami Marlins, who held 5th place in the Division, swept the 1st place holders, the Atlanta Braves. This was a joyous time this season for Nats fans.

The Nats went to Philadelphia with a chance to take first place in the Division. The Braves hosted the San Francisco Giants this weekend and got swept AGAIN. This puts Atlanta on a 6 game losing streak, only to play the Cardinals starting today.  If the Nationals would have won yesterday, they would have tied for 1st.  Now, they are 0.5 games back.

After defeating the Braves, the Miami Marlins took on the grand Los Angeles Dodgers.  How did the Dodgers, who the Nats face this week, do?  Well, they lost 2 out of 3 to Miami.

The Dodgers are a tough team, and we get it. This week the Nats are facing Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Dan Haren, in his first return to Nats Park in a Dodgers uniform. But this series, where both the Nationals and Braves are playing 3 games against tough teams, is a chance for one team to gain distance on the other.

My Prediction for Los Angeles vs. Washington: I’m sorry to say this (for the first time this season), but the Nats will probably lose this series.  This is an important series for them, but they face some of MLB’s toughest pitching.  Yes, they are sending up Zimmermann and Strasburg, their 2 best, against the Dodgers’ 2 best.  It’ll be interesting to see Roark against Haren, but I am most interested in Strasburg vs. Kershaw.  This is an important series for the Nats to gain on the Braves and touch 1st place for the first time in May.  I would like to see more production from Ian Desmond, and it looks like Adam LaRoche may be slowing down from a leg injury.  We need to keep Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth playing like they have.  And how about Danny Espinosa!  He is having a good rebound year.  If the Nats can get everyone going, they will have a good shot at a pretty similar team. But still, the first 2 games are probably property of Los Angeles.

Scouting Report- Philadelphia Phillies

PhlattenThePhilliesThe Nationals didn’t do much so far this week, with a 2-game series in Houston and off days on Monday and Thursday. There wasn’t many things to watch at 7:05pm, so we were either redirected to Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! or just nothing at all on Monday and Thursday.

But when the Nats played Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was fun to watch. They outscored them 11-3, crushed their pitching staff, and native Houstonian Anthony Rendon did some serious damage against what probably was his favorite team when he was my age.

What really matters now is the series between the Nats and their division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, who sit one slot behind the Nationals in 4th place. If the Nats happen to get swept at Citizens Bank Park this weekend, the Nats would fall back into 4th place, a spot they haven’t been in since the 2011 season. For the fans of the Nats, that would be terrible, and then they wouldn’t play them again until June 3-5 to redeem themselves.

The Nationals are facing Cliff Lee, who always has great pitching performances but loses, A.J. Burnett who used to be very good, and Cole Hamels who is 0-2 and his target (Bryce Harper’s back) is on the Disabled List.  So what do I  expect for the series?

Bottom Line-  The Nationals basically can beat the Phillies on paper but the way they’ve been playing against good teams like the Braves, Cardinals, and even Angels, I’m not certain that the Nats can win the series, but I think they can. I am predicting a 2-out-of-3 game series win by the Nationals.  I think they may lose on Friday but take the weekend games.  It seems to me that the teams from Pennsylvania, the Phillies and the Pirates, have a tendency to beat the Nats in the first game and lose in the second game, third game and maybe the 4th.  That’s just how I remember things.

 

 #PhlattenThePhillies