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IBB to Harper proves costly for White Sox

Apr 12, 2013, 2:00 PM EST

Photo by USA Today

By Michael Huberman
Sometimes one pitch makes all the difference between winning and losing. For Robin Ventura and his starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod, one pitch in the fourth inning was the beginning of the end for the White Sox Thursday night against the Nationals.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with the game tied at three and Bryce Harper at the plate, Axelrod uncorked a wild pitch. Nationals’ starter Dan Haren, who had doubled to deep right, easily scampered home to put the Nationals up 4-3 while Jayson Werth took second base.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura immediately came out to protest, claiming Axelrod’s pitch had hit Bryce Harper in the foot. For Axelrod, it was tough to tell if his pitch had hit Harper.
“It was hard for me to tell from my angle,” he said. “The ball bounced kind of funny, that’s why we thought it might have hit him. It was hard to tell, nobody really knew for sure.”  

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  1. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    It was the best move to walk Bryce Harper once 1st base was open and then pitch righty/righty on RZim.Axelrod painted the outside corner to get Zim in a 2 strike count and then Axelrod went back to paint the outside corner and it came back over the outer 1/3 of the plate where Zim could get good barrel on the ball to send it oppo for the 2 run double.As an aside, I am one of those who gets frustrated watching Zim stand back so far from the plate that I almost want to shove him a couple inches closer. The pitches he has hit the last 2 nights were mistake pitches. Kudos to Ryan but he has to get full plate coverage.

  2. mick - Apr 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Ghost, Ryan seems to be off to a better start than last season

  3. BaseballDude - Apr 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Last night's IBB of Harper reminded me of when Barry Bonds got walked all the time in the middle of his steroid-fueled HR orgy. Barry had Jeff Kent and Rich Aurilia hitting behind him, but managers still didn't want to pitch to him. However, the difference is that Barry was not a good baserunner at that point in his career. Whereas, Bryce can move as we saw him score from first on Zimm's double. I think we'll see Harper get walked (or not pitched to) a lot this season. But, the combination of Zimm's bat and Harper's speed is going to hurt teams that do it.

  4. Section 222 - Apr 12, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    I was following the game on Gameday last night and this was definitely my favorite moment — Zim making 'em pay for the disrespect. And make no mistake, whether by the numbers it was the right move or not, it was disrespect. Of course, the way Axelrod was going, Harper might have hit one out. That's one of the many great things about baseball. We'll never know.

  5. Theophilus T. S. - Apr 12, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Mick — last season Zimmerman was pretending to be healthy. Who knows what was going on. As I have said many times, despite an above-average BA, Zimmerman, at his root, is a streak hitter. For the moment he appears to be trending up and he could easily have a 15- or 16-game hitting streak. At some point in the season he is likely to go 3-for-30. In the past I have thought it was, possibly, the pressure of being the only bopper in the lineup making him try to over-achieve. Now he is under no such pressure. Maybe he'll find a higher level of consistency.

  6. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    mick said… Ghost, Ryan seems to be off to a better start than last season April 12, 2013 10:40 AM That wouldn't surprise me since he's now batting .241 with a nice .361 OBP but he has 9 K's in 9 games, no HRs, and currently has his highest career Groundball ratio of 2:1 which leads to those nasty doubleplays.With a few 2 for 4 games his batting average could shoot up over .300 because the sample size is very small so that's not really the problem. The problem is that he has set himself up with the advanced scouts to see a steady diet of sliders and outside pitches that he can't reach which is why he's averaging a K per game and has been reaching for balls that have been grounders and has allowed 45% called strikes which are the strikes he hasn't swung at within the zone. Where Zim excels is hitting mistake pitches and let's face it, the Nats have faced quite a few poor starters and relievers in the first 9 games.

  7. SCNatsFan - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    First of many, many IBB for Bryce. If Ryan can continue to make them pay then they will have to pitch to the kid.

  8. Tcostant - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Just silly, teams have been pitching around Harper since the he came up last year, the old "unintentionally" intentionally walk. The fact was he was pitching around Harper and that cost the team the wild pitch and the manager figure, lets just put him on. Like Davey said, I understand it. Much to do about nothing, thats just babeball.

  9. JD - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Rendon update: Hit his 1st home run went 2 for 3. OBP is a solid .405. No he's not replacing Espinosa any time soon but the kid is definitely a grade A prospect and I am sure when he makes it to the show he will hit the ground running.

  10. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Theophilus T. S. said… Mick — last season Zimmerman was pretending to be healthy. Who knows what was going on. As I have said many times, despite an above-average BA, Zimmerman, at his root, is a streak hitter. For the moment he appears to be trending up and he could easily have a 15- or 16-game hitting streak.I'm thinking the same but also watching RZim for over 7 seasons you can see when he is struggling it starts with the body language but then he gets a big hit and he snaps into beast mode and goes on a tear!For such a good hitter it's just frustrating to see him struggle and then to watch him in the post-game with a huge ice wrap on his arm like a pitcher is worrisome because you always have to think, uh oh, what's wrong with Zim.

  11. JD - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Question to NatsJack: What's the deal with Solis and Purke?

  12. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    JD said… Rendon update:Hit his 1st home run went 2 for 3. OBP is a solid .405. No he's not replacing Espinosa any time soon but the kid is definitely a grade A prospect and I am sure when he makes it to the show he will hit the ground running. April 12, 2013 11:13 AM Before High School phenom Bryce Harper, there was this college kid at Rice named Anthony Rendon. He had all the scouts buzzing from his Freshman year. Rizzo knows that he is a better hitter than Espinosa with All Star potential but Danny is bought and paid for a solid + defender and right now there's no rush.Unless Danny totally implodes, don't expect to see Rendon before Sept 1st.

  13. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    JD, forget Solis and Purke, what's the deal with Christian Garcia?I'm totally in agreement with those judging Davey's confidence level in Henry & Zach Duke. Those 2 guys are part of the C bullpen where C stands for Cleanup aisle 3.Davey needs a healthy Christian Garcia.

  14. Section 222 - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Last night's bullpen use was interesting. I'm not complaining at all, but it would have been nice to have a rested Soriano for tonight against the Braves. With a three run lead, he might have taken a chance with Stammen or even H-Rod. But it was great to get the sweep, and with Haren going only 5, he didn't have as many options. In the post game he said he thought of going in another direction. Maybe if the middle of the order wasn't going to be up he would have made a different choice.

  15. Doc - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Yeah me too, JD!Just wonderin' about Purke, not so much Solis.

  16. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    On Dan Haren, Pitch F/X confirms that Haren averaged over 90MPH with both his 4-seamer and 2-seamer while also reaching velo's on both pitches of over 92MPH.With the velo there, the splitter splitting, and no walks, where's the problem?His pitches were locating too often to the middle to upper zone and we all know MLB batters feast on that. Haren has to now make some slight mechanical changes to get the baseball lower in the strike zone however, the ump may be partially to blame for Haren bringing his pitches up in the zone.Now here's the rest of the umpire's report card. He missed 6 definite strikes in the lower K zone for Haren but he gave him 3 outside pitches as strikes so Haren was a -3 which is a poor report card for the umpire and must be factored into Haren's overall performance. He was almost forced to bring up his pitches since he wasn't getting the low strike.

  18. JD - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Ghost, Garcia is for this year and you are talking about the last man out of the pen. I don't think it's life or death as to when he returns. Duke was expected to replace Gorzo and I think he will be fine in that role eventually. Solis and Purke are important because along with A.J Cole and Giolito they form the next wave of Nats young pitchers and none of them are anywhere near the big leagues. I am talking a minimum of 2 full years away and that's optimistic. Rizzo can keep doing 1 year deals with pitchers like EJax and Haren but if someone leaves via FA or someone gets hurt we are facing a big drop off.

  19. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:24 PM analysis by Harry Pavlidis this morning on the Nats pitchers.Great validation of what the Nats pitchers are throwing. It also dispells the rumors of what the Nats pitchers are/aren't throwing.For instance, Jordan Zimmerman directs his 4-seamer low in the zone and induces many groundball outs. Some in the press claim he throws a sinker, by the charts you see he has thrown no sinkers. In fact in the photo they use of JZim is a classic 4 seam grip.Clippard is in fact throwing a cutter and a curve in his repertoire combined as 10% of his total pitches.Most impressive and not getting much attention is this Drew Storen kid has added a CHANGEUP! 14% of his pitches have been changeups! It's not Clippard-esque just yet but it's a welcome addition to freeze some hitters!A very important time for these pitchers is their side session with Cat where they are still evolving. Also, these catchers have done a great job at encouraging these pitchers to throw pitches they may not otherwise throw like Mattheus confessed to last night in striking out Konerko on that slider which Ramos called for.The bullpen's ERA is skewed upward by that poor Friday night in Cincy and some HRs but the Nats have still gotten the W's and the pitchers and catchers are learning a lot along the way!

  20. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    JD, I agree on Duke. He's a mop-up specialist right now to eat innings. He's looked dismal but there's nobody to replace him.I think Henry is back in the doghouse and again, there's nobody to replace him unless Christian Garcia was healthy.

  21. NatsLady - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Ongoing ticket saga: so I went to the box office (the long way, because I was afeeered of blossom traffic) and after about 1/2 hour got a ticket printed and a stern warning not to expect that in the future. (The ticket lady just disappeared into the back room and I couldn't leave because she had my red card and photo id. Eventually she came back with the printed ticket). They need to work on the system, seriously. Maybe it's better to opt for will-call, but that's hard for me to stand in that line (although I stood just as long today at the box office). Drove back by way of the blossoms, there was no traffic but boy, that peak is over FAST. Most of the trees are already a dull pink mixed with green…

  22. peric - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    The pitches he has hit the last 2 nights were mistake pitches. Kudos to Ryan but he has to get full plate coverage.As we've seen just last year this is an artifact of the shoulder injury. He is unable to get enough bat speed to get to the outside pitches. When is shoulder complete heals (barring re-injury) you'll see this change and the power numbers will go up as they always have. You're just going to have to be patient Ghost. You know he / they will never admit he has any problem unless it becomes egregious.

  23. peric - Apr 12, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    JD, I agree on Duke. He's a mop-up specialist right now to eat innings. He's looked dismal but there's nobody to replace him.I think Henry is back in the doghouse and again, there's nobody to replace him unless Christian Garcia was healthy.Jury is still out. And Mr. F. Abad is throwing mid nineties from the left-side for the dominant in AAA Syracuse Chiefs … just to name one. Erik Davis is still there and on the 40-man. More choices than you seem to realize.H-Rod is a special talent and just as with Mock Rizzo won't give up until there seems to be absolutely no hope.Mr. Duke earned this spot as the best pitcher in AA Syracuse and an All Star last season. The same rotation had the ever popular Mr. Lannan in it and Mr. Duke waaaaay out-pitched Lannan. He earned his spot.

  24. JD - Apr 12, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Peric, I saw Abad in spring training. He really had every opportunity to make the team or at least make it hard for them to send him down; he didn't do it. You must realize that there is a qualitative difference between AAA and the big leagues so success or even dominance at AAA does not guarantee the same in the show. I agree with you completely that Duke has earned the full shot he is getting with the big club and I think he'l end up doing as well as Gorzo if not better if he gets enough opportunities.

  25. peric - Apr 12, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    308, I think comparing this offense to Riggleman's small ball, [which you weren't, but another poster has done], is offensive. ALR said it best: This is a better balanced line up.I don't need to watch 40 games before I agree.Its very similar to Riggleman's concept of "smart ball". Making it odd that he and Rizzo had such a falling out. Of course some wonder if perhaps the same might not be happening with Davey and Riz at this juncture? Let's look at the facts ALR is batting .167 with a .647 OPS. He is a part of the "match-ups" left-right offense that Riggleman did in fact subscribe to. Throw in his superior defensive prowess at first to Michael Morse? Then the younger Tyler Moore? To assume that LaRoche will even come close to his offensive production of last season is a very risky bet. Love to take advantage of Seamhead in Vegas.Now we come to the team's best hitter (no it isn't Harper!) its Zim. Zim is hitting .241 with a .740 OPS and no home runs as yet. As many have observed Zim is still rehabbing/recovering from the shoulder injury and consequent surgery. Hopefully, he will be close to normal by June because they will need his bat to have any chance at anything. Zim's glove has also suffered but in all likelihood that should improve as well. Espinosa their best all-around Rose-like fielder is still having problems batting left-handed and is hitting .182 with a .532 OPS and was again replaced, very early in this season, in the late innings by Lombardozzi. With Jeff Kobernus shredding AAA you begin to wonder if the clock is ticking. But one thing Espy brings to the table? Ungodly range, ability, and agility in the field. And Mr. Seamhead what would Riggleman pick? The defense or the offense in the infield? And that is what Rizzo picked. Davey, however, appears to be becoming a tad impatient and I wonder if the rotator cuff isn't affecting Espy? Jayson Werth in the 2-hole and playing his best spot, right field. That's certainly is more of a smart-ball call. He was hired to bat fifth yet seems best when using his high OBP in the #1/#2 spots. Smart ball again.And then there's Denard Span who is the epitome of "smart ball". Riggleman would of course prefer ex-Cardinal Rick Ankiel since Riggleman was a Cardinal man and was the one who worked on getting Ankiel in house. What's missing? They have defense with great range, speed, good OBP at the top of the order … some power but nothing like the Reds or even the White Sox and Angels? Davey Johnson doesn't like the sacrifice bunt. He doesn't like giving up or risking outs on steals. He prefers to play the old-school Orioles/Reds ball philosophy the late sixties early seventies. This team seems built to order for "smart ball".

  26. Doc - Apr 12, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Good stuff on Nats' pitching, Ghost!NI has always needed a pitching coach. I always thought that JZimm's new cutter was a slider. Depends on how hard he throws it, I guess???

  27. Rabbit34 - Apr 12, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I gota kick out of Zimmerman's reason for being pitched to, instead of Harper – the best player in baseball – being pitched to. Zim, you're a good hitter, but you are no Bryce Harper; left or right handed made no difference. Please keep up getting those hits after a Harper IBB, then Harper won't get as many IBBs! GOooo Nats!

  28. Joe Seamhead - Apr 12, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    peric, we just have to agree to disagree. we've each expressed our equally expert opinions,though nobody has called offering a me a GM job. How about you? I'm thrilled about this year's Nationals. I was thrilled with last year's Nationals. I supported what we had last year, I support what we have this year. One thing you and I do have in common though: We both did not like Jim Riggleman's way of managing. If Jim was given this same team, I still don't think that we'd compete as well as we do with Davey at the helm.

  29. Doc - Apr 12, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    I'm with you Seams!Riggleman never really understood offense the way Davey does. Riggs was always going against the grain of good hitting by advising batters, over Eck's head, to hit everything opposite field, even in-side pitches. Davey doesn't do such goofy things, and he and Eck are on the same page.I also think that Davey is a better manager of personnel—only the players know for sure.

  30. JaneB - Apr 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    What does "sitting soft" mean (Axelrod's quote, above)? SOmetimes this baseball lingo gets the best of me.

  31. natsfan1a - Apr 12, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    Just a SWAG but I think he may have been thinking that Zim was looking for/waiting on a changeup (i.e., a slower rather than a fast or "hard" pitch).





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